Three scoring lines: They really mean it

Craig MAcTavish5

The trade of Sam Gagner for Teddy Purcell was a positive one for the Oilers in a lot of ways. It added a useful top-six forward to the mix, someone with a history of strong possession numbers and good scoring totals. As an added bonus, it added a 6’3” winger who has missed all of three games in four seasons.

It also signaled, more convincingly than the words of management or the reports from those privy to inside information could, that Edmonton is committed to running three scoring lines at forward next season.

The Wing!

Purcell has played both left wing and right wing over his NHL career, but he’s a right-handed shot and is probably best-suited to the starboard side. At that position the Oilers currently have Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov; neither of whom is well-suited to a line tasked with heavy defensive responsibilities.

Over at left wing, the situation isn’t much different. Taylor Hall is a dynamic offensive player, even if he has a history of being used against quality opponents; ditto for David Perron, albeit in a lesser capacity.

So: Either Edmonton plans to burn a winger with legitimate offensive ability in a defensive zone role (as it did last year with Ales Hemsky) or the team really does intend to use its fourth line as a defensive unit in the same way that the Blackhawks and Rangers did last year, the way that the Canucks pioneered under Alain Vigneault. The Oilers have the personnel to employ the fourth line that way, and it would free up the top-nine to have more offensive focus.

What Does This Say About Free Agency?

As I see it, the Oilers’ current roster needs at least one more quality forward to make three scoring lines work, and in a perfect world, two more. Aside from the five wingers named above, Edmonton has a trio of centre candidates for scoring line work: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Mark Arcobello. The addition of a left wing would round that group out to nine players, while a further centre addition would allow the Oilers the luxury of either using Arcobello as a spare or not rushing Draisaitl to the majors.

In other words, Stauffer’s comment reconciles rather well with what the Oilers have done to date and what Craig MacTavish has said in interviews.

Of course, as Jason Gregor noted earlier today, it’s important to be realistic about free agency. The goals outlined above for the Oilers are reasonable ones, but even so it’s possible that the vagaries of circumstance could prevent the team from attaining them.

A couple of other things…

Craig MacTavish7

  • The Oilers would be well-advised to put themselves in a situation where they are not banking on Leon Draisaitl to make the team out of training camp next season (particularly since, as the Gagner departure nicely demonstrates, immediate elevation to the NHL is not always in a player’s best interest). A nine-game audition would seem to be the best case scenario for both player and team, after which a more permanent decision could be made, but of course training camp will help determine that as well.
  • Purcell’s shot metrics look awfully good, and while he’s played a significant bit with Stamkos he’s actually fared better with players on other lines in that department.
  • Scott Howson was on Oilers Now on Monday and gave a nutshell bio of Purcell: “He’s got good hands, he’s a good skater, he’s got good size… I don’t think we’re getting an overly physical, abrasive player; I think we’re getting a skill player who has some size and can skate.”
  • Liam Coughlin is the fourth overage BCHL’er taken by the Oilers in the last six drafts. Kyle Bigos was taken 99th overall in 2009 out of Vernon as a 20-year-old; he’s now an ECHL’er in another organization. 5’9” Kellen Jones went 202nd overall in 2010 (again out of Vernon) and is currently with the OKC Barons on an AHL deal after finishing his college career last season. Evan Campbell went 128th overall in 2013 as a 20-year-old BCHL’er; he had an underwhelming first season in Hockey East in 2013-14 (11 points in 33 games). So while I can’t say that drafting a 20-year-old who couldn’t crack the point-per-game mark in the BCHL (in Vernon, again) is a wasted pick, it’s very fair to say that the Oilers haven’t done very much with the overage BCHL’ers they’ve grabbed and that Coughlin’s offensive totals are flat-out terrible given his age and the league he’s playing in.
  • Randaman

    Rumor has it that Stasney’s agent has landed in Edmonton. We need this type of player for #2C. We have lots of cap space. Would 5 x 7.5 be emough? Time to kick this rebuild into high gear in my view. I don’t want Leon to be force fed #2C. I would rather see him as #3C for the first year anyway. My thoughts…

    Edit: I don’t want Arcabello in the top nine. Emergency call up only.

    • ummm…….$7.5 x 5?

