WWYDW: The Edmonton Oilers’ Centre Depth Chart

97-McDavid-5

Confirmation came Wednesday morning of Oilers’ fans worst fears. Connor McDavid, who has so spectacularly lived up to incredible hype in the early part of his NHL career, is going to miss months after breaking his collarbone.

In this week’s edition of What Would You Do Wednesday, we ask how Todd McLellan should proceed from here.

The Options at Centre

93-RNH-21

McLellan has some options down the middle, though the loss of McDavid ends Edmonton’s 1-2 punch and leaves the depth chart significantly weaker. Here’s who might plausibly be asked to fill the four spots down the middle:

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. No. 1 with a bullet now, Nugent-Hopkins will have to carry an even heavier load. One wonders whether—particularly with Jordan Eberle on the verge of returning—consideration is given to splitting up Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall. On the one hand it would help spread out the scoring; on the other Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have been excellent together.

  • Leon Draisaitl. Draisaitl has seven points in three games as the right wing on Edmonton’s top line. It’s awfully hard to split that trio up, but in many ways Draisaitl is the logical fit for the No. 2 centre spot right now.
  • Mark Letestu. Letestu has just three points in 13 games as he’s bounced around in a utility role, but he has some history on a scoring line and could be promoted. He, Matt Hendricks and Teddy Purcell gave the Oilers a quality third line for perhaps the first time this season on Tuesday, though, so there may be some hesitation to split those three up.
  • Matt Hendricks. He’s fresh off injury, but he has played centre before. Again, it’s worth noting that the third line played well last night and breaking them up may not be ideal.
  • Anton Lander. Pointless in 13 games, despite often getting a push from the coach, Lander has been one of the team’s big disappointments this year. It’s obvious from last season that he’s capable of more, but it’s unclear if he’ll deliver it.
  • Andrew Miller. Small, speedy AHL’er is a plausible call-up, though the Oilers sent him down after just one game last time around. He has six points in eight games in the AHL.
  • Jujhar Khaira. With four points in eight AHL games, the massive Khaira is finally scoring at a rate that may warrant an NHL recall.
  • Bogdan Yakimov. Yakimov has three points in eight AHL games and would give the Oilers some big-time size down the middle. He did get into an NHL game last season after a spectacular training camp but was quieter this time around.

Solutions

29-Draisaitl-2

Personally, in the short-term (the next game or two) I’d be tempted to plug Lander into the gap at centre. He’s not an ideal fit, but the first line has been excellent and the third line delivered against Philadelphia, so a promotion for Lander and perhaps a short-term call-up on the fourth line make sense to me.

In the slightly longer term, Eberle coming back should allow Draisaitl to slide into the second-line centre role. It’s a shame to bump a player out of a position in which he’s been playing so well, but Eberle has to play somewhere in the top-six and Yakupov has earned his spot there, so bumping Draisaitl back to the middle makes sense. That would leave the Oilers with the following top-nine:

  • Hall—Nugent-Hopkins—Eberle
  • Pouliot—Draisaitl—Yakupov
  • Hendricks—Letestu—Purcell

Is that the way to go, or should McLellan pursue a different approach?

  • Kevin McCartney

    I think we have to be careful about the results from Philly – they’re a remarkably bad hockey team. The same is true of Calgary. I think it’s possible that third line is not the weapon we hope it is once it faces slightly better than an aging Vincent Lecavalier or ex-Oiler Chris Vande Velde.

    Lander has had a very bad season in a number of ways, but we’ve also seen some evidence that he and Purcell simply don’t mix (maybe because Lander is a vertical, outside lane player and Purcell keeps chucking it on net as soon as they cross the blue line) and that everyone is better away from Korpikoski (who is just a big version of Matt Halischuk and I’m not sure why anyone thought we were getting a defensive forward). Purcell and Korpi are Lander’s most common linemates this year and he’s almost always had at least one of them around to make life harder.

    So I suggest a return to a pre-season line that had some chemistry:
    Hall/Nuge/Ebs (Power vs Power)
    Drais/Lander/Yak (Ozone starts)
    Pouliot/Letestu/Purcell (I’m not really sure what to expect here)
    Slepyshev/Hendricks/Pakarainen (create turnovers and shoot, please?)

