22

The McBlender

The struggle to find two consistent linemates for Connor McDavid has been going on all season, and you could make an argument that it’s been an issue ever since he became an Oiler.

A big knock on former Head Coach Todd McLellan was that he went to “the blender” far too often and never allowed his players to play long enough to develop solid chemistry, instead, he would just keep going back to the McDavid-Draisaitl duo as soon as things went slightly bad. So far under Ken Hitchcock, it’s been largely the same. Although, I will give him some credit for really sticking with the current McDavid-Lucic-Rattie combo through two losses.

This season, McDavid has been paired with six different linemates for more than 75 even strength minutes.

Leon Draisaitl – 537 ES mins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – 333 ES mins
Alex Chiasson – 267 ES mins
Ty Rattie – 190 ES mins
Drake Caggiula – 144 ES mins
Kailer Yamamoto – 86 ES mins
Zack Kassian – 79 ES mins

To recap that, McDavid has basically had one full-time linemate (Draisaitl), one part-time linemate (Nugent-Hopkins), and five linemates who have seen brief stints.

For context, I decided to see how that compares to other star players around the league to see if the lack of consistency on McDavid’s wing was a problem that was exclusive to Edmonton or if other teams also struggle to find regular partners for their star players.

Player Full-Time Linemates

(over 500 mins)

Part-Time Linemates

(between 300-499 mins)

Brief Stints

(between 75-299 mins)

Sidney Crosby 1 1 4
John Tavares 2 0 1
Jack Eichel 1 1 2
Matt Barzal 1 1 2
Nikita Kucherov 0 2 3
Tyler Seguin 1 1 4
Mark Scheifele 1 2 1
Alex Ovechkin 0 2 3
Nathan MacKinnon 2 0 0
Johnny Gaudreau 2 0 1

Out of the players I looked into, only three of them have had two consistent linemates all season. MacKinnon has been a part of one of the best lines in hockey with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. Gaudreau has spent almost all year with Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. John Tavares has been paired up with Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman.

Out of everyone else, while most players have seen a mix of different linemates, none of those stars have had as many linemates as McDavid. Seguin and Crosby have spent significant time with six different linemates while McDavid is at eight (and Lucic is two minutes away from meeting my minimum minutes).

There are a couple of reasons why. The first being the success of the team. Just like McDavid, Seguin and Crosby have seen their linemates changed on a regular basis because their teams have struggled at times this season. When teams find a winning formula, they rarely mess with their lines. The players on this list who have played with the fewest linemates are on teams that are having incredibly successful seasons.

From an Oilers perspective, it’s pretty simple: if they were winning more games, then they would have no need to change their lines so much.

Why aren’t they winning games? I think that can also be linked to McDavid’s multitude of linemates. The Oilers simply don’t have enough quality scoring forwards. To me, this once again shows that the teams biggest need is one or two bonafide scoring wingers.

They don’t even have to be star-quality additions either. To me, there’s nothing wrong with having a player like Alex Chiasson or Ty Rattie on a line with McDavid and Draisaitl. 97 and 29 are so good that they can still produce at an elite level even with an average winger on their line.

The problem is that the Oilers don’t have the secondary scoring necessary to win hockey games on a consistent basis. Since they aren’t winning, the coaching staff feels the need to jumble up the lines and that usually means mixing up the top line since they’re often the only line producing. It can be a vicious cycle and we’ve seen it over the past two seasons in Edmonton.

While it would be nice for the Oilers to go out and add a legit top line scoring threat, they could make a huge difference just by adding one or two solid middle-six options. Someone that they could pair with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to create a solid second scoring line which would help them win more games and also allow them to keep Connor McDavid’s linemates more consistent, which could help make their top line even more productive.

  • KootenayDan

    I think the team is scoring enough it’s the defense that has been the back breaker. Benning should be in Bakersfield and Russell is playing above his weight class, even Nurse is playing way too much. Hmm if only we could find two quality defenseman to round out the defense, I wonder where we could get them from.

    • camdog

      Klefbom on first pairing, Jones on third pairing. They’d have 3 pairings capable of moving puck. It’s not a perfect solution, but it would be the best line up they could ice on the back end.

    • Hemmercules

      They are on the IR. Where they always are. This team needs to find better options than those two. Sekera is hobbled and aging, Klef is one of the biggest bandaid dmen in the NHL. When both are completely healthy they are good players but going forward they need guys that aren’t constantly trying to catch up health wise. Stuck with sekera a couple more years so hopefully he can stay healthy enough to at least play in the third pairing until they can either ditch that contract or it runs out. Kelf is a total question mark. Maybe he plays all of next season, maybe he breaks a toe and missed a few months. Fragile or unlucky I’m not sure anymore.

      • Serious Gord

        By my rough math Klefbom has missed 90 games out of a possible 290 since he became full time with the oil.

        That’s only a 69% attendance record. Not great.

    • toprightcorner

      Scoring enough? Their 4th leading scorer is a dman with only 6 goals. That isn’t scoring enough. The Oilers are 20th in the league, McDavid and Draisaitl have scored over 40% of the goals,addin Nuge and Chaisson and they have scored 65% of the goals.

      If their 5th leading goal scorer had more than 5 goals (Kassian 4th line) and had 2 more 10 goal scorers, this team would be in the playoffs right now, nit fighting to get in.

