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Photo Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The McBlender

I think most people who watch the Oilers this season have been frustrated or confused by the amount of line juggling we’ve seen from Head Coach Todd McLellan.

There are a few ways to look at this. Is McLellan not giving his lines enough time to develop chemistry? Does he simply not have the talent needed to find a trio or two that can make a positive impact? Have injuries simply crushed any chance for consistency?

Let’s eliminate the injury theory right away. The Oilers aren’t even among the top twenty teams in man games lost so far this season. It’s not that.

So is the McBlender a thing?

Chemistry Being Denied?

Here are the most commonly used lines in the NHL this season (prior to the games on Thursday night)

  1. Gaudreau – Monahan – Ferland (704.92 Time On Ice)
  2. Marchessault – Karlsson – Smith (682.67 TOI)
  3. Lee – Tavares – Bailey (668.73 TOI)
  4. Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen (658.12 TOI)
  5. Iafallo – Kopitar – Brown (639.73)

The most commonly used trio for the Oilers this season has been Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl; which got just over 289 minutes together prior to the Maroon trade.

The Oilers only have two other lines that have spent more than 100 minutes playing together this season.

Lucic – McDavid – Puljujarvi (177.40 TOI)

Khaira – Draisiatl– Strome (104.80 TOI)

The line of Nuge-McDavid-Rattie will also hit this 100 TOI mark in the near future. Yes, that’s right the current McDavid line has only been together for seven games and they are closing in on being one of the most commonly used trios by McLellan this season, that seems crazy doesn’t it?

The Oilers are one of two teams in the NHL this year that have had three or fewer line combinations spend at least 100 minutes of time together.

The Colorado Avalanche only have two lines who have played over 100 minutes together, but it’s a completely different story for them because they have a clearly defined top six.

The MacKinnon line has played over 650 minutes together while the trio of Comeau-Soderberg-Nieto has played 565 minutes together.

Todd McLellan has used twenty different threesomes for at least 50 minutes this season.  Only the New York Rangers have used more combinations for that amount of time and you have to remember they completely dismantled their team prior to the deadline.

Production Not There?

Nov 18, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan watches his team take on the Dallas Stars during the third period at American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Oilers 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Todd McLellan can’t find any lines that work so he is forced to keep rotating through options.

Let’s take a look at the top 30 goal-scoring lines in the NHL this season. The MacKinnon line we’ve talked about has been on the ice for 47 goals this season. Rounding out the top 30 is Panarin-Dubois-Anderson in Columbus with 16 goals.

Of the top 30 scoring lines in the NHL this season, only two of them have a Goals For Percentage below 50. The Lee-Tavares-Bailey line in New York has scored 31 goals and allowed 34. Tkachuk-Frolik-Ferland down in Calgary has found the back of the net 22 times, but has been beaten on 25 occasions.

So let’s use Goals for Percentage to see how the Oilers rarely used trio’s compare.

There are five combinations for the Oilers this season that have played over 40 minutes together and have a GF% above 50%.

1. Lucic – McDavid – Puljujarvi (66.67 GF% – 177.40 TOI)

2. Lucic – McDavid – Slepyshev (66.67 GF% – 42.12 TOI)

3. Nuge – McDavid – Rattie (64.70 GF% – 89.97 TOI)

4. Caggiula – Draisaitl – Aberg (62.50 GF% – 50.42 TOI)

5. Khaira – Draisaitl – Strome (55.56 GF% – 104.8 TOI)

The one thing you can take away from this is McDavid drives everything and no matter whom you have with him he’s very likely going to dominate. Surprise!

The case for McLellan here is that he simply couldn’t find any lines work without McDavid but once again how would you know when they didn’t really give them much time to gel.

CONCLUSION

So the eye test and the numbers line up on Todd McLellan. He is the only coach in the league to have 20 different trios with at least 50 minutes together this year while at the same time having just three lines to hit 100 minutes.

The question I want you to answer in the comments is this. Did the Oilers struggle this year because McLellan didn’t allow his lines time to find chemistry or did he simply not have the pieces to work with?

I understand this team needs more help on the wings, but I will never agree with a strategy of not allowing a line to have five or more games to actually develop some true chemistry.

I’m, once again, left frustrated by the lack of sample size we have to look at when analyzing these line combinations, which of course brings us back to the original issue.

Maybe next season the Oilers will use the first nine games of the year to develop chemistry among players who will be on the roster for the entire season as opposed to having a 19-year old just killing time before going back to junior. Maybe not.

