"Jason Strudwick plays a shift that lasts 1:55, then after a 90-second rest, he and Taylor Chorney get caught out for a shift that lasts 3:45 without a whistle, the longest shift since Eddie Shore in 1929. In those agonizing 225 seconds the official play-by-play records 17 events, every last one of them in the Oilers zone. By the time Deslauriers finally manages to pounce on the puck, the overmatched duo has each recorded a Corsi rating of -11 on a single shift."
Anyone who’s spent time watching hockey over the last 20 years has had the standard of the 45 second shift hammered into their brains repeatedly. For as long as I can remember it’s been the goal for average shift lengths over a game, though recently the 40 second shift and 30 second penalty killing shift have started to gain some sway. Anyway you slice it, a thee minute and 45 second shift is a comically long one for a hockey game in 2010, but that’s how long Edmonton Oilers defensemen Jason Strudwick and Taylor Chorney (numbers 43 and 41 in the clip above respectively) were stranded on the ice during their 5-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on March 30, 2010. After the jump we’ll take a look at The Shift (shut up, Rob Scuderi) in greater detail.
I draw this to your attention because, A) it’s hilarious, B) it’s a wonderful time capsule of how bad the Oilers have been this year, C) it demonstrates the ridiculously bad luck the ridiculously bad Oilers have had this year as Strudwick started the season as the seventh defenseman and Chorney, who has yet to prove he can handle the AHL, has played 38 games in the NHL this season, and D) the clip might be the most amazing piece of NHL footage, and single worst shift, of the year.
True, it doesn’t end in a goal against, though it does lead to Andrew Cogliano (13) taking a roughing penalty, or — in what would be perfectly fitting for the Oilers — a season ending injury, so it probably won’t gain much steam as worst shift of the year, but the ineptitude on display is downright stunning and provides for high entertainment.
First, a little more on Strudwick and Chorney to provide some context. Despite starting the season as a healthy scratch, the 34-year-old Strudwick is poised to appear in a career high number of games this season (his existing career high of 71 was set last season, also with the Oilers) and likely wouldn’t crack the lineup at all on most NHL squads. The 22-year-old Chorney has by all appearances been chewed up in an unenviable situation in the AHL, posting a whopping -49 in 100 AHL games to go along with the -21 he’s managed in his 40 NHL games at the time of this writing (he got a two game cup of coffee in 2008/09). A look at their underlying numbers also reveals that Strudwick and Chorney are not particularly good NHL players, though being on a team as front-to-back lousy as the Oilers doesn’t help. Of the seven defensemen still with the team who have played more than 20 games (which unfortunately excludes Lubomir Visnovsky, Denis Grebeshkov and Steve Staios, all of whom spent most of the season with the Oilers, and includes Aaron Johnson and Ryan Whitney, who spent most of the season with the Calgary Flames and Anaheim Ducks respectively), here’s how Strudwick and Chorney Rank in relation to their peers (all stats courtesy of Behind the Net):
QUALCOMP: 4/7 6/7
QUALTEAM: 4/7 5/7
Corsi: 7/7 6/7
GFON/60: 7/7 5/7
GAON/60: 5/7 4/7
+/-ON/60: 7/7 4/7
OPCT: 7/7 6/7
If these stats don’t make sense to you, head here for better explanations on what they mean than I can provide. The important takeaway is that both Strudwick and Chorney play mid-level (at best) opponents with mid-level (at best) teammates and bleed shots, chances and goals against, without helping to provide much the other way. In fairness they are saddled with a horrendous zone start (OPCT), meaning that they start the vast majority of their shifts in the defensive zone, which is a rather poor way to put a rookie like Chorney in a position to succeed.
Anyway, on to The Shift. The Oilers begin The Shift shorthanded, but in the Red Wings zone. Things almost immediately go awry and soon they are pinned in their own zone and under relentless pressure, from which they are unable to escape until goaltender Jeff Deslauriers finally freezes the puck. When The Shift begins Chorney and Strudwick are joined by Ryan Potulny (16) and Fernando Pisani (34) against Jason Williams (29), Valtteri Filppula (51), Todd Bertuzzi (44), Henrik Zetterberg (40) and Niklas Kronwall (55). Marc Pouliot (78) joins the beleaguered Oilers once the Wings’ powerplay expires. During the almost three minutes of even strength play that transpire with Strudwick and Chorney on the ice the Oilers manage to roll through six forwards, including Pouliot. Patrick O’Sullivan (19), Andrew Cogliano (13), Gilbert Brule (67), Mike Comrie (91) and Zack Stortini (46) all hop over the boards yet fail to advance the puck deep enough to allow their defensemen to change.
During the whole three minutes and 45 seconds everyRed Wing sees the ice. Williams even gets a second spin. That’s right, in the time it took to get Strudwick and Chorney off the ice the Wings were able to cycle through their entire lineup. Fourth liners got out there. Third pairing defensemen took a shift. Every single player the Wings dressed for the game took part in The Shift and even with all of the red jerseys constantly shuffling to and from the bench the Oilers were unable to push the puck beyond the opposing team’s blueline.
The one time it did get that far was on a Chorney clearing attempt with around 5:58 left in the period. Completely unmolested, Chorney attempts to make a breakout pass to a teammate at Detroit’s blueline only to see the puck pinball back into the Oilers’ end immediately in the moment where the clip descends into straight up comedy. Chorney makes two other clearing attempts (unless I missed any) during The Shift. One makes it to the top of the faceoff circle and the other makes it to around centre ice. By my count, Strudwick blunders five separate attempts to clear the puck, getting it as far as centre ice twice, the Oilers’ blueline twice and once into the neutral zone between the Oilers’ blueline and centre ice once. Both Pouliot and O’Sullivan also flub clearing attempts and there are a nigh uncountable number of lost battles, missed pucks and otherwise bad plays by the Oilers. Strudwick even loses his stick at 7:28 before receiving Pisani’s at around 7:13.
There is also, of course, a rather alarming save by Deslauriers, but it’s far from the most incredible thing that takes place during The Shift. The Shift is a microcosm for the Oilers season; an example of just how off the rails the train has sailed. It’s almost unbelievable that something like this could occur in a game between two teams in the best hockey league in the world, but at the top of this post sits proof. The Shift is probably deeply depressing to most Oilers fans, but the comedy of it should be embraced by all. It is, without question, my play of the year.