Going nuclear for good, and Showtime in Edmonton?
Photo credit:© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
1 month ago
Looking to avoid an 0-3 start to the season, Oilers Head Coach Jay Woodcroft switched up his lines ahead of the team game against the Nashville Predators and went with the ever-popular ‘nuclear option.’
Woodcroft never hesitates to throw the team’s two superstars over the boards together, but over the last year or so, it’s been used more as an in-game tactic. When the team is trailing by more than a goal, Woodcroft throws his two superstars on the same line, hoping it will give the team an offensive spark.
It’s rare to see him start the two of them on the same line right from the jump, but he did it against Nashville, and it worked. The Oilers won 6-1 and quickly erased many of the concerns that their two losses to the Vancouver Canucks had created.
Personally, I’ve pushed back against how often Woodcroft uses this strategy. I think in short bursts, it can really throw off the other team and be an effective tool, but over long stretches, the Oilers are worse off because I don’t think they have a deep enough lineup to produce offence when those two are off the ice consistently.
When the team is down by a goal late in a game or if the other team just iced the puck and has five exhausted players on the ice? Do it. I think it’s brilliant.
For ten-game stretches? I’m not a huge fan.
Again, it has nothing to do with how McDavid and Draisaitl play together, it’s more about the rest of the lineup below them.
Now, last night the trio of Foegele, Nugent-Hopkins, and Hyman was excellent. They made me eat my words a bit and looked like a legitimate second line that’s capable of driving play. I’m still not sold on that being something the Oilers can depend on consistently.
The third line of McLeod, Holloway, and Brown also looked pretty good on Tuesday night vs Nashville.
I still believe that over the course of an 82-game season, the Oilers are better off with McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines, although I totally understand the temptation to play them together more, which got me thinking: what if there was a way to do it without really hurting the ‘middle-six’ of the team?
The solution might be to go out and find another really strong centreman—a player who is capable of really thriving in a second-line role with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman.
In his 32 bold predictions article at the beginning of the season, Frank mentioned Sam Reinhart as a player who could be moved if the Florida Panthers but what if the Oilers could get their hands on someone like Sam Bennett?
The 27-year-old racked up 15 points in 20 playoff games for the Panthers last season and has scored at a 20+ goal pace in back-to-back seasons. On top of that, he has one more year on his current contract and only has a $4.425m. It’s a solid contract.
It’s an interesting idea, but it also feels a little bit like dreaming about a steak dinner when you only have a fast food budget. The Oilers will likely have more important holes to fill at the deadline and won’t have the cap space to also go get a number two centreman on top of an upgrade on the blue line.
Still, dare to dream.
Feb 19, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (88) salutes the crowd after the Blackhawks defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 at United Center. Kane had three goals and one assist in the game. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Speaking of potential in-season additions, Frank Seravalli was on Oilersnation Everyday today and I asked him about the Patrick Kane situation.
He mentioned the New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, and Detroit Red Wings as three teams to keep an eye on as Kane looks to make his return to the league.
The sense is that Kane is fully healthy and is going to be more impactful than he had been in the previous few seasons when he was struggling with a nagging hip injury.
He’s also expected to sign a dirt-cheap contract and that got me thinking if maybe the Oilers could give Kane’s agent a call. They did have interest in him at points last season and they could always use some help on the right side of their forward group.
“I would say the need isn’t as pronounced as it was before Connor Brown got there,” said Seravalli.
He didn’t entirely close the door on the idea though.
“He’s probably coming in at $1 million and almost every team in the league could find a way to make that happen. So would he consider a six-month stay in Edmonton? Maybe”.
Showtime in Edmonton? You never know.
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