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  • oilerjed

    Let’s just be clear about how terrible a coach Todd McLellan is.
    GP782 W 423 L270 p% 0.598
    points per game. His teams finished top 3 in their division 7/9 seasons and finished in the top 2 – 6 times.
    Add to that making it 2 Conference finals. Second among coaches in wins since 2008 behind only Bruce Beaudreau and in the top 4 for W-L%.
    Only 2 season where his team didn’t make the playoffs. Forget that he coached this team to 102 points last season and into the second round (shoulda been the WCF).
    Please explain to me how one season where pretty much everyone on this team under performed equates to Todd McLellan being a bad coach. Frustration with the season aside, let’s please have some common sense

    • Threetimes

      I like Mclellan, Hes been the best coach the Oilers have had in a long time. Even this poor season surpasses the majority of previous seasons going back to the Mact era. Some things Ive seen this season make me think alot of on ice decisions are being made further up the ladder, likely up to Katz himself. Edmonton has good hockey people, fans and media should show a little faith in that.

    • Big Nuggets

      I don’t buy into the coach’s winning percentage as an indication of ability. MacLellan had a really good San Jose team to coach with a lot of good players. What is MacLellan’s winning percentage this season? That seems more relevent. Not saying he’s a bad coach but this season it looks like he has made numerous bad decisions.

    • Kr55

      SJ was a division winner before he got there. He rode the same 5-6 players his entire time in SJ that were already self sufficient elite vets, and got nothing from the rest of his lineup, which killed him every year in the playoffs. Good regular season coach on a stacked team, there are hundreds of guys that could be the same. But come playoff time, he was outcoached every time and wasted the primes of a lot of great players, whole got to the finals the next year, sadly, the best of them were on their last legs by then.

    • 1ncinawhile

      Oilerjed. Even though I CAN’T STAND THE MCBLENDER!!! You do have a good point… I don’t actually think he’s such a bad coach (although I don’t agree with his tactics all the time)… I mean heck… last year he was given thought for coach of the year award… but this year he is the pits?? Doesn’t make sense if you take a step back

  • omahalloyd

    I’m kind of tired of the coaching changes No doubt an awful year in every aspect of the team I think we all agree with this but this was the only coach to get us to the playoff in years I think he gets a free pass and one more year to see if he can fix this the other way has proven to be a disaster Just my opinion

    • braddos

      Agreed, I just think there is NO rational argument that can be made for keeping the special teams coaches. I don’t care how long their relationship with McLellan has been.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    Better players make better coaches. This team is so weak on the wings if only we had a guy like Taylor Hall just picture Hall McDavid and Nuge as a line. The fail of this team is not the blender it is the gm.

    • lucky

      Let’s say a winger at Taylor Hall’s level became available, and the asking is Adam Larsson straight up. Would you make the deal? It boggles the mind what is going on in this GM’s head. Problem is most GM’s get a coaching change, but this one has stripped the cupboards bare, so there will be no trades that don’t hurt the team more. Bring in Keith Gretzky for rebuild v 5.0 and get used to the idea of another 3 years out of the playoffs.

  • Rama Lama

    On opening night there was no affirmed roster…….it took TM 15 games into the season before we even knew who was staying and who was going.

    This is not a coach we could accuse of being prepared.

  • Laughed wing

    This coach has no plan and less of a concept of what chemistry means than any other coach in the league. The model of head coach bringing his team of assisting coaches doesn’t hold water with me. We aren’t allowed to hear from them and are left to wonder about their skill sets. Yes men. And who ever is goalie coach should leave now. Our six footers learn to play on their knees and that allows teams to shoot high and score or move the puck across the ice where a push off from your knees becomes hopelessly weak.

    • TruthHurts98

      Every goalie plays that butterfly style, does Lundquist, Quick and Rinne suck because of it??? I’m a goalie too and if I don’t have a good game the whole team suffers. Talbot needs a backup to challenge him and allow him more games off. Relying on one goalie is foolish. That’s on the GM in my opinion too.

      • Kneedroptalbot

        Not every goalie comes way out of his crease and falls to his knees prior to a shot leaving the stick.
        Even Johnathan Quick stays near his crease a lot more than he used to.
        He changed his style as he became older.

  • TruthHurts98

    I think he needs to be replaced. San Jose has been far better with much less without him. Even Connor made reference to the fact he always has different line mates and it’s difficult to create chemistry. The fact that he refuses to play JP in the top 6 is also baffling to me. The special teams are atrocious, the team isn’t prepared from the start either most nights. The last 3 games sum up the season: disappointing.

