This year is a big one for many reasons in Oil Country. The new arena, year 2 of Connor McDavid, and year 1 of the post Taylor Hall era.
Oilers fans will also see a more balanced defense. Probably the most complete group of defenders since 2006 (although that isn’t saying much). One with three different top-4 quality d-men and some that have the potential to break through. They also have a few players trying to shake off some past demons, whether that’s the cost of their acquisition or last seasons performance.
Regardless, there are certain things you can expect from the ten defenders the Oilers will have chasing a spot in the big leagues.
Here is what to expect and what not to expect from the 2016/2017 Oilers defense:
EXPECT: – Larsson’s offensive numbers should definitely see a spike. He led all Devils d-men in first assists over the past 2 seasons, which I look at as a massive positive. Now with better offensive weapons to distribute the puck too, he could set career highs on the offensive side. He also has a very strong breakout pass, that with the Oilers threats on the rush, could help that spike in offense.
– Also expect to see a lot of Larsson in the defensive zone. He started 42% of his shifts there last season and with all the extra responsibility in Edmonton, I only expect that number to rise.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to be a #1 defenseman. He isn’t, so to expect that from him just because of who he was dealt for is unfair. He will be a very solid #2/3, so set your expectations there.
– Although I expect him to see a spike in offensive numbers, don’t be upset if he isn’t anchoring the top powerplay unit. (0 points in 33 5v4 minutes past 2 seasons). Its a skill he naturally possess.
EXPECT: – Give the team very good 3rd pairing minutes. He has lost a step and although the numbers say he can defend like a top-4 defenseman. He simply doesn’t pass the eye test anymore.
– He’s a safe bet when on the ice. He was on the ice 31% of the time last season and only was on the ice for 32% of the Oilers goals against. He should see a little less responsibility and see that GA% number drop as well. He should also see heavy d-zone starts.
– Bottom line is you can expect to not notice Mark Fayne a lot, but he’ll be playing some important minutes. Those are both very good things.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to be a physical, knockdown the opponent shut down defender. That’s not his game anymore. This isn’t the same Mark Fayne that logged heavy minutes in New Jersey.
– Him to produce much offense either, if any. He’ll be starting in the d-zone and probably getting off the ice as soon as the pucks out.
EXPECT: – Him to provide a veteran presence and not panic with the puck. He had a rough start to his stint in Oil Country last season, but I fully expect him to be more comfortable this time around.
– Him to be an all scenarios defender. His zone starts should be pretty split, he’ll kill a lot of penalties and will see a little powerplay time (less than last year however, his 186 5v4 minutes were more than triple any other Oilers d-man). A very good and capable top-4 option to say the least.
– Him to be given some time on the right side at the beginning of the season simply due to how jammed up the left side is.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to be a top pairing d-man. He may have been that for a few years in Carolina and he may be getting paid like one, but he simply doesn’t have that ability in the western conference.
– Him to run the top powerplay. He was competent last year but I believe the Oilers have 2 more capable options with a 3rd potentially coming. However he may see some valuable second pairing time.
– Expect him to have success on the right side. He will probably get a look over there if additional help isn’t brought in. But his numbers last year on the right side were awful and There’s no reason to believe that will be any different this year.
EXPECT: – Him to be the Oilers most used left shot d-man. He’s finally healthy and has had an extra year to mature. Expect 22-25 minutes a night from the young Swede.
– He faced the toughest last season and that should continue into this coming season.
– One underrated aspect of Klefbom game is his ability to stay out of the box. He only has 10 PIM’s in 107 games. If you’re top d-men can defend well and not take penalties then you’re in a very good spot.
DON’T EXPECT: – This was the toughest part of this article. Expectations arent sky-high for Klefbom. He certainly won’t be a Norris candidate, but there isn’t a lot that the 23 year old can’t handle. He hasn’t played hockey in a while, so maybe don’t expect him to be flying out of the gate in training camp.
EXPECT: – Essentially every metric I can find shows that he capable of playing a top-4 role. Although he will probably start the year behind Andrej Sekera on the depth chart on the third pairing.
– He could potentially come through as a darkhorse on the powerplay. He has an underrated shot and the Oilers have been needing a strong point shot on their powerplay essentially since Sheldon Souray left.
– He makes his partner better, at least he did last season, which gives McLellan to put Davidson with any partner really.
– He could see some time on the right side, despite naturally playing the left side.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to stay on the 3rd pairing long, I expect him to be a top-4 dman for most of the year.
– Him to have a perfect season, he’s still young (will turn 25 in August), so there will be some tough moments.
– Him to be an all scenarios d-man, he will probably see more time in the offensive zone and I can’t see him doing much on the PK given who else the Oilers have.
EXPECT: – Be a physical presence on the 3rd pairing when with the Oilers, similar to last year.
– When he gets another stint with the Oilers I’d also expect a little more confidence with the puck, given he has some NHL games under his belt
DON’T EXPECT: – Darnell to start the year with the Oilers. He was given a spot last year due to injury and I would like to see him earn a call up and show he can handle 20 minutes a night in the AHL. A log-jam on the left side isn’t helping his case either and he’s the only left sided-man who doesn’t need waivers. Enough reasons to assume he’ll be in Bakersfield come October.
EXPECT: – Spend a lot of time in Bakersfield, and should be a big player down in the AHL.
– As another young victim of the clogged left side, he will probably only see time in the big leagues if the Oilers suffer major injuries.
– If called up, can be a nice 3rd pairing guy. Doesn’t have a “wow” factor, but he gets the job done.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to play like a 4th overall pick, or a player who essentially costed 2 first round picks a year ago. That’s not what he’s going to be.
EXPECT: – Him to be a versatile, all scenarios guy down in Bakersfield, similar to what he was during his brief stint with the Oilers last year.
– Will start the year off as probably the 3rd man on the list of call-ups for the Oilers.
– May pass Griffin Reinhart on the organizational depth chart.
DON’T EXPECT: – To do what Brandon Davidson did last year and become an impact d-man, the organization is simply too jammed up with left hand shot defenders. He’s got a lot of skill, but I don’t think Edmonton has a place for him.
– To have any prolonged stints with the Oilers. A game here and there, but should be spending most of his winter in California.
EXPECT: – Him to stay on the roster as the 7th dman. Oilers would rather have him up there than a youngster who could be developing in Bakersfield.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to play for any significant stretches of games. If there is an injury, a player from Bakersfield will fill the void. Fraser is an emergency option/press box filler.
EXPECT: – You can expect 2 things from Ference this year, the first is that he will probably spend the entire season on LTIR (that darn knee or something, hey?)
– He more than likely be a part of some ceremony to hand the captaincy over to Connor McDavid.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to play in the NHL.
– Him to be an Oiler 11 months from now.
EXPECT: – Him to bring in a right handed power play specialist on a PTO or one year deal.
DON’T EXPECT: – Him to bring in a top pairing guy, it’s already been established that those types don’t get acquired unless you’re also giving one up. The blockbuster deals are done for the summer.