God, it has to be a tad early to be talking about line combinations doesn’t it? We’re coming off of two rumoured major deal blogs (Petrovic and Nuge) and sliding into potential line match-ups eh… ‘Tis the summer isn’t it? I’m so bloody bored… #IsItOctoberYet
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I have a belief that the line-up structure that we’ve grown up with is coming to an end. What I mean is that traditionally we’ve had this:
- Line 1 – Scoring line harbouring elite players.
- Line 2 – Secondary scoring would come from this line.
- Line 3 – Shut down line. Teams would match this line up against the other teams 1st line.
- Line 4 – Energy line. Need a big hit or a fight. These were the guys that would do it.
I believe that lines one through three are all becoming scoring lines like what Pittsburgh pulled off this past season in the playoffs. Basically, and this is not a new method, teams will start to take two players who play well together and stick another guy on their line to compliment them.
- Crosby/Hornqvist and Conor Sheary
- Malkin/Kunitz and Bryan Rust
- Kessel/Bonino and Hagelin (Although from my observations, Hagelin was a key component.)
So teams are going to have to start developing better possession players, better skill players and leave behind the guys that are strictly mono-skillled. Gone are the days of the true tough guy. Now they have to be able to play. We could refer to the Islanders 4th line of Martin, Czikas, and Clutterbuck as something to been keen on in this regard. That being said, Czikas cashed in and Martin left town to be replaced my Jason Chimera…
Anyways, the Oilers. Edmonton is going much closer to having this line structure than other teams but it’s chalked full of kids and underachievers at the moment. If we take a look at just the forward corps without making and line combinations we’ll see that it’s close but not quite there yet.
|Left Wing||Centre||Right Wing|
|Milan Lucic||Connor McDavid||Jordan Eberle|
|Benoit Pouliot||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||Nail Yakupov|
|Pat Maroon||Leon Draisaitl||Jesse Puljujarvi|
|Matt Hendricks||Mark Letestu||Zack Kassian|
You might have the depth chart a bit different but the question marks lie with Yakupov, Puljujarvi, Maroon, Hendricks, and Kassian.
We don’t know what we are going to get if Yakupov stays with the Oilers and Puljujarvi hasn’t played a single shift for the team yet. Can Pat Maroon regain the touch he had last year? Will Matty Hendrick’s style of play finally catch up to him? How is Kassian going to do with a full season?
Valid questions I believe. Anyways lets get to the line combos I think will be the best for the team this upcoming season. (Stats courtesy of Corsica.hockey)
Benoit Pouliot – Connor McDavid – Jordan Eberle
Here’s a line that played 146.81 minutes together 5×5 last season with a CF/60 of 62.12 and a CA/60 of 48.23. Some mad possession there! Their expected goals for per sixty was 3.86 (the highest on the club).
This is a line that drives the bus, why fix something that’s not broken? And normally I’d say put Yakupov on that line but I think we’re going to need to move on from him and give the team the best possible chance to succeed.
Let Pouliot work the corners and make room for McJesus and Ebs but make sure that Klefbom and Larsson are on the ice as well because I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a backcheck from Pouliot that didn’t result in a penalty and Eberle usually lollygags it a bit.
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jesse Puljujarvi
Now we don’t have an statistical background to back-up this line but my reasoning for this one is that it would be a shame to put Puljujarvi on a line with non-veteran players. I believe that he should be given every opportunity to succeed in an offensive role first, then work on his two-way game as the years move on. Something that should’ve been done with Draisaitl AND Yakupov if you ask me.
Let the Finn go out there and be the goal scorer. Lucic and Nuge can handle the other side of the puck and if Puljujarvi is as good a two-way player as we’re reading, then all the better for the team.
Alternative: Pouliot – RNH – Draisaitl
Pat Maroon – Leon Draisaitl – Nail Yakupov
Whatever line I check with Yakupov, the corsi against per sixty is f*cking bad. Apart from the 120 minutes of 5×5 he played with Pouliot and McDavid and the 43 minutes with Letestu and Korpikoski; Yakupov’s lines rarely do well on the other side of the possession line.
Leon is a playmaker, Yak is a volume shooter, and Big Rig is a banger. The recipe is there for potential success. I’d be putting on some very good possession defenders at the same time as these boys if it were to happen though. Give this line cherry minutes and soft zone starts and it very well could surprise everyone. It could also fall flat on its face too though… So toss a coin!
Alternative: Maroon – Caggiula – Eberle
Matt Hendricks – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
It’s hard not to like this line but the players on it are overpaid by a lot. This will be the last year of its incarnation as the team will look to put players like Jujhar Khaira, Tyler Pitlick, and Iiro Pakarinen on it.
The one thing I do like about this line is it will be a tough one to play against and Letestu and Hendricks are valued penalty killers as well as good locker room presences.
Alternative: Pitlick – Letestu – Pakarinen
I know that it’s early days and there could be more moves but what do you think the lines should be starting next season? Let me know in the comments below!