Early Offseason Oilers Forward Line Combos

nuge ebs leafs

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.

For example:

  • 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)

LINE ONE

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.

Alternative: Lucic-McDavid-Yakupov

LINE TWO

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

LINE THREE

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.

BUT!

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

LINE FOUR

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!

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Beer League Hero Written by:

I'm the Beer League Hero! I am from Camrose, Alberta but I make my home in Taipei City, Taiwan. I've been through the ups and downs and the highs and the Lowes, the Bonsignores and the McDavids, the Sathers and the Eakins but I'll never leave my Oilers, no matter what! They're with me until the end and then some. GO OILERS GO!

  • Kepler62

    Pouliot – RNH – Eberle
    Lucic – McD – Yakupov
    Maroon – Drai – Puljujarvi
    Hendricks – Letestu/Lander – Pak/Pitlick

    I would do it this way because it matches the style you set out before you made your lines – 2 more elite players with a complimentary guy.

    RNH/Eberle with Pouliot
    McD/Lucic with Yakupov
    Drai/Puljujarvi with Maroon

    I like your top two lines, but I don’t see this structure at all in the 3 line. Draisaitl gets saddled with two complimentary players and would be expected to drive the offence by himself.

    • Joe

      I think you’ve got the forwards exactly right on lines 1-3. Line 3 is going to bring the skilled beef, especially Draisaitl and Puljujarvi. Several players may make line 4 a tougher decision — Khaira, Slepyshev, Calligula.

      • Beer League Hero

        True, add to that Tyler Pitlick as well!

    • Beer League Hero

      I like your lines too!

      Draisaitl’s line would hopefully be getting soft zone starts and cherry opposition. So driving the offense wouldn’t really be too much of a chore. He’s going to have a wing that can shoot IF in fact he’s the 3C next season.

  • DD

    I had a big rant about the group-think going on with respect to line combinations in the blogs lately, and noticed Kepler62 already offered 90% of what I was about to propose.

    With all that in mind, I’d suggest an opening night lineup as such (barring any future trades):

    Pouliot – RNH – Eberle –> share the tough minutes
    Lucic – McD – Yakupov –> share the tough minutes
    Maroon – Drai – Puljujarvi –> soft QoC, O-zone push
    Hendricks – Letestu – Kassian –> defensive zone and energy
    Spare parts: Lander & Pakarinen

    1A has a proven track record against top opposition, and they have demonstrated chemistry playing together.

    1B has potential to do the same, but McD is a sophomore saddled with a reclamation project and a new line mate. Let’s give them the O-zone push but 1/2 line opposition as they build familiarity and pump up Yak’s value for a deadline trade.

    3 is in an odd spot. Draisaitl I like, but he didn’t get much done without Hall “pushing the river.” Can Maroon play as well away from McD, and support a rookie and centre still finding his identity? I would bet yes, as long as they were given the soft parade.

    4 Good grinder line (although a tad overpaid) with potential to swing the momentum and chip in the odd point or few along the way.

    • Beer League Hero

      I like your line combos but the third line would get eaten alive on the road I’m thinking. McDavid with Pouliot and Eberle was one of the best lines in the NHL last year (top ten in xGF/60). I’m not sure if they’ll mess with that. Nuge and Yak never seem to be able to co-exist. So maybe putting Pulju on that line (if he plays NHL next year) to soften the blow would work but then again Nuge’s line is going to get the toughies next year. It’ll be the shutdown line for the team no doubt. So what do we do then? The team doesn’t have a two-way RWer to help out, right? Loui Eriksson would’ve been a nice pick up in that regard but what can you do, right? lol

      • DD

        Agreed, but I still think by the time the 3L hits the ice they’re into Muddle or Dregs territory and thus sheltered from hard minutes against the Elite. They should be fine as I proposed, but that won’t stop TMac from bringing out the blender, either.

  • superdutyfan

    Lucic McDavid Eberle : McDavid Said he wants to play with Eberle lucic was brought in to play with McDavid
    Maroon Draisaitl Yakupov : Yak Played well with McDavid But not RNH and as stated above McDavid wants to play with Eberle
    Pouliot RNH Kassian : Pouliot has a good history playing with RNH so that is the best place for him and expose Pouliot in the Expansion draft and hope LV takes him
    Hendricks Letestu Pakarinen : Best 4th line