Blue-line still a work in progress - Metro US

Blue-line still a work in progress

It’s really too bad that one of the less heralded Oilers, defenceman Theo Peckham, is day-to-day with a hand injury.

Now that the initial burst of glory experienced by the young Edmonton squad has been quashed by a return to the Northwest Division basement, good news is needed.

Peckham, who was barely an NHLer last season when he played for the rebuilding Oilers, has demonstrated early on that he is more than a pair of granite fists waiting to enforce on behalf of the Edmonton side. Against Minnesota last week, he was a physical force all around, keeping the suddenly spritely Wild players on their toes and launching several unsuspecting opponents into orbit.

At six-foot-two and 234 pounds, Peckham brings brawn to the Oilers’ backend, but Edmonton is not suffering because of a lack of size. Indeed, some very tall and broad players wearing orange and blue witnessed Wild centre Kyle Brodziak — a former Oiler himself — waltz all over the Edmonton zone last Wednesday, potting two goals in the first period in an eventual 4-2 Minnesota victory.

Similarly, the Oilers were torched for three power play goals in their next outing, this time at the hands of the San Jose Sharks. Defensive zone coverage is sinking this team early on. It’s not the only factor, but giveaways have been too high and assignments are being blown.

Through six games, only five of 20 Edmonton skaters had more puck takeaways than they did giveaways. Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle are best in that category, while Jim Vandermeer and Gilbert Brule suffered the most. Compare that to an elite Western team such as Chicago and you’ll find only five Blackhawks gave the puck away more than they took it away, with several others even and many more on the positive side of the ledger.

When Tom Renney joined the Oilers, he was supposed to be the defensive guru in Pat Quinn’s offensive battle plan. Now that Renney has the reins all to himself, that coverage needs to be a priority.

While Edmonton brought in a lot of exciting young forwards this summer, the same cannot be said for the defence, but work definitely needs to be done.

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