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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW: Line Combinations

The Oilers have all but been eliminated from playoff contention at this point, so they’re riding out the season playing spoiler and doing tryouts for next season. After selling Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu at the trade deadline, Todd McLellan has a few open spots to test out different players in different roles.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How should the Oilers put together their lines the rest of the way?

Nov 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) scores a goal against Arizona Coyotes goalie Scott Wedgewood (31) in overtime at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned to the lineup on Saturday against the New York Rangers. He was immediately placed on the team’s second line, pushing Ryan Strome back to the third line centre role he’s played in for most of the season.
  • Leon Draisaitl has been stuck on Connor McDavid’s hip recently as the team’s top right winger. I really think that it’s worthwhile to play Draisaitl as a centre for the remainder of the season because, long-term, you really want your guy who’s paid to be a top centre to, you know, be a centre.
  • Should the Oilers play RNH on McDavid’s wing instead? He’s evolved into a very good two-way centre, but, like I said, it’s important to use Draisaitl as a centre, and RNH could be a good trigger-man next to McDavid. I’ve been a big proponent of having McDavid, Draisaitl, and RNH anchor their own lines, but I can see the argument for testing RNH on the wing.
  • The Letestu trade opened up a spot for Edmonton to play Khaira consistently in the fourth line centre role, which I think makes sense for him. Khaira has been one of the bright spots on the team this year and it’s worthwhile to challenge him to see if he can be a bottom-six centre long-term. If not, well, you still have a good depth winger.
  • The Patrick Maroon trade opened up a spot in the top-six for somebody. Most recently, Pontus Aberg was put in the top-six alongside Mike Cammalleri and RNH. I have to say, why on earth is Cammalleri still getting reps on that line? I mean, there’s no way he has a future with the team, so what’s being gained giving him ~15 minutes of ice time per game? On the flip side, Jesse Puljujarvi, who’s important to this team’s future, played 11 minutes against Arizona. I would rather see Puljujarvi and Slepyshev playing in the top-six than Cammalleri. Hell, I’m not sure if I would even bother giving Milan Lucic any more reps with McDavid at this point.
  • What about Ryan Strome? He’s been thoroughly unspectacular this year as the third line centre, but he hasn’t been terrible. His offence has left a lot to be desired, but the team has scored 48.3 per cent of the even strength goals with him on the ice, which isn’t that bad. When he was acquired one-for-one for Jordan Eberle, it was figured he could be used as a winger with McDavid. We’ve barely seen that at all this year. Is it time to try it out?

What say you, Nation? Who do you play with who? Which centres should be centres and which centres should be wingers? Who needs to be playing more and who needs to be playing less?


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  • Hemmercules

    Stack the top line so Conner gets a million points and Nuge gets some wing time. Play all the young guys heavily on line s2 and 3 to get them experience. Talbot every game unless he’s getting lit up.

    • toprightcorner

      You switch Cagguila with Lucic and you have a lineup. Cagguila is no where near top 6 capable. The second line with Lucic will bring the bring a lot of pucks out of the corners with their size and that is where Lucic shines. He is not an open ice player which happens with McDavid or Nuge as his center.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      I’d switch Puljuarvi with Aberg & Caggiula & Lucic.
      The key over all, (unlike has happened all year) is lines have to play together to gel & be as effective as they can be.
      This “McLellan whip” we have seen this year is part of the problem of the season.
      It’s like it’s been training camp since September?

    • OilersFan999

      I love how what to do with RNH and Draisaitl is so different with a lot of hockey analysts that think Draisaitl should play with Mcdavid and RNH should be the second line centre because RNH is a better 2 way centre and Would put up less points then Draisaitl mcdavid would put in together and the oilers fan base that goes ballistic if someone suggests that Draisaitl should play right wing even if it makes is contract more worthwhile

  • Strottie

    Nugent Hopkins / McDavid / Puljujarvi
    Lucic / Draisaitl / Slepyshev
    Aberg / Khaira / Strome
    Cammalleri / Malone / Kassian

    Nurse / Larsson
    Russell / Benning
    Auvitu / Gryba

    Shut down Klefbom and Sekera, see if Nurse and Larsson can handle 25+ min a night for the rest of the season. Run Russell and Benning for about 15 minutes a night. Bottom pair of Gryba and Auvitu for around 12 minutes a night. No sense in tossing Bear to the wolves in the NHL – let him go find his game in the AHL. If I’m the Oilers, I want RNH pumping out as many points as possible so you can get more than just Faulk from Carolina when they (should) trade him. If Maroon wants to come back so badly, that #1LW spot won’t be there for Nuge in 2018-19, and there’s no way he displaces Lucic or should the Oilers keep paying #6M for him to play #3C. The more he’s worth, the more Carolina has to start adding. Faulk + Kuokkannen looks like a really good return already.

