The secret the Edmonton Oilers know about Broberg that no one else knows

Share via email
Written by admin

Article content

Every day when the Edmonton Oilers practice, they get information about their players that no other team has.

Advertisement 2

Article content

They get to see how their young players work with and compete against Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the NHL’s top two scorers and arguably the two greatest offensive hockey players of this decade.

Article content

Can other forwards play with McDavid and Draisaitl? Can they be combined with them at speed in passing drills?

And can the Oils goalies and d-men find a way to stop these two? Can they develop tactics that allow them to handle their speed, power and finesse?

We know from stories about the Oilers’ golden age that competing in practice with and against Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier had a profound impact on those teams. One assumes the same thing is happening now with these Oilers, which may help partially explain why the Oilers tend to be a better team in the second half. The more each player competes in practice alongside McDavid and Draisaitl, the better they become.

Advertisement 3

Article content

The case of Philip Broberg comes to mind in this regard. I’m starting to see glimpses of Broberg as that rarest of all NHL defensemen, one with the skating ability and defensive smarts to shut down even forwards as good as McDavid and Draisaitl.

The D-men who shine against McDavid are few and far between. Marc-Edouard Vlasic used to get it done for San Jose. I remember the human blanket he threw over McDavid in the 2017 playoffs. At the time, Vlasic was at the top of his game, and he pretty much shut down McDavid with his combination of agility, speed, defensive smarts and excellent fundamentals. He wasn’t a great hitter. He wasn’t physical. He was smart, quick and skilled.

The same kind of d-man has continued to have some success against McDavid: Josh Morrissey in Winnipeg, Devon Toews and Cale Makar in Colorado.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Can Broberg be a d-man with the same unique talent stack?

I know this is a bold and perhaps unfair question to ask of a d-man who is only 21 and has only played 45 games. It can put pressure on the child depending on his mental make-up, as some thrive on high expectations, while others wither.

But as I said, I have seen glimpses.

Glimpses can be and often are misleading. Glimpses are not seasons of consistent excellence. Glimpses are for fools and dreamers, not hard-nosed NHL talent evaluators.

But the Oilers have a much larger sample size to judge Broberg on, all the practices they’ve now seen him play, all the times he’s faced McDavid and Draisaitl. I wonder what the coaches see and say.

Advertisement 5

Article content

What I see is a player who is constantly improving, so much so that he is now the second most successful left back on the team, behind workhorse Darnell Nurse. Nurse regularly faces and holds her own against the toughest competition, unlike Broberg, who tends to be spotted against lesser attackers.

In his first 11 games, Broberg was -3 goals plus-minus. In his last 11, he has been +10. That statistic can be misleading because players are only involved in a significant way in about half of the goals they’re on the ice for, but Broberg’s excellent and improving goal plus-minus is reflected in his underlying individual numbers on Grade A shots.

In his first 11 games, he was -0.71 Grade A shots per game, with seven major contributions on Grade A shots for even strength, but 13 major mistakes on Grade A shots against. That’s a mediocre number for a d-man facing weaker competition.

Advertisement 6

Article content

Over the last 11 games, however, he has +0.22 A-shots per game, an outstanding number, with nine big assists for and seven big mistakes against.

Broberg is now playing strong two-way hockey at the NHL level, and his coaches are rewarding him with more ice time, 14:09 per game in his last 11 games, as opposed to 12:25 in his first 11.

We’ll see how he does when he starts getting 17:00 to 19:00 minutes per game. That’s the next step for him. I think he’s ready for it.

As for whether he reaches his ceiling as a Vlasic-type defender, a lot depends on injury, attitude, work ethic and opportunity. But the size, skill and defensive mentality is already there.

One can hope.

I also include Dylan Holloway in this trend chart. The young forward has also improved significantly in his two-way game recently.

Advertisement 7

Article content

The development of Broberg and Holloway is huge for the team. An NHL club can only go so far and not very far if it doesn’t consistently draft and develop top young players. The Oilers desperately need players like Broberg, Holloway, Stuart Skinner and Ryan McLeod to step up and take important jobs on the team. From what I see, all four are about to do it. Of course I would and said the same about Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto last year. Now injuries and other problems have set these players back.

Oilers rookie forward Dylan Holloway was used to playing more than 20 minutes a night in college and junior, but is averaging just seven or eight in the NHL.
Oilers rookie forward Dylan Holloway was used to playing more than 20 minutes a night in college and junior, but is averaging just seven or eight in the NHL. Photo by David Bloom /POST MEDIA

They might start tracking again. Maybe not. That’s why a successful franchise doesn’t just need some solid young prospects, it needs a steady flow of them. If one or two drop out, three or four need to fight to take their place. The Oilers are starting to develop that, even if things haven’t necessarily gone so well for their entire prospect class in Bakersfield this year. But that’s another story.

For now we see how Broberg, Holloway, McLeod and Skinner do in matches. And the Oilers’ coaches are also watching them in practice, noting how well they’re doing against the very best in the world.

Staples on politics

The fairest transition to save Canada? Embrace oil from Alberta, ‘the world’s most progressive energy producer’

A Shell employee walks past the company's new Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, in 2021.
A Shell employee walks past the company’s new Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, in 2021. Photo by Todd Korol/Reuters/File

Hockey cult

McCURDY: Player rating against Vancouver

McCURDY: Young players coming into their own under the Oilers’ lineup

LEAVINS: Oilers topple the Lightning in the barn burner

Advertisement 1


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to one hour for moderation before appearing on the website. We ask that you keep your comments relevant and respectful. We’ve enabled email notifications – you’ll now receive an email if you get a reply to your comment, there’s an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Please visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

#secret #Edmonton #Oilers #Broberg

About the author


Leave a Comment