Playoff teams in the NHL average 60% of the Dman TOI filled by Top 4 Dmen, Oilers have averaged 31%. This *might* be a problem.


The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs for a record 10 straight seasons.

The best ways to describe the Oilers during this time are:

1) Lacking in Actual NHL players
2) Playing everyone one on the roster above their established NHL ability (if any)

These two issues has resulted in:

1) The Oilers being an poor NHL team
2) The Oilers making multiple high picks in the first round of the draft.

Now here’s the rub: Even though the Oilers have drafted high they still haven’t stopped:

1) Lacking in Actual NHL players, especially on the Dcorps.
2) Playing everyone on the roster above their established NHL ability.

So they continue to be a poor NHL team.


No where on roster is the lack of Actual NHL players more of a problem than the defense corps.

Most of us intuitively know that a quality Dcorps makes the whole team better.

The very sharp Jen Lute Costella is writing a series on Crucial Habits and the following quote came from her post on shot generation and controlled zone exits.

In the research I linked above, I found that when the team exited the zone with control (through a tape to tape pass or by carrying the puck out), they registered the next offensive zone entry attempt 88% of the time. That same work found that only 28% of pucks dumped out of the defensive zone led to an offensive zone entry attempt on behalf of the team dumping the puck out.

While the forwards certainly play a crucial role in puck recovery and dzone exits, it usually all starts with the defensemen.  If the defensemen cannot recover/win the puck and make the first good pass/skate the puck out of danger, then the entire teams flounders and fails.

The Oilers have employed very few Dmen who are good at what Jen is describing and it shows in their results.


As the conversation in the Oilogosphere changed from “the core is rotten” to “holy shit we need a better dcorps” I started wondering “how many good Dmen do good NHL teams employ”?

This lead me to start thinking of Dmen in the terms of “are they an “Actual Top 4 Dman?””

I decided to define an Actual Top 4 Dman as:

Someone who plays in the Top 4 rotation (5v5 TOI only) of a NHL hockey team and whose results (both in terms of goal share long term and shot attempt share short term) either helps his team mates, or at the very least do not significantly hurt his team mates.  The Dman’s results need to be fairly consistent over the spectrum of team mates. (can’t be zoomed by one line or player in particular)

If a player is playing in that role and helps/doesn’t hurt the team and they help/don’t hurt most of who they play with, then they qualify.

I have also included the very rare 3rd pairing Dman who’s results on the 3rd pairing are so overwhelmingly good that you *know* that they would be ok up the roster into the 2nd pair.  (note: only one Dman met this criteria in Seth Jones in his 3rd year)

I have used the following criteria to figure out who is playing top 4 minutes:

1) Even strength time on ice per game (EV TOI/GM) via
2) Who their most common partner is (via
3) Their effect on GF% and CF% of their team mates (via
4) Is not a rookie, regardless of their results playing with Actual Top 4 NHL Dmen

Now that I know how I wanted to define a Top 4 NHL Dman, Its time to look at every team and the Oilers and see if we can figure anything out.


Below are 3 tables showing all 30 NHL teams sorted by the percentage of available Dman 5v5 TOI given to Actual Top 4 NHL Dmen.

I stopped at 3 seasons as the league average and playoff team average were so close to each other I figured its probably close for previous years as well (could be wrong, but its a lot of work to do these and I’m done at 3)

Other information in the tables:
-the team is highlighted in green if they made the playoffs (which is why the tables are screen shots, I wanted the playoff teams to stand out)
-the players deemed to be Actual Top 4 NHL Dmen
-the team’s place in the NHL’s overall standings
-the team’s PDO. Anytime you report standings then team PDO is important to include imo.
-total team 5v5 Dman TOI for that season (via
-total team 5v5 Top 4 NHL Dman TOI for that season (via

I posted some notes at the end about each team and their Dmen for those who are going to look at a chart and say “WHY THE HELL IS HE ON THERE/NOT ON THERE”


Average NHL team Top 4 5v5 TOI % = 51.7%

Average NHL playoff team Top 4 5v5 TOI% = 59.6%

Oilers 17%. Jesus wept.


Average NHL team Top 4 5v5 TOI% = 51.4%

Average NHL playoff team Top 4 5v5 TOI% = 59.1%

Oilers 40%. Baby steps?


Average NHL team Top 4 5v5 TOI% = 53%

Average NHL playoff team Top 4 5v5 TOI% = 60.4%

Oilers = 37%  The core is rotten!! Wait, what?