    We might see Hendricks take Letestu’s job fairly quickly, and that’s just fine. The important lessons of this lineup are: 1) Hall is amazing; 2) keep Lander and Purcell away from each other; and 3) put Yak in a position to succeed.

  • YFC Prez

    I’ve really liked the Match ups that open up for the top 6 when they run 2 lines that are both an equally offensive threat. Best players on the oilers are Hall McDavid. With McDavid out I would separate Nuge and Hall, the 1-2 punch has been working.

    Hall Drai Yak
    Pou Nuge Ebbs.

    No clear first or second line. I imagine wherever Hall plays, that’s the line that gets the toughest match ups form opposing coaches. Maybe a few more easy minutes for Nuges line that we’ve seen work before.

    Until ebbs returns leave the lines as they are and put Lander in McDavids spot. Only a short term solution needed here regardless.

    All of this changes is Draisaitl has any big hiccups. He’s about to feel some borderline McDavid type pressure on those big shoulders of his.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    It sucks to break up that line, but has to be Draisaitl moving to 2nd line centre. There’s no one else in the organization that can be a scoring line centre.

  • I think one of the biggest things we can take away from the first 10 games of the season is that Yak is much more effective when he doesn’t have to carry the puck.

    He has to be treated like a big man in basketball. Give him the ball often but NEVER let him dribble.

    Yak has a rocket shot and he’s a very good quick touch passer but he’s a liability if he carries the puck for more than a couple strides.

    Keep him with a puck carrier like Hall or Nuge or he won’t be effective.

  • pou drai yak doesnt sound good to me. the oil have been best with a driver, gritty posession guy and a passer.

    pou-nuge-ebs, hall-nuge-drai, pou-mcd-yak are the best i can think of in recent memory

    id like to see

    pou-nuge-ebs
    hall-drai-yak

    • TRAIN#97

      Pou NUGE Eberle

      Hall lander Draisaitl

      I’d like to see Draisaitl stay on the wing.hall still the one lugging the puck and lander doing some board work

      Purcell Letestu Yakupov

      Yakupov needs to Produce with anyone

      • YFC Prez

        I love all things Yakupov.

        But one thing he has shown is he is not a player who can compete when he is on a line with just anyone. When he is used as a trigger man and a complimentary player he excels. He does not carry the play very well. But he reacts very well when the play is in motion.

        He should at all times be on a line with either McDavid, Nuge or Hall.

        Putting Yakupov with letestu and Purcell will bring out shades of Eakins coached Yakupov.

        He’s looked good in the top six this year. I think it best to keep him there.

  • Jay (not J)

    Pou-nuge-yak

    Hall-drai-Ebs

    This because at the end of last yea pouliot and nuge showed good chemistry and they play well together, and yak needs a good playmakind centre to succeed so without mcdavid he should get nuge. Hall and drai are feeding off wash other and they are combined 17 points in 3 games, no matter what happens keep those two together, and over the last few years hall and end together show great possession numbers, this would keep us with two good scoring lines and at least one line that can keep the puck in the offensive zone..

    Anyone agree?

  • Spoils

    Plan A:
    send McDavid to Bakersfield when he returns and leave him there until March 12. That way he is under the Calder eligibility for games played and be guaranteed Calder in 16/17

    • Randaman

      Individual awards mean NOTHING unless of course you are talking about the Conn Smythe.

      We are building a team here and trying to get away from individualism, no??

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    My vote is: Hall – Dr.Dri. – Yak

    Pouliot – Nuges – Eberle

    Also Yak stays after school for shooting drills. 30 shots and only 6.70 shooting %. Tells me he is off the mark often. Could score a lot more goals with accuracy.

    • TRAIN#97

      I don’t know if you know what a good Sh% is but 6.7% is about league average. Some of the top scorers in the NHL shoot higher but most don’t even score at that rate. Can Yakapov shooting percentage be higher? Absolutely and it could go up 2X (12%). I wouldn’t worry about that much but he needs to continue to shoot.
      As far as the line combos go. In today’s NHL, depth & balance are paramount to long term success just as possession is. If you’re not putting pressure on the opposition with the top three lines, longevity is very difficult. You can win games but there’s going to be games when one area of the team or another isn’t working and others need to step up.
      The point is that it’s most important with a player like McSavior out to spread out the scoring among the top nine.
      Benoit Pouliot is an above average third line forward and average top six forward. If you want to spread scoring out, putting him on the third line would be a good start. Switch Pouliot with Lander and you have a decent top 9 and a good checking line.

