Are three scoring lines realistic?


Can the Oilers succeed with three scoring lines? Many seem to think they can and when the team is healthy Todd McLellan should run duos of Taylor Hall/Leon Draisailt, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins/Jordan Eberle and Connor McDavid/Nail Yakupov.

I see in theory why people are intrigued by this, but I don’t see it being realistic.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The biggest mistake those in favour of three lines make is suggesting the Pittsburgh Penguins had three centres and three lines which led them to two Stanley Cup Finals. It is true they won the Cup, but it was more due to the scoring of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Jordan Staal was the third centre, but he was far from offensive.

Let’s look at their icetime and production during their back-to-back Finals appearances.


The Penguins lost the Stanley Cup final to Detroit, but they still had an outstanding season. During the regular season Malkin led them in scoring.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Malkin: 47-59-106 in 82 games and he played 21:19/game.
Crosby: 24-48-72 in 53 games and he averaged 20:50/game.
Staal: 12-16-28 in 82 games and he played 18:16/game.

Staal scored 28 points, but played over 18 minutes. He was more of a checking centre than an offensive contributor.

Petr Sykora (63 points), Ryan Malone (51 points) and Max Talbot (26 points in 63 games) were regulars on the top two lines. Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis were acquired at the deadline and each played 12 regular season games.


Crosby: 6-21-27 in 20 games with 20:41/game.
Hossa: 12-14-26 in 20 games and 20:59/game.
Malkin: 10-12-22 in 20 games and 20:47/game.
Malone: 6-10-16 in 20 games and 18:42/game.
Talbot: 3-6-9 in 17 games and 14:27/game.
Sykora: 6-3-9 in 20 games and 14:56/game.
Staal: 6-1-7 in 20 games and 18:15/game.
Dupuis: 2-5-7 in 20 games and 16:13/game.
No other forwards played more than ten minutes/game.

Malone, Staal, Dupuis and Talbot were the four main PK guys, while the other four and Malone were the main PP guys. The Pens did not have three scoring lines.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


The Penguins won the Cup and Malkin and Crosby carried this team offensively in the regular season and playoffs.

Malkin: 35-78-115 in 82 games and 22:31/game.
Crosby: 33-70-103 in 77 games with 21:56/game.
Staal: 22-27-49 in 82 games with 19:50/game.
Sykora: 22-21-46 in 76 games and 16:17/game.
Fedotenko: 16-23-39 in 65 games and 14:06/game.
Satan: 17-19-36 in 65 games and 15:45/game.
Kennedy: 15-20-35 in 67 games and 13:46/game.
Cooke: 13-18-31 in 76 games and 14:12/game.

Kunitz and Guerin were added late in the season and were solid contributors in the playoffs.

The Penguins top-three centres lead their forwards in ice time, but it was due to one of them playing the wing at times and because the Pens lacked any legit top wingers for most of the regular season.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Malkin: 14-22-36 in 24 games and 20:57/game.
Crosby: 15-16-31 in 24 games with 20:48/game.
Guerin: 7-8-15 in 24 games and 17:01/game.
Kunitz: 1-13-14 in 24 games and 16:54/game.
Fedotenko: 7-7-14 in 24 games and 14:31/game.
Talbot: 8-5-13 in 24 games and 15:13/game.
Staal: 4-5-9 in 24 games and 19:13/game.
Kennedy: 5-4-9 in 24 games and 13:39/game.
Cooke: 1-6-7 in 24 games and 15:09/game.

The Pens added Guerin, Kunitz, Fedotenko and Cooke (Kennedy was the 10th forward in 2008) in place of Hossa and Malone, while Sykora and Dupuis were pushed down to the fourth line and played seven and 16 games respectively. The three centres played the most minutes, but Stall was an EV and PK guy.

Crosby and Malkin carried the team offensively. They combined for 29 goals and 67 points while the other seven top-nine forwards scored 33 goals and 74 points.



