It’s time to end the Lucic/McDavid experiment

27-Lucic-3

We’re at the point now where I’m starting to wonder what
Milan Lucic has to do before he gets bumped off Connor McDavid’s line. McDavid
now has just a single even-strength assist over his last eight games, and has
seen a revolving door at right wing. Yet on the port side, Lucic remains
untouchable, even as he goes deeper into yet another even-strength scoring
slump.

Why not try something different?

Lucic and McDavid

97-McDavid-8

The simple fact of the matter is that while Lucic is scoring
on the power play, the even-strength minutes he’s been getting with McDavid
have been largely wasted. Just look at his scoring from month to month with
those power play minutes taken out of it:

  • October: 9 games, 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points
  • November: 15 games, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points
  • December: 9 games, 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point
  • Total: 33 games, six goals, six assists, 12 points (0.36
    points/game)

That’s not a great number. Patrick Maroon managed 10 points
in 16 games (0.63 points/game) after coming over from Anaheim, nearly double
Lucic’s number.

If we take ice-time into account, Lucic’s performance is
even worse. His 1.27 points/hour ranks him in the mid-200’s among NHL forwards;
he’s scoring like a third-liner while playing with the best player on Earth.

Yet the point in all this isn’t to hammer away at Lucic. A
year ago, Lucic topped 2.0 points/hour playing on a line centered by Anze
Kopitar on the all-defence-all-the-time Kings. He’s a better player than this.
For whatever reasons, three months into his Oilers career he’s played almost
exclusively with McDavid and yet failed to score except on the power play.

The weird thing about this is that Edmonton has other problems
and other options, and some rearranging could go a long way toward solving them.

Draisaitl and the
Left Wings

29-Draisaitl-5

Secondary scoring is something that has been hit and miss
for Edmonton, and building a second line would go a long way toward helping the
team survive those nights where McDavid can’t carry the offence all by himself.

Lucic could be a cornerstone of that second line. It’s not
nice to compare Leon Draisaitl to Kopitar, just because that’s a crazy-high
bar, but he does have some points in common with the Kings centre. He’s played
well with Lucic in their brief stints together, so why not try building a
second unit around that duo? If it worked, Edmonton might simultaneously get
more out of Lucic and the reliable second scoring unit it needs.

19-Maroon-3

At the same time, there are plenty of other options for
Lucic’s role on McDavid’s line. Three left wings currently on the roster have
spent a bunch of time with McDavid over their careers, and the other two guys
have both been more productive with the superstar centre than Lucic has:

  • McDavid with Maroon: 3.21 points/hour | Maroon with McDavid:
    3.21 points/hour
  • McDavid with Pouliot: 3.05 points/hour | Pouliot with
    McDavid: 2.81 points/hour
  • McDavid with Lucic: 2.60 points/hour | Lucic with McDavid:
    1.39 points/hour

McDavid has been more productive with both Maroon and Lucic.
Pouliot was twice as productive with McDavid as Lucic has been; Maroon was a
touch better still.

Why not reconfigure the forward lines? There’s a decent
chance of getting a little bit more out of the McDavid trio, while at the same
time creating something special with Lucic/Draisaitl on the second line.

The plan in signing Lucic this summer was obviously to find
a permanent partner for McDavid. It hasn’t worked. That happens sometimes. It only becomes a mistake if the team refuses to take corrective action.

  • Oilcan

    I agree, but both Maroon and Pou should get a shot. Lucic should audition with Drai. Why not add Khaira with Looch and Drai and see if we can get some big time forecheck cycle going? We have 3 or 4 forwards that are with the team that are close but not quite ready for prime time. Send Drake, PJ down and sit Hendricks. Bring Lander and Khaira up, give them 5 games, if they produce, they stay, if not down they go. At the same time the guys in Bake can get some quality ice time.
    On another note, I don’t see a roster spot for Hendricks anymore, betcha he would clear waivers, and if he didn’t good for him! The league is about results and money, there is no loyalty to old soldiers.

  • RJ

    Some here were automatically giving the LW spot to Lucic without ever seeing them play together. I said let them play together first before you gift him that spot.

