Shortly after Peter Chiarelli arrived as Edmonton Oilers general manager, the club drafted Connor McDavid. These 16 months after PCs arrival, the Bruinization of the Oilers is in full swing, with size and ruggedness being added to 97 and some other skill.
A lot of attention has been paid to the size and grit added, but the Stanley Bruins were a pretty talented bunch. One of the main problems I have with his current roster? There is a massive issue on the forward lines that remains unaddressed. A good way to expose the problem is to look back to that 2011 Bruins club.
BRUINS V. OILERS—LINES
- Bruins Top Line 2010-11: Milan Lucic—David Krejci—Nathan Horton. This trio combined for 6.62 shots per game (each player’s totals divided by GP, then added to the other two players) and .878 goals per game. These three men were integral pieces in the Stanley team of 2011—the wingers close to 17 minutes and Krejci close to 19 minutes.
- Oilers Likely Top Line 2016-17: Milan Lucic—Connor McDavid—Jordan Eberle. This trio (on different lines and teams depending on player) combined for 6.37 shots per game (as above) and .964 goals per game. The two wingers listed here played 17 and 18 minutes per game, McDavid 19 minutes.
All things being equal, I prefer the Oilers projected top line—although the Bruins line was bigger and tougher, with more experience at center. The generational talent that is McDavid gives Edmonton the edge in my opinion.
- Bruins Second Line 2010-11: Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—Mark Recchi. This trio combined for 6.2 shots per game (almost as productive as the 1line) and .720 goals per game (again lower, but very productive). This line played 18 (Bergeron), 16 (Recchi) and 14 (Marchand) minutes per game.
- Oilers Likely Second Line 2016-17: Benoit Pouliot—Ryan Nugent-Hopkins—Zack Kassian This group scored at 5.10 shots per game and .555 goals per game—shy of the Bruins line of 2011 due almost solely to Kassian’s presence.
Chiarelli’s Bruins had the advantage of an exceptional center (Bergeron is dreamy) and an up and coming winger in Marchand. Edmonton has some of the pieces of an effective second line, but badly need RNH to perform at a higher level offensively in the coming season—and a more substantial RW option. Jesse Puljujarvi may end up here. Seriously.
- Bruins Third Line 2010-11: Blake Wheeler—Tyler Seguin—Michael Ryder. This trio (I am cheating a little, because people were traded and others played up and down the lineup) combined for 5.6 shots per game (this is very, very good for a 3line) and .567 goals per game (again, terrific). The promise of this line is enormous, Chiarelli dealt two very valuable pieces away while winning one Stanley.
- Oilers Likely Third Line 2016-17: Patrick Maroon—Leon Draisaitl—Nail Yakupov. This trio averaged 5.41 shots per game (a reasonable total and one that rivals the projected 2line) and .563 goals per game (compares to Bruins line in 2011 and Oilers projected 2line).
The talent on that Bruins line is terrific, have to give that group the edge. I imagine someone will mention Leon not playing with Hall next season—and that is true and should be factored in.
- Bruins Fourth Line 2010-11: Daniel Paille—Gregory Campbell—Shawn Thornton. This famous line combined for 4.25 shots and .429 goals per game (that seems like a really good total for a 4line).
- Oilers Likely Fourth Line 2016-17: Matt Hendricks—Mark Letestu—Iiro Pakarinen. This line combined for 3.43 and .275 goals per game. This is directly tied to my overall point.
SCORING BY LINES
I think the Oilers top three lines could work out pretty well—but the presence of Kassian in this model shows the team is shy in the top 9F. I am fairly certain Peter Chiarelli has confidence that Kassian can play in the top 9F (I see no reason to count on it) and he is probably happy that JP fell to them in the first round 2016. Me too, but not this year—not to count on it, anyway. Radim Vrbata would have been a strong add for this team in my opinion. Opportunity lost.
As for the fourth line: I do not see a lot of help for Mark Letestu, who for me is a reasonable 4C on a contending NHL team. I know many of you don’t feel that way, but for me he was carting around several poor wingers a year ago.
PS: The team is shaping up in a similar fashion to the Doug Flynn Expos. Frustrating to watch one part of the lineup give back the hard-earned wins delivered by the heart of the order. Frustrating. Frustrating and avoidable. I watched a lot of Tim Raines’ pennant races go down the drain on a GIDP by poor hitters like Flynn, Jeff Huson and Tom Foley.
The reason you want a strong option at every spot in the lineup? To avoid those yellow numbers in the graph above. The Oilers are going to give away what McDavid delivers when he is sitting on the bench. Book it.