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Draisaitl Should Stay on McDavid’s Line

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Two Lines are Better than One, but One Line that Actually Works is Better than Two that Don’t

NHL: New Jersey Devils at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Oilers fans have a multitude of reasons for wanting to see Leon Draisatl succeed away from Connor McDavid’s line. There are 8.5 million of them for many, but the truth of the matter is Oilers fans need to reconcile with Draisaitl playing on McDavid’s line.

Now, there are reasons for Oilers fans to figure out how to live with this state of affairs. Not the least Draisaitl is more successful when he plays with McDavid. While this is part of the general argument against Draisaitl’s contract, it’s also an argument for playing him with McDavid. Critics like to point out that for 8.5 million dollars Draisaitl should have the ability to produce consistently with players not named Connor McDavid. However, the counter agreement to simple. The Oilers are paying Draisaitl 8.5 million dollars no matter what now. They should put him on a line where they can get the biggest possible positive effect for their money. Until now that has been with McDavid.

It’s not that Draisaitl doesn’t produce any points away from McDavid. Draisaitl does produce… but not at the same rate. So then how do make the Oilers make most of a giant contract like Draisaitl’s?

Logically, this seems like a simple solution. You play him where he excels. And where he excels is on McDavid’s line. At least for now. There have been several articles about how the Oilers need to find a winger that complements Draisaitl instead of pairing him with an interesting assortment of possible line mates which ultimately end up disappointing fans with their lack of potency. The Oilers have to do this if they ever expect Draisaitl to live up to the expectations associated with his contract.

This year hasn’t been as bad as many have implied. That’s not to say Draisaitl hasn’t struggled throughout the season, but it is to say he hasn’t been hopeless. Draisaitl has played 35 games in the 2018-2019 season and has 42 points which puts him 15th in the NHL scoring race on December 21, 2018. Compared to last season, where he played 78 games and had 70 points, Draisatl’s pace seems to be fine.

With Draisaitl projected to centre the second line based the line combinations at practice and Tobias Rieder set to rejoin the Oilers line up, Saturday night against Tampa Bay will be an interesting test to see how Draisaitl performs against McDavid. Oilers fans and media will be watching with their usual intensity waiting for either reasons to justify or decry Draisaitl’s contract. Justifying either position will take time, however, and a willingness to accept that Draisaitl may not produce at what interested parties consider an 8.5 million dollar rate. Until everyone is willing to accept that, it is just simpler to play Draisaitl on McDavid’s line.

Personally, it seems better to have one line that is very effective and can change the momentum of a hockey game than to have two lines that sort of work. And while it’s understandable that Oilers fans want two – or event four lines – that can produce offense, the team is not currently structured to do that. Which is not the fault of Draisaitl and his 8.5 million dollar contract.

While it’s not ideal for Oilers fans to have Draisaitl and McDavid playing together, it is the very least effective. Maybe under different circumstances there would be different options, but the Oilers have to pick the best option available to them. That’s still Draisaitl playing on McDavid’s line.