Upgrading Defense A Priority For Edmonton Oilers

By Randy Holt
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a wealth of offensive talent that had many with high expectations coming into the year, the Edmonton Oilers fell flat on their faces for a majority of the 2013 season. With a shakeup in the front office, big changes are likely coming to this organization this summer.

One department in which this club really needs to upgrade is on the blue line. This team failed to make the necessary changes to their defensive corps last summer, which really set them back and hurt their chances of contending this season.

Don’t expect Craig McTavish to make the same mistake this summer. He’s going to upgrade the defense this summer, starting with the dispatching of Ryan Whitney. Unloading one of the league’s largest pylons should be a step in the right direction.

But it doesn’t end there. This is a team without a legitimate top pairing defenseman, potentially two. Justin Schultz performed as advertised in his rookie year, but he needs veteran help around him in order to help his game continue to develop.

There are some solid pieces in place here. Schultz is one, the likes of Jeff Petry and Ladislav Smid are others. A player like Oscar Klefbom could be ready to make the jump over from Europe this next season as well. But this is a team in need of a significant move.

They likely won’t find that on the free agent market. It will have to come through trade. Luckily, the Oilers have a wealth of forwards that they could look to deal for an impact defenseman. Perhaps a team like the Phoenix Coyotes, who need help up front and have defensive depth, could be a trade partner?

It sounds like McTavish is aware of what the problem is for the organization. A lack of defense and physicality cost this team big time this season. Look for that to change a great deal once the offseason officially gets underway for the organization.

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