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Three Questions: Secondary scoring, healthy scratches, and the power play

It’s Monday, the Oilers have been off for a couple of days before heading to Winnipeg to finish up their road trip, and I have some questions that need answers. This week, I’m thinking about when some secondary scoring is going to show up, how long Matt Benning and Zack Kassian will be staying in the press box, and what to do with the power play. Are there answers to these questions? Let’s explore it together.

WILL THE REAL SECOND LINE PLEASE STAND UP

At some point, someone other than Connor McDavid (or his linemates) will have to contribute offensively and I would really like to know when that will be. In the three games played so far, the Oilers have scored fives goals total and McDavid has either scored or assisted on all of them. Now, I know Connor plays this game like some kind of hockey-god robot, but he can’t be expected to do it all by himself. If the Oilers are going turn Saturday’s win into something more than a one and done, other lines have to contribute on the scoresheet and they need to start tomorrow night.

I know Todd McLellan said that he wants to keep the lines consistent as much as possible, the players requested more consistency with their linemates in their season-ending interviews, but there also comes a point when you have to try and get some people going. The problem, of course, is what do you do to try and make that happen? Personally, I wouldn’t touch the first line ever, they’re the only ones that are scoring right now so I’m not sure why would you mess with it, but the second and third lines will eventually need fresh looks. Do you change the look of the second and third lines three games in? Do you give them more time?

With only one RW having a point this season (Ty Rattie btw), I want to know how long McLellan will wait before re-arranging that right side? Does Jesse Puljujarvi shave those sideburns, giving himself an opportunity to move into the top six? Does Kailer Yamamoto get a chance to move up? Would he move down?

WILL BENNING AND KASSIAN STAY IN THE PRESSBOX

Both Matt Benning and Zack Kassian had tough outings against the Bruins on Thursday night, and that landed both of them in the press box for Saturday’s matinee against the Rangers. Considering the Oilers won that game, it’s fair to wonder whether or not Todd McLellan will roll with the same lineup and you can definitely make the argument that he should. Does that win mean Kassian and Benning stay in popcorn country? Do they get back in on an extremely short leash?

In the two games he’s played, Matt Benning has averaged 19:01 worth of ice time and to say that they’ve been eventful would be an understatement. Benning has clearly struggled on the second pairing and has been on the wrong side of some costly mistakes, but how long will McLellan let him watch from upstairs? The Oilers signing the defenceman to a fresh contract this past summer to it seems safe to suggest that he’s in the long-term plans. Is one game out of the lineup enough of a message? As for Kassian, he’s been more or less invisible for a while now and that’s a real concern for a guy making the kind of cake he does on a team that desperately needs cap space. Does he stay out on Tuesday night as well?

What happened to the guy that ruined the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs two years ago? Will the current version of Kassian get back in for the game against the Jets on Tuesday? How about Benning? Is one game in the press box enough, or do they keep Garrison in as a steady partner for Bouchard?

HOW WILL THEY REFINE THE POWER PLAY

Through three games, the Oilers five-lefty power play unit has gone 2/10 which isn’t by any means horrible but definitely with room to improve. Considering McLellan has given 90% of the power play time to his first unit, those five guys have to be running like a well-oiled machine to make sure they’re converting at a higher level. So what do I see? I thought you’d never ask. For me, the Oilers are still far too stationary and that makes it a lot easier for the opposition to predict what’s happening — they can just sit in their box formation and wait. There’s still a lot of perimeter passing going on and not enough attacking the net with shots and rebound attempts, at least by my eye. I don’t know why the Oilers think power play goals have to be pretty but I want the boys to get out there and get greasy. And as Gregor and Nielson have both said, I’d also love to see McDavid setting up on the left side hash marks instead of the right on the power play. If they flipped McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins, Connor could set up on his strong-side wing, opening himself to a few different options with the puck.

If moved, McDavid could obviously still distribute the puck like normal from the left side, Nuge would be shuffled over to his off-wing and now in a better spot for a one-time shot, but he would also have an easier lane to the goal line/net with the added option of shooting in close from his strong side. To me, the left side makes perfect sense for Connor as it gives him more opportunities to create offence. Another thing I would want to try is to pull Lucic off the first unit and replace him with Draisaitl as the net-front presence. Draisaitl has similar size, better hands in tight, and having him there would allow McLellan to keep the three Cs on the first unit while also sliding in an offensive guy like Bouchard onto the point without having all the defensive responsibilities of being the only d-man out there. I’m not saying to gift Bouchard minutes, but it does make sense to put him in more spots where his offensive prowess can be utilized.

Though going 20% on the man advantage to start the season is certainly decent, some adjustments need to made to make sure that the power play is a lethal option for this team, especially if the plan is to run the first unit for most of the two minutes. If the opponents are going to continue to hack and slash and hold McDavid then the PP needs to make sure to shame fools for their cheating ways. Can that happen with the current configuration and deployment?

***UPDATE**** Oilers have changed up first unit

Nevermind…

What’s been on your mind? Let me know in the comments section.

  • Rufio Barcoli

    You change the look of all 4 lines.
    Take RNH off of McDavid’s wing.
    Take Yamamoto off of Draisailt’s wing.

    RNH needs to be a 3d line center and drive his own line. As a former 1st overall pick, who has been in a league for a while, he should be able to and demanded to drive his own line.

    Yamamoto hasn’t shown anything last season’s 9 games nor anything this far to be in the NHL. The kid needs seasoning and it is a absolute joke of coaching to have him slotted before Puljujarvi.

    The lines so far are not working and they won’t, but Toddy will keep trying to fit circles into squares.

    The team needs a coach that is up to date and has some fresh ideas.

    Yamamoto, Benning and a pick need to be packaged for a defensive upgrade.

    • Kepler62c

      I think Yamamoto needs some time in the AHL, he’s done nothing so far. Maybe give him a few more games but nothing wrong with having to develop a bit against weaker competition in the minors. Put Reider with Drai. Call up Malone, sign Upshall, or claim Dano on waivers.

      RNH – McDavid – Rattie
      Lucic – Drai – Reider
      Khaira – Strome – Puljujarvi
      Caggiula/Chiasson – Brodziak – Kassian
      14th F

      • n(Ice)

        Leave first line alone, but do something about the second. The problem isn’t Yamo, he drove his own line with Caggiula and Khaira in the final pre-season game (against the “real” Winnipeg), and they generated healthy offense. No idea what’s wrong with Drai, but don’t “reward” him by putting him on McD’s wing. Lucic is no longer a top six player, period.

  • OTOF2

    There is no easy answer when a third of the roster should be in the AHL. There is no competition. How can anyone on the right side push anyone when collectively they have done nothing at this level? Complete joke considering 10 years of high draft picks. Thanks mgmt.

  • Nuge is our second best center, he just more defensively minded because of the teams he has played on since he has been drafted. Leon has to get closer to the player he was two years ago. Because of the cap nightmare we are in playing Nuge with Conner there’s no way we can afford Nuge in a couple of years. The brass is running this team like their jobs are on the line.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Back on the ledge:

    Ryan Rishaug

    Verified account

    @TSNRyanRishaug
    33s34 seconds ago
    More
    Clarification on earlier tweet. McLellan says they weren’t working on their own PP, they were simulating Winnipeg’s PP, and that’s why there was a different look with Rattie

    • 18% body fat

      Rattie ————————————— Drai

      Puljuarvi ———————————- Connor

      ————————–Bouchard

      x
      x
      x
      x
      x

      Yamo ——————————- Reider

      Strome ——————————— Nuge

      ———————-Klefbom

    • 18% body fat

      Skilled Lefties passing to righties and visa versa

      Good hands down low for rebounds, if the pass is across to the left side the down low righty crashes the net for tips and rebounds, if it is anticipated from the point than the down low head in for screens and tips.

      With Lucic standing infront of the net he is basically not mobile. So now we have a 4 on 4 situation with no one time shooting threat to use the screen.

      So dumb.

      5 guys who can move the puck and shoot, with the agility to move around is a lot great of a threat, and more important than lucics stats or the optics around him

        • Corbs

          Your lines are junk. The PP is at 20%. An extra goal here and there and we will be a top 5 PP. Doesn’t matter which way guys shoot if they set up properly. I’d switch McDavid to the left wall and not change anything else.

        • Corbs

          Also, I like 98 and 75 but they have done nothing to deserve more ice time or to prove that they can help us win games or score goals. Complain all day about Lucic but he’s been our second best player so far this year.

  • TKB2677

    Here is my lines.
    First I would send Yamamoto down. I think he will be a player but he’s a first time pro and while small guys CAN play but at 153 lbs, he needs time in the AHL to develop and get used to playing against MEN.

    I would go as follows for lines:
    McDavid will score no matter who is on his wing.
    Lucic – McDavid – Rattie
    Nuge – Drai – Puljujarvi
    Khaira – Strome – Rieder
    Caggulia – Brodziak – Chiasson.

