Friday, September 30, 2011

Defence Pairings...Minus # 6

No single player's health is as important to this team success as Ryan Whitney. Unfortunately, the Edmonton Oilers are facing the likely scenario of starting the 2011-2012 campaign with Whitney on the sideline. They have no one on their current roster that can step in and take on Whitney's role but they are hoping they have enough depth to share the load, until he returns. When I think about the Oilers defence, depth is not a word I think of.
It is no secret, that the current edition of the Oilers blueline are simply not good enough...and that is with a healthy Ryan Whitney in the lineup. They are in desperate need of another top four guy and as it currently sits, they could use another one on top of that. Heading into camp I was expecting to see the following pairings to start the season:
  • Whitney - Barker
  • Gilbert - Smid
  • Peckham - Sutton
  • extra (Chorney)
Not a stellar group by any stretch but it is an improvement on last years crop. The one player missing from that list would be Jeff Petry but I had him pegged to start the season in Oklahoma City and play in all situations for the Barons, until the injury bug hits the big club. Well, that time has already arrived and the Oilers now have some decisions to make. While Petry is in the mix, he has not had the best of camps and actually seems less comfortable then he did last season when he played 35 games for the Edmonton Oilers.

Enter Corey Potter. The 27 year old came into camp with the mindset of making an impression on the coaching staff and possibly finding his way onto the Oilers roster as a number seven defenceman. From the clubs perspective, I am guessing the plan was to sign Potter as a depth player that would help the Barons in the AHL and if he played well, he could be a possible call up for the big club. Potter has been so good, that you could argue he should make the club out of camp, regardless of the injury to Whitney. He has made the most of his opportunity and it is apparent that the coaches have like what they have seen. Potter has been solid in his own end and looked very good on the power play, which gives him another leg up in making the opening night roster.

If Whitney isn't ready to go on opening night, this is what I am expecting to see:
  • Gilbert - Smid
  • Potter - Barker
  • Peckham - Sutton
  • extra (Petry)
Taylor Chorney's play simply hasn't been good enough and I no longer see him making the roster as the number seven guy. Petry can fill the role until Whitney is ready to go, at which time they can send Petry back to Oklahoma. Potter has earned a shot and in all honesty, players like Sutton and Peckham should be looking over their shoulders. If their play slips, they could find themselves in the press box as the number seven man. 

At some point, this organization has to decide if they are going to take a serious look at improving their talent on the back end. If the Oilers want to make a run at a playoff spot this season, they have no choice but to add another defenceman...or two. Even if Ryan Whitney were to make it back to the level of play he reached last season, this team needs to surround him with better players. It will be a tough decision for Steve Tambellini and company to make because if they truly want to improve the skill on the defence, it will cost them one of their skilled young forwards. Certain players are obviously off limits but others have to be in play.

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