Craig MacTavish is Lloyd Christmas and is on his road trip to Aspen (the playoffs) to meet his love (The Stanley Cup) who met him a while ago and may or may not remember he exists. He’s riding in his van with his pal Kevin, and — what’s this? He spies Anton Belov, Andrew Ference, Philip Larsen, Darnell Nurse, and Denis Grebeshkov on the side of the road? PICK ‘EM UP!
The new Oilers GM has probably not slept a wink this offseason, bringing in many new bodies to the roster while shipping out some dead wood. Well, not all of it was dead wood. Some of it was just old wood, but useful and underappreciated wood. But now he’s got a bunch of brand new wood in his van and he’s travelling to Aspen to find his long lost love.
I’m uh… I’m blending my analogies here.
The current Oilers depth chart is understocked at the top end, reasonably well-stocked in the middle, and has what can only be described as a glut of bottom of the roster defensemen. A popular radio personality said yesterday that Denis Grebeshkov doesn’t make the team better, and looking only at the one defensement with no other context he’s probably right. I’m not sure if Grebeshkov is a whole lot better than Corey Potter or Philip Larsen, but if you take a step back and instead of looking at the one Grebeshkov-tree, look at the entire forest in Aspen of fresh new wood (sorry– doing it again) then you can start to see the bigger picture.
Playoff teams, and especially cup contenders more often than not have plenty of depth on D, because as we as Oiler fans know, those players play the most minutes and are therefore more suceptible to injury. Depth on defense is never a bad thing, and when you’re scoring these guys for $1.525 (Belov) and $1.5 (Grebs estimated) you can’t really go wrong. Also, if at the trade deadline you happen to have too much depth on D (can you?) then you are dealing from a position of strength at a time of year in which any defenseman’s value is inflated. In the case of Belov and Grebeshkov and kind of in the case of Larsen, if they turn out to be anything at all more than an total bust, then it’s found money.
It gives him a lot of options and the benefits are obvious. There’s now a significant amount of competition amongst the many D men at the bottom of the roster. There is now no reason to rush Oscar Klefbom. You have the opportunity to deal from a position of strength due to the fact that you have gotten several assets for nothing other than money.
Another key point is the low risk, high reward opportunity here as well. If Belov turns out to be a player that can translate his “best defenseman in the KHL” play into a solid NHL career, and if, in maybe a year’s time someone like Klefbom or Justin Schultz starts shaping into a reliable guy, then we’re starting to see something that looks like a defense-by-committee approach that recent teams have taken and done well with in the playoffs (I’m thinking of New Jersey in 11-12). I realize that’s a few “ifs”, but I don’t see any of that being out of the realm of possibility.
This sounds like a major pumping of the tires of Craig MacTavish, and I’m not 100% thrilled with all of the moves he’s made this offseason (the Ference contract is subject to at least some scrutiny), but I do feel obligated to give credit where it’s due. A bit of trimming of the depth on defense to even out the depth on the bottom two forward lines and this is starting to look like a pretty strong NHL roster. I can’t honestly remember the last time I could have said that.