Oilers Stock Watch: Ups And Downs On The Blue Line

Derek Leung

As the Oilers continue to struggle which players are standing out?

The concept of these stock watch posts is simple: take a quick look back every two to three weeks and see what players are trending up and those that are trending down. Of course team results will often colour individual results, everybody tends to look good when the team is winning, which can make it difficult to isolate players who are struggling when the team is playing great hockey. Or, in the Oilers case, finding players that stand out in a positive way while the team's 2013/14 campaign goes down in flames.

Rising Stock

Up_arrow Anton Belov: Belov was a relative unknown for Oilers fans coming into the season. Coming off a strong 2012/13 season playing with Anvangard Omsk of the KHL I thought he seemed like a gamble worth taking but other than the numbers and a couple of quotes from management, there was very little that we actually knew about him. So far this season the gamble has certainly paid off. Over the last eight games he's been getting 18-20 minutes of ice time a night and sometimes a little more, and, as evidenced by his positive Corsi %, has been handling the workload quite well. I nearly put Belov on the positive list last time around but wanted a little more evidence first, so far I'm liking what I see.

Up_arrow Devan Dubnyk: After seven games Dubnyk found his stock falling fast. He'd been shelled in his first four starts allowing 19 goals, posting a 0.829 save percentage. I think it was fair to say that wasn't the start to the season Dubnyk had hoped for. But following his start in Toronto on October 12 - he gave up 6 goals on 26 shots that night - Dubnyk has returned to form posting a 0.919 save percentage in his four starts since. That's the level I, and the team, expected him to play at. And in typical Oilers fashion as soon as his game looked to be coming around he went down with an injury.

Up_arrow Jeff Petry: The other bright spot on the Oilers blue line. Petry is averaging 21:46 minutes a night so far this season, only Justin Schultz plays more (22:01); Petry does get significantly less power play time though. Petry plays tough minutes and his CA/20 is the second lowest among Oilers defenders this season. If the Oilers could find a way to get him away from Ladislav Smid (who to his credit has had a couple of decent games recently but is nowhere near what I expected from him) I think Petry would benefit greatly, he's been forced to carry Smid this year (look at the WOWY) and is still coming out ahead.

Falling Stock

Down_arrow Nail Yakupov: Yakupov's start to the season has been a massive disappointment. I mentioned in the comments of the last post that Yakupov was nearly on the falling stock list, eight games later there is no way he couldn't be. The good news is that Yakupov hasn't been scratched in any of the last eight games and that he scored his first goal of the season a week ago in Los Angeles. But that's it. He looks completely lost in his own end of the rink, and unfortunately isn't making up for it at the other end of the rink. He's taking more shots than he did last year but doesn't look nearly as dangerous. Everything with Yakupov just seems to be off right now. Injuries have forced him to play left wing, maybe a return to his natural position would help, it certainly couldn't hurt.

Down_arrow Nick Schultz: As the losses start to pile up for the Oilers a lot of attention is being paid to the defence, and I'm not sure there is a player on the Oilers blue line has been worse than Nick Schultz. Derek took a quick look at how the Oilers have deployed there defence a couple of days ago and Schultz does not look good. At this point he's the Oilers 6/7 defenceman and he's not even playing well enough to justify that. When you've a defence first defenceman who needs to be sheltered you have a problem. That is the elder Schultz right now, and it is ugly to watch.

Down_arrow Andrew Ference: The Oilers captain and big free agency acquisition might not be as consistently bad as Nick Schultz, but this isn't what the Oilers were expecting when the committed four years and $13M to him in July. He has been taking on relatively tough competition but I haven't felt that he's been the defensive presence that was expected. HIs CA/20 is the lowest on the team, and while some of that could be that a result of playing most of his five-on-five minutes with the Schultzs who are hardly defensive superstars in their own right, this is a guy who was supposed to lead the team, to make them better, and right now he just seems to be treading water. Or maybe the team results are colouring his individual performance.

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