How will Dallas Eakins run his special teams?

A little over a week ago, with the Oilers seemingly done making significant changes, we looked at how the Oilers might run their even-strength lines. But what about special teams?

While we can’t know what Dallas Eakins has in mind for special teams, we can look at the personnel on the team and make some guesses.

The Power Play

One of the things I’ve tried to do is keep lines together; thus the presumed top line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle forms the core of the first unit power play while David Perron, Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov are all on the second unit.

I’m unfamiliar with how Dallas Eakins ran his power plays with the Toronto Marlies; initially I thought about sticking with the 1-3-1 setup the Oilers ran for much of last year but instead decided to model these units off San Jose’s fantastic group. From what I’ve seen of the Sharks (arguably the league’s best power play over the last few years) they typically have Logan Couture and Joe Thornton on each wing with Joe Pavelski in the slot and Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau on the points.

The first unit power play above features Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall on their off-wings, putting both in position to take a lot of shots and work the puck down low. Justin Schultz, unsurprisingly, takes one of the point positions while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins slides into the other. On the whole, that’s a quartet I really like – it would be nice if Nugent-Hopkins was more of a shooter, but this power play model is built more around puck movement and a variety of options rather than a big shot from the point, so it’s not a critical failing.

As strange as this sounds, I think the Oilers’ power play is going to miss Shawn Horcoff a little. Looking through potential candidates for power play work, it’s hard not to be struck by the lack of net-front players – ideally you want someone with size and strength and decent hands, and the Oilers don’t really have that guy. Horcoff had first-unit duty a year ago, and Magnus Paajarvi and Teemu Hartikainen also played the role at times. That’s where Ryan Smyth comes in: he’s built a career in that role, and given his presumably reduced responsibility at even-strength he can sub-in on the first unit power play in that net-front role.

The second unit has a very similar structure. Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov play either side up front here, while Sam Gagner mans one point and either Denis Grebeshkov or Anton Belov handles the other (Grebeshkov has had success on the Oilers’ power play in the past). All four are on their off-sides, encouraging shooting. David Perron isn’t really an ideal candidate for the slot role, but the trouble is that a) the Oilers don’t really have a lot of natural options for the job and b) Eberle, Hemsky and Perron are all ideally slotted along the left wall; one of them can’t be there. Besides, Perron’s no smaller than Joe Pavelski, and the Sharks have done just fine the last few years.

Naturally, this is just my read and I’m open to others. I was very tempted to put Hall in the slot and Yakupov on the right side on the first unit, bumping Smyth down to the slot position on the second and flanking him with Hemsky on the right and Perron on the left; it’s an arrangement I actually like a little better (because it loads up that top unit) but it breaks up the even-strength forward lines and introduces another element for the coach to juggle. I’m interested to see what the comments think; we have some bright readers and this is an interesting topic.

Also, I picture a line of Boyd Gordon, Ryan Jones and Jesse Joensuu for the first even-strength shift after the power play.

Penalty Kill

No major surprises here. As with the power play, I have endeavoured to keep even-strength combinations together.

Boyd Gordon centres the top penalty killing forward pair, along with either Ryan Jones or Ryan Smyth (depending on which player one sees winning the battle for the open third line wing job). Both players will be experienced veterans in the role.

The other of Smyth and Jones will join presumptive fourth-line centre Anton Lander on the second penalty killing unit; again, it’s a case of sticking the veteran defensive forwards in the primary penalty kill roles.

Generally two units will do the bulk of the work, but Sam Gagner and David Perron have both filled in on the penalty kill in the past and can either provide a third forward pairing or fill-ins for the first two pairings. I have Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins listed as a potential fourth pairing, with the thought that they can take over in the last 20-30 seconds of the penalty and provide some offensive push and a smooth transition back to even-strength play. I also see both players as strong fits talent-wise for the penalty kill; it wouldn’t bother me at all if Eakins chose to break them in as a regular third unit (though I prefer Gagner and Perron because they have an edge in age/experience and their responsibilities at even-strength and on the power play are less).

On defence, Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry reprise their role as the team’s top duo, while the other two logical candidates (Andrew Ference and Nick Schultz) take second pairing duty. The other defencemen on the team are somewhat problematic, but Denis Grebeshkov would be my choice for the number five role – he killed penalties for Craig MacTavish and is more of a known factor than either Anton Belov or Justin Schultz.

Some of my recent stuff

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    You definitely get a better perspective on how many ON readers read the comment section and now have the option to prop/trash comments.

    I concur with Oilcan… bring on DSF his Trash hits are going to be through the roof… He just might be the most popular commenter on this website (please trash my comment for even saying that)

    GOILERS! Go Oilers Nation!

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    I don’t think Hall should get any PP time so he can save his energy for 5×5, where he dominates. I also think Grebs has a chance to be one the 1st pairing.

  • I hope your wrong on the pp, the second unit is to weak with Hemsky running it, and yak should be on the first unit because he has the best shot on the team also he has proven how effective he can be at right side of the net near the end of last season

    pp1 shooting
    Hall on the left, Perron in front of the net
    yak on the right, Gagner on left point and Schultz on right point

    pp2 overload left side
    Eberly down low on the left, Nuge on the left boards, Hemsky right side in a shooting only role, with Petry right point Grebeshkov on the left.

    • StHenriOilBomb

      I just trashed you AND gave you props. Things are getting crazy!

      I would be amazed if we could start to look at a Nation member’s post history in his profile. Maybe last 5 posts, or even a search function. That could liven up discussion a little and weed out some of the BS.

