Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Need for Defensive Depth

Many fans seem to be of the opinion that the Oilers should, or will, draft a defenseman with their 2nd first round pick should they select Nugent Hopkins. I don't share that sentiment, but I thought I would explore the idea that the Oilers "need" to add to their defensive depth chart in this year's draft.

Before the 2010 draft, the defensive depth chart looked something like:

  1. Peckham
  2. Plante
  3. Petry
  4. Motin
  5. Chorney
  6. Hesketh
  7. Bigos
I'll get to the current depth chart in a bit, but I think everyone would agree that the defensive depth chart at the time of the 2010 draft looked weaker than it does now, prior to the 2011 draft. Even so, the team was so concerned with their depth chart on defence at the 2010 draft that they used 4 of their 1st 5 picks on forwards. If there were ever a time for the Oilers to "draft for need" and address their defense, it was then. But they didn't.

Three drafts have passed since the Oilers named Stu MacGregor their head scout. In that time, the Oilers have had 3 first round picks along with 4 second round picks. They have selected 6 forwards and one defenceman (Marincin). I don't think we should try to read too much into that, but at the same time it probably shows us that the Oilers are willing to take the BPA regardless of position. Unless they are of the same mindset as me, preferring F's unless the BPA is clearly a D or G.

Right now, the Oilers depth chart might look something like:

  1. Petry
  2. Marincin
  3. Peckham
  4. Teubert
  5. Plante
  6. Chorney
  7. Blain
  8. Davidson
  9. Fedun
  10. Motin
  11. Bigos
  12. Hesketh
I think you could make a good argument that the depth chart looks much better now than a year ago. All of the 2010 D draftees (Marincin, Blain, and Davidson) had very good seasons. Petry and Peckham showed better at the NHL level than I, and probably most, were expecting. They added Teubert (and Fedun, no idea where to slot him but I'll go with 9th). Chorney was better than he had been the previous two seasons. The only top prospects on D to apparently stagnate or move backwards were Plante and Motin.

Of course the depth chart could be improved by adding a D at 1,19, and/or 31, but recent history suggests the Oilers won't necessarily draft for need, and even if they are interested in doing so, the "need" isn't as big as it was at the 2010 draft.


Woodguy said...

I think we are of the same mind when it comes to drafting Dmen.

Always draft scoring forwards as high as you can as they will have the highest future value. Value you can use in trade to fill roster voids, including 1/2 Dmen.

speeds said...

That's certainly my general take, obviously there can be exceptions, but as a general rule I'm very much in favor of drafting forwards.

Even this year, I'd ideally like to see EDM draft forwards at 1, 19, and 31, unless someone you really like slides to 19 or 31.

Rich said...

In terms of sheer numbers, you're right this is more depth here in the system (and you've also missed one - Montgomery who came in the trade for Belle).

But of these names, how many do we think are truly top 4 and even from that group, how many are top 2 d-men?

That seems to be the real question now on the defensive depth chart.

If the Oilers feel Larsson is it at 1, so be it (my guess is they take RNH). But if we get to 19 and a d-man is BPA (Siemens, Oleksiak) I don't have a problem taking either if you "project" them top 2 because that's where I sense we're weak..

DangerMan said...

Definitely take a Dman by 31. One that has a fighting chance to be a top Dman in the NHL. The Dman pool on the Oilers is very shallow with not a lot of high end in it. Centers are just as much of a concern so the balance needs to be there.

I think Marincin is the only real top 2 option at this point and that even seems a bit of a stretch.

speeds said...

"High end" potential can be difficult to assess for defencemen. They sometimes take time, sometimes they don't, and sometimes when they improve it almost seems to come out of nowhere. By the time you get to 19, most of the D will be seen as likely "top 4" guys, not "top 2" guys anyways (although, even with F's, they'd be seen as "top 6/9 guys", not top line guys as well).

Goligoski took 4 years after the 2004 draft to notably hit the NHL. Gilbert was 4.5 years. Sekera was 3.5 years. Keith and Ballard took 3 years. Boychuk was picked in 2002 and he's only 2 years into being an NHLer. Grebeshkov took 3 years before he played significant time in the NHL.

In terms of how many current Oilers prospects look to be "top 2", or "top 4", it's hard to say. My point is not that I expect Blain, or Marincin, or Petry to turn into a Keith, but that even if the D is a prospective "top 2" or "top 4" D, it's not always apparent before it actually happens. So it's difficult to assess if EDM has any "top 2" or "top 4" D prospects, I think it's a bit easier to assess with forwards although even there it's not easy either.

And while I'm sure the D you pick at 19 would in your mind be better than the D you'd get at 31 or 61, I still don't think it's better by more than the F you'd pick at 19 would be better than the F you'd get at 31, or 61.

DangerMan said...

I guess the point in assessing Dmen is to try and find the best skillset in Dmen, let them apply their trade through the ranks and years, and then ultimately their play will decide whether they are top 2, top 4, or anything at all. The key is allow them to grow without too much expectation. But fans and mgmt get impatient.

Playing D is like playing QB, its all about getting reps and applying what you see to what you know. There are prodegies and there are projects.

The other John said...


It's arguable that the Oiler defensive depth chart is no better off in 11/12. We have not developed a superior D man in the last 3/4 years. Petry may develop into a top pairing guy but as of right now it is a stretch that any of our young D are projecting as. Top 2 pairing guy, excepting Petry. Peckham may develop into a 3/4 and we have hope that Marcinin projects in to that grouping

That would be fine if we were rolling the dice on offensive D that may or may not develop, ala Chorney. But for the most part we are drafting conventional big body D men with a ceiling of 4/5.

Off topic but does Nashville taking Weber to arbitration guarantee one of he or Suter is a UFA? Would think VCR if they can find the $$$ are the frontrunner for Weber

speeds said...


I think the depth chart is notably better, not just because there are more names but because a lot of guys took steps forward last year, more than it has seemed like in the past. Peckham and Petry were better than I thought they'd be, same names on teh depth chart as last year but better players, I think. That said, I know from following prospects before that great junior stats (I'm thinking specifically of the 2010 D draftees here) don't always translate to the AHL, so it'll be interesting to see how Marincin and Davidson do in the AHL this year, if they play there instead of the WHL.

As for Weber and Suter, I don't think it guarantees anything, it depends how much those players want. They team would need to come up with maybe another 6 mil (above their current salaries) to keep them both. That's a lot, but I'm not sure what NSH is willing to spend and maybe they can move one of their other F's to keep them both, or just let Fisher go when Suter needs his raise.