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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.

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.

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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Im just glad he put a lock button on the top-6 for a change, I’ll put $20 down betting that Todd had the itch of putting Caggiula on Draisaitl’s line. I like that Russell is with Nurse and Garrison is with Benning, those two young guys together was a disaster waiting to happen(and it did happen). Ffs though what does Todd have against Poolparty?? He’s crushing my damn soul my putting him on the 4th line

  • Svart kaffe

    McLellan is about two bad periods away from hooking up Draisaitl and McDavid again.

    I supported him last season but seeing them come out looking exactly the same and McLellan already out of tricks makes me lose confidence in him.

  • Last game, the following players were on the negative side defensively (shots against over for):
    2nd pair: Nurse, Benning <– utterly brutal
    2nd line: Lucic, Draisaitl
    3rd line: Khaira
    4th line: Rieder, Brodziak, Kassian <– very bad

    Shouldn't Bouchard be playing over Benning now up until 9 games?

  • Mitchvar9412

    I would tell McLellan to get a clue and stop burying our actually talented wingers. My lines would be
    Nuge – McDavid – Rattie
    Lucic – Leon – Yamo
    Reider – Strome – JP
    Khaira – Brodziak – Kassian

    Lets stop playing JP with unoffensive players, and untalented players, ruining his talent, and play him in a top nine role. If lucic goes on another slump or this doesnt work for about a month, maybe substituting Chaisson and Cagguila in on the fourth line, Then I’d move Lucic to line three, yamo to the left wing and JP to the RW along draisaitl and yamo. But putting Kassian and Reider on the third line over JP is a slap in the face. and if anyone is sat because of their play from saturday it should be benning. Bring back bear because he actually deserves to be here the way he played in the pre-season.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    For the love of christ, when Staples mentioned in his Journal article, that TM was considering blendering the lines and yes even the top line FFS ) it was like seriously? Does he expect guys to gel in one game? I have no problem with guys moving down the line up if they arent performing but some of these are head scratchers, I have yet to see where Benning, Cagguila, Strome and Kassian have done anything worthy of staying in the lineup, send em to the pressbox, especially Benning. Bear should play in Benning’s spot, Chaisson should be playing in the Boston game. TM has a weird habit of staying with guys even when they are not performing, Puljujärvi had a great preseason way better than Kassian and he’s on the 4th line? Yeah that will boost the kids confidence. TM’s line combos other than the 1st make me wonder if he knows what managing his players is about

  • Serious Gord

    The blender is TMC’s biggest flaw.

    How long Before he demotes rnh and moves draisaitl up?

    We have a brittle team chemistry already. Constantly messing with lines – literally giving lines only a few minutes of playing time to gel – is incompetence and sends the message that the coach has no faith in players.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Div 13 superstar

    McLellen is under the gun. He can’t watch a game like that and do nothing. He needs wins, and I expect anybody not named McDavid is going to have a very short leash. I do hate to see Pulujarvi on the fourth line. Pretty hard to put him in a position to be successful from there. And I don’t remember seeing anything from Kassian to suggest he deserves to play up the lineup.

    • Why, he watched about 60 last year and in true Oiler fashion held no one accountable except Jesse. Fourth line plug, thats why we drafted him (NOT)
      Apparently the last game was his fault too. PVRd the first game, wont even waste the digital space this time. #FIRETHEMALL

    • Odanada

      My Jesse story.
      On St Patrick’s day, 2018, myself, my father-in-law and my 10 year old son went to the Panther/Oiler game in FLA.
      My son had made a sign reading: “Can I please have a puck”. Puljujarvi came over to the glass and from my perch in the stands, I could see him reading the sign. He grabbed a puck and tossed it over the glass. I got a great picture of Jesse looking up as the puck went over the glass, my son looking up to catch it. Just at that moment a bigger kid elbowed my son in the gut and grabbed the puck. My son told him “a real Oiler fan wouldn’t have done that” and the kid told him to F.O. If I had been closer I’m sure I’d still be in a Florida jail.
      Anyways, we blew the picture up to 8 x 10, packed it with a SASE and mailed it off with a nice, polite letter. Last Friday my son opened up the envelope and was so happy that he screamed. His autographed photo is now hanging above his bed and Jesse has made a couple of fans for life.
      Todd McLellen? I feel like elbowing him in the gut and telling him to F.O.
      Thank you Jesse, you made my son very happy.

    • 99CupsofCoffey

      @The Future – i agree. A fast 1st line and a tough talented 2nd line. But even if he started the game this way, there’s no way it’d last long even if it was 0-0 after 1.

      • That's My Point

        The first shot usually goes in the net so the Oilers are down before they start playing EVERY GAME!!!!
        Need the ENTIRE team to be FAST, the is the NH f’n L.

        • 99CupsofCoffey

          Just how do you suggest we pay for these players to have a team full of the fast ones? If i recall, Management has overpaid more than a few of our current slow ones.

  • OilCan2

    I’m OK with the D shuffle. Not so much the forwards. Run McDavid as the fourth line center between JJ & JP every now and again after the commercial time outs.

    • Beer_League_Ringer

      I love the idea of sneaking McDavid in for a 3/4 line shift. Slats used to do that with Gretz all the time, especially when he was very young.

  • Bills Bills

    No issue except with JP. His game wasn’t that bad in Sweden. As for Brodziak out and Cags in, not a huge difference to me. Bouchard being moved for Garrison is a good move. They don’t need him getting lit up but the whole defence sucked in game one, step up.

  • Jerri Kurli

    I’m not sure why JP is demoted. I thought he was creating more offensive opportunities than anyone else in the bottom 6. I can see why Brodziak is out. I can also see why Bouchard comes out. He doesn’t need to be thrown to the wolves for 9 straight games. Practising with the pros and learning through drawing in and out is better for player development. Gives management a chance to see what’s going to be the best direction on the backend. If this backend is incompetent I’m sure a trade will be made to strengthen it. Moving Russel up was the best option we had, as Benning was our worst defenseman in the first game. If changes need to be made. Now is the time to make adjustments

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.