The Edmonton Oilers were hoping defenseman Evan Bouchard would take a big step this season. Few were expecting him to take such a massive leap so early. With 24:05 of work in the past Oilers game and with Bouchard on the top pairing with Darnell Nurse, it’s clear head coach Dave Tippett is comfortable with the young blueliner and his opportunities are likely only going to increase.
What’s most impressive about Bouchard is that he’s bringing much more than advertised. Expected to be a stud offensively — a defenseman with a booming shot, ability to quarterback and power play and make a strong first pass — it’s his defensive awareness that has caught most people’s attention. As Kurt Leavins recently pointed out in his latest 9 Things article, “His CF 5v5 was 19-15, for 56% to lead the D-corps. And he was a mainstay on the PK, with 2:27 worth of SH TOI. Bouchard is just 22.”
As Leavins also points out, “Not all nights will go that well” but the question has to be asked what this all means for Tyson Barrie who has had a bit of a rough start to the year.
Barrie scored a couple of assists in the lastest Oilers victory and he had a rougher start to last season too before leading the NHL in points by a defenseman. Chances are Barrie will be just fine. But, what if Bouchard keeps progressing? Where does that leave Barrie, a player who has proven over the course of his NHL career that he’s really good at putting up points, but less effective at keeping them off the board.
Do the Oilers look at moving Barrie if they get comfortable with Bouchard? Perhaps, even if that decision isn’t imminent.
Long Way to Go Before Oilers Get There
Because Bouchard could take a step back at times before steadily staying as productive as he’s been, it would be unwise for the Oilers to trade a player like Barrie who still has a lot to offer. Not only that, but Barrie isn’t hurting Edmonton after signing a team-friendly $4.5 million contract. This is also Edmonton’s window to win. It’s going to be open for about four or five seasons and having depth on the right side is a big deal.
If the Oilers decide to make a change, the contract is tradeable, especially if Barrie does what Barrie always does. He might not win a Norris Trophy, but there will be teams that want his offense. The Oilers have time to pull the chord, should they ever want to.
At this point, Bouchard’s progression should be seen as a fantastic development that might be coming sooner than expected. There’s no need for the Oilers to overthink things and make a change yet.
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