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Principe's Blog: Whit would they do without him?

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Whitney

It's become clear to me that one of the best moves Edmonton has made in a good long time was the acquisition of Ryan Whitney. Getting him last year at the NHL trade deadline was an absolute stroke of genius on the part of Steve Tambellini. At the time it was a little lost in a fire sale of a last place team that was clearing salary off the books but at the same time getting much needed commodities for building the future.

That's where Whitney comes in as the player received in return for Lubomir Visnovsky. They play the same position and would be both be considered offensive defenceman but after that there are a lot of differences between the two. Now I should say that I liked Visnovsky while he was in Edmonton. He cared, he tried, he had good skills. However, Whitney strikes me as a guy who cares even more and tries even harder and has really good skills. He also is younger, cheaper, faster and I think better than who he replaced.

I didn't now a lot about Whitney other than he was a lottery pick 5th overall in 2002. That he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they made it to the Stanley Cup Final and lost to Detroit. At that time teams from each conference weren't always playing each other and when the Oilers did play the Penguins I must admit I use to spend most of my time watching 87. I knew Ryan Whitney's name but I really didn't know much about his game.

It started last season when he played 19 games to end the season in Edmonton. He had 3 goals and 8 assists for the Oilers but for me it was more about how he carried himself or handled himself. Remember, he was coming from a team that was in the playoff hunt to a team who was already mathematically eliminated. Plus it's a change to go from California to Alberta in the month of February. Never did I hear a single word of complaint from Whitney in fact he was happy about the chance he was given by Edmonton. A chance to be the main man on defence. No longer was he behind, among others, Scott Neidermayer. Whitney was awarded the #1 spot on the blueline.

He hasn't disappointed in his first full season; eespecially now that he has a couple of goals and doesn't need to be asked anymore about when he'll get his first goal. He has piled up assists that rival any other blueliner.  He leads the Oilers in points, he is their plus minus leader and he also leads in minutes spent on the ice. Can you say MVP? Because that's what he's been for the Oilers. Again I rattle off numbers whÍch tells a bíg part of his story but like a book there's more to see than just the cover.

He reminds me of (insert boo here) Chris Pronger. When Edmonton made that run to the Cup final in 06 it wouldn't have been anywhere near possible Whitney isn't at that level but then who is. He is one of the league's best and for Whitney  the defence never rests.
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