LINES AND ARROWS

They’ve been making Connor McDavid highlight videos on YouTube since 2011-12, so he must be the real thing. As much value as YouTube scouting has (I keed), It’s always good to get confirmation on these things, and for Oilers fans a word or two from Taylor Hall is just the ticket.

  • TAYLOR HALL:“He’s got a lot of foot speed. He seems to glide faster than most guys skate at full speed.” Source

Music! If you’re an Edmonton Oilers fan, that kind of quote has to make you smile. Hall has five years in the NHL, he knows what big league speed looks like. McDavid is a fast train and that’s a big damn deal.

The next question becomes ‘how to use this speed demon to greatest impact?’ and I have argued pairs. Pairs, as in Hall—McDavid and Pouliot—Nuge, with Jordan Eberle sliding up and down the lineup as required. Initially, I think putting Eberle on the RNH line makes the most sense. Why?

If you take last year’s top line (Nuge with Pouliot and Eberle) it probably drives the opposition’s best players to that group. In the opening game of the season (as a for instance), you’d see the Alex Pietrangelo—Jay Bouwmeester pairing instead of Kevin Shattenkirk—Carl Gunnarsson. It IS a big deal for the rookie and coach Todd McLellan is going to be looking for the best matchup available.

I think Hall makes the most sense for two reasons: Speed (someone has to keep up with McDavid) and offensive ability. Hall isn’t going to be a great help without the puck (I argued for a Justin Williams type but it may end up being Teddy Purcell or Lauri Korpikoski or Nail Yakupov) but he can damn sure fly and create and score goals.

At some point it has to be about putting a player in a position to succeed and if those two (Hall—McDavid) can make it go, I’d sure as hell like to see what they can do. If it doesn’t work, there are lots of options. That’s my take. What’s yours?

  • vetinari

    Hall & McDavid could definitely push the river against opposing teams but they would benefit from a defensive RW to cover off assignments in their own zones (so, while I love Yakupov, he’s likely not the best candidate). Should be an exciting training camp and preseason to see who can keep up with these two and who can complement them.

    • Double Dees

      Although I agree with u to some degree, a great defense is an even greater offense. With mcd-hall-yak, they’ll be able to skate circles in the o zone.

      I also believe with the speed that line would have, they’ll be able to back check with no problem.

      I truly, truly believe yak will score 30 goals this year with mcd.

      But honestly, no one knows what coach mclellan will do.

      • vetinari

        I think that it is just a difference in philosophy and my comment is actually more critical of our defence then it is against Yakupov.

        Think about the first dozen or so games last year. Hall, RNH and Eberle would barnstorm the opponent’s zone, try a cute toe drag at the blueline and then there would be a two or three on one back the other way usually resulting in a goal.

        Add in the fact that this year our defencemen are generally either: 1. weak defensively (Schultz, Nikitin); 2. unproven (Nurse, Reinhart); 3. new to the team (Sekera, Gryba, Reinhart); or 4. new or relatively new to the NHL (Nurse, Reinhart, Klefbom).

        McDavid may have wheels but it’s a lot to ask him to successfully back check and out muscle a Taveras, Toews, Nash, Tarasenko, Pavelski or Malkin off the puck at full speed in his first season.

        I’d rather let Hall and McDavid work as a tandem with a defensively aware third forward supporting them and able to cover off in their own zone if the play shifts back to our end.

      • bradleypi

        ^^this all day!^^ I completely agree. It’s a puck possession league now and those 3 guys love to have the puck. That’s a line I would try at first for sure!

  • Double Dees

    It is critical to “protect” Connor M from opposing top line defenders until he gets a bit more NHL experience and man muscle. It is a different game even for this talented 18 year old and we need him to be successful!

    • bradleypi

      How do you “protect” a player? Does oilersnation not realize that other teams and coaches also line match? Who would you put your best d pair against? Pouliot and nuge or hall and McDavid? For me it’s the latter. Not sure how you “protect” the best player on the team. It’s not like coaches in the league don’t know who he or hallsy are. Maybe at home you can get some favorable match ups but it’s a lot tougher on the road. This is a men’s league and if he doesn’t have “man muscle” then maybe HD should go back to junior. Oilersnation is a funny place lol

      • Train#97

        Oilersnation is not a funny place. Your brain is a funny place!! You want McD to go back to junior ? Get a grip.Quit talkin about man muscle for Christ’s sake.

  • freelancer

    I like the idea of pairs over trios. I think we will see Purcell on McDavid’s RW to start the season. Purcell has the speed to keep up,and more defensively responsible than Yak.