    I’d start playing Montoya a lot more too, not just on back-to-backs. It’ll see the 5th we gave up for him become a 4th, but if Talbot is just exhausted and overworked, why not look at giving him some more rest to end the season and let him fully recuperate over the summer?

    • toprightcorner

      I like your defensive lineup.

      Khaira should not be pushed to 3C or they will be making the same type of bet they did with all their younger guys last year and they all failed. JP should not be put in a position of tough matchups or t will be a lot harder for him to develop. Give him easier matchups so he can work on his skill and use his shot more.

      Malone is not an NHL player and they need to see where their current roster fits for next year or if they need to be replaced.

    • toprightcorner

      If Nuge can pump out a bunch of points with McDavid, that would mean they found a winger to play with him and that means McDavid scores 120 pts and Nuge scores 65 pts. Thats a good thing. If they don’t click, then thats when you look to move him. His return is still higher now than any of the last 3 years. Nuge should get you Faulk and a quality prospect

      • oilerjed

        Why would you look to move Nuge if he doesn’t work out as a winger when he is a proven top tier 2C? And as for your comment about Khaira, I would rather see him in the slepyshev spot before 4C. He has proven that he can beat players along the board and has the hands to make some really nice plays.

      • OilersFan999

        The problem is RNH is the best 2 way centre we have and even for a few more points is it really worth it to put him in a position where he plays less defence on a team that struggles in our own zone? Plus Both Draisaitl and mcdavids numbers go up when they play together the have great chemistry so why does he need to be a centre why not let him play both and just rotate when we need to shake things up

        • crabman

          I don’t think Nuge is our best defensive center. A big part of defense is offense. If you have the puck the other team can’t score. I would say McDavid using his superior speed and hands is better at backchecking and stealing pucks. And Draisaitl with his size and strength is better suited to match up against the bigger centers in the league. Playing your 2 best players apart to try and drive 2 lines is a good idea and makes it harder for opponents to line match.
          I would like to see Nuge get a look with McDavid to see if there is any chemistry there before going out looking for a scoring winger to play with him. If Nuge can be that winger we have cover at center if either McDavid or Draisaitl goes down at any point.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        But man, you’re giving up one of the best point getting defensive centres in the league?
        I don’t get it? He is an Oiler, keep him. It’d be really hard to replace RNH I’m afraid.
        Then it’ll be these boards saying, “Hall, Eberle & Nugent Hopkins”… Look what we would be if we hadn’t traded those guys. They’re hard players to find, why did we get rid of those guys?

  • toprightcorner

    Nuge – McDavid – Aberg – Oilers have to see if they can fix their McDavid winger internally first and nobody has done it yet. $6 mill is too much to have as 3C and Nuge needs more than 16 min a night. Nuge and Draisaitl could switch when required. Would like to see Abergs speed with McDavid. If he can get to open ice, he could get sweet dishes from McDavid and Nuge all day long. McDavid has yet to play with a speedster and would love to see the pace of play with them together.

    Lucic – Draisaitl – Slepychev – worked well in playoffs and Slepy can’t find the open spots to play with McDavid. With Draisaitl and Slepy’s speen, it should force Lucic to play at a faster pace and pass the puck faster instead of skating with it. This entire line can bang on the boards and come out with the puck and they can make plays as well. Would like to see them get back to their playoff ways.

    Cammellari – Strome – Pulujarvi – JP should not be considered top 6 just yet, that puts him against to many tough matchups. If he can score 15 goals and 35 pts on the 3rd line next year, I will be happy. Force him to earn his way up the lineup. He is doing well with Strome but his minutes should be closer to 15 a night instead of 11. Strome has played better as a center this year and with the hopes of Nuge on McDavids wing, the Oilers need to ensure they have a solid 3C or if they have to get one. Strome has also done well on the PK. Nuge at 3C means 20 less points a season.

