While some hardened critics might say the Edmonton Oilers’ laundry list of needs remains rather long, I think one glaring need is in the superpest department.
Yes, they need at least one if not two more young centres and the defensive crew is in need of a couple of upgrades.
However, the Oilers need to add one of those guys that other teams love to hate and teammates absolutely love to have on their side.
I’m not talking about an overly dirty player that crosses the line constantly or one that fights regularly. I’m thinking of a player in the mould of Ken Linseman or Esa Tikkanen from past Edmonton teams.
What I am not suggesting are players like Sean Avery or Matt Cooke—far too much selfish play from such characters.
These types of players are not readily available, but here are three examples of some of the best pests that get under their opponents’ skins while still playing really good hockey. They are difference-makers on a nightly basis.
Also included is a current Oiler with the potential to become a superpest.
Cal Clutterbuck hits to hurt and he can back it up more than many pests.
While he doesn’t drop the gloves a lot, he is capable of handling himself. He has put up significant penalty minutes since his days with the Oshawa Generals.
Clutterbuck also possesses superior hockey skills and has represented Canada on the international stage.
He’s the kind of player that teammates can count on to drive the opposing team to distraction.
While most Oilers fans have grown to hate Clutterbuck and his effectiveness in many Minnesota Wild wins over the Oilers, they would love to have him on their side.
Brad Marchand is becoming much more than a pest.
He is a player who is evolving into a very effective first-line player who can make the players around him better.
Marchand is not a large player, but plays much bigger than his size on all parts of the rink—especially along the boards.
Watching most of his shifts, it appears that he revels most in talking to opponents at every opportunity. It seems highly unlikely that he’s asking him how their day is going.
Marchand is one of the rare superpests that may become too valuable offensively to play this role for the powerhouse Boston Bruins in coming seasons.
Another superpest from a division rival is Alex Burrows.
He is another player who has the ability to produce offensively, throw the big hit and follow it up with a verbal picture for his opponents.
The Oilers have not had a lot of success against the Vancouver Canucks in recent years, and while Burrows is not the only factor, he has been a force in many games.
Burrows can certainly cross the line, though, and while some might argue that all pests do that, heading into the Sean Avery zone is not where players should want to go.
Burrows has enough skill to be teamed with the Sedin twins, something many players of this ilk are incapable of doing.
The Oilers may not have to look as far as some fans would think to find a player along these lines. Ryan Jones has the potential to play this role with the Oilers and does from time to time.
He has the ability to trash talk, play a physical game, score and put his team first.
It’s not an easy role to fill every night and I’m not sure Jones can do all of these things consistently.
The ability of a single player to be a superpest and drive your opponent over the edge through timely hits, constant chirping and scoring big goals should not be discounted.
While this isn’t the only piece the Oilers still need, it is an important component they need to fill soon.