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Photo Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Search for Offence

Ken Hitchcock is facing a challenge, a big one. How do you create secondary scoring with this Oilers roster?

The most important thing is winning and so far Hitch has found a way to get that done with a 4-2-1 record through his first seven games. The Oilers won his debut 4-3 in overtime but since then they have scored ten goals in their last six games. So despite a winning record, the lack of offence is a reason to be concerned.

The Oilers top line hasn’t been producing at even strength and it’s really the only line this team should be able to count on regularly. McDavid and Draisiatl combined for a 5-on-5 goal in the first period under Hitchcock but have only managed to score one more since then — McDavid’s incredible individual effort against the Golden Knights. McDavid has played over 19 minutes a night 5-on-5 since the coaching change and Leon isn’t far behind just a shade under 19 minutes.

I don’t doubt for a second McDavid can handle a total of 24-25 minutes a night but I am starting to wonder if the workload is too much for Draisaitl. I believe you get a better version of Draisaitl with 19 to 20 minutes than you do when he’s out there for 23-plus.

IS IT TIME TO BREAK THEM UP?

Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports

Connor McDavid can produce with anyone. Prior to being reunited with Draisaitl the captain was averaging 1.35 points per game. The two were put together against Montreal and since then he has averaged 1.33 points per game, no significant bump alongside the big German. Draisaitl was a point per game prior to them being put together and has been 1.33 points per game while playing on the top line with McDavid.

So are you actually helping this team by having them together? I’d argue the only player on this team that benefits from McDavid and Draisaitl playing together is Draisaitl. McDavid doesn’t produce at a better rate and the rest of the line up is left searching for offense. As I mentioned, Draisiatl was a point-per-game player before getting a chance to ride shotgun with McDavid again. That’s an excellent number.

So What Are Your Options?

According to practice on Tuesday, Ken Hitchcock will be running with these groups against the Blues.

Draisaitl – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – Nuge – Puljujarvi
Caggiula – Spooner – Rattie
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian

I’m a believer in Hitch and I actually don’t mind those lines combos but I’m still going to take a look at a few other options available to him if the offence doesn’t get rolling. 

BACK TO WHAT WORKED

The Oilers played their best hockey of the season in October against some of the best teams in the league. You can always go back to the well with McNuge.

Nuge – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi (a big powerful line)
Caggiula – Spooner – Zykov
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian

Rattie

DRAISAITL AND THE NUGE

I want to see this happen because we’ve never seen this happen. If they actually want consistent scoring from their second line this is the best option they have.

Caggiula – McDavid – Chiasson
Nuge – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
Khaira – Spooner – Zykov
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian

Rattie

McDavid gets to play with the top two scoring wingers the team has while Draisaitl and Nuge face some weaker matchups defensively. I think this second line could do some serious damage; maybe I’m wrong.

THREE CENTERS!!!!

I really wanted to see McLellan stick with this look last season, until I saw McNuge go to work together. I’m not sure Hitchcock will ever look at this as an option but let’s be honest here; the Oilers biggest strength is that they have one franchise centre, one first line centre and one second-line centre. Right now they can’t take advantage of their biggest strength. Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins would still see decent ice-time due to their play on both special teams.

Caggiula – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – Draisaitl – Zykov
Spooner – Nuge – Puljujarvi
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian

Rattie

McDavid draws the tough matchups. Draisaitl with fewer minutes and weaker matchups would probably be more effective and Nuge would likely feast on his opposition. It’s highly unlikely but I’m still intrigued by it, especially if Zykov can produce.

This scenario may end up working a little bit better once Tobias Rieder is healthy and ready to factor into the top nine.

WHAT SAY YOU?

I see Hitch likely leaving the top line the way it is for quite some time but when he does eventually decide to mix things up I’d rank his options like this:

  1. McNuge Back Together
  2. Nuge & Draisaitl Unite!
  3. Three Centers

Do you think it’s time to split McDavid and Draisaitl up? What would you like to see them try next?

Previously by Dustin Nielson:

  • lee

    Calgary scored 9 last night, that’s not a typo.
    Hitch is all about winning 1-0 or 2-1 (that’s a barn burner) get used to it. I keep saying it , you cant make the playoffs scoring 1.7 goals a game, its not going to happen. The team is playing just good enough to get a average draft pick and no where near good enough to make the playoffs.

  • Van isl Oiler

    What say I?

    I say the writing on this site is pretty weak.

    Robin Brownlee-best.
    Jason Gregor- close second.
    Bagged Milk- decent.

    After that, it’s a pretty steap drop off…kinda like the Oilers lineup.

  • gordo

    when a team only has 3 top 6 guys, and everybody else is bottom 4, options are very limited. unless and until the oil can get another real 2nd liner, this pop gun offence will lead us to a bottom 7 western conference finish

    • Beer

      The way expansion is going, no team is going to have six top six players. A average team will have three.
      A coach can teach defence, but top six players are born.

  • GP440

    As much as I love the Oilers. Management (previous and current) have decimated the team, along with some pretty bad drafting from 2009-2015 past the 1st round. We once had a team that featured McD, Hall, Nuge, Draisatle, Eberle. Some questionable trades and here we sit. I don’t think Hitchcock can do much more with this group, as he’s spending most of his time getting them to try and tighten up defensively. Anyhow. GOG!!! Win or lose I will support this team.

