One of the main reasons the Oilers struggled last season was because their power play was essentially a power outage.
Let’s start with issue number one, a lack of opportunity. The Oilers drew the fewest penalties in the league last season going on the man advantage just 210 times. In fact, the Oilers 210 power play opportunities were the lowest total in the league over the past five seasons. They had 86 fewer chances than the league-leading Colorado Avalanche. Why did they draw the fewest penalties? The easy, and only, answer is that referees hold grudges and don’t know how to properly handle the hooking and holding McDavid deals with every single time he’s on the ice.
Problem number two was when they actually got an opportunity they pissed it away. I mean I’ve seen power-plays suck before but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked….on the power-play. The Oilers finished dead last in the league executing on just 14.8% of their chances. I went back ten years and no other team over that stretch finished at the bottom of the league in both power play opportunities and efficiency. It was a perfect storm of special teams futility.
So far in training camp, with a new assistant coaching staff on board, it appears as though the team will be loading up the top unit. It looks like PP1 to start the season will look like this.
McDavid – Draisaitl – Nuge
I was yelling at the top of my lungs on AM Radio last season to move McDavid to the left side. Having him on the left opens up one-timers to Klefbom, Draisaitl and even Nugent-Hopkins on the far side of the ice if the opportunity arises. With McDavid’s passing ability and multiple one-time weapons now at his disposal the top unit should instantly be better.
With the team loading up the top unit the second group can be described as questionable at best.
Puljujarvi – Strome – Caggiula
The most questionable part being Drake Caggiula in what looks be a distributor role on the right wall. I’ve been thinking about this group for a couple of days now and I just can’t believe that an NHL coaching staff is going to put a power-play in the hands of Caggiula.
Lucky for you I have figured out exactly what is happening here, MORE CONNOR MCDAVID. This second unit will have three right-handed shots set up in one-timer positions and who better to find them than the best passer in the league.
Now I’m not saying play McDavid the full two minutes on every single power-play, I am saying when you have the opportunity to make it happen, DO IT!
If McDavid’s line is on the ice when a penalty is drawn it may be difficult to have him on the ice for what would essentially be three consecutive shifts. Outside of that situation, I’d run him hard.
The top five forwards in power-play time on ice last season were Ovechkin, Kessel, Rantanen, Crosby and O’Reilly. Rantanen found himself in the top five simply because the Avalanche had the most power play minutes in the league so let’s break these five players down by percentage of PP time on ice.
Percentage of team PP TOI
McDavid was on the ice for 243 of the Oilers 365 power play minutes last season, if you do the math that’s 66% of the time. I think it’s time he starts getting the full super-star treatment A.K.A. “stay out there as long as you damn well please”.
Alexander Ovechkin is arguably the best power-play weapon in the history of hockey and the Capitals know how to make the most of it. McDavid, for different reasons, could also go down as one of the best ever to play on the PP and it’s time for the Oilers to start utilizing him that way.
That looks a hell of a lot better than the option with Caggiula on the right side. If the Oilers can get McDavid on the ice for 75% of their power play time this season everything will be fine. McDavid finished with 20 power play points last year, I’d expect him to almost double that number in 18-19 which would go a long way in his push to a 120-point campaign. It’s time for Todd McLellan to allow McDavid to call the shots on the power play, because that’s what superstars do.