BUILDING THE PERFECT BEAST

The Edmonton Oilers have an exceptional group of young talents but are not yet a team. This fall, for the first time since Tom Renney’s hiring, the club will be led by a veteran NHL coach. That’s a big deal, and one of the more interesting things we’ll be looking for is how Todd McLellan deploys the troops. Here’s a quick first glance.

LINES….OR DUOS?

The Oilers are set up for three offensive lines—if they choose to approach things that way. Why? As it happens, the heart of the cluster looks more logical in pairs up front, with other parts roving in and out of the set pieces as home/road and hot/cold dictates.

LOGICAL FORWARD DUOS….


  • Hall—McDavid: It makes complete sense to have your elite offensive talents on the same line and in the case of McDavid there aren’t going to be many wingers available to him who are as naturally talented as Hall. The likely third is Eberle, problem being Edmonton needs more than one No. 14 to make this thing go.
  • Pouliot—Nuge: This pairing made good music last season, with (again) Eberle being the ideal third man. Pouliot’s value to this group comes in his size/speed combination of skills and that he can cash. Underrated player, he’s going to be a big part of the Oilers’ success. Nuge is the key cog for next season in my opinion, in that he showed last year that teams couldn’t focus only on Hall’s line, that Nuge’s line would make you pay. One of the lines we’ll hear a lot from media next year? “RNH is emerging as an impact player” even though he’s been fine and getting better all along.
  • Draisaitl—Yakupov: This is perhaps less obvious but could be the most important pairing for the long term success of the team. Why? Well, to be honest, Nail Yakupov isn’t yet established as a useful scoring winger and this is season four on the way. He had nice chem with Leon a year ago and they were given great zone starts AND had just about 50% of the possession. Source

MATCH THE SETS!

Now, we arrive at the problem. The Oilers have too few Eberle’s, too many Purcell’s (I like the player but speed is going to be even more of an issue with this young, emerging team) and not a lot of depth if someone gets hurt or falters. Let’s take things one at a time:

  • Jordan Eberle: A great fit for either line, my guess is Todd McLellan has Eberle playing with both the McDavid and Nuge lines depending on circumstance.
  • Teddy Purcell: He’s a valuable player, great hands and can help on the power play. He isn’t a physical player and he’s not a fantastic checker, plus the speed means he’d have to cheat for defense on the Leon line (and that takes away most of his game).
  • Anton Lander: He might be a nice fit with Leon-Yak and his two-way ability could be useful with the Nuge line. I like him with Draisaitl because it means two centers and a defensive conscience on a line that badly needs one.
  • Lauri Korpikoski: Despite struggling in the desert for the last couple of seasons, I like the Finn as a two-way option for any of these lines and as a mentor for the Leon line.
  • Matt Hendricks: Edmonton will need some physical element to their skill lines and Hendricks—despite being shy offensively—could jump in as required. If we poo-poo the idea, then we need to discuss the possibility of bringing in someone who can play that crash and bang role with skill.
  • Iiro Pakarinen: Like Hendricks, there’s every chance he won’t bring enough offense, but there’s a lot to like with this player. Physical, fast, it’ll be interesting to see how far up the depth chart he could go with a strong TC.
  • Andrew Miller: The more I look at this situation, the better Miller’s chances appear to be. Inexpensive, fast, intelligent, he could be used in an extra forward/utility role but play on a skill line as needed. Andrew Miller is in a terrific spot this season, and has from now until Teddy Purcell’s contract expires to show himself as an option.

MY TOP 9F

Todd McLellan’s decision is several months away, but waiting is boring. So, let’s have a lash at the top 9F and see if we agree. Here’s mine:

  • Hall—McDavid—Eberle
  • Pouliot—Nuge—Purcell
  • Lander—Draisaitl—Yakupov

I’d work Miller in as needed, put Korpikoski on the 3line when nothing rhymes, and be prepared to move Yakupov up to the Nuge line if he responds to the new coach and begins to shine.

Thoughts?

  • Harry2

    All you armchair GM’s explain why you put Lander ( still basically a rookie ) above Letestu , when he has little experience and less offense than him ? Landers still has not proven he can hold a spot as yet .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Like to see Yak have success on more than one line this season. A 35 goal season would certainly help offset aspects of his game many mathletes here choose to pick on. Restore some confidence in him again.

  • Harry2

    I see the Yak apologists are out in full force once again.

    This young man has played here for several years now and I simply don’t understand the adoration. He is a nice guy but….

    He has never had a break way due to his speed

    He has never deked anybody for a shot on goal

    He has never made a smart play

    He has never made any kind of defensive play

    Simply put, what does he do with his ice time other than turn the puck over?

    • bazmagoo

      When Nuge plays with Hall and Eberle, he needs to be the defensively responsible forward. When he plays with Pouliot and Eberle, Pouliot plays that role perfectly. That’s why there was an upswing in Nuge’s offense later in the season. That line had great chemistry, and personally I think it’s only going to get better.

  • M22

    Miller has the wheels to stay with McDaid and Hall. He lacks size but if you pair Rheinhart and Gryba and put them on the ice your need for upfront size diminishes .

  • Oilers Coffey

    Slepyshev is going to be a sleeper and someone to watch for this year. In my opinion as have as lines :

    Hall McDavid Yakupov

    Pouliot Nuge Eberle

    Draisaitl Lander Slepyshev

    Hendricks Letestu Korpikoski

    Purcell seems to be bogging down the speed of these four lines 🙂

    • hagar

      Teams are supposed to win cups with the likes of Slep being picked up as a sleeper landing.

      I am not saying a single thing about the pickups made by PC until we see what happens this year.

      Sooooo many years watching klowe and his underlings make moves, we don’t even appreciate how players like Perry and Datsyuk even came to be.

      A smart gm sees things in players, and has a vision for not only potential, but also how it all fits together.

      Give us Lowe in power again, and we would be asking who drafts first next year already. No joke.

  • NJ

    We can mull different lines over all day long but I suppose in the end it doesn’t matter. Todd will put Yak in the top 6 because he isn’t Eakins. Yak will continue to grow and by the end of the next hockey season we’ll all be talking about Yak’s transformation and how well he plays with McDavid.

    Honestly, do we care? This is the kickingest butt summer for Oilers plan since … Forever. We are talking about Connor McDavid, Todd McClellan, Sekara and Talbot.

    Who saw that coming!? My wife has made fun of the Oilers for 5 years (since we got married) while I’ve watched them constantly screw things up, silently bearing the pain. It’s high time she ate some crow. I can’t wait to stuff McDavid jersey’s down her throat until she oozes copper and blue.

  • hagar

    The mcdavid thing was cool, but my best Christmas in 15 years is the regime change.

    Every time I hear a move, be it a donair for a player, or two high picks for a former 4th overall, I get excited.

    The yearly pressers about staying the course, and believing everything is in place… I wanted to puke.

    PC is doing things like a mad man, and I hope everyone gives him a couple freebies if he needs them. This team has gotten worse every year as they added number one draft picks. That is not normal by any standards.

  • Rob...

    -It took Yzerman years to become a defensively sound player, and iirc it came after a new coach came in and taught him. Yak has an incredible work ethic, he’ll figure things out just fine in his first season under an experienced NHL coach with an experienced NHL assistant coaching staff.

    -While there may or may not have been stability in SJ’s lines with McLellan, I haven’t studied this enough, it is safe to say line makeup is going to be a fluid process while he learns the capabilities of the roster first hand. Note how McLellan bumped Hall and Eberle to the first line with Crosby at the IIHF tourney after a few games. He saw their capability first hand and adjusted. He’ll get a better understanding of the rosters abilities a month into the season.

    -I imagine that opening night lineup would feature McDavid on the 2nd/3rd line, and by the All Star break he’d be on the 1st/2nd. It makes sense for him to score against 2nd/3rd pairing defensemen in his first few games to build confidence, before being thrown up against the best D pairings in the NHL in his first 20 shifts in the league.

    -I’m very interested in seeing how this coaching staff lines up the special teams, along with 3 vs 3 OT. McDavid’s speed with all that room, it’ll be a pretty exciting prospect.

  • STR8 SHOOTER

    SWITHCHING FOCUS : D .Staples has a good article in Journal today on new direction team seems headed for “For young Oilers team , the bigger, the better “. Oilers were small last season when it came to top ten players in terms of playing time . That may change this season with some surprises I expect will come about . We are talking over 200lbs. here , where the top 4 teams in playoffs this season had lots of that in important areas and more importantly time on ice over 10 minutes .

    So is it any surprise we went after Reinhart ,Gryba , Korpikoski , etc. with Nurse and Draisaitl seemingly expected to make team in this transition year . A couple of others maybe to keep an eye on Betker , Khaira , Davidson,Yakimov with weight and some skills .

    Only two are listed currently on our top 10 over 200 lbs.. -Fayne (215) and Klefbom (210) . Direction appears obvious and size and weight is that direction adjustment right from opening night .

  • Zarny

    There are countless options for line combinations,but I just don’t think Nuge should lose both Hall and Ebs. He hasn’t done anything wrong,and it would be a slap in the face to him,if they do. He has been the class act of this team,and has done enough,that McDavid should have to take his wingers,and not just be given them. RNH and McDavid along with Nurse will be the leaders of this team,moving forward.

  • Zarny

    @nrXicn

    There is always an excuse isn’t there?

    I never said coaching and line mates had no affect; but the problem is mostly Yakupov. He may have talent, but he’s been pretty much clueless without the puck.

    • Zarny

      I never excused the situation. In fact, I’m completely against how the Oilers have handled their young talent post-lockout.

      You’re contradicting yourself here:

      You state that the problem is mostly Yakupov.

      Then you state that he’s clueless without the puck, a coaching issue.

      So which is it?

      What also demonstrates incorrectness on your part is the fact that Yakupov improved almost immediately in this regard when coach Nelson came in.