May 19, 2024

What is the most exciting Edmonton Oilers news I have heard this summer? The coaches in Edmonton are changing the team’s defensive approach and introducing zone defense to the lineup.

The Oilers were more of a man-to-man team, particularly in front of their own net, whereas the Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights and Boston, the NHL’s best defensive team last season, both played zone defense.

The Oilers led early in each of the six games that Vegas won, but Vegas prevailed in six games. However, they frequently gave up easy Grade A shots in the slot, which is why they were unable to maintain those leads.

It was an obvious indication that something needed to be fixed.

Now, that is taking place.

Veteran Oilers center Derek Ryan gave host Bob Stauffer a detailed explanation of a new defensive strategy that has been added to Edmonton’s toolbox on Oilers Now.

Ryan stated that the team was not having trouble scoring goals, saying, “I just think we’re just trying to limit chances, limit goals against.” We’re going to succeed where and when we want to, which is in the post-season, by limiting chances, limiting Grade A chances, and then limiting goals against. Because we are aware that this is a change we must make, Jay (Woodcroft) has attempted to put these new systems into place as soon as possible.

According to Ryan, the Oilers are making adjustments on their end as well as implementing a neutral-zone trapping scheme that emphasizes pushing the puck to the boards in the defensive zone and minimal forechecking in the offensive zone.

We are concentrating on safeguarding the critical ice areas in the d-zone. We’re holding our zones, lanes, and positions a little longer, so that could imply spending more time in the defensive zone; however, those longer stretches of time in our zone will presumably be on the perimeter.

Ryan mentioned that although he primarily played zone defense as a professional, he had played a lot of man-to-man defense as a standout junior. I’ve engaged in both. Both are helpful in certain circumstances, but since zone coverage offers additional layers of protection, I believe our main goal should be to reduce the number of errors that result in grades of As. When I think of the goal (against Vegas; watch the video below), I remember that it was Game Six at home, and Marchessault ends up all by himself in front of our net, a Game Six tap-in. Your layers of protection are located under a zone coverage.

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