Ralph Krueger shuffles his lines; VandeVelde recalled

The Edmonton Oilers made their first significant shuffle to the forward lines in practice this morning. They also added Chris VandeVelde from Oklahoma to replace the injured Anton Lander.

The New Lines


  • The first thing to keep in mind: Friday’s opponent is Detroit, which means that the Oilers needed to have two strong lines to match up against the Datsyuk and Zetterberg lines. In a lot of ways, this rotation to me looks like a way to spread out the wealth for road games against teams with a deep group of forwards.
  • Obviously, if Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky are expected to perform in a power-vs.-power role, they weren’t going to do it with Yakupov. Taylor Hall is a more rounded player and at this stage of his career certainly a far superior possession player than the Russian rookie. Moving Hall to that line makes it much more difficult to play against.
  • Hartikainen joining Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle is something that’s been talked about for quite some time; he adds size to that line but more importantly he’s going to be a good fit in the offensive zone. This is a line that’s likely still going to face relatively tough competition – especially against Detroit – and it will be interesting to see how they handle it, particularly given that Nugent-Hopkins is likely less than 100%. I’ll also be curious to see how often Yakupov gets spotted in place of Hartikainen on this line.
  • I’m also curious to see whether the third or fourth line gets more ice-time against the Wings. Despite the fact that Yakupov’s on the nominal fourth line, I’d be surprised if the two units weren’t used roughly the same amount – Eager’s just coming off a concussion and Smyth is playing centre, so that third line is less than ideal; on the other hand, VandeVelde is likely to initially slot in for Belanger on line four.
  • With special teams taken into account, I imagine the Oilers’ top two lines get roughly the same amount of ice-time (with Hall leading the way) because I expect we’ll see Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Hartikainen still forming the core of the first power play unit. For that matter, Yakupov’s bound to continue to see time on the power play, too.
  • Looks like Smyth/Petrell and VandeVelde/Paajarvi are the natural primary penalty-killing pairings up front. 

All things considered, these line changes strike me as pretty sensible – they fit with the situation and with Krueger’s commitment to balance. 


One last word, from the coach:

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • match16


    #11 Jamie B. February 07 2013, 09:51PM 4 props

    “That’s my biggest annoyance with people who want to replace Sam Gagner: who do you replace him WITH? I agree a bigger, faster centre would be better for the team. Find me that guy and I’ll personally drive Sam to the airport. Until then, what’s the benefit in trading him? Y’all want to watch Yakupov play with Belanger?”

  • match16

    Yea about time!

    I think that adding Hartikianen to RNH & Eberle is a very good idea…….he will create some time and space for these guys…….as well as adding some size.

    Gagner with Hall and Hemsky is also got some potential…….Yakapov needs some seasoning and the third line goves him the opportunity to be the go to guy!

    I like these line combinations.

  • Muji

    “sensible” indeed.

    Krueger hasn’t done anything crazy (e.g. JF Jacques on the 1st line). The closest may have been playing Potter over Fistric, but even that was marginal (plus, fans don’t know the whole story).

    The lines have been good.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    I have a crush on that G-H-H line. That’s going to be fun to watch.

    The rest of the lines look like they might be subject to a fair amount of on-the-fly shuffles.

    I imagine Eager and maybe even petrell get the diss 5×5 in favor of one of the kids doubling up.

  • Muji

    These forward lines look like a dog’s breakfast. Although this isn’t the same Detroit Redwings that were long-time SC contenders, once the first puck is dropped I’m sure Krueger will switch the third and fourth lines around. Surprised that Whitney will be dressed, expect he will be the 7th D.

  • ryanchett

    If you’re loading up to battle power vs power, I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of a veteran up front with ebs and RNH. Specifically, I’d like to see Smytty there. I don’t get why he wouldn’t be? Because he has to center a 4th line that’s going to get 5 minutes?
    *warning, smytty rant* here..but this is a guy who still has the hands, if not the legs. He can still get the job done in the dirty areas and I’d like to see him get a bit more of an offensive chance to help the team (PP time for starters). If anything the way he plays the game is a good lesson for the rest of em. A guy like Hartikainen could learn a lot about front of net play from #94

    • Time Travelling Sean

      We must be watching two different versions of Smyth. I don’t see how he would be able to keep up with the speed of RNH and Eberle. And his hands are brutal…can’t make a tape-to-tape pass at all and really has been a giveaway machine so far this year. I would not reward his play by putting him on the top line. Hartikainen at least has earned more playing time this year.

      • I’m watching Smyth do whatever is asked of him. Which has mostly been PK and playing on a shutdown/checking line. He’s playing his role. Plain and simple. Read game reviews from Willis and McCurdy and they mostly say the same thing…simple, honest game. Don’t hate on the guy cuz he’s not scoring when teamed with Petrell and Horcoff!
        Smytty’s an old dog, throw him a bone and he’ll go after it. He’s still got the skills to play in front of the net, and still has the skills to dig the puck out of the corner. He can play a simple game to complement RNH/Ebs, which is something they need when struggling to put the puck in the net.
        No disrespect to Hartikainen, I still see him on the other PP unit and eventually top-6 minutes, but I think #94 could be effective offensively given the chance.
        Flipside to that is, he’s way more effective defensively than Hartikainen, so depends which resource Kreuger needs.

      • All good things come to and end. Smyth was and still is a
        warrior but has become worrisome on the ice at times. Please
        go down gracefully Ryan. Play 3rd or 4th line minutes
        to the best of your ability this year and call it a career.

        You are the man.

      • Jason Strudwick

        Agreed…..but only because of age….Smyth is still more skilled and wiley….just slower….
        Harti is on his way up and Smitty is an excellent third liner.

  • Hartikanen-RNH-Eberle




    Hartikanen deserves better linemates, and I’m glad he’s back with RNH and Eberle. That line showed a lot of promise in a few games last year, I believe they’ll pick up where they left off and then some. Look for RNH to get his 1st goal tomorrow, along with a 3 point game.

    Yakupov has no business on the 4th line, he’d be better in a pressbox for a game instead. WIth chance and considering the odds, Hall should be able to muster 30-40% on the dot as a centre as well, that is good enough for a 2nd line centre on the Oilers.

    If Gagner is the bomb-diggity as most seem to believe he is-then it is time for him to show he can carry and not be carried. Paajarvi has shown improvement this year and Eager can compliment with his size and speed, which some will say Sam lacks.

    • Bonvie

      I like Krueger’s lines don’t get caught up on 3rd and 4th it gives mps and Yakapov a chance to play against easier competition, while having a smart defensive centre to look after their own end. This should give yak a chance for some odd man opportunites off the rush. This also gives Gagner a winger that will be able to handle minutes against the top line.

  • 2004Z06

    I love these line combinations….People need to keep in mind that we do not have a team built with a traditional 4 lines. I love the fact that any one of our lines can score on you now. There is a legitimate skilled pairing on each line. As for placing Smitty on the first line! That is ridiculous. Smitty is having trouble keeping up with the refs let alone the speed of any of the top 6. I like Smitty, but come on…..he is not the Smitty of old.

    • positivebrontefan

      So far this year I have not been impressed with our scoring, we have averaged 2.4 goals per game vs 2.7 against. They arent as dynamic as I remembered them being last year. The only line that has surprised me when it comes to the ability to score at any given time is the Gags, Hemmer, Yak line. Obviously they are a bit of a liabilty defence wise but then counter that with a defensive pairing on the back end.

      They neded to stir something up I guess…I’ll be interested in seeing how Yak plays with Belanger setting him up, use Paarvi speed to get in deep and then work it from there. Hope they use them more than the fourth line they’ve been using so far.

      Makes me nervous…

  • Spydyr

    I’m glad Vandevelde is coming up, should have been him instead of Arcobello! This kid is seriously strong, probably never get many pts but very strong in corners, pk & dot! He’s also a smart player, like this move!

    • Jason Strudwick

      Nice to get a look at the OKC talent as call ups. Really gives you some insight into how well the management team knows the skill levels and what to expect from these players.

      Tells you that there are probably no hidden gems wasting away in OKC….including the likes of Vandevelde, Pitlik, Tuebert, Arcebello, etc.

  • Ganger is playing great,rnh is coming back to soon,horcoff is horcoff!hall,hemsky,ebs are playing there butts off,time for tamblowe to make a trade or two and help out the young guys,sick of watching this struggle,hockey gods please help us,Im sick of listening to canuck fans!

