Jordan Oesterle (in photo, by Rob Ferguson) can wheel. Todd McLellan’s Oilers are going to have good motors, forecheck like demons and let the blasted puck do much of the work. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a chat. In the spring, I spoke to Derek from FEAR THE FIN about McLellan’s teams and what they looked like up front and on the back end (among other things). Since we’ve seen a bunch of transactions since the conversation, I thought it might be an idea to see what Peter Chiarelli did to make this more of a McLellan team.
- Derek/Fear the Fin: “He plays a bit of a conservative system in the neutral zone, there’s a lot of dump and chase hockey but it works unlike your average dump and chase team because they play a very aggressive forecheck. It’s the two-on-two offensive forecheck the Kings and the Blues have had a lot of success with. The defenseman on the strong side will pinch to keep the puck in the zone and the extra forward (high forward) will cycle back to cover him on the point.”
Peter Chiarelli added some speed to the forward group (Korpikoski is a fast train, McDavid is a bullet train, Letestu is faster than Gordon) and the addition of Andrej Sekera should help in all offensive situations. If the Oilers are going to win battles on the forecheck, one suspects names like Benoit Pouliot, Korpikoski and Nail Yakupov may become more useful in the McLellan deployment. One player who may have a hard time with the forechecking? Teddy Purcell. He isn’t fast and winning puck battles isn’t a strength. One player who might adjust well to a forechecking role on the wing? Leon Draisaitl. He’s big and faster than he’s given credit.
- Derek/Fear the Fin: “For most of his (San Jose) tenure it was pretty much a puck mover with a stay-at-home type on the blue line. We saw a bit of a shift the last few years as the Sharks acquired more puck-moving guys. For the most part I think he’s going to look to shelter more offensive types with a defensive defenseman.”
This is interesting, as the Oilers have sufficient puck movers and stay-at-homes to complete four pairings (Sekera—Fayne; Klefbom—Schultz; Nikitin—Gryba; Ference—Reinhart) before hitting the outskirts of Kern county. If there’s a shift, I’d really like to see Sekera—Klefbom and Nurse—Fayne, and in fact that’s what I see as the top 4D by the time Rexall closes in the spring.
TODD MCLELLAN’S OPENING NIGHT ROSTER (PROJECTED)
- Goal: Cam Talbot (Ben Scrivens)
- D1: Andrej Sekera—Mark Fayne
- D2: Nikita Nikitin—Eric Gryba
- D3: Oscar Klefbom—Justin Schultz
- L1: Benot Pouliot—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Jordan Eberle
- L2: Taylor Hall—Connor McDavid—Teddy Purcell
- L3: Lauri Korpikoski—Anton Lander—Nail Yakupov
- L4: Matt Hendricks—Mark Letestu—Rob Klinkhammer
If the Oilers had two Eberle’s this would be much easier, and maybe Leon Draisaitl imposes his will here and knocks Purcell (and Korpikoski plus Klinkhammer) down one line on the depth chart. This team is bigger than it was, with the additions of Sekera, Gryba and Reinhart, as well as forward Korpikoski. Speed is better because of Sekera, Korpikoski and Letestu. They are not there yet, but you can see the areas Chiarelli wanted to address, and it’s also true that men like Justin Schultz and Nail Yakupov are lower on the depth chart than they were under the MacT administration. I do believe we’re going to see a lot of in-season transactions and next summer could be mammoth.