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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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  • 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.

  • TruthHurts98

    And another glaring example is the Anaheim game. He’s constantly outcoached when the pressure is turned up and can’t get the proper lines on the ice to match other teams on home ice nonetheless. I don’t think he’s a horrible coach, but he’s not that good either. Not sure he stays in the NHL that long either, he can’t seem to adapt to the faster NHL. If an article is done up on the GM it’ll be even more transparent how this franchise expects all shortcomings to be covered up by Connor’s on ice brilliance. But it takes a team and coaching/management system that knows what they are doing. I hope we get that someday!

  • Kr55

    if we can find a way to get Pavelski, Marleau, Couture, Vlasic, Burns and/Dan Boyle all in their primes, we should be good enough to get to the playoffs consistently and choke as McLellan is outcoached every series. Gotta hold onto that dream as long as TMac and his band of BFF’s are coaching this team.

  • DerpSolo

    Forget the McBlender. Honestly I don’t care who Connor plays with, he does well anyway. The thing that I’m worried about is the porous pk and pp. I feel that’s a huge, if not the main reason oilers aren’t making the ploffs the year

  • 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.

  • ellebee

    McLellan uses playing with McDavid as some odd form of reward and punishement. Throughout the season wingers that have a good game appear in McDavid’s line next game.. have a bad shift or 2 on that line and back you go down to 3rd or 4th.

        • corky

          True. I guess a coach works with what he is given. And like coaches before him, he gave too much rope to certain players and not enough to others. Cough, Toby Peterson, cough.

      • The Future Never Comes

        He believes in rewarding players? So force feeding Lucic on the top line when it clearly didn’t gel for 20 games just to get him out of a 29 game goal funk at the expense of other chemistry is rewarding players? Cagiulla in the top six almost all season, when at times he looks like an ahl player is rewarding players? I could keep going but to much time.

      • Kr55

        I wonder if he is aware of the double standard everyone could plainly see with his handling of Lucic and Letestu who preformed horribly at even strength (and PK for Letestu) and were gifted top PP time for the first 50 games of the season.

  • ScottV

    I’ve long been critical of the way McL over blends the forwards.

    It’s more than just finding chemistry from an offensive standpoint. Line mates who have time to synergize / strategize with each other, will work things through to become effective both ways.

    It’s probably more the flip side of the game that suffers from over blending lines. McL wonders why there are so many GA’s? Well – It’s not just the goaltenders and d men. It’s forwards who get thrown into a line combination and they know that they better make something happen offensively in a hurry or god knows what line or press box I’ll be sitting in next.

    Short term – make something happen in a hurry? That’s a recipe for mistakes and given it up in the wrong net.

    Another issue with it – is morale. Just like many of us who have to work with others to get things done effectively. High turnover and being forced to start all over with others is just as frustrating for hockey players as it is for anyone else.

    Its just one of several issues, where McL is shooting himself in the foot with [email protected] strategy and chaotic roll the dice unreliable play. Good coaches find a way to get weighted dice into the game.

  • 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.

  • Koof

    I think Todd is a good coach with a good message, but horrible at adapting to the new NHL. If you watch games at whenever Oilers have last change Todd usually get beaten matchup wise which blows my mind. He is so concerned about the lines but fails to deploy them in appropriate times. Look at how well San Jose did and is doing after his departure. Sure load up your lines with centers ,, but keep the lines together at least. Don’t move significant pieces around every 3 games.

    And what is driving me nuts most of all, and something that I thought about last night watching the horrid pp, why are they not even trying to fix it anymore????? These are the garbage games that u should be trying to figure out a system to employ next year but instead u give up and run out lines it’s embarrassing for an NHL team. And even worse is u have everybody set up on their Roper sides so there isn’t. Single 1 time option available, which is why the Oilers look more dangerous on the pk than the pp.

    I was never one for firing another coach bit honestly it seems like the coaches have given up before the end of the season. Lots of the successful teams this year have coaches that day behind the old school guy, or are younger on their coaching path. I think they should consider finding someone with experience with younger players and feared more towards today’s NHL. I would be doing everything I could to at the very least try and hire kris knoblauch/ whoever to be new a coach and fix pp/pk and if Todd stumbles out of the gate again it’s chop chop time and give Connor his coach that he loved and won championships with, who works with young player i.e pool party, drai, yams, bear, Benson, stafin and soon to be top 10 pick (hopefully walhstrom). Look at Colorado , Boston, la, Pitts, Florida.. all doing well with new voices.

