The Edmonton Oilers returned home from a 1-1-