The question was put to Edmonton Oilers' coach Ralph Krueger at the tail-end of his media scrum Saturday afternoon.

"How do you think Ryan Whitney's playing?"

Krueger, usually voluble on any subject–the man fills many a notebook and his comments are never 15-second sound bytes–didn't say a word. There was no attempt from Krueger, who believes in positive reinforcement, at putting a fake spin on a player who is clearly struggling.

Krueger is a motivational speaker, a guy who always thinks the glass is half-full, but what could he say positively after playing Whitney 15 minutes (about four fewer minutes than his average against the Avalanche)? Every other D-man in his lineup had more ice-time than Whitney in the 3-1 loss to the Avalanche.

Whitney is a a good player and a proud player, a player who was out-of-this-world when he first came to the Oilers in that Lubo Visnovsky trade before he wrecked his ankle stepping in a rut in the Rexall Place ice just after Christmas in 2010, but he isn't playing well. He's way better than he's looking through the first eight games of this season where 48 games are sardined into 98 days.

I like Whitney, and not just because he's a good quote, always an excellent thing for a scribe. I like Whit's wit, I like his ability to normally get the puck up ice on the tape with a crisp pass, I like it that he's had the ability to play big minutes, and he's always worked the point on the powerplay. Not the first unit, now, but the second. But, he's having trouble and this is something the Oilers' defence, which isn't the best in the league, can't have.