Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

A Double McDip

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.

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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

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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

Feb 24, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) prepares to make a save on Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) in the first period at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ovechkin 87%
Kessel 74%
Crosby 71%
O’Reilly 65%
Rantanen 61%

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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.

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • rivid

    If the Oilers have Drake Caggiula on ice for any power play time, don’t except any other results from last year. Truth is this player should not be on any NHL roster and should have been in the AHL right from the start. Brutal player and if you don’t believe it just check his stats.

    • Rusty

      its funny how every coach has his Achilles heel of player that they just want to go down with the ship on. Cagguila is Todd’s Achilles heel. Todd trusts this player and no fan or pundit or blogger can figure out why.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        Because he is a “work hard model” for Todd. That’s all I can put it down to?
        See guys, if you work as hard as him, you’ll play too…
        That’s all I can figure? It doesn’t make much sense to me, but I think that’s whats happening.
        Drake does try hard, so I’ve heard.

      • Himynameistaylor

        Surprised this got 4 cheers. The general consensus around the nation is to send the 6’ 2” 200 pound and still growing offensive d-man back to a league he’s already spent three years in and dominated. Sheltered 5v5 and power play minutes wouldn’t be the worst game plan for the kid.

        But send him to a lesser league so he can be the big fish in the small pond ???

          • toprightcorner

            Funny how fans have already made a decision, either way, when he has barely played. Let’s see how he does in some regular season games. Everyone knows he will bring offense, it is the defensive game that needs to be figured out. The biggest issue the Oilers had last year was keeping the puck out of their own net. If Bouchard is a defensive liability, it makes no sense to rush him. Bouchard is NOT going to be the difference maker that gets the Oilers into the playoffs. The defensive part of the game is the hardest part to learn and even more difficult to learn in the NHL.

            If after some regular season games, he is decent defensively, then keep him, if he is not good, send him back. What is stupid is making that decision now before he has actually played against any quality NHL players.

        • Big Nuggets

          It’s great if Bouchard makes the team this year. I just want him on the team because his play is justifying him on the team. Draft pedigree and numbers from junior are not reasons to make an NHL team. Playing at an NHL level is the only reason to make it.

          • Leichs

            Its early, but to my eye he has looked better than Benning. Not throwing anyone under the bus and they only played one game each, just my opinion. Not reading too much into it, Bouchard has scored a goal in basically every game hes played since putting the Oil logo on no? From scrimmage games to rookie games to his first preseason game against the Flames. I am pumped to see a Bouchard Nurse second pairing tonight.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    TM had all sorts of weird things going on with the PK and PP and he was hell bent on sticking with the way the PK and PP were going even when they weren’t working, how long were the fans and and the media screaming for change , but there was none util the last 10 or 12 games when it was way way past the point of season over for the Oil.

    Cagguila has trouble just handling the puck, but they want him to quarterback a PP? Oh man are we in trouble if that is going to be the case. I know the ranks are thin, but asking Cagguila to QB the second PP unit is like asking for major failure. The Oilers cant afford to be behind the 8 ball, look at last season and how quick we were out of it before the season was even half over. I sure the hell hope TM has a batter plan than that or we are in some serious trouble

  • ubermiguel

    The Oilers had those power play stats and McDavid still won the Art Ross; can you imagine him with a good power play and 30% more time on each?! Maurice Richard Trophy here we come!

  • Jason Gregor

    Dustin…Caggiula was mainly the net front presence guy…similar to Lucic on the top unit. Caggiula actually produced very well on the PP last year, albeit in limited minutes, and he did it from around the net. Reider was on the side and Caggiula in front for majority of time they worked on the PP that I watched.

    • OilerForLife

      Good point Jason. After suffering a fairly bad facial injury last year, Caggiula still had 13 goals in 67 games last year tied for 5th on the Oilers behind Maroon. I’ve never understood the mentality that fans tend to find a whipping post on the team and then gang tackle him any chance they get. Ex: Justin Schultz. It actually hurts the team to do this, and will only hurt their confidence, and if the team wants to trade the player, it devalues what the team gets back in return.

  • wiseguy

    You’re all worrying too much about the 2nd unit. The TM plan is to stack the 1st unit so it scores 100% of the time within the first minute of the PP. The 2nd unit won’t be needed… ever!

  • The Future Never Comes

    Why not put Khaira out there instead of Caggiula? He is a bigger and better overall player, unless they are trying to keep his numbers lower for his next contract

  • 18% body fat

    Sorry Dusty, Connor on the left side only gives you 2 one timers. Klefbom will not be a valid option standing close to connor with connors stick and puck on the other side of him.

    But it is a creative idea.

