Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education. —Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
--The Tragedy Of Pudd'nhead Wilson, Mark Twain
Jeff Petry's last ten games have been a bit of validation for Ben and I. In our Summer Top 25 Under 25, Petry was ranked 12th overall, though Ben had him 11th and I ran him all the way up to 7th. In what is a bit of a dirty little secret, my ranking on Petry was based on a whole bunch of "seen him good" and some second-hand scouting reports. When I watched Petry play during his final season at Michigan State, I saw an incredibly athletic defenseman with loads of skill. He moved like a forward and passed like one too. His slow start in Springfield and Oklahoma City (and the big minus that came with it) was but a small worry as Peaches just needed some training, some time to adjust. Once he did, his season took off in Oklahoma City and with the way injuries have besieged the Oilers blueline, it was only a matter of time before he got the call.
I've commented on his play twice in the post-games I've written, though the first quote was for a game not included in the totals below.
The latest rookie to step into the fray was Jeff Petry. He was up and down in this one and gave up as much as he generated, but he showed enough skill and made a number of individual plays that make it impossible not to notice the underlying talent there. His individual defense against Rob Niedermayer to begin the second period was outstanding. He stopped a breakaway following the Oilers power play and he made a series of calm decisions in the first that seemed to belie his age. He did give it back though - turnovers and some serious indecision cost the Oilers a number of scoring chances, but those are things that will hopefully melt away with time.
And more recently:
I really enjoy watching Jeff Petry skate. He moves fluidly and looks like a real NHL player. He's got a ton of work to do, but on a "saw him good" basis, he looks like the kid we've all heard about since draft day.
Petry looks every bit the part of a real NHL defender, so it's heartening to see his scoring chance numbers in the new year. After the jump, a review of the last ten games (in which the Oilers have gone 2-8) individually and by most common lines and pairings.
First up are the most common line combinations. The number of games started together is on the left.
- Each of these lines is winning the even strength chances battle
Next are the most common defensive pairings.
- Tom Gilbert and Theo Peckham have taken it on the chin lately and it's becoming evident that Peckham isn't close to a first-pairing defenseman yet.
The chances for and against show a team that seems to be holding its own at evens.
- The usual suspects, Hemsky and Penner, top the list with Taylor Hall hot on their tails. Penner has had a variety of centers and wingers outside of Hall and Hemsky while Hall and Hemsky have seen a healthy dose of playing time together.
- Ryan Jones is still struggling. The latest Edmonton crush continues to bleed chances against; his .397 chance percentage is worst among regular forwards and by a significant margin. His season numbers [80-152 (.345)] are the worst on the team. Even with his unsustainable shooting percentage, he's been on the ice for only 17 Oiler goals this season, compared to 20 goals against. His chances conversion rate on of .212, or 21% is tops among all players on the Rangers, Panthers, Capitals and Oilers. And he's still a minus at even strength.
Finally, the individual chances for defensemen.
- Petry's numbers are buoyed by the 7-1 spread against the Stars last night, but even without that game, his 43-34 split would still lead the defense.
- Tom Gilbert has been better away from Theo Peckham [20-10 (.667)] than with Peckham [32-48 (.400)], which suggests that young Theo might benefit from a step back in responsibility.
- Petry's game has impacted Ladislav Smid in a way that I don't think anyone expected. As multiple people have noted - Smid is at his best when he's paired with a skater who can move the puck. He looked like he was turning a corner last year while paired with Lubomir Visnovsky, and now he looks great once again paired with Petry.
The Oilers are winning the battle at even strength, yet they're 2-8. Special teams is absolutely killing this team.