The Edmonton Oilers made one of the more puzzling signings of the summer in bringing in free agent forward Boyd Gordon. It was puzzling in the sense that they paid him a lot of money and gave him a multi-year deal, not necessarily puzzling from a personnel point of view.
Gordon is one of the game’s better defensive forwards, and he does so while flying under the radar. He’s a wizard in the faceoff circle, can bringing solidity to the bottom six in the middle, and he can kill some penalties. He’s an ideal player for that type of role, which we assumed the Oilers were bringing him in for.
But injuries will likely force him into something larger for the Oilers. With both Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner out with injuries, Gordon is going to be forced into a large role, just as Taylor Hall is going to be moved from out on the wing, into the middle of that first line, at least for the time being.
The interesting thing here to watch is obviously going to be Gordon, though. We know he can log minutes, that’s not the issue here. However, he’s been playing primarily in a defensive role. His starts come primarily in the defensive zone, and almost 20 percent of his minutes come while a man down.
Can he hang while in an offensive role? Right now he’s slated to start the year with Nail Yakupov to his right. That’s a pretty serious offensive talent to be responsible for. Can he be the distributor in the middle to allow Yakupov to build off of his rookie year that ended in a Calder nomination?
That’s going to be the true question here. The Oilers were already a team coming into the year with uncertainty. All that the injuries they’ve experienced during the preseason have done is make those questions larger.