    More importantly, I think if you put Yak, Hall, and McDavid together, teams might try to stack their better players against them, instead of the Nuge, Eberle, Pouliot line. As the season goes on, teams will start zeroing in on McDavid more. Do what you can to shelter him from the tougher opposition.

    • Czar

      I’m pretty sure you could clock Purcell with a sundial. He just doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Hall and McD,it would be like Wile E.Coyote chasing 2 roadrunners.

      • freelancer

        Not nearly the same speed, true. A better way I should have worded it is just the ability to play with them and not have the play die on his stick. He wouldn’t be able to enter the zone at the same speed but he does have good hands. Let McDavid or Hall carry the puck into the zone and Purcell be a straight shooter.

        • Czar

          He does have some talent and who knows,maybe he built some kind of chemistry working out with the two of them? Instead of “straight shooter” I’d go with “the trailer.”

          I’d prefer someone who’s willing to stick up for them and get their nose dirty, not a Purcell trait so far in his career. Pucker’s suggestion of Hendrix makes more sense to start the year IMHO.

          • Czar

            Pucker and I will be running the bench for the preseason so come on down and I’ll hook you up with some autographs. The only condition is we work on your reading comprehension in between periods.

          • Czar

            I like Woogie’s Pitlick idea too.

            IF McD and Hall have the chemistry, there are going to be a lot of garbage goals to be had by someone hanging around the crease.

            I hope Pitlick doesn’t get hurt this year.

          • bradleypi

            Well while you’re there, why don’t you suit up and play on a line with hall and McDavid? Apparently it doesn’t matter who plays on his right wing. Any plug can have the job I guess.

  • Chainsawz

    Nuge-Pou-Ebs should be an awesome line. Nuge and Ebs should both show improvement over last yar.

    McD-Hall and someone else should also be a good line. How about some muscle in there. Maybe Hendrix. Someone that can skate half decent, stand up for McD and will stand in front of the net.

    I think either way the opposition will have problems deciding which line is #1.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Lowetide, whenever you talk about lines regarding McDavid – Do you really believe McDavid should be first line? I’m just under the impression you believe that since you always write about lines that way in your articles.
    I still think McDavid should be second line for the first year.

    • bradleypi

      So if McDavid and hall are outscoring nuges line, would you still consider them a “2nd” line and keep giving nuges line more ice time? That makes no sense. I see a 1a and a 1b line. Whoever is going that night gets the ice time. None of this “sheltering” garbage.

  • Harry2

    I think having Yak with a rookie (even though it is McD) is a bad idea.

    I think Purcell is the first choice. Someone more defensively responsible like Korpikoski also makes more sense than Yak IMO.

    Long term? I’d like to see Draisaitl on the right wing with Hall and McD.

    • Ever the Optimist

      Agree with your take. I don’t think Yak could keep up with Hall and McDavid. Yak is a quick skater with limited endurance whereas they are both fast skaters with good to very good endurance. They just don’t seem to be a good fit.

    • Arod

      Al wrote: “At some point it has to be about putting a player in a position to succeed and if those two (Hall—McDavid) can make it go, I’d sure as hell like to see what they can do. If it doesn’t work, there are lots of options. That’s my take. What’s yours?”

      Hey Al, I wonder if we can take anything from Todd’s deployment of his forwards at the WHC. I was watching closely and I noticed two main things;

      1) He did a fair amount of tweaking in the bottom 6, but not near as much with the top 6

      2) He clearly had a plan with his lines and didn’t make any drastic changes until they faced adversity against the swedes, at which point he plucked Eberle and Hall from Duchene’s line and stuck them with Crosby (and we know how that went). After that game his lines were basically fixed for the rest of the tournament, other than rotating 4th liners in and out.

      Now obviously the variables are much different in Edmonton, but I think we can infer a couple things. One, Todd Mclellan will likely be coming in with a firm plan as well as potential backup scenarios. Two, we likely wont see the musical chair situation on the top lines we’ve been witnessing the last couple years. Todd will likely movie players around, but its not likely to happen on a game to game basis.

      More consistent lines and a properly run training camp would be extremely refreshing, and are things I really hope to see under TMac

  • Harry2

    Hall-McD-Yak IMO is a recipe for disaster defensively.

    Long term I would like to see Draisaitl play on the right wing with Hall and McD.

    Hopefully Yak can raise his stock and become a good trade chip to land another top pairing D man.

  • Train#97

    The fact that McD is a super bullet type skater with amazing skills beyond almost all NHL players is tremendous for the Oilers.

    If not by now, then surely by the end of training camp (sarcastically), other teams will be putting their best lineups most always against McD and his wingers as they already know of Nuge and the gang.
    McDavid is already a junior legend which made every team freak out to get him and so they already know what he can do and be.

    This is why Hall and Eberle should play along side of McD. The creative speed and puck magic between these three would be likely incredible

    Pouliot with Nuge makes more sense because of both Nuge and Pouliots’ defensive abilities, and passing skills while also getting down behind the net a lot which allows Yak to set up high in the slot along with say Sekera and or Klefbom or Schultz a the points.

    This leaves a third strong enough line up of Korpikoski, and Purcell with either of Lander or Draisaitl (who should start the season first in the AHL IMO – absolutely give him Condors’ first line playing time).

    The fourth line of Hendricks, Pitlick or Klinkhammer with Letestu makes a very good hard driving fourth line as well. Gazdic can easily be the extra forward for certain games needing Oilers’ protection.

    • AJ88

      Yak with RNH did not work out last year, although it would make RNH even better in his own end. I think Yak needs to prove he can be more responsible in his own end before placing him in the top 6. Top 5 are of course McDavid, RNH, Hall, Eberle and Pouliot, go to training camp and figure out who the best fit is. Maybe it could be Drai (has the speed and size)…

  • Arod

    god I am computer illiterate. Can someone delete the above post? lol. There should be no replying to myself. Instead this is what I meant to post:

    Al wrote: “At some point it has to be about putting a player in a position to succeed and if those two (Hall—McDavid) can make it go, I’d sure as hell like to see what they can do. If it doesn’t work, there are lots of options. That’s my take. What’s yours?”

    Hey Al, I wonder if we can take anything from Todd’s deployment of his forwards at the WHC. I was watching closely and I noticed two main things;

    1) He did a fair amount of tweaking in the bottom 6, but not near as much with the top 6

    2) He clearly had a plan with his lines and didn’t make any drastic changes until they faced adversity against the swedes, at which point he plucked Eberle and Hall from Duchene’s line and stuck them with Crosby (and we know how that went). After that game his lines were basically fixed for the rest of the tournament, other than rotating 4th liners in and out.

    Now obviously the variables are much different in Edmonton, but I think we can infer a couple things. One, Todd Mclellan will likely be coming in with a firm plan as well as potential backup scenarios. Two, we likely wont see the musical chair situation on the top lines we’ve been witnessing the last couple years. Todd will likely movie players around, but its not likely to happen on a game to game basis.

    More consistent lines and a properly run training camp would be extremely refreshing, and are things I really hope to see under TMac

  • AJ88

    Todd McLellan is in the drivers seat. From my seat in the uppers he can’t make a wrong turn.

    The first line could be Pouliot, Nuge & Eberle with Hall, McDavid and Yak forming the second. There would be blazing speed on the second and Yak could be the trigger man.

    This 1-2 combo should give opposing coaches nightmares for match ups.

    The factors not mentioned so far is that our third line should be able to put up good numbers and our GAA should drop as our possession numbers rise.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    If I were the coach, I’d pull the goalie off the opening faceoff and run with:

    Hall – McDavid – Yakupov
    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle
    ALL AT THE SAME TIME!

    The opposition may be able to stop our 1a line sometimes, but I doubt they’d be able to stop our 1a and 1b lines at the SAME TIME.

    GO OILERS GO

    • Cowbell_Feva

      That’s pretty hilarious. Crazy thing is it might actually work… until they need a change that is. However, when going for a tying goal at the end of the game this group should be money

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    I’m excited about the potential of a Hall-McDavid-Yak line, man they would fly. However as much as I want Hall-McDavid to dominate together, I’m worried they’re very similar players, in the fact they both carry the puck up the ice and back off defenders with their speed. Would that trait be beneficial or harmful?
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Hall-Nuge-Ebs.
    Pouliot (for some defensive, veteran leadership, and grit)- McDavid (to push the river)- Yak (might be able to keep up, and loves one timers from set up guys)

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Fastest line would be Hall,McDavid and Draisaitl on RW . Draisaitl also great passer , and can carry play in neutral zone very well. Put Nurse and Schultz with them and you have speed also on backend . Eberle slower on the straightaway than Draisaitl , but far better on lateral mobility , darting and experience with top players . Yak has the mobility and darting down , but lags behind those two in other aspects so far . Purcell seems out of sorts (least efficient) in too many areas by my estimation .

