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Firing Up The Line Blender

The bottom six is just getting crushed out there. It’s time to change it up

Edmonton Oilers v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

The Oilers are 11-4 to start the season. That’s very good!

They’re 2-3 on their last road trip, with losses in Detroit, Buffalo, and last night in Winnipeg. Th,at’s less good.

It’s difficult to complain about winning eleven games in your first fifteen. The Oilers’ methodology to winning has been pretty straightforward, if predictible.

The McDavid / Draisaitl lines have to do well, and they have been. If these lines can put up two or three goals, that’s a good start to picking up a win. Secondly, the Oilers have been benefactors of a very, very, very good power play. In last night’s 5-2 loss, both Oiler goals were scored by Leon Draisaitl on the power play. Currently sitting at a lavish 42.6% success rate, the Oilers have scored 20 of their 61 goals on the power play.

Until recently, the goaltending has stood tall.

So what’s the problem with a club that’s pumping in the majority of their goals on the top two lines, while having a killer power play to boot? Well...nothing. If you’re scoring at 42% on your power play, that’s great. If you’re averaging a couple of goals or more on your top two lines, that’s great. (The Oilers are currently leading the league with exactly four goals per game.)

So what’s wrong? A few things. The most glaring is that the bottom six is having their lunch eaten while they’re out there, and the Oilers have got to shake it up.

The Oilers aren’t getting a whole lot of goal support from the bottom six. Furthermore, they’re getting hammered when it comes to chances. Tippett has had some limited success; he had a good thing going in Edmonton’s loss to the Sabres when he ran Perlini - McLeod - Foegele, but that trio was short lived. The Oilers are getting outchanced, and more importantly, they’re getting outscored when the bottom six is on the ice.

So what to do? Fire up the line blender.

18 - 97 -13

93 - 29 - 56

37 - 71 - 44

42 - 10 - 8

This is what the Oilers rolled with last game. The third line didn’t look awful last game, but I think I’d do one of two things:

  1. Put Nugent-Hopkins on the third line. Ryan McLeod has shown pretty well in his limited time since switching it up with Derek Ryan, but having a natural centre in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the third line would help the Oilers suppress the opposition and it should help get some goals on the board for the Oilers. McLeod could easily slide onto the fourth line, I’d toss Colton Sceviour in at 4RW for Turris. This creates a pretty big hole at 2LW, and I doubt the club has the stomach to take a leap of faith and try Tyler Benson in his place. If the Oilers wanted to try something a bit safer, they could consider leaving McLeod right where he is and just flip-flopping Nugent-Hopkins for Foegele.
  2. Switch Zach Hyman and Warren Foegele. Zach Hyman has shown well in his first fifteen games as an Edmonton Oiler. He’s got 13 points (8-5-13) in 15 games, and he’s always creating havoc in front of the net. I’d consider flipping Hyman with Foegele to see if Hyman could help get the third line going. Some time on the McDavid line could also benefit Warren Foegele, who has an abysmal sub-25% xGF over his last ten games.

The bottom six isn’t the only problem that the Oilers are going through. Goaltending has cooled off quite a bit, and the defence could use a once-over. Some line tinkering might give the Oilers three good lines that could put goals on the board, and help limit chances against.

Oh, and if the Oilers could put Evan Bouchard back on the top pair, that’d be great.