Edmonton Oilers Depth Chart - Projected Lines

The only things the Oilers need to be competitive in 2011-2012 are time, two NHL forwards, two top four defensemen (one of them on the right side), and a reliable veteran goalie.  Instead, they've decided to go with a bunch of kids, some ruffians, six bottom-pairing defenders (all on the left side), and Nikolai Khabibulin

The good news surrounds the Under 25 group.  Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Jordan Eberle, Linus Omark, Jeff Petry, and Theo Peckham should all be better this season.  Couple that with healthy seasons from Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky, Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney and the team should at least move out of 30th place.  If the six in the Under 25 group all take enormous steps, Devan Dubnyk follows suit and the veterans have career years, they should be fun to watch.

After the jump, I'll work my way through the depth chart and projected lines, discuss strengths and weaknesses, and find the holes in the lineup.

The depth chart shows the obvious weaknesses on the right side:  Jeff Petry and Corey Potter are the 2nd and 3rd-best natural right defensemen.

Left Wing Centre Right Wing Left Defense Right Defense
Hall Gagner Hemsky Whitney Gilbert
Smyth Horcoff Eberle Smid Petry
Paajarvi Belanger Omark Peckham Potter
Eager Nugent-Hopkins Jones Barker Plante
Hartikainen Brule
Sutton Teubert
Hordichuk Vandevelde
Chorney

 

Scott has been harping on the fact that the Oilers are woefully thin at right defense and he's also mentioned that Cam Barker and Andy Sutton are both likely to play on the right side this year even though it's not their natural position.  It's not an ideal situation for Barker: he's trying to reclaim his career and he's going to have to do it on one of the worst teams in the league and on the wrong side of the defense. 

It's not going to be a popular opinion, but I believe that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is better off in Red Deer next season.  I guess there's a chance Gilbert Brule could get hot again and become deadline trade bait, but really, why saddle Nugent-Hopkins with Ryan Jones and Ben Eager?

Forwards

Smyth
- Gagner - Hemsky





Hall - Horcoff - Eberle





Paajarvi - Belanger
- Omark





Eager - Brule
- Jones

 

Bench:  Hordichuk

If Tom Renney was willing to carefully manage his forwards, this group might have a chance with Sam Gagner's line playing home power vs. power and Shawn Horcoff's line taking on the seconds.  Eric Belanger could play rover for Paajarvi and Omark and Gilbert Brule's line would play against other fourth lines in the gentleman's agreement.

But if he's not going to match lines, teams are going to target Belanger's line, then Horcoff's line and especially Brule's line if Renney chooses to throw them over the boards for a regular shift.  Teemu Hartikainen and Chris VandeVelde will start the year in Oklahoma City because Darcy Hordichuk brings toughness, or something like that, and the Oilers have a bizarre logjam on defense.  It's not an Oilers off-season without a bizarre logjam at some position.

Defensemen

Smid - Gilbert



Whitney - Petry



Peckham - Barker

 

Bench:  Sutton, Chorney

The rearguard is still two solid, top-four defensemen away from being a good group, and they are short on the right side.  I can't imagine Renney running Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert together, leaving the rest of the group to fend for themselves.  Cam Barker has demonstrated no ability to play top four minutes, so he's on the bottom pair with a whole bunch of power play time.  That leaves Peckham, but he runs the left side, so he's on the bottom pair too.  That brings us to Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry in the top four.  It's not an idea situation for anyone involved, but Gilbert will put in his usual yeoman's effort and try to drag the top pairing along.  Whitney and Petry might be able to tread water if they're protected, but Peckham and Barker are going to need even more protection. 

I've got Taylor Chorney on the roster as of now because he's waiver-eligible, and we all know how the Oilers handle waiver-eligible players.

Goaltenders

Dubnyk

Khabibulin

 

DepthYann Danis

Yann Danis might be the best goalie in the group, but as long as Nikolai Khabibulin is under contract, he's going to be in the rotation.  Barring another legal incident, Khabibulin is here for two more seasons.  Fans are left to hope Dubnyk can post another league average or above season.

Penalty Kill Fowards

Horcoff - Smyth



Belanger - Jones



Gagner - ???

The top four penalty killers are going to be leaned on rather heavily because there's no one else in the organization that can kill penalties.  It doesn't bode well, especially considering Nikolai Khabibulin has been penciled back into the lineup.

Penalty Kill Defensemen

Smid - Gilbert



Whitney - Peckham



Barker - Petry

 

Sutton has received press for his penalty-killing abilities, but he's the seventh option right now.  The penalty kill is going to have to get by with the same personnel from last season.  

Power Play

Left Wing Centre Right Wing Left Defense Right Defense
Smyth Gagner Hemsky Whitney Barker
Hall Horcoff Eberle Omark Gilbert

 

There's talent here, but if Scott is right about Hemsky, the second unit will be more successful and gain more time as the season progresses.  If Omark (or Paajarvi) end up paired with Gilbert on the second unit, it's highly unlikely that they'll use the long-time Oilers' penalty kill tactic of holding the puck and staring down the pointmen before forcing it to one of them for a shot. 

My personal preference remains Eberle on the point and Omark in Gretzky's office.

The Oilers could've done much more to help the team this off-season, especially in goal and on defense, but chose to stick with the accidental rebuild strategy instead.  The most frustrating aspect of the current roster makeup is the heavy imbalance on defense and in goal.  It seems that ever since the Oilers sold Chris Pronger to Anaheim, they've become incapable of putting together a balanced lineup.  Someday they'll figure this all out.

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