Once thought of as merely a depth signing, Jordan Oesterle went from playing a combined 25 games over three years for the corroded sewer piping that is Edmonton’s defense to taking first-pairing minutes with future Hall of Famer Duncan Keith. Like you, we often wondered how on Earth a team that relied so heavily on its defensemen to win games and Cups ended up throwing a guy who couldn’t hack it in Edmonton into meaningful minutes. At the end of the day, Oesterle wasn’t the underground landfill fire approaching a nuclear waste dump that we worried he could be, but that isn’t saying much. Let’s see what we have here.
55 GP, 5 Goals, 10 Assists, 15 Points, -11, 8 PIM
52.4 CF% (Evens), -0.6 CF% Rel (Evens), 53.15 SCF% (5v5), 49 xGF% (5v5), 0.44 xGF% Rel (5v5)
56.5% oZ Start (Evens)
What We Said: If truck stops served oysters, they’d be called Oesterles . . . He’s billed as a no-frills blue liner, which essentially makes him the Tom Smykowski of the NHL. If he’s afforded any meaningful playing time, you’ll beg for someone to set the whole building on fire.
What We Got: If not for Jeff G.L. Ass, Jordan Oesterle would have taken the “WHAT A GREAT STORY” mantle. He scored his first goal ever this year, played in more than half of his team’s games for the first time ever this year, and—per Scott Powers—averaged 21 minutes per game in the Hawks’s final 53 games, trailing only Duncan Keith.
Like everyone’s favorite Irishman, Oesterle found most of his success playing on his off side. Of his 986 minutes, he played 553 of them as the right-side D-man next to Keith. In doing so, he finished with a 52.99 CF% and six points (1 G 5 A) next to Keith (5v5). That’s not bad for a guy with 25 games of experience to his name prior to this year. I’m being entirely sincere when I say that’s really great for him.
What isn’t great is that when you start digging into the numbers, you can quantify what your eyes saw game in and game out: Jordan Oesterle probably sucks, and was at the very least in way over his head.
When you consider the fact that Oesterle started in the offensive zone more than 56% of the time, his overall 52.4 CF% loses some of its sheen. And it only gets worse from there. Despite the plush zone starts, Oesterle posted a team-worst 43.86 High Danger Chances For Percentage (Hillman doesn’t count because he only played four games). This means that even though Oesterle started in the offensive zone much more often than not, he still managed to give up more high-danger scoring chances than he and his linemates took, and by a wide margin.
Oesterle also contributed an abysmal 43.02 Goals For Percentage (GF%), second worst behind Duncan Keith; a -3.55 Relative Goals For Percentage (Rel GF%), third worst behind Keith and Gustav Forsling; and a 49 Expected Goals For Percentage (xGF%). This means that in both practice and theory, when Oesterle was on the ice—especially with Keith—the Hawks scored much, much less often than when he wasn’t. Again, this is while starting in the offensive zone 56% of the time.
This isn’t to say that Oesterle can’t be useful. But as a first-pairing defenseman, Oesterle was overwhelmed more often than not. Granted, he was placed on his off side for most of the year, next to a cowboy with increasingly dull spurs, and was asked to take on the best his opponents had to offer on a nightly basis. That’s probably not the wisest use of a guy who, again, couldn’t hack it on a team that thought Adam Larsson was a comparable player to Taylor Hall.
But that’s also not Oesterle’s fault, as Q’s THROBBING GENIOUS BRAIN simply couldn’t contain the temptation to breathe life into a player who is the hockey equivalent of a lump of clay and call him man.
Where We Go From Here: Realistically and unfortunately, Oesterle will probably saddle up next to Keith to start the season again, as Q embarks on another campaign to prove what a smart and forward-thinking coach he is with one of HIS GUYS. But if we’re looking at this as a “maximizing potential” proposition, Oesterle would be the 7th D-man, spelling guys like Rutta and Forsling (God willing) when necessary.
The problem with this is twofold. One, we still don’t know whether the organ-I-zation is going to go out and get a legitimate top-pairing guy. If they do, that’s going to push Oesterle out, as you figure to see combinations of Keith–New Guy, Gustafsson–Seabrook (because fuck you), and Murphy–Rutta (kill me).
Two, though it’s clear to everyone outside the organ-I-zation that Brent Seabrook is now a third-pairing guy, there’s no guarantee that he’ll slot there. If he does, and Seabrook has a crystal-clear understanding that he is to play centerfield and nothing else, you can see Oesterle fitting in there, maybe. But given that Quenneville tended to lean on Seabrook when he was out of answers, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Seabrook as a designated third-pairing guy anywhere but in our dreams.
The important thing to keep in mind is that Oesterle is a complete trainwreck in his own zone—hell, he couldn’t take advantage of a 56% oZ start ratio—so pairing him with guys like Keith, Forsling, or Gustafsson needs to be completely off the table. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for him, and that’s probably for the better.
Oesterle can be a serviceable third-pairing D-man in spot situations. He’s proven that he can play his off side without completely filling his diaper, and if you want to be outrageously generous, you can maybe see him as a second-unit power play QB, if the Hawks stand pat with the blue line in the offseason. But like we said at the beginning of this year, if the Hawks are relying on Jordan Oesterle to play meaningful minutes next year, it might be time to start making and filling some upper-level-management vacancies.