      Take a look at all the peripherals……no chance Stastny ends up in E-town even at $7.5 x 5. This contract for Stastny will be about winning….which the Oilers have not done in a while (hopefully soon)

      • Randaman

        Jon doesn’t agree either. A friend heard that on Twitter and texted me. So is my info credible but in my desperate state of mind Haha. Stranger things have happened. Look at Colorado last year. Who’s to say the same lightning can’t strike here? Dreams don’t come true if you don’t have any…

    • Tikkanese

      I’m not sold on Stastny. Last year he had a resurgence but he’s been subpar in recent years…still a good player but not worth the $$$ he’ll ask for.

    • If I was his agents and knowing Edmonton was open for business, I’d want to know their overpay to drive up the price going elsewhere. Smart move, but I’ll eat Brownlee’s sock if he were to sign, cause I don’t buy the Statsny rumor one bit other then to drive up the marketplace.

  • Jon,

    Would you offer sheet Johansen 6 mill for 6 same as the other kids?

    He would bring a great dynamic as 2C.

    I just don’t know if I would want to part with 1,2,3 picks.

    Follow up do the 1,2,3 picks all have to be from 2015 if we do?

  • Tikkanese

    Purcell may be 6’3″ but with 14 PIM and 13 hits he won’t open up any ice. These guys will open up some ice and have enough skill to play top 9. I’d target these UFA’s:

    2C/3C – Brassard, Boyle, Winnik

    3rd line wingers – Downie, Ott

      • Tikkanese

        And how’s that been working for the Oilers so far? Won’t hurt to have some skilled forwards who aren’t afraid of the tough areas of the ice. You can’t continue to build a one dimensional team and expect different results.

          • Hemsky of course… Oh wait…

            Some people just fixate on the usual talking points. Gagner, ‘tough areas of the ice’, fix the fourth line etc.

            I can’t wait to see who the next whipping boy to blame the entire season on becomes. I suspect Schultz, Petry or perhaps Yak.

            Appreciate your articles JW, always look forward to the balanced analysis you provide.

          • Tikkanese

            As far as top 9 players go:

            Hall and Perron are fine.

            None of Eberle, Nuge, Yakupov and now Purcell exactly drive to the net hard. That doesn’t make them bad players by any stretch. Neither did Gagner or PRV for that matter.

            The Oilers are built for rushing the puck. When they don’t score off the rush, then they get into trouble. A couple more gritty skilled top 9 forwards to get the pucks out of the corner, be the powerplay screen(since Smyth’s retired) and open up some ice for the speed demon kids would be a good thing. Would it not?

          • *Everybody* is built to rush the puck these days. Something like 75% of the Kings’ offence in the postseason came off the rush – it was how they got past San Jose in Round 1.

            Those dominant possession shifts where a team rags the puck in the OZ look great, but they don’t happen that often, even for a team like L.A.

            I guess I’m just not terribly worried about hit counts. You don’t get credited with a hit for winning a puck battle generally, and you don’t get credited with a hit for using size to go through a check or a shield a puck from an opponent, or for making a retrieval off a dump in.

            Mostly, though, I was just reacting to the idea that the Oilers are scared of the tough areas of the ice because I really don’t think fear is the issue.

          • Tikkanese

            Really?

            Both Boyle and Winnik have a greater Takeaway to Giveaway ratio for their careers. Both hit a lot. Both are known for thriving in the tough areas…

          • Zarny

            Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown are bona fide top 3 and top 6 F.

            Both Boyle and Winnik are 3rd line players at best. They might be asked to play above their head in Edm but they are not going to do what Carter and Brown can do against top 6 F competition. They just aren’t that good.

          • Zarny

            I think what JW was saying is that Boyle/Winnik can’t do that against the same type of competition that Carter and Brown do…which was my point.

            Accuracy of giveaway/takeaway stats aside, Boyle and Winnik aren’t going to repeat those stats against the same competition Carter and Brown play against.

          • Tikkanese

            Well that’s fine and all. My original point was that for UFA’s those were the best options for that type of player. Boyle is also decent defensively and on the dot. He also scored 21 goals a couple seasons ago. He’s no Carter, I didn’t mean to imply that he was either, but he checks off a lot of needs for the Oilers. He’s a 3C/4C in a perfect world but the Oilers don’t really have the assets to trade for a stop-gap 2C to let Leon get more seasoning.