The suggestion the Penguins ran with three offensive lines and three offensive centres is a major myth. Staal was an excellent third line centre. He could play tough minutes, was big enough to battle other teams’ top players and he was excellent defensively. In the regular season he and Malkin played some shifts on the wing, mainly due to a lack of scoring wingers.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

If McDavid and Draisaitl are the offensive centres, Nugent-Hopkins does not fit the mold of Staal. He is better offensively, no doubt, but he’s not as good in faceoffs, defensively nor is he a main penalty killer.

Which line will be the shut down line? If it is RNH, I don’t see Eberle flourishing in that role. I’d want him in an offensive role, so he would move up to play with McDavid or Draisaitl, which is fine, but that breaks up one of the duos so many feel will be the key to the Oilers’ success.

Scoring is not the Oilers’ concern. They are 11th in NHL scoring, and only five goals behind 6th place Colorado despite injuries to Eberle, McDavid, Pouliot and Yakupov. 

Preventing goals is still the major issue, and the only way to acquire a legit top-four defender will be to move from an area of strength — a scoring forward.

Hall and Eberle are better goal scorers than RNH. I see McDavid and Draisailt as better offensive centres, and Draisiatl has not looked overmatched in his own end. His size is a huge advantage for him, and even if you keep all three centres, there is no way I’d move him to the wing and have a smaller centre like RNH engage in tougher battles against bigger centres.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Chiarellli is in a good position. He won’t be forced to make a trade this summer. He can be patient, but when you look at icetime and salary cap, I don’t see all three centres staying in Edmonton long-term. I’d be willing to bet one will be moved prior to the start of the 2017/2018 season.

That gives Chiarelli 18 months to evaluate his team, but even before a trade is made, I don’t see this team running three offensive lines.

Todd McLellan had four centres in San Jose, but Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau played the wing and he loaded up his top two lines. When the Oilers get healthy, I envision McLellan doing that here.

I could see him keeping the Draisaitl line together and ice RNH-McDavid-Eberle as the second line, with RNH taking more faceoffs so McDavid doesn’t add extra strain on his shoulder/clavicle. Pouliot and Yakupov can be your third line wingers, but the theory of three scoring lines is more of a dream than reality.

There aren’t enough minutes to run three lines effectively. McLellan might try it for a short stint, but eventually I see him mirroring what he did in San Jose and putting his best five forwards on the top-two lines and mixing in one of Purcell, Pouliot or Yakupov.\

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Parting Shot…

Our good friends at Sports Central are in need of gently used hockey helmets for children. You can drop them off at 11847 Wayne Gretzky Drive (behind the Coliseum Inn) or at any Edmonton and area fire hall. 


Thank you to Auto City Edmonton and Oilersnation for their donations and to Jill and Arnold for their bids. We raised $5,800.

Package #1: A one-year membership at Blackhawk Golf Course courtesy of Al Prokop.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Blackhawk873 copy

As a private club usually you are required to buy a share which is currently $25,000, however the club has generously bypassed this so the winner will be just like any other member for a year.

The successful
bidder will receive full unrestricted golf playing privileges for the
2016 season including club storage, locker room access, use of practice
range and short game area as well as clubhouse account for all
purchases. The bidder will also be entitled to bring guests as per the Club’s standard guest policy.

Package #2: Courtesy of Al Prokop & Executive Chef Andrew Fung from XIX (Nineteen).


  • Dinner for two each month of 2016 at the great restaurant
    XIX (Nineteen). 
  • You and a friend will play a round of golf at Blackhawk with Prokop and an Edmonton-based NHLer, either Chimera, Phaneuf or Ennis.

Dinner will include appetizers, entree, desert, cocktails and wine
pairing and can be at the Terwillegar location or their newly
opened restaurant in St Albert, which was recently
recognized as one of Alberta’s top new restaurants. XIX has also received the honor of one of the “top places to eat in Canada” 2014/2015.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out the Christmas Bureau.