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    I’m excited about the potential of a Hall-McDavid-Yak line, man they would fly. However as much as I want Hall-McDavid to dominate together, I’m worried they’re very similar players, in the fact they both carry the puck up the ice and back off defenders with their speed. Would that trait be beneficial or harmful?
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Hall-Nuge-Ebs.
    Pouliot (for some defensive, veteran leadership, and grit)- McDavid (to push the river)- Yak (might be able to keep up, and loves one timers from set up guys)

  • Cowbell_Feva

    First off, wow, what an assortment of offensive firepower McLellan has at his disposal.

    As we have seen in the past, lines get juggled a lot, especially early. But for S & G’s heres my combos:

    4-93-14 – Shown chemistry. older, smarter.
    67-97-16 – Two vets to help guide young Jedi.
    10-51-29 – Drai’s passes. Yaks one T. Magic.
    28-55-23 – Great 4th line. Tonnes of grit.

    If I had to pair someone to McDavid, for the short term at least, its Pouliot because he has the size to at least get into shoving matches and somewhat protect him.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    We might also have to consider the emergence of Hopkins this year into elite center status . Example : 22 of Hopkins goals out of 24 were at even strength . At even strength he beat the likes of Kane 21 , Toews 20 , Malkin 19 and Crosby 18 . 41 of Hopkins points out of 56 points were also at even strength , beating the likes of Kopitar 40 and Bergeron 39 . Recent interview has Hopkins speaking glowingly of finding the proper balance between offence and defence that he hopes to pass on to McDavid and rest of squad . Yakupov needs to find that balance .

    • Cowbell_Feva

      Totally, this all day. If other teams seriously want to throw their top D out again McDavid, then Nuge and his wingers will destroy their 2nd pairings. As long as McDavid can at least hold his own this team should be drastically better than it was last year

    • Cowbell_Feva

      I think the Nuge is the forgotten man in all this McDavid hype.

      He is without a doubt our most complete player on the team. Cerebral and getting bigger and smarter. He is the #1 Center for the foreseeable future.

      Lets hold off on the McDavid for Hart Trophy malarky.

  • Randaman

    I don’t understand all the people on here that figure Yak is the second coming of Kurri or Stamkos. He’s not that good.

    I like the kid but he has proven NOTHING!!

    If you think that we will not be trading someone to get the final pieces, (Yak, Eberle, etc)you are delusional. It will happen and I think there will be some very pissed off people on here when that happens.

    • Harry2

      Couldnt agree more. You simply con not blame everything bad that has happened to Yak on Eakins. I just dont see him being a Peter Chiarelli type of player

      With that being said I hope he has a good year becomes a 20/20 guy and fetches us a dman next summer

      • Arod

        “You simply con not blame everything bad that has happened to Yak on Eakins.”

        I think you can, because of the contrast in numbers. He lead in team scoring under Krueger.

        He tripled his points when Nelson took over for the last half of the season. Which, IMO, is huge. Setting the cut off date at Christmas 2014, Yak was 8 pts in the first half, and 25 pts in the second half. I could have that date wrong of when Nelson took over, but still, the trend is apparent.

        If the numbers weren’t so apparent, I’d agree with you. But let’s face it, when even the Nuge and Ebs become some of the league’s top scorers after the All-Star break…there’s definitely something wrong with what Eakins was doing there.

        I know I’m focused on scoring, but Yak’s play on the other side of the puck improved as well. As much as +/- is a useless stat, even that showed a massive contrast between coaches. -4 in 1/2 season w/ Krueger, -7 in 1/2 season under Nelson….but -25 under Eakins in the 13-14 season, -10 in this year’s half season. So even that shows a big difference (if you’re going to put weight into that stat).

    • Double Dees

      Dude he’s like 22yrs old… Stamps didn’t hit his prime later as well.

      Patience. He was the best player avail in HIS draft. Just cause he was #1 overall doesn’t mean he has to end up like all the other star studs.

      Others peak at different times. His shot and dangles are just as good as anyone on our team. Whenever he has the puck everyone inches closer to the tv to see him closer.

      He’s a dynamic player with a hellauva shot.

      • Randaman

        He was #1 in a very weak draft class. Not all #1’s are created equal.

        I am also quite aware of how old he is and who is Stamps? If you are referring to Stamkos, I beg to differ. No comparison…

        If you don’t want to trade Yak to add required pieces to make the TEAM a true contender, then who? Hall, Nuge, McDavid?? Thought not.

        You can’t build a team using the UFA market. No team can afford that.