    McDavid and Hall didn’t work. Kessel played poorly with both Crosby and Malkin last season. He found chemistry with a third centre and suddenly the Pens had three scoring lines and rode it to a Cup. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.

    Having said that, let’s not forget that Sekera wet the bed before Christmas before he adjusted and ended strong. Maybe Lucic just needs more time. Doubtful, imo. But it’s possible.

    My pick this August was Drai and Lucic. Hit them with speed on the McDavid line and follow it up with some big bodies like Drai and Lucic.

    Last Lucic comment: seems like a lot of people were expecting Lucic to be the Lucic from their Cup run. I went to check out the message boards after the Bruins traded Lucic. Nobody was mad. There were a lot of comments to the effect that the Lucic who physically dominated everyone every game left after they won the Cup. He only played that way occasionally, so they wished him well.

    I think it was cool to a lot of people that a top UFA would sign here, but the better get would have been Okposo, a right-handed RW. 22 points in 29 games while playing for the Sabres isn’t bad. Same cap hit as Lucic also.

  • Mitchvar9412

    My lines right now would look as follows:

    Maroon – McDavid – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Caggiula
    Pouliot – Nuge – Eberle
    Pitlick – Letestu – Kassian

    I think puljujarvi needs the same opportunity Laine is getting. A night in and night out spot on the team on a line that needs a shooter. Nothing like crushing a kiss confidence by making him watch. Give him as many games as they gave Lucic with McDavid and the kid will score.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    The more I think about it, the more I’d like to see Nuge on McDavids left side. Maybe start it in practice but see what 93-97-14 can do together. Could even get RNH going finally.

  • SALAKAN

    because the GM signed him for 7 year deal for 6 mill a year that’s why lucic has a longer leash. tbh I hate the fact that the GM has more control over the team then the coach.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    Just a note on the Last Game / Next Game Graphic over here >>>>>>>

    The last game was on the 17th against Tampa, not the 18th.

    And in case anyone was going to watch it, the next game against St. Louis is today, the 19th, not the 21st.

    If Lucic misses today’s game because he’s reading ON, I’m blaming Chris the Intern. j/k

  • Anton CP

    May as well try something wild. Have Puljujarvi playing off-wing next to McDavid, it may works well with excellent playmaking skill of McDavid.

    Sometimes, maybe let player to try something different and it may work wonders.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    Not to sound like a downer here but, Lucic is only a fraction of the issue.

    The Oilers have a balance issue with the forward group and the defense that’s being covered up by a good goaltender and McDavid.

    McDavid & Talbot have been covering the Oilers errors the whole year.

    Take McDavid or Talbot out of the line up for a month and ask yourself where the Oilers would be?

    On the flip side,L.A lost arguable one of the best goalies in the game and they are right where the Oilers are.

    This team needs better cheaper players, full stop.

    Oh, Puljujarvi needs to be sent to the AHL…

  • XBinX

    I rather see Maroon playing with McDavid and Ebs or Pitlick (kid earned it) then Lucic.. he seems so slow on that line.. but I’m soooo happy we have him on our team… because the message he sent on the opening night by dropping his gloves after 97 got hit… knock on wood but I think for the first time in years the talent of the team McDavid, Drai, Ebs, Lucic, Nuge, Sekera, Maroon, Klefbom and Larsson has played every single game so far and it’s almost half way through the season. That’s you’re top two.lines and top 3 dmen… that is good news for the Oilers. Thats y he got that big contract and y the team is sitting 3rd in Pacific.
    Thank you Mr Lucic glad to have you.

  • AJ88

    It is one of those times where the stats supports the eye test. Lucic’s and McD’s mental aspect of the game do not gel and if Lucic was supposed to provide a physical aspect to free up McD, well, maybe Lucic should try hitting somebody. I can see Lucic being more valuable at playoff time but he will need to up the physical aspect to prove his value.

    I think it is time to forget the 3 line scoring idea and get Nuge, Drai, Eberle and McD onto two lines and hopefully some much needed confidence will start building.

      • Gravis82

        He cant win faceoffs or behind the net battles. This is nothing new. McDavid took his PP time. Thats where he historically gets all of his points.

        He is the same player, just a bit unlucky this year with less opportunity to score on the PP. If we want to maximize the value in the salary we are paying him, we need to get him out on 1st unit PP and 1st line, which means playing him at wing.

        Not playing him 1st unit PP is a failure to maximize the productive impact of cap space we have spent on him. He got that money because of 1st unit powerplay production and 1st line minutes in offensive situations. Playing him in any other role is going to decrease the value of those dollars, which is exactly what is happeneing.

  • @Hallsy4

    I usually disagree with you Willis, but you’re bang on here. I’d way rather see Maroon with McDavid… I’d even rather see Pouliot. As you said, Lucic could help either a 2nd or 3rd line, and that doesn’t mean his signing was a failure. If Chia refuses to admit to himself that Lucic/McDavid isn’t the best option, he’s no better than Mac T and Lowe playing Jultz 30 mins a night…. Doesn’t mean Lucic is a bad player, in fact I like him as a 2nd or 3rd liner, but it’s not fair to McDavid, and the rest of the team to keep throwing him on the first line when he’s not the best option…. If he pouts (as others suggested, and requests a trade), let him, as there’s no room on a team for that bull crap. I don’t think he’d do that for the record.

  • @Hallsy4

    I have no time for GM’s who put their ego ahead of the teams. Chia has made a lot of good moves, but refusing to move Lucic off McDavid’s line, the Gustavson thing and the Griffin thing bug me. Mistakes happen, and overall he’s improved the team a lot…. however, if he doesn’t admit his mistakes and take action to correct them (which in this case would simply be moving Lucic to 2nd or 3rd line, not that big of deal), he should absolutely be dismissed. And I like Chia. Individual ego’s are what got the Oilers in the mess they were in in the first place.

  • Organizational arrogance shows… big free agent signing, organizational arrogance dictates that rather than admit to a gross mistake make two players suffer a bad fit rather than admit to the gross mistake. #becauseoilers

    Wait a few years and see how the big free agent signing looks….. gonna be an albatross with a hooked beak hanging off the oil drop.

  • JBear

    Man give it some time. I really don’t think Lucic knew what he was given with McDavid. McDavid is fast. So fast indeed that really only a couple of other forwards can somewhat keep up with him. Lucic has to realize he’s going to up his game with speed and/or stamina but I like he’s the nuclear deterrent for anyone thinking of touching McDavid. Sure, we can throw him down on the 2nd or 3rd line and hope for 2 scoring lines but without Lucic, McDavid is going to get hurt.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    skilpknot8 wrote:

    L.A lost arguable one of the best goalies in the game and they are right where the Oilers are.

    This team needs better cheaper players, full stop.

    I take your point (you’re right: everyone wants cheaper better players), but using your example, LA isn’t exactly full of cheap players. Brown’s on the third line with a 5.875M cap hit until 2022–one year less than Lucic.

    Pearson and Toffoli are RFA’s next next year, and the Kings are already locked in long term with Kopitar (10M), Quick (5.8M), Brown, Carter (5.2M) and Garborik (4.875M), with less than 2M in cap space for Toffoli and Pearson. No doubt, they’ve played reasonably well without Quick, but they’re in trouble for the next few years if they want to keep the band together.

    On the Oilers side, Kassian, Maroon, Davidson and Letestu are cheaper better players, each coming in at under 2M. Some combination of Eberle, RNH and Pouliot will be converted to McDavid’s new contract–probably Ebs and Pou because of the timing, but aside from Fayne (3.6M until 2018) and Pou they don’t really have any contracts like Brown’s or Gaborik’s.

    • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

      I only used L.A as an example of team depth.

      I used the Oilers as an example of why it’s important to find young cheap players that brings balance/depth to the Oilers and do it cost effectively.

      so basically you just re-worded what I originally posted…..

      FYI – There IS no Oiler RW or any of the players from the Oilers you mentioned that are better Then Toffoli.

  • T.J.F.M.

    This isn’t rocket science. McDavid needs a shooter on his wing. Either LW or RW. There is not one sniper on our team. We traded the one away.

    Just imagine if we drafted Laine. He taking feeds from McDavid for the next 15 years would be a thing of beauty.

    Pujuls might get there, but he is far away as of today. We need someone there right now.

    Eberle was supposed to be that player. He apparently spent all summer on his one-timer. He has used it exactly ONCE this season. And it missed the net by a country mile. He isn’t the right partner for McDavid, either.