    • Jaxon

      I would agree with this. Poo-RNH-Ebs was great last year, and I do think Hall and Dr. Drai have something going with one another. Lets see if it is enough to carry a line.

      Yak has improved this year, and is making far less dumb plays, and his fore checking and cycling is much improved too.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    It’s a bloody shame for young McDavid.

    First, I’d like to point out that any talk of trading the Oilers first round pick should be considered an act of lunacy unless that player is a first pairing defensmen.

    Second, it’s a bloody shame for young Draisaitl and Yakupov

    I don’t see how you can keep Hall and Draisaitl together long term, unless you go
    Hall – Drai – Yakupov

    Poo – RNH – Eberle

    The thing about this is now you’ve taken Yakupov’s line mates away and given him two players he’s failed at building chemistry with.

    On a positive note Hall will get really easier minutes and should produce, pushing Drai and Yak along.

    Time will tell, but what a kick in the nuts.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    How do they proceed?

    1st) Considering that Smyth, Hemsky, Whitney, Hall, Eberle, and now McDavid have all sustained injuries due to catching a rut in the ice.. I’d say fix the damn Ice!

    2ndly) Get rid of that crappy MIC commercial on the Oilers website. It’s annoying the crap out of everyone and it’s obviously bad JUJU. MIC “Go where the pros go”

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I think Lander gets the job for now. If he isn’t getting the job done maybe just play RNH more. Double shift with both top sets of wingers.

      • Jaxon

        You are right. They needed a GM so they hired MacT (cause why not?) , they needed a coach so they hired Eakins, they needed a centre, so they told Hall, “play there”. So you are saying…. They should try it again? Stupid is as stupid does, that was a stupid experiment, but more stupid to defend it. Take a look at the Oilers stats with hall playing centre..,, there were at least 3 more options: promote, trade or go after a free agent, they might as well have played Scrivens at centre…,

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    As a Cancuks fan, my condolences.
    But there is a high first round draft pick (once again) in your future. And that future is always bright, At least much brighrer than the current situation.

    The Oilers weren’t robbed of his play. The whole league was. I really enjoyed watching him play. That Calgary Edmonton game on Saturday was something to behold.

    Anyway, back to my own team… 🙂

    • Johnnydapunk

      Actually Dan Craig (ice maker ) hasn’t been with the Oil since 2005 at least and the ice was still ranked as the best for years after so I really wouldn’t lay much blame on the ice as its still very good. The keys to good ice is temperature and humidity (among other things ) luckily Edmonton is cool and weirdly dry so it’s a very good climate for ice, it definitely plays a part in the ice quality.

      If it was bad there would have been far more injuries on it and I can’t think of one that has happened there before this one, Even Eberle, Hall and Fedun’s broken leg were not in Edmonton. There have been injuries of course, but I can’t think of any that were like a result of an ice issue per se.

      The injury happened near the end of the second period, the ice would be at its worst and there would naturally be ruts.

      The only issue that I think of but its not Rexall specific but NHL specific is the board have no give to them, think they used to, but now they seem to be solid.

      Though he hit the boards quite low so even if there was a suspension system in the boards, they would give at a higher point.

      • Johnnydapunk

        Other teams protect their stars. A sideways glance is enough to bring out the goombas. In Edmonton you can trip up their star player, injure him and get no response. WTF is Gazdic good for then. Oilers.

      • chickenStew

        “Actually Dan Craig (ice maker ) hasn’t been with the Oil since 2005 at least and the ice was still ranked as the best for years after so I really wouldn’t lay much blame on the ice as its still very good.”

        The ice has been brutal for at least 10 years. The ice plant is old and outdated.
        Watch the puck bounce 2 feet in the air when it’s passed along the ice from about midway through the first period. Have you seen how much snow they now shovel off at each break?
        It’s an embarrassment to have this ice surface in Edmonton. I’m surprised there haven’t been more injuries.