    • OilersGM

      I’ve said it for a while now that McClellan is not a great coach, he doesn’t have what it takes to take a team to the next level. He gets out-coached all the time. I was so perplexed as to why he took Puljujarvi off of McDavid’s line earlier in the season whe he was having so much success. At one point Puljujarvi was on par with Tkachuk for goals and the coach decided to change things for some idiotic reason. Also McClellan gives players extra ice time in the top 6 or on the PP that don’t deserve it, even my 7 year old kid knows that’s wrong and brings this up during games.
      I would get rid off him and the GM and bring in a GM that picks his own coach or wait and see if coach Q shakes loose.

      • 50-39

        I bet you would have thought Vegas was a glorified AHL team at the start of the year. See what a difference coaching makes. There are some good pedigree players on the Oil, what would a coach like Gallant be able to get out of this group?

        Only a few occasions this year has the team played with the confidence and control they did last year, I suspect coaching played a role in that.

        • oilerjed

          I think you underestimating A) the quality of the players Vegas picked up B) the motivation that came from being a group of Misfit toys C) That the majority of the players on Vegas were veterans who were able to put a new system in place quickly.
          gallant is a good coach obviously but isn’t the biggest reason for Vegas’s surprising season.

          • 50-39

            By new systems, you mean coaching. Everyone underestimated the quality of the group as a whole, unless you have proof somewhere of people picking them to be near the top of the league all year long. The vegas GM certainly didn’t pick his team to be here – his original play was selling those experienced players at the deadline. Sure some took motivation from being a cast off, but in the end they are all playing to win and advance their careers, like most every other player in the league.

            I believe Gallant is the biggest reason vegas is doing as well as they are. He got those players to come together as a team and believe in themselves. Excellent job.

            TM has been a great coach over his career – he wasn’t this year. I think he will probably start next year with the oil as well. I’m ok with that, but it should be a short leash.

  • Spydyr

    Hands on owner hiring old heroes/buddies,poor GM, too many no movement contracts, overpay for Drai by a couple million and a starting goalie that is at the bottom of stats for the entire NHL. Pig headed coach that has produced horrendous PK and penalty kill.

    That is only a few of the issues the Oilers have.

  • madjam

    Going into season GM unable to procure a decent RD to aid forwards and defence . Todd realized it early and rode his asset McDavid . Draisaitl never advanced and most of rest of squad fell below expectations . Only Nurse , Hopkins and maybe Khaira showed signs of improvement beyond McDavid . The blender was caused by poor job of GM to address the defence and Talbot poorly adjusting to being a father of a young twins . Talbot hopefully will readjust his game for next season as twins should be less taxing . I’d give a pass on McLellan this year , due to the poor job GM did in assembling a defective lineup void of a decent defence . Seeing all the problems Oilers were faced with , I still feel McDavid should win the Hart , as he basically carried entire team game in and out .

  • CMG30

    In order for chemistry to develop, you must start with a spark. With the need to play LD center on the 2nd line we have been left with no one, until RNH, who can really complement McDavid, not just ride his coattails. If only our next GM can find a partner as dumb as Chirelli who will gift us a top line scoring forward. Maybe someone like an Eberle…

  • 50-39

    TM comes across as more of a technical coach than a motivational coach. Judging by how often the oilers came out flat this year, they need address that situation.

    Another factor is I think the team developed a very fragile confidence at the start of the year due to the terrible play of Talbot, Klef, and Benning. Giving up the first goal so often as a result of bad plays put the team in the “here we go again” mode way too much.

  • jultz=2cups!??

    Wouldn’t break my heart to see a whole new coaching staff next year. I soured on McClellan a long time ago when he stripped jumbo joe of the captaincy.

  • camdog

    I liked Sather, Muckler, Low, Lowe, Mactavish, Renney, Krueger and Nelson as coaches. I always thought they got what they could out of their team. George Burnett, Dallas Eakins and Todd McLellan didn’t/don’t not as Oiler coaches anyways.

  • VK63

    The disconcerting agenda (axe being ground) finds illustration in the usage of two players.
    Lucic
    Pool Party.

    One is demonized for every mistake and held accountable instantly.
    The other is a giant hulking mass of teflon.

    Accountability in coach Todd’s world is a moving bar… ergo, It does not exists, as accountability, by definition, is consistent application of organizational principles from a solid foundation.

    Its not just Todd. The entire organization is a mess of reactionary incompetence drifting in an ocean of their own noise.

    • oilerjed

      This is easy to explain IMO. In Lucic’s case, he had the worst year of his career and they are trying to play him out of it. In PP, he needs to learn how to play a consistent game and be responsible defensively. In the case of a veteran you have to be patient and hope they come out of it. With the young guy, as we have seen here for a decade, if you don’t make them play the right way from the start, they may never learn.

