The Edmonton Oilers will be without top-four blueliner Andrej Sekera to start the 2017-18 campaign. While it may be troubling to see Edmonton start its season without one of their best defencemen, they will call on Kris Russell to step up and fill his void.
Russell signed a four-year, $16 million extension with the team earlier this offseason. Not only will he be here for years to form the core of the Oilers’ blue line, but he will likely be the go-to to replace Sekera to start the year.
Though some of his analytics don’t speak in his favor, Russell is a top-four defender who is capable of playing a big role and carrying the top four this season. We break down the numbers and show that his analytics don’t speak for his ability.
Russell’s analytics are not impressive – his Corsi is below 50 percent and his relative Corsi sits at a -4.4. However, the reason for these poor possession metrics can be blamed on his intensive shot-blocking numbers. The 30-year-old led the NHL with 213 blocks this season and averages 8.9 blocks per 60. His best skill is also his downfall – if he didn’t block as many shots, maybe his numbers would be slightly better.
His best skill is also his downfall – if he didn’t block as many shots, maybe his numbers would be slightly better. That is somewhat evident by looking at his Fenwick, which is a good indicator of possession metrics without factoring in shot blocks. His Fenwick increases to a 49 percent, and his relative Fenwick goes up by two points.
Watching Russell on the ice, he is a shot-blocking machine who plays with confidence and is a quality skater. He also has puck-moving potential and can add a bit more offence to his game in Sekera’s absence.
Russell is not a bad defenceman because of his poor analytics – he blocks a lot of shots and does whatever it takes to keep the puck out of harm’s way.
Through 68 games last year, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound blueliner had a goal and 13 points and was a plus-5. He also had 36 takeaways for 60 giveaways during the regular season.
For the most part, Russell is sure to take care of the puck in his own zone. However, he will have to improve on turnovers and taking care of the puck if he wants to take over for Sekera.