Adam Larsson is a warrior, there is no way around it. The fact that he played two periods on a broken fibula is nothing short of amazing. I know I certainly couldn’t do something like that. Not many people could. Unfortunately for Larsson, the injury will keep him out for roughly eight weeks. That takes him to, at best, late November. Odds are, we won’t be seeing the Swede until sometime in December.
That’s a big hit to the Edmonton Oilers defense. Larsson, for all of his faults moving the puck, is a steady shutdown defender. He’s one of the few proven top-four options in the organization, and as of this writing is without doubt the best right shot in Edmonton. He will be missed.
The Oilers can get by without Larsson, however. This is not the kind of injury that will ruin the team’s season. Yes, it sucks to lose Larsson but it is far from the end of the world. The Oilers still have a strong left side with Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell.
What will the Oilers do with Larsson on the mend? Dave Tippett gave us a hint on Friday when the Oilers took to the ice at Rogers Place.
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
Oscar Klefbom – Joel Persson
Brandon Manning – Matt Benning
Klefbom and Persson looked solid together in training camp and should be a good pairing. Both defensemen can move the puck and bring an element of mobility, which is absolutely key. The Oilers don’t have enough defenders who can make quick plays and get the puck to the forwards. Persson and Klefbom both can.
Matt Benning looked solid on Wednesday night and, quite frankly, has established himself as a strong third pairing defender in the NHL. Manning fills the spot as his partner today, but I highly doubt he sees game action on Saturday night.
Nurse and Russell makes sense purely from the standpoint that both are shutdown defenders being asked to play a shutdown role. In practice, however, they have proven to be a horrible fit together. Russell struggles mightily on his off-side, while the pairing got caved in possession a season ago. This is a bad idea, and Tippett shouldn’t even think of using them together in game action.
What SHOULD Tippett Do?
If I was head coach, which I clearly am not, this is how I would deploy the defense against Los Angeles tomorrow night.
Oscar Klefbom – Ethan Bear
Darnell Nurse – Joel Persson
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
The Klefbom-Bear pairing was, without doubt, Edmonton’s best duo on Wednesday. They were positive in possession, moved the puck quickly and didn’t commit any major errors. Keep them together and let them build on the momentum they have.
Russell played a quiet game, which is good. He made a few mistakes on the night, but overall I liked his game on the left side. Keep him there, he’s more effective in that spot. This is Benning’s sweet spot, he’s effective on the third pairing and can move the puck.
Nurse and Persson is a risk, but on paper it could be a fit. Nurse can skate the puck up ice, but he struggles to make a good first pass. Persson, meanwhile, has strong passing skills and offensive instincts. They could be a very nice fit for each other.
It’s very unfortunate for Adam Larsson that he is out for roughly eight weeks. It’ll hurt the Oilers defensively, but it isn’t a back-breaker. Bottom line is, Larsson hasn’t been the effective defender most people think of since 2016-17. He struggled mightily a season ago and has been playing hurt in each of the last two seasons.
Larsson is a good player, but his loss can be handled. In fact, while they will lose some physicality, the Oilers could be improved when it comes to transitioning the puck up the ice.
It will be a challenge to replace Larsson, of that there is no doubt. The Oilers can survive this injury, however.
Knock knock. There is opportunity in Edmonton.