McLellan mixes the lines

After losing three games in a row, the Oilers appear to be bringing out the line blender.

That’s right. Three losses in a row. Falling to the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers in tight games has seemingly forced the hand of Todd McLellan and co. to mix up the lines ahead of Saturday night’s matchup against the New York Islanders.

Despite losing three in a row following a five-game win streak, the Oilers managed to squeak out a single point against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. As things stand right now, there’s not a whole lot to be happy about apart from the fact that the Oilers kept the games close.

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So far this week, Jonathan Willis wrote about Kris Russell’s regression, Jacob Stoller wrote about how he felt the team’s winning ways could be sustainable, and Matt Henderson wrote about how the team needs to fix their power play if they plan on being successful. 

All three gentlemen highlight some pros and cons from early in the season, but it remains clear that the young Oilers still have lots to work on. 


The big changes from this morning’s practice sees Jesse Puljujarvi slide into a top-six role, as well as Patrick Maroon getting a bump to the first line. Milan Lucic slides down to the third line to play with Leon Draisaitl on the Oilers new “heavy-guy” line. 

Lucic, who has been one of the Oilers strongest possession players this year, has had his own struggles early this season despite being second on the team in scoring.

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The fact that Puljujarvi has gotten a bump in the lineup shows the team’s confidence in the young man. Puljujarvi has played well over the past few games and the coaching staff appears to be rewarding him for his strong play.  

Todd McLellan had this to say about the big Finn: (source)

After some back-and-forth hockey midway through the middle frame, Edmonton capitalized on an interesting play. Puljujarvi and Maroon came down the ice on a 2-on-1 rush.

Puljujarvi, clearly tired from a long shift and feeling the effects of a blocked shot, wasn’t traveling with much speed and tried to stick-handle around a sprawling Dan Girardi. The Rangers defenceman got a stick on it, but Puljujarvi was able to get it around him and over to Maroon in front. The Oilers winger finished the play for his third goal of the year.

“He stuck with it,” said McLellan. “He was tired, he was a little bit sore as well from blocking that shot, so his skating was not real smooth but he stuck with the puck, made a good play to Patrick and he put it in.”

Maroon was impressed with the rookie’s sacrifice on the play.

“It all starts with him blocking that shot, getting in the land, and that’s where it all started from,” said Maroon. “He did a really good job of that, sacrificing his body and blocking a shot and he stuck with it. He kept battling and kept battling and it finally got to us. He worked really hard on that play. It’s good to see.”

For one, the team has done a very good job in sheltering and allowing Puljujarvi to grow as a player. The more games he plays, the more we see the solid two-way play he is capale of. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the Oilers try to get a spark.

The latest from Laing:

  • Sir Dudeinstein

    Kassian and Maroon works with McDavid on one main account. Would Kadri get away with his play with Kassian and Maroon on the ice? Lucic could be injured as started but after that first fight in Calgary, Lucic never did anything to help McDavid get ice room when people were in his face. Kassian would be there in their face. That is what I am missing from the first few games. People stood up when McDavid was interfered and maybe they got talked to as the game changed from the fighting style.
    Moreover, Kassian has more foot speed than Eberle to actually keep up to McDavid and Maroon has more foot speed than Lucic. just my thoughts.

    • Drew R. Fan

      Well most of this is quite untrue and pure speculation but it’s got 22 cheers to 1 trash. Go figure. How do you know kassian would have done something different? And why didn’t he? Surely at some point in the game he had to have been on the ice with kadri. And in case you didn’t watch the game, lucic had a couple conversations with kadri. I know you guys think that he should grab kadri and punch him out but the NHL doesn’t work that way anymore. The instigator rule actually protects the pest in today’s game. And I find this quote interesting. “Lucic never did anything to help Mcdavid get ice room when people were in his face.” What does this even mean? Please elaborate on what exactly Lucic is supposed to do. He can’t just start plowing guys over. Cause that’s interference. You’re gonna have to explain what you expect him to do if you don’t mind. And lastly, I’m not saying I definitely know Ebs is quicker than kassian but I highly doubt kass is quicker than Ebs. Take off your I hate eberle glasses for a second and come back to reality lol

