Ken Hitchcock is facing a challenge, a big one. How do you create secondary scoring with this Oilers roster?
The most important thing is winning and so far Hitch has found a way to get that done with a 4-2-1 record through his first seven games. The Oilers won his debut 4-3 in overtime but since then they have scored ten goals in their last six games. So despite a winning record, the lack of offence is a reason to be concerned.
The Oilers top line hasn’t been producing at even strength and it’s really the only line this team should be able to count on regularly. McDavid and Draisiatl combined for a 5-on-5 goal in the first period under Hitchcock but have only managed to score one more since then — McDavid’s incredible individual effort against the Golden Knights. McDavid has played over 19 minutes a night 5-on-5 since the coaching change and Leon isn’t far behind just a shade under 19 minutes.
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I don’t doubt for a second McDavid can handle a total of 24-25 minutes a night but I am starting to wonder if the workload is too much for Draisaitl. I believe you get a better version of Draisaitl with 19 to 20 minutes than you do when he’s out there for 23-plus.

IS IT TIME TO BREAK THEM UP?

Photo Credit: James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports
Connor McDavid can produce with anyone. Prior to being reunited with Draisaitl the captain was averaging 1.35 points per game. The two were put together against Montreal and since then he has averaged 1.33 points per game, no significant bump alongside the big German. Draisaitl was a point per game prior to them being put together and has been 1.33 points per game while playing on the top line with McDavid.
So are you actually helping this team by having them together? I’d argue the only player on this team that benefits from McDavid and Draisaitl playing together is Draisaitl. McDavid doesn’t produce at a better rate and the rest of the line up is left searching for offense. As I mentioned, Draisiatl was a point-per-game player before getting a chance to ride shotgun with McDavid again. That’s an excellent number.
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So What Are Your Options?

According to practice on Tuesday, Ken Hitchcock will be running with these groups against the Blues.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – Nuge – Puljujarvi
Caggiula – Spooner – Rattie
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
I’m a believer in Hitch and I actually don’t mind those lines combos but I’m still going to take a look at a few other options available to him if the offence doesn’t get rolling. 

BACK TO WHAT WORKED

The Oilers played their best hockey of the season in October against some of the best teams in the league. You can always go back to the well with McNuge.
Nuge – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi (a big powerful line)
Caggiula – Spooner – Zykov
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
Rattie

DRAISAITL AND THE NUGE

I want to see this happen because we’ve never seen this happen. If they actually want consistent scoring from their second line this is the best option they have.
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Caggiula – McDavid – Chiasson
Nuge – Draisaitl – Puljujarvi
Khaira – Spooner – Zykov
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
Rattie
McDavid gets to play with the top two scoring wingers the team has while Draisaitl and Nuge face some weaker matchups defensively. I think this second line could do some serious damage; maybe I’m wrong.

THREE CENTERS!!!!

I really wanted to see McLellan stick with this look last season, until I saw McNuge go to work together. I’m not sure Hitchcock will ever look at this as an option but let’s be honest here; the Oilers biggest strength is that they have one franchise centre, one first line centre and one second-line centre. Right now they can’t take advantage of their biggest strength. Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins would still see decent ice-time due to their play on both special teams.
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Caggiula – McDavid – Chiasson
Khaira – Draisaitl – Zykov
Spooner – Nuge – Puljujarvi
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
Rattie
McDavid draws the tough matchups. Draisaitl with fewer minutes and weaker matchups would probably be more effective and Nuge would likely feast on his opposition. It’s highly unlikely but I’m still intrigued by it, especially if Zykov can produce.
This scenario may end up working a little bit better once Tobias Rieder is healthy and ready to factor into the top nine.

WHAT SAY YOU?

I see Hitch likely leaving the top line the way it is for quite some time but when he does eventually decide to mix things up I’d rank his options like this:
  1. McNuge Back Together
  2. Nuge & Draisaitl Unite!
  3. Three Centers
Do you think it’s time to split McDavid and Draisaitl up? What would you like to see them try next?
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Previously by Dustin Nielson: