3 THOUGHTS: McDavid’s Linemates, the Captaincy, and Needing Your Help

Thinking

Even though Elliotte Friedman takes the summer off from his 30 thoughts segment, we keep the deep thoughts* rolling at Nation HQ. We’re still over a month away from the Young Stars Tournament, even longer away from the preseason, and just under 69 (#nice) days away from the season opener, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about the Oilers.

*debatable

MCDAVID’S LINEMATES

Friend

One of the most interesting things going into this season is who will Connor McDavid be playing with to start the year. We can argue all summer long (and we will) about how many points he’ll get (if he breaks 67 I’ll be thrilled — anything above that is gravy) but a lot of that will depend on who he’s playing with and how many minutes he gets. We’ll save the argument about how many he’ll get for another day… uhhh… or at least continue it another day. Today, I’m thinking about who McDavid will have as his wingers.

To me, the idea that Connor McDavid is the de facto number one centre is almost as crazy as expecting him to lead the league in points in his rookie season (yes some people think that will happen). Will he finish the season as the number one centre on the depth chart? Possibly. Regardless of where he finishes the year I think he will start the season behind Nugey on the depth chart. Sheltering McDavid’s minutes while he gets his feet wet is the best idea for both the team and player. Having two veteran wingers on either side of him will be just as important as letting him learn the paces of the NHL. Which wingers would be best? I’ll tell you. 

If we can agree that McDavid will start the season on the second line (just humour me here) I think the options for his wingers are more limited than some people think. To me, the best options to play with Connor McDavid will be a guys that can produce some offence and also cover any defensive shortcomings he may have. Benoit Pouliot (he has some touch, but can also play a two-way game) and Jordan Eberle (same reasons as Pouliot) are the best options available to fill that role. Pouliot and Eberle both have the skill sets that will be needed to play with McDavid, and cover any shortcomings he may have in his first few weeks in the league.

It’s important that McDavid be surrounded by veterans (can you believe Eberle will be going into his sixth season already?) and have them do some of the lifting at both ends of the rink. Playing McDavid with Pouberle® will allow him to produce points as people expect him to do, but also be the net needed to catch him if he falters. I know that these line combinations more than likely won’t stick that way through the entire season, but for me those are the best two options for him to start the season with. 

THE CAPTAINCY

NugeSwingSet

I’m not going to go into a big thing about the captain needing to be the best player on the team, because that’s just not the case. From where I blog, the captain needs to be the guy that is comfortable playing big/important minutes, excelling at their role, getting in front of the cameras on the worst nights and keeping an even temperament. The captain needs to be a guy that can perform on the ice, and not get rattled when times get tough. To me, the next captain of the Edmonton Oilers should be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins… more on that later.

A week ago Matt Henderson wrote about the need to change the captaincy. I don’t disagree with Matt that change is needed, but I also don’t think it’s as crucial to strip Ference of the “C” immediately as some people seem to think. Andrew Ference is a veteran NHLer that feels comfortable in his own skin and the role placed upon him. Ference is a leader in the community, an excellent communicator, and he’s also able to step forward and speak when times have been tough. It’s a role that was needed while the first round of kids (read: first overall picks) were maturing, and a role that they will soon take over. Rather than strip him of the captaincy, wouldn’t it be more gracious of the organization to let him pass it along just like Milan Hejduk did with Gabriel Landeskog in Colorado? I have nothing to base this on, but I would guess that this day is coming soon than later. 

Back to Nugey…

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the world’s greatest 13-year old. This kid is dedicated to getting better as a hockey player, performing his job at a high level, and he has all the tools to make that happen. Puck skills aside, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has spent much of his time in the league working hard at getting better as a two-way centre. No Oiler forward played more minutes than Nuge last season, and he was second in the entire NHL to only John Tavares. Is he the best player on the team? We can debate that, but there’s no doubt that he is in the mix. Is he a skilled player, and a big contributor to this team? Absolutely. Most importantly, Nugent-Hopkins has the temperament needed to lead this team out of darkness and into the brightness for the next decade. I love Taylor Hall, but he also has issues controlling his temper on the ice – Nuge barely knows how to frown. He is the calming force this team needs.

Don’t take Nuge’s even keeled demeanour as having a lack of fire in his belly. Remember when Nuge went to battle with Dan Hamhuis last year? Ragin’ Nugent-Hopkins was born on that fateful night. That fight showed me that this kid is ready to battle and earn his space on the ice if need be. That fight showed a competitiveness that we may not necessarily have expected from the otherwise quiet Nugey. When you combine his willingness to battle and his dedication to get better, with his natural skill it makes Ryan Nugent-Hopkins an obvious contender to have the “C” sewn on his jersey. He is the kind of player that this team needs to lead them.

WE NEED YOUR HELP

BestGoal

We all know the summer is a slow time for all things Oiler related, and hockey in general. Going forward Jeanshorts and I will be creating content based on the input of you, the fine citizens of The Nation. The first round of this user content will be going up tomorrow based on the question posed in the graphic above. From there we gather your answers and compile a top five video showing who made the cut. Only five goals will make the video so this should cause a debate of hilarious proportions.  

To submit your vote follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to say your piece. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Actually… that’s not true at all. I would expect you to complain and encourage it! 

Disagree with any of my thoughts here? Sound off in the comments section and let us know what you think!

  • paul wodehouse

    Hall-RNH-Eberle – top line. Teams will have to focus on them and give them the tough match ups

    Pouliot-McDavid-Yakupov – they’ll get second pairing comp. Pouliot is the veteran that plays a heavy game. He can dig out the pucks and play both ends. And yak can find the open space and hammer home mcdavids gravy

    How come these line combos don’t get mentioned much? It seems like a no brainer to me.

    • NJ

      You want to protect McDavid from having to play backup for defensive shortcomings of players like Yak and Purcell .

      Yakupov : 81games -14 goals (5 of those on power play),19A = 35points with a 7.3% shooting . A disasterous and team high -35 plus/minus .

      Purcell : 82 games -12Goals (5 power play ) ,22A =34 points and a 8.2% shooter . Also an alarming -34 plus minus for second worse on our team . Those two okay on power play but lacking on regular line play .

      Choosing Eberle as column suggests is far better than the other two !

      Eberle – 81 games -24 Goals (6 power ply ) 30A =63 points but only a -16 plus minus player .

      Putting Yak with McDavid does not seem like a good option if we want conner to excel .

      I’d still like to see Hall/Pouliot with McDavid and Draisaitl put on RW/Eberle .

    • The GREAT Walter White

      Hall-RNH-Eberle are an impressive suck&luck trophy line for sure!!!!!……but against Gio and Brodie with Monahan at C don’t look very dangerous.

      Pouliot-McSuck&luck2015-Yakupov will not fare well against Hamilton and Russell with Bennett/Backlund at C. McSuck&luck2015 will get nullified and Pouliot and Yak will suck like they have their entire NHL careers…..

      Don’t forget “second pairing comp” isn’t anything like “Oilers second pairing comp”…….

      WW

      • LOL, I love Flames fan that now they won one series over the Canucks (who really should not have been in the playoffs) then get embarrassed by the Ducks think they’re lines are now ALL-STAR WORLD BEATERS. And Bennett, come on. He’s in one series against the Nucks and now he’s untouchable.

        I think that two of the best wingers in the league, and an All-Star c-man will be juuuuust fine.

      • sportsjunkie007

        Typical flamer fan bringing up that own goal…Lets get one thing strait flamer…that’s not the best Oiler goal! that’s the best flame goal! how ironic and pathetic is it that one of the flames best goals and moments in their teams history was scored by an Oiler on his own net! It took an Oiler to score on his own goal for your team to win a series against us! And you still lost the cup final! YOUR TEAM HAS WON NOTHING!!!!!! You are a loser buddy! There’s a lot of good flames fans down there but you know the old saying of one bad apple ruins the whole bag! We’re gunna beat your asses this yr I hope you realize that flamer! put that in your pipe and smoke it!…PUNK!…sincerely the City of Champs to the City of CHUMPS!

      • sportsjunkie007

        Nothing like Flames fans who are so jealous and insecure that they spend their time trolling Oiler sites:) Gotta love it, what absolute losers. Calgary’s a beautiful city but having spent 10 years working a week a month there I saw first hand just how jealous most of them are of Edmonton, especially sports fans A lot of days there was even more talk about trashing the Oilers on their AM sports station as there was Flames or Stamps talk, I laughed out loud more than once listening to it! It was actually almost sad to see as these were good people, they all just had such an inforiority complex when it came to Edmonton. I see that you fit very well into that catagory! Go Oil & Esks and Oil Kings and UofA, you know all of those teams that make Calgary teams look brutal overall!!!

        • The GREAT Walter White

          The Oilers set a record over the last 10 years for being the worst team in the history of the NHL……..

          The Eskimos have finished dead last in the West the last 10 years, also one of the worst teams in the history of the CFL…….

          Jealous of what exactly?

          WW

          • The GREAT Walter White

            LOL!!! Typical flamer! Typical! back it up with NOTHING! You make flames fans look FN stupid! check your stats in the last ten yrs b4 you mumble stupid crap! Your not even worth the time flamer! Screw the last ten yrs! Lets go championships overall! OILERS-5 CUPS! flames-1…ESKIMOS-13! stamps-7…YOU AND YOUR CITY HAS NOTHING ON THE CITY OF CHAMPS! NOTHING! Always the bridemaid never the bride! Jealous is not a strong enough word for you man…or should I say boy!…Punk

          • Canoe Ride 27.1

            Guys, go easy on Walter. If your one cup was bookended by 4 rival teams cups and your heroes were lanny Mcdonald, fluery and vernon, you would be salty to.

            To live in the shadows of 5 cups and the Oilers talent we have enjoyed over the years, it would push a guy to troll and bash.

            Throw in a state of the area entertainment complex and a guy named McDavid, and therapy is required.

            To quote Clubber Lang “I pity da foo!”

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    Greatest goal for me . 1988 playoffs, game 2 vs the Flames. Gretzky shorthanded overtime slapper to the roof on Mike Vernon. Sweet.

  • Art Vandelay

    I would like nuge as captain, But i dont think we need a captain switch yet. McDavid will be captain eventually imo. As far as line go i like (assuming no changes before opening night)
    also i think yak will be rotated into top 6 alot

    -pouliot
    -nuge
    -eberle

    -hall
    -mcdavid
    -pitlick (hopefully stays healthy)

    -korpikoski
    -lander
    -yakupov

    -hendricks
    -letesteu
    -paakirenien

    klink
    miller

    -skjera
    -fayne

    -klefbom
    -schultz

    -nikitin (better be good now)
    -nurse

    ference

  • Johnnydapunk

    McLellan got Crosby to backcheck and they won the worlds fairly easily despite having Mike Smith in net, I think all bets are off as to what the Oil players did and didn’t do before.

    As for best goal in Oil history, man thats too as goals that were the prettiest (Eberle’s first v the Flames, or Omark’s rediculous shootout goal which was also his first) or goals that meant something (Marchant in game 7 v Dallas, or Klima in the 3rd overtime v the Bruins in 1990, or Gretzky v the Flames in 88 which also was brilliant with Sather gesturing to the Flames fans after the goal)

    Will admit that seeing those goals again makes me pretty happy being an Oil fan, there are so many great goals to pick from and not many teams get that luxury of choice.

  • Anton CP

    Best goal that will be on replay over and over: Hemsky’s goal from Stefan’s botch. This is the most frequent goal on replay.

    The most meaningful goal in the Oilers history: Messier’s goal in game 3 of 1984 SC finals. That is the true beginning of the Oilers dynasty.

    Lots of great goals in the past, but only one can be called the worst goal in franchise history: Steve Smith.

  • Zarny

    It’s absurd to think McDavid will start as the de facto 1C.

    He’s still a rookie in the league. Let him get comfortable with the lifestyle first. Let him deal with the insane media blitz to start the season first.

    He may (probably) doesn’t finish where he starts. Something to keep in mind with all rookies.

    I think Edm has proven throwing 18 y/o into the deep end to see how much water they take on is a bad philosophy.

    As for the Captain, Nuge or Hall would be the logical choices except for one problem…in 2-3 years McDavid will likely be the overwhelming choice. Nuge and Hall are unlikely placeholders to wear the ‘C’.

  • sportsjunkie007

    RNH is one of the classiest young men in the league (or maybe any league). I agree that he has the evenness of temper to deal with refs, media, and outrageous fortune (like some of the refs’ absurd calls we’ve seen in the past few years). He’s also a superbly good player who is developing every year at a steady pace, and on both sides of the puck. Can anyone say “Steve Yzerman?” Put the C on this guy’s chest!

  • sportsjunkie007

    Really Baggy…with all your photoshop skills, can’t we really have a life size Leon and Baby Nuge head on those bodies?

    Hall might be more even keel in his play if given the C.

    Best goal ever: Gretz top corner over Vernon’s shoulder in 1988.

  • Canoe Ride 27.1

    Go oil go just a run at the playoffs would be great, oil fans including me can’t expect nothing less then a run at the playoffs, it’s been awhile and we deserve to see a team that’s at the least in game’s go oilers go, bring back the cup to Canada