Edmonton is a great city, with all kinds of things to recommend it. Fresh air, stunning river valley, fantastic restaurants, great educational options, four million shoe stores, easy access from north to south, airport to anywhere, a population that works and plays hard. Oh. And about one million opinions on how the Oilers should be run. All of that has to make Todd McLellan glad he is here—except, maybe that last one. McLellan shuffled the lines yesterday, and the throng spent the rest of the day questioning the changes. What a beautiful dance!
THE LINES AT PRACTICE
There are things I really like about these lines, including the Lucic—Leon combo that seemed to show promise early in the year. Eberle back with McDavid is interesting, and Anton Slepyshev gets a push. So, do these men play well with each other? Here is the 5×5:
- Connor McDavid—3-16-19 (2.95/60), 55.8 Corsi with Maroon; 2-6-8 (1.40/60) and 52.8 with Eberle.
- Patrick Maroon—10-4-14 (2.18/60), 55.8 Corsi with McDavid; 4-2-6 (1.55/60) and 58.1 with Eberle.
- Jordan Eberle—3-6-9 (1.58/60), 52.8 with McDavid; 2-6-8 (2.07/60) and 58.1 with Maroon.
This should work, and McLellan can get this line some good matchups in the next two home games. The key will be unlocking Eberle, because McDavid-Maroon works like a charm. Connor McDavid is going to make a lot of wingers rich, but the guy the Oilers are already paying $6M a season needs to cash some of those lovely passes. The fact McLellan has hit shuffle and Maroon remains portside is a tell—about Maroon, and Milan Lucic.
- Leon Draisaitl—1-3-4 (1.54/60), 55.7 with Lucic. Draisaitl is 0-4-4 (3.51), 49.6 with AS in 68 minutes.
- Milan Lucic—2-2-4 (1.53/60), 55.7 with Draisaitl. Lucic is 0-1-1 (0.61), 45.2 with AS in 98 minutes.
- Anton Slepyshev—2-1-3 (2.63/60), 49.6 with LD (68 minutes). 1-1-2 (1.22/60), 45.2 with ML in 98 minutes.
Some encouraging numbers here, Slepyshev and Draisaitl have performed well together. Leon and Lucic have also looked good by eye, and we have to remember Lucic’s 5×5 number here represents a monster increase over his overall 5×5/60 number. Interesting set of boxcars. Low sample size reflects experimental nature of Slepy’s push. The big LW hasn’t looked himself all year, hopefully Leon to the rescue.
- Nuge—1-1-2 (10.0/60), 44.4 in 12 minutes with Caggiula; 1-4-5 (1.74/60), 47.5 with Kassian.
- Caggiula—1-0-1 (4.8/60), 44.4 with Nuge; 1-0-1 (1.43/60), 33.3 in 42 minutes with Kassian.
- Kassian—1-1-2 (0.70/60), 47.5 in 172 minutes with Nuge; 0-1-1 (1.43/60) with Caggiula.
First thing I noticed? Caggiula hasn’t played a lot with real skill, and Kassian might be getting a chance I thought he would receive after the Pitlick injury. We will see how this goes, but if TM runs this as a soft minutes line, perhaps the Nuge gets untracked. You could view this as a slight to RNH, but I see it as a chance to maybe get away from the toughest minutes of the game. Could he flourish with better linemates? Against lesser competition, Nuge should have more than enough talent to drive the line.
- Hendricks—2-1-3 (1.05/60), 48.3 with Letestu; 0-0-0, 40.0 in 11 minutes with Pouliot.
- Letestu—2-2-4 (1.40/60), 48.3 with Hendricks; 0-0-0, 37.5 in 53 minutes with Pouliot.
- Pouliot—1-0-1 (1.12/60), 37.5 with Letestu; 0-0-0, 40 with Hendricks.
Well ladies, there is no fifth line in the NHL, so Benoit is at the last chance Texaco. I am uncertain what BP can do with Hendricks (who has slowed in the last 12 months), but maybe Letestu can help. For those of you who don’t want Russell signed, you should probably thank Pouliot. Playing the big man on the fourth line is equal to giving up on trading him. See you at training camp, Benoit!
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
I think Todd McLellan may have had some changes in mind for after the break, and went with established lines after the layoff because familiarity. Now, with a couple of days practice, the club can play around with various ideas. It could be back in place by the beginning of the second period, but TM has Arizona on the calendar and that should mean opportunity—if Edmonton gets the first goal.
I like the idea of trying Eberle on top again, he is the best option for scoring RW when Leon is isn’t in the conversation. Nuge gets shuffled onto a makeshift line, but the organization has to find some offense and my favorite player hasn’t been one of the top two center options on this team all year long.
If the struggles of Nuge, Lucic, Eberle and Pouliot continue, it is reasonable to expect a sledgehammer summer.
TYLER BENSON UPDATE
- Jim Matheson, EJ: WHL sources are speculating it’s a hernia concern. Source
If I may impose on you, please click the link to Matty’s story. His update on Benson is more detailed and offers nuance. Lots of good information outside the Benson item there, and I am cheating on my 24-hour rule, so please click on Mr. Matheson’s link. Tyler Benson was a brilliant selection if healthy, a great risk if not. The Oilers must be risk averse, they simply do not have the depth to afford this kind of thing. Seriously. This is a big damned deal.
BRIAN BOYLE, OILER?
My guess is that Brandon Davidson will be the price, helluva deal for Tampa Bay and a much needed value deal for Steve Yzerman. Boyle feels like more of a 4C than 3C at this point in his career, but he absolutely fits the Chiarelli model. I think this deal could get done if Davidson is the bait. Speculation today the price might be a first-round pick, which is insane. The Oilers first-round selection in 2017 is No. 22 right now, but this season isn’t over. I wonder if PC grabs Boyle and Halak at the deadline.
He has been recalled, and I think Pakarinen gets into the lineup as soon as ready. Why? He is faster than Matt Hendricks and speed is a problem for this roster. Can you believe how much this team misses Tyler Pitlick? Lordy.
Among the really fine bloggers out there is WheatnOil. He goes about his business with little fanfare, but opens up some impressive truths you cannot find elsewhere. His work has been trumpeting Jordan Oesterle whenever Wheels is in the show, and the recent update rings the bell one more time. Oesterle is a fascinating player.
No Lowdown for me today, but Dave Jamieson will be sitting in for me through Wednesday. Dave is a great guy, has a terrific sense of humor, and for some reason all the trades break when he is on the air. As you know, Dave hosts noon to 2, and you will get the same excellence from him this morning. If you haven’t heard Dave, give him a listen, he is an outstanding broadcaster.