Oilers Much Maligned D? Not This Year.


That is my hope folks.

The Edmonton Oilers take to the ice for the 48 game sprint that is the 2013 on Sunday, Jan 20th. For them to be successful many things have to happen but one improvement we should see is on the back-end from the previous season. Last season the Oilers finished 23rd in goals allowed(232) which was better than the 2010-11 season where they were 28th in the league giving up 260 goals total. Penalty killing was surprisingly decent with the Oilers finishing 14th in the league(82.4%). Again this was much better than the ’10-11 season where the Oil finished near the bottom at 29th at only 77.0% killing efficiency. The improvements have been there & with this short season I believe our defence will be even better. True we need as many out there in OilerNation are saying, a premiere defenceman. That one that can play 30 mins a night & be an effective after a full schedule.

New to the Oilers this season on the blueline is 6’2″, 233lb Mark Fistric. Freshly acquired from the Dallas Stars earlier this week, Fistric gives(26 yrs) Oilers that toughness that they have needed on the blueline for a while. Fistric is that type of player that is willing to lay out the hits in his own end to get the job done defensively. He was quoted as saying that he wants to be “that” guy that makes that “impact”. Joining Fistric as new additions to the blueline is highly touted rookie D Justin Schultz(22yrs, 6’2″ 185lbs) who walked away from the Anaheim Ducks who had been attempting to sign the young defenceman for some time before giving up hopes of landing his services. Schultz chose Edmonton to the delight of many fans & gave the Oilers that prospect of a good puck moving defenceman who(by what he did in the AHL before the lockout ended) has the ability not to just put up points but also score some goals(18 goals before the lockout ended).

Those 2 new Oilers joining the likes of Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, Nick Schultz & Jeff Petry should give Edmonton a much-needed boost to improve on that 23rd ranked defence from last season. As with any team & any position, injuries will be key for the Oilers to stay away from. The health of Ryan Whitney who looks as healthy as he’s ever been the last few seasons will tell the tale there. Make no bones about it, in my opinion Ryan Whitney is the leader of this Oilers D-core & along with Nick Schultz they will guide the younger defencemen along in their growth this season.  Corey Potter & the currently injured Theo Peckham will round out the Oil d-core.

All in all I am as positive as I have been about our defensive backend in a few years. With a strong performing Devan Dubnyk carrying the bulk of the load(should see around 40 starts) in net this season for Edmonton &  an improved defence, the Oilers should be improved. The forwards will also have to buy into that system. As good & as much potential as this team as offensively they are nothing if they don’t come back & help out in their defensive zone. Look for the coaching staff to instill a better commitment from the forwards to defensive zone coverage.

Psst, guess what? Just 3 more sleeps. Oilers Game On, coming soon. Sunday Jan 20th vs the Vancouver Canucks(7pm mt start).

(Justin Schultz pic credits & courtesy of Steven Christy/OKC Barons)


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