The Edmonton Oilers have made strides in improving their team in the past several years, thanks to a number of top five draft picks. What this has resulted in is the Oilers building up one of the better offensive core groups anywhere in the game. At the same time, though, they still lack the ability to keep the puck out of their own net.
The Oilers have made additions to the blue line in the last couple of summers that will pay off in the long run. Justin Schultz proved to be a solid addition and is a building block for the Oilers. Andrew Ference was a strong veteran addition, but not a guy capable of logging big minutes. It remains to be seen where Darnell Nurse‘s upside truly lies.
While the Oilers have talent on their blue line at present, and have more talent coming up through the system, they still lack the type of presence that they need as a no. 1 defenseman. Schultz is very good, but he needs someone next to him that is an all-around guy, who can log big minutes. He may be a top pairing d-man, but he’s not a no. 1.
A similar sentiment could be said of Ference. In the new captain of the Oilers, they have a stay-at-home type, capable of playing strong in his own end and logging some special teams minutes, but again, not a no. 1 guy. Moving forward, that is one thing that the Oilers must secure.
Of course, there aren’t exactly a wealth of no. 1 defensemen growing on trees. That doesn’t mean that they won’t find one available. For example, Dion Phaneuf could likely be had in a trade at some point this season. If not, he’s a free agent next summer. That’s an avenue certainly worth exploring.
A no. 1 defenseman isn’t the only thing holding the Oilers back from becoming legitimate contenders. It is the largest one, though. A no. 1 guy, who the Oilers can throw out there in all situations and can log 25 or so minutes a game would be a tremendous asset for this club, and would certainly help to spark the turnaround that they’re waiting for.