Too soon for Oilers to replace Warren Foegele with Connor Brown in lineup

There has been some talk that it might be time for the Oilers to give Connor Brown a look in the playoffs, but Warren Foegele has earned a longer leash.
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages

The playoffs have started off well for the Edmonton Oilers, with them dispatching the Los Angeles Kings in the first round for a third consecutive year. In addition, this was arguably the best the Oilers have looked in any of the three series versus their Pacific Division rivals.

However, even in victory, no team is entirely above reproach. There are still things the Oilers need to work on, as they prepare to face either the Vancouver Canucks or Nashville Predators in the second round of the playoffs.

One suggestion is to make some changes in the lineup. As noted by Trade NHL Talk's Jim Parsons, the likes of Ryan McLeod and Corey Perry were both held without a point in five games versus the Kings.

Warren Foegele struggles

However, it's Warren Foegele in particular, who Parsons notes as a candidate to be replaced in the lineup. The winger seemed to especially struggle in game five of the first round, as he played a series-low 10:16 and was arguably the worst Oilers player on the ice in the series-clinching 4-3 win versus the Kings.

Parsons then goes on to suggest that Connor Brown should be the one to replace Foegele in the lineup. This is qualified with the reasonable assessment that they play similar games and thus are interchangeable, especially with Brown looking better towards the end of the regular season following a challenging first few months.

Whilst entirely appreciating and respecting Parson's opinion, it's a little too soon to take Foegele out of the lineup. And this is while appreciating that the 28-year-old was moved down to the bottom six, after beginning the opening two games on the second line.

This is still the same player who finished the regular season as the best forward on the Oilers, including scoring three goals in his final three games. This saw him complete the 2023-24 campaign with career bests of 20 goals, 21 assists and 41 overall points, whilst also seeing the second-highest average ice time of his seven seasons in the NHL.

We appreciate that Foegele has struggled more than usual defensively during the opening round of the playoffs, which is an area where Brown often excels. However, it still seems too early to turn the reigns over to a player who overall disappointed during the regular season.

In many respects, professional sports is often renowned for the mindset of 'what have you done for me lately?' However, we would go the other way in arguing that Foegele's play in general during this season, has earned him a slightly longer leash.

A caveat for continuing to play Foegele

Now this is not to suggest that Foegele be allowed to play on indefinitely, if his struggles continue for too long into the Oilers' second round series. We realise that every game has an added sense or urgency and importance during the playoffs, as the stakes are raised in the quest for Stanley Cup glory.

Further, the Oilers are in a great position in respect of having no real injury issues, combined with better depth and more quality than in previous seasons of the Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl era. There way never be a better opportunity for this franchise to win a Stanley Cup, while they still have the best player in the game, along with another who is regularly among the top five-10 in the NHL but might be leaving once his current deal expires in Edmonton.

Still though, we would keep faith with Foegele for just a little while longer. Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch clearly has faith in the young forward, given placing him on the second line in the first place and then still keeping him in the lineup rather than taking him out altogether, even as he struggled versus the Kings.

Evander Kane continues to prove his importance to the Oilers. Evander Kane continues to prove his importance to the Oilers. dark. Next

Overall, we would implore Knoblauch to give Foegele at least a game or two to rediscover the form he showed for the majority of the 2023-24 regular season. However, if he continues to struggle, then it will be more justified to give Brown his own opportunity to show what he can do under the bright lights and increased intensity of playoff hockey.

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