            I also don’t want them to open the vault long term for a Brad Richards or “going to be massively overpaid” Stastny either.

            Without acquiring at least one top pairing defenceman and/or having at least one of Marincin/Klefbom/Nurse playing to their full potential ahead of schedule this season, the Oilers won’t be a playoff team. So to start the season or even a full season of Boyle as the 2C then moving down when Leon is ready to take over is not the end of the world.

          • HardBoiledOil 1.0

            David Perron is the only top six forward the Oilers have that has shown any interest in going to the tough areas – and even that isn’t all the time.

            I think he gets frustrated/tired of being the only one who will.

          • Tikkanese

            I like Purcell. I even “own” him in a keeper league. Just saying even though he’s 6’3″ he’s basically more of the same of what the Oilers already have for the most part. Soft skill. Most of us have been saying for years that the Oilers need more skilled grit.

    • Zarny

      For some reason people equate lack of hits and lack of PIM’s as being soft. The most important thing in hockey is possession. As has been stated by many smart hockey people, having to hit means you probably don’t have possession. So would you rather have Mike Brown or Ted Purcell on your team.

      And face punchers don’t win hockey games….

      And more PIM’s might mean you are undisciplined, you hurt your team more than you help it and you might be out of position or maybe you just aren’t a very smart hockey player….

      Purcell is a good pick up for this team, even though he is “soft” his size will create more room on the ice for his line mates.

      • Tikkanese

        The guys I listed are not face punchers. They are gritty skilled players that would give our top 9 more of well rounded mix.

        Why do people automatically equate terms like “open up the ice” or “skilled grit” to facepunchers…

        If you’ve ever watched Purcell play you would have no idea he was 6’3″. I like Purcell but he by no means creates room with his size.

        • What is grit anyway, really? Where I come from grit is the same as dirt…

          I get what you are saying grit = toughness = hitting

          But hitting doesn’t win you puck battles, sometimes it gets you penalties, some players more than others. I think a gritty player could be a low-minute penalty guy, like Gordon.

          I don’t see how the players you mentioned makes the Oilers better, maybe Boyle contributes, I think there are better options out there, is all.

          My bad, I didn’t put face punchers in to imply that the players you suggested were that type of player. Just that often face punchers are associated with toughness and therefore grit. In the end grit doesn’t win you hockey games, skill does, but the more chances you get (aka >possession=>scoring chances), the better your chances are at winning.

          Regarding Purcell, I can’t comment. I have not closely followed his career, I guess we will soon find out…..

  • Tikkanese

    3 scoring lines sounds great! have they ever thought about trying to keep the puck out of there net to? we’ve seen before that 3 scoring lines infront of an ahl defence doesn’t work

  • bwar

    Why isn’t there more demand for David Legwand? Consistent veteran scorer who could add some real value to this team. I would go after Legwand hard if I was the Oilers then again he may have no interest in coming here.

  • @Willis; “.. It added a useful top-six forward to the mix”??

    On what team is Purcell a top 6 forward?

    He was 3rd line behind J.T. Brown and Ryan Callahan in Tampa.

    Even you wrote that he`s behind Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov – Taylor Hall and David Perron on the other side.

    That makes him a 3rd liner – in the bottom six.

    You say he`s needed as neither of the existing RWings are “well-suited to a line tasked with heavy defensive responsibilities.”

    Again, that’s a third line role.

    Are you suggesting Nail Yakupov or David Perron need to be dropped to the third line, a line most often used as the checking line?

    Yakupov on a checking line??? May as well admit he was a mistake/poorly developed and trade him.

    • If you were paying attention you would have noticed the title of this article is ‘three scoring lines’. Yakupov has the potential to be better than Purcell but he is not.

      Purcell is an upgrade on Gagner. Check out the point totals and other stats. Both are overpaid but MacT scored a good player in this deal. He isn’t Gretzky or Shea Weber tho, but I’m ok with that. Those of us not jonesing from a kool-aid addiction can appreciate this move

  • KozyMel wrote:

    On what team is Purcell a top 6 forward?

    He was 3rd line behind J.T. Brown and Ryan Callahan in Tampa.

