There was a time when the Edmonton Oilers were so desperate for defenceman, they probably considered bringing then general manager Kevin Lowe and assistant coach Charlie Huddy out of retirement.
It was during the slide of 2007 when injuries forced the team to go deep into the system searching for blue liners. Even then, they only found five to dress.
This season, however, the Oilers could be forced to feed proven NHLers into the system.
"It's going to be good healthy competition," said Sheldon Souray.
"You can never have too much help on the blue line for sure. We have some experience and we picked up an All-star defenceman and a guy that's going to help us out everywhere on the ice."
Heading into training camp, Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky are the Oilers top defensive pairing.
One set an NHL standard for power-play goals from the blue line two years ago and the other has been averaging over 55 points for the last three seasons.
Then there's Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Steve Staios, Denis Grebeshkov, Jason Strudwick and Mathieu Roy in the fold.
"There is going to be good competition for the six spots," Souray said. "We're going to need that in order to be better. We're going to have a good, solid blue line."
The Oilers should also have an offensively dangerous blue line. Gilbert and Grebeshkov blossomed into strong offensive defencemen last season. With Souray and Visnovsky, the should prove a good one, two, three, four punch.
"I think we have guys that are capable of playing both ends of the ice," Souray said. "And you just want to be part of a good group whether you're on the top pairing or the sixth guy.
"We're six guys that compliment each other well. We have different styles and I think we're going to be managed well in order not to wear guys out. That's all positive and it's going to help especially getting into the latter stages and into the playoffs."