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Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Putting the power back in the power play

The Oilers have only scored 12 goals on the power play this season. Only two teams — the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets — have scored fewer at this point. Part of that has to do with how few power play opportunities the team has had, but the Oilers efficiency with the man advantage is only 18.18 per cent. That’s quite a bit worse than last year’s 22.98 per cent figure which ranked fifth in the league and played a key role in the team’s breakout season.

Edmonton’s power play being mediocre isn’t really a new issue. It’s something that’s plagued the team all season and has been pinpointed as one of the reasons they haven’t had much success in the standings. But after an ugly showing against the Arizona Coyotes last night in which the Oilers barely got any offence going on four opportunities, Todd McLellan is shuffling the units.

The top unit features four Connor McDavid and Matt Benning on the point and Mark Letestu, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and JJ Khaira up front. On the second, Oscar Klefbom and Drake Caggiula will quarterback Leon Draisaitl, Patrick Maroon, and Ryan Strome.

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The interesting things of note here are RNH and McDavid finally being put on the ice with the man advantage together. That’s two guys who see the ice very well in the offensive zone. Also, the Oilers haven’t had a very good time getting somebody crashing the net, so Khaira will be given a chance to do so. Milan Lucic, who scored half of his points last season on the power play, has been bumped off both units.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. Are these the right units the Oilers should be rolling with? What’s been wrong with the power play so far and how would you change it? Is it an issue with the units, or is it the team’s strategy that’s led to the subpar results?

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    • DaveChamp

      The answer is two-fold:

      1) They’re trying the same two plays over and over and over and over and over and over and won’t stop.

      2) They have very few finishers – guys that can beam the puck with accuracy and have any offensive creativity.

  • DaveChamp

    For the life of me, I cannot understand why Puljajarvi isn’t playing the left side and bombing one-timers all powerplay. I get the coach likes Letestu and he’s had past success, but honestly I think that’s solely because he’s a right handed shot that was potting in juicy passes from McDavid and Draisaitl. If Jesse gets comfortable in that slot, he could significantly help the PP.

    • LamesSuck

      Agreed. You’ve got a great one-timing option with Pool Party, or even Cammalleri, but the coaches just refuse to put them out there. I don’t remember the last time I saw someone one either the left or right side one time a pass from up top. Too predicable.

  • Hemmercules

    Try anything at this point. Worst PP I have seen from the Oilers in years. Way too slow, always looking for that thread-the-needle pass. I hope Khaira can cause some Havoc in front of the net, just what Lucic should be doing more often.

  • statsy9er

    The PP has become way to predictable, everything runs through 97. Teams just pressure that side and give him no lanes to pass or shoot.
    Games that I have been able to watch (fan in SW ONT) the 2nd Unit has more success because they move it around and don’t always look to give it 97.

    Would love to see 98 loading up that cannon on the first unit.

  • Derian Hatcher

    I think it was Bruce Boudreau when he was with Washington that mandated that he wanted a shot on net within 10 seconds of entering the O-zone. The Oilers allow way to much time for the defenders to set up and defend. The seams are not there on most PP’s. They need to create chaos in front of the net with net drives and bodies. Ugly rebound goals still count as goals. Passing around the perimeter for the majority of the PP is not working. On a postive note, I feel that the Oilers puck retrieval on the PP is much better.

  • Consultant

    WOW!! Woodcroft has lost his marbles.
    Khaira, Letestu and Benning on the first PP unit. That is 2 fourth line players and a third pair dman who doesn’t have a big shot… so funny he decides to keep Letestu and adds Khaira thinking he will do better in front of the net than Lucic (who is basically defined as a 6 million net presence) or Maroon.
    You are overthinking it Jay.
    Why not try:
    PP1: McDavid – Drai – Lucic – Klefbom and right shot (Puljujarvi, Strome or Letestu).
    PP2: Nuge – Maroon – Strome (if not on PP1) – Benning – a shooter like Slepy or Cags.
    Soon Woodcroft is going to decide Talbot should be in front of the net.
    Our PP is laughable, I think any article about it should at least mention the coach responsible for it.

      • OilersGM

        Great clip. I for the life of me don’t understand why this coaching are so stubborn and won’t try something different, as mentioned in the clip there are only 4 plays that every other team have figured out except the oilers coaching staff. I would also consider and I have mentioned before this clip the PP should have 4 forwards and I could think of ten different plays that could work but the coaching staff doesn’t seem to think of any more than 4. Mind boggling.

      • FlameChampion

        Agree so much with this video. TM doesnt put his players in a position to succeed. How they can continously run the special teams which have failed all year without making any changes blows my mind.

  • OilersDynasty

    The problem with PP1 is that they’re always deffering to McDavid on the right wall. If other guys made plays, most likely the PP would have success.

  • Oilerfromthestart

    Use McDavid as the trigger man instead of the playmaker. Put him in the position where he finally shoots first instead of looking to pass. All that talent so why not try to instill in him that he should be the goal scorer. Can have worse setup men than Nuge.

    • OilersGM

      I wish McDavid could add a one-timer to his bag of tricks like the game winning goal against NYI in OT but instead of skating into it just standing still and backing up and hitting it or players that go on one knee like Hoffman or Kuch or even Galchenyuk in the year he scored 31 did it a lot especially on the PP that would make him less predictable and more lethal that would get him to the next level of goal scoring.

  • the dope $teez

    When the power play is bad (which is often), it’s really bad. A few things I notice:

    Too often the d-men are headmanning the puck to Letestu or Lucic, the two players on either unit with the worst hands. This may be because there are no other options, which is a problem as well. We need the right guys transporting the puck up the ice who can make the right play to enter the zone.

    2. All they do is pass. It seems like they are content playing keep away once they do establish zone time. The Buffalo game was this to a tee. They maintained control throughout most of the PP, but never got a quality shot on net. The players need to play with an attacking mindset. Set up a shot from someone who can actually hit the net (must be harder than it looks), and recover the puck. Repeat.

    Lastly and most important, not enough movement. If you look at successful power plays like Pittsburgh, everyone is always moving, finding new lanes to pass or shoot. Connor is moving but he is becoming predictable now. IMO this is why 90% of our shots and passes are blocked. Too easy to get in the lanes and disrupt the flow.

  • TKB2677

    Here’s a cool idea. Why not shoot the freaking puck. How many times does McDavid or Leon get the puck in the high slot, in prime scoring position and instead of shooting they try to thread a pass for the back door tap in. Do they have a passing quota that the coaches insist on before they shoot? It sure seems like it. Benning scored a goal by getting the puck and shooting it quickly with traffic in front. It wasn’t a bomb, it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t flashy, it won’t make a highlight package but it worked.

      • TKB2677

        I agree. I don’t know if there is something attached to the symbol of the jersey that as soon as you put it on, basics of hockey leave your brain. Even before McDavid became an Oiler and Nuge, Hall and Eberle were the big 3, the Oilers PP usually sucked. With 3 high end offensive guys like that, it should have been better.

        You watch other teams PP and it looks so basic. They move the puck around quickly, get traffic in front, the shot comes in, the goalie is screened or there is a tip or rebound and it’s in. Nothing fancy. Then you watch the Oilers and it’s “let’s see if we can physically pass the puck across the line.” Or “Let’s try to thread the puck through 3 sets of legs so the guy on the far side of the ice can pick the top corner.” What’s wrong with your boring, basic, screen shot that works all the time. Or the good old “Pass off the pads” where instead of trying to make the miracle pass through 3 sets of legs, you fire it low and let the goalie do the passing for you. I know it won’t make the top 10 goals of the year but it works.

  • ScottV

    The right or front side of the pp is fine. McD – halfwall, Drai low post and Klef same side point position. It’s the back side that is creating the problem. We should have a heavy hitter – rh d man who can hammer one timers from the back side point position. Using a forward opens the door to giving up short handed goals and we really don’t have a heavy hitter right hand forward anyway. Lucic net front is great for that one dimensional deed, but that is all you get. First off – you would prefer a right hander in that spot, so in addition to net front duty – this guy could quickly slide from net front back out to a low one timer shooting position. In and out depending on how the possession is going and being right handed so that McD and Drai can cross seam from right to left – forehand to forehand with one timer potential both ways. Lucic is the wrong hand and too slow to move in and out in that way. These limitations create a defensive pk opportunity to overplay to McD and Drai. Klef really isn’t a premiere guy in his spot either, so – all the more we’re exposed to successful overplays toward McD and Drai.

  • btrain

    I like Matt Benning, and I suppose his handedness is likely a benefit, but when does Nurse get an opportunity? Painting players into certain types is a frustrating but common practice even at the NHL level. Nurse and Larsson are shut down guys, no PP time for them…ever. With Nurse, the skill set to be an offensive threat is there in spades. Why tether him, a potential future cornerstone, to a primarily shut down guy role and deny him opportunities to grow offensively? Giving that time to Benning who doesn’t have the same ceiling because he is a “puck moving defensemen”, or Avuitu who is a healthy scratch half the time, or an expiring Russell who tries but accomplishes little, doesn’t make much sense to me. Could you imagine the extra movement that could occur with Nurse darting in and out of the slot, moving the puck quickly across the blue line to open up seems, protecting pucks with his big frame, transitioning in to clean up the garbage. It’s kind of like telling the Nuge to only play defense! You give him the green light and some more offensive responsibility and look what happens!

  • McRaj

    Horrible units.
    1st unit should be : McDavid, Nuge, Drai, Puju, and either Klef or Nurse
    2nd unit should be: Strome, Letestu, Maroon, Lucic, and the other of Klef or Nurse

    Each team puts there best players on the first unit PP. Not sure why Mclellan is against having Nuge, McDavid, Drai and Puju all together.

  • Oiler Al

    Nice… Drasaitl 0 goals and 0 points on the PP in 21 games.Lucic 0 goals and 2 PP in 25 games.Maroon 0 goals and 3 PP…….. the better McDavid 3 goals and 7PP.Letestu 3 goals and 5PP. Nuge 3 goals and 4PP. Nobody is shooting the lights out here.

  • Dr Dragon

    The 2nd unit looks better then the first unit right now. The first unit has trouble gaining entry god dammit and the 2nd unit goes in with ease some how last few games… 1st unit is pressing way to hard almost looks lost trying to gain entry its pathetic

  • Mitchvar9412

    My powerplay units would be
    PP1
    Poolparty – Nuge – Caggiula
    Benning – McDavid

    PP2
    Strome – Letestu – Lucic
    Nurse – Draisaitl

    Gotta give the young d-men a chance because Klef wont shoot the puck. I like Strome and Poolparty’s shots on their off sides getting set up by McDavid and Drai respectively