There’s no shortage of stories from the last week in Edmonton.
11 forwards, seven defencemen
Jay Woodcroft mixed things up right before puck drop against the Islanders. The Oilers skated early Friday and rolled with a full four forward lines and six defencemen. It stayed that way for the most part, but Woodcroft opted to scratch Devin Shore and bring in Philip Broberg as a seventh defencemen.
It’s not something we see deployed often at the NHL level beyond late injury news, so it was an undoubtedly interesting choice. But during his time with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, it’s something that Woodcroft deployed 85% of the time, Condors play-by-play guy Ryan Holty noted on Twitter.
And honestly, I loved it. Benson and McLeod remained on the Oilers fourth line with a different cast of characters. First, it was Kailer Yamamoto, Then it was Connor McDavid. Derek Ryan, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and others got brief looks there, too.
Devin Shore has been one of the worst Oilers forward this season in terms of on-ice results but was still getting played like he was an invaluable part of the lineup. Newsflash: skilled players can kill penalties too.
I’m not sure how much more we’ll see this lineup set deployed, but it’s something they can go back to.
The Young Guns
I thought Woodcroft and Dave Manson did a great job of incorporating some of the Oilers young players into the game. McLeod and Benson got some ice-time through the first two periods. Markus Niemelainen looked tremendous and Philip Broberg got a good chunk of ice-time, too.
At one point, the Oilers deployed a PK unit of Ryan McLeod, Derek Ryan, Markus Niemelainen and Philip Broberg, and they looked fine out there.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see this continue on. Woodcroft noted he was trying to get a feel Friday for what the players can do, and that’s also why we got to see 2:04 ice time for Draisaitl on the PK.
A Tippett extension?
One of the biggest bullets dodged in the history of the Oilers very well might’ve been the fact they didn’t keep Dave Tippett around. Oilers GM Ken Holland noted during his Thursday press conference he was hoping to have been working on an extension for Tippett around this time.
I don’t think Tippett was a horrible coach, per se, but he was as stubborn as they come and he didn’t seem open to new ideas. Even briefly, we saw a difference in the play style the Oilers operated with Friday. They were aggressive. They clogged up the blue line, and they were hard on pucks in all three zones. They attacked in numbers.
Far too often under Tippett were the Oilers too passive in their own zone and the neutral zone, and they conceded their own blue line far too much. This wasn’t conducive to winning ways. Even in the wins the Oilers racked up to start the year, there was some very suspect 5×5 play propped up by some incredible powerplay results.
Super Bowl picks
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It’s Super Bowl Sunday! I’m all in on the Bengals taking them on the spread at +4.5 and the moneyline too. I’ve also sprinkled in a number of props with a little sprinkle on Tee Higgins MVP at 50/1 odds.
This morning, the Oilers posted a tremendous video on social media asking the Oilers who their picks were. Let’s chart them up!
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 [email protected]