When camp opened last weekend, word came down that the Oilers are looking at reducing Ryan Whitney's ice time to start the season. Instead of logging his usual 25 minutes a night, the club plans on using him 18 - 20 minutes a night, in order to lighten the load on his surgically repaired ankle. With that being the case, the coaching staff will have to think long and hard as to who they decide to fill the seventh D man slot with.
I was of the belief that Taylor Chorney would have been best suited to fill that role while having Jeff Petry develop his game further in Oklahoma City. After hearing the news on Whitney, that is no longer the case. With Whitney seeing reduced minutes, the coaching staff will have to seriously reconsider who they start as the number six defencman on a nightly basis. Obviously, the rest of the blueliners will have to make up the difference but having a guy like Andy Sutton play too many minutes, could end up being counter productive.
I am not suggesting all the extra minutes will go to Sutton but Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid demonstrated last season that they struggle with extra minutes...someone has to take them. While Theo Peckham can take on some of that time, it seems as though Petry is best suited to take on the extra minutes.
The club will not only need someone to step up and take on a bigger role but they need a player that has the ability to help replace some of what Whitney brings to the table. Arguably, moving the puck is what # 6 does best and Jeff Petry, without question, is best suited to help the club in that role. He also gives the staff the option of using him on the power play, if they decide to save Whitney and use him late in tight games. The other option they have, is to look outside the organization and bring in some help and I do not see them going that route...at least not yet.