        Don’t get me wrong, I like Yak. I would like him more as an energy third line guy if he could ever learn what side of the puck to be on. He hits like a truck and has an edge.

        Again, not all top draft picks play on the first or second line. Look at the World Juniors for an example of that.

        • bradleypi

          So you don’t think nurse and Reinhart are 1st pairing dmen in the making? I think Chiarelli made his move for a dman already and it’s Reinhart. Because in all reality, exactly which team out there is trading a bona-fide #1 dman?? Sorry to burst your bubble man but Shea webber isn’t coming anytime soon. 3 years and the oil will have 2 top pairing guys in my book.

          • Randaman

            I don’t believe I mentioned anything about a defenceman or Weber in particular.

            I believe once Nurse and Reinhart are ready that we have our D solidified for the most part.

            So I guess you are saying you agree with me? So can I keep my bubble? LOL

          • Cowbell_Feva

            I have a lot of love for Nurse. But as far as banking on Reinhart becoming a top pairing NHL defenseman is asking a lot.

            He is not a very good skater. He has not progressed enough the last few years to even force his way into many games with the Islanders, and when he did, he admittedly struggled. He was not lighting up the AHL….why would a trade to a different city suddenly change a hockey players talents??

            Nurse yes. Griffin, not so sure. So if that is Chiarelli’s move for his coveted defenseman, yikes. Huge risk.

      • Randaman

        Further to my last post,

        He has a great shot but dangles? He needs to get the jitterbug action out of his game and he would be faster.

        He’s good but I don’t see dynamic yet.

        I said yet!!

        We wait…

        • Train#97

          I agree with much of you say many times. It’s just your delivery sucks.

          Jitterbugging, speed control and hitting the net. These he needs to improve on. I keep hoping he turns into a Brett Hall type player. I think he has the potential but he’s got a long way to go.

          A big plus for him is the efforts is there, he seems to love the game and he seems to want to improve.

          As for trading these young players, I’m sure it will happen but that doesn’t mean you stop cheering for them while they’re Oiler’s. Who knows who’s going to go?? And when.

          • Randaman

            I cheer for Yak as I cheer for all the Oilers.

            I just see him as the most expendable if his value can be increased. Maybe I’m wrong but I think if you ask 100 people, the majority would rather trade Yak than the other core pieces if it strengthens the entire unit.

            Was that delivery any better?

          • Ever the Optimist

            Yes!! Excellent delivery!!

            I think this is what pretty well all the other sheep think on this site. Ideally his value will improve immensely before any trade happens.

    • bradleypi

      I would not say he is not that good. He has all the tools to be an elite player in this league.

      He is just developing slowly, and there is no guarantee that he will ever realize his full potential, but putting him in a position to succeed, is what we must do with him. Anything else, and we are doing ourselves a disservice.

      And I will only be pissed off if we make a bad trade with one of our major pieces.

      Hall for Ekblad straight across. I would be ecstatic. Hall for Dion Phaneuf straight across, and I am pissed off.

  • Hazlehurst11

    I agree with the pairs concept. Im thinking to the World Championships when Hall and Ebs tore it up and got to play with Crosby. Maybe he keeps them together for a while? Not sure, but if he liked that Tandem that much at the World Championships maybe they stick together for a while?

  • CMG30

    On speed alone you need to give Hall-McDavid at least a look. If it works, awesome!

    Rounding out that duo, in the long run, would be Yak – assuming that he finally turns into the player that we all hope!

  • Double Dees

    Dark horse comment to follow,

    McDavid-Hall-Pitlick might be something to try.

    Pitlick can fly, likes to bang, will fore check and back check and can stand in the blue paint….

    I know he has a history with injuries, but….

    This would give us THREE excellent lines,

    Hopkins-Pouilot-Eberle

    MacDavid-Hall-Pitlick

    Lander-Draisaitl-Yakupov

  • Ever the Optimist

    One of the things we have all noticed is a lack of physicality on our scoring lines.

    Hence why i propose

    pou – rnh – eberle

    Hall – McD – Korpikoski (3 guys with top end speed)

    Yak – Drai – Packarinen

    Hendricks – Lander – Letestu

    this would give each line a puck retrieval player and a physical presence with every line

    and then we add nurse, gryba and reinhart and thats 2 very solid players on the ice at all times. Still maybe not enough vs the ducks or kings but a hell of a lot better than previously.

  • Arod

    It gives me the warm and fuzzies down below thinking about Hall and McDavid absolutely flying around the ice, dominating every defensive pair they come across.