-The clustering of green (playoff teams) near the top of the charts seem to suggest that having Actual NHL Top 4 players is a key to team success.  Who knew?

-Vancouver in 13/14 and Montreal in 15/16 are the only 2 teams to have a playoff team average % and miss the playoffs.

-Both Washington and NY Islanders added 2 Actual NHL Top 4 Dmen in the summer of 2014 and went from out of the playoffs while being 18th and 27th on the chart respectively to in the playoff and 1st and 3rd on the chart.  Both teams had a quality top 6 just like the Oilers.

-Getting lucky in regards to the health and games played by a team’s top 4 Dmen is pretty damn important.

-This is why the Oilers need to add 2 Actual NHL Top 4 Dmen to the roster and not just 1.  One gets the impression that Fayne is persona non grata and if they move him out, then definitely need to add 2 more.

-If they keep Fayne as 3RD and add 2 Actual NHL Dmen, they might actually pass the “making the playoffs” stage of development and move right to “one of the better teams in the league” stage without stopping and without passing Go.

-Chiarealli said in October 2015 that he “wasn’t happy with where the dcorps are at” and then said in April 2016 that he’s “pretty confident that he can fix the D”.  I hope he has 2 Actual NHL Dmen targets and not just one.  One isn’t enough.

OILER TOP 4 DMEN % FROM 10/11 – 12/13

2010/2011  – 25.6% – Gilbert and Whitney.  There’s an argument to exclude Whitney based on his results, but I’ll let him pass this one time.

2011/2012 – 26.2% – Gilbert and Petry.   Petry only had 35gp to start the year, I’m really generous here.

2012/2013 – 18% – Petry.  Smid’s numbers away from Petry exclude him.


2010/11 – 2015/16 – Total Top 3 NHL DMEN 5v5 TOI% since 10/11 season (Hall & Eberle rookie year) 26.7%


Good Gravy! How the hell does this happen for 6 years and not get mentioned repeatedly in the media until only the last couple of months?

How does any self respecting hockey pundit opine that the core is rotten without mentioning the Dcorpse that they’ve being playing with?

The mind boggles.

I did mention a lot of this in a post near the trade deadline last year.

Time has proven that post to be true.


– I have Lovejoy as an ATFND (Actual Top Four NHL DMan) both with the Ducks and Pens.  His results are there to be seen.  He doesn’t drag down his partners when he plays up that high.
-Lindholm and Vantanen qualified in their first non rookie years.

-Added Murphy this year, but can see an argument for leaving him off

-Added Krug this year, think the numbers support that.
-*Almost* removed Seidenberg this year, probalby should have
-Liles is quiet quality all 3 years on all teams imo

-Added Ristolainen this year.  Being with Gorges really hurts, but I think he’s there.
-Gorges is not good and doesn’t belong in the top 4 on a good team. Bogo not having a good year, but played ok at the end of the year.
-Sabers need a 1LD badly to play with and help Ristolainen.
-I like Pysyk and would trade Reinhart for him for 3RD.

-If this team gets a goalie, a coach, and a 4th Top 4 Dman, look out!

-Show really poorly via the chart this year as rookies Hanifin, Slavin and Pesce all fail to qualify due to my rookie rule.  That Dcorps will be very good in the coming years.  They still have Hayden Fleury coming as well.  Nice group.  They need forwards.  Maybe a fit to trade with Edmonton?

-Oduya was still top 4 last year, but Van Reimsdyk doesn’t quit cut it this year due to results with Seabrook. Both are better away from each other.  Maybe due to both being RHS?  I fear Chia trading for Seabrook and that anchor of a contract.  He’s still good, but not for long imo.

-Need a 4th Dman and it sounds like they are about to trade ATFND Barrie.  Strange team.  Sum of the parts less than the parts.  That’s coaching.

-Was *really* close to excluding Johnson all 3 years, but it was close and decided to keep him there. Jones will really help and Savard has qualified for 2 years now as well.  Murray can get ATFND status this coming season if he plays well and stays healthy but his numbers away from Jones excluded him this year.
-Tyutin qualified the first year, but fell off the cliff after that.  2 years left on that contract.  Ouch.

-Full year of Demers (who is very under rated) and Klingberg helps.
-Oduya still top 4, but fading

-I’ve like Green forever and remember Tyler Dellow publishing something that showed he played well against top line competition in Washington, so I included him.
-Probably the team Dcorps I know the least so talked to a couple of bloggers who follow the team and they don’t like Quincey very much, so is excluded.  The numbers back that up somewhat.

