Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The tale of two Ryans

Entering training camp this season, every media personality was pumping up Ryan Strome coming to the Oilers organization, while on the flip side Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ value was questioned. Funny how things change: a couple of months later we’re sitting here panicking about Strome and praising Nuge for his play thus far.

In the dog house

Ryan Strome was officially introduced to the media at the Oilers Hockey Hockey School in early August. He said he was excited to join the club, and praised the Oilers for being close to a championship team. The summer progressed with everyone wondering where exactly he would line up, a natural centre Strome mostly played right wing during his time in New York.

Coming into camp there were no surprises, McLellan hinted that Strome might play on the wing alongside McDavid and Maroon even though he’s a natural centre. Strome had put up 50 points (17G, 33A) during the 2014-15 season, there were high hopes he could find his scoring touch alongside the most dynamic player in the league. However, that experiment didn’t last long. A few games into the preseason and Strome found himself not producing like the Oilers hoped he would.

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McLellan juggled his lines and Strome found himself pivoting fellow players in the coaches dog house, Caggiula, and Jokinen. Through 14 games he has five points (2G, 3A) and carries a minus four rating, including a multi-point game against the Hurricanes on October 17th. While it’s fun to make comparisons between Strome’s season and Eberle’s just remember that Ebs has been given a lot more freedom in New York as opposed to Strome in Edmonton.

Towards the end of October, Nick Kypreos decided to throw a steak at the hungry wolves in Edmonton by reporting that the Oilers were not happy with the Strome deal. The fans and media alike were already on edge about the disappointing start, this just added more fuel to the fire. I can’t even imagine how Strome felt reading that.

Most logical thinkers felt that Strome wouldn’t rack up points, even if Connor McDavid was telling people that he would be a fantasy sleeper. I don’t think it was fair to Strome to be demoted to the third line right away, he was only given a handful of games, not even meaningful season games on the top line with Connor. It’s still very early in the season, Strome has lots to prove in a contract year, maybe he’ll figure things out.

The Nuge is yuge!

Feb 18, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) and Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) fight for a face off during the third period at the United Center. Edmonton won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The lone standing survivor from the Oilers former core has impressed, the former first overall pick has held his own so far. Last season Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took on more of a two-way game than we’ve seen from him before; it was great to see him be smart in both ends and backcheck like there was no tomorrow, but it seemed like McLellan never rewarded him for it.

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Heading into this season, Nuge seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle of things; he opened camp on the third line alongside big Finns Jokinen and Puljujarvi. This line was unique, instead of looking for a checking role the Oilers wanted to have a scoring threat. It seemed like a great fit for Nuge because Jokinen is responsible in his end and could do some babysitting if Ryan decided to sneak up. I felt like Nuge should’ve been given a chance to play on the wing of either the first or second line, less responsibility more offence.

As we’re all aware things didn’t go as planned and the lines were thrown into a blender, Nugent-Hopkins found himself on the second line with Lucic. With Leon filling the right wing hole on the first line, there has been an open spot alongside Nuge and Lucic. It sometimes feels like an open mic night when giving guys the chance to play there, some nights it’s a standing ovation, others it’s like the comic got booed off the stage.

While the second line doesn’t offer the offensive pop that the first unit does, it’s hard to ignore how well Nuge has played thus far. His faceoff percentage is up at 54 percent, in 14 appearances he has nine points (6G, 3A), and is a plus-minus of even on the season.

Both of these guys were predicted to have two completely different seasons, it just seems as though they were mixed up on reporting the last names. Did you think that the Nuge was going to carry his own? Did you think that Strome would flounder this badly? While I think we can say that we thought that Nuge could have this kind of year, I don’t think it’s exactly fair to throw Strome under the bus. Look at who he has been paired with and where he has been played. If you want him to have a 50 point campaign you need to have him beside McDavid, he didn’t have that season playing with Clutterbuck or Chimera, he was with Tavares. What are your thoughts on the two Ryans? Let me know below!

  • 24% body fat

    how does a ppg in 2 exhibition games get you taken off of connors wing and not another chance to do it.

    The experiment never actually happened. Also right shot, maybe he should be on the Mcdavid pp

  • Who will the Oilers fans chase out of Edmonton this year? Will it be Strome? Or will it be someone else? And will he go on to win a Stanley Cup or two soon after he leaves?

    I have cheered for the Oilers my whole life though I have never lived in Edmonton. Can someone explain to me why Oilers fans need a scapegoat at all times?

  • Oilerchild77

    Ryan Strome had 3C written all over him. And that’s ok because third line centers are very imoortant to have and I believe he could be a good one. That being said, he should really be given another shot with the top line because McLellan pulled the plug on that experiment way too early.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    I don’t think McLellan has given him enough of a chance to play with McDavey in the same way he didn’t give Hall enough of a chance to build chemistry with McDavey. Starting to sour in Toddy Mac.

    • Warshe Jabbah

      They haven’t put Strome on McDavids wing this season yet. They only tried it for one, maybe two games in preseason. This experiment should be tried again before making any deals. Forget Poolparty, the winger that needs to be tried is Strome. Then Drai and RNH centering lines 2 and 3.

  • ComeAtMeDog

    Nuge is a gem , a glue guy and super smart player . , so I fully expect chia will trade him. It’s like as soon as we catch up in the size dept, the league switches to speed ??! Let’s hope we kick ass against the west and stack points .

    Strome is what he is , average joe . Nothing flashy so don’t expect much . I’m sure chia was hoping Jesse would have made the team . He didn’t thus creating a huge hole . Maybe should have held ebs for a year .

    Go on a win streak and all will be forgotten !!!

  • ScottV

    I really dislike the manner in which McL handles the forward group. He hugely favors the pursuit of elusive offensive chemistry. The flip side – he misses out on the value of forwards who when left together are able to work out the details toward playing more effectively as a line. The occasional hit that makes you look like an apparent genius, isn’t worth what you lose on the flip side of the issue.

    Most forwards don’t respond well to being blended all over the place. The better make it work in a hurry or who the hell knows where I end up – only creates short term chaos that ends up in the back of your own net – more than, in the other guys net. You lose on the cerebral front and you piss off your players, because its stupid. Blending for elusive offensive chemistry should be the exception not the rule.

    The situation with Strome is but one example of many, since McL has arrived in Edmonton. He should have been given a longer audition with McD – no question. Have some patience McL – for crying out loud.

    As for Nuge – I liked the recent articles in the Journal by Staples. He pointed out that yes – its nice to see Nuge on the scoresheet, but – compared to last year, his major mistakes leading to scoring chances against are a lot higher. Also – that Lucic is struggling in the major mistake category and he makes the argument that Nuge – Lucic together, is not a good idea. Something my eye – has been telling me all along.

    Get Drai centering big Looch and lets see what Nuge looks line with McD.

      • IRONman

        I feel lucky to have 97,29,19 and Kassian. The other forwards are hmmmm. Need new coach. Getting more obvious each game. Sekera will big massive improvement on the D.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Scott, would you have the time and sacrifice needed to become the Head Coach of an NHL franchise?
      You are definitely on to something there… While I agree that Yamamoto deserved a taste, I don’t think he should have been put in at all until the regular line-up had some “gelling time” & wins. Having a completely green inexperienced rookie taking the place of a regular line player when the team needs some wins is sending a completely wrong message… It also puts crazy undo pressure on everyone involved… The team should have had a comfortable win/loss record before experimenting with new personnel. Go with what worked in the playoffs & let some chemistry develop,… Is coach Sutter available? Or maybe you Scott?

  • morsecode89

    The Edmonton Oilers, the Oilers media, and Oiler fans: Chasing servicable hockey players out of town since the 1980s.

    Seriously, the list of ‘talented’ and servicable players that were seemingly let, traded, or given up by this organization since 2006 is astonishing.

    Names like Jeff Petry, Justin Shultz, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov all come to mind as players who were mis-used, under developed, and allowed to be publicly bashed by the likes of the city’s big media names – you know who they are – then traded to other teams for cents on the dollar.

    Traded because they ‘didn’t fit’ the narrative of a big tough team. Funny thing is, the skill those players have are ones this organization is seriously missing right now. Add any of those players to this current team at the expense of someone not named McDavid, RNH, Drai, or Klefbom and this current oilers team is likely better.

  • hagar

    This far into the season and the oilers are still struggling to find a rhythm. This far into the season and Tmac is still mixing lines around like crazy. Is the lack of chemistry and ignition amongst the team the chicken or the egg in these constant line swaps? Isn’t the pre season where a good coach gets his lines figured out, then moves forward with the season, and the players do their thing as a combined group that all have a role and a known spot?

    Every team moves players around here and there, but they don’t generally have a line up that leaves you guessing each game, and most certainly don’t have players constantly bouncing at random anywhere from the fourth line to the first.

    Maybe it’s hard to put together a consistent effort as a team when you still feel like you are in preseason at square one, doing first day on the job things. Maybe it’s time for tmac to decide on a team he wants to leave alone and let Gel for the rest of the season. He seems like a coach that always needs to be messing with stuff, almost like he feels success relies more on his fumbling around, than just hunkering down and getting to work.

  • cmandev77

    Peter Chiarelli may be the most over rated GM in the history of the NHL.
    A look at his last few trades…
    Jordan Eberle (15gp, 5g, 7a, 12p) for Ryan Strome (14gp, 2g, 3a, 5p) – enough has been said about this trade…(lost trade)
    Justin Fontaine (in KHL) for Taylor Beck (in KHL) – would love to see what Beck could have done as a call-up this year…Trade is a wash
    David Desharnais (with NYR now) for Brandon Davidson (still in Montreal) – Lost trade
    Henrick Samuellson (ECHL) for Mitch Moroz (ECHL) – Trade is a wash
    Zach Pochiro (tearing up ECHL) and 3rd round pick (traded to Arizona) for Nail Yakupov – Lost Trade as Yakupov is an NHL player
    Adam Larsson (much needed defense help) for Taylor Hall (top 10 left wing in game) – Lost trade
    I can keep going…
    I count 3 trades we won, the Patrick Maroon trade, the Zack Kassian trade and the Cam Talbot trade. Trades not listed on here are the Justin Shultz trade for a 3rd rounder, the dreaded Reinhart trade for our 1st and 2nd round picks in the very deep 2015 draft. Plus we lost pick for signing Chiarelli in the first place (2nd rounder I believe and not sure if we have given Boston this pick yet or not?)
    Anyways, Chiarelli has not been everything we had hoped for and something needs to be done before we have another bad signing or relinquish another asset. Our cupboards are bare as is!

    • ed from edmonton

      PC has had his hits and his misses, but to complete the picture you should include:

      Mark Letestu for Boyd Gordon (now in the AHL)]
      I disagree with your assessment of the Yak trade. Getting anything for Yak (Yak had a great start to this year as the Avs did but his recent games appear to be regressing to the Yak of old) was a good return. He would not have been on the roster last year (who would have he replaced?) and would have been lots for nothing on the waiver wire).
      Matt Benning for free
      Drake Cagullia for free.
      Does anyone really think that Mitch Moroz, or Zack Pochiro will ever see NHL ice?

  • ed from edmonton

    Switching topics a a bit here, but I am very concerned about the Oil this year. To explain my concerns I offer the following.

    Last year I thought for the Oil to be successful 3 things had to fall into place.
    1. Cam Talbot had to prove to be a number 1 goalie.
    2. Oiler d has to find a number 1 pair (Larssen and Klef filled the bill).
    3. Depth was a concern and had to stay away from ciritical injury(s).
    All 3 thing fell into place nicely.

    This year I suggested three things have to occur for the Oil to build on last year’s success.

    1. Someone has to step up to fill a role on RW, preferably with JP or Strome. If Yamamoto sticks around after training camp, regardless of how good he played, sure sign there is problem. This along with the terrible starts by Lucic, Kassain, Khaira, Jokkinen; Sleppy and Cagulia’s injuries, is aproblem the Oil do not have an answer for yet. And really there isn’t a magic bullet to fix this, these players have to start being productive.
    2. Talbot has to be as good or nearly as good this year. Talbot started out stinko, but is showing improvements. I’m optimistic this will work itself out, I just hope the Oil are not out of it when it does. (PS does anyone else notice that shooters seem to have a preference to go high blocker on Talbot this year?)
    3. Oiler are still pretty thin (maybe in today’s NHL all teams are) and key injuries must be avoided. Fair to say that the Sekera injury has proven to be more key than expected. This has been exacerbated by the horrendous start by Klef. Kef has been the worst Dman many a night, makes me wonder what might happen when Sekera returns.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I agree with some of the other posters. Too much line juggling. Let’s keep some guys together so they can develop chemistry and not put the pressure on them to think they have to do it in one game or they are moved again. I’d also like to see Nurse take command of the PP like he is capable of. Seems TMac has taken away a lot of the creativity in this team. Too much grinding behind the net when the goals are scored in front of the net.

  • A-Mc

    I feel like the combination of wanting the McD/Drai duo as a consistent point producing line, and waiting to keep strome down at 3C for CAP reasons, is what is holding Ryan Strome back.

    It’s a bit tinfoil hat-like, but perhaps they don’t want ryan strome to find success with McD just yet because then his $$ value will be higher when they re-sign him in the summer. Once he’s signed to something appropriate for a 30pt 3C and they’ve determined it’s time for Drai to play 2C, strome might become the 1/2RW and start to produce.

      • A-Mc

        Could definitely work out that way, i agree. Right now it might be about putting bodies into positions and if we’re going to sign a UFA 3C, then that’s likely to be more expensive than Strome (RFA) on a show-me deal.

        I really dont know what’s going to happen with the team over the summer. I’m most concerned about Nuge and Maroon, and if we’re going to be able to afford them.