WWYDW: The Blender

The Oilers had an incredibly disappointing start to their season on Saturday in Gothenburg. After flying through the pre-season, the team came out flat and got completely smothered by the Devils. It’s just one game, though, right? No need to hit the panic button, right?! It looks like Todd McLellan disagrees.

That’s right. The McBlender is out and the lines are being shuffled. Kyle Brodziak, who had a bit of a slow game against New Jersey, is out. JJ Khaira is in his fourth line centre spot and Drake Caggiula enters the lineup as the fourth winger. Jesse Puljujarvi has also been shoved down to the fourth line with Khaira and Caggiula while Tobias Reider and Zack Kassian have been bumped to play with Ryan Strome. The top-six has remained intact.

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McLellan jumbling the lines should come as a surprise to no one. He was messing with lines in the third period of the season opener, he did it all year last year, and he was notorious for doing it when he was the coach of the San Jose Sharks, as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture bounced all around the lineup and Brent Burns went back-and-forth from forward to defence.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday question. How would you handle the lines after Saturday’s disappointing showing? Do you think it’s too early for McLellan to whip out the blender?

Personally, I’m disappointed the coach is already making changes to the lineup after one game. It’s the beginning of the season and players need time to sink into their roles. After last year, Ryan Strome talked about how it was difficult to bounce around the lineup because it didn’t allow him to work his way into a niche. Now he’s in his second game and he’s already playing with a new pair of wingers.

The biggest issue here, in my opinion, is the handling of Jesse Puljujarvi. He looked excellent in the pre-season but wasn’t really a factor in the team’s first game. As a result, he’s found himself on the fourth line with a winger playing centre and Drake Caggiula, who was one of the team’s biggest offensive anchors last year.

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What say you, Nation? Is McLellan too hasty with these changes to the lineup? How long should he let players operate in their roles before making changes? How would you organize the lineup?

  • Rufio Barcoli

    The coach is out to lunch.

    Oilers will be 1-8-1 or 2-8-0 in the first 10 and then Toddy will be showed the door. His coaching is best compared to an ashtray on a motorbike.

  • IRONman

    27 29 98 was a solid line. Need a coach like Hitchcock. This team has to show up. Have intensity, where is the Pride to be a Professional. Lucic at least showed heart.

  • KootenayDan

    Taking Brodziak out was a good thing Kassian should be out too not promoted to the third line. This organization depleted itself 10 years ago and still cannot recover from a lack of depth especially on the back end. We only got 50 cents on the dollar on the Hall Trade. The tank brought a lot of bad Kharma.

  • Slats 101

    When McLellan was coach of the Sharks, they had really strong teams on paper but always underacheived, especially in the playoffs. McLellan leaves the Sharks go to the cup finals. McLellan had a team in San Jose with good veteran players, the Oilers don’t have that luxury, we have a younger team with young players in key roles. McLellan is not a very good coach and his negative impact is affecting the Oiler roster more than it did Sharks roster

    • Kr55

      He did the same thing he does here. Depends on the elite guys that don’t need any coaching to produce, top loads his lineup with them and gets nothing from anyone else. Lucky for him SJ had 5-6 of those elite players. And lucky for him last year, Talbot played out of his mind for 75 games or whatever it was and helped mask a lot of issues. Trend is the same though, he gets nothing out of depth and his systems suck. He gets destroyed in the playoffs too by being horribly out-coached.

  • Arfguy

    The biggest problem I have with those lines is that I think Leon needs speed on his wings. Unfortunately, I saw a couple of plays where Yamamoto tried to pass back to Leon, rather than take a shot. Leon needs someone who wants the puck, not someone eager to pass back to him. Jesse looks like he wants the puck and I don’t think putting him on the 4th line will help that much.

  • toprightcorner

    If Brodziak is banged up, sure, I see Kharia taking his spot, but it makes absolutely no sense to move JP off of Stromes line when for the last 2 months the team has said they like how Strome mentors and calms JP on the ice. Kassian has done absolutely nothing to move up the lineup just as JP has done nothing to deserve the demotion.

  • BlackJesus

    You can spin the forward lines all you want the biggest problem with the Oilers is the defense, the lack of anticipation and discipline.