  • Gravis82

    if they were not changing their lines so much would they be winning more games? Or are they not winning more games because they are changing their lines so much?

    The best way to win more games over a long period of time is to play the best players the most minutes. End of story. Yes there will be variations, with some bad stretches, but if your best players play the most minutes consistently with the same players you will do better over a full season than constantly trying to fix whatever happened last game with new lines.

    We need to realize that sometimes you lose because of chance and its not because of anything you did and at the time you lost you probably had the best lineup possible and would have lost by even a greater margin with any other combination.

    How can we sort this out?

    We cant. You just play the odds

    We should be Nuge and Drai together on the 2nd line. Whatever line McDavid is on will get the best defense pair regardless of his wingers.

    taylor hall would have 100 points on this team facing second pairing defenders all season for the first time in his career.

    • FutureGM

      Avs have top loaded their team and have the best line in hockey. Hasn’t worked. Dallas has the same thing with the Benn, Seguin line not long ago. I am all for loading up a line late in the period and/or game, but having a bonafide playmaker and scoring threat on each line is something most teams can’t matchup against well. We saw the year we made the run that a top heavy line is easier to check and splitting up Drai and McD worked wonders

  • Hemmercules

    It’s going to be really hard for the new GM to add a couple solid dmen and the wingers they need. I have serious doubts that sekera will ever be effective again. I guess if he’s better than Benning that’s something. Klef is a good dman but he’s no #1 and he spends way too much time on the IR. Can’t have your best guy miss significant time almost every season. Adding even one top dman will be very costly and likely impossible via trade or free agency. I hope Bouchard can be a top two guy one day but that’s at least a couple seasons away and they absolutely can not afford to rush him. He’s needs his development time and I hope bobby sticks to his word on that. Wingers may not be so tough but still not easy. Probably have to settle for rentals and late summer pick ups like Chiasson for the time being.

  • Natejax97

    Wonder what it would take to add Athanasiou and Toffoli. They combine for 7.6 million in cap hit.

    1st 2019 plus spooner plus Benning…does that pry Toffoli?

    2nd plus Bear plus maybe a 2020 2nd…does that pry Athanasiou?

    Would we mortgage that much? Doubt it…but that fixes the top 6 and pushes our prospects to the right level.

    Defense actually looks okay for the next few years with Jones Lagesson and Bouchard all coming. Will need to make room this summer and next. I don’t know just spitballing because it would be really nice to be contenders next year even at a high cost.

    • Hemmercules

      I get a kick out of trade proposals that involve guys like spooner and Benning. You will have to pay other teams just to take them away or take back some other teams junk in return. These guys clear waivers with ease. Nobody wants to pay AHL players NHL money for another year. The new GM will be a genius in my books if he can get rid of Spooner, manning and Benning without taking back equal amounts of garbage.

      You second proposal maybe gets it done. Detroit should be looking to rebuild and some nice draft picks and a decent prospect might get it done.

      • Natejax97

        Yah I know…I was more along the lines of the first for Toffoli…as long as LA would take a contract back to clear cap. That’s all…and it’s only for a year so if LA was going into rebuild maybe they could bury 3.1 next year. That’s all. Nothing more about evening value…just a team looking for a first round pick that wont be a contender next year that could eat it.

    • FutureGM

      why trade Ethan Bear when our weakest link is RHD. Kid looked decent last year and ran the powerplay well at the beginning of the year too. Giving him a chance instead of bringing in Manning was the correct move. Cap hell and another AHL LHD was the Oilers move….sadly

  • Vlee

    I’d look at how frustrated peg is with line
    Bouchard+ 1st in 2019 for laine
    Or
    Puljujarvi/ Yamamoto + 1st in 2019 + bear for laine

    Try and grab duclair out of Columbus. A change of scenery type of move
    3rd in 2019 for duclair

    • Natejax97

      I like where your head is at…only problem is Laine will be another 10 million dollar player and that wont work in Etown…unless we can move lucid spooner and sekera off the books.

      Duclair I agree would be a pretty nice piece. Lots of upside there. Probably / might cost a 2nd and a pretty legit prospect though. If you could tap into him I think there is a top 6 player there.

    • Gravis82

      I think Laine as peaked. He is not good defensively and players usually have their highest scoring seasons round about his age. I would trade him after this season to be honest

  • Muleman84

    Just keep the lines like we have been running them the past 2 games, except switch out Kassian and Puljujaarvi. That line of Khaira, Nuge, Pulju, were at least threatening in the games they played together. Along with the top 2 lines, I think they would be half way decent.

  • FutureGM

    We don’t have a team of All Stars. GET OVER IT! The majority of teams have average players outside of a couple stars and our roster is no different. Stop the whining and stop complaining if they don’t score.
    The reality is that most teams are constructed to have your bottom six play even hockey and have your stars beat their stars. So is ours. Ragging on players that have never been depended on to score is why no one wants to come to Edmonton. The players have flat out said that when asked why they don’t want to play in Canada. You want to rag on someone??
    Ask Ken Kitchcock and McClellen why they arent playing Rattie with McD. Constantly. Every day. Solid ppg with him and scratched over Spooner, Malone and others?!