Lines & Legends

40 years ago, the GAG (Goal-a-game) line took the NHL by storm and dominated for several years. The line’s makeup was traditional: a smooth, playmaking center (Ratelle), a marksman (Gilbert) and a big man to do the corner work (Hadfield) and drop the gloves when needed. There’s more than one way to put a line together, but the key element is that certain chemistry or 6th sense required to maintain possession of the puck long enough to find an open man in scoring position. The Edmonton Oilers have been working on chemistry all season, and it looks like they may have found something. Times three.

From the season’s opening whistle, Edmonton Oilers management married the veteran C Horcoff to the two gifted Canadian rookies (Hall and Eberle). The 2nd line (until recently) was Sam Gagner centering Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky, which has also been a solid EV line. After that? Chaos, and increasing concern about the other gifted rookie (Magnus Pääjärvi) and his decreasing effectiveness. On top of that, Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule were not delivering enough offense and coach Renney couldn’t find the right formula for lines 3 and 4. In fairness, making chicken salad out of chicken poop is probably about as difficult as it sounds.

The breaking point as it turns out was the injury to Ales Hemsky. I’d like to take this moment to thank the Oilers for being so forthcoming with regard to Hemsky’s injury, and not leaving the fanbase high and dry worrying about how long he’ll be out of the lineup. Completely open, our Oilers. God bless ’em.

Anyway, since the new lines have been placed together the results have been very good. Using Dennis King’s fine work at mc79hockey, here are the EV scoring chances (for and against) in the three games since Hemsky was injured:

  1. Horcoff 16-11; Hall 15-13; Eberle 14-14
  2. Cogliano 9-13; Penner 9-9; Brule 9-13
  3. Gagner 10-12;Jones 10-13; Pääjärvi 10-12

That’s a pretty nice balance and much better than previous combinations early in the season. I don’t know what this means for the future (what do they do when Hemsky returns?) but can say that the Cogliano-Brule combo works well with Penner and that Gagner-Pääjärvi might be something special down the line. I’m not certain we can completely trust the toughness of minutes information Gabriel Desjardins is passing along at this early point in the season, but that Horcoff line is doing some damn nice things.

Now, if JF Jacques could turn into Vic Hadfield……..


  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Jacques/Stortini-Fraser- Jones/Stortini

    These look like pretty doable lines when Hemsky returns.

    • Wax Man Riley

      Really though, with 3 #2-ish lines, why not have them like this. Any line could be the #1 line-ish on any night, if the others aren’t firing. The Penner/Cog/Brule line is working well right now, and I want to see PRV with Hemsky.

      BTW, seriously not sure…… Do other teams juggle lines as much as this?

  • Wanyes bastard child

    *Puts on his Nate hat and whines*

    “But, but LT. This article is directly related to my comment in the GDB about the line combo’s and you are stealing my idea.”


    I don’t know, just throwing this out there, but how about a Gagner/Hemsky/PRV third line once Hemsky is back? Hall/Horcoff/Eberle have shown they can handle the tough minutes and still produce a bit, plus the chemistry is coming along nicely for those three. Brule/Penner/Cog’s appear to be gelling as they did at the end of last year so I would keep them together and even argue (not really) that they could take the secondary tough minutes. Leaving Gagner/Hemsky/PRV to lap up the cream minutes and kill the opposition.

    Or am I just drunk after an Oilers win in good fashion?

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      As good as H/H/E has looked/been. I really don’t think they are in a position to constantly go head to head with the best.

      Horc is +1 while Ebs -4, Hall -5… considering they have played 80% of the season together that must mean the rooks have been getting shredded without Horcoff.

  • Good grief. Somehow I wrote an article without even realizing that you had one up, LT.

    I’m in agreement: these line combinations seem to give the team the best chance to win. Penner stabilizes that third line, Paajarvi will hopefully get a chance to shine with Gagner/Hemsky and the Captain + Kids has been pretty good all year.

    Edit to add: The one weakness is the lack of a real dedicated H2H line. I don’t trust any of those three lines to handle the best in the West, and hopefully it’s a rotating assignment so that nobody’s confidence gets torched too badly.

  • Milli

    The Horc line, at times has looked absolutly dominant. Now I’m not say all game long, but for stretches of games they have looked special…..things to come!!!! Other thing is I see alot of JFJ slagging, but in my mind, since he entered the line up, we have a crashing 4th line creating far more than at any point earlier this season.

    • D-Man

      Agreed about JFJ – he’s not going to burn teams with scoring, but he’s definitely added alot of energy to the 4th line… When Hemmer is back, he slides into Jones’ spot and Jones splits time with Storts and Smak on the 4th line. I wouldn’t really mess with the HHE or BCP lines until we run into another 4 to 5 game skid. MPS would benefit from playing with Gagner and Hemsky.

  • D-Man

    The simplest change would be Gagner/Hemsky/Pääjärvi. Evaluate Pääjärvi with talent. evaluate Cogliano and Brule some more with Penner. And leave Eberle and Hall with Horcoff.

  • D-Man

    I know a lot of people are huge Hemsky fans. But i personally would like to see Hemsky traded for either a very high draft pick and/or a bluechip Defensman prospect. Or even a very talented D-man(-25yrs) to start building the backend.

    I know he is our most talented forward. And i know he has moments that are sublime. But I have also seen many promising periods have the life sucked out of them because he over dangles, gives up the puck crossing the blue line. Or tries to nonchalantly pass the puck through the opposing team players legs. Only to get it picked off and momentum abruptly reversed.

    Gotta go. And has considerable value on the open market.