      • YFC Prez

        I Haven’t been to TSN in awhile, but last time I was there it was way over moderated, took an hour for a comment to show making it impossible to have a conversation with anyone. Most of the comments were about the weather in Edmonton or the lack of Stanley cups in Vancouver regardless of the article topic.

        I think it’s a safe bet that the Nation will never be like TSN community. Trash Button aside

  • Action Jackson

    This is the year to let the horses run. Toews, Kopitar, and other top players on good teams play heavy PK minutes. Put Hall on PK and our turnover machine will lead the league in SHGs.

  • book¡e

    I used to try to be witty to get Props, but really negative attention is just as good and seems way easier to get.

    RNH’s upside really pales in comparison to Kyle Wellwood who has way more potential.

    Chris Pronger’s wife really was correct about Edmonton.

    Ales Hemsky is a great player with a good attitude

    The Oilers blew it with Eakins, they should have hired a former Oiler like Messier to coach.

    Has anyone ever pointed out how great DSF is?

    The Oilers will probably finish last this year and Craig MacTavish will be promoted.

    I sure am glad the Oilers kept their assistant coaches – it was the nice thing to do.

  • OilClog

    More than who he puts on the PP/PK units I am worried about the strategy he puts in place.

    Under Eakins for 4 seasons the Marlies PP was terrible, usually bottom 5 with a best of 19th. Prior to Eakins it was 2nd.

    His PK was tops for 2/4 seasons but 15th last season. Could be an aberration with the lockout but still worrisome.

  • book¡e

    Absolutely agree with smytty in front. That’s how he’s made his living and his ability to get in the paint does not diminish with age. He’s worked well with ebs in the past and his legs don’t need to be there on the pp. holmstrom did this until he retired and he’s always been a poor mans smytty

    • book¡e

      I’ll tell you the one big difference between smythe and holmstrom. If you started raggin on holmstrom when he was in front you were likely to loose your teeth.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Posts I WILL trash on a regular basis:

    1. Anything by DSF, and

    2. Any post by New Age System that is MORE than 2 lines long…keep it brief my man, brevity is your friend, and

    3. Any post that just doesn’t make sense, and finally….

    4 failed Fist posts…if you think you are clever, but wind up 2nd, then use the EDIT button (and be quicker on the draw next time)

    That is all.

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled commenting.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    Last year pk forwards:
    the league average is 6.00 GA

    Gagner 3.13 gA 1.60 MIn #4fwd in league
    Smyth 3.58 GA 2.50min #10 fwd in league

    top 10 Pk based on teams for 13-14.
    1. A. Hall- Read PHI 2.67 GAA
    2. Gagner – Smyth 3.36 GAA
    3. Bergeron – Kelly 3.51 GAA
    4. Giroux – Talbot 3.52
    5. hansen- higgins 3.89
    6. Bozak – Mclemment 3.91
    7. zajac – elias 4.15
    8. Alfredson – kondra 4.30
    9. Horcoff- peverley 4.40
    10. Erickson – Campbell 4.62

    Gordon- Jones 5.24 GA

  • TayLordBalls

    Sure glad the oilers didn’t hire Todd Nelson as head coach. In fact I think he should be and will be fired in the next few weeks.

    Reason is that he is responsible to bring up and teach the younger players and for that he is a fail.

    Would also not be surprised to hear the head scout and lesser minions are fired as their track record is no better than a blind person at a dart board.

  • Old School G

    Smytty will excel in a 4EV 1PP role, I would not be surprised if the old war horse puts up a 20G 20A season and turn into the Oilers X factor this season.

  • Old School G

    One area of our team that looks like a disaster waiting to happen , it is the PK . We let Horcoff get away , and he was our stalwart on the PK. Is Smithson still an Oiler ? Better hope Hall and Eberle turn out to be defensive PK personnel like Datsyuk and Zetterburg pronto . Maybe Perron can try it . Not much if we have to use SMYTH and JONES . Landers is a possession nightmare . Gordon at least might be of help . We are thin at PK -real thin .

    No problem , we just won’t take any penalties . MacT. got some work to do to get a couple of respectful PK units .

    • YFC Prez

      No question Horcoffs absence will be felt, especially on the PK, there were many things that Horcoff was very good at, the PK being one of them.

      But we did not let Horcoff get away, we shipped him off, if was time to move on and the team as a whole will be better and Horcoff will hopefully find new life in Dallas.

      Pk was quite good last year both with and without Horc, they do have other options….all will be fine.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    DSF is a tall, dark & handsome gentleman. He probably has a full head of hair, six pack abs and drives a killer whip. Also, his wife is smokin’ hot.

    • Reg Dunlop

      Partly correct. DSF is looking for a tall, dark and handsome man with a full head of hair, he gets puking drunk on a 6 pack, doesn’t drive anymore since he mowed down his neighbor’s smoking hot wife.

  • Citizen Alpha

    Can we PLEASE have a golden helmet (like the leading scorer in the Euro leagues wears) avatar for the comment with the most props and a dumpster for the one that receives the most trash votes in any given article….

    PLEASE!?!?! I would ask Santa for Cbismas but I don’t want to wait until December!

  • nuge2drai

    With regards to the net front PP presence. Coach Trotz in Nashville used Ryan Jones in that spot when he was there. If you look back at his goal highlights on nhl.com from that time you will see him there getting a few goals on tips and greasy rebounds. I have been surprised he has never really been employed there with the Oil.