      • Dirtbag Daddy

        In some of his comments that is being stated makes sense. In the Toronto game McDavid was, in the most part, smothered by Kadri. In the Rangers game McDavid was not given much space. He will need to learn to deal with whatever he needs to get out of these situations. In the meantime he will need some veteran help to persuade the opposing players to give him the room. Some fans are tired of the losing seasons and are getting frustrated in watching players going through the drill and not showing up, mentally or physically.

    • 3 Little Birds

      Love a post with a lack of entitled hatred.

      Couldn’t agree more with the way you are seeing things.

      Lucic has only played a few, parts of shifts with Drai, and they had 2-3 good chances and a pt or two, if I’m not mistaken. Makes sense to give it a try for a bit.

      Maroon had ridiculously unsustainable numbers with McDavid, and I for one would love to see how long before he was only getting .5PPG !

      He also busted his a$$ in the offseason and lost20-25 lbs, which means quicker. He had no problems keeping up last year!

      Kassian has also gotten faster, stayed sober and focused on offseason training(MMA), and I feel he contributed from a lesser role this year. Whether or not it’s managements style to casually observe “earned positions”, I believe he has earned a shot at playing with McD. Crazy eyes, LMAO.

      Any team is more than one player, it’s how they play together.

  • I am Batman

    These are the lines I’d like to see, since the team is in NY

    Pou – mcD – Kass

    Maroon – RNH – Ryan strome

    Looch – drai – JP

    Doesn’t matter (4th line)


    Sekera – Larsson

    Russell – Hamonic

    Nurse – Gryba

    See what I did????? Wouldn’t it be beautiful?

  • Petrolero

    Lucic is still on pace for 30 goals and 52 points and Eberle also for 52 points and 22 goals. so let’s be concerned but not cry that the sky is falling just yet.

        • Sir Dudeinstein

          Take out the first two games they are a 0.500 hockey team. If it wasnt for Talbot we would be what a 0.200 hockey team? Yes they had some good highlights but when they get off the game plan they look about as bad as anything. They needed to mix up the lines yes, but they have to stop gifting players who do not deserve the ice time they are given but start competiting for position like they wanted. Pulijarvi and kassian to me are out playing eberle. Nurse been having great games. Pouliot is playing like he doesnt want to be on that second line.

          • I am Batman

            Thank you, but I will go wherever I want and bring whatever I want.

            I don’t hate anyone, this is just a game. I heavily dislike his lack of effort and his soft play. If you are enamoured with that, then for sure you are fine with not ever making the playoffs.

            I am puzzled though, how come he is still in a line with McJesus? He hasn’t brought anything, and he lost us last game… this is a terrible thing to say but if the coach isn’t putting him on the press box and nobody wants him in trade , maybe he gets a cold or his lady parts hurt and he can’t play or something?

            He is a liability, in all aspects.

          • Sir Dudeinstein

            I think I am more baffled at how he kept being on the top line and I dont think he knows his own end. Still everyone who is scared to write bad about him in case they lose their free passes to the pressbox able to write whatever they want about Yakupov because Katz wanted him and Lowe wanted Murray. (rumoured) I guess Eberle drank from the same cup as Schultz because even if he does bad hes given top minutes and play wherever he wants.

          • I am Batman

            And NOBODY writes about that, you are so right.

            Just here, Willis was waiting anxiously to say how much Russell’s game has deteriorated (when the fact is Russell has defended splendidly he has kept us in games), but Eberle plays crap and no one wants to write about that….

