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EDMONTON OILERS: FROM THE NET OUT

Most teams, GM's and experts will tell you that to build a winning franchise, rosters should be built from the "net out". Meaning, start in goal with the best goaltender you can get, build a strong defensive core and fill in your roster with forwards who can put the puck in the net. Essentially, keep the puck out of your own net first, score goals second.


The Past


The Edmonton Oilers have been doing things backward for almost a decade. Since the loss of Chris Pronger, the Oilers have run a shady, unequipped and inexperienced blue. General Managers from Steve Tambellini to Craig MacTavish refused to take more than a second to fill the defense with anything but plug-and-play temporary solutions. Outside of Oscar Klefbom, who was drafted 19th overall in 2011, no high-end prospects on defense were drafted (the question is still out on Darnell Nurse) nor were there trades to land a top-two. Instead, they traded on-the-cusp blueliners like Jeff Petry and got draft picks or forwards in return.

The Oilers did the same with goaltending. Dwayne Roloson was picked up at the deadline in 2006, went on a run and as a result got a lengthy extension. Despite the fact that Roloson had one good stretch, the Oilers didn't cement Edmonton's goaltending position and during Roloson's time and every year after, it was a series of backup after backup. Eventually, Edmonton traded their one true netminding prospect in Devan Dubnyk, who not coincidentally, went on to have a decent career in Minnesota.

The Present


Today, the Oilers have a General Manager who understands this "net out" philosophy. Peter Chiarelli has used valuable draft selections and traded important assets to get strong on defense and in net. He used draft selections to go after a goaltender in Cam Talbot, he's moved picks to pick up, while still unproven, highly regarded defensive prospects and he's refused to trade pieces like Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse because he understands that if and when they live up to their potential, they have incredible value.

We can criticize the trades — specifically what it took to land Griffin Reinhart or the return for Taylor Hall, but what we shouldn't criticize is Chia's understanding that these trades needed to revolve around defense and goaltending. The Oilers were losing games because they couldn't stop the other team from scoring. Goaltending and defense will win games. Ignoring it, won't.

I'm not one to suggest always molding your team after the defending champs, but there is a reoccurring theme. If you take a look at the past champions you can see what they have in common:

  • 2016 - Pittsburgh had Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Ben Lovejoy
  • 2015 - Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson
  • 2014 -Kings had Drew Doughty, Vyacheslav Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez
  • 2011 - Bruins had Zdeno Chara
Teams didn't have to be stacked, but the common thread was that every team had at least one, if not two defensemen who crunched a ton of minutes, contributed both offensively and defensively and could do heavy-lifting to help out the forwards and the goaltending. Every team, with the exception of maybe Pittsburgh last year, had a proven goaltender. 

The Future 


This Oilers team is as close to a "net out" team as we've seen since 2006. Even then, when Edmonton went to the cup finals, the Oilers lacked a bonafide number one netminder until just before the playoffs. However, to be able to call this team a "net out" team, Talbot will need to have a full season with strong results and Klefbom alongside Adam Larsson will need to show they can provide those big minutes and steady results. Players like Sekera and Davidson will need to be there to back them up.

As of now, we can't call these definite solutions. We simply don't know yet how Larsson and Klefbom will play. They may be fantastic and they may be in over their heads. Talbot may be a number-one all year long and he may struggle. Clearly, this is a more rounded team, but are the changes enough to call this a different team? A "net out" type of team?

I think the Oilers needed a better backup goaltender and one more proven defensemen would take Edmonton a long way to being a team that can start from goaltending and defensive strength. Maybe the additions Chiarelli made will prove me wrong. For now, I'll just keep my mouth shut until I feel like spilling my guts again.





Jim Parsons is a business owner, husband, father and sports fan. For more information about Oilersnetwork.com founder and Oil Spill articles author Jim Parsons, click here.







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