    Caggulia – Khaira – Kassian – I don’t see Caggulia being any more than a bottom 6 forward and I like him on the 4th line as an energy guy. Khaira should not start higher than 4th line next year, he has had a break out season but should not be forced to take on more than he can handle or be expected to equal or take a step forward. That happened in lots of positions this year and it failed miserably.

    Oilers have to see what they have now so they can find out what holes are most important to fill.

  • El Connor mcdaddy

    Nuge/Mcdavid/Puljujarvi
    Aberg/Draisaitl/Slepyshev
    Lucic/Strome/Caggiula
    Cammalleri/Khaira/Kassian

    Nurse-larsson
    Klefbom-Sekera
    Russel-Benning

    Talbot.

    • IRONman

      Just for fun. Put Nuge + McDavid + Leon on one line. I want to see if they can pin in the other team. I think Logical lines are 97 and 29. 27 and 93 and 98. Good chemistry.

  • GK1980

    I think Strome could end up being a good 3rd line Center who can play up a little and special teams. I think he has a future in Edmonton. Not worth Everle if course but what’s done is done.

  • TKB2677

    Here are my lines that I would run with for the rest of the season no matter what.
    Nuge/ McDavid / Aberg – Everyone thinks the Oilers need a winger for McDavid. Nuge makes 6 mill so he has to be in your top 6. As of right now, defensively Nuge might have a tiny edge over Leon but Nuge has WAY more experience than Leon so I am not worried about Leon’s defensive game. Leon is by far a better offensive center than Nuge and you are paying him 8.5 mill to be a center. Nuge is a 50 pt player, Leon is a 70 + pt player. Top 6 guys are supposed to score so have your 2 best offensive centers in your top 6. Plus why spend assets on bringing in a top 6 winger for McDavid when there is a good chance you have one in house. Aberg is a speedy guy, good offensive instincts, likes to shoot. Plus you need to find cheap guys to offset McDavid’s 12.5 mill contract. Give Aberg a shot, see what he can do.

    Lucic / Draisaitl / Slepyshev – They showed some success in the playoffs. A big line that can grind it out but also has lots of skill and decent speed. Lucic is more suited for bigger players. Slep thinks he’s getting a raw deal and not getting a chance. Put up or shut up time for him.

    Puljujarvi/ Strome / Kassian – I think Strome has settled in and looks like a legit good option as the Oilers 3rd line center. He has 12 goals, 31 pts. He has a shot to close in on mid teens in goals and 40 pts. If you are getting that out of your 3rd line center for 3 mill or less, that’s great. He needs to work in his faceoffs but the only way you improve is keep doing them. I would like to see Puljujarvi in the top 6 one day but he’s 19. Let him play on lower lines getting against lesser competition to learn the NHL and build confidence. Plus Strome and Puljujarvi seem to have some chemistry. Euro’s can usually play their off wings and he sure looked good being on the off wing when he ripped in his PP goal the other day. You are paying Kassian 1.95 mill. He’s got size, speed, physical play and enough skill to be a 3rd liner. I don’t think the team had him only being a 4th liner when they gave him the contract. You can’t be paying 4th liners almost 2 mill. Time to find out if he can be a 3rd liner.

    Caggulia – Khaira – Cammalleri/Pakarinen – I thought Caggulia was going to be at worst a top 9 guy. I am not so sure anymore. You need to find out if he can even be a full time NHLer. Khaira is a revelation. He’s already a decent 4th line center. He might be able to be more. For now keep him at center to further develop. Cammalleri should have no future with the Oilers. I think Pakarinen days are numbered as he give you zero offense. Surely you can find someone to be a 4th liner who actually chips in more than 1 or 2 goals. You can rotate through them if you want.

    I think anyone who suggests Lucic should be on the 4th line should serious take a step back and give your head a shake. Yes he has had a rough year but you CAN’T have Lucic at 6 mill on the 4th line. People need to stop making ridiculous comments, get past the hate and seriously use your head.

  • Peter Chiarelli

    Lucic, Sekera and Russell were big signings. It’s important to give them big minutes so your beloved Chia looks good. Nuge will remain at C because coach McLellan says so. Injured Klefbom will continue to play, we need to show case him.

    Lucic – McDavid – Draisaitl
    Cammalleri – Nuge – Aberg
    Puljujarvi – Strome – Slepyshev
    Caggiula – Khaira – Kassian

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Sekera – Russell
    Nurse – Benning

  • CBK

    RNH / McDavid / Puljujarivi
    Lucic / Draisaitl / Slepyshev
    Caggiula / Strome / Aberg
    Cammalleri / Khaira / Kassian

    Nurse / Larsson
    Sekera / Russell
    Klefbom / Benning

    Talbot.

