Loss of Troy Stecher to surgery is tough to quantify for Oilers

Troy Stecher has undergone season-ending ankle surgery, but if healthy, there was still no guarantee he would have helped the Oilers' struggling blue line.
Arizona Coyotes v Edmonton Oilers
Arizona Coyotes v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages

If the Edmonton Oilers are to improve their defensive play, they're going to have to achieve it without the services of Troy Stecher. As reported by Sports 1440's Jason Gregor, he is going to undergo season-ending ankle surgery.

Prior to this update, the general perception was that Stecher had been a healthy scratch for the Oilers. However, the fact he hadn't practised of late, possibly should have provided a hint that something wasn't quite right with the defenceman.

There will be those who point to the timing of this news as not being particularly good, with the Oilers' blue line struggling versus the Dallas Stars (and in fairness also the previous round against the Vancouver Canucks). With coach Kris Knoblauch looking at shuffling the pairings, the loss of Stecher gives him less options.

Further, that the addition of the 30-year-old at the trade deadline was for situations just like this, to help out the defence. However, does his injury absence really make that much difference?

Stecher's limited impact in Edmonton

The reality is, that Stecher was hardly being used by the Oilers anyway. Consider that since arriving from the (now former) Arizona Coyotes, he was only used in seven out of a possible 22 regular season games by Knoblauch.

Obviously factoring in that we don't know when Stecher suffered his ankle injury, he also hadn't suited up for a single playoff game. Fair or not, this alludes to the Oilers not particularly having much faith in his ability to help the blue line.

However, as the saying goes, desperate times calls for desperate measures. Regardless of how much -- or little -- confidence the Richmond, British Columbia native inspired in the coaches, there was still every chance he could have been used at some point in this Western Conference Final series against the Stars.

Further, even though Stecher only saw time in the bottom pairing for the Oilers, his play was actually quite decent in his sparing appearances for them. He averaged 16:00 minutes of ice-time per contest, while recording two assists and a +4 in his seven games.

For Stecher himself, the injury brings about some uncertainty for what lies ahead for him in the short to medium term. With him set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season, he will be hoping for a quick turnaround from his surgery to help entice teams to make him offers.

Blue line options are limited for the Oilers

As for the Oilers, they are left scrambling for other legitimate options, if they are to indeed reshuffle the pairings, particularly to account for the struggles of Darnell Nurse. One of the true genuine replacements appears to be Philip Broberg.

The issue with Broberg is that after looking promising for the Oilers during last season, he took a step back in 2023-24, to the point he was being labelled a draft bust in some corners. While no one doubts he has the talent, he has yet to fulfil the potential which saw he selected eighth overall in the 2019 NHL draft.

Further, of the 12 games Broberg did play for the Oilers this season, only two came after November. And they were in the meaningless final two games of the regular season, after the team's playoff seeding had been locked in.

For what it's worth though, the 22-year-old does have 10 games of playoff experience with the Oilers, including nine appearances last season. While he averaged just 6:31 of average ice time, he did also produce a +3 rating in his limited action.

Oilers are their own worst enemy versus the Stars. Oilers are their own worst enemy versus the Stars. dark. Next

One final factor to consider, is that Broberg is coming of an impressive 2023-24 campaign for the Oilers' AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors. He led all team defencemen with 38 points, finished second with 33 assists and was third with a +11 rating.

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