        All this ‘best ice in the league’ talk was true decades ago.

  • Mooseroni

    when you have so many top picks playing how do protect them? The oilers are small and big teams will take liberties with them because there is no consequence. Great on them for winning the game but if McDavid is going to be the center piece of this team then someone should have dropped the gloves. Even if he did catch an edge sometimes the message sent is more important than the why it happened.

    • The question is, “Why did he catch an edge?”. The Philly defenceman had a handful of McDavid’s jersey because he was beat. When he pulled on it, it spun Connor around.
      Regardless of what happened there should have been a response. This kid is touted to be the best player in the world in the next couple of years and there wasn’t even a glove wash for breaking his collar bone.
      Against Calgary, Nuge got mugged in front of the net and had his helmet kicked across the ice and nobody responded.
      I think it is disgraceful! Nobody wants to see retaliatory penalties but without a response teams are going to continue to come into our barn and bust up our best players. This has been going on since we got rid of George Laraque.
      Todd MacClellan said that this is one of the changes he was going to make with this team. I have just not seen it. But I have seen the consequences.
      BRUTAL!

      • PB1976

        BAM, Manning was beat and he grabbed and spun mcDavid off balance and Gadzic should have talked to Manning after the 4 minute he took after he sub-marined someone and then took out Hall. That kid was looking for attention all night and Luke should have gave him some.

  • TRAIN#97

    Assuming Draisatl is at center, it’s impossible to know what kind of chemistry he and Eberle might have, so to concretely say those are the long term lines, it’s just an educated guess. Although, it’s also a probable scenario. Last years lot need to step up, now that the knight is gone.

  • slapshot444

    Edmonton Oilers rookie sensation Connor McDavid apparently avoided damage to the tissue surrounding his broken left clavicle suffered Tuesday in a collision involving two Philadelphia Flyers defensemen, according to Darren Dreger.
    Dreger said he was told that McDavid’s labrum was fully intact as surgeons repaired a “clean” break of the collarbone, and hypothesized that the best-case scenario for his return is seven-to-eight weeks.

    http://www.thescore.com/news/872996

    Back Dec. 26th.. Book it.

  • Jaxon

    I would like to see one of these two scenarios when everyone is healthy:

    Poo – McD – Yak

    Slepy – Nuge – Ebs

    Hall – Drai – Pak

    Hendricks – Lander – Letestu

    OR

    Poo – McD – Yak

    Hall – Nuge – Pak

    Slepy – Drai – Ebs

    Hendricks – Lander – Letestu

    THEREFORE until then

    Replace McD with someone outside those scenarios with Bogdan Yakimov, Andrew Miller or maybe a Mike Richards or James Sheppard. That way, all 4 lines maintain their chemistry until McDavid gets back and can hit the ground running in January or February. Either that, or move Lander into that spot until McDavid gets back.

    PS I know Purcell probably gets the Pak spot, but I’d like to see Pakarinen get a better chance at playing with some skilled linemates for awhile. I’d like to see Purcell traded sometime soon.

    • Johnnydapunk

      Everyone has to learn somehow so personally I would not stress about not knowing, I don’t think many really know what makes good ice and I’m still on the side that the ice is just fine at Rexall, as the advantages are still there which are lack of humidity and cool temperatures, the rest of it is stuff that doesn’t go bad per se as the process in installing the equipment is the kind of thing you do once properly and then just maintain it.

      Here is a guide that actually is geeky interesting as it explains how to build a proper arena, it’s a guide from the International Ice Hockey Federation that is for places that wish to build an arena that would be usable for international play. It’s super informative and even explains the cooling pipe patterns, costs to run, styles of buildings and it’s just good.

      Don’t think links work here anymore so cut and paste it is.

      http://www.iihf.com/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF/Sport/Chapter3.pdf

      Think this could answer a lot of info and hope it helps!

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’m sure it’s been mentioned but has anyone thought about bringing Derek Roy back as a quick temporary fix? We all know he had chem with yakapov and keeping drai with hall and Nuge right now is ideal.

