One thing we’ll be talking about this season that we didn’t discuss a lot last time a lockout ended: the powerplay. Last season’s Oiler powerplay was 3rd overall, scoring 54 goals in 262 opps (20.6%) which towered over the MacT “Edsel” powerplay of 03-04 (13%, 29th overall, 44 goals in 338 opps).
The Barons powerplay scored 40 goals in the club’s first 35 games this season. OKC’s 26.1% success rate (40 goals in 153 sorties) ranks number on in the AHL the big club should be able to take advantage early and often 5×4 and 5×3. Lots of chatter about the powerplay options, but to my surprise none of them (that I’ve heard) have Ales Hemsky on the top unit. For my money, the best option for Oilers PP would be: Nuge at center, Hall on LW, Hemsky on RW, Schultz and Eberle or Whitney on the blue. Fair? If these fellows keep their feet moving there may be a chance for the club to score at better than last year’s 20.6% clip. If they can do that, I’d say that playoffs are a strong possibility. Second unit could include Gagner, Smyth, Yakupov, Whitney and Potter.
Eric Tulsky has been doing some outstanding work on zone entries over the last several months and I think having Hall-Hemsky on the same PP would be a brilliant idea. “Gaining the zone” is a major part of a PP, and no amount of players moving their feet or “set plays” can help a bunch of hockey players who can’t gain the zone. I think they’d be wonderful together at even strength–and believe Gagner would be an outstanding choice to center that line–but on the PP Hall and Hemsky have a chance to look like the late 90s Red Wings with all those beautiful Russians making all the fans dizzy from the ecstasy.