The Edmonton Oilers returned to work Monday, hitting the ice for yet another practice. However, this was a different skate for the 3-6-1 Oilers, considering head coach Todd McLellan took the time to tweak and shuffle some of the lines.
Not only do Edmonton’s power-play units look different, but they also made changes to their forward lines and defence pairings. Following Monday’s skate, the Oilers’ lineup looks something like this.
Milan Lucic-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Kailer Yamamoto
Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Leon Draisaitl
Iiro Pakarinen-Mark Letestu-Zack Kassian
Drake Caggiula-Ryan Strome-Anton Slepyshev
Darnell Nurse-Adam Larsson
Oscar Klefbom-Matthew Benning
Yohann Auvitu-Kris Russell
PP1 and PP2:
When it comes to the Oilers’ forward lines, there are some important things to note moving forward.
First off, Yamamoto finds himself drawing back into the lineup and rejoining the team on the top six.
The 18-year-old was outstanding subbing in for Draisaitl on the top line in wake of the German forward’s injury, showing a lot of speed and ability with Maroon and McDavid.
Though there was some uncertainty where he’d draw in upon Draisaitl’s return, he has proven more capable than some of the Oilers’ other forwards and has shown willingness to put in effort and defy expectations. Not only that, he is a fast, speedy and positive young player who is learning on the fly and brings a lot of optimism to the locker room.
With Yamamoto moving up, the Oilers demoted Strome to the bottom-six, and reportedly, the team is disappointed in his performance so far. He has just a goal and three points and hasn’t done much to contribute offensively, and he has also struggled to take good care of the puck. Perhaps sending him to the fourth line will be a wake-up call that will spark some offence and consistency in his game.
Jussi Jokinen and Jujhar Khaira found themselves on the outs. Khaira, though physical and solid defensively, has gone scoreless and hasn’t been able to muster up much on offence. The same can be said for Jokinen; the 34-year-old veteran has just a single assist through 10 games so far and hasn’t done much to stand out.
Lastly, as far as the power play goes, the Oilers haven’t been finding success or any kind of production on the man advantage, which is unusual for a team of their calibre. Therefore, it needed to change, and though McDavid and Draisaitl are a strong tandem, they can both be utilized separately to help carry both PP units, and hopefully, this will ignite some offence
On the blue line, the Klefbom-Larsson pairing was split, and with good reason; the two have struggled so far this season as a shutdown pairing, and beyond their top pairing, Edmonton hasn’t gotten a lot out of their defence.
Therefore, they must spread their assets and also try new pairings to see if this will not only lead to chemistry but better play from the defence.
Overall, the Oilers are struggling to start the year and aren’t looking as strong as they were last year. Therefore, shuffling the lines around may spark some kind of momentum from this group.