Kid Line-1

The Edmonton Oilers are a team with many problems, but there are some good things there, too. Number one with a bullet on that list is the line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

The Kids & the Hall


Hall’s a monster with any linemates, and watching him put the rest of his game together is incredible. He’s always been a hard-driving offensive difference-maker, but during the last lockout he added in a gift for playmaking that hadn’t really been part of his NHL skillset; we’re now at the point where he’s a first-rate setup man.

More than that, though, is his defensive game. I’ve always felt Hall got shortchanged reputation-wise because he drives results, but watching him the last month blocking shots and backchecking, it feels like there’s a dimension there that I hadn’t seen before, too. I’m not supporting this with numbers, but by eye it feels like somewhere around midseason he just found another level of defensive commitment.

Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle aren’t on the same level as Hall, but as a trio they’ve done some exceptional things together, both in the past and in this late season. Together, they’re a legitimate No. 1 line in the NHL.

The Rest of the Forwards


The Oilers, as they have for so many years, now need to find a way to support that top unit with 10-11 competent forwards behind them. Today, a healthy Oilers team looks something like this in those roles:

  • David Perron – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov
  • Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Ryan Jones
  • Luke Gazdic – Ryan Smyth – Jesse Joensuu
  • Anton Lander – Mark Arcobello – Tyler Pitlick

The second line is both awfully close and a mile off. An optimist sees a keeper on a great contract (Perron), a reliable scorer coming on after a terrible start (Gagner) and a potentially elite goal-scorer (Yakupov). The pessimist sees the same keeper, a black hole up the middle with awfully limited replacement options, and a winger who probably shouldn’t have spent the last two years in the NHL and has awfully high bust potential.

The rest doesn’t look much better than the Steve Tambellini editions of the team, and that (along with the defence) is a job for the general manager to tackle this summer. Gordon’s been very good, Hendricks was a nice addition, Arcobello’s done good things and one imagines they’ll hang on to Gazdic for pugilism.


What represents enough improvement? Would moving Gagner for a third-line wing and adding a couple of free agent veterans do the trick? Is a depth chart that looks like the following good enough behind that top line?

  • David Perron – Mark Arcobello – Nail Yakupov
  • [Viktor Stalberg] – Boyd Gordon – [David Moss]
  • Matt Hendricks – Anton Lander – [Blake Comeau]
  • Two of: Luke Gazdic, Jesse Joensuu, Tyler Pitlick and Ryan Smyth

It’s a scenario that nicely highlights, for me, the difficult choices that need to be made on the second line next year. Yakupov’s a gamble – a gamble worth making, certainly, but a gamble all the same. At centre, the choice is even tougher, because finding an external candidate for the role is going to be very difficult, very expensive, or both, and the internal options are Gagner and Arcobello. It shouldn’t be too difficult to fill out the roster but that No. 2 line is going to be tough.

There’s also this summer’s draft, where the Oilers will likely hold the No. 3 overall selection. The idea of Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett or Leon Draisaitl starting next year between Perron and Yakupov is a little scary, but long-term might be the best solution. It’s also the kind of move that retaining Arcobello (a pretty good fallback option in the event of struggles) might hint at.


  • ubermiguel

    Whenever I think of moving Sam Gagner, I keep coming up with Nashville. Nashville has bled skill for years. Radulov, the Kostitsyns, Erat. I think Sam Gagner would be perfect for them.

    You’re not getting one of their top 3 D though, so forget about it. Colin Wilson may be of interest, but before you Gagner-haters hit the Good Riddance button, Colin Wilson has 10 goals this year, the same number that Sam Gagner has in a very bad year. Wilson does bring some intangibles that we want though. Similar age, similar draft position if that means anything.

  • The Soup Fascist

    If one made a deletion list for this roster, the number of players would out number the possibilty of replacing these, due things like cap sapce, limited UFA’s with quality , NTC’s, not wanting to play for a non contender etc.

    But my DELETE list would look like this:

    Jones, Joensus, Fraser, Lander,Belov, Pitlick,
    Gagner, Smyth .