  • Injuries causing the blender more than anything else.

    But I’m intrigued by Kreuger’s choices here.

    Hall seems frustrated and needs to get going so the Gagner Hemsky tandem will assist

    Hartk deserves a shot with some of the skill – he has put in solid efforts.

    and the Yak – Pajaarvi tandem thing is a Kreguer creation – it made its appearence in OT agains Dallas and it failed. But what will a full game produce. Pajaarvi might actually score a goal ??

    Knowing coach K has said he likes duo’s instead of trio’s … he’s kept RNH EBERLE , he’s kept Gagner and Hemsky, and he is tampering with the Left side.

    only I thought Pajaarvi was a natural LW and Yakopov a natural RW..

  • Guy Lafleur

    I wonder if a guy like Ryan White could be had outta Montreal , hes getting spanked all over Montreal today maybe get him for a depth centre .hes tough grinding good faceoff guy , played junior in calgary .

  • I wonder what everyone here would have said if Hall or RNH got demoted thier first year?

    With the way people reacted to the benching of the kids and not playing the kids the most TOI I’m guessing not well.

    So far, the Oilers haven’t put Yakupov in a position to succeed or at the very least sheltered him, it’s been sink or swim.

    Hartikainen on the second line is a joke I don’t get, WTF has he done to warrant a top 6 role? I don’t care if he crashes or bang, goes after lose pucks or not.

    He can’t score let alone score 5×5 were the Oilers need it the most. Then reward him with PP time, how many goals or assists has he generated there.

    This is complete bush, then again what do you expect from the last place team 3 years running.

    Screw it, lets see what Khabibulin can do while there at it.

    This is clearly a defensive move by a defensive coaching staff.

    This will not end well.

    • Not everything is measured in goals and assists. Hartikainen deserves a shot because he works hard and can possess the puck along the boards and hopefully create space for RNH and Eberle.

      As for his time on the PP, again not everything boils down to points. Look at the highlights and tell me who is screening Lehtinen on Schultz’s game-tying PP goal. Looks like #56 to me, and that shot most likely doesn’t go in without that screen.

      • Your kidding right…………the game of hockey is based on scoring more goals then your oppositions.

        Now, think about who is actually creating space out there, and for whom, if you think Hartikainen is the one creating the room then your grossly over estimating Hartikainen and under estimating Eberle and RNH.

        As for screening a goalie, you could get Eager to do the same thing, does that mean he’s qualified to be in the top six or on the PP?

        You get back to me after this weekend and will discuss the effects of Hartikainen.

  • bwar

    Lines definitely need some shuffling. Glad to see Krueger finally pulling his head out of his *** a bit. Don’t look at these lines as being permanent, look at them as a coach realizing that he needs to add some life to his line up. Only sad thing is this should have happened about a week ago.

    I really feel these pairings will be better 5v5. Not necessarily that they will score more 5v5 but that they will get scored on less. Harti with RNH and ebs should still be a puck control line and Hall with Hemsky and Gagner should be better defensively then they were with Yak. I’m also very interested to see if there is any chemistry between Yak and Paajarvi, to be quite honest it doesn’t matter who their center is because any offensive production will have to be generated by those two while the third man hovers high slot to help cover defensively. Should be interesting to see how things play out on Saturday.

  • Smytty's Jibs

    Does anybody else think that maybe its a better idea to have RNH get surgery on his shoulder and rehab it in time for next season, rather than have him go out at 80% for the foreseeable future, and possible jeopardize his career?

    I know that this injury is supposedly on his opposite shoulder, but I dont believe that for a second. If he gets surgery now, he can be back at 100% by the time training camp rolls around, I doubt thats possible at seasons end.

    I think we can all agree that the Oil aren’t built to go 4 rounds in the playoffs this year, and this may be the last time we can say that for a while.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Don’t under estimate Gagner, his speed has improved,
    he will keep up. Just do it Sam, keep that streak alive
    by netting the empty netter tomorrow !! or a
    hat trick in a 5- 0 Oiler win.

    Hey its Friday, i am having a beer, i can wish !

    If the Oilers are top of their Game in Columbus
    they should kick butt. The Jackets from what i have seen
    so far are a crap hockey team, what a mess. That game scares me.

    WHATS A BLUEJACKET ANYWAY 😉 Just kidding….

