Coming into the season the Oilers defence wasn’t regarded as point of team strength by any means, and as we inch closer to opening day, it’s not getting any better. The major and serious news is the loss of training camp stand-out Taylor Fedun, during Friday’s game in Minnesota. He suffered a complex fracture of the right femur while making an icing attempt, crashing hard into the boards in what was a gruesome scene. His status remains unknown, but many signs point to him missing at least this season, and even more devastating, possibly the rest of his career. Thoughts are with the Fedun family.
In addition to Fedun’s woes, Ladislav Smid left last night’s game with a bad right shoulder, while Taylor Chorney tweaked his right knee. This leaves the Oilers with only six healthy defencemen at camp: Cam Barker, Tom Gilbert, Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry, Corey Potter & Andy Sutton, who will all play Saturday night in Vancouver. Ryan Whitney is at camp, but hasn’t played a single pre-season game and will most likely not suit up until opening day.
Is this a sign of doom & gloom on the blue-line that will stick around all year? The Oilers were really high on the emergence of Fedun, now he’s out of the picture, the journeyman Potter looks like he may stick around with the big boys a bit longer. Veterans like Gilbert, Barker & Sutton need to pick up the slack. Another question is whether Whitney even healthy. There really are a lot more questions than answers at this point, and that’s not a good thing considering the regular season is only one week away.
Assuming the Oilers are content with the nine defencemen left on their active roster, here are my predictions for how they will perform this season:
Ryan Whitney: 60GP 10G 38A 48PTS – Whitney will surpass his 35 games played total of last season, but it’s unrealistic to expect him to play all 82. He’s the Oilers best defenseman, and they’ll need him to play in all situations.
Tom Gilbert: 78GP 7G 25A 32PTS – Many fans have been shaking their heads ever since the Oilers gave Tom that contract extension, but he stays healthy and is a virtual lock for 78+ games played.
Cam Barker: 65GP 5G 22A 27PTS– One of my bold predictions was Barker collecting 40 points this season, but after watching him struggle during the pre-season, I take that back.
Theo Peckham: 75GP 5G 15A 20PTS – A fan favourite who plays with a lot of heart & hustle, look for him to contribute a bit more offensively this season.
Ladislav Smid: 75GP 2G 10A 12PTS – Has only scored 4 goals in his NHL career, but that’s not his game. Solid on the back-end, and a valuable asset on the penalty kills.
Andy Sutton: 55GP 1G 5A 6PTS – Was once one of the most feared defenceman to play against in the entire league. Question is, can he still get the job done? My thinking is he gets dealt at the deadline.
Taylor Chorney: 58GP 2G 12A 14PTS – Hasn’t contributed offensively the way the Oilers would have liked coming out of college, but he’s still young and could improve.
Jeff Petry: 55GP 2G 8A 10PTS – Had a pretty good first pro season down in Oklahoma, and played a handful of games with the big boys last season. Needs some more time to develop.
Corey Potter: 38GP 3G 7A 10PTS – The 27 year old Potter is with his third NHL team, and even though he hasn’t played more than 5 regular season games in one season, he’ll get his chance here.
Other Mentions: Colten Teubert (26GP 4G 8A 12PTS), Alex Plante (18GP 1G 4A 5PTS), Kiril Tulupov (8GP 0G 1A 1PT)