    His most common linemates were Val Filppula, Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos. Not exactly a checking line.

    Even you wrote that he`s behind Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov – Taylor Hall and David Perron on the other side.

    I didn’t say that. I say that at right wing the Oilers have Eberle and Yakupov – I actually think Purcell slots between them on the depth chart.

    You say he`s needed as neither of the existing RWings are “well-suited to a line tasked with heavy defensive responsibilities.”

    Again, that’s a third line role.

    Who says that’s a third line role?

    Are you suggesting Nail Yakupov or David Perron need to be dropped to the third line, a line most often used as the checking line?

    I’m suggesting Yakupov be dropped to the third line, yes. I’m not alone in that suggestion – Craig MacTavish actually made it before I did.

    Yakupov on a checking line??? May as well admit he was a mistake/poorly developed and trade him.

    The title of this piece is “Three scoring lines: They really mean it”. It’s a continuation of the idea which we’ve covered significantly over the summer and which I covered again in this piece. You obviously missed it; here it is again:

    “So: Either Edmonton plans to burn a winger with legitimate offensive ability in a defensive zone role (as it did last year with Ales Hemsky) or the team really does intend to use its fourth line as a defensive unit in the same way that the Blackhawks and Rangers did last year, the way that the Canucks pioneered under Alain Vigneault. The Oilers have the personnel to employ the fourth line that way, and it would free up the top-nine to have more offensive focuse.”

    If you look at what Chicago – the team MacT referenced earlier this summer – does, they don’t have a typical “checking line”. They have a fourth line that is used as a defensive zone specialty unit. They have a top line that is used in a power-vs.-power role. And they have a second and third lines that are pretty interchangeable (and were mixed and matched throughout the season) who neither get top opponents nor much defensive zone work.

    That’s the three scoring lines model.

    So I don’t know how you read this piece (and presumably others this summer) and came to YAK ON THE CHECKING LINE ARE U KIDDING ME!!!! as an interpretation of anything that I’ve said above.

  • The Last Big Bear

    They can “mean it” all they want.

    They can “mean it” until the cows come home.

    They can have a big “we mean it” parade down Whitemud Drive.

    Because there is a total of ONE centreman in the entire organization who has ever scored more than 8 goals in the NHL

    As it stands now, that 3rd “scoring” line looks something like:

    Anton “2 goals in 94 career NHL games” Lander, centred by an 18 year old rookie straight out of juniors, and Nail “not going to change my game” Yakupov on the other wing.

    That’s not a scoring line, that’s a “we don’t have enough NHL players to fill out our roster card” line. You can slot Arcobello instead of Draisaitl, or Purcell instead of Yakupov, or some other scrub instead of Lander, but it doesn’t get any prettier.

    Just because “they mean it”, doesn’t mean it’s even remotely close to actually happening.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Most if not all free agents with positive attributes want to go to a contender at best, playoff team at worst. Drafting and trading are the only realistic ways the Oilers will be able to improve the roster.

  • utarded

    I like the Purcell trade! Gags was being lead like a lamb to the sacrificial slaughter, he needed to move on and out. Purcell may have had a slumpy year last year but so did gags so that points moot. I like that Purcell only had 14 penalty mins last year. Too many dumb penalties last year that killed the momentum in the dying/critical moments of a game.

  • Zarny

    The Oilers C depth is now Nuge, Arcobello, Draisaitl, Lander and Gordon. That isn’t even close. It’s not even in the vicinity of close enough.

    I think it’s a bit of a misnomer to say Chi, LA and Van etc have 3 scoring lines. Toews is one of the best defensive C in the league. So is Kesler. The Stanley Cup contenders all have top scoring lines who can also play defense against the other team’s top lines.

    Hall, Nuge and Eberle need to reduce the risk in their game and learn to play 0-0 hockey against the best lines in the league. Pond hockey isn’t going to win the Stanley Cup.

    • ^This^ all day.

      Which is what I was afraid of.

      I see no way they return Draisaitl to JR which is a bloody shame; the Oilers drafted this kid for immediate help.

      Just when you think the Oilers are doing good things they revert back to stupid.

      I hope for Draisaitl sake they get another center.

        • v4ance

          I’m not sure where people get the definitive matter of fact “he’s not ready for the NHL” or “rushing him will ruin him”.

