LAST SPOT ON THE MAGIC BUS (AGAIN)

A year ago, we were talking about the one open spot among the Oilers top two lines: 2RW. Today, on the eve of training camp, 2RW stands as the unsolved mystery inside the top 6F.

  • Five of the top 6F one year ago: Hall, Pouliot, Nuge, McDavid, Eberle.
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  • Five of the top 6F one year ago: Lucic, Pouliot, McDavid, Nuge, Eberle.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?

A year ago, the skill 5×5 minutes (with skill C’s) went like this:

Connor McDavid

  • Jordan Eberle 364:14
  • Nail Yakupov 205:19
  • Zack Kassian 38:32
  • Teddy Purcell 13:10

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

  • Jordan Eberle 349:09
  • Leon Draisaitl 99:57
  • Teddy Purcell 90:16
  • Nail Yakupov 82:30

Leon Draisaitl

  • Teddy Purcell 509:06
  • Jordan Eberle 128:03
  • Zack Kassian 92:58
  • Nail Yakupov 78:38

HOW DID THEY PERFORM?

  • Jordan Eberle—8-8-16 (2.63) with McDavid; 7-6-13 (2.24) with Nuge; 0-1-1 (0.47) with Draisaitl
  • Nail Yakupov—2-7-9 (2.63) with McDavid; 1-1-2 (1.45) with Nuge; 1-1-2 (1.52) with Draisaitl
  • Teddy Purcell—6-12-18 (2:12) with Draisaitl; 0-1-1 (0.67) with Nuge; 13 minutes with McDavid
  • Zack Kassian—2-2-4 (2.58) with Draisaitl; 0-1-1 (1.55) with McDavid. 8:42 with Nuge

Quick notes:

  • I have mentioned this before, but Yakupov’s numbers with McDavid should not be ignored.
  • Jordan Eberle takes a lot of guff over dusting off the puck (he was hurt folks!) but the man performed very well with McDavid and Nuge.
  • Teddy Purcell is a good hockey player, solid with Leon.
  • Zack Kassian with Leon looks pretty damned good, something to consider when formulating lines.

RANKING THE OPTIONS

  • Eberle is the gold standard here, and the one player who can play with more than one center and deliver.
  • Yakupov was terrific with McDavid, and the Nuge and Leon offensive numbers were not so bad we should consider either man a poor choice
  • Nuge-Nail is not good in possession, never has been. I would suggest this is a poor option.
  • Zack Kassian plays well with Leon. Small sample size but worth consideration.

SOOOOOOO…..

  • McDavid—Yakupov
  • Nuge—Eberle
  • Draisaitl—Kassian

Thoughts? I know Jesse Puljujarvi is going to come along and win one of these jobs someday soon, but for now, what do you think of this trio? Assuming Peter Chiarelli plans on bringing the current group to camp, this alignment may be the best available.

Note: I know you are thinking ‘give it up, Lowetide! Nail doesn’t deserve McDavid’ and I get it. Understand completely. I would suggest McDavid—Yakupov has nothing to do with the Russian deserving to play with 97, but it has everything to do with making decisions based on winning.

Three scoring lines. It is there. Nail with McDavid. Sing it with me.

  • Harry2

    Absolutely hate it. Yak has done abdolutely nothing to wareant playing with McD. 9pts in 11 games is hardly a winning argument. I cant wait until yak is off this team so we can stop bringing up scenarios to help him breakthrough.

    • Ron Burgundy

      By doing absolutely nothing do you mean scoring at the exact same rate as Eberle?

      I think you’ve nailed it LT. Until Uncle Jesse acclimates down in California and then kicks the door down at least…

      Adding in the LWs:

      Lucic – McDavid – Yakupov
      Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle
      Maroon – Draisatl – Kassian

      Damn, thats pretty.

      • Harry2

        Scoring at the exact rate?! I believe he bagged 2 goals in 11 games with McD. Hardly a comparable to Eberles total. How many chances do you think Yak should be gifted? If he earns a spot in the top 6 I would be stoked. But to be gifted a spot with Lucic is McD is rediculous

    • Randaman

      So what happens if Yak doesn’t improve with Hall gone?