    Pitlick, and Lander probably need another year in the AHL, but I doubt at the end that will help.

    Question mark on Belov.. probably needs another year to see if he has the goods.

    Gadzic terrible hockey player, but if you must have a face puncher he’s the guy.

    Guys like Arco, and Larsen [fwd], could be good utility guys, better than guys like Jones, Joensus, or Lander.[Time for Symth to hang em up, with all respect in the world ]

  • The Last Big Bear

    1) Either you have been watching a different Taylor Hall, or watching the Oilers has given you *painfully* low standards of what an appropriate level of defensive commitment looks like for an elite first line player.

    2) Ryan Kessler, Antoine Vermette, Joe Pavelski, Sean Monahan (who BTW has more goals than The Nuge), Andrew Cogliano, and Mike Richards.

    Those are the Pacific Division’s 2nd line centres. Every one of them has 20 goals already this season, except Mike Richards (and he’s an Olympic gold medalist, Stanley Cup champion, recent 30 goal scorer, etc, so I’ll cut him some slack).

    Oh yeah, and Mark Arcobello.

    Sing along now, “One-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others”!

    Im sure his 4 career NHL goals will stand to his credit when he goes head-to-head against other NHL second line centres like David Krejci, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Sharp, Vincent Lecavalier, Nathan MacKinnon, and seriously, you guys see 2Cs on other NHL teams all the time. On what planet is Mark Arcobello a serious option in that role?

    3) The best long-term solution is to draft another 18 year old forward and throw him straight into a crucial top-6 role in the NHL? I think I blew some kind of sarcasm fuse trying to respond to this. I just… I just don’t have enough sarcasm.

    All I’ll say, is don’t ever change, Edmonton… Don’t ever change.

    • geoilersgist

      You say don’t throw a rookie into the 2C spot but you list Monahan… I am also guessing you didn’t read/hear that interview with Cogliano either. The guys ISN’T playing C he is playing the wing. In the interview he talked about how he has regained his confidence playing wing.
      Your third point makes me laugh because you totally are contradicting yourself. I get you are angry at the Oilers and management but at least make sense.

      • The Last Big Bear

        Sean Monahan started the season as the only rookie in the Flames top-9. Monahan had two defensive centres to take the tough minutes for him, in Stajan and Backlund. He started the season between Lee Stempniak and Curtis Glencross, a pair of physical veteran wingers. He was not expected to play beyond his 9 game cup of coffee. He subsequently forced his way onto the permanent roster, by scoring a point-per-game during his cup of coffee, and putting up 20+ goals over the season.

        That is exactly how you bring a kid into the NHL. With easy minutes, surrounded by veterans, and where the default position is that he will be returned to a lower league unless he can prove beyond all doubts that he is ready for the NHL.

        The new Oilers draftee will start in a top-6 where Perron is the only guy over 22. Instead of having veteran wingers to watch out for him, he’ll have to babysit the worst minus player in the NHL. Instead of having to prove he’s ready for the NHL, he’ll be expected to learn on the job.

        There is a very large difference between the situation Monahan stepped into, and the situation next yesr’s Oilers draft pick would step into.

        • Randaman

          By Worst minus player in the NHL do you mean Yak? Because Ovi is actually at minus 35. The guy that has scored nearly 50 goals is at a league worst -35, not Yak. I suppose that should tell you how misleading a stat like plus minus is, since I don’t think there is a team out there that wouldn’t instantly be made better by the addition of Ovechkin.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Yakupov is -33 (ie only two events behind OV), but has played 11 fewer games, and with only 12 mins or so per game at even strength.

            And as you said, OV is a 50+ goal scorer to offset that.
            Yakupov… Not so much…

            Anyways, I agree +/- is a generally crappy stat. Thats a fair point. All I was trying to get at is that Yakupov is absolutely brutal defensively, and he bleeds goals against like nobody’s business.

  • Randaman

    Oilers need to ride the first line next year – Hall, RNK, Eberle; Perron, Arco and somebody on the second line and trade Yak, Gagner and 1st overall this year for DEFENSE help.