  • DannyGallivan

    Luc-Brodziak-Kassian played well against top lines in previous games. They are a heavy line that forechecks well. Run them for part of a game against top lines to relieve the top six pressure on McJesus, Drai, RNH. I would look at Drai and RNH with Brodziak. Rattie on RW and Cagg on LW with McJesus. They have both produced well with Mc. If that does not work then replace Rattie with Brodziak. Move Chaisson down with Drai and RNH. The issue I have with running McJ, Drai and RNH on 3 separate lines is loss of ice time of your top three.

  • FanBoy

    Trying not to play ACGM but I think Gallagher would be such a good winger for McDavid. I’d give up Yamo and salary filler for him right now. He looks like he’d score 30 on McD’s wing with the way he plays

  • Beer

    I am going to have to go with Hitch’s strategic in-game changes to lines. I don’t think Hitch is standing behind the bench asking his assistants how many points per/game one player is getting or not getting with this player or other player. TM, on the other hand…..

  • Natejax97

    Watched the flames last night and oh my goodness they can outscore their mistakes. Buckle up for a good ribbing from the south for the foreseeable future. Hope we beat them Sunday for a little relief.

    I don’t care what we do with our lines but it might be best to leave them alone until we can start scoring. Vegas and Anaheim seem to win every night so we need to keep stringing wins together otherwise we fall down the standings.

    It is extremely dangerous to rely on defense alone to win. Need run support. Need a few wingers that can bury the puck. Trade, waivers or guys stepping up…whatever we need to do here.

    • Alberta Ice

      Watching the Ducks come back from 3 down against the Capitals the other night was another gut kick. They should have lost most of those away road games against very good teams and they end up winning most of them. And a goal differential of -13 so far this year? Makes no sense – except they are the Duckleheads. Get me a puke bucket.

  • Natejax97

    I do like the idea of Nuge draisaitl and McDavid running their own lines but we need the wingers to start scoring…if we could get this happening what a look this would be. Only issue is getting them all enough ice time which would be a good problem to have. In your 3 center philosophy Caggulia and Chaisson get more ice time than Nuge…if they are scoring then fine but if not mid game shuffling starts.

  • Goaltender Interference

    Get McNuge back together. Nugent-Hopkins is the heads-up and intelligent winger that Connor deserves. Then the secondary task would be to find some more skilled wingers for Leon.

    I don’t think we have the strength on the wings to take the three centres approach.

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Pretty small sample size. In our most recent playoff year, Draisaitls production went up quite a bit (20-30% IIRC) with McDavid but McDavids numbers also went up around 10% so its not a one way street.

    I just think cocks system is focused more on defence.

  • Sparky Blue

    I would like to see the “back to what worked” option. There are 4 pretty tough opponents after St Loo and I don’t think they can beat any of them with 1 or 2 goals. With the first option they did good in October. Also has there been any update as to where Zykov has wandered off to?

  • Glencontrolurstik

    To be fair to the team (post McLellan) they have only had two full practices under Hitch prior to tonight’s game.
    He mentioned that most of the coaching and systems have been taught on the fly during the game.
    The team has done very well considering this. Kudos to some “key” players like Koskinen, RNH & of course McDavid.
    I have to believe that they’ll improve as the games go forward. A big measure will be Sunday. A tune-up game should be tonight & hopefully we can run-up a score?

    • Oilswellthatendswell

      Totally agree with this. A 4-2-1 run under Hitch starting on the road and only having 5 days at home while trying to learn who can play with who is pretty impressive. I say let’s see what he has built at the X-mas break. 9 more games until then. A 6-3-0 run or a 5-2-2 run would give us a good spot I think.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        You have to wonder why you would get 2 down-votes for your comments?
        Very logical thoughts from a fan, I think? I have to wonder about this social media thing sometimes & how it influences the mood of society? Anyway, maybe I need another coffee?, too deep a thought for a Wednesday before noon?

      • FlamesFanOtherCity

        Pretty hard to evaluate in seven games that included two against the Kings and one against a free-falling Sharks team. Did the goalie help gets those wins or has the defense actually started playing better. Three OT wins suggest that they can play pretty good at 3 on 3, but I think you knew that.

  • The future never comes

    I would split 29 & 97 up, they have gone cold together. I would try 93-98-29 together on the second line. Remember in that back third of last year when Lucic was with McD, and McD realized passing it off to Luc would kill the play so he started to score at will? Yeah, I’m not suggesting that but give McD two players who are feisty for the puck and create turnovers and let 97 be selfish. I would say try a combo of JJ, Caggs, and Chiasson.

  • Firstly, I don’t think Zykov gets a taste until he’s watched the team from the box for a couple games. I thought Rattie played well last game.

    McDavid-Draisaitl sometimes goes flat. I think we need to see #2 Nuge-Drai before we go #3 Three Centres. Drai takes the faceoffs and is big enough on the boards where Nuge is a better 200′ player. If Chaisson goes flat, switch him and Puljujarvi or Rattie.

    Caggiula – McDavid – Chaisson
    Draisaitl – Nuge – Puljujarvi
    Spooner – Khaira – Rattie
    Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
    Zykov

    And when you do put Zykov in, put him with McDavid right off the bat to see what he has for a period. But if you do, Nuge has to go on that line for defensive protection.

    Nuge – McDavid – Zykov
    Caggiula – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi