Connor Brown isn’t working in the top six

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Liam Horrobin
5 months ago
In the build-up to July 1st, everyone had accepted that Connor Brown was signing with the Edmonton Oilers. The idea of having a potential 20-goalscorer for the league minimum, plus his playing bonus, felt like the team had hit the jackpot. It was the upgrade the team needed after years of hoping that Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi would make that top-six spot their own.
The history between Connor McDavid and Brown added to the buzz. The two of them had great success with the Erie Otters back in junior, when Brown scored 45 goals and 128 points in their final season. Of course, after many years apart, that chemistry takes a minute to rejuvenate, and patience was something that fans were willing to accept. However, that chemistry seems nonexistent over a quarter of the season.
Through 20 games, Brown has one assist for the Oilers. He did score one versus the New Jersey Devils; however, after further review, it was disallowed due to Evander Kane’s interference with the goaltender. It was unfortunate for a man who needed a goal more than anybody. Along with the disallowed goal, Brown has had more chances to score recently, but the post and critical saves from goaltenders have prevented that.
Despite not having a goal, Brown is averaging top six minutes. Every forward below him in ice time has scored more goals than him this season, besides Adam Erne.
Last night, he started the game on a line with Evander Kane and Leon Draisaitl but ended the night on the third line with his same wing partner and Ryan McLeod at centre. On the first shift away from Brown, Draisaitl scored and found life in his game. Granted, it took a fortunate deflection off the Chicago Blackhawks defenceman, but the numbers continue to back up the point that Brown shouldn’t play with Draisaitl consistently.
Without Brown on his wing, Draisaitl is outshooting his opponents 162 to 134 at 5-on-5 with a 60.68% high-danger chances. With Brown, the numbers change drastically, dropping down to a score chance for a percentage of 45.28 compared to 54.73 without.
The better option right now for Kris Knoblauch is having Warren Foegele play in Brown’s spot on Draisaitl’s wing. Together, opponents have outscored them 4-3. However, they’re outshooting them 34 to 28 and have an expected goals-for percentage of 61.52%. Moving away from the numbers, the eye test tells you they work well. Foegele has the extra buzz to find his way into opportunistic areas where Leon can find him. Additionally, Foegele is good on the forecheck, which compliments Draisaitl’s play quite well.
Brown still needs time to find his scoring touch. However, that shouldn’t disrupt the play of Draisaitl during a team when the team needs him going the most. For now, it would be wise for Brown to move down into the bottom six and move Foegele onto the second line.
When you see Sam Gagner, Derek Ryan and James Hamblin finding ways to contribute in less than 10 minutes of ice time, you lose a little patience with a player. What will be more interesting is when Dylan Holloway returns to the lineup, and coach Knoblauch is forced to make a decision.
Do you remove one of the veteran fourth-liners because it is easy, or does Brown find his way to the press box?

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