-Ference excluded from 13/14 due to extremely bad numbers away from Petry
-Klefbom added in his rookie + one year is generous, they could look worse
-Fayne’s results with Sekera this year and Niktin last year say clearly he can handle a complimentary role in the top 4.  Doesn’t mean you don’t aim higher though.
-Nultz was done when he came here
-Jultz’s numbers away from Hall are awful.  Excluded.

-Easing Ekblad into the NHL via soft minutes and Campbell as his partner was perfect. Not included in rookie season, but was this year.
-Mitchell is very close to being done and Gubranson isn’t good enough to take his spot.

Los Angeles
-Included Martinez this year and his numbers show he’s earned that.
-McNabb is getting closer, but not there yet.
-The whole Voynov thing last year hurt them a ton.  Asshole.

-Removed Brodin this year as his numbers with ATFND fell off a cliff (they started to fall last year) and his numbers with bottom pairing guys are not much better.  Rumours that the Oilers are looking seriously at him. PETER CHIARELLI DO NOT ACQUIRE BRODIN HE’S NOT THE PLAYER HE WAS HIS FIRST TWO YEARS.

-Emelin was always the closest to being excluded, but not quite all the way in any year.  If they upgrade his spot they are cooking with gas with that top 4.

-Great Dcorps most years.  Didn’t include Ellis in 13/14 due to him not playing top 4 yet.  Included Jones this year has he and Jackman destroyed 3rd pairing minutes to the tune of 59.4 CF% and +5.92 RelCor

New Jersey
-Greene may be the most under rated Dman for a career that I’ve ever seen.  Zidlicky fell off the cliff finally, but only this year with NYI.
-Severson was close to making the grade, but not quite.  I like him a lot for a 22 year old.
-Larsson has finally arrived as well

NY Islanders
-Good Dcorps when healthy, but now they are going to lose Hamonic (hopefully to the Oilers)
-Hickey might finally get there, but not yet. Pretty good 3LD.

NY Rangers
-Giardi was real up to 13/14 and not good at all after.  That contract is an albatross.  PETER CHIARELLI DO NOT TRADE FOR GIARDI.
-Klein makes it every year for me due to his good results while playing in the top 4.  Like Lovejoy I have him as a very under rated player.
-Boyle is near the cliff, might be next year

-Great googilymoogily how did this team make the playoffs last year???
-How does the owner rip the team and fire the coach with only 2 ANTFD and one of them is Methot up until this past year?  Who does he think he owns? The Oilers? Hehe.
-I like Ceci, but he’s not there yet
-Addition of Phaneuf was good as its not in the top pairing, but he’s waning as well.  That might be a real pairing next year.

-Cleaning up after Holmgren can’t be easy.  That MacDonald contract is poison.
-I kept looking for a reason to exclude Streit, but couldn’t find one.
-Del Zotto really matured as a player there.
-Gudas’  numbers are so surprising good for a guy who likes suspensions that I had to look three times to make sure.
-They have some very nice D coming too.  Their perennial weakness will finally be a strength.

-Mostly crickets after Letang and Maatta, but I still like Lovejoy.
-Duomilin had a nice year and might be a 2LD next year.  Pouliot should be a 3rd pairing Dman next year.

San Jose
-Great add this year in Martin after the terrible trade of Demers for Dillon last year.  That trade might have sunk their playoff hopes last year. Very solid top 4.

St. Louis
-Been a Dcorp powerhouse for a while and just got better with Parayko who would have made this list by killing 3rd pair and doing well in 2nd pair minutes this year except my rookie rule wouldn’t allow it.

Tampa Bay
-Solid and deep. Sustr got there and Colburn has stayed there.
-Hedman is probably the best Dman in the NHL.  Stralman was a great pick up.

-Don’t laugh when they say their rebuild won’t last as long as the Oilers. They already have 2 good Dmen in Gardiner and Rielly with Marincin rising. Not sure of their Dman pipeline though.

-Tanev is a top end defensive Dman.  Hamhuis still there but aging as is Edler.  Cupboard looks fairly bare except for Hutton.

-Adding Niskanen and Orpik was a quality move.
-Carlson and Alzner are Steady and Eddy.  Schmidt looking good to move up into Orpik’s spot when he declines.  Its started but he’s still hanging in there.  Orlov looks good too.  Good solid future there.

-Just couldn’t include Trouba yet even though I wanted to.  Hasn’t had the consistency yet among the other top 4 Dmen.
-Enstrom is getting old, but he’s still their best Dman with Buff being close and having a different set of tools.