            I was asking yesterday: do they get paid? That would be a sad day for free press and for this space., but I can’t stop wondering

          • Shameless Plugger

            I disagree with your assessment that he (Eberle) lost the game. That whole line was terrible. And the defence wasn’t much better. Say what you will about any specific player but last I checked it’s a team game you win as a team you lose as a team.

          • btrain

            If you don’t hate than simply questioning Eberle’s effort, providing concrete examples of his flaws, and offering realistic solutions would suffice. Insulting the guy at every chance you get, wasting all your energy hyper-focusing on his mistakes and blowing them out of proportion, questioning his character as a person, etc …. sounds pretty hateful to me. It also clearly impairs your ability to see the big picture, to understand basic analytics such as regression and that 11 games represents a tiny sample size, let alone a 3 game losing streak.

          • Sir Dudeinstein

            Examples of his poor play, watch the pwoer play, watch the 19 minutes of ice time he gets. Parts of his flaw? Failing to get back, wont shoot has to pass to mcdavid even if two people are on him, treats the puck like a hot potato, poor effort at times to get back to his end. How can he fix this? take the shot, “you will miss 100% of the shots you dont take” move back and back check even if there isnt a full chance you will cover the guy its the effort. Join in team scrums infront of the net even if you dont have a Chance (that is what I loved about Yakupov, even if the guy is 50lbs heavier he will still try to let him know he is there) does that help?

          • btrain

            Yes, much better. Obviously some subjective bias but if you take a hard stance on either side of a debate, subjective bias is going to be a factor. For example you say he needs to shoot yet he leads the team in shots. However, my main point was that insults were not necessary to express your point and you didn’t need any here.

          • pkam

            These guys just hate Eberle. If Eberle did shot, they will blame him for low percentage shot or bad angle shot, or waste an opportunity shooting at the goalie chest. If the puck goes into the net, they will not bring this up but some other stuff negative. If he didn’t shoot and didn’t pass but held on to the puck then they will complain he is a puck hog and doesn’t like to work with his line mate. Remember all the negative comments at Hall?

          • Drew R. Fan

            Ebs had 4 shots last game. Most on the team I believe. And prove it that a flaw of his is “failing to get back”. If my memory serves me correctly, none of the goals last night were a direct result of eberle losing his check. And I’ve made a point of watching. Just for these moments when I can refute all your guys lies and pure speculation. Like I said. Show me proof that he has “poor effort at times to get back to his own end”. All I ask is for some proof. All lies.

          • Sir Dudeinstein

            Way how he has been playing though? He could of double that. He could of had 4 shots on the power play alone. Do I dislike the guy? No I don’t like his work ethics I don’t like that he doesn’t stand up for his teammates. I don’t like how he’s given ice time and that contract when he hasn’t proved anything but one good season. Is kassian faster? Maybe not but they r close and who would you want as a wing for McD? McD obviously trying to set up eberle and obviously not working. If u want maroon and say kassian crash net style and have the previous chemistry of ebs Hopkins n pou as a line that showed some…..promise in the past. Instead vs top have them against the next tier. Would that hurt us? Would that be as bad as lucic McD and ebs? Having more than one line that can crash would work especially with lucic pul and drai

          • passenger

            At best, it’s incredibly childish. How much time does Batman have on his hands?

            Batman, didn’t I read you’ve got kids? Seriously, where do you find the time to $hitpost this much? Chrissakes, baby needs a hobby.

          • Hemmercules

            Haha I’m serious about the HF boards. There is a thread there just on Eberle discussion and its like 5 or 6 pages long. Its like your own personal heaven, you can talk about him all day.

            I disagree that he lost that game. Poor net presence in front of the net at both ends cost them that game.

            I will say he isn’t playing very good right now. Slumping like a few others on the team.

  • OilCan2

    We still have roster spots open. (I think it’s at 48)

    We still can get that Trouba deal done before Christmas.

    Blend, slice, dice and mix the lines and serve it over a big Talbot bagel.

