Gilbert Perreault scored in his first NHL game, assists to Gerry Meehan (a talented journeyman forward who would have some good seasons in the 1970’s) and Kevin O’Shea (also his first NHL point). Perreault would play with multiple wingers that first season (Floyd Smith looked like a truck driver but he could skate) and wouldn’t find his “French Connection” until 1972 when the Sabres made a trade for Rene Robert. Chemistry: We know it when we see it. How hard can it be?
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Why McDavid and Nuge together could be key to Oilers’ playoff success
- Lowetide: Projected training camp roster for the 2020-21 Oilers.
- Jonathan Willis: Will the Oilers repeat their power play magic in 2021?
- Lowetide: Why Dmitri Samorukov is an Oilers prospect with a big future
- Lowetide: Why hasn’t Ken Holland pursued college free agents for the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Increase in skill wingers adds mystery to Oilers preseason
- Lowetide: How many ‘peak seasons’ can Oilers fans expect from Connor McDavid?
- Lowetide: Oilers’ increased focus on drafting skill is key to future success
- Lowetide: A short history of Oilers’ impact prospects at the world juniors
- Lowetide: Why Dave Tippett’s training camp with Oilers will be so compelling
- Lowetide: Oilers first-round pick Dylan Holloway’s fast start has fans buzzing
- Jonathan Willis: A brief history of Oilers teams with goalie problems, and how they overcame them
- Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
Perreault was drafted in 1970 and Rick Martin came along a year later. When Buffalo traded for Robert, Joe Crozier (Sabres coach) put them together right away. “We needed someone who could put the puck in the net. They blended nicely right from the beginning,” Crozier said in the spring of 1973.
Connor McDavid has played well with damn near everyone, and the cap concerns mean dropping at least one inexpensive linemate on him every season. I think the original plan was to have him play with skilled men full stop. Here are the most common linemates with minutes and goal differential in 2015-16, 97’s rookie year:
- Jordan Eberle 375 minutes (24-21, +3)
- Benoit Pouliot 296 minutes (19-17, +2)
- Nail Yakupov 205 minutes (13-11, +2)
- Patrick Maroon 134 minutes (11-4, +7)
Maroon was stapled to McDavid after the trade deadline, I think Chiarelli was already thinking of Milan Lucic but damned if Maroon didn’t turn out better. Here are the top linemates for 2016-17, the Oilers sole breakout season of McDavid’s career:
- Patrick Maroon 735 minutes (44-27, +17)
- Leon Draisaitl 676 minutes (41-28, +13)
- Milan Lucic 452 minutes (22-12, +10)
- Jordan Eberle 403 minutes (20-12, +8)
This is a nice group of wingers, or more accurately everyone got zoomed by the teeange wonder. Maroon had the simplest approach possible, go to the net with the stick on the ice. He also won enough puck battles to keep Edmonton on the offensive in those shifts. McDavid-Draisaitl emerged that year, can’t blame McLellan for running with it but if he had split them up maybe he lasts longer in Edmonton. The 2017-18 season:
- Patrick Maroon 524 minutes (26-24, +2)
- Leon Draisaitl 498 minutes (31-23, +8)
- Milan Lucic 419 minutes (23-17, +6)
- Jesse Puljujarvi 257 minutes (13-8, +5)
Maroon faded, Leon ascended, and it looked like Puljujarvi was going to be a legit option. Perhaps we see it again. This is where Taylor Hall would have come in handy (as well as the previous two seasons). Here is 2018-19:
- Leon Draisaitl 806 minutes (57-44, +13)
- Zack Kassian 428 minutes (27-26, +1)
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 376 minutes (19-19)
- Alex Chiasson 284 minutes (15-15)
- Ty Rattie 244 minutes (11-12, -1)
This is where the money ran out and the engine blew for Peter Chiarelli and it shows here. Draisaitl was an amazing partner for 97 in these seasons (+34). Here is 2019-20:
- Zack Kassian 663 minutes (42-35, +7)
- Leon Draisaitl 553 minutes (34-36, -2)
- James Neal 226 minutes (8-11, -3)
- Josh Archibald 144 minutes (8-5, +3)
Draisaitl’s first half a year ago was difficult, it might have had something to do with McDavid’s summer rehab but the big man was turning the puck over a lot and that impacted the line bigly. Here is the trio through December 31:
- Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian: 439 minutes, 46 percent shot share, 28-25 goals
So, the trio was getting caved but won the goals battle, something we’ve seen increasingly from McDavid. Now, let’s run 97-29 before the New Year:
- Draisaitl-McDavid: 77 minutes, 37 percent shot share, 4-9 goals
Wow. They were 3-2 goals with Alex Chiasson (19 minutes), 0-2 goals with James Neal (18 minutes), 0-2 with Sam Gagner (17 minutes), 0-1 with Patrick Russell (7 minutes), 0-0 goals with Josh Archibald (6 minutes), 2-1 with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (4 minutes), 0-1 goals with Joakim Nygard (3 minutes), 0-0 with Jujhar Khaira (2 minutes), 0-0 with Markus Granlund (1 minute).
How many of these wingers is a superior option to Dominik Kahun? Tyler Ennis? Jesse Puljujarvi? Ken Holland addressed an area of need and Raphael Lavoie can’t get here soon enough.
OILERS 2020 DRAFT
- Dylan Holloway [Big-10] 2 games, 2-0-2
- Carter Savoie [NCHC] 1 game, 1-0-1
- Maxim Berezkin [KHL] 21 games, 0-2-2
- Filip Engaras [Hockey-East]
- Jeremias Lindewall [Allsvenskan] 13 games, 2-2-4
The top two players are running well and Berezkin is also 4, 1-3-4 in the MHL. Lindewall is a pleasant surprise and Engaras is a fascinating player we’ll have to wait on a little. UNH games are canceled through December 5, so the earliest we’ll see him is December 11. I like this group and I like the early results. Impatient to see Tullio’s season get underway.
Holloway’s offense (in a small sample) is trending well. Rodion Amirov, drafted just behind him, is 5-3-8 in 23 KHL games. Dawson Mercer, who I ranked higher than Holloway, is off to a nice start (4-3-7 in 5 QMJHL games) but not enough to make the Oilers regret their pick.