Monday, June 20, 2016

Defensive Combinations

As I've eluded to a couple of times in the past couple of posts, the Edmonton Oilers used a total of 12 defencemen during the 2015/2016 season. That is probably the highest number of d-men the Oilers have used and this defensive core was also their strongest since probably 2009-2010. Plus it helped that the additions of Andrej Sekera, Eric Gryba, and Griffin Reinhart ended up paying off in the long run. However the injuries to key players on the blue line, forced Edmonton to go with a couple of weird defensive pairings for games. In the final game of the season, here was the line combinations on defense for Edmonton.

Sekera - Fayne
Reinhart - Oesterle
Nurse - Pardy
Nikitin - Clendenning

These pairings did work out for the team more than I expected it too (especially with Reinhart and Oesterle taking on a bulk of on-ice minutes), but it wouldn't be the defensive core that I'd like Edmonton to go with. Here is my ideal defensive core for the Oilers.

Brandon Davidson
Mark Fayne
Eric Gryba
Oscar Klefbom
Darnell Nurse
Andrej Sekera

Now does that mean the Oilers should not keep their other 6 defensemen? No. What this means is that Clendenning, Nikitin, Pardy and Ference should be kept as healthy scratches while both Reinhart and Oesterle continue development down in the AHL. Now in terms of pairings? Well since I'm not Todd McLellan, I can't decide on which pairings would work best. That being said, I can take a wild guess and give my own personal pairings. Here would be my pairings based on the 6 players above.

Sekera - Fayne
Nurse - Gryba
Klefbom - Davidson

Now there are, admittedly, a couple of problems with these pairings. First, I don't know how the chemistry will play out between these pairings. Sure some of them might work out, but there is no guarantee that chemistry between Sekera and Fayne won't develop, chemistry between Nurse and Gryba won't develop, and chemistry between Klefbom and Davidson won't develop. Second the Oilers only have three right handed defensemen on the roster right now. And while Clendenning, Fayne, and Gryba are right handed shots, the Oilers do need more. Third, this combination only, ONLY exists if the Oilers manage to stay healthy for the majority of the season.

Of course these line combinations are not official. McLellan ultimately has control over the defensive pairings and he may or may not use these players or these combinations. But regardless of what happens or who is paired with who, you can bet that the Oilers blue line just got tougher now and will be tougher to play against. For a team that was mocked for only drafting high scoring forwards, it's nice to see young drafted d-men coming into their own as well as GM Chiarelli pulling the strings to get the veteran d-men onto this team. I'm looking forward to seeing the defensive core of Edmonton next season.

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