    • Sir Dudeinstein

      The problem I have with Trouba is the ego problem. Expecting top pairing minutes, followed by the 6+ mil a year after an entry level. Is Trouba that much better than Larson? What would you give up for Trouba thats on a fair trade?

  • pkam

    I can’t believe so many negative comments after a loss to NYR.

    The Rangers just beat Tampa 6-1 and St. Louis 5-0, didn’t they? So we lost 5-3 with one being an EN and the sky is falling? We had the game tied 3-3 with less than 2 minutes left.

    Am I disappointed? Of course. But does it deserve so much negativity? How bad will it be if we lost the game 0-5 or 1-6 like the Blues and Lightnings did?

  • Spoils

    excited to see Draisaitl and Lucic… feel like their tempos will match.

    risky to have JP and McDavid because of the d pairings JP’d face but it could also lead to that unbridled Team North America style awesome (i know he’s a Finn)…

    excited for the shuffle.

    • 99CupsofCoffey

      I’m excited for the Oilers next game. The sky has not fallen, the year is not over. Giving up 3 one-goal leads to the best team (I think) in the east is not a total failure.

      I don’t think it’s risky, i think it’s pretty damn fun to see what happens next. 🙂

      • Spoils

        just meant I think it’s risky to move JP too far up the depth chart. He’s been looking great of late, and responsible, but he’s still just 18.

        even the losses (besides Buff) have been such a step forward from last year.


  • S cottV

    I really think the McD Eberle connection, is not gonna pan out, vs top end teams.

    I would put him with Nuge and run them 2nd or 3rd vs Drai’s line – based on performance.

    They’re poking and hoping to yield a 6 mil return on Eberle and it’s not there. Holding on to the myth is only gonna hurt the team.

    You know – you would think Eberle would nut it up as an AC, to support the harder to play against vision for the team. C’mon man – quit looking like you have Sammy’s snow pants on. Do some things – we’ve never seen you do before – in the harder to play against mode.

    That team would rally around that, so much more than any of your dipsy doodle stuff.

    Be a captain for crying out loud.

  • fasteddy

    I’d like to see anyone other than Eberle try the right side with Mcdavid. Eberle has more talent in his pinkie than 99.9% of us who’ve ever played, so don’t get me wrong….but it doesn’t seem to be working. He’s more of a stick handler than a shooter, and it seems like he stops moving his feet when the puck gets on his stick. Feels like Mcd needs more of a straight line player with him; almost a Pouliot type that will come in with speed and pick up the loose pucks after CM’s rushes.

    • Joy S. Lee

      I believe – once his NHL education has taken hold – that Puljujarvi will be the perfect linemate for McDavid. That will likely be about the time his confidence in finishing plays grows to match his ability to create them.

  • Orm Nullman

    I think it is important to remember that the Oilers currently are a work in progress and not a playoff bound finished product. Their good start to the se ason is a reflection of both an improved team as well as surprising unsuspecting opponents as indicated by Jake Allen’s comments after the St Louis game.
    The lossess posted in the last three games indicate to me that opposing coaches are modifying their strategy and tactics to stop a much improved team. Despite these lossess I am encouraged that we have improved from the decade of despair as none of them were blowouts. I like that TMac is looking at mixing up his lines to combat the efforts of opposing coaches.
    Having been one of those who thought JP should have been sent to Bakersfield I have been impressed by his improvement so far and hope he can stick on the second line while continuing to get better.
    Really forward to tomorrow’s night game against the Islanders to see if TMac’s tactics bear fruit.
    Go Oilers!

  • Oilerchild77

    Eberle will likely be moved out at season’s end, possibly before if a good salary dump deal is available. He doesn’t cycle, doesn’t crash the net, doesn’t play a solid two-way game, and costs $6M. Sorry Eberle fans, but it’s not looking good.

    • madjam

      I think you are going to find Eberle and McDavid will improve now that Lucic is off their line . I feel the reason the other two have under performed to date is having to play and adjust to/ with Lucic .