      • RJ

        The issue with your explanation is opportunity cost. PP is at the start of his career and needs opportunities and support because he will get better over time. Lucic is an aging power forward with over 800+ games played.

        Do you invest time in the young player with a bright future, or do you invest it in squeezing the last drops of talent from an old warhorse who’s due to meet the glue factory?

        • oilerjed

          PP is getting tons of support by the looks of it, Strome looks to be a great mentor for him and he is getting ample ice time for a player in his first hundred games. Guess the question is why you think that it is so important to have PP on the power play? When the fab 3 were here, or Yak for that matter, were you in favour of having them “gifted” PP time regardless of how the rest of their game looked? Manu were against the idea of giving them this primo playing time when they hadn’t shown that they had earned it.
          3I personally think that they are bringing Jesse along at a pace that he will succeed at. Give him another good off season of training and a good training camp and see how his play looks after the exhibition schedule. Im sure he will get lots of time to show that he belongs before next October. He will only be 20 by the time next season starts, what is the rush? To me he hasn’t shown anything exceptional that would suggest he gets an extra bump.

          • crabman

            @oilerjed, I agree with almost everything you said. I like the way Strome has looked with Puljujarvi. They are playing well and getting chances. They are developing chemistry and getting good zone time. Puljujarvi looks like he is getting comfortable and some consistency will be the best thing for him at this point in his career.
            That said I would like to see him “gifted” some time on the top pp and set up to just fire off onetimers. The pp has been really poor and could use a right hand shooter. Why not give the kid a look to close out a lost season? It won’t hurt his development and would give the pp a different look.

      • Kr55

        How much better would it have been for the team if McLellan would show the group that Lucic is being held to the same standard as everyone else. Rather than rearranging the entire team for 2 months to try to get him his fluke goal from 40ft out on a set unscreened goalie that he finally got. IMO, McLellan played this completely wrong. Not only did Lucic not get out of his funk and still looks like a bottom 6er, but he also showed guys like Pulju that there are 2 sets of rules on the team and he should remain confused of how he could ever break through the McLellan wall placed between them.

        • oilerjed

          I would disagree. Look at it from another standpoint. As a veteran player, would you want to know that your coach is going to stick by you and give you every oppourtunity to play out of a really bad stretch. That would go a long way with a coach keeping a teams trust. And there should be two sets of rules for a player playing his 80ish game and one playing his 800ish.
          If you have kids, don’t you have two sets of rules for the older ones and the younger ones? Same Same IMO

          • Kr55

            It’s a slippery slope though having the kid gloves on with vets that already got their massive payday. It’s really starting to look to me like Lucic needs a hard kick in the pants, and if he doesn’t like that, he should ask for a trade. He was dragging his butt around for a lot of his goalless drought. Lazy defensive play, passing the puck away to the first guy he saw (or just to where he thinks someone might be without looking) no matter how covered that guy was. He was playing awful hockey, but the gift minutes kept coming. Why should that player making 6M/year get his coach kicking everyone else aside just for him when he’s playing so poorly? I think that sends a bad message to the group. A confusing message as well. I don’t think I want players to know that just because they are a vet and highly paid they will get prime minutes no matter what they do, and I don’t want young guys to think that no matter what they do, they will always be kicked aside so a guy like Lucic playing like garbage can get the prime ice time.

  • elliotsmom

    I think we will have a very interesting off-season with changes coming from the top to the bottom. The exit interviews are going to be the tell if the players are honest with how they feel about the how they’ve been coached and managed. When Paul Coffey gets hired to help with the defence, I imagine he won’t be the only “boy on the bus” with Oiler responsibilities next season. General Disappointment definitely needs to be replaced as well as all coaching staff. We just need to be careful what/who we wish for. Lots of options on potential hires, but at the same time there could be a return of some ghosts of the past. Do we really want that?

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Every player on a team should have one skill/role that they excel at (regardless of the sport).
    Kassian and Lucic played regular minutes all season long (regular ice time)
    Did anyone see the benefit? Players or fans?

    • Kneedroptalbot

      They don’t score much , not great defensively, terrible on zone breakouts. Difficulty taking or giving a pass. In Lucic’s case always behind the play.

  • oilerjed

    Players that I have seen develop this year :
    Jujhar, Nuge, Darnell, Jesse (to a lessor degree) and Ryan Strome

    The players who took a step back :
    Lucic (who knows??), Klef (injury), Kassian (another ??), Drake, Benning and Talbot. Which of these players can we pin on bad coaching? Drake and Matt maybe. Kassian has looked pretty good at times but is not consistent for some reason. Talbot Seems to be a slow starter and this season really fell apart (along with the whole team) but has pulled it together for the most part.
    Anyone else have a different list?