One of the bigger bright spots for the Edmonton Oilers in 2011-12 was the emergence of their top pairing of Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid in the second half of the season.
Petry, who didn’t start the year with the team, was up a month into it and never looked back. He finished the season as the Oilers points leader from the blue line and was the ice time leader most nights for the squad. He played in every situation and along with Smid, played effectively against the other teams top lines.
Smid emerged as one of the league’s better defensive defensemen. He played a tough, physical game and was position-ally rock solid in his own end. He also was one of the league leaders in blocked shots and played a lot of tough minutes for the Oilers.
Fast forward to the post-lockout 2013 season starting, and the Edmonton Oilers went in thinking that while there were many questions with their back end, the top pairing would not be among them.
Through the quarter mark of the schedule, Petry and Smid not only are not the top pairing but aren’t even playing together anymore. The pair of Nick and Justin Schultz have taken over that role and the former are still trying to find their game playing with other partners.
Still among the team’s leaders in ice time, both Petry and Smid are trying to regain the form that saw them be so effective last season. The difference is the uncharacteristic defensive miscues that they have made so far this year – mistakes that were rarely seen last season. That said, there is still plenty of season left, and if the two of them can right the ship and get back to being the shutdown pairing of 2012, it would go along way for the Oilers.
That would give the team a very solid top -our group to go with the Schultz pairing, something they haven’t had in years. With Devan Dubnyk playing as well as he is, having Petry and Smid back into form would limit many more chances against, and give the team more confidence defensively as a whole.
Especially with the addition of Justin Schultz, who has been the Oilers top minute man so far this season and is playing far more advanced than his years, having Petry and Smid regaining their form and playing primarily against the other team’s best would also take pressure of Schultz, and give him more shifts against second and third line competition. It would take some defensive pressure off the rookie and allow him to look for his offense a little more.
The Oilers desperately want to be in contention for a playoff spot this season and not in the conversation for another first overall pick. For that to happen, there is plenty that will have to go right for them. Not the least of which is the return of the top shutdown pair of Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid.