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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

Recently by Jason Gregor:


  • Delirious

    Id switch it. Drai and Mcdavid try to get to cute with the puck. Caggiula worked on Mcdavids wing in playoffs so id give him a shot. Plus hes quick enough to keep up. Keep strome in the bottom 6.

  • I am Batman

    I just don’t see what Strome and Caggiula have done to get a promotion.

    Puljujarvi on the other hand….

    Caggiula can’t score in the nhl, lucic is too darn slow, nuge is going to have to do everything on that line.

    I like splitting Drai and McDavid but not like this….

  • tileguy

    I do like this lineup Gregor
    Maroon-McDavid-Caggiula
    Lucic-RNH-Draisaitl
    Cammalleri-Strome-Puljujarvi
    Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

    And when Slepy returns, if Letestu is still playing like he is a dollar short and a day late I would sit him and slide JJ to centre, flip a coin to see who goes on the off wing.

  • Oil9744

    If there’s anyone who deserves a promotion to play on the top line it’s Nuge, so for the love of all that is good, why not just finally just TRY Nuge with Mcdavid????? Let Drai anchor the 2nd line for now and see how it goes

    Maroon McDavid Nuge
    Lucic Drai Puljujarvi
    Cammaleri Strome Caggiula
    Khaira Letestu Kassian

  • Bringer_Of_Snow

    When will Chia acquire a legitimate winger for Connor, allowing Leon to move to his own line? I get that McDavid is the type of player that you just stick two wingers on his line and they have success, but Maroon, although a fan favourtie, shouldn’t be riding shotgun with McDavid anymore. Scoring one goal every 8 games is not good enough. He has thrown his head back after missing on empty cage way too many times this year. They need a quick shooter on his wing, and McDavid will turn him into a 60 goal scorer. (I am till hung up on Ho-Sang, Marchessault, and even Kane/Neal)

  • Gravis82

    Maroon – McDavid – Barzal
    Hall – Draisaitl – Eberle
    Pouliot – Nuge – Puljujarvi
    Pitlick – Letestu – Kassian
    Yakupov

    Defense…honestly, who cares. Figure it out eventually. Trading your forward talent for D is 2 steps forward 2 steps back.

    We overachieved last year because of a hot start and literally NO ONE was injured all season. That will never happen again, which is why I was so frustrated we didnt go all in last year. We wont be back there for a while now.

    I am so done with this team.

    Moves that made sense to me. Talbot, Maroon. The rest, made less than 0 sense. Is Tambellini still running this team via Skype? One has to wonder.

    • 1ncinawhile

      Agree with you. Larsson is good… I like him… but really… couldn’t we have kept Hall… Skip the Lucic signing and maybe overpaid for a free agent d-man… we’d be in far better shape had we gone about it differently than we did

  • Jaxon

    I think Kassian should get a good stretch of games with McDavid. He has the speed and the forecheck and his puck skills are highly underrated. Give Cammalleri a chance too. Leave Lucic, Nuge and Puljujarvi together as they are working fine right now. Don’t mess up a good thing. The next most offensive players are Maroon, Draisaitl and Strome. If they can find chemistry you have 3 solid lines. Malone-Letestu-Caggiula is a decent 4th, too.

    Cammalleri – McDavid – Kassian
    Maroon – Draisaitl – Strome
    Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Puljujarvi
    Malone – Letestu – Caggiula

  • EastVanOilFan

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

    Maroon could use a night or two in the press box imo

    • Gravis82

      Problem with this lineup is that it contains 4 AHL players and 1 elder statesmen who would probably be in the NHL if it was not for his NHL reputation.

      My point is not to flame your lineup, my point is that we have a limited number of alternative options here. The reason we are looking for options in the first place suggests that our current players are not good enough. That can only be solved by getting new players. Shuffling the deck chairs will have little impact.

      I suspect there will be some firings at the end of this year.

      How many more years until we get to watch Hall win a cup with Toronto? I will quit the NHL if that happens (but still happy for the guy of course).

    • EastVanOilFan

      I don’t think its a flame because you disagree, i think you’re not giving some of these “AHLers” enough credit tbh, they’ve been impactful before and they will be again. Cags and Slepy have been fighting injuries so its hard to get going whens thats happening. WHY NOT PUT THEM WITH DIFFERANCE MAKERS. It might just wake up the whole team. I see 3 scoring lines tbh. Sit maroon against dallas and hope he comes out buzzing against the blues in st louis.

  • gordo

    neither nuge or draisaitl are 3rd liners; and besides mcdavid i’m not sure who else is really top 6. not sure jesse is ready, the drake, slepy, stome, bottom 6. lucic and maroon need to be a lot better

  • OilersGM

    What would it take to get Evander Kane to play in Maroons spot?

    Maroon—McDavid— RNH
    Cammalleri—Draisaitl—Puljüjarvi
    Lucic— Strome—Caggiula
    Khaira—Letestu—Kassian
    First PP :
    McDavid-Draisaitl-Puljüjarvi
    Cammalleri-Klefbom
    Four forwards I think will be more of a threat.

  • bwar

    I’d like to see Lucic-Draisaitl-Yamamoto get a chance to play together. They did quite well in the preseason and I think the two big bodies will really give Yamamoto some extra space.

    Ah crap I just remembered you burned his 9 games trying to dig this team a massive hole to start the season with.

  • Supa Fly

    I think Drai is becoming to complacent on that top line. Hes got the hands but I am missing that one timer from the narrow angle I loved so much last year. Hoping that splitting them up more consistently will cause both McD and Drai to have some more urgency in their game. It’s time.

  • DXB

    RNH-McD-Drake
    Maroon-Drai-Jesse
    Looch-Strome-Cammy
    Khaira-Letestu-Kassian

    I think when healthy that Slepy can play in the top 6 as well if he has the directive to shoot first and shoot often. He’s one of our only natural shooters outside of Cammy who should have sheltered minutes and maybe some PP time. Concerned that moving forwards around will have limited impact until 77 comes out of the funk he’s in and starts playing the way he can. Until then we have a big hole on the back end until Sekera is back and can calm things down a bit. Other major factor is the special teams. On paper there are likely 30 teams that would trade for our PP unit and yet they are a tire fire. This is down to coaching. It’s broken and T McL is not fixing it. This is having a major effect on confidence. If we were even middle of the pack on the PP our season would look completely different based on the number of 1 goal games we have been in. If Chiarelli isn’t having closed door meetings with the coaching staff by now I hope he will soon as somethings gotta give.

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    100% do it. Either one of those suggestions would be fine. Cagguila worked well with McDavey in the playoffs. I’d lean to moving Drai to centre on third line.Why McLellan hasn’t tried this already is mystifying to me. You have to spread the talent around. It hasn’t been working the other way.

  • Lee

    Switch Leon with RNH and drop Lucic to the 3rd line.
    Also let the second P.P unit start some P.P they look much better than the 1 line.
    TM is old school and he likes to stick to what he knows, he is not a think outside the box coach . Somehow Vegas is scoring more goals than this team, the players should be embarrassed.

  • Mitch92

    Off topic but I am happy to see that Matty Tkachuk’s d-baggery earned him a game on the sidelines. There is no place for that sort of behavior in the NHL. Not what we want our kids emulating.