The Oilers Are Building An International Defense

OTTAWA ON - NOVEMBER 29: Chris Kelly #22 of the Ottawa Senators skates away dejectedly while Tom Gilbert #77 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates his goal with teammates Andrew Cogliano #89 and Ladislav Smid #5 during a game at Scotiabank Place on November 29 2010 in Ottawa Ontario Canada. (Photo by Phillip MacCallum/Getty Images)

Aside from beginning two extremely (at least in Edmonton) popular franchise models, it seems like Detroit and Pittsburgh were also at the forefront of a trend - the international defense.  Just two Canadian defenseman won the cup during those two years, and a look at the rosters shows a pair of teams heavily weighted with Americans on the blueline.


Brad Stuart Rocky Mtn House, Alberta
Kris Letang  Montreal, Quebec
Niklas Kronwall  Stockholm, Sweden
Sergei Gonchar  Chelyabinsk, Russia
Nicklas Lidstrom  Vasteras, Sweden
Mark Eaton  Wilmington, Delaware
Andreas Lilja  Helsingborg, Sweden
Hal Gill  Concord, Massachusetts
Chris Chelios  Chicago, Illinois
Brooks Orpik  San Francisco, California
Brett Lebda  Buffalo Grove, Illinois
Alex Goligoski Grand Rapids, Michigan
Brian Rafalski  Dearborn, Michigan
Rob Scuderi  Syosset, New York


Detroit's top seven had an equal split of Swedes and Americans, with only late-season acquisition Brad Stuart representing Canada.  Kris Letang was the only Canadian on the Pittsburgh defense, the other six consisted of one Russian and five Americans.  It seemed the key to the cup, other than icing a pair of the best forwards in the world was to build an international defense.  But the Chicago Blackhawks, the name of a hockey team and another popular franchise model, used a largely Canadian defense to win the cup.

Player Hometown
Brian Campbell  Strathroy, Ontario
Jordan Hendry  Nokomis, Saskatchewan
Duncan Keith  Winnipeg, Manitoba
Brent Seabrook  Richmond, British Columbia
Brent Sopel  Calgary, Alberta
Niklas Hjalmarsson  Eksjo, Sweden


The Blackhawks used five Canadians and one Swede on their way to The Stanley Cup, reversing the mini-trend created by the Red Wings and Penguins.

The next supposed dynasty, the one with management that has self-admittedly (and supposedly) mirrored each of these models within the last two years is building a defense for the long term.  Which of the three models will the Edmonton Oilers follow?

The current Edmonton defensive group who look to have a long-term job with the Oilers have a heavy international influence with three Americans, a Czech and only one Canadian.

Theo Peckham - Richmond Hill, Ontario

Ladislav Smid - Frydlant V Cechach, The Czech Republic

Ryan Whitney - Boston, Massachusetts
Tom Gilbert - Bloomington, Minnesota
Jeff Petry - Farmington Hills, Michigan

With five defensemen set, there are two spots up for grabs.  A number of prospects in the system are capable of filling those vacancies, but given the team is already well on it's way to the Pittsburgh defense and the Oilers have a Canadian on the roster, it's now doubtful that any of the following Canadian prospects will be a part of the eventual cup winner:


Jeremie Blain - Longueuil, Quebec
Taylor Chorney - Thunder Bay, Ontario
Brandon Davidson - Lethbridge, Alberta
Alex Plante - Brandon, Manitoba

Of course, the Oilers could trade Peckham, opening up a spot for one of the young native blueliners.



Martin Marincin - Kosice, Slovakia

Johan Motin - Kariskoga, Sweden



Kyle Bigos - Upland, California
Troy Hesketh - Minnetonka, Minnesota

The Pittsburgh defense consisted of five Americans, so both of these guys have a shot.

If the prospects are too far off, the Oilers could look into the free agent market to find their international man of defense.  There are a gaggle of Czech defensemen available in July.

Roman Hamrlik - Zlin, The Czech Republic
Tomas Kaberle - Rakovnik, The Czech Republic
Jan Hejda - Prague, The Czech Republic
Radek Martinek - Havlicko Brod, The Czech Republic

Each of these Czechs are long in the tooth and probably not the best option for this dynasty.  A younger, smarter, more Finnish option would make sense though.

Joni Pitkanen - Oulu, Finland

His first tour of duty in Edmonton ended with Pitkanen receiving a bum rap, but he remains a stud capable of playing twenty-six minutes a night and playing in all situations and he'll be 27 years old next season.  Also - he's Finnish.

Andrei Markov - Voskresensk, Russia
Denis Grebeshkov - Yaroslavl, Russia

Markov is injured about as often as the Oilers' penalty kill gives up a two-on-none in the zone, so he's not a good option (that should give you pause) but Grebeshkov is an excellent option at the right price.  Lisa talked about his season in the KHL where he's playing some outstanding hockey and will be 27 years old next season.  If the team could bring him back for something in the $2,500,000 they should take a run at him.  He doesn't have the best reputation with the average fan in Edmonton, but that's not necessarily a negative.

If Motin isn't their Swede, the Oilers could find their man in Detroit.

Jonathan Ericsson - Karlskrona, Sweden

Ericsson wasn't part of the Detroit Cup win, but he was part of the team that lost to the Penguins in the Cup finals in 2009.

Of course, the Oilers need to add more defensive depth in the draft and there is one player out there who solves both the issue of international defensive depth and more Finnish.

Jyrki Jokipakka - Tampere, Finland

I'll have more on Jokipakka as the draft approaches, but a smooth-skating, slick-passing Finnish defenseman used to be a staple of Edmonton Oilers hockey - it should be again. 

Of course some, though not all, of this is tongue-in-cheek, the Oilers do have five defensemen set to handle the defensive duties for a number of years.  If that's the case, what will the defense look like in 2011?  What about 2012?  Please feel free to leave your educated guesses, hockey fantasies and wild and crazy team-building trades in the comments.

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