Hockey Headlines: Datsyuk, Matthews, the Oilers Defence and More

Where will the Oilers find defencemen?

The [Edmonton Journal] put out a great piece today detailing the Championship defence corp of the Penguins and how the Oilers can look to them for inspiration. With the exception of Kris Letang (third round) and the undrafted Ben Lovejoy, the blueliners used by Pittsburgh during their playoff run were either first or second round draft picks. Admittedly not household names, but not 7th round picks either. You could say that the Pens got lucky, because Trevor Daley didn’t fit in at all in Chicago, Lovejoy’s trade was seen as the worst of the century, Ian Cole was a disappointment in St. Louis and well, we don’t need to re-hash the Justin Schultz story.

The reality is, it wasn’t luck. If the Oilers think that by using a lot of second and third pairing guys they’ll find success, well they’d be wrong. The Penguins implemented a system. They were able to shift guys in and out, and it always worked, because it wasn’t the individual players, but rather the style of play. They lost Daley but didn’t miss a beat. I am one of the people who didn’t think they could overcome that, but I was wrong. The Pens figured out the perfect way to play, and all of the guys bought in. Look at their top four compared to that of the Sharks. Before the series started, that advantage was all San Jose.

But it didn’t take long for the Sharks, and everyone watching, to realize that it didn’t matter who was in or out of the lineup for Pittsburgh. Their system worked wonders. I would venture to suggest that it made the players look good, rather than the other way around. But give those guys a ton of credit. The way they blocked shots, killed penalties, and moved the puck with ease was a thing of beauty. The Penguins struggled in the early going of the season because they couldn’t get the puck up to the skilled forwards. Daley was a key mid-season addition, but the turnaround was all Mike Sullivan’s philosophy.

The Penguins strength is their team speed and ability to move the puck. The Oilers don’t have a Kris Letang, and finding one is going to be their biggest challenge. But unfortunately, getting that one elite guy to go along with the a less than stellar supporting cast isn’t going to get the job done. Unless of course, Todd McLellan and his coaching staff intend on changing the entire team philosophy. Otherwise, trying to emulate the Pens may not work out so well.

In Other News…

Another Oilers trade trade possibility is off the table. [TSN]

Speaking of the Penguins, what does their salary cap situation look like? [HockeyBuzz]

(Obviously the Red Wings aren’t thrilled. Salary Cap implications for them)

It’s official. We’ve seen the last of Pavel Datsyuk in the NHL. [Yahoo Sports], [The Hockey News]

So who exactly is Auston Matthews? [Globe and Mail]

Top prospect Jesse Puljujarvi will miss more time recovering from surgery. [Todays Slapshot]

And finally, ex-players need a better post-hockey support system. [The Star]