Recently by Jason Gregor:    

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Geeze, if the fan base has this hard of a time figuring out what to do with the top 3c now, what’s going to happen when Stamkos comes to town? 😉

  • pkam

    The question possibly blocks a scenario that the Oilers could flirt with.

    What if we ran three balanced scoring lines at home and compressed the skill into two lines when on the road when we lose out in match-ups against top D. In that scenario, we wouldn’t want to lose Nuge.

    We have lots of time to test the theory.

    I’m not seeing a scenario where we get a #1 defenseman with whatever our combo package without trading an untouchable.

  • Jason Gregor

    Who is likely to be kept for moving forward on offense ? McDavid , Hall , Draisaitl , Hopkins , Eberle . Bottom six probably Hendriks , Korpikoski and Khaira . That would leave out Lander , Pouliot , Yakupov , Letestue and Gazdik . Defensively we would have Klefbom , Nurse , Sekara and possibly Davidson .

  • Ready to Win

    I completely agree the 2 lines is the best way to go… It just makes sense from an ice time and cap perspective… But how come whenever someone suggests line combos Yak is always the odd man out?? Did no one see how well yak and McDavid gelled together or was it just me?? Plus yak could probably be the cheapest option cap wise long term…

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Interesting article on how Canada now builds for international play . They do it by now taking the most skilled players , and not the roll players anymore . Since we have done that Canada has once again beaten everyone and risen to the top . We were losing a lot inserting to many role players before and leaving skill players off the squads . Now that is a lesson of itself , and the more skill thru out the lineup will also flourish accordingly . Run 4 scoring lines if you can afford it ! Easier to get a skill forward to do job on any line than the old limited roll player as article alluded to .

  • Anton CP

    In a fantasy world, the perfect hockey team will be build like Canadian national team. It has not just only 3 scoring lines, it has 4!

    You always want to have more scoring, if any team can ignore the cap issue and employ 4 dominate lines that of course any GM will do it in a heart beat. Not a single individuals crack the 90 point mark last year because the points are spread all over every lines. I don’t really know the idea of force feeding minutes to best players because why do you want to burn out your best players when someone else can also be a good weapon and give your best players more time to rest and prolong their careers?

    The best team is the team that can afford to have your best players play less than 20 minutes but the team can still win games.

  • bazmagoo

    One consistent scoring line would be an improvement over the last couple of games. We have seen this movie before with the Oil. They play excellent competitive hoackey but lose. Then they start to win games but play lazy and sloppy hockey and win games anyway. The bad habits start to generate losses. In past seasons the losing record turned into any ugly slide that gains momentum but no one seems to be able to stop.

    My hope is that between the presence of a skilled coaching staff and some developing youngsters the losses don’t become an Avalanche.

  • Jason Gregor

    Yes,yes,yes….the old “lines” conversation…… sad…so sad.

    Hockey is a high volume possesion/transition catalysed game,you cannot escape this dynamic because they are playing in a cage,built with boards.LOL.

    There is no numbers/structure/statistics/square method of consistantly producing winning results in this game of light-speed caged-fury……never was….and never will be.

    Numbers cannot keep up,Big Blue trying to defeat Kasparov proved this,when Big Blue finally won,it was because they REPROGRAMMED IT to self-sacrifice,they did this AFTER THEY FAILED TO SUCCEED OR WIN INITIALLY….Big Blue had to be taught to cheat to win. Numbers are not the optimal way of viewing or managing dynamic actions or intentions…

    Until 2006-07 when Moma2s NewAge Hockey System was invented there was no alternative to traditional stats or numbers based Hockey thinking and strategising….then the NHS was created bringing Empathy and Intuition into the recipie projected via Intuitive Dynamic Analysis{IDA} and Intuitive Dynamic Management[IDM} everything changed forever.

    The NHS focus is to produce CONTRASTS ,to produce overwhelming offense continuously non-stop,to produce extremely high shooting %s,to dominate puck possesion time ,creating superior offense and air-tight defense.

