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Photo Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Talking about Letestu

Despite going into a slump a few weeks ago, the Oilers powerplay has actually climbed itself back up to a respectable number. They currently sit 11th in the league at 20.8%. But that’s not good enough for me.

When you have the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Oscar Klefbom, you should have a powerplay that comfortably sits in the top ten, even the top five. So what should the Oilers do to turn their power play into an elite unit? I have a solution:

NO MORE MARK LETESTU

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

Even when the powerplay was ice cold, there were two constants: Connor McDavid was on the top unit and he was always accompanied by Mark Letestu. Only two Oilers forwards have played more than 50 minutes with the man advantage this season, and its #97 and #55.

Yes, Letestu is tied for the team lead in PP goals but is that a result of skill or simply playing in a system that is designed to have him as the trigger man? Don’t get me wrong he’s fine at what he’s supposed to do, which is sit back-door and wait for a tap-in, but lately, the other areas in his game have been driving me crazy and hurting the team’s productivity.

He’s honestly a liability if the puck comes to him and he’s forced to make an actual play with it. That goes for continuing the cycle once the team is in the zone or trying to break into the zone.

An example: the go to play for the Oilers is to carry the puck into the neutral zone and then drop it off to Connor McDavid, who does the rest. Well, what happens when the opposition takes that away? Well, I’ve seen Oscar Klefbom and Leon Draisaitl recognize that and simply continue forward with the puck themselves. But on Thursday’s game against the Blues, that option wasn’t there for Letestu and he panicked and threw the puck away. The play continued for about 15 seconds and it resulted in Talbot turning it over and the Blues grabbing a lead.

On the surface, that’s Talbots fault for the turnover, but that play doesn’t happen if the Oilers have a top unit with 5 players capable of carrying the puck up ice.

I floated the idea of taking Letestu off the top unit on Twitter last week and I got a few replies saying that he’s there because there simply isn’t a better option. I don’t think that’s true.

Last year, Letestu led the Oilers in shots/60 with the man advantage and finished the year with ten goals. This year, while he’s tied with Nugent-Hopkins for the team lead in PPG’s (3), he’s sitting fourth in shots/60 and despite being on the ice for well over half of the team’s total powerplay time, he’s only been in on 4 of the Oilers powerplay goals.

He’s clearly declining in his ability (or just not getting as lucky as last year) and Todd McLellan refuses to take him off of the top unit, even though I believe there are better options.

THE REPLACEMENT

Oct 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Strome (18) looks to make a pass in front of Washington Capitals defensemen John Carlson (74) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

After looking through the numbers and re-watching some powerplays, I’ve thought of a few players who I would like the see at least get a chance with #97 and #29 on the powerplay. If it doesn’t work, then perhaps I’d live with Letestu.

First is Ryan Strome. He was brought in to be a cheap source of offence, yet McLellan doesn’t really give him the best opportunities to succeed.

So far this year he’s shot the puck at a higher rate than Letestu and despite playing 20 minutes less than #55 (that’s almost 10 whole powerplays, which is crazy) he has two goals. His second one really showed off the potential in his shot when he roofed a wrister over the shoulder of Jake Allen.

He’s also a right shot which would make it an easy switch for the coaching staff to try.

Then there’s Jesse Puljujarvi, who like Strome, was brought up to try and ignite the offense. Once again, the coaching staff hasn’t given him a fair shot in prime offensive situations. Jesse has played less than a minute on the man-advantage since being recalled but what he has shown is that he’s a volume shooter at 5v5. He has a wicked release, shoots right and isn’t afraid to let it go. He could also bring some speed off the rush and has shown both confidence and ability with the puck.

Another option is newly acquired Mike Cammalleri who possess a strong shot and has a tonne of experience playing with skilled players over the course of his career. However, he shoots left, which wouldn’t really work.

Drake Caggiula does have a powerplay goal this year and during his 72 game NHL career has shown a nose for the net. From a distance, it seems like he clicks fairly well with Connor McDavid, but like Cammalleri, he shoots left so it wouldn’t be as easy of a swap as the first two options.

The powerplay has shown that it’s fine, but in my eyes, swapping Letestu for a player with better overall offensive instincts could turn their top-unit into one that is feared league wide.

    • jultz=2cups!😂😂

      Because he’s had 1 good game in his nhl career? Could that be a reason? You’re gonna take an established nhl player off your pp unit for a kid just cause oilersnation hates letestu?

  • Stack Pad Save

    I think Letestu has reached an age when his foot speed has dropped of so far he is no longer useful. He doesn’t even win face offs anymore. I can’t believe the coaching staff hasn’t recognized this and removed him from the PP and reduced his minutes.

  • jultz=2cups!😂😂

    You guys can’t seriously be blaming one player for TWO powerplay units inability to score…. I will agree that letestu hasn’t been great but he’s one of five. The team is not playing well as evidenced by their record. So that means the pp and pk will suffer. As I’m writing this I’m realizing that I’ll probably have to take a break from oilersnation till they start playing better. Because it’s gonna be a steady stream of “blame this guy” articles and posts. And I’m tired of defending oiler players to “oiler fans”. Lol. Classic oilersnation. Oilersnations motto should be “we do NOT support our team through thick and thin!” Lol. And the oil will be better this year and WILL make the playoffs. Will be hilarious to see all the “I told you they’d make the playoffs” comments and everyone jumping back on the wagon.

    • BendingCorners

      Sooner or later something will click and this team will go on an extended run. They have all the ingredients for success, they’re just not quite assembled into the right five-man units yet, although they have (mostly) looked better lately. I still think they will host a series again this year, and at this point they could still finish first in the Pacific and host two series.

  • Rama Lama

    The only guy that does not get mentioned for blame is Todd McLellan ………he has been seriously out coached and his line combinations have been a joke. To me it seems that just about every Oiler ( save RNH and McDavid) have forgotten how to play hockey……..breakouts are PAINFUL to watch!!

    Time to put TM on the hot seat for not having his team prepared for most games.

  • Roberto

    Katz should have moved the team to Seattle and taken MacT, Lowe and the rest of his buddies with him. Edmonton would get a new team ran by reasonable people and would bring a cup home sooner than this tire fire! How is it possible that the Oilers of the late 90s were competitive with less than half the salary cap than other teams and this team, with one of the best players in the world, a surplus of high picks and money to spend is basically in last? If they don’t make playoffs this year it’s an absolute embarrassment, and playoffs aren’t looking promising.

    • hagar

      The oilers are just a fancy toy to Katz for his friends to play with, he never wanted to move the team, he used it for exactly what he needed it for, billions in real estate development.
      He doesn’t give two sh’ts.

  • Derian Hatcher

    Admittedly, I spend too much time and energy thinking about this team. I watch too much, I read too much about them, and I talk and vent too much about this team. I have blamed and vented, complained, and surmised about how this team can look so good last spring and so bad now. In fact when I ask my boss If he has a minute, he has started to say “not if it’s about the Oilers”. Sigh. I need a support group.

    “My name is Derian and I can’t stop loving the Oilers, even though they’ve broken my heart over and over”. I need help

  • LordRuggles

    I think Jesse has the puck skills that letestu lacks, he is a bigger body, which should be helpful in the corners and around the net, his shot is hard with a quick release…I think letestu is a good player but his offensive instincts are lacking…I am forever baffled by Puljujarvi’s absense on the pp

  • I am Batman

    I agree with Jultz and Derian, to a degree.
    It’s okay to turn our backs on this team and it’s okay to feel disappointment. We spend time and money in following the team, we deserve so much better, but… this is a business and ownership and management and even this site, doesn’t care how we feel how we feel about it as long as we keep buying tickets or watching the games or consuming the advertising around the Oilers.

    We have the best player on earth. He made the oilers hire an army (Mclellan, Chia, and the other dufus) . Finally the oilers had generational player (again), a decent rink, an nhl coach and not an experiment….

    We ate it all. Now the oilers can’t buy a win and even the cansucks with a quarter of the talent we have find a way to be in games, and win them.

    And until we don’t hit EVERYONE that has something to do with the oilers in the pockets there will never be a push to change things.

    I found myself cheering for Toronto last night. They have a real GM, a real coach and talent and speed in spades. Their goaltending and D isn’t flashy but they’re there…. having a good centre and a couple good wingers pays off… go figure: if your team is attacking effectively half the game you only need to defend the other half, and likely you already have them in their toes.

    The Leafs will win a cup before the Oilers. They’re maybe the richest team in the league and they seem to use money wisely. Good for them.

    As for me: I love hockey and I will watch. But I will consume as little as possible of Oilers related stuff, and that includes my time. This is coming from a fan who has done road trips to see the team even through the dod.

    Enjoy my absence.

    Go leafs go

  • fasteddy

    I’m not sure right or left shooter should be a big concern; couldn’t hurt to try a different look once in a while. And I agree with the Luc comment; I was happy when they got him but not so happy once I started watching him. Seems like a great guy, and tough as nails, but watching him treat the puck like a hand grenade or greased pig got old fast!

  • Reinman

    I have been saying this for a while too. I was called an idiot for suggesting it. But my eye sees exactly what yours does. I think it laughable that when the PP is struggling they removed Draisaitl, and not Letestu. FOr my money, I would put RNH in plcae of Lucic, and really load up that top unit.