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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THREE LINES A MYTH…
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.
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.
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.\
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.
DAY 14: MONTH OF GIVING
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.
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.
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
- 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.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out the Christmas Bureau.
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