A Little Magic

Despite taking another loss in regulation there was at least one positive to come from that game against the Sharks: the Oilers might have found their 2nd line for the foreseeable future.

CHEMISTRY

In many ways finding the right fit for players is more akin to Alchemy than Chemistry. There are rules that make sense and equations that should balance out in Chemistry. Sometimes in hockey it’s more magic than science. There’s no accounting for the fact that some guys just tend to play better in some combinations and not in others. Even with all the added info, technology, and analytics that have crept into the day to day life of an NHL Coach they are still spending a great deal of time trying to find the way to turn Lead into Gold.

One thing was certain for the Oil. The trio of Hall, RNH, and Eberle worked. Or at least it worked well enough for that one line to provide some level of offense that was acceptable. Every line after that was not good enough. I think Dallas Eakins needs to get some kind of praise for breaking that group up. It could have been very easy for him, with his job seemingly on the line, to go the opposite direction and depend on that line to do all the heavy lifting. He could have had that trio playing 23-25 minutes a night just to keep his job but he took a risk moving Eberle away from Hall.

That risk looks like it has paid off early into the experiment and there seems to be some real chemistry between Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, and rookie Leon Draisaitl. They have been together for 2 games and they have figured into the score sheet in both games and looked dangerous even when they weren’t scoring.

SHOW YOUR WORK

miracle

We know that we are 2 games into this experiment and some combination of players from the new trio have factored into goals twice. There was the Yakupov goal on the PP that was the result of an inspired pass from Eberle and the the Eberle goal that was the result of an equally nice pass from Draisaitl. But there’s more to their success than finishing chances. That line has pushed the river of play while together so far, and they’ve done it against a pretty good team in the Sharks.

The combined Corsi events at Even Strength for those players in both games vs San Jose are as follows.

Player Corsi For Corsi Against CF%
Nail Yakupov 28 20 58.3
Jordan Eberle 31 23 57.4
Leon Draisaitl 29 20 59.2

There has been more to this than just a little luck so far. It’s still very very early yet but so far the good things we’re seeing with our eyes are also supported by numbers. That’s great news. This line isn’t a mirage (at least so far). They could level off very quickly and stop creating but I think the coaching staff may have found part of what they were looking for here.

But there are a couple other numbers that are important for the hockey club and this line combination. I’m referring to the 19:14 that Yakupov played last night and the 17:32 for Draisaitl. It has been over a month since Yak played that much in a game and that is a career high for the Rookie. There’s no question that those two finding and/or earning ice time has been a problem for the team. The GM banked on Draisaitl being able to handle minutes like these all year but he hasn’t appeared comfortable with the pace of play until very recently. In fact, there is a very good argument to be made for sending LD back to Jr before they burn a year of club control and the clock starts ticking towards Unrestricted Free Agency.

A contributing and successful Yakupov and Draisaitl changes the story of this season and this franchise moving forward.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

alchemical symbols

I already said above, it’s magic, not science. Yakupov has expressed before that he’s most comfortable on the right side of the ice but here he’s on the left. Draisaitl hadn’t really shown that he was ready for prime-time responsibilities even in a sheltered role. Eberle was picking up points but looking somewhat disinterested on the top line. This line shouldn’t be working. Half the fans were ready to send the centerman to the WHL, half the media pundits were ready to label Yak a bust, and the other half were ready to trade Eberle for a 2nd pairing defender and some bad contracts. But it works.

When I watch them play I see Nail Yakupov handle the puck more in the last 2 games than I’ve seen the rest of the year combined. He gets to use his speed and playmaking abilities to their fullest while playing with highly skilled players. Draisaitl’s big body and deft passes are perhaps just coming to the surface as the game slows down for him but his speed matches up pretty well with Eberle and Yak who are quick and dart around but don’t necessarily skate at top speed all the time. As for Eberle, he’s forced to be the workhorse on that line. He’s engaging in puck battles and bears the most responsibility for the success of that line because he is the most experienced among them.

They seem to complement each other very well so far. This is a combination that brings a lot of hope for the Oilers. It isn’t just about adding some secondary scoring. It’s about perhaps finding the key to developing the club’s 2C of the future and also simultaneously resurrecting the once very promising career of Nail Yakupov.

  • mlachockeycoach

    Ya,ya,ya

    Marty marincin is a top pairing d, justin Schultz will win the norris, Taylor hall is the top left winger in the game, Dallas is a great coach. Marty reasoner is as good as Joe Sakic, Shawn Horcoff should make the Olympic team. I’ve got six rings I know a little something about winning. Nikita Nikitin is a top pairing dman and we’ve shored up our goaltending.