    • Yakupov is the easy scapegoat.

      It can easy be said that the top scoring line was broken up because of the +/- and that can easily be blamed on Yakupov’s inexperience. It’s like politics for an average fan.

      Krueger’s coaching should take some heat as well. Knowing the effort and the #’s Oilers put up 5/5 on nightly bases, and then waiting almost a quarter of the season before making some changes is very poor coaching in my opinion. Sure Krueger had all summer and the lock-out to dream about his lines but reality is a whole different world. He should have started switching the lines up and tried different combinations in the first few games of the year, instead of waitng for the wheels to fall off just to put some air in them.

      • Sam Gagner -3
        Ales Hemsky -4
        Nail Yakupov -6

        Taylor Hall +3 (best on the team)
        NUUUGE +1
        Jordan Eberle 0

        Yes. By all means. Gagner is dragging down the #1 scoring line with horrendous defensive play. This on a team whose number one +/- guy is a whopping +3.

        It’s OK to not like a player, but at least try to remain somewhat subjective in your criticism. I know it’s hard because being subjective kind of limits your ability to troll the crap out of a thread.

        • My bad, I’m sorry. I was unaware that is okay to play poor defense as long as the best +/- is +3. Would Gagner’s defense or face-offs be a concern if he didn’t have as many points, or if Hall was a +10? I would say probably not. Gagner is only to be discussed when there is good things to pointed out. When there is nothing good to say, we still won’t talk bad about him- we will talk about trading Hemsky for being too fragile to carry Gagner around.;-‘)

          Gagner, Hemsky and Yakupov as a line have 26 points, Hall, RNH and Eberle have 22. I’m under the impression that top is the highest point, so the top line I was talking about didn’t have Hall’s +/- on it.

        • I wonder if this has anything to do with Yakupov paying his off wing? Especially when they get caught in there own zone.

          Yakupov’s extra +/- comes at the expense of Whitney and Eberle, twice on 4×4 that’s where the additional – comes into play. Nether the fault of Yakupovs.

          IIRC Gagners extra + came on a line change with Hall and Eberle.

          Long story short Yakupovs numbers would be identical to that of both Gagner and Hemsky.

          What can we conclude from this is that the lines +/- is not accurate.

  • GVBlackhawk

    Everyone is saying that harti will free up more space for ebs and rnh…. Hall is faster and been a beast and somehow harti is going to free up more space? Not saying I dont like the line changes but Im just saying its not gunna give them more space

  • Gagner has entered his 6th season as a centre of the Edmonton Oilers. Six years is the average length of an NHL career. If Gagner goes on to play another 10 years in the NHL, he would have spent more than 1/3 of his career without showing any sign of improvement in the dot as an NHL centre.(that is to say he will show improvement next year-numbers would suggest otherwise) I thought players were to be developed at early ages and stages. What signs has Gagner shown now and in the past that he is built for the centre position? What are his strenghts as an NHL centre?

    In my opinion, Gagner’s game lacks a lot more than it offers for a player in his position. It is also my belief that, if the Oilers had hang on to Andrew Cogliano instead and given the same chances and opportunities, Cogliano would have turned into a better centre.

    For now Gagner is leading the Oilers in points, and has been praised and acknowledged for it. Gagner’s line is the worst +/- line on the team, and it is mostly due to Gagner’s play as a centre in the dot and the defensive and offensive zones. Gagner has problems following the play and following his assignment. Most of the goals scored on his line are scored from the positions or players that were to be covered by Gagner’s position.

    I had faith in Gagner in the first few years of his career, the last few years I kind of felt about his career like Matthew McConaughey felt about the high school girls’ age-“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older and they stay the same age.” I don’t love high school girls and I know longer love the promise of Sam Gagner’s career. I can’t see him coming up or offering anything more than he has already shown. Size doesn’t matter but physical strength does, Gagner is a weakling with the acceleration of a limp penis.

  • I can’t remember our top 2 lines remaining as constant as they were for a 10 game span all that often. The Hall-Gagner-Hemsky line is a natural fit and has been talked about as an option in the past. Hartikainen playing with Nuge and Ebs also makes sense. Hopefully a strong defensive centre on Yakupov’s line will help him out and maybe he can find some chemistry with Magnus.