Chemistry v. Blender

A rare shift in the offensive zone.

One of the things we've noticed over the first four games of the season is Tom Renney's tendency to roll his top three lines over the boards for most of the game.  He hasn't been interested in matching lines or providing one group with more shelter than another with respect to offensive zone starts (although it's worked out that the trio of Sam Gagner, Dustin Penner, and Ales Hemsky have taken a much higher percentage of their starts in the defensive zone simply because the other three lines have demonstrated a strong tendency to lose territory).  Renney has also kept his lines together from start to finish.  One of the things some fans disliked about Craig MacTavish was his security blanketender.  When things weren't going well, he'd change something.  When things were going well, but the team wasn't scoring, he'd change something.  When things were going well, he'd change something.  The complaint was that this generally prevented the team from developing chemistry.  Is it time for Tom Renney to bring out the blender?

The following chart shows the amount of EV ice time each forward has received so far this season, as well as each forward's most common linemates (the information is available because of Vic Ferrari's wonderful "time on ice" tools):

Linemates_medium

These lines have been extremely consistent!  In the top nine (which as we see here is a more helpful designation than top six), each player has had the same two linemates for at least 75% of his ice time.  The problem is that the early results have been, generally speaking, pretty poor.  Here's a look at some of the possession metrics for each player (thanks to Vic, Dennis, and Gabe):

Possession_stuff_1_medium

It's early in the year, so these numbers don't mean all that much at the individual level, but I think they do help us to understand what's not working at the team level.  The top line has been doing very well indeed, driving the puck into the offensive zone and creating chances, but the other lines show results that are either mixed or very poor.  The problem is that there aren't many options for getting better.  Tom Renney could wait it out and hope his current lines develop better chemistry and get better results; he could break up the top line and go to the "V-T-R format" I suggested before the season began; he could move one of the guys on the fourth line up the lineup; or he can have Steve Tambellini go out and get him some better players.

The only option that will really work is getting better players, but barring that, I still think my original suggestion of having a veteran (Horcoff, Hemsky, Penner), a tweener (Cogliano, Brule, Gagner), and a rookie (Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi) on each of the top three lines is the way to go.  Right now both the third and fourth lines are getting buried so a minor tweak like replacing Cogliano with Jones doesn't seem likely to work, and I don't think inaction will help much either.  Moving one of Hemsky or Penner down the lineup will no doubt make the top line weaker, but if this season is all about development, I think the Oilers need to do a better job of making sure that three of the guys they're focusing on (Paajarvi, Cogliano, and Brule) aren't going to get their asses handed to them each and every game.  With a few days off before their next game, I think that now is the time to make the change.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join The Copper & Blue

You must be a member of The Copper & Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Copper & Blue. You should read them.

Join The Copper & Blue

You must be a member of The Copper & Blue to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at The Copper & Blue. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker