BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

eberle common1

The Edmonton Oilers are a team badly in need of secondary scoring. The top line is the marquee item, but would Dallas Eakins be better off breaking up the line and trying to find two units that work?

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

In a recent article, Travis Yost had a look at the fine work Jim Nill is doing with the Dallas Stars. He quotes Nill in the article discussing roster makeup and lines:

  • “The roster assembly is really going to be something we find out in
    training camp. Right now, we’ve been playing a little bit of fantasy
    hockey before the hockey actually starts. We’re trying to figure out
    where everyone fits — the right ice time and stuff. The thing about
    Hemsky is that we had him targeted before we picked up Spezza. We wanted
    someone to complement the first line. We had some players that played
    with Hemsky previously — during our exit interviews, those players
    thought he would be a great fit with the team. Great passer, high-end
    skills. Seguin and Benn are really known as shooters — their niche is
    great shots. Hemsky’s a guy we targeted anyways. We’re going to come to
    camp now and Lindy and his staff are going to put it together.”

Source

Great passer, high-end skills. If only the Oilers could find a guy like 83. If we take the Oilers top nine forwards and filter that group through what Nill is saying here, can we break up the 1line and come up with two scoring lines? What would it look like?

OPTIONS

If we’re going to talk about breaking up the top line, let’s begin by discussing Taylor Hall, and who plays well with him. Via Hockey Analysis, here’s a ranking of how well Taylor Hall scores by teammate (2013-14, this is 5×5 points per 60 minutes):

  1. Nail Yakupov 3.76
  2. David Perron 3.06
  3. Jordan Eberle 2.96
  4. Mark Arcobello 2.92
  5. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 2.55

Heavy small sample size alert in regard to Hall with Yak (No. 4 scored seven points in about 111 minutes) and Mark Arcobello (4 points in 82 5×5 minutes).

Source

What if the Oilers tried that? What if Dallas Eakins took the top pair (Nuge and Hall) and married them to David Perron? It could be deadly. Or, Nail Yakupov? That’s a tough matchup for the young Russian in terms of quality of competition, but he can shoot from anywhere and the other two are brilliant passers.

Then again, what do we do with Eberle? If you move him off the 1line, who does he score well with 5×5?

  1. Nail Yakupov 2.48
  2. Taylor Hall 2.17
  3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 1.93
  4. David Perron 1.18

Same source as above, and of course these are all very small sample sizes we’re discussing here.

TOP 2 LINES

  1. Hall-Nuge-Yakupov
  2. Perron-Draisaitl/Arcobello-Eberle

Eberle doesn’t show well with Perron, but the former St. Louis Blues winger posted 2.07 5×5/60 with Eberle in 203 minutes this season. The Oilers spread the wealth, give Yakupov an excellent chance to succeed, and two veteran mentors for Leon the Great.

AND they still have Pouliot and Purcell left over for another line. 

  1. Hall-Nuge-Yakupov
  2. Perron-Draisaitl-Eberle
  3. Pouliot-Arcobello-Purcell

Thoughts?

    • Spoils

      LA uses Jeff Carter in a really interesting way. They believe he creates on his own so instead of putting him on the first line they put him on the second line which leaves the top line to face the tougher opposition.

      I feel like Hall could work that way.

      Also, the dream is Yak Yak Yak turns into the #1RW – but that is unlikely this year.

    • Spoils

      defensive numbers are key, but I really feel it is totally crazy to think Draisaitl is going to be eating up #2C minutes… anything can happen, but that feels like a long shot.

    • I think it is incumbent on the Oilers to do whatever it takes to get Yakupov rolling. Hopefully by this point Hall and RNH can carry the line and let Yak do what he does best. I honestly don’t concern myself with NY’s two-way game. He’s pure offense and should be utilized to his strengths.

      If LD is going to stick with the club, why not put him beside two guys with experience and scoring pedigree to work in unison with the play making abilities of the young German.

      Arco/Lander with Pouliot and Purcell sounds like a responsible two-way line. Leaving Gordon to center Hendricks and Pitlick or even Lander here.

      Not sure if the numbers work with those line combos and I might just be an overly optimistic Oilers fan that can’t wait for the season to start. What’s a fan supposed to do mid-summer?

    • Lofty

      I dont understand why some people think that nothing should be changed on the first line. Its not like they filled the nets either of the last few years. Goal scoring WAS a problem for the Oilers, look at the stats.

      Anyone who went to a home game has seen first hand that the team needs to find a way to score more goals.

      The D contributes greatly to the goal scoring problem but the team didn’t lose the most of there games in 5-4… more like 3-0.

    • Marshall Law

      If they’re all healthy, I’m not sure why you would want to break up the big 3. Eakins did it numerous times last year, and it simply didn’t work.

      Together, they are a dominant line that can put up massive offensive totals and keep the puck in the offensive zone for significant periods of time.

      When they are separated, they all become less effective, and the Oilers end up icing 2 or 3 lines that simply aren’t very productive. It makes no sense to dismantle your primary scoring unit for the sake of secondary scoring.

      Hopefully, with the new additions to the forward group, the Oilers will have enough depth that they won’t be tempted to break up the only line that poses a consistent scoring threat.
      Don’t over think it.

    • WHH

      There has been some pretty good analysis done in the past that shows Hall and Eberle make each other better, both in terms of scoring and shot metrics. I would not break up that pairing.

      I would not be opposed to trying Arco in-between Hall and Eberle though.

      That would allow you to run Nuge with Yakupov and Perron on the 1a line.

    • camdog

      Always hated when the coaches put Hall, RNH and Ebs on the same line. Ebs and RNH have chemistry and Hall has the ability to drive the play regardless who he’s playing with.

      I think Mact’s thinking of having 3 scoring lines and 1 defensive line is backwards thinking and a losing mentality. Put 2 skilled guys together with a good gritty, defensively reliable forward that can drive the net. Hate watching 3 skilled forwards playing the perimeter. It’s been 8 years of the same failed management strategy and I am getting tired of it. If the other teams defence doesn’t have to worry about the other team having a net presence they become easy to box out and that’s been the Oilers way since Pronger left. Time to make all 4 lines play defensive reliable hockey and stop relying on one set of forwards to protect the net.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      Seems like that top line can skate with most top lines in the Western Conference, meaning they may need to be in tact against competition like Toews, Getzlaf, Sedins, Seguin, Kopitar.

      I think juggling the lines can work against some teams, but against big 1st lines, the Oil don’t have the amazing shut down centre that can do it alone (Nuge nor Draistle aren’t there yet).

      Honestly, with injuries, the top 9 needs to learn to play with everyone, not in simple, static trios.

    • Dan 1919

      Perron, Arc, Eberle.

      First thoughts were that this line would get overpowered by bigger heavier bodies, but Ebbs is greasy, Perron bites like a terrier and Arco has heart. Naw, by November they will be too sore from peeling themselves off the boards.

    • orangepylon

      That top line works well for me in NHL 13 dynasty mode. They lead the league in every possible offensive category. They are all also equally good at in-game trick shots.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      That top line is finally healthy, bigger and smarter. Ya gotta give them a big shot to start the year to put up the numbers they are capable of. I’m not sure starting the year with out that line intact is the best approach. Pre-season plus say 10-15 games to see how the team is shaping up then make that call. Secondary scoring will be less important with that line firing on all cylinders.

    • Oil Vice

      I think switching the number 2 and number 3 center he would be a better start. I think eberle played well with arcobello. They think the game similar. Draisatle could have two big boys in purcell and pouliot who could controll the game down low, also he wouldnt learn how to be afraid of checks from eberle this way.

      Hall nuge yak
      Perron arco eberle
      Pouliot draisatle purcell

    • Jaxon

      The stats show that Yak makes the top players better offensively when he plays with them. I would like to see Hall, Ebs and RNH stay together for a whole season. And have Yak on the third line with Draisaitl and Puoliot and use them for offensive zone starts primarily and that should provide the secondary scoring. This way Yak and Draisaitl can develop the chemistry to be the first or second line in a couple of years.

    • WHH

      I would leave Hall, Nuge & Eberle together. Last year they were split up for much of the time it seemed. When they were finally put back together they did well, and most bloggers on here said it was about time. That Eakins was a fool for not putting them together sooner, and if he was smart he would leave them together going forward. Trying to make up for lack of center depth by shuffling these three players around isn’t the answer. You could end up with none of the lines doing well. We all know the answer is more center depth.

    • bwar

      Didn’t we see enough of the blender last year. Just leave the top line alone for awhile . Besides what’s wrong with the other combos we have??? Hall, huge and ebs are awesome togther and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Had my fill of experimenting over the last 7 years , enough already

      • Dan 1919

        Yeah this definitely isn’t a new idea. Eakins talked of splitting the kids into groups of 2 last year before the season even started, and he did.

        What we found out was that Taylor Hall was the actual driver of the limited offence the Oilers produced. Whoever Hall played with excelled, when baby Nuge and little Ebs lost their best friend to another line, they started to slump.

        Should note that Perron seemed to always play his consistent game and didn’t need Hall as much as the other guys though.

        Both Nuge and Ebs are paid just as much as Hall, there should be a lot of pressure on them this year to take the team and lead them night after night. Not have a couple good games, then slump for a period of time and watch the media blame the third and fourth line while the top paid players get away with it.

        Not saying they have to score 50 goals a piece, but they need to take a stronger leadership role this year. They should be able to play on a line without Taylor Hall and still produce consistently. It may still be that the best line for the team is to have them together, but they should still be able to produce if asked to play with others too.

        There’s plenty of team’s top paid players in the league that produce night after night and don’t have as skilled as wingers as Hall next to them.

    • Oil Vice

      I like the idea. As it stands we know there is great chemistry between hall-nuge-ebs. We need to develop more chemistry on other lines so we can have different options for different matchups. Toews and Kane are always dangerous together but usually only play together to spark the team or when they badly need a goal. Yakupov could use a push also.

    • bwar

      Long term I believe that Yak and Hall could be an incredible duo. But since Eakins seems to have it out for the kid, expect him to play the entire year on the soft minutes line.

      • Wax Man Riley

        My favourite post in a long time courtesy of J. Willis:

        “Nail Yakupov’s linemates last season ranked by time on ice together (one hour minimum):

        1. Sam Gagner

        2. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

        3. Jordan Eberle

        4. David Perron

        5. Ales Hemsky

        6. Taylor Hall

        7. Mark Arcobello

        8. Ryan Smyth

        Damn you, Eakins! Who could possibly produce with that god-awful cast of plumbers!”

        Wow I wish Eakins would put him in a position to succeed instead of playing him on the 4th line all the time and ruining him because he hates Russians!

      • Wax Man Riley

        I really like the idea but maybe Hall/Arco/Yak and let Draisaitl centre Pouliot and Purcell. Draisaitl really shouldn’t be higher than 3C and Pouliot/Drisaitl/Purcell is a big honking line that could do serious damage against soft comp.

    • Dan 1919

      I’ll bet these are lines they try. I think it’s just as important to ensure players like Drasaitl and Yakupov get off to good starts as it is players like Hall and Eberle stay hot.

      We’ll see fair time with both options I’d bet. Especially in the first nine games.

    • "Frank the dog"

      Hi LT,
      Do we want to give Yak a chance to succeed at the expense of the team scoring goals and winning games, when the others all have to earn their stripes?

      I suppose the two extremes in terms of being given a chance to succeed, are Arco and Yak.

      At best Yak reminds me of that new 700hp Dodge, the car that can spin its wheels at highway speeds. Both Yak and that car need more traction if they arte to succeed.

      Arco, on the other hand, is like one of those Lotus 7 kit cars one saw in the day. Almost laughable to look at, but Gord help you if you want to beat one of those on track day.

      Arco has earned every one of his stripes. Yak is likely on his last year of credits. I wish him well, he has a heck of a shot, but not delivering – yet.

      • Spoils

        How the hell has Arco earned anything? By having a “good” stretch of 20 games? Hes just as unproven as LD.

        By your logic id have to say that Yak is way more proven than Arco. I mean he does have a 17 goal season under his belt which is way more than anyone can say for Arco.