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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s the Trigger Man?

Let’s just cut to the chase. The Oilers power-play suck last season. I mean I’ve seen power-plays suck before but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked. When you have access to the best player in the world and finish with a power-play efficiency of 14.8% you should be embarrassed.

Peter Chiarelli started to address this when he cleaned out the assistant coaching staff but will a couple of new voices in the coach’s office automatically improve the PP?

The issue facing Todd McLellan and his new look staff is that they are still working with the same weapons they had at the end of last season.

WHAT WE KNOW FOR SURE

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

I know McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins look to be a dynamic duo at even strength but I’d still be shocked if 97 isn’t once again lined up with Draisaitl on the man advantage.

How ineffective was the Oilers top unit last year? Well, here’s a little bit of a wake-up call. Connor McDavid finished with 20 power-play points, Jeff Petry had 23. The Oilers captain finished 69th in the league in points on the man advantage. The only other Oiler to finish in the top 200 was Draisaitl with 11 points.

In 2016-17, McDavid and Draisaitl each had 27 points and Lucic was right behind them with 25.

The only thing I’d be willing to bet on right now is that McDavid and Draisaitl are once again patrolling the top unit.

WHAT WE THINK IS LIKELY

I think it’s only fair that a healthy Oscar Klefbom gets the first crack on the point with the top unit. Two years ago Klefbom had 16 points power-play points in 82 games. Despite playing only 66 games this past season Klefbom still had the most points among Oilers d-men with six.

Even though he struggled last year Lucic still ended up with the third most power-play time among forwards at 169 minutes. He finished the year with just 7 points, a far cry from the 25 he posted in 16-17.

Unless the Oilers new staff decides to go with an entirely new look I think it’s safe to assume that Lucic and Klefbom will join 97 & 29 on the top unit.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan on his bench against the Calgary Flamesduring the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Even though he was traded at the deadline Mark Letestu still finished with the 6th most power-play minutes on the Oilers last season. No matter what the Oilers new PP strategy may look like you have to think they need at least one right shot option on the ice. So who is it?

RYAN STROME

2017-18 PP Goals Per 60: 0.78

Strome did see some time on the top unit after Letestu was traded and while he didn’t produce at a great clip I didn’t think he looked completely out of place. With Nugent-Hopkins as the centre on your second unit, it opens up Strome to be used in the top group. I wonder if some early season confidence on the power-play would help Strome get going at even strength on the 3rd line.

TY RATTIE

2017-18 PP Goals Per 60: 0.00

Rattie had 21 minutes of power-play time when he joined the Oilers at the end of the season but wasn’t able to find the back of the net. The silver lining for Rattie is that he did manage to put up a team best 19.34 shots per 60 on the PP. If he makes the team out of camp and is starting on McDavid’s wing it may make sense for him to stay out there on the PP as well.

JESSE PULJUJARVI

2017-18 PP Goals Per 60: 2.78

It was in limited action but statistically, Puljujarvi was the most effective right shot on the PP. I would definitely give him a look on the top unit in the pre-season but I’m not sure the coaching staff will be thinking the same way. Last season Puljujarvi played 4:58 on the same PP as McDavid. Yamamoto was only in Edmonton for 9 games and he even played six more minutes with McDavid than JP. Hell, even Pontus Aberg got more time with the captain.

WHAT I WOULD DO

I’ve mentioned this multiple times on my show and I’ll double down on it here at the Nation. With a serious lack of right shot options, I’d shift McDavid over to the left side. You could play McDavid on the left and open up one-timers to Klefbom at the point or Draisaitl in the middle/far side. After icing the worst PP in the league last year why not try this? If you aren’t following along with what I’m trying to say, here is a handing little drawing to explain it.

You’re welcome, Todd McLellan. You’re welcome.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Here would be my PP units going into next season.

    Nuge-McDavid-JP
    Klefbom-Nurse

    Lucic-Draisitl-Rattie
    Sekera-Bouchard/Benning

    Having JP on the top unit will give him confidence, and allow him to rack up some “easy” points. With McDavid and Nuge on that line, the first PP unit should be attack with speed. Get in the the O-zone fast, establish a cycle and work off that. As for the D, the Oilers need to stop following the “norm”. If you’re going to do things differently, then do things differently. Having Nurse and Klefbom on the blue line will help give us some offensive weapons from that spot.

    The 2nd unit’s job should be sustained, “heavy” cycling of the puck. Lucic and Draisitl can play that style, so they should be working together. Rattie gives them a right shot who can use his speed to create havoc in puck battles. Sekera is a good puck moving guy on the PP and having Bouchard on that 2nd unit will shelter him, as well as allow him to share the blue line responsibilities with someone else. Once he goes back to London, Benning can take his place.

    I’m sure Viveiros has other ideas in mind, which is great, but as an armchair coach, this is my strategy.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Why not put 97 in Gretzkys old office behind the net? Obviously he’d be moving around but it would get the defence turned around looking at McDavid more than the players in front.

    97(behind the net)
    18(in front of net)
    98 93
    77/25

    Can switch RNH and JP but I’m thinking keep the sticks in the middle for one timers. Drai can be the set up man on the 2nd pp to whoever but I’d keep Drai and McDavid away from each other because teams figured out how to contain both of them this last season on the pp.

    Plus if Todd doesn’t staple Lucics stick to the ice in front on the 2nd pp, he shouldn’t be on the pp at all.

    • Randaman

      Exactly. If #29 needs #97 all the time and can’t drive the second line or second PP unit, trade him! 8.5M says he should be able to do this on his own. Put them back together occasionally when you really need a quick strike.

      • Redbird62

        Draisaitl needs to drive the second line at even strength, but if McDavid and he can be at least as effective a pp unit as they were in 2016-17, I have no issues with him on the first PP unit. Crosby, Malkin and Kessel are always Pittsburgh’s first unit when healthy even though Crosby and Malkin are almost never on the ice together at evens. The 2017-18 Penguins PP was the most efficient in the league since 1990 for an 82 game schedule.

        • FutureGM

          Agree with both of you to some extent. Drai, Conz and RNH are the left hand setup guy on the boards. 2 of them on PP1, one on PP2
          JP, Yamo, Strome, Rattie on the far side, whomever can develop the best one-time threat/move the puck with the setup guy and point man the best gets PP1. 2nd best gets 2nd unit.
          Oh, and because coach couldnt figure it out last year. Put the tank named Lucic in front of the net. None of this side of the net, use your hands BS, Luc is better to bang in rebounds than make a play on the goal line. Challenge goalies to see and players to move him

  • OffTheNever

    Please show me proof of JP consistently being a trigger man at the pro-level. I haven’t seen it. What statistic are you speaking off?
    The best trigger man this team has is Leon. He does more one-timers than anyone else.
    Load up on the first unit PP
    Nuge-McD-Leon
    Klefbom-Lucic( the plug that will stand in front of the net)

    • FutureGM

      If not given a chance at the pro level, tough to prove it. I do recall him drifting to the OV spot on a 3 on 2 and burying with authority, a goal that had PP written all over it.
      Leon has a great shot, and one timer. I think Nuge’s is underrated as well. Both lefties tho, with Conz. Any PP will be better off with a RHS on their offwing across from the setup guy. Makes distributing the puck faster and opens up a one-time option. If Mark Letestu (love the guy) proved anything, it is that a serviceable RHS with our stars can work well. Id love to see what a great RHS could do there

    • ScottyPrime

      That’s a great idea, except that either Nuge or Draisaitl will be “one timing” backhanded in this set up. 97, 29, and 93 are all left-shooting, so you really can’t have any of them as the shooter on the right side, because they’re on their backhand. Hence why we had to go with Letestu there the last few years, and why we need one of our few righties like PJ, Strome, Yamomoto, Rattie, etc. to be there on our units now.

      • OffTheNever

        So what if Leon is a left shot, that sets him up perfectly for a one-timer on the RW also he played last season on McD RW.
        “One- timing it backhand”? You’re joking right.
        Letestu was a right shot one-timing it on the left side the year oilers made playoffs.

  • Consultant

    I’d go with McDavid, Draisaitl, Lucic in front, Klefbom and then Bear or Bouchard. Get a right shot dman out there that can bomb it. I also want to see McDavid be the quote on quote trigger man, he has a great shot, I saw him over look for the pass too many times last year, rip it and let the others jump on rebounds.

  • Tonya Harding Compete Level

    Larsson had some success offensively at WHC, as a right shot why can’t he play with Klef on the first PP? Would leave Nurse and one of Benning/Bear/Bouchard/Sekera as the second PP D pair.

    Also more PP time for JP for sure, preferably in the first unit. He has power/speed in his shot and is excellent on rebounds and open ice puck battles with his big frame.

  • TKB2677

    I would have the following but I am just listing the guys on the unit, not where they play.

    First Unit: McDavid, Leon, Lucic, JP, Bouchard (if he is on the team) or Klefbom.
    You need a net front guy so that is why Lucic is there. His job should be only to stand in front, screen the goalie, tip and get rebounds. He shouldn’t move from the front of the net. You basically force the other team to have a guy on him making more space. I put Leon back in the bumper spot he had in 16-17. JP as a one timer and if Bouchard is here, have him on the point as another right shot.

    Second Unit: Nuge, Rieder, Strome, Khaira, Klefbom or Benning.

    Khaira is doing what Lucic does. Stand in front of the net, don’t move much. Strome is the one timer option. Hopefully his eye work will help him. Rieder in the bumper spot. If Bouchard is here, then Klefbom. If not it’s Benning.

