Tyson Barrie signed with the Edmonton Oilers to re-establish himself after a less successful season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His 24 points in 31 games so far this season show that the 29-year-old has succeeded.
McDavid Reached Out to Barrie
Many teams were interested in signing the Canadian defenseman, but a conversation with Connor McDavid may have played a vital role in Barrie’s decision to join the Oilers.
“McDavid actually reached out to me two days ago just to kind of let me know he’d be excited to have me,” said Barrie on Oct.10, 2020, when the news that he had signed a one-year contract with the Oilers was released. “For me, it was a no-brainer, with everything that’s going on and coming off the year that I had, to be able to have a chance to go into Edmonton and play with this team on a one-year deal…For me, it just wasn’t about money this year, just coming into re-establish myself and show the League that I’m still a pretty good player.”
According to NHL insider Frank Seravalli, Barrie could have been paid much more if he had gone to another team.
But playing with the top-two point scorers in the NHL in 2019-20 seems to have been more appealing. The Oilers welcomed Barrie’s decision. About a week earlier, the team had announced that their top defenseman, Oscar Klefbom, risked missing the entire season due to shoulder surgery. They were in desperate need of a player who could fill in for their top-scoring defenseman in 2019-20, especially on their first power-play unit.
Barrie Has Helped the Oilers’ Offense
Barrie was selected 64th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2009 NHL Draft and spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Avs. His best season was in 2017-18 when he scored 57 points (30 of them on the power play) and in 2018-19 when he scored 59 points (25 of them on the power play). Oilers fans hope he will reach that level again this season, and so far, they have not been disappointed.
But that Barrie would succeed with the Oilers was not certain. Last season was not a disaster, but 39 points in 70 games was below his standard of the 50-plus-point seasons he had in Colorado. He admitted that he had something to prove heading into 2020-21:
”I’d like to get back to the player I was when I left Colorado. It’s tougher than you think, moving teams, having a new coach, and all that,” Barrie told Sportsnet before the start of the season.
This time, Barrie managed the transition much better. After a difficult start, he has since contributed to the team’s success. Maybe it’s because he no longer feels the pressure of the Toronto media and, at the same time, he gets to play with two of the world’s best players. He has built chemistry with McDavid and Leon Draisaitl as we saw last Friday when No. 97 provided Barrie with a perfect pass for a goal against the Ottawa Senators. It was his fourth goal and 24th point this season.
When it comes to scoring, Barrie has been an upgrade over Klefbom. The Oilers’ no. 22 is fifth in points among defensemen in the NHL, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman, Montreal Canadiens’ Jeff Petry, Vancouver Canucks’ Quinn Hughes, and Washington Capitals’ John Carlson.
Barrie Could Improve His Defensive Game
But Barrie has not been able to replace Klefbom in all facets of the game. Klefbom not only led the team in points among defensemen last season, but he also averaged 25:25 of ice time per game, ranked fifth in the league among d-men. He also blocked the most shots in the NHL in 2019-20 with 180 blocks. Other Oilers have stepped up in his absence, including Adam Larsson, who has blocked the most shots in the league with 91, and Darnell Nurse, who has played the most minutes on the team, averaging over 25 minutes a game.
Barrie has been criticized for not contributing more on defence. According to stats compiled by Edmonton Journal’s The Cult of Hockey, Barrie has made significant contributions in goals and scoring chances, but he has also made a lot of mistakes that have led to goals and dangerous scoring chances against.
Even if he improves his defensive game, Barrie has played up to expectations when he joined the Oilers, which is to be a good offensive defenseman. His 11 points on the power play and to be ranked third in team scoring (behind McDavid and Draisaitl) is very good.
Barrie has succeeded in what he set out for the season: to re-establish himself and show everyone who doubted him that he is still a player to be reckoned with. For the sake of the OIlers, we can only hope that the injury he suffered in Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames is not serious and that he can play again in Wednesday’s rematch.