    I would try to trade Kassian, get whatever you can. He hasn’t been good but the biggest reason, you can’t be playing a 4th line winger 1.95 mill. He just makes too much for what he produces and he’s not a good enough PK guy.

  • Orridol

    Let’s face it. A good coach develops a system with the available players’ strength and weaknesses in mind. If cutting 40 goals against is what will make our team more successful, the mandate is to improve/redefining the defensive system. This is more a question of team play, and not limitation of a defenceman, or a couple of forwards. T.Nelson’s philosophy of fitting system to players as always been more successful than Eakin’s fit players to my system. Why was Clare Drake so successful as a coach—and in different sports?

  • Van isl Oiler

    You guys can arrange the players/lines anyway you like…it’s futile. The squad that Chia Pet has assembled simply isn’t good enough. Even if Scotty Bowman himself were coaching this group it wouldn’t matter. So stop debating how to arrange the funiture while the house is burning down. The Oilers need a competent GM and they one now. Not when the season is over….NOW! Don’t know who that person would be, but they need them now. Chiarelli is gonna end up making a desperation trade and that’s gonna be bad. They need a new guy in there to start evaluating this team/situation and start righting the ship asap. We all know what the real problem, so lets fix it.

  • Die Hard Oiler Fan

    I remain baffled by Todd M’s useage (or lack thereof) of Puljujarvi.

    From the games I watch, and the post-game blogs on Oilers.com, all to often it seems that Puljujarvi will have a few good shifts, maybe get 30 seconds on the 2nd line, and then BAM, right back to the third line, or even worse, stapled to the bench. Powerplay time ?? Forget it, even though he’s the only one apart from Bouchard that has a slap shot (one-timer)… after all he doesn’t shoot left (heavy sarcasm intended here).

    I’ve read articles that Strome is mentoring J.P. Hope this is in fact true. Say what you like about Strome, but he understands the game (has hockey IQ). Besides, it took the Oilers coaching/management more than 2 years to even realize that J.P. needed asistance with english. Pretty pathetic….would have thought that such a valuable asset as a #4 overall pick, would warrant more support.

    I don’t dispute that J.P. has a lot of work to do yet to meet his full potential. That said, either Todd and the coaching staff are …

    1) Putting the onus on Jesse to drive line #3 (at only 10-11 minutes per game)……a.k.a. the “show us you deserve to play in the top six/power play time/more ice time” approach. Awefully tough to do if you ask me.

    2) Really wanting to see what Yamamoto can do on second line in order to determine if he stays with the Oil or goes to Bakersfield for further development. I like the fact that he’s got some big bodies in Drasaitl and Lucic on his line, but they’ve looked aweful so far. This also begs the question why Yamamoto doesn’t have to prove he deserves top 6 minutes. For the record, unless we see a considerable offensive contribution from Yamamoto in the next 5-6 games, I’m in the camp that says “send him to Bakersfield for further development”. Not sure if this would give J.P. more time at RW2, but I would like to think so.

    3) This thought scares me. J.P. ‘s entry level contract is up after this year. I’m guessing that a bridge deal would be what is right for both sides. My point is that banishing J.P. to the bottom six, and giving him no PP time should be enough to eliminate pretty well any hope of a significant uptick to his offensive #s in 2018/19, and result in a much lower # ($$) in terms of that new contract discussion. Recall, we are at the max. in terms of salary cap, and despite the fact the cap is expected to continue upwards, it is very safe to assume that Darnel Nurse will be wanting significantly more than his approx. $3.2 million when his contract comes due two years down the road (if Darnell continues to develop and warrants for 5-6 million per season, that alone chews up almost one year of salary cap increases). I realize that there may be a few other things that could bail the Oilers out (i.e. Sekera effectively retires and stays on LTIR for the rest of his contract; Russell is traded somewhere in the next 2 years – believe his contract includes a modified clause by which he has to provide a list of teams that he would accept a trade to follwing the end of the 2019/20 season. I’m sure there are other possibilities….you get the point). Anyway, hoping I’m dead wrong here, but you gotta wonder, don’t you ?

    I”ll wrap up by saying that I hope the coaching staff come to their senses soon and J.P. gets a REAL shot at the top six, and on the powerplay. (The 5 lefties currently being deployed is nothing short of assinine. While it might make some sense to move Conner to the otherside of the PP formation it reduces his ability to shoot on net himself, eliminating his possible one-timer.

    Thanks as always for reading…….love this site…..go Oilers !!!!

