With only a week left to wait until the play-in rounds kick-off for the NHL playoffs, I wanted to take a look at what Dave Tippett is going to do on the blue line, specifically in the 3LD slot. In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Saturday Edition), I’m asking you to put your mind in the dressing room, grow your TipStache, and make the call on whether the Oilers should go with Kris Russell or Caleb Jones to start the play-in series against Chicago?
With Phase 4 of the NHL’s return to play plan scheduled to kick off next Saturday with a matinee affair against the Chicago Blackhawks, I wanted to take a look at the third pairing and ask you fine folks how it should be put together. A while back, Gregor broke down a bunch of the roster decisions that Dave Tippett will have to make when the boys get back on the ice, and when it came to the defenceman, he felt as though Kris Russell may be the default option:
Edmonton will have eight NHL calibre defenceman. A luxury at the start of the playoffs, and if they go on a deep run they will need all of them.
Four D-men will for sure be in the lineup: Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Adam Larsson and Ethan Bear.
Kris Russell averaged 2:02/game on the PK, second-most among blueliners behind Klefbom. Russell and Caleb Jones each averaged 14 minutes/game at EV, but the difference was Russell’s PK time. In a short series, game one is even more important than usual, and I expect the coaches to go with a veteran and one of their most-used penalty killers.
With their even-strength playing time being as close as it was all season, let’s dip into the fancy stats to see if there’s a wider gap than what meets the eye.
Kris Russell: 55GP – 0G, 9A for nine points – 16:47 in average TOI, 42.5 CF%, 42.6 oZS%, 101 blocked shots
Caleb Jones: 43GP – 4G, 5A for nine points – 14:08 average TOI, 48.6 CF%, 50.7 oZS%, 46 blocked shots
Kris Russell: 49GP – 3G, 17A for 20 points – 21:40 in average TOI
Caleb Jones: *no playoff experience yet*
It goes without saying that Kris Russell has a lot more experience in the playoffs than Caleb Jones, and I wonder how much those additional 49 games will factor into Dave Tippett’s decision on who gets into the lineup? Seeing as both guys aren’t likely to generate much offence, does it make sense to lean more heavily on the guy that’s been there before? What about the fancy stats? Neither of these guys really knock it out of the park, but Jones certainly does have a slight edge in CF% which would imply he does a better job of move the puck up ice. Thankfully, these tough questions need answers and that’s why you, the reader, are here to decide how this is going to play out.
WHAT SAY YOU?
Now that you’ve had a chance to wrap your head around the questions, I want you to put on your coaching cap and let us all know which defenceman you’d start at 3LD if you were making the call. Perhaps you think Dave Tippett should start Kris Russell because he’s much more experienced, is always willing to put his body on the line, and basically acts as a second goalie on the penalty kill? Maybe you think Caleb Jones should get the nod because he’s much more likely to stick with the team longterm and they’ll need to get him some at-bats eventually? Maybe you think that the 3LD position doesn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things and that there’s a reasonable chance that both guys will get some playing time before all is said and done? Maybe you’ll go off the board and suggest that it’s actually Philip Broberg who should be given a chance to play based on a strong training camp?
In this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday (Saturday Edition), I want you to make the call on whether or not you think Dave Tippett should go with Kris Russell or Caleb Jones in the 3LD slot for game one of the playoffs? What say you, Nation?