The Edmonton Oilers haven’t had a competent power play for a long time. They’ve rotated through coaches and point men alike, without finding success. They’ve added some intriguing options to the line-up: both young players still developing, and established veterans like Ryan Smyth and Eric Belanger. Who should the team use on the power play this year?
Let’s start by considering the options. My list of realistic possibilities includes the majority of players likely to get power play minutes, along with their power play minutes per game last season and PTS/60 in 5-on-4 situations (numbers courtesy NHL.com and behindthenet.ca). Players are divided by position, and ranked by scoring rates.
- Shawn Horcoff – 2:43 TOI – 4.99 PTS/60
- Jordan Eberle – 2:32 TOI – 3.92 PTS/60
- Ales Hemsky – 3:13 TOI – 3.47 PTS/60
- Magnus Paajarvi – 1:50 TOI – 3.45 PTS/60
- Ryan Smyth – 2:57 TOI – 3.37 PTS/60
- Linus Omark – 2:38 TOI – 3.35 PTS/60
- Taylor Hall – 2:43 TOI – 3.27 PTS/60
- Sam Gagner – 2:56 TOI – 2.51 PTS/60
- Eric Belanger – 1:30 TOI – 2.05 PTS/60
- Gilbert Brule – 1:16 TOI – 1.17 PTS/60
- Teemu Hartikainen – Less than 20 NHL games
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Played in WHL
- Ryan Whitney – 4:19 TOI – 2.91 PTS/60
- Tom Gilbert – 2:59 TOI – 2.63 PTS/60
- Cam Barker – 1:22 TOI – 1.68 PTS/60
- Jeff Petry – 2:11 TOI – 1.67 PTS/60
- Taylor Chorney – Less than 20 NHL games
What I Would Do
I’m very curious to see what the consensus is in the comments section, but I have a few suggestions of my own. First off, I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on last season’s scoring results – a single season is a dicey sample at the best of times, and power play results involve a relatively small number of minutes and are heavily dependent on both line-mates and team.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s start with the blue-line, where we have five options. It is likely that just one of Jeff Petry/Taylor Chorney will make the opening night roster (barring an injury setback for Ryan Whitney) but it’s almost a moot point – the Oilers have a bunch of iffy offensive defensemen and some superb extra wingers, so I’d argue a four forwards/one defenseman setup is the way to go. Given that the Oilers have too many tough minutes on the blue-line for too few competent defenders, so this makes a certain sense from that angle as well.
Initially, I’d be tempted to leave Tom Gilbert in an entirely defensive role, and play Ryan Whitney on the first power play unit and Barker on the second power play unit. Despite Barker’s poor results last year, this is historically his greatest strength, so it only makes sense to use him on the power play.
There are three sets of wingers to mix-and-match: Smyth/Hemsky, Hall/Eberle and Paajarvi/Omark. Much will depend on how Tom Renney employs them at even-strength (presumably he’d like to keep the even-strength groups together) – whether he opts to keep the kids together or splits them up, giving one to each veteran. My guess is that Smyth and Hemsky play with Gagner, while Eberle and Hall play with Horcoff – those would be my first and second power play forward combinations, while I’d employ both Omark and Paajarvi in the spare point position. Omark looked good their last season, while Paajarvi plays like a defenseman anyway.
If Nugent-Hopkins makes the team beyond the nine game mark, I’d like to see he and Horcoff alternate on the second unit, or even possibly have Nugent-Hopkins supplant Horcoff entirely – with Horcoff picking up extra minutes on the penalty kill and at even-strength.
What units does the Nation want to see?