  • PB1976

    I think that this is a two part question as it coincides closely with the return of Eberle into the lineup. In my opinion there are two big important factors to consider. 1) Having a player to drive the play, 2) Line chemistry. Hall and McDavid were clearly driving the play on thier respective lines. Replacing McDavid with Lander is an option, but I’m not sure he will be the line catalist that is needed, at least not long term. In a similar way, I’m not sure that Draisaitl can either yet. Looking at line chemistry, at minimum trying to keep key pairs together is important, if not entire lines. Currently Hall/Drai have been showing chemistry, I’m not as convinced about Pouliot/Yakipov. For the second line, I think it was the McDavid chemistry that governed. We do know from last year that Pouliot/Nuge/Eberly had some chemistry. So what would I do? (being, of course, the question).

    Short term:
    Hall/Nuge/Drai (Hall being the driver, and let Drai build confidence). I would keep this line and let them do what they are doing. If they keep up 3 point nights, well, we might not need more than that in many games (unlikely, but let them take a run at it).

    Pouliot/Lander/Yak
    We need people to step up, so I think giving Lander the opportunity to take charge is worth it. This is the experiment line. I would insert Eberly on the third line, to give him a few games to get his game back into shape.

    If things click, then go with it.

    Longer term:
    Pouliot/Nuge/Eberly – I think Nuge is a driver, and we know that this line has some chemistry. Better to go back with some history, then trying to wait longer for chemistry to develop with other pairings.

    Hall/Drai/Yakipov – Hall can drive this line, and with Drai’s hands and passing, I think Yak can fit in well as a trigger man. I also think it is important to not put too much on Drai. He has been incredible in three games, but consistency will come with confidence, and confidence will come with continued success. I would keep him with Hall. I think that is his best chance to succeed at the moment.

    3/4 lines – clone Hendricks. Think about it. Awesome.

  • PB1976

    I think that this is a two part question as it coincides closely with the return of Eberle into the lineup. In my opinion there are two big important factors to consider. 1) Having a player to drive the play, 2) Line chemistry. Hall and McDavid were clearly driving the play on thier respective lines. Replacing McDavid with Lander is an option, but I’m not sure he will be the line catalist that is needed, at least not long term. In a similar way, I’m not sure that Draisaitl can either yet. Looking at line chemistry, at minimum trying to keep key pairs together is important, if not entire lines. Currently Hall/Drai have been showing chemistry, I’m not as convinced about Pouliot/Yakipov. For the second line, I think it was the McDavid chemistry that governed. We do know from last year that Pouliot/Nuge/Eberly had some chemistry. So what would I do? (being, of course, the question).

    Short term:
    Hall/Nuge/Drai (Hall being the driver, and let Drai build confidence). I would keep this line and let them do what they are doing. If they keep up 3 point nights, well, we might not need more than that in many games (unlikely, but let them take a run at it).

    Pouliot/Lander/Yak
    We need people to step up, so I think giving Lander the opportunity to take charge is worth it. This is the experiment line. I would insert Eberly on the third line, to give him a few games to get his game back into shape.

    If things click, then go with it.

    Longer term:
    Pouliot/Nuge/Eberly – I think Nuge is a driver, and we know that this line has some chemistry. Better to go back with some history, then trying to wait longer for chemistry to develop with other pairings.

    Hall/Drai/Yakipov – Hall can drive this line, and with Drai’s hands and passing, I think Yak can fit in well as a trigger man. I also think it is important to not put too much on Drai. He has been incredible in three games, but consistency will come with confidence, and confidence will come with continued success. I would keep him with Hall. I think that is his best chance to succeed at the moment.

    3/4 lines – clone Hendricks. Think about it. Awesome.

  • PB1976

    I would try Lander in McDavid’s spot, leave Drai where he is and put Eberle on third line with Hendy and Letestu, just to keep that top line rolling for now.

  • acg5151

    Hall – Nuge – Eberle
    Pouliot – Dr. Drai – Yakupov
    Korpikoski – Lander – Purcell
    Hendricks – Letestu – Pakarinen

    That’s my best guess. If you are scared of two defensively weak/unsure players on line 2, switch Eberle and Yakupov.