    Third and 4th lines are coming together, Gordon, Smyth, Hendricks, Gazig, Jones, Joensuu, Pitlick, etc

    • The Soup Fascist

      I respectfully disagree. The Oilers got virtually zero run support from their 3rd line, other than Gordon’s hot, but brief start.

      Gordon, Hendricks and one of the above make a very good (but expensive 4th line). What is required is Mact needs to pull a couple rabbits out of his hat and try to put together a good value contract 3rd line that is effective.

      Sorry I would have Arco as a 3C and try to find a couple of reasonably priced veterans and / or hope one of the kids develops. Easier said than done.

      Jones is gone. Joensuu seems destined to be in the press box or buried in OKC unless he gets his game together. Gadzic is OK as a part timer dependant on the opposition. Smyth (if he comes back) needs to be platooned sparingly.

      LOTS of holes to fill.

    • Randaman

      Remove Joensuu, Jones and possibly Smyth and add Pinzotto. With Pinzotto Gazdic is probably expendable as well. Arco should be on the fourth line with some toughness to compliment. He is not our 2C answer long term.

  • Randaman

    We need to be in the top 6 of our conference in Even Goal SCORING.
    Not EVEN Pointing.

    Even Goals
    ANA 188
    CHI 181
    COL 171
    STL 166
    SJS 166
    DAL 161
    WPG 161

    EDM 139

    the east
    BOS 180
    OTT 162
    PIT 160
    TMP 158
    TOR 155
    DET 150
    NYI 149
    CBJ 146

    We are 139G
    Hall 20 ESG
    Eberle 20
    Perron 19
    ——————– Top 30
    RNH 12
    ——————–top 140
    Schultz 10
    ——————– Top 170
    Gagner 9
    ——————– top 200
    Yak 7
    Gordon 6
    ——————- Top 270
    Smyth 5
    Hendricks 4

    A good team should have 8-10 FWD top 200 in ESG
    with 3 in the top 40.

    15G Hendricks-Gordon-Smyth for a 4th with bad ZS is real good.

    We lack 3 larger pocession forwards with good EVG production.

    Chicago has 4 in top 30.
    6 in the top 90
    8 in the top 150

    Stahlberg 8 EVG
    David Moss 7 EVG
    Blake Comeau 4 EVG

    Not Quite Johnathan

  • Randaman

    I really like the idea of getting #1 and #3 d-men. That way we can move a couple guys down the depth chart and likely hold onto both Marincin and Klefbom full time. A few of our d-men this year were asked to play above their ability and it cost us.

    I also think we gotta bring in 2 – 3 bona fide NHL wingers to play in the bottom 6. Our top 6 as is seems ok.

    And of course we need that #2 center.

    But, what do we have to give up to get this shopping list? And will it nullify the little bit of stability we currently have? I feel like we can’t afford to hold onto our first round pick this year. We need some trade bait and don’t have much right now.

  • Randaman

    Thanks for your time and good luck elsewhere:

    Ryan Jones
    Sam Gagner
    Anton Lander
    Jesse Joensuu
    Philip Larsen
    Mark Fraser
    Anton Belov
    Will Acton

    At this point I’d say all prospects are tradeable. Even the high profile ones.

  • The Last Big Bear

    1 – give Eakins the start next season and see how he does the first month or so
    2 – have Lowe “step down”, he has been a cancer to the team
    3 – let MacT actually BE the GM without Lowe breathing down his neck
    4 – bring back #94 for another year
    5 – keep Pinizzotto – he seems like a good fit
    6 – trade Yak and a high pick for a tough centre
    7 – trade #89 and 2 high picks for a tough D man
    8 – stop bringing up players who aren’t NHL ready
    9 – dump associate, assistant, goalie coaches AND amateur and professional scouts for new blood

    Here endeth my shot at armchair coach for today.