          I’m not advocating rushing him, and he may very well benefit most from another year on a terrible WHL team racking up points against kids. But declaring he isn’t ready and that a jump to the NHL is a rush is baseless and just blindly following the talking points of ‘not rushing and ruining your players’.

          Monahan made a nice jump to the Flames last year. Was he ruined? Anze Kopitar (similar size and supposedly style to LD got 65pts his rookie year). I get Kopitar came from the SEL not WHL…

          MacT should bring in another C, and make LD fight for a spot for 9 games. Personally I hope he crushes it and sticks on the team.

          Slotting him in for a guaranteed spot is dumb. But proclaiming he isn’t ready for the NHL for 2 years with no basis is equally as dumb.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Even though MacT would would like to get there this year with 3 scoring lines that in a perfect world would look something like this:

    Hall-RNH-Eberle
    Perron-Grabovski-Purcell
    Kulemin-Draisaitl/Arcobello-Yakupov
    Hendricks-Gordon-Winnick

    Ehrhoff-Petry
    Marincin-Schultz
    Nikitin-Fayne
    Ferrence

    Its not going to happen this year, but he is getting the pieces together to have the 3 scoring lines in place by next year. The key will be to have actual NHL players on the correct lines playing the correct roles.

    With the salary dump frenzy that will be happening tonight/this week I think the Oilers will be in a pretty good position by the middle of the month. I am optimistic that they will be a playoff contender this year.

    Jonathan,

    What do you think the line-up will look like on opening night?

    • utarded

      Do we really want to put a developing 18 year-old in Draisaitl on a line with a yet to be names winger and a 20 year-old winger Yakupov who’s still a coaching project?

      If Draisaitl makes this team I will seriously think MacT didn’t do enough to obtain a gap center for the couple of years Leon will need.

      He needs time playing first line minutes in Junior and the AHL to develop properly.

      1-2 picks usually end up in the NHL as 18 year-olds because their teams are THAT bad.

      Or, like Boston and Seguin (where he was played at wing), they can be sheltered in the line up.

  • v4ance

    Lots of RFAs not qualified today with so many teams crashing into and over the projected $69 million salary cap.

    No real stars were let go but a lot of 2nd-3rd tier prospects who may be brought in at a bargain.

    One benefit for the Oilers and every other team with cap room to spend is that the UFA market just got a lot more supply so that may dampen the contract demands from outrageous to merely bad overpays.

    The more I think of it, the more I want the Oilers to try to go for Grabovski/Kulemin and Stralman with good offers but if they miss those optimal guys, wait 3-4 days and go full out on the bargain bin shopping. There’s bound to be another “Mason Raymond” just looking for a contract and willing to accept $1 million for a roster spot next season.

  • Great read. Given that Mac T said 4 or 5 and has both actively gone after and stated their looking to add one more defence, at least that leaves one, or maybe two more forwards. If by some miracle he could get a top 6 centre and a top nine LW, that would be music. Having Purcell means Ebs and Yak are going to have to compete for their minutes, not just be handed them. And if another veteran top 9 winger could be acquired, then the magical 3 scoring lines could be achieved.

    I think it would be really valuable to have a soft minutes third line to do things like develop Draisaitl at a nice pace. Give struggling wingers a place to play, which also won’t be a place scoring goes to die, and it would rid the team of a useless 4th line. I would go one further and say adding a guy like Booth or Winnik or Downie to the Hendricks Gordon line would be a great addition. But I feel like that would be an expensive tough minutes line, and maybe Mac T and Eakins feel like cheaper internal options will suffice.

    Still hoping for better defence, which is really the key to having a line like this not get plastered. And though I am not holding my breath on Stasny, lots of teams don’t have the cap room for him, lots of teams are not going to give him the chance to battle for top line duties, and not one bottom feeding team as the collection of young talent the Oilers have. I still think a player who wants to play hockey (just like Schultz) could be brought in on the delivery of lots of dollars, and on the promise that this team will be a future stanley cup champ.

    • Johnnydapunk

      Wow. Great comment. You had me all the way until you said “the promise that this team will be a future Stanley cup champ”. Thats when I laughed so hard that I nearly pee’d myself.

