Coming into this season, the Edmonton Oilers failed to do two things: find a suitable upgrade in goal and improve (or at least not get worse) on a very strong penalty killing unit that lost one of its best penalty killers in Riley Sheahan. With Sheahan officially agreeing to a PTO with the Buffalo Sabres this week, it was clear the Oilers weren’t going back to that well.
The question frequently asked this offseason — and still asked by many now that Sheahan is out– is what options do the Oilers have at their disposal when down a man? The answer seems to be that Edmonton will try two players.
Kyle Turris Will Get Time on the Kill
According to head coach Dave Tippett, the Oilers believe newly-acquired center Kyle Turris is going to be good for more than some depth scoring and a possible appearance or two in the top six. Pegged to be the Oilers third line center this season, Tippett hinted that Turris is also going to get some time killing penalties — not something he’s done a whole lot over the past few seasons in Nashville.
In 62 games with the Predators last season, Turris averaged just 39 seconds per game shorthanded, which had him seventh on the team among forwards. This wasn’t an anomaly. Outside of his 2013-2015 seasons in Ottawa, he’s never really been a go-to guy on the kill.
Unfortunately, when it comes the numbers shorthanded for the Senators during that time, his offense was better than it’s been in a while, but the stats don’t favor the overall outlook of him being a solution to the penalty kill problem.
There is one silver lining: Turris has a career 50.5% face off percentage in the defensive zone. During that 2013/14, his numbers spiked to 55.8%. This is good for the Oilers who ranked near the bottom of the league in winning shorthanded defensive zone face offs last season with 41.8%. It’s also a key component in a strong kill as getting possession of the puck and dumping it out makes like much easier to trying waste time on a power play.
The Oilers Might Look to One Other Option
If Turris doesn’t pan out in this role, the Oilers apparently have a backup plan. His name is Gaetan Haas.
Tippett mentioned Haas as a legitimate option, and believes he’ll get more playing time on the penalty kill as a right handed centerman. Again, Haas was not a regular last season in this role and wasn’t particularly good at winning faceoffs, but Tippett believes he did show improvement as an overall two-way forward.
The Oilers allowed their lowest rate of shots against among regular forwards with Haas on the ice and Tippett is hoping that translates over to the kill where the Oilers lost some key pieces. It might or might not.
The bad news is, the Oilers don’t have a proven solution to this problem. The good news is, they have a couple of players who have either shown an ability to help, or are trending in the right direction.
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