    The Lucic/Drai/Slepshev line had good chemistry together during the 2017 playoffs and Draisaitl definitely needs to be a C. We’re paying him $8.5M a season so let him drive his own line and continue building confidence as a 2C. I also want to see Puljujarvi get top line minutes for development purposes.

    At this point the Oilers aren’t making the playoffs so IMO Puljujarvi doesn’t need to earn his top 6 minutes anymore. Just give them to him so he too can build some confidence, and I’d even go ahead and give him 1st unit PP time on the LW half wall.

    As far as Defense goes, Sekera and Russell played well together and are both paid as top 4 D-men so keep em there. Klefbom has struggled quite a bit this season so shelter him on the 3rd pair and give him PP time. Just my thoughts for the remainder of the season.

  • corky

    I would play Montoya more to see if he is an option for next season. Maybe even give Brossiot one more look. Oil need to enter season with a legit backup, not piss around through the first half hoping Talbot can be ridden hard again.

  • OilBlood

    If they don’t put Nuge on Connors wing for a string of games soon by head is going to explode.

    We get it Leon and Mcdavid work well together. Enough with it. Worse come to worse we know they can play together next season and do great.

    We don’t know if Nuge can be a LW sub in at C for injuries. We don’t know if Leon can really centre his own line for an extended period of time.

    You got Looch to end his drought so just to the sane thing and play Nuge with mcDavid.

    This still being a question just speak a ton McLellans stubbornness. NO Chance at post season SO WHAT THE HELL DO YOU HAVE TO LOSE BY SWOTCHING IT UP!!!!

    • oilerjed

      Whats best for the team is subjective. It would be interesting to hear the closed door conversations between TMac and Chia to understand their frame of mind and what they are trying to suss out with figuring out who will play where next year.

  • oilerjed

    Why put a square peg in a round hole? Drai and McDavid are amazing together and Nuge is by far the better center out of him and Drai. Contracts be damned, once the cheque is signed it really is irrelevant to where a player should be played. A lot of different variables go into the price tag attached to a player, doesn’t mean they are worth it or whether or not they can live up to it. No that Drai isnt.
    Put together a team within the cap and then play the players where ever that gives the team the best chance of winning. That means Nuge as your 2C and Drai as your 1RW. Now go find another Maroon to fill in the edges for cheap. and Add to the defense. IN 2-3 more years Drai will be more polished and then maybe Nuge gets moved and Leon can slide into the 2C spot, or Nuge signs for cheap and we keep it status quo and Connor and Leon are cementing their legacy as one of the greatest duos in NHL History??

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      13 points in 7 playoff games last year vs. the Ducks. Most of which (8pts) playing 2C, without McDavid in games 5 and 6.
      (you are so very wrong about Drai being a weak 2C)

      Read for yourself:
      “Todd McLellan did a major renovation of his line combinations after losing both Games Three and Four in Edmonton to Ryan Getzlaf and friends. The key of course was separating his young stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and allowing each to centre his own line. In Games Five and Six the duo combined for eight points — on eight different goals. Moreover, the new line combos involved the insertion of a rookie on each of the top two lines, both at right wing. Drake Caggiula is riding shotgun (Conor Sheary style) with McDavid while Anton Slepyshev has looked good with Draisaitl. One or the other of these rooks has scored in each of the past four games.”

      “The forward lines are a solid bet based on the past two games, the so-called “Unicorns!” formation with three supremely talented pivots each running their own unit. Draisaitl has eaten the Ducks alive all season long (11 GP, 11-10-21, +10 including 13 points in the current series). For his part, McDavid has been limited to 5 points in the 6 games but is poised to erupt at any time, leaving Carlyle no shortage of headaches when it comes to match-ups”.
      http://edmontonjournal.com/sports/hockey/nhl/cult-of-hockey/seven-keys-for-the-edmonton-oilers-in-game-seven

      • oilerjed

        I am basing my opinion on the last two seasons and not one playoff series. Leon was great in the playoffs but hasn’t been able to reproduce that level of production since then on his own.

        • Beer_League_Ringer

          Everyone is better when they play with Connor. Why would Leon be producing at the same rate with and without McDavid? That’s an insane expectation. If Draisaitl is an 8.5mil/year winger that can only produce points and defend with Connor on the ice, we are all doomed. He’s the long-term plan for #2C and the sooner he grows into the role the better.

          • oilerjed

            Doomed? I don’t think so. Having one of the highest scoring lines in the NHL is not being doomed.I can’t agree with your idea that any one would be putting up these kind of numbers with Connor. That has been proven false over the last two years, many have shown an improvment but no where near the extent of Drai. Those two are special and I would keep them together. Drai on his own is our 3rd best center.

  • Svart kaffe

    “When he (Strome) was acquired one-for-one for Jordan Eberle, it was figured he could be used as a winger with McDavid.”

    Nah, he was acquired to audition for 3C to see if Nuge was expendable.

  • Jaxon

    Nugent-Hopkins / McDavid / Kassian
    Slepyshev / Draisaitl / Puljujarvi
    Aberg / Strome / Cammalleri
    Caggiula / Khaira / Pakarinen
    Lucic

    Nurse / Larsson
    Klefbom (does he need to rehab injury too?) / Bear
    Russell / Benning
    Sekera (rehab that injury starting now)
    Auvitu

    Talbot
    Montoya

  • TartanArmy

    Nuge – McDavid – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Draisaitl – Slepyshev
    Caggiula – Strome – Aberg
    Cammalleri – Khaira – Kassian

    Puljujarvi needs top 6 minutes for development. Doesn’t matter if it takes 1 game or 5, have him find some chemistry with McDavid. Putting Nuge in there gives McDavid proven skill to play with and because we’ve all been pining for Nuge to get his chance with Connor.

    Despite Lucic’s horrible run, he needs to find confidence in his game. We’re stuck with him for potentially 5 more years, lets not write him off too soon. Draisaitl will help him with points sooner or later, and having Slepyshev on the right side guarantees some speed to a heavy line.

    Strome seems ideal for 3rd liine centre duties as opposed to winger. Cagiulla (no-finish in his game for top 6 minutes) does play with some wreckless abandon fits into bottom 6 and Aberg I think has potential to be a bottom 6 scorer.

    Cammalleri is nearing his end and should start on the 4th and adjust throughout the game. Khaira is a bonafide 4th line center who can obviously put up some numbers, and Kassian suits that 4th line role perfectly. Both Khaira and Kassian should also benefit with decent pk time.

    Nurse-Larsson
    Klefbom-Benning
    Russell-Bear

    Nurse has had his coming out party this year and deserves the top pair with Larsson. Klefbom has taken a step back this year, he goes with Benning. Russell is a warrior, overpaid, but he shouldn’t be higher on the depth chart, and he needs to play his natural left side. Bear has looked good in my opinion. Why not keep him up for a bit longer? Some guys develop better in the NHL, I think he’s looked pretty good. Poor Sekeras, he just hasn’t been the same, not even close. I think needs shelved more often than not, have him be the 7th for now, he can sub in and out as needed, especially if Klefbom is hurting, maybe Klef will need some maintenance to heal.

    OV2, Pakarainen, and whoever.

    • Ben918

      I can’t agree. Third pairing minutes for Bear with Russel? In Draisaitl’s first year he came up to the Oil for a few games and looked… inconsistent. Oilers sent him back to Kelowna for their playoff run and it changed his career. He got MVP of the playoffs despite being on the losing team. The first time that had happened in over a decade. He came back to the NHL with more confidence and is now improving every year. Bear would be top guy in Bakersfield for their playoff run. Give him the ice time and the chance to get more confidence. He will go back down knowing that he can succeed at the NHL level and he will compete for a spot in the fall.

      Also, give up on Slepyshev. He is a decent enough player but he is the odd man out on wing going forward. Nuge can play either side and Yamamoto is joining the team next year. Slepy is good but not second line good. He will make more money in the KHL and smart bet is him going back.

  • Ben918

    Play Lucic with Nuge and McDavid as often as possible. See if you can’t create a market for him and part with that contract. Then give extra ice time to Sekeras, Russell and Klef. All three should be shopped this offseason (Klef only due to injuries). If you can get them going then it is a win whether you trade or keep them. If you can’t then you lost nothing. Keep Bear in the AHL for the playoff run there, it is the best for his development. As for Nurse, he has a contract this summer, bumping his point total up is only going to drive his salary expectations. I still say give him ice time and a good salary, just don’t artificially inflate his value. He will be their best defender next season (unless they can land Carlson).