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The Oiler simply didn’t get in the way of the Blackhawks enough. There wasn’t enough shotblocking and passes blocked, not enough takeaways, May said. “Really the Oiler should have won that series had they played the proper style of hockey.”
Stauffer mentioned the lack of transition plays from the defence to the forwards.
May agreed. “The Oilers are not a fast team. They have some very fast players, but they are not a fast team. The defence is not that agile, it’s not that mobile. (Oscar) Klefbom is a good skater, he’s a different skate but he’s not a speedster. Darnell Nurse can wind it up but he’s not an agile guy. Ethan Bear is still learning how to play the game, he’s not a high-end speed guy in my opinion. And then the other guys, (Kris) Russell, he doesn’t have the speed, (Matt) Benning doesn’t have the speed to play the game so you have to rely on a five-man unit of defensive play and the Oilers didn’t do that.”
Draisaitl and McDavid were expected to score every goal, but the other players failed to step up, May said.
“The overall skating dynamic of that team has to drastically improve to get this team to go and start winning playoff rounds because right now it’s just not there.”
- Nailed it, Alan May. Nailed it.
- I hadn’t been thinking so much about Edmonton’s lack of team speed, mainly because it was such a focus of new GM Ken Holland to increase that team speed — and huge strides were made in that regard. Slower players were moved out, replaced with faster ones, such as Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard, Andreas Athanasiou, Kailer Yamamoto, Josh Archibald and Caleb Jones. But, as May says, even with McDavid, this team isn’t particularly fast, especially on defence.
- May’s analysis of the skating of each Oilers’ d-man was fair and accurate, and he didn’t even mention Adam Larsson, who along with Benning is the least mobile on this blue line.
- Chicago attacked and forechecked fast and the Oil’s defence lacked the speed to consistently shake them off. The fastest and most agile skater in the group, Caleb Jones, only got into the line-up after Larsson went out after two games. Younger and better puck movers like Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg were quite rightly deemed as to green to insert into the line-up but I would have preferred to see Jones in the line-up for the first game and staying there. He’s got as much promise as Ethan Bear and simply needs opportunity now to shine. He’s ready.
- Surely one of the major priorities of Holland this offseason is to move out one or two veteran d-men, like the bottom pairing of Russell and Benning, and to open up roster spots for faster players and better puck movers in Jones and Evan Bouchard. Bouchard will be 21 in October, and maybe he could use another half season in the AHL, but the Oilers can likely use him pronto. He could be the offensive weapon that this team has lacked on the blue line since Lubo Visnovsky was traded in 2010, Sheldon Souray’s got banged up in 2009 and Ryan Whitney’s ankle killed off his mobility in 2011. As seen in the chart below, Whitney was an elite attacking d-men in his early days here before injury hit hard. But Edmonton hasn’t had that kind of elite puck mover since that time.
- In 2010-11, Whitney was the second top scoring d-man per 60 even strength minutes in the NHL. No Oilers d-man has come close to matching that rate of scoring since that time.
- Nurse is a dynamic player, and he’s got some offensive game, but he’s not in the No. 1 d-man category when it comes to puck-moving and point scoring, and neither is Klefbom, a useful player but more of a second-pairing puck-mover than a player who can be counted on to quarterback a team. In his best offensive year, 2014-15, Klefbom ranked 65th overall for even strength scoring for NHL d-men. Last year he ranked 119th. Bear ranked 116th, Jones ranked 125th, Benning 100th. These players are all useful NHLers, but one or two huge puck-moving talents are missing from the mix.
- The fix for Edmonton will almost certainly be Broberg down the road, Bouchard maybe next year, and Jones definitely next year. Jones may well be able to move into a Top 4 role in 2020-21. But until Edmonton does get this boost of offensive juice from the blue line, the entire team is gong to have to refocus on what they seemed to learn in the 2019-20 regular season but forgot in the playoffs, that it takes all five Oilers to defend and all five to move the puck up the ice. They were disjointed and out of sync in that regard in the playoffs, and as May points out the Oilers lacked the defensive talent to make up for that failure of team effort and cohesiveness.
At the Cult of Hockey
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