Is This It?

Updated: July 17, 2016 at 7:00 am by Matt Henderson

Every day that passes without the Oilers adding an offensive
defender to their group makes it feel like this club is done making significant
changes to the blueline. This thought scares me. One of the great failings of
the Edmonton Oilers a year ago was a definitive lack of offense from the
blueline.

While Edmonton surely had problems in its own zone, it’s
difficult to say those problems were purely because their blueline was
deficient defensively. We must also consider that a great part of their problem
was the inability to move the puck out of the zone efficiently. Quality defense
doesn’t just stop the attacking opposition play, it also transitions the play
back to their own attack.

Edmonton’s defense corps as it stands today was very much
inept when it came to joining the attack this past season. In terms of total
point production, Edmonton’s defense was dead last in the entire league in
2015-2016 with 102 points combined. At even strength they only contributed 72
points. The only team comparably poor at generating offense was Larsson’s New
Jersey Devils. NHL Average for both total points and even strength points by a
team’s defense was 149.8 and 106.6 respectively. Edmonton was well short of
being even average.

Now, I’m assuming that today’s Oiler defense is as follows:

Klefbom Larsson

Sekera Fayne

Nurse Davidson

Oesterle

All of these men aside from Oesterle are listed on the Oiler
active roster. Ference is listed but I am considering him effectively retired. If
we focus on primary points (goals and first assists only) we can get a pretty
good sense of how frequently Oiler defenders were directly involved in scoring
plays a year ago. Spoiler alert: This gets depressing.

5v5 Primary Points 2015-2016

Pictured: Oscar Klefbom when he still had two feet

Oscar Klefbom: 30GP, 4G-4A1-8PP, 0.98 PrimaryP/60

Adam Larsson: 82GP, 1G-5A1-6PP, 0.24 PrimaryP/60

Andrej Sekera: 81GP, 1G-3A1-4PP, 0.17 PrimaryP/60

Mark Fayne: 69GP, 2G-1A1-3PP, 0.18 PrimaryP/60

Darnell Nurse: 69GP, 3G-2A1-5PP, 0.25 PrimaryP/60

Brandon Davidson: 51GP, 2G-1A1-3PP, 0.23 PrimaryP/60

Jordan Oesterle: 17GP, 0G-3A1-3PP, 0.62 PrimaryP/60

Of course the game isn’t only played 5v5. The power play is
relied upon heavily to provide offense. Of the men who received any playing
time at all on the PP and are slotted into the roster this year, here is what
they accomplished on the man-advantage. Instead of repeating the number of
games played, I will include their total 5v4 minutes.

5v4 Primary Points 2015-2016

Oscar Klefbom: 55:06, 0G-0A1-0PP, 0.00 PrimaryP/60

Adam Larsson: 11:28, 0G-0A1-0PP, 0.00 PrimaryP/60

Andrej Sekera: 184:09, 2G-7A1-9PP, 2.93 PrimaryP/60

Mark Fayne: 2:14, 0G-0A1-0PP, 0.00 PrimaryP/60

Darnell Nurse: 13:59, 0G-0A1-0PP, 0.00 PrimaryP/60

Brandon Davidson: 22:12, 2G-0A1-2PP, 5.41 PrimaryP/60

Jordan Oesterle: 29:33, 0G-0A1-0PP, 0.00 PrimaryP/60

So…this isn’t great. Given Klefbom’s success 5v5 I would
expect he would get opportunities on the PP this year as well, but after him it’s
Sekera as the most established option. Essentially, Edmonton is in exactly the
same place they were a year ago with regards to power play defenders and that
position is a bad one.

Grand Larsson-y, amirite?

Combining 5v5 and 5v4 production, the Oilers’ seven defenders
scored a total 17 goals, 26 first assists, for 43 total primary points in
2015-2016. You can see why I’ve been desperately holding out hope for the
Oilers to add an offensive defender. Six out of seven defenders were Oilers last year and
the one they added hasn’t moved the dial offensively in the NHL yet.

With the Oilers blueline so poor at contributing
offensively, the job of fixing this defense feels only half-done. What Adam
Larsson, crown jewel of the current d-corps rebuild, does particularly well is
not measured in the offensive zone. The void created by Justin Schultz’ failure
to launch and eventual trade out of town for a pick is still felt on the Oiler
roster. There is a distinct lack of puck moving ability on this back-end.

It’s why until the Avalanche settle with Tyson Barrie in
their arbitration case (July 29th) there’s still a glimmer of hope
he could be moved. It’s why I’m clutching onto the hope that the reports
Shattenkirk won’t sign in the West are erroneous.

5v5 Primary Points 2015-2016

Tyson Barrie: 78GP, 9G-7A1-16PP, 0.67 PrimaryP/60

Kevin Shattenkirk: 72GP, 5G-4A1-9PP, 0.45 PrimaryP/60

5v4 Primary Points 2015-2016

Tyson Barrie: 224:54, 3G-9A1-12PP, 3.20 PrimaryP/60

Kevin Shattenkirk: 189:19, 5G-11A1-16PP, 5.07 PrimaryP/60

Dare to Dream

If this club goes into the 2016-2017 season with this
blueline, it’s very difficult not to predict another year with one of the
poorest offensive defenses in the NHL. Even with a healthy Klefbom it’s going
to be difficult to leave the bottom third of the league in that regard
as things stand right now. Who is moving the puck up the ice and contributing
to the attack?

Frankly, they need someone very adept at moving the puck and
joining the play just to get to a league average level of contribution from the
blueline. Can this club be satisfied with what they have right now? I can’t see
how they could be. The job is half done and the obvious solutions aren’t there
anymore. We’re hanging on to the hope that something shakes loose in Edmonton’s
favor even when all signs point other directions. It’s a nervous time for Oiler
fans who just want to see meaningful change to one of the most incomplete
defenses in the NHL.