Well the time is here to talk about the Oilers defence… Again. After the atrocious performance given versus the Winnipeg Jets you could be wondering if the Oilers actually have three NHL-level defenders on their squad. I’m not sure if it’s that bad but the team is definitely lacking on the back-end and in the past I’ve pondered whether the team really needs a no.1 defenseman that will be worth in the range or $7 to $9 million dollars a year. I still don’t believe that is the case but after watching Dustin Byfuglien last night, I think he’d be a perfect player for the Oilers blueline core.
But we’re not here to talk about adding to the blue line, we’re here to talk about the best defenceman on the Oilers. First, let’s get the opinion of some respectable folks like Ryan Robinson and Walter Foddis.
Mr.Robinson makes some good points. The team definitely lacks substance and stability when Oscar Klefbom is in the lineup. Brandon Davidson also supplies the team with some great two-way play but I have to think he’s at least one or two seasons away from being a dman that can be relied upon heavily in key situations if at all.
Walter Foddis found this interesting gem and posted it on Facebook:
Inspired by Tyler Dellows’ work, Matt Cane developed a metric that measures how well defencemen suppress shot attempts following an initial shot. Like all metrics, it’s not a precise measure, but it’s still another useful piece of information to assess the value of a defenceman.
This visual is 2013/14 and 2014/15 data on the Oilers. The yellow square is 1 standard-deviation (68% of players) from the league mean. Red is 2 standard deviations (95% of players). Players to the left of the vertical line are better than average in suppressing the 2nd shot attempt.
Players below the horizontal line are better than average in suppressing the initial shot. All the Oilers D are above this horizontal line; reflecting our poor team defense.
Our apparent best “lock-down” defenceman is Klefbom. Smid was surprisingly good at this, although pretty bad at allowing initial shots, although not worse than Ference, who is weak at both.
Petry was 3rd best and Marincin was 4th, about team average. Of course, we had to trade Petry and Marincin (care of the MacT School of Defensive Devaluation).
The article on the metric he’s talking about can be found here.
So what I can curtail from the words of these two fine gentlemen is that they’re in agreement in that Oscar Klefbom is key to the success of the Oilers defensively. I can buy that soup.
Now what happens when we compare say the defenses from the Oilers with the Nashville Predators? I chose the Predators because they are the team most often associated with the Oilers when it comes to trade rumors. They also have a very deep back-end full of young and talented defenders. So these are the players you’re clambering for when you talk about trading Nuge to the Preds.
Check out this player usage chart from Hockey Abstract:
Now the higher you go in the chart, the more difficult the competition, and the farther to the left you go, the more difficult the zone starts. The color of the bubbles represent the players Corsi% relative. So if it’s brown, they’re not doing great possession-wise and if it’s blue, they’re doing well with the possessions. The size of the bubble tells us how much ice-time they’re getting.
So as you can see we’ve got Josi and Weber waaaay at the top. Big bubbles close to center but lean more to the brown. So they’re getting the toughest assignments night in and night out and having a tough time. This is where you should find the league’s best defenders.
Now if you look way at the bottom right you’ll find Seth Jones, a player most often mentioned in connection to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His bubble is small and he’s getting the easiest zone starts but it’s blue. So it appears the Preds are taking their time with this fella and he’s responding well. Good choice. THIS is where Justin Schultz should be but for whatever reason a myriad of coaches and management types continue to play him in a fashion that is above his current ability. Would you still trade RNH for Seth Jones after seeing this?
As for the Oilers, it appears Fayne and Klefbom are/were getting the toughest assignments but keeping their head above water. Darnell Nurse is getting the most ice-time but is being fed punches left and right. Brandon Davidson is sitting very well as a two-way option and Eric Gryba is where you’d expect him to be. But check out Griffin Reinhart. He was given the easiest zone starts and competition but couldn’t keep his boat afloat. He’s where he’s supposed to be right now, meaning the AHL. But shite, the payment to acquire him is looking painful today. We should revisit in 3 or 4 years.
Justin Schultz’s bubble makes me curious. His zone starts appear to be the hardest out of all the players, the bubble isn’t large and it’s blue. I’m guessing that tells us despite the tire fire he appears to be to our eyes, he’s actually holding his own but question the competition I imagine. Is McLellan using him solely to get the puck out of the Oilers defensive zone and then changing him? That’d be an odd role, no? But I guess if he’s not producing any offense what’s the point in having him play that role. An Erik Karlsson he’s not.
So to conclude, Oscar Klefbom is the team’s best defender. Not Darnell Nurse (yet), Rej Sekera, Brandon Davidson or Justin Schultz. He’s the Oilers’ best defenceman because he’s better defensively than any other blue liner on the team and he’s 2 points from being the highest scoring defender on the team despite playing 4 few games. He’s attained 62 blocks and is second to only Sekera in that category. He trails only Taylor Hall in defensive point shares with 1.2 and has the highest offensive point share amongst defensemen on the team. But if the numbers don’t convince you then just watch him play. The eye test won’t fail you.
The Swede may just be the Brent Seabrook we’ve all been waiting for and he’s locked up long-term. What do you think? Is Oscar Klefbom the best defender on the Oilers? Let me know in the comments below!
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