This off-season brought major changes to the Edmonton Oilers. Todd Nelson left, Lowe fired and MacTavish was demoted to Assistant General Manager. While the team is confusing Chiarelli did make improvements to the team by signing Andrej Sekera and hiring Todd McLellan, but yet the defense still has massive holes that need attention and I will be exposing these holes.
For instance it's evident that the experience of the defense is subpar and in fact, only Andrew Ference and Mark Fayne have played more than 15 playoff games. Not to mention, neither of them would be playing on the second pairing for a playoff team. This leads to a secondary issue that will arise and that is that Edmonton’s prospects like Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart will not properly develop. Chiarelli has to do something to add experience, preferably before season starts October 7th and I have a few targets in mind. These targets include: Dustin Byfuglien, Kevin Shattenkirk and Brent Seabrooke, all are big, right shooting defensemen that have put up points in the past. Regardless if he ever reads this or not Chiarelli needs to trade for a player which brings skill and leadership to the defense.
The most pathetic issue with the defense is that they’re being paid too much and an example of this is Nikita Nikitin's $5,550,000 salary. This is too much for a Gryba who will be scratched this season due to lack of skill. Therefore I would suggest a trade to move Nikitin to a team that has enough cap room to take his contract and also has a low round draft pick. As a matter of fact Edmonton’s defense as a whole is being paid $26,483,000 a season and it’s important to realize Chicago’s management only pays their defense an average of $21,513,000. That’s a 4,970,000 difference and what’s worse is Chicago won the cup last season, whereas Edmonton finished a pathetic 28th. All of this in mind Chiarelli should be trading Nikitin or Ference to a team which needs help on defense and has a lot of cap salary, a team like Arizona.
The biggest hole is though, is the lack of a top pairing right shooting defenseman. Out of the 17 defensemen invited to Edmonton’s main camp only 3 shoot right. These players include Justin Schultz, who is incredible offensively, but is liable for defense and While Mark Fayne is a decent player he isn’t good enough when it comes to his offense. The last player is Eric Gryba and I’m going to be real here, he’s a plug and I don’t envision him playing 20 games. To pour more salt in the wound, Edmonton lacks any right handed prospects and while Chiarelli may have improved many aspects of the team, he certainly didn't fix a prominent issue that Edmonton has struggled with for years. With this in mind, Chiarelli needs to manufacture a big trade, which reels in a top pairing right handed defenseman and some prospects.
Altogether, Edmonton's defense has not improved whatsoever. While there were some moves, Chiarelli wasn't able to fix some big issues that face Edmonton this season. Defense is the key to the Stanley Cup as other teams in the past have proved. With this being said, Chiarelli needs to make drastic changes to the right side of the defense and invest in defensive prospects by trading draft picks and high end offensive prospects. We won’t know what happens to the Oilers this season until it starts, but I have a feeling it will be 10 years and counting without the playoffs unless Chiarelli improves the defense.