    Caggulia and lucic on the PP baffle my mind

    Khaira – Drai
    Puljijarvi – Connor

    Strome – Reider – Nuge

    • IRONman

      Put Lucic in front of the net and piss off of goalie. Nobody wants to fight him. That’s why he is valuable. 97 and Nuge on wing. Klefbom and Bouchard on d. Nuge 97 and 29 on same line doesn’t flow. Leon has to drive second line and pp unit. Bouchard has heavy shot. Wish him all the luck in the world. Need him.

  • Spydyr

    Any coach that removes McDavid from the ice on a powerplay should be fired the next day. The only time Connor should not be on the ice on a powerplay is when he removes himself due to fatigue. This is a no brainer and even the “Oilers Braintrust” should be able to comprehend it.

    • That's My Point

      Ovechkin used to play the full 2 minute powerplay under coach Boudreau.
      McDavid should be like the QB who calls his own plays and only comes off when he wants to.

    • Does the “Oilers Braintrust” even know what fired means? Promoted , re assigned , being evaluated, forensic audit, visually better. Blah Blah Blah. Scott Howson fired, oh wait we did not actually do that, Buchberger fired, oh wait we did not do that either, Woodcroft fired, oh wait just reassigned because he is obviously awesome. If a forensic audit was ever actually done, names would not matter now, as they all would have been fired for their collective failures. They do not know the meaning of the word.

  • Rama Lama

    One has to understand TM is uber-intelligent and beyond the average hockey fan………he knows how to run a PP! Put together players that have no ability or desire to shoot, perimeter pass the puck into oblivion, pass it some more, and then leave the ice. All that matters is you skate really hard.

    I think just maybe I’m starting to figure out why his team in SJ was so successful in the playoffs!

  • Quoteright

    Putting the three best players together!!!
    Who would have thought it would take 3 years to try?
    Pool drai and kharia would seem to me to be a natural line.
    Strome lucic and reider would seem good too.

  • Redbird62

    No offense to Ovechkin, but Mario Lemieux is the greatest PP weapon in the modern era (the one area he has a clear advantage over Wayne). A whopping 701 power play points in only 915 games. No one else is in the same zipcode on this. Plus 236 of those were goals. Ovechkin has 229 goals in 1003 games and only has a total of 436 points. Ovechkin I am sure is top 5 and definitely the best in the last 20 years. The reduction in pp opportunities per game does little to diminish his gap behind Mario.

  • tkfisher

    The fact that Gregor, and pretty much every other Oilers fan on earth screamed the same thing about the power play last year (mcdavid on the right wall with all left shots), and was last place in the league, for virtually all 82 games and it was allowed to continue all year, is what makes me question TMac. That’s an obvious change, and the Oilers clearly were doing it wrong and refused to change, is not a good look. I’m not sold on a head coach that won’t step in and allows that garbage fire PP be last with the talent we have. Hopefully this year we’re in the top 10.

  • 99OilersFan

    Dustin, couldn’t agree with you more. The fact that OV, Sid, & Phil were out there more than Conner tells you all you need to know about the PP management last year. This year will be better. Hopefully for more reasons other than last year couldn’t possibly be worse…

  • Redbird62

    Hopefully the Oilers as has been discussed increase their pace of play and are able to execute at that higher pace. That presumably will lead to increased power play opportunities for at least three reasons I can think of. 1) Players that have their feet moving when checked get more calls; 2) Increased movement while the team has the puck opens more gaps and forces the defenders to make quicker decisions, thus making them more prone to mistakes like reaching out with their stick. And an aggressive forecheck can lead to more turnovers, again forcing the defenders to make more reactionary decisions. They played more up tempo two years ago and were middle of the pack for opportunities.

  • Redbird62

    I haven’t seen anyone mention Rattie on the second PP unit. The key reason he is getting a shot on the team is his offensive prowess. He appears willing to go to the net, and he has very good hands. I would consider putting him out there ahead of Caggiula.

  • toprightcorner

    Oilers had the fewest PP chances while McDavid lead the league in drawing penalties, by a large margin. That is ridiculous. They even call less against McDavid because they don’t want him drawing 4 PP’s a game. That is crap, a penalty is a penalty, McDavid should not be penalized becasue he is the best skater in the world.

  • toprightcorner

    Lets not all get carried away with Caggiula being on the 2PP. As I thought a few weeks ago and Nielson and Gregor have stated, the goal is for McDavid to play on both units as much as possible. That means you still want the other 3 forwards on the 2PP to play the same positions. If you want to have a left-handed player in the McDavid spot, there aren’t many options. Caggiula is the closest in terms of skill to fill in that spot, JJ is a better player, but he isn’t suited for half wall work and connecting on cross-ice passes, he is a net-front presence guy. Cags is there to help everyone else improve in their positioning.