    • TKB2677

      A sleeper for me and it was mentioned by others. Larsson. With your 3 best set up men – McDavid, Leon, Nuge, all being lefties, having right shots is available. While having a bomb, right shot guy would be great, the point man just needs to have a good, hard, low shot that actually gets through. I avoid putting Sekera out there just because he struggles getting the puck through. You don’t need to score, just get it on net with traffic. It will either get tipped or the goalie will spit out a rebound if its low.

  • camdog

    The Oilers have a top 10 goal scorer on this team, rather than spending the entire powerplay trying to set somebody else up, maybe the Oilers should develop a system where he gets more high quality chances. RnH can quarterback the first unit.

  • Rock11

    The problem with the Nielson set up is a simple one. Look at all those arrows and the one you don’t see is an arrow directed at the net. Setting up on that side of the ice makes Mcdavid shooting much more difficult. This reduces the danger level of the primary puck carrier and allows the opposition to back off and cover the pass options. There is a reason that every power play in the league sets up with a left shot distributor on the right half wall. Losing the shot option for 97 seems like a backwards step for the PP not a forward one.
    As for the crowd that things JP shouldn’t be on the PP1 my question is what exactly do you have to lose. Are we afraid that 14.8% might go down. Maybe it works maybe it doesn’t but there is a chance that he helps boost the pp1 which would in turn boost his confidence(which appears to be a problem for this player) and may get even more 5×5 production from him. Win-win. If it doesn’t work it certainly can’t be worse than last year.

  • Vanoil

    Assuming McD and Drai are on different 5v5 lines (an Lucic likely on yet another) that means you don’t have a line to comeon after the power play expires — unless you are double-shifting one of the above. I doubt any coach accedes to that suggestion.

    • Redbird62

      Crosby, Malkin and Kessel have often been on 3 different lines, but play the power play together. These guys are usually on the first unit, so if the PP doesn’t score at all, one or all of them have been on the bench for the last half of the PP and are ready to go. If they do score, but say after a full minute on the PP, you can either go with the 4th unit, or do some line juggling. If the power play is excelling, the other issues can be worked around.

  • socaldave

    I’d be a little leery of 97 on the left. When get gets the puck on the half wall, by default half the ice is cut off. That said, if there’s one guy where it won’t make any difference whatsoever……..

  • CMG30

    RNH has spent years proving that he’s a wizard when he runs the PP. I would move LD up with McDavid and let RNH handle the 2nd unit PP.

    On the blueline, having a healthy Klefbom will be major. He’s got an underrated shot that we didn’t get to see last year since he was forced to play through that nagging shoulder injury almost the whole season since the rest of the corps was even more banged up.

    Bouchard is someone I am very curious to see on the PP. On paper he appears to be the guy they’re missing, hard accurate shot that makes it to the net and great passer. That being said, the NHL is a major step up from the OHL and if he needs more time then I’m perfectly fine with that.

  • McDaddy1997

    My line combos assuming we rush Bouchard. If he doesn’t make the team replace him with Benning on PP2.

    Todd needs to keep lucic away from the top 6, the play dies on his stick WAY too much.

    Nuge – McDavid – Rattie
    Khaira – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Strome – Reider
    Aberg – Brodziak – Kassian
    Caggiula

    Klefbom – Larsson
    Nurse – Benning
    Sekera – Russell
    Gravel / Bouchard

    Talbot
    Koskinen

    PP1:
    Lucic
    Rattie – Draisaitl – McDavid
    Klefbom

    PP2:
    Khaira
    Puljujarvi – Strome – RNH
    Bouchard

  • Bond

    There are some great ideas floating on here and all I can say is let’s NOT DO what we did last year. Lucic scored one goal in 48 games so unless he earns PP time with stellar 5×5 play no PP time for him whatsoever!!! Khaira, Kassian or Joey Moss could do a better job than he did….

  • daryl

    Todd really needs to pull his head out of his ass it took him 3 years to put RNH on Conner’s line and hopefully this year he will realize he is ruining JP the kid does not look out of place except when he plays with Conner but this will go away if he is Leon’s RH man. He would get 2nd power play minutes and score 50 points this season if Todd does his job. If not adios!

  • Arfguy

    I would do:

    1st PP unit
    McDavid-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi-Lucic-Klefbom

    2nd PP unit:
    RNH-Rieder-Rattie-Strome-Nurse

    I would actually place Lucic and Strome in front of the net, for both unit. I would switch out where Nielsen placed McDavid to the otherside. I would want a potential one-timer option on the left from Puljujarvi and Rattie and Draisaitl and Rieder from the right.

    I also agree with whoever said that maybe we should try and use Larsson in a few PP situation, since he does have a pretty good shot.