by Lisa Brown on 05/07/12 at 01:00 AM ET
The summer to do list of the Edmonton Oilers must look a little something like this:
1. Improve defence
Through the 2011-12 season the Oilers faced a number of challenges, most of those stemmed from a weak defensive core. Especially with Ryan Whitney lost somewhat long term to a nagging ankle injury, and then a knee injury and then an ankle injury again, the Oilers were forced to quicken the development of young and rookie defencemen like Jeff Petry and Theo Peckham. Going into the next season however, the Oilers will have a few choices.
First of all, there is the matter of the RFAs on the current Oilers list; Cam Barker, Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry and Alex Plante. And then there are also the pending UFAs Taylor Chorney and Bryan Rodney. Chorney was drafted by the Oilers in the second round of the 2005 draft, but has been passed by the likes of Petry and even Theo Peckham. And Bryan Rodney was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim ducks for Ryan O’Marra. The Oilers may let both walk, or the Barons may try to keep Rodney on the roster.
In terms of the RFAs, the Oilers and their fans will be thanking their lucky stars if Cam Barker recognizes a bad situation and a horrible year. Signed as a recently bought out UFA player, Cam Barker was low risk and could have been one of those players whose career doesn’t take off right away and sometimes has to play with a few organizations first.
Theo Peckham will likely be re-singed and Jeff Petry definitely will be. So that leaves the Oilers will the trade market, the free agency market and of course the draft.
With the first overall pick, the Oilers are supposed to be picking Nail Yakupov, the talented Russian forward of the OHL. At least according to all of the draft rankings. For months we have been hearing that Yakupov is head and shoulders ahead of the pack, that he is clearly the front runner. But now, Ryan Murray could be tightening the race with his play at the IIHF World Championships. But even if Murray were to be selected first overall by the Oilers, the chances of him carrying the blueline in the 2012-13 season will be slim. It is different for a first overall forward to come in and make a true impact, more difficult for a defenceman.
The last defenceman to go first overall was Erik Johnson who went to the Tampa St. Louis Blues in 2006. Before that, it was three defencemen in a row with Chris Phillips in 1996 and Bryan Berard in 1995 both to the Ottawa Senators and 2004 Ed Jovanovski to the Florida Panthers in 1994.
Johnson didn’t play with the Blues until 2007-08 and since then has been traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
Phillips played with the Senators right away, but Berard was traded to the New York Islanders, played 619 games in the NHL with 6 different teams and is now playing in the KHL.
Jovanovski has had a successful and lengthy career, playing more than 1000 games in the league. Of the four most recent first overall defenceman, Jovanovski may still be the most notable. Of course that depends on your standards and basis for judement, but the fact of the matter is that there is no true way of knowing how an 18 year old defenceman may come onto the scene, or what he could do for your team.
For the Oilers, if they do choose Murray, they will have many decisions to make before too long. There is a long list of talented prospect defencemen in the waiting, they have just needed a little time and patience. But there are far worse things than having to pick the best from your talented pool of prospects. And selecting Murray may just help to facilitate a trade or two, making some near NHL ready prospects available.
Even if the Oilers do take Murray, it won’t be enough. The gaps and holes on the Oilers back end are far larger than just one missing piece, especially if netminder Devan Dubnyk gets off to a slow start.
Ultimately, the Oilers amateur scouting staff will go with the best player available, regardless of their needs. It would be nice if the best player does end up being a player that will fill an obvious need though. At least that would be a start and maybe even a half step towards part 3 of the master plan. We may not know the plan, but we have to keep hoping that someone does. Otherwise, we’d all be very, very angry people.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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