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Warren Foegele’s latest demotion in Oilers lineup is unjust

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
Warren Foegele’s yo-yo season up and down the Edmonton Oilers lineup is continuing Monday against the LA Kings, with an unjust demotion back down the lineup.
It comes off the heels of a three-game losing skid the Oilers on, dropping games to the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames. Ironically enough, the three losses all came with Foegele atop the Oilers lineup, flying aside Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman on the first line.
While one may think, “Well, good! The Oilers lost three games in a row and they need to find some kind of spark,” that isn’t the right mentality with the lines. Loading up Leon Draisaitl with the aforementioned two works, given they’ve outscored the opposition 41-18 across 471 minutes the last three years, but Foegele on the top line was working.
Foegele was a major driver in those three games, scoring two goals as they outscored the opposition 3-2 at 5v5, and his individual stats were nothing short of electric. Here’s how he, according to Natural Stat Trick, ranked at 5v5 among 413 NHL forwards over their teams’ last three games:
  • Two goals (T-2nd)
  • 2.05 individual expected goals (1st, leading by 0.41)
  • 13 shots on goal (T-1st)
  • 20 shot attempts (4th)
  • 17 unblocked shot attempts (T-1st)
  • 15 scoring chances (1st, leading by 3)
  • 13 high-danger scoring chances (1st, leading by 5)
  • Five hits (T-1th)
Sure, change up the lines to try and generate a spark, but demoting Foegele to the third line after these performances — where he was very much not at fault for the losses — isn’t commensurate with his performance. While his two goals came in the first of three games, he still generated nine of those scoring chances against Minnesota and Calgary, and accounted for over an individual expected goal.
It’s hard to argue with Leon Draisaitl getting promoted up to the top spot alongside McDavid and Hyman, given they’ve outscored the opposition 7-1 across 96 5v5 minutes under Knoblauch. Their 4.37 goals for per hour is an otherwordly rate, but the rest of the Oilers lineup suffocates when they’re together, combining for 1.72 goals for per hour.
The rest of this lineup beyond the top line is pretty gross. Mattias Janmark, an energetic game against Calgary aside, shouldn’t be anywhere near the top-six doubly so considering recent healthy scratches.
For as great as Foegele has been in the top six, he seems to lose his offensive touch on the third line, instead resorting back to his defensively staunch self. That group is fine, given he and Ryan McLeod are an elite defensive duo, but the fourth line continues to be a head-scratcher.
Dylan Holloway is in purgatory on the Oilers’ fourth line alongside two offensively lifeless players Derek Ryan and Connor Brown. With his skill set, there’s no reason for him to be so far down the lineup.
If the Oilers go out and score a bunch of goals, with the second and third lines chipping in, the arguments above will mostly be for naught. But the truth of the matter is that seeing three rock-solid performances from Foegele get rewarded with a demotion down the lineup is concerning.
What else is concerning is loading up that top line, only to create two third lines and a fourth. McDavid, Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have been one of, if not the best lines in the entire league this season, and their being a stable force has allowed Draisaitl to center his own line, doing so dominantly.
Going back to a 1A and 1B line with McDavid and Draisaitl allows this team to function more optimally, and have the offence be more spread out. We’ll see how long these lines last.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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