    I’m tired of this even a blind squirrel finds a nut once and a while and we wonder why we are the laughing stock of the NHL

    I’m OUT

  • mithaman

    While it’s nice to see the chemistry I don’t see this lasting. Neither Yak, Eberle or Draistail are strong defensively, or possess the ability to win tough 1 on 1 puck battles along the boards like a Perron or Pouliot.

    This line will eventually be exposed for their defensive weaknesses and inability to keep possession.

    • bradleypi

      I was just about to say the same thing. Eberle makes a couple nice plays in one game, in a 5-2 loss, and all of a sudden they have a bona-fide 2nd line? Leon is not ready for the nhl… he should be playing for Germany at the end of the month, and then back to prince albert. And if he’s not gonna play ebs with hall, why not put yak there? He’s just as physical as injury prone pitlick, and way faster. Just my opinion.

    • Kevwan

      I’m not buying that Yak is weak defensively anymore. The play last night where he stopped the wrap-around (Hertl, I think) is an example of how far he’s come. He’s also playing more physical.

      Yak is this years silver lining. Now he just needs to bury a few.

      • mithaman

        The guy with 4 goals is the silver lining…Talk about being easily impressed.

        He is not the defensive liability he was a year ago, but he is still a non-factor in most games and has not shown any evidence that he’s a game breaker. Low shooting percentage is not bad luck, you aren’t going to score from the perimeter. Puckhandling skills are poor and still very erratic with the puck. Yak will be a fine player some day but has a long way to go and is by no means a silver lining to this dreadful season.

        • Kevwan

          Well considering he was around 12:00 A/TOI through the first 10 games and got very little time with the other top players his offense isn’t horrible. Sure it needs improvement but now that he’s playing with some skill let’s see what happens.

          Yak has brought energy and hustle to his game on a consistent basis – that’s the silver lining. If we had that kind of effort from the other young “core” players we’d have a lot better record this year.

    • cmandev77

      It’s really sad that many oiler fans have turned into people like yourself. pecimists. This line works. Even the biggest skeptics would admit. I didn’t think it would work, but it does, and its a breath of fresh air. i have come to a conclusion that this team is just too young sadly. You all expect too much…6 million dollar contracts or not. Fact is…this team was ruined after the rake departed, poor amateur scouting or development, lack of farm team way back when. MacT is trying to fix it but it isn’t easy. I’d like to see any of you try and fix this club. It’s gonna take time, the lack of veterans to learn from in their entry years set these guys back. Plain and simple. You guys will get to cheer next year. And then you’l feel foolish because you’ll realize that it’s just hockey. If you hate it so much then why do u keep watching?

  • Good writeup Matt! I would be very okay wiht keeping that line together for the season if it can continue to look like this. Pouliot had so great chemistry with RNH in that brief stint before his injury. Would you consider letting Yak and Pouliot both play their of wing and have a line of Hall-Nuge – Pouliot and Yak-Drasaitl-Eberle.

  • (Intro)…Great read

    (Corsi discussion)…Eyes glaze over

    (Summary)…Great read

    HAHA CORSI NERDS!

    Uh yeah but seriously, I did notice that line was making some hay last night. The general Twitter rabble was impressed too. Nice to see some discussion on the underlying reasons (even if a stats sheet got in the way – heh!).

    Also LOVE that Klefbom isn’t afraid to bring the pain from the point whenever possible. We haven’t had that for a while and buddy has a cannon.

  • lucky

    Line looked good in both Sharks games. Nice to see Nail get a chance with some skill and not trying to contribute with boat anchors, Hope Eakins abandons the blender and allows the guys gel a bit. Really pulling for the kid, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen anything resembling sincere enthusiasm from this squad. If Yak can start posting some numbers, the enthusiasm he brings could be contagious.

  • cmandev77

    I am wondering where Drai will fit in the lineup if the Oilers do draft McDavid or Eichel. Is he going to be a third line career centre or do we see him as a 2nd liner next year?

    This is totally off topic but I was just curious what we are going to do next year if we do end up with one of the top 2 picks.

    The Oilers like Draisaitl for his size and skill but if we are drafting a “generational talent”, where does that leave him? Trade bait for a top 4 defenceman?

    • Chuck U Farley

      Most likely scenario I see if we do draft one of those guys is that either player would get brought in as a winger for their first year. Keep Drasaitl at center and let Mc-Eichel get comfortable on wing first (as we should have done with Drasaitl.

      Down the road Drasaitl could get traded… or there’s this crazy idea where we keep both of them, have three top 6 centres, where one could be played as a winger. You know, that whole depth thing other teams have.

    • wiseguy

      Are we seriously worried about having too many good centres? Yeeesh. You realize Jordan Staal was the 3rd line center for the Penguins right? Good teams have more than 2 good lines.

  • cmandev77

    Why has it taken so long for the team to let Klefbom use his shot. I can remember back when he was scouted that was in the report. For a team desperate to have a point shot, I don’t think this was ever a mysterious element to his game ever.

    I do remember in the rookie tournament he knocked down a clearing attempt at the point then blasted one home. Since then I have been trying to figure out why they don’t let him use that more?

    Maybe, just maybe, Klefbom is the answer to stop using 4 forwards on the PP and the run of short handed goals will finally subside.

  • Bucknuck

    Remember how everyone wanted to trade Eberle, yet he leads the team in scoring right now.

    I don’t understand how that is the player people think is expendable. I just don’t.

    • cmandev77

      I would trade anybody if the right asset is coming back.

      The point in trading Eberle is that he will get you something back in return. We have lots of small skilled forwards who don’t hit. Therefore, we can stand to trade a small skilled forward.

      It’s not a knock on Eberle. We simply need to get rid of what we have in excess and acquire something else, like perhaps some more size and grit.

      • cmandev77

        I like Eberle (not the most popular of choices, I know). What I would love to see is a Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic type of player on our team. A big right winger who can play. I prefer Wheeler because I don’t respect Lucic and find him very whiny but we need someone like that on this team. I do like Lucic’s passion though when he loses!

      • Bucknuck

        I certainly agree with you, but the “Eberle sucks, I’d trade him but no one would want him.” crowd is the one that made me realize Oilers fans have no perspective.

        They overvalue crap (Omark) and undervalue real players (Eberle, Hemsky).

        It’s weird.

        • mlachockeycoach

          Anybody who says Eberle sucks is complete idiot. PERIOD. Although one could certainly question his motivation at times and rightfully so.

          We have a lot of talent on this team but it’s not being maximized. We have assets like Yakupov (and others) that are not being used to their full potential, in fact we are depreciating a lot of our Assets.

          That’s bad management.

  • cmandev77

    I do like the line of Yakupov, Draisaitl and Eberle. I don’t like Pitlick on the first line though. Would love to see a big right winger on that line with some talent. Hello…Milan Lucic…Would love a player like him on that line.

  • Chainsawz

    When I read the line “…the Oilers might have found their 2nd line for the foreseeable future”, the first name that came to mind was Nugent-Hopkins.

    Don’t give me that look, admit it… you did too.

  • cmandev77

    Too funny. Mr Henderson starts handing out the kool aid and it seems most of us on this site just can’t get enough. It’s like summer time all over again. Drink up. Time to plan the parade!! So including their points in the last 2 games, Yak has increased his total to 8 and Drai to 7 for a combined total of 15 points on the season. Wow. By the way Gudreau has 21 points. So easy on the kool aid and lets try to keep things in perspective. I won’t even bother to mention the plus / minus of these players.

    • I can’t hammer away with the negativity every day. I would get bored. You would get bored. I assure you that I’m not here to hand out the Kool-Aid, but at the same time I think expecting a 1st and 3rd Overall pick to find some success isn’t pie in the sky stuff.

      • camdog

        Hey Matt, completely understand about trying to mix in some good. I have actually enjoyed your perspective since you started writing for ON and have seen that you call it as you see it even when it might not be popular. And that is refreshing. My comments were actually trying to ground those who continue to believe that this team is anything but a train wreck. Until MacT and management decide to walk the talk and be accoutanle themselves ( instead of pointing the finger at everyone but themselves, especially since they created this mess) This team will go nowhere.

          • DoubleDIon

            Well you will definately have fun and keep busy using your skills on ON because there is certainly lots to question about management here. I actually like Drai and Yak and believe that their under performing has nothing to do with their skills and ability but rather the inability of management to develop their assets properly and provide them with support players to develop their game. If on any other team Yak would probably already be a 25 to 30 goal player in his 3rd season and Drai would still be in junior developing his game so when he does make the step to the bigs he is over equipped.

  • cmandev77

    Hall Eberle; RNH; Yak; Perron the last 4 years:

    Not under eakins: 3.00EVGA/60

    Under Eakins 2.45 EVGA/60 A. 22.5% reduction in Performance.

    DubnyK under HKrueger .920 SAVE%; under eakins .894; In Phoenix .918

    Scrivens in his 3 qualified years in TOR LAK; EDM .920 Save%; this year under eakins .886

    Golaies experienced a 39% reduction in performance under Eakins.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Let’s call them the “Draft Day” line.

    Their numbers are 10-29-14 which is October 29, 2014. Around this date is when the Nation started looking forward to the draft because we were already out of the playoffs.

  • DoubleDIon

    Old time oil Fan:
    I do not give a r……….. about your feelings!

    that is for your Momma; Wife; Girlfiend; Husband; Boyfriend; Drinking Buddies.

    Just want to know what you see as a problem.

    1. Katz brought in vancouver trained tambolinni as our GM. He got rid of all our pre Katz assets.

    Torres-Stoll-XXX 2/3rds of a cup run Forward line.

    Nilsson-XXX-Cogliano 78% of all players got their best results with these 2 forwards.Less than 40% got best results with Gagner. Tambo kept the wrong Forward.

    Glencross-Brodziak-XXX

    Souray; Staios; Gilbert; Greene

    He gave 0 direction in lower rounds of draft.

    traded a lower round steal. reider

    MacT dumped Tambo and Coach to purge the Vancouver stench!

    MacT failed to realize kruegers Skill!

    MacT brought in A Toronto trained coach.Danger Danger!

    Goaltending Performance Droped 39% and Top 6 forward performance dropped 22.5%

    to top it off Eakins Apointed Ferecne a Caklgary flames trained leader Captain. Danger! Danger!

    We need a full purge of VCr; TOR; CGY Stench.
    anyone want to bring up Calgary. All their top players and head coach were brought in BY Sutter cup winner and finalist; and Feister a cup winning GM.

    • Cain

      Not sure what your comment about feelings is. I just pointed out the facts. How can there be anything to be excited about when we are dead last in the league. All of our players are trending backwards. Management is a complete gong show and the laughing stock of the league. MacT tries to preach accountability yet he has none himself. Maybe if he brought in an actual number 1 goalie and more than 2 NHL centers we wouldn’t be sitting in the basement, looking up to Calgary, van and Toronto. But no, it must be someone else’s fault. We have the best management group in the game. Lol.

  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    For the past few games I have been very impressed with Eberle’s aggressiveness and commitment. He is playing much better with Yak and Draisaitl than he appeared to be playing with Hall and RNH.

    On his current line, he is handling the puck more, working harder in the corners and along the wall. He is actually initiating contact, albeit they aren’t bone crushing body checks, and he is shooting.

    At the same time, there does appear to be some chemistry between all three linemates. Perhaps he, like everybody else on the team, deferred to Hall because he was the go to guy. Now that Eberle is that guy, his game quality has increased.

  • camdog

    As to splitting up the trio, it’s good to spread offence around:

    a) you score more goals when your offensive players are on the ice against the other team weaker defenceman
    b) There is only so much puck that can be distributed on one shift. All 3 of the young guns can’t have the puck on their stick at once.

  • DoubleDIon

    Put your speed together and put your smarts together. Nuge is both and could play with either line, but I’d have Hall/Yak as a pairing and Eberle/Perron as a pairing. They’re short a center no matter where they put Nuge. Hall is an awesome talent, but he’s kind of a doughhead with the puck sometimes. Just let him blaze down the wing and not try to be creative.

    • Kevwan

      Perhaps you have hit on something.

      As much as we all agree Hall is a Talent, maybe there is something in his personality, ego or manner, that gets in the way of his linemates being able to perform at their best? (Go on… Give me gears here… I know we all have to ‘love’ Hall. Just thinking out loud).

      It could be as simple as they might tend to stand and watch him because he is so dynamic. Or, it could be something in the locker room, or jealousy or…whatever.

      If RNH is cool together with Hall, and Eberle/Yak need to be away from him, why not develop a successful second line? In fact, shouldn’t this have been a goal from the onset?

  • Deported to Ottawa

    With all the high first round draft picks one would assume they could put together one truly effective line.

    I don’t mean to be a downer but I’m tired of all the analysis trying to find a glimmer of hope in the train wreck known as the Oilers.

  • Deported to Ottawa

    The season is done, no playoffs this year.

    So why don’t they play Yakupov and Leon in PK as well?
    Nothing to lose, it’s a training and developing season now.

    Coyotes let Tobias Reider play on PK, he scored 2 goals vs Oilers. He’s a rookie too, let them loose and give them confidence going forward for next season.

    Give the young guys more play time and experiment things.