    Since the Oilers lack depth.
    Then back to

    All they have to do is play short shifts, repeat this sequence and play the trap when Nuge-McD-Leon line isn’t out

  • ScottV

    The blender breeds even more instability into McL’s deal.

    It creates short term panic to make something happen or god knows what the next blender button will yield. The problem is that the guys lack familiarity with each other (details that take time with working synergy between them) and they tend to cheat to offense. This rarely produces any more offence, but almost assuredly leads to pucks in the wrong net.

  • Alf

    1 game could be the difference in making the dance. these are professionals. Don’t get going? Dont like who you play with see you later. Too bad it’s not like NFL contracts.

  • Jaxon

    I think they should be loading up the 2nd line.

    Nugent-Hopkins / Driasiatl / Puljujarvi – give another line the best chance to outscore the opposition

    McDavid will outscore the opposition with anyone and Rattie has shown some chemistry that I’m not sure he’d have with anyone else. Put Khaira in the Maroon spot. He has more speed than Maroon. If he can get to the front of the night and collect the garbage he might even be better.

    Khaira / McDavid / Rattie

    That leaves Strome centering a 3rd line that can saw off competition and possibly score a bit. I don’t think they’ll ever put Lucic lower than 3LW, and that might be the right play if he has some skill with him. Strome and Yamamoto have enough skill, and against slightly easier competition this might be a good spot for them.

    Lucic / Strome / Yamamoto

    That leaves Caggiula (press box please), Chiasson (solid), Brodziak (likely 4C), Kassian, and Rieder(playing below his ability but definitely able to outscore the competition here). I don’t mind Kassian at 4R, but he hasn’t been great for a while now and he costs a lot there. I’d go with:

    Rieder / Brodziak / Chiasson

    I think they’d be better off trading Caggiula and Kassian (and their $3.45M in cap hits).

    Benson and Marody should be competing for a spot by the end of the season and next fall. McLeod will join them in that regard next fall. Marody moving into Brodziak’s spot would be huge. Benson could push Rieder to the right side. Khaira might move back to 4C next season, too. Benson on LW in the top 9, McLeod in the AHL next fall, working for a callup. One of Benson or McLeod could be McDavid’s future long term LW.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I agree with some of this, but want to expand on one point. People (media) keep talking about being “smart enough to play with McDavid”… I offer the perspective that the exact opposite could be effective as well. We all know the formula from having the best player in the world once before. If Mike Krushelnyski can get 43 goals playing with Wayne, I can’t see why any half-decent player could get less than 25 playing with Connor. I’m not saying RNH isn’t awesome, but a guy like JJ Khaira might be the perfect LW for a hockey genius like Connor: 1) it frees up Nuge to elevate other players down the lineup and shore up D-zone warts; 2) JJ can flat-out fly, his hands are decent, he plays a N-S game, he is about as tough and mean as they come; 3) there will never be “too many cooks in the kitchen” if Connor’s wingers are JJ and Rattie.

      I see JJ as filling the “Maroon spot” (love that by the way) as good as anyone on the team. That being said, watching Nuge and Connor out there is like frogging poetry some nights.

  • JimmyV1965

    The line juggling after one game is a joke. A seasoned vet like Brodziak must be wondering what kinda bizarro land he ended up in, getting scratched after one game. Also, I wish people would quit with the narrative that JP was demoted to the fourth line. It’s not true. Strome was taken off his line. The coach is a moron for doing it, but JP was not demoted.

      • Beer_League_Ringer

        You’re not paying attention, or you haven’t been reading what TM has been saying.
        Let’s try this one: “There’s a number of players that are on notice… Tonight would be a good night to establish yourself in the lineup as a consistent player.” – TM (it’s a real quote for today)

        Do you think he is talking about JP? If you do, might be wrong. I think Todd is referring to Drake, Kassian, and Garrison. Why? because I have been paying attention. Any player that is in the lineup that wasn’t in game one or has been put into a position in which they *should* succeed are the ones on notice. I see one exception and that is Benning who got straight-up replaced on the 2nd pairing. I’ll admit it’s possible that TM is challenging K. Russel to play better, but I don’t think so.

      • 99CupsofCoffey

        They’ve said a few times that they want JP to be on a line without the #1 defenders against him, bring him up a bit slower, than just get his ass kicked by the big boys. Sounds fine to me, rather than just throw him to the wolves. He’s still a young guy.