For The Oilers, There Is A Need For Armpit Sniffing

A year ago I was browsing the pages of everyone’s favorite UK newspaper, The Guardian, when I stumbled upon an incredible photo section. That particular day the photographer had the job of documenting some of the oddest jobs in the world. That’s where I met Betty Lyons.

At 88 years old, this home grown Ohian had spent the last 35 years in the offices of Hilltop Labs just outside of Cincinnati. As a life-long sufferer of various skin conditions and axilla ailments, Betty took it upon herself to give back to the world. For Betty, life was a great puzzle, a challenge, an obstacle-ridden journey – this pushed her to become a researcher for the labs for nearly 35 years.

Her job wasn’t significant in most circles, but to her it was the world. Simply put, one of Betty’s main directives was a “sniff tester”, mainly in armpits.

Measuring odors on the skin almost always starts with the armpit, and Betty was precise in her calculations. This is probably why she lasted so long. Each year she would be re-tested for odor acuity and many odor elimination products were tested on her. At the time the article was printed she was still the most “intense odor” detector of the bunch.

Betty is a unique breed. She has one job, and does it very well. We could all learn from this 80+ year old woman, and her various commitments to life. I think maybe the Edmonton Oilers need to groom a few armpit sniffers.

As we continue the cycle of farm play in Oklahoma City there are a few defensive candidates that would willing plug holes in the otherwise occasionally sinking ship in the NHL counterpart’s lineup. I’m not here to talk about that, but rather more about the make and mold that the Oilers certainly need.

There is a trend that has tappered just a bit in recent years, but it revolved around the term “puck moving defenseman”. I think the term began commonplace and thoughtful until it spun into something completely different. The term began as a harmless description for a defender who could make few mistakes with the puck, but more importantly move the game along quickly. It changed for many, and became a more offensive definition than a defensive one. Case in point, Justin Schultz.

At the time I write this, September is only a few days away and defensive RFA, Justin Schultz, has yet to re-sign with the Oilers. (Thanks to Marsha for this link; perhaps news is coming)

Schultz spent 34 games with the Oklahoma City Barons, had 48 points, and held on to the most points in the league by defenders until the final game of the AHL was played, and he still tied Oklahoma’s own, Matt Donovan. Amazing feat, really. Despite the awesome scoring curve, Schultz struggled, and in the areas that got overlooked. As a defensive prospect he was considered a puck mover. Was good on his skates, excellent handling and passing the puck, and very cautious with placement. I would even say his vision was relatively solid for a collegiate player. The one place he struggled? Defending his own net.

Geographically he was all over the ice, as his offensive stats will tell you. What we saw emerge was a really good puck mover who kept the play in front of him by virtually clinging to the puck. This allowed the possession numbers for OKC to be somewhat baffling. What came to fruition was the team as a whole began playing this way (Hall, Nuge, Eberle included), and a semi-successful AHL team came to be. Remember, they were front-loaded with NHL players, and promised to check-mate the league. They didn’t.

Let’s circle the wagons just a bit, and return to the puck moving defender. Todd Nelson has done an admirable job, almost unsung, in aiding the maturation of prospects. Martin Marincin was wiry as a barbed fence, but not nearly as prickly. Nelson threw him into game situations where he played big (against teams that are mighty stout – Grand Rapids, Texas, etc), and he emerged as a well-bruised soldier. He also earned some NHL playing time this season. Martin Gernat, Oscar Klefbom, David Musil, and even incoming defender Dillon Simpson have an opportunity to fit into the box the Oilers have check-marked. Try watching them do the one thing they are expected to do well, and that’s defend.

Like the muse of this story, Betty, sometimes we expect professional hockey defensemen to be many different things, but we ultimately forget they have one job (“One job, Phill” pun intended). In this case, that job is simply to defend their net. Now can they do more than that? Yes, and they should. However, start with square one, and that’s the responsibility of protection.

When October rolls around, and I start commenting on specific prospects, help me look for the one good thing in defenders. The ones that really defend well will be the ones worth futurecasting. Look for the armpit sniffers.

Footnote: Here is Betty Lyons at work via The Guardian

2 comments on “For The Oilers, There Is A Need For Armpit Sniffing”

    1. I think they were inexperienced & the offense was awful. Nelson runs a looser version of the swarm that allows flexibility of the centerman and defenders. Anxious to see how the team starts on the blue line in October.

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