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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Time to Switch the 1st Line

It is time Todd McLellan changes his top line and the reason is simple.

They aren’t producing.

In the last seven games Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl have produced a 5×5 in goal in one game.

They had two in the 8-2 drubbing of Vegas, but in the other six games they have not scored a goal and they are barely out-shooting or out-chancing the opposition. It isn’t a case of them having no finish or little luck. They simply haven’t been playing up to their potential. They are in a funk.

From my standpoint it would make more sense to remove Draisaitl instead of switching out Maroon, so here’s a look at what Draisaitl and McDavid have done the past seven games when on the ice together at 5×5, including shots for/against, scoring chances for/against and goals for/against.

Opposition        5×5 TOI    SF-SA     SCF-SCA      GF-GA
STL                      14:45      10-9           8-9             0-1
VGK                     12:21        8-6            8-2             2-0
WSH                    17:30       17-3          21-10           0-0
NYR                     18:52       7-15           5-9             0-1
NJ                        14:43       8-4            9-5             0-0
NYI                       16:16       7-10           6-9             0-0
DET                     12:52        3-9            4-10            0-1

Totals                   107:19    60-56       61-54           2-3   

Compare those numbers to the previous games together this season.

5×5 TOI    SF-SA     SCF-SCA      GF-GA
103:39      84-60       79-63         11-6

McDavid and Draisaitl are one of the most dangerous duos at three-on-three. They have been dynamic in overtime, but lately in the first 60 minutes their production and overall play simply hasn’t been good enough.

The ironic thing is the Oilers have been quite good in their past six games, excluding the St.Louis game, but they are winning with solid defence and very little 5×5 production from their top line.

McLellan could wait for his top-two guys to start scoring again, which could easily happen tomorrow in Dallas, but they seem to be in a funk and I’d lean towards splitting them up.

I was opposed to doing it earlier in the year, because no one else was scoring, but now that their 5×5 production is down I’d look at a change.

You can always go back to them, but right now they aren’t producing. No 5×5 goals in six of seven games for a first line is a major slump.

I’d look at this combinations:

Maroon-McDavid-Strome
Lucic-RNH-Caggiula
Cammalleri-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi
Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

Draisaitl is a fantastic passer and Cammalleri and Puljujarvi like to shoot. Puljujarvi is also looking much more confident and has been finding open spots to release his shot.

I spoke to Ryan Strome about getting comfortable playing centre, as he’s in the longest stretch of his career playing centre, but it is more important to get McDavid and Draisaitl producing.

The other option I’d look at is just two switches.

Maroon-McDavid-Caggiula
Lucic-RNH-Draisaitl
Cammalleri-Strome-Puljujarvi
Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

I’ve been hesitant to split up the top line, but with such low production for seven games, now is the time for a change. Outside of one game the Oilers struggled to score and that now includes the top line. The Vegas production was an outlier, a change is needed to jumpstart the entire group.

Would you do it?

Which combos would you run and why?

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