  • I just don’t understand all the talk about the forward group. gotta add a third line winger, need a second line center…. look at the defence!!! its the worst defence in the league. you can add toews, Crosby, malkin, kane and datsyuk up front and they’d still suck playing infront of the pathetic defence on this team.

    • Tikkanese

      Defense is still our greatest weakness. But the FA options just aren’t as available. And the ones that are have been talked to death.
      Hell, has it even been 24 hours since Gagnee was traded for a found dry cleaning slip and half a 6 inch sub.

      Let us dream for awhile. Come the Christmas break we are likely discussing the top 10 prospects available at the draft.

  • v4ance

    Happy thought of the day:

    IF we were to go for 3 scoring lines and somehow we convinced Iginla to sign for something reasonable, the 3rd “soft minutes” line of Iggy-Draisaitl-Yakupov would be wonderful to watch.

    I know, totally unrealistic, but joy, happiness and schadenfreude at the thought of so many Calgarians running out and burning their #12 jerseys.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’m prepared for a rain of thumbs down, but maybe Del Zotto would come as he was a player that was of interest for the Oil and I don’t think he would be insane money.

    And this is the one that I think wouldn’t be too crazy, but maybe it would be foolish, but I would really look at Philly for a trading partner.

    Something crazy like Lecavalier and either Schenn or Coburn for Lander or Klefbom and Fasth. He’ll even throw in Larsen as he should be signed on the cheap. My theory (and I could be crazy off here) is that it gives Philly loads of capspace as they are over as far as I know, sheds a long ish contract (Lecavalier) and gives them a decent NHL backup at a reasonable price as they only have Mason signed. The Oilers address their needs and still have plenty of room to sign a UFA goalie for a few million.

    Not sure how one sided a deal like that is and even if the Philly players would agree to waive their modified NMC, though Coburn’s doesn’t kick in until 2015-16.

    Guess we will see what happens tomorrow anyways.

    Edit meant Lander or Klefbom.

    • v4ance

      There more I think about it, there might be something to Lecavalier…but I am afraid that MacT is going to Sacrifice Petry in an exchange for Lecavalier/Coburn, but there might be more (Schenn Brothers), this could be the bold move….

      • Johnnydapunk

        I think Levacalier has a few years in him and could be a good veteran presence and addresses a need the Oilers have. He also has a contract that isn’t terribly friendly to a cap strapped team. Throwing Schenn or Coburn in also addresses a need for the Oilers and clears more room for the Flyers. And the final bit about throwing Fasth in is that it addresses a need the Flyers have which is a cheap ish NHL backup on a relatively short easy contract.

        I just see it as a win for both sides and no one really loses. The flyers get a bit of cheap low contact youth, their goalie issue solved, and room to get under and even sign a player. The Oil fill most of their needs and all that would be needed is a dependable backup, and this summer there are a lot of goalies available so it wouldn’t be a challenge.

        With just one trade like that, I think the Oil would be in a lot better shape, and still have cap room, and not lose anything major.

  • RyanCoke

    Would stastny turn down a 2 year 18 million dollar offer? Make a big payday for 2 years while we see if Leon can develop properly into a legit 2nd line centre.

    • "Frank the dog"

      That would be a 2.5 mil overpayment. I think 6.5 mil is top dollar. Id cringe if we gave him Clarkson money of 7 per. I’m scared stiff tomorrow that we might poon a whale.

      At his age hes looking for 6-8 years of term at north of 6 mil, I think you have to give 4-5 years at 7 mil, minimum. I’d pass.

      Rather have bandaids like one of the Yokinens (cough cough) at 3.5 mil. Or Grabbo at 3×5 mil.

      • RyanCoke

        The key there is short term big money. Of course it is a big overpay but for only 2 years he is making 3 years worth of money. Would he turn it down? He will still be young enough to get his term payday at the end of 2 years and make more money long term.

  • v4ance

    The Oilers should be able to sign a couple of top 9 forwards tomorrow. I’m more worried about adding at least one more Dman. Given what we had to pay for Nikitin, I can only imagine what it might cost for a better player. Let the silly season begin.

  • Johnnydapunk

    The oilers need to find player’s who want to win!! And hate losing!! When the management can accomplish that the fans will also be more forgiving when the team has it’s up and down,

    CHOP WOOD CARRY WATER