      I guess we can always continue to blame Eakins? or Eberle? or McClellan? or???

      He’s a big boy that needs to stand up and be counted. He is either good enough at both ends of the rink or he’s not.

      Eberle gets a pass on the defensive end because he scores more.

      Simple math really

      • Ed in Edmonton 1

        I find it odd that many consider Ebs such a defensive disaster. In 6 years he has a total -43 or -7.2 per year. Compare that with RNH, that some proclaim to be “one of the best young two way players in the game”, who in 5 years is -32 or -6.4 per year.

          • Randaman

            So by me saying the odd bit of laziness, you take it as he is lazy all the time??

            Like it or not, he is our best option to play beside McDavid. He scores when others haven’t.

            The Yak supporters are out in full force but will be sadly disappointed when TMC starts him on the third line.

          • SkatinginSand

            Odd bit of laziness is a gross understatement. His +- would be a lot worse if he:

            was not playing with the best on the team.

            was not consistently put out in offensive situations and on the bench on defensive faceoffs.

            did not have the little habit of gliding to the bench while the other team was on a jail break and letting his replacement take the minus.

          • btrain

            This is an awful observation fueled by confirmation bias. It takes very little evidence to prove to you what you have already decided is true. Eberle is an offensively gifted player who is employed to put up points and does just that. Of course he gets more offensive starts!! Before throwing any current/former Oilers forward under the bus and looking at a ridiculous stat such as +/- maybe pay little attention to the current team situation. The level of suck from the blue line has been so bad for so long that they had to sacrifice Hall to try and stop the leaking. Swap Eberle for Kane over their careers and how does that look? You think Kane would take the Oilers to 3 Stanley cups with Petry, Shultz, a young Klefbom, and Sekera as his best D? What would his +/- look like? his point totals? his reputation as a defensively responsible player? his motivation/confidence? Not that Eberle is at the same level as Kane but if you imagine Kane and Eberle swapping teams, Kane would not have the same reputation and he certainly would not have 3 Stanley cups. On the other hand, Eberle still helps make the Hawks a cup contender.

          • I am Batman

            You just compared Eberle with Patrick Kane????

            30 out of 30 GM’s would have Kane 700 times before having that lazy bastard.

            Not that Kane is so awesome (even though he is) but Eberle is just painful to watch.

            Comparing Eberle with Kane is like comparing feeling love with a strong urge to use the toilette….

  • Randaman

    TMC will NOT saddle Connor with Yak. Yak has dug a hole when it comes to his coach and I really think TMC is going to make him earn every top 6 minute he gets.

    I think Puljujarvi is going to be given every opportunity to play in the top 6.

  • The Future Never Comes

    I have this argument with my buddies all the time. Yak is going to score probably exclusively with McD but with no one else. Eberle is going to score with all three of those centers, albeit not the same pace as if he was with McD. So why not try to get as much as possible with different scoring threats. That said, I would sit Yak down at the beginning of the season and say if I was the coach “If I see your dedication to both ends of the rink and playing a team game, i’ll give you a shot. If not you’ll be scrambling to make top 9 minutes”.

    • Harry2

      Something tells me Yaks been “sat down” and had this talking to before. Why attach a boat anchor to McD when Eberle put the puck in the net consistently next to 97?

  • ifiwasgm

    As this team and management failed Hall, so they have failed Yak. Maybe Yak is done but he sure didn’t get any help from this organization.

    I know alot of fans think Hall should have made up for lack of defense and goaltending since he came here as an 18yr old, (as countless have posted that the Oilers couldn’t win with Hall)

  • Drew R. Fan

    If the oilers best chance of winning is gifting yak minutes with Mcdavid, then why didn’t McClellan put them back together late last season? And why does nobody talk about the possibility of the maroon mcdavid eberle line getting thrown out there. It was a damn good line to finish the year. Eberle outscores yak 2-1 every year and everyone loves yak and thinks eberle is a “defensive liability”. Pretty backwards imo. And what exactly is “dusting off the puck”? Is this something new to get mad at Ebs about?

    • VvV

      I believe dusting off the puck is referring to him not being about to one time a McDavid pass, he has to handle it a bit then shoot, he hired a shooting coach for this reason so hopefully he improved his one timer.

