Monday, November 21, 2005

Who are we, anyway? (Defence)

The second part (the first part is underneath) of an in-depth look at the Oilers' roster. I already did the forwards, now it's time for rearguards.


Marc-Andre Bergeron
19GP 5G 6A 11Pts -1
Notable stat: Why not five goals, which leads the team for defencemen and ties him for sixth in the league?

Bergeron, inexplicably to me, started the season as about our fifth defenceman, but after injuries and solid play, I'd say he slides in at a comfortable fourth, if not better. He's become a lot more solid in his own zone--still no Jason Smith, but not a liability by any stretch--and he still has a hell of an offensive punch. He, as much as anyone on our roster, has picked up on the long bomb (he gets burned once in a while, but that'll happen), and he really knows when to jump into a rush. I don't think he'll ever lead a defensive corps, but I think he can be really solid two-/three-guy, and isn't far off that right now.

Cory Cross
12GP 1G 3A 4Pts Even
Notable stat: 10PIM

Well, after a preseason in which the words "lanky git" came up more than once (that might have just been me, but he was pretty useless), Cross has settled into his role as low-level defenceman. I worry that the knee injury might set him back into this preseason-style hooking and grabbing to regain position, but that was more a mindset and positioning thing than actual footspeed (and presumably he will get the footspeed back soon). Presuming he picks up where he left off, though, he'll be that 5-ish guy we need to play solid defensively, kill a penalty or two, and maybe head man it once in a while.

Chris Pronger
22GP 1G 11A 12Pts 3
Notable stat: 28:32 min/game (league leader)

In every way but points (which are improving after a slow start), Pronger is exactly what the Oilers traded for. He hits the long pass, he calms things down in his own end, he's jumping up, he's shutting down, and he's playing at least 30 seconds more a night than anyone who isn't a Toronto Maple Leaf. Now, he'd need to score more to get serious Norris consideration, and I actually don't think that, when it comes down to it, he'll be in the top three, but he has definitely played like an elite-level defenceman. I'm actually scared to think about what this team would be like if Eric Brewer where in his shoes. He needs an "A" on.

Dan Smith
7GP 0G 0A 0Pts 1
Notable stat: 7 PIM (there's only one combination to get seven PIMs)

Like his injury-call-up buddy (I don't know if they're actually buddies), Smith played pretty solidly in a limited role. No glaring mistakes, no overly flashy plays, just fine, bang-it-off-the-boards-in-your-end, hold-the-line-on-the-other hockey. I don't think we can rely on him in anything other than a six/seven role, but he seeems to do that fine. Oh, yeah, and it's nice to have a little toughness on you.

Jason Smith
22GP 2G 4A 6Pts Even
Notable stat: 43 Hits (leads team), 66 Blocked Shots (leads league)

Smith is doing what Smith does. I actually really like the pairing of Smith and MAB--Smith's utter tenacity lets Bergeron roam more. And there really isn't a better defensive type on the team (maybe Pronger, but in terms of a purely defensive beast, it's Smith). I am still a bit surprised by the captain thing--not that you change it mid-season, but it seems to me that Smyth and Pronger are the ones leading this team, at least in terms of on-ice play. Nothing against Smith, of course, whose play has been solid, just a thought.

Steve Staios
22GP 1G 9A 10Pts 5
Notable stat: 22:17 min/game

Those 22 minutes make Stevey Stay essentially our second defenceman. I don't know if, in all honesty, that's a role he's suited for. Don't get me wrong, he certainly is a solid defenceman, good both ways, solid on the PK and capable, if forced, of working the PP, too, and rarely making many mistakes. I don't know if he's who you pick behind your stud though. Essentially, someone like him ratcheted up a few skill points would be perfect, but he does work with a somewhat limited palette. You certainly can't complaing about his performance, though; Staios is as reliable as they come, and I think he's played great next to Pronger. He doesn't serve as the second half of an awe-inspiring defensive pair, though.

Igor Ulanov
9GP 1G 1A 2Pts -7
Notable stat: The minus, says I, worst on the team.

Ullie struggled in the beginning of the year, but looked to have sort of settled down when he went out with injury. He still didn't really impress me enough to be considered a regular starter, and I'm curious as to how he'll bounce back after the injury, but if he platoons at six/seven, I don't see why that's a problem. He still even has the potential to do better, I just don't think he will.

That finishes that. I have at least two more to do (goalies and minor-leaguers), and they'll be coming soon.


Steve said...

How come Dan Smith, who's been sent down, gets one, but Syvret, who's still here, doesn't?

mike w said...


Pleasure Motors said...

Well, duh, because I forgot Syvret.

Seriously, though, I'll add him tomorrow,