    • Sevenseven

      I agree with you, except on scouting. Please hear me out. Id like to see how the scouting pans out with the Oilers owning an AHL team now. Remember only 5 years ago, we didnt have that. Scouting may not have been the best, but the development in the orginization wasnt there. I think they got some good finds coming up. And with an improving development system, including a really great okc coach, more prospects will pan out as NHLers

  • The Last Big Bear

    I have no doubt that Mactavish will be aggressive in looking to upgrade the D. My concern is those tough decisions on the second line. Gagner seems like a certainty to be gone but a line of Perron-Arcobello-Yakupov doesn’t do it for me. There’s lots of roster turnover needed, perhaps too much for one off-season. Still, I see Arcobello as more of a reserve/bottom six guy who can fill in higher in the lineup when injuries inevitably hit. If Yakupov is back next season, his game needs to improve big time.

  • billythebullet

    Dumb idea of the day…if Edmonton doesn’t like yakipov, and Winnipeg doesn’t like kane, maybe there is a fit? Who cares if the guy is an egomaniac or not.
    I’m not sure what kind of cap space we will have to go shopping for a 2c or who will come, but maybe a legwand or statsny??

    Hall rnh ebs
    kane legwand perron
    stalberg gordon moss
    Hendricks arco gazdik
    lander smyth pitlick.

    Have I run out of money for d yet lol? I am some happy I am not mact that’s fer certain!
    J.shultz Ference
    Marincin Petry
    Klefbom Nikitin or a niskenen??
    belov Larsen

    Anyways just my thoughts.

  • billythebullet

    My question to you, JW (or anyone else):

    After 7 years in the league, why is Gagner such a train wreck in the D-Zone? It can’t be that complicated for him to learn his responsibilities after all this time.

    And, no, I don’t want to hear about his broken jaw.

    • toprightcorner

      Simple, he never grew up having to even consider 2-way play so he only knows how to play and think offense, he should have never played in the NHL the year he was drafted so he never matured or developed his game, with so many coaches he was never really held accountable for his defensive play, he has always cheated for offense in junior’s and NHL and Gagner has always had a low hockey IQ.

      All of those add up to a player who doesn’t know, can’t learn and is too selfish to play a 2-way game.

      He duped MacT by having a 35 game hot streak in a 48 game schedule in a contract year.

  • toprightcorner


    Stalberg – Gordon – Moss

    thats a $9 mill 3rd line with a total of only 23 goals. That little offense has no hope of coming close to breaking even playing the toughs.

    The 3rd line needs to score a min of 35-40 goals to improve the Oilers. Setoguchi or Kulimen would be a better fit with more offensive histories as well as solid defensively.

    Add Brian Boyle to the 4th line with Hendricks (both can play centre or wing and kill penalties) will give you toughness as well as solid defense that can share some toughs as well.

    On top of greatly reducing goals against, the Oilers need to score at least 230 goals to be middle of the pack, If you can jump to 40 goals from defense (29 this year) 20 goals from the 4th line and 40 goals from the 3rd line, that still leaves 130 goals from the top 6. Yes we need to improve two-way play of forwards, but MacT cant sacrifice offence to accomplish that.

  • 719

    I think if the Oil pick up Niskanen as a UFA (with the obligatory overypay), the Oilers do not need to trade for a defenceman.

    Gagner for a 3rd line rightwinger (Clarkson, Horqvist, Stafford, Stewart, Setoguchi, Brunner, Fotaine, Parenteau, Ben Smith?)



    Smyth-Arcobello-xxx(Gagner Trade)


    Extras: Lander, Gazdic

    • toprightcorner

      PIT will sign their only other offensive dman witj Letang’s health questions, he wont be available.

      Gagner will not get you a sniff of Clarkson, Stewart, Stafford or Hornqvist

      Draiati (if picked) will get destroyed as a 2C in his rookie year, especially with Yak trying to find a 2-way game. He needs to go back to junior to develop, should have learned from Gagner mistake

      Smyth barely benefits the team on the 4th line, cant be on 3rd line

      Arcobello ahead of Gordon on the bottom 6 depth chart? Not a chance. If Arco isnt traded and Gagner is AND a 2C with size isnt added, Arco will play 2C until a proper replacement is found.

      Also, the Oilers need to add more than 1 dman to achieve an NHL quality backend