      • Drew R. Fan

        Is it just Mcdavids passes? Or he’s never known how to one time a puck? I wonder if it’s more of a personal preference of his to handle it then shoot? I would assume that since he doesn’t have a blistering slap shot, he prefers the wrister. Well I hope this coach works out for him. Maybe he will be the right shooting pp quarterback this team needs. Or are they trying to turn him into ovechkin on the half boards?

    • Harry2

      Well said. Eberle has been as close to consistent as a player can getvduring the past 6 horrendeous years. While yak has been nothing but inconsistent so why hitch that boat anchor to McD when hes poised for a 85+ point season?

  • BlueHairedApe

    Man, if I was Eberle I’d be pissed if this happens. Getting bumped down from McDavid’s line because Yak is too incompetent to play with any other centerman is what it boils down to. Just ain’t right. Eberle would have to have a terrible, and I mean terrible, start on the top line in order for any of this to make sense. Yak will have to earn it like everybody else otherwise he’ll just continue to distance himself from his coaches and the rest of the organization.

    • pkam

      I think it is supposed to be team first, not me first. You think Eberle will be pissed because he has to be bumped down from McDavid’s line to benefit the team? I sure hope not or he can go.

      • BlueHairedApe

        The only way this benefits the team is maybe, but only maybe, upping Yaks trade value. It won’t increase the teams chances of winning games. Eberle should start on the top line because he’s their best right wing. There’s no arguing that. Again, Yak hasn’t earned the right to be there.

  • toprightcorner

    If Eberle’s offense only drops 10% by playing with Nuge and Yak’s offense increases by 50% playing with McDavid, then the overall offense benefits. Last years stats support this and even though I don’t see it happening, Yak should play with McDavid during preseason and at least the first 15 games of the season.

  • Spoils

    why is it that I want the narrative to be – Yak learns to play like a Canadian from the crucible that is Edmonton – and goes on to be a productive 30 goal/yr winner

    ?

    pure fantasy

  • Keepyourstickontheice

    If it gets the most mileage of the line combos we have, and it makes it harder to play against two solid lines, I am all for the Mcdavid- Yakupov, eberle- RMH pairings for the top six.

    I still think Puljujarvi will win the top RW job out of camp, and people will have unreal expectations, it’s just the oilers way. 🙁

  • CanaDave

    I defeated my own argument for giving Yakupov a chance while I was typing it out, as I feel like there is a pretty good chance that McLellan could envision something like Lucic/McDavid/Eberle and then Pouliot/RNH/Drai as his top 6 on the road and as the benches start to get a little bit shorter. It might then leave a bottom 6 spot open to a guy like Khaira who’s a bigger body who could probably handle a turn either at center or on the wing, and perhaps ideally grow into someone who is useful on the PK. I’m just using Khaira as an example because I believe McLellan’s ideal lineup has that type of player in that spot, and not someone like Yakupov who’d be like a square peg in a round hole in that situation.

    If Yakupov doesn’t do something to impress McLellan right out of the gate I’m wondering now what the chances are they’d consider sending him down to the AHL until someone wanted to trade for him or an injury happened. I think unless Yakupov finds himself next to McDavid with the full confidence of his coach, he really doesn’t fit in anywhere else on this roster, and this summer proved that Chiarelli is willing to lose a trade in the short term if it helps make the pieces of the team more likely to fit together.

    Plus I haven’t even really considered the Puljujarvi factor yet, because even though I hope the Oiler have no plans on him being on the NHL team this year, if he shows up at camp and plays his way onto the team then certainly he’s going to take Yakupov’s spot on the roster instead of a Kassian or Pakarinen. I still would like for Yakupov to find success with the Oilers, but it seems like his path to success narrows by the season and if he doesn’t make it this time I doubt he gets another chance.

  • Sjakk

    I believe that there is a player in Yak when he can play with confidence. I’m thinking back to the first game back after injury last season in San Jose. He was the best player on the ice (and Talbot). Let him know that he will be given a real chance with Mcdavid and go with three scoring lines. So, Pouliot- Mcdavid – Yak, Lucic – Nuge – Eberlie, Maroon – Leon – Jesse. The left wingers not set in stone.Drake might surprise.