  • OilCan2

    BaggedMilk that’s the best picture I’ve seen you post of yourself:) I’m still cheering for the Oilers while it looks like you’re still thinking about it.

  • madjam

    Seeing as we are bottom 2 in league in goals for , time for shakeup . First line Draisaitl , McDavid and Reider . Sitting Out Rattie, Chiasson , Bouchard and Khaira . Pulling in Benson to go with Hopkins and Puljujarvi . Lucic to go with Strome and Kassian . Cagguilla to go with Brodziak (Marody or Malone if bought up) and Yamamoto . Defensive pairs : Nurse and Klefbom , Larsson and Russell , Garrison and Benning .

  • Oiler Al

    If Drai should be leading his own line, then why cany Nuge be leading his own line?
    If I was the coach here is what I would try:
    Kjhair- MKcDavid- Draisaitl
    Reider-Nuge_ Rattie
    Looch- Strome-Pooleparty
    Caggula-Brodziak-Chaison/Kassian

  • TKB2677

    I do not have a lot of problem with the coaching staff deciding to start JP on the 3rd line. He is a young player discovering his game. As soon as you put him on a top 2 line, he’s instantly up against teams better pairings on defense and better lines. So it’s going to be way harder for him to get going. I thought he hasn’t been that good the first 2 games but was starting to come on in the Ranges game. He needs to keep that going and if he does, it won’t be long before he’s moved up. Throwing him to the wolves to sink or swim on big line is I don’t think the right call. But I would like like to see is him on the #1 PP unit. This all left thing is stupid. No other team does it and there is a reason for that. Is you are worried about him making the right decisions on the PP, make it simple. Go do the Ovechkin thing. Tell him to not transport the puck, just go to a spot and sit there and wait for a one timer.

  • Swiz

    In my opinion the fwd lines should look like (you have options with RNH and Drai):

    Drai – McDavid – Rattie
    Khaira – RNH – Puljujarvi
    Lucic – Strome – Reider

  • Corbs

    Why does having 5 right shots on the PP bother everyone? Teams have done it before. Moving 97 to the left makes it work. And talk about eliminating 97’s one timer is a joke. He’s never taken one in three seasons. Also, being on the left doesn’t hinder his shooting position at all…he scores plenty shooting from there.

  • On the powerplay, putting a player on his strong side makes it more difficult to get a pass to the point and to take a one timer shot. Angles.

    On PP1, keep the first line together, Bouchard at the point, and Draisaitl around the net.

    ————-Drai————
    Rattie–Nuge–McD
    Bouchard

    That way, McDavid can feed passes to Rattie and Bouchard more easily and direct for one timers, deflect passes to Nuge in the middle or pass to Drai’s forehand behind the net.

    Come on! How hard is this to figure out?

  • JBeck

    Sit Dri or move him to the third line. Why can’t anyone play with with Draistail? He’s worth a-lot of money and he can’t play with anyone or produce points.

    Next game watch him play, like actually watch him every shift. The level of incompetence is mind blowing.

    His piss poor “back checking”. Big exaggerated strides with no momentum.
    His terrible defence. will not challenge offensive players, that stupid stick check from 12′ away isn’t doing anything.
    His has a hard time getting into position in the offensive zone, with minimal effort to get into position.
    His inability to hold on to the puck and failures to get the puck deep.

    Watch him next game!

  • Serious Gord

    Do nothing with the lines for at least a couple more games. Perhaps fiddle with the power play but I’m not sure if that’s warranted.

    They have played far too few games to rev up the blender. (There is an argument to be made that the lines should have been set in the preseason. And there is definitely one that the players that are going to be sent down (Bouchard) early should never have started the season with the oil)

  • slats-west

    We need “Pairs” that are in synch. Things i would try is to get Strome going and i think maybe putting Rattie there would help as they are about the same speed, and Strome could find Rattie who is looking to shoot first. I would put Drai back with McDavid. I know i know but i hate to say it they need consistent offence and those two are simply dangerous together. This means you would need to put Cags or Khairia with Luc as you need some one somewhat defensively responsible.

    Finally on PP – not sure why we have Lucic in front if no one can get a shot thru from the point!! So I would get Rattie out there and tell him to shoot always and have offing crash net most like Drai for rebounds.

  • Beer_League_Ringer

    So some people’s solution to the problem of certain lines not producing (after 3 games) is the blender? The same blender we chastised TM for using last year to try and find a spark? So which is it people, the blender, or wait and let players develop chemistry?