    Its about execution of excellence…terminal thinking on every possesion.

    There is no way in hell you can spend 60 minutes playing hockey at any level and not score 4-7 goals.Its only possible to score less if you are FORCING IT TO BE THIS WAY.

    No defense in the world can keep a decently run System from producing a minimum of 4 goals per game.

    If the Oilers followed the NHS as the Kings-Hawks-and now MANY others have….they would be unstoppable….just by playing the SAME WAY as these teams…..this is not the OPTIMAL SYSTEM FOCUS for the Oiler however –Moma2s NewAge Hockey System is–the Kings-Hawks ect ect are using traditional Systems and are not using the Mother-System they are simply overlying the NHS’s System Management Programs of IDA and IDM on top of the processes they were historiclly using to optimise these traditional Systems.

    Every shift on the ice should be focused 100% on offense….lines mean nothing…..line matching means nothing….every single POSSESION must be considered and actioned upon in an IDENTICAL MANNER by EveryMan.

    To be frank there is no reason Gadzics line should not execute like Nuges line….none whatsoever.

    Every set of players on the ice must be thinking and executing in an identical manner.

    Put it this way,if you are on the Bench,your eyes should be on the playaction and your mind should be looking for opponent weaknesses or incoming danger.At all times,you are being paid to be involved for 60 minutes and this means a full 60 minutes,not just your on-ice time….lol.

    If I walked onto a job-site where critical work was being done and saw 20 guys,and only 6 were working,and the other 14 were just sitting there cloud-watching and twiddeling their thumbs,and I didnt see anyone who wasnt working talking ABOUT WORK in a pro-active productive involved way and contributing that way …..well I would not be impressed.

    When you break things down into lines and shifts and numbers based thinking you lose value.

    You are required to work for a full 60 minutes to earn your pay-cheques…Management is payed to provide value for the dollar via optimising assets on all levels….something is amiss if this isnt being done on a nightly basis.

    You cannot make the men Rah-Rah on the bench all night long…but you can expect them to consider cardio recovery to simply be part of the job NOT ALL OF THE JOB,there is multi-task requirement which says your arse may be sitting but your mind still has to be working.The Coaches Processes must integrate EveryMan purposefully and impactfully for 60 FULL MINUTES, or they are derelict,simple.

    So the 3-lines of offense schtick is great conversation….but it its bass-akwards to me,I consider every POSSESION to be a GAME-WITHIN A GAME,and visualise the game this way.The “lines” and men on them SHOULD NOT BE A GOING CONCERN TO ME…and I should NOT give primary concern to who is on the ice,the PROCESSES INTEGRITY should be my primary focus at all times.

    75% of terminal scoring dynamics in the NHL are NOT EXECUTED AT Taylor Hall top SPEEDS…..75% of playactions sure are though….lol….so this leads me to EXPECT scoring from every set of men on the ice,consistant scoring no matter what their top speeds are,average NHL skillsets should be the basic requirement for a winning process,I dont NEED Halls speed on every shift because 75% of terminal scoring dynamics dont happen in his top gear range anyways.

    Think the game in possesions and shifts and lose the “lines” mentality which is olde fashioned and designed to support stats focuses.

    Every SHIFT is an offensive shift and every possesion is an offensive opportunity with terminal goal scoring being the ONLY FOCUS.

    You never ever want to step back to find time to set up structure DEFINATELY NOT IN THE OFFENSIVE ZONE WHICH IS COMPRISED OF 200FEET OF ICE….lol,you want to be moving forward at all times.

    Within the philosophy of the NewAge Hockey System the PUCK manages the structures…..not the old way where the structures managed the puck….Moma2s NewAge Hockey System revolutionised modern Hockey.

    • Admiral Ackbar

      Did you miss a dose of your meds?

      You seem to forget that there are people that live outside of your frame. These rants, while possibly therapeutic for you, have little tangible substance. If your goal is communication, please edit before posting. Enough of this incoherence.