  • Sjakk

    I believe that there is a player in Yak when he can play with confidence. I’m thinking back to the first game back after injury last season in San Jose. He was the best player on the ice (and Talbot). Let him know that he will be given a real chance with Mcdavid and go with three scoring lines. So, Pouliot- Mcdavid – Yak, Lucic – Nuge – Eberlie, Maroon – Leon – Jesse. The left wingers not set in stone.Drake might surprise.

  • Ed in Edmonton 1

    Yak and the coaching staff had their fill of each other by the end of last season (see TM quote), so I’m not expecting Yak to be gifted anything this year. Certainly not what could be argued is the most sought after RW spot in the NHL. He has a lot of fences to mend.

  • TruthHurts98

    I don’t really care as long as he back checks and the Oilers win. Like TM said, the only thing that matters: wins! I hope Nail comes into camp with a different attitude and flat wins a spot and impresses the coaches. Not holding my breath though. I still think PC is going to trade him especially if JP makes the team. And I think Leon is going to be put on the RW at some point. If the Oilers make big strides and challenge for the playoffs this year I don’t care what the line combos are. I’m tired of losing!

  • Beaumatters

    Here’s a concept. Let’s see who comes to camp with their homework completed (skating, shooting, physically getting stronger or in better shape, knowing the system, etc.) and shows up with the attitude to get this team moving up in the standings. Other than the players added this year, all these guys should know exactly what the coaching staff expects.
    Then, the guys who have shown all of this in training camp and worked their butts off, get to play with the WC centres when they come back. Let the chemistry take over from there.

  • knee deep in it

    this is connor’s team and they are not going to saddle him with Yak. I think we will see a top 6 being

    lucic – McD – Eberle,
    Pouliot – RNH – drai

    if the Oilers think Cagula can be the 3rd line center, then the answer seems clear. If not, we will need a guy like like Richards or trade for a guy like Girgensons.

    Buffalo has Eichel, Oriely, and Reinhart for their top 3 centers so Girgensons may be surplus to them.

  • CaptainLander

    I think by the end of the year the Oilers lineup will look something like this. As the push for a playoff and try to add experience.

    Lucic McD Eberle
    Poul RNH Drai
    Maroon ??? Pul
    Hendy Letestu Kassian

    Yak will be traded around the deadline for a veteran 3rd line center with a expiring contract. Like a Desharnais, Laich, Zach Smith.

  • @Hallsy4

    Best case scenario Yak turns into a say 15-20 goal scorer and is still a defensive liability. Costs more than he contributes. Players like him are why we were 29th last year, they don’t help you win games. I’d rather have Pulj on a line with McD at this point. The only reason Yak is still on the team is because all we could get for him was a 3rd round pick. He makes our team worse, I’d rather have any number of unsigned free agents than him. (Stoll, Versteeg, Richards, Setoguchi etc.) Hopefully he has a good start and we can trade him for something. I don’t like the truth either, but I’m not expecting a miracle turnaround. I have also yet to see his amazing shot everyone talks about, and anyone could have gotten points with McD as yak did. I’d like someone who actually helps the team in some way to replace him. No to Yak with McDavid.

  • Jaxon

    I like it, LT.

    I also like having Pouliot on the LW beside McDavid, as he is probably the fastest of the 3 scoring LWers. Lucic would then be with Nuge and Eberle, and Maroon would play with Draisaitl and Kassian. Nuge’s line could face anyone in any zone and come out on top. McDavid’s line would be fast and can score, and Draisaitl’s line would be a beast for anyone to handle. Henrdicks-Letestu-Pakarinen would be a great 4th line to start the season leaving a top line in Bakersfield of Slepyshev-Caggiula-Puljujarvi. They could face top competition in the AHL all season and be dominant and ready to play in the NHL by Christmas or the trade deadline if needed or in the case of injuries.

  • Druds

    I love it…why not! Yak with Connor…give him his moment in the sun and if he crashes and burns , no one can say we didn’t give it a shot
    But I really like the idea of Draisaitl and Kassian. I think that Line would rock (literally!)