If goaltenders are hard to figure out, defense first (second, third, etc…) defensemen are damn near impossible. David Musil has some impressive qualities. He’s got a solid mix of size, skating ability and defensive awareness. He’s also extremely vanilla, in that he’s not very physical and his offensive abilities couldn’t fill a small Kinder egg.
The follow up comment will naturally be "Who cares? He’s effective". Yes he is effective. You don’t need to necessarily be physical to be a quality NHL defender. Whether you get the puck moving the right way by putting an opposing player on his rear or by lifting his stick and stealing the puck is irrelevant. What is relevant is his inability to produce offense at the NHL level.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Drafted||Year||Alan ||Ben ||Bruce ||DB ||Derek ||Jon||Ryan||Scott|
Musil’s offence has been basically stagnant throughout his WHL career, scoring 0.43, 0.40, 0.48 points per game. If we can all agree that you win games by scoring more than your opposition, a lack of offensive production means that you have to be that much better at keeping the puck out of your net.
The bottom defensive pairings of NHL clubs are littered with journey defensemen who can’t score and can’t make up for it defensively. They are essentially cheap stop gaps used to give top 4 defensemen a rest from their 24+ minute per night workloads.
David Musil might be one of those defensemen who are able to contribute with limited offense, more Ladislav Smid than Jason Strudwick. There are a few things standing in his way, making his job that much harder.
The Oilers are loaded with tweener defensive prospects. Guys who have looked good up to this point and aren’t quite sure fire hits and aren’t quite ready to be written off. As guys like Marincin, Gernat, Klefbom, etc… all start to join the pro ranks, there is going to be some stiff competition for jobs. A misstep early on could end up burying any one of these guys. This is where the lack of offense could end up hurting Musil. Not being able to make up for defensive miscues with offensive production could be the difference between which guys get long looks from the club and which guys have trouble being an AHL regular.
Derek Zona is less pessimistic than myself and he had this to say about Musil:
Musil has steadily climbed up my rankings since I first ranked him 20th in July of 2011 and it's mostly due to speaking with some WHL scouts and writers about Musil's game and his use. He's essentially used like Manny Malhotra - he starts in the defensive zone all of the time and plays against the best opponents Don Hay can find. This isn't Martin Gernat getting soft opponents and easy starts or Martin Marincin getting the same last season - he's doing what you want top players to do and he's coming out ahead. Give him easier assignments and he'll generate more offense.
There are definitely some nice things in Musil’s game, things that can translate to the NHL. The concern is that if they take too long to materialize, he may get lost in the shuffle. Draft pedigree and family connections may give him extra chances, but history doesn’t seem to be on his side when you look for comparable top 4 NHL defencemen.