    I agree with trying RNH on his LW. Why not give it a shot?? He is butchering it at Centre right now: he can’t win a faceoff, he isn’t back-checking or rushing back. He might as well be on the wing.

    Try RNH – McDavid – Eberle for a few games. Bring up Jube Jube for 3rd line Centre (keep Cagguila on the wing/PB).

  • camdog

    When Lucic plays with McDavid he can’t be physical because he doesnt have wheels to catch up to play. They can keep experimenting but that won’t change fact that Lucic’s game does not gel with McDavid.

  • Marty

    all wrong here. Looch is not the problem, mcdavid needs to be more selfish not to mention the right wing has been bad. the only guy who can fill those shoes is leon and they need him to play center cause nuge doesn’t do enough offensively. incase you haven’t noticed, they put maroon up with mcdavid, he was hot, then he cooled off and bumped back. during this time milan played with leon and one again the right wing provided nothing . it’s time to end the Eberle/nuge experiment if anything, trade them (if possible) and clear the cap space. these guys aren’t kids anymore but still get treated like they are developing prospects. Looch will make good for sure, every line he’s played with has been successful, can’t say the same for the oilers veteran young guns

  • Joy S. Lee

    Relax on the Lucic thing, folks. It’s a long season. The space the players work in gets smaller as the season gets longer, and then… playoffs?

    Lucic’s value grows as the space on the ice shrinks, and that’s to say nothing of how he’s in the head of every defenseman we’ve played before they’ve even touched the puck for the first time.

    It’s a long season. Lucic SHOULD fit well on a line with Leon, too, but for now, there’s a slow omnipresence riding shotgun for McDavid, and establishing that in the minds of opponents is NEVER a bad thing. 97 hasn’t even played a full season of games; the opposition deserves a good taste.

    (PS: Want to add that I suspect Puljujarvi will end up as Connor’s long-term RW. Could be a month or two, or next year, but when he’s ready, I think that’s where he’ll be.)

  • Jaxon

    Personally, I think Pouliot should get a look with McDavid, and Puljujarvi will be his eventual RW. In a year or two, it may be Benson on his LW.

    Back to Pouliot. In their short time early last season they had great numbers together. When I watch them play, I see enough similarities in their styles that I think they would mesh well. Pouliot (*usually) has great speed. He is the fastest LW on the team. They both have a great ability to shovel and chip the puck to open players and spaces. They play a fast game of puck touches rather than extended carries. Pouliot also has a fairly decent shot and a quick release, when he is given an opportunity to use it. He is defensively responsible. These are things that I also see in Puljujarvi’s game. So that’s what I’d like to see on the 1st line:

    Pouliot / McDavid / Puljujarvi

    Lucic and Draisaitl have played well together in limited ice time. There is a consistency to Lucic’s game that I’m sure Draisaitl could exploit well. Give that line Eberle on their RW and I think you might have a decent secondary scoring line whose skills and speed match up well.

    Lucic / Draisaitl / Eberle

    I think Maroon and Pitlick would be good fits for Nugent-Hopkins on the 3rd line. They won’t face top competition from there and should be able to come out on top. Pitlick is a pleasant surprise this season. He seems to have found a nice scoring touch and is shooting a lot.EDIT: I’ve substituted Slepyshev for Pitlick after the injury. I still have hopes that Slepyshev will become the player that 1st overall in the KHL promised.

    Maroon / Nugent-Hopkins / Slepyshev (in for Pitlick)

    That leaves Caggiula or Hendricks on LW and Kassian or Slepyshev on RW for Letestu. I would lean towards Caggiula and Kassian at the moment but would revisit at the trade deadline if Slepyshev gets hot down in Bakersfield. Maybe Caggiula should be sent down for a spell.

    Caggiula (Henricks up to trade deadline?) / Letestu / Kassian

    If Hendricks can earn his spot, I wouldn’t mind him playing 4L until he gets traded away at the deadline. A deadline trade for a vet RW like Iginla, Doan, Vrbata, Burrows, Stafford or Eaves would push a Kassian or Pitlick off the roster.

    *I will admit that something seems a bit off this year, and his speed has reduced.