McLellan likes Oilers defense, but ‘it’s Christmas, and we all have wish lists’
Through 36 games, the Oilers have shown well -- 42 points, one point back of San Jose for first place in the Pacific Division -- and much of that has to do with the club’s improved defense.
While hardly an awe-inspiring unit, it is better than the group of a year ago. GM Peter Chiarelli’s two major additions -- Adam Larsson and Kris Russell -- have been polarizing figures at times, but have solidified themselves as top-four, 20-minute-per-night guys, along with Oscar Klefbom and the club’s “No. 1" defenseman, Andrej Sekera.
All that said, head coach Todd McLellan certainly wouldn’t mind an upgrade.
“It’s Christmas and we all have wish lists,” said McLellan, per the Edmonton Journal. “We’re coaches and we’re never happy but when you talk of those type of players … say a power play quarterback, somebody who puts up points, we don’t have that.”
The Oilers are defending by committee this season, as Sekera is really a No. 1 in name only. Sure, he’s the team leader in ice time, at 21:44 a night, but doesn’t log anywhere hear the heavy workloads of Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Kris Letang, Ryan Suter or Dustin Byfuglien.
And though Sekera scores reasonably well (17 points, putting him top-30 among NHL blueliners), he doesn’t produce at a clip that compensates for the remainder of the unit. Edmonton’s defense hasn’t done much in terms of points this year -- Russell only has five , Larsson just six -- which is probably why an offensive d-man is high on McLellan’s shopping list.
The club also has a hole to fill on its blueline following Darnell Nurse’s ankle surgery, which projects to sideline him until mid-March. Nurse, 21, was the seventh overall pick in 2013 and had been a mainstay on the club’s blueline -- he averaged just under 18 minutes a night through 25 games this year while racking up 60 hits, which was second among all Oilers d-men.
Add it all up, and you’ve got a team that sure sounds like it’s in the market for upgrades Lest we forget Chiarelli’s history in Boston of picking up defensemen at the deadline: Andrej Meszaros in ’14, Wade Redden in ’13, Greg Zanon/Mike Mottau in ’12 and Tomas Kaberle in ’11.
Throw in the desperation factor -- the Oilers are in line for playoffs, a place they haven’t been in 10 years -- and perhaps McLellan will get a late Christmas present.