    And for those who say “Look at Toronto with Babcock, he’s old school and they are winning.” Well Babovk hold so much power over a players career that his team’s listenand follow everything he says because they know one bad comment from him and not playing under him is career death. (Also I hate him and the leafs so this sucks even more admitting how much of a superior coach he is)

  • russ99a

    Much of this is that he expects specific things from every player and many of our players can’t do those things. San Jose’s roster could, last year we sort of could, this year there’s way too many players on the roster who wouldn’t make on a top-10 team’s 18+2. So while the blender is a bit haywire, our poor roster save the top 8-10 players is the bigger issue.

  • DannyGallivan

    It was apparent the Oil were out of it pretty early on. A big part of that was the PK and PP, the lines of which have been pretty consistent – the problem there is coaching not lines.

    Chia pet shipped out some pretty good forwards over the past few years in Maroon, Hall and Ebs. The have been replaced by young, relatively inexperienced/new to the team players like Cagguila, Kaira, Pakarinen, Puljujarvi, Rattie, Slepyshev, Strome and, most recently Aberg and on D Auvitu, Benning and Bear. These players are young and new to the team. When Cemmellari is gone they will be close to the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the league. Lots of new faces. Like a rebuild within a rebuild.

    It takes time to fit the pieces together and given that the games have no meaning, I would rather have a blender to try to settle the lines now than next year. Even the experienced players like Lucic – I am not sure where he fits anymore.

  • crabman

    I think it is a little of both. I don’t think this team was constructed well enough to succeed but McLellan’s usage of players and constantly changing lines didn’t maximize the players he did have.
    More than anything it was team defence, goaltending and special teams that killed the Oilers this year. 5×5 the Oilers were competitive and the line changing didn’t sink the team but I don’t think it helped.
    I am of the newer mindset that trios aren’t as much a thing as they once were and aren’t as necessary as they used to be. I would like to see this same article comparing duos used by the Oilers and other teams. As I think allowing duos to form chemistry and swap the other winger around as needed is an effective way to shuffle a lineup based on who is playing well and how a players style will match up to any given opponent.

  • EzraElliott

    For me, McLellan’s glaring mistakes this season is not just the McBlending in 5v5, but the utter lack of rearrangement on the PP. We are producing well in 5v5, and Todd juggles the line constantly throughout the year, while we are producing nothing on the PP, and he refuses to switch things up for the first several months of the season. It seems that Todd’s philosophy may be that “if it’s broke, don’t fix it; if it isn’t broke, fix it.”

  • 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.

  • The Future Never Comes

    That room needs a new voice and a coach that gets the most of his players for every 9 out of 10 games. Todd looks confused and out of answers most nights. He is nothing but a salesman in conferences but doesn’t walk his talk.

  • lee

    Would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when McDavid and some of his mates are having a pop talking about the team and what TM is doing.
    Lucic even on the 3rd line is dragging that line down, another season like that and he will be the highest paid player in the AHL.

        • crabman

          A NMC is a no move clause. Different than a no trade clause. the no trade means you can’t trade him. the no move means you can’t trade or demote to the AHL. Lucid has a no move. No way he says sure forget my no move and send me down, a way from my family and comforts of home. Not to mention inferior facilities, trainers and riding the bus.

  • Grumpy OM

    I think TM is an average NHL coach . Like most NHL coaches , when things go south , they feel the need for change. If you listen to the standard Player answer , when asked what the team needs to do to be successful . It’s alway “stick with the game plan “!!!
    Well when the coach is consistently chancing his line combinations , is that sticking with the game plan ? I think not , I played hockey for years and when you get line mates that you click with , you play better . Some times you didn’t always click , but your line wasn’t pulled apart right away , and you worked through things and more often than not they would click again .

    As far as the Oil’s special teams performance this year , it is my believe that they are over coached . I mean come on , do you really have to tell Conner , Leon or Nuge how to score goals !! Open the door and let them be creative . These 3 should be your Power Play coaches !!!!

    It has been rumoured that Joel Q from Chicago might be looking for a job . If that becomes true , if I where the Oilers brass I would be quick to jump and offer him the coaching job . There is a guy that now knows how to coach star player and get them the right support cast around them !!!

    GO JETS GO

  • 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.

  • Simba99

    Maybe just maybe Mclellan isn’t the coach he fluked it off last year but this year teams knew how to prepare for them and he just couldn’t adapt.and that’s his problem he wasn’t a team builder in San Jose he was handed one full of veterans and he won’t be one in Edmonton cause there are just to many young kids that need to be taugh and he and his coaching staff aren’t teachers as you can see by there power play and pk

  • Heschultzhescores

    TMac is the kind of juggler who should stay at home and practice, his juggling act is not ready for public display, as we can clearly see. Nobody wants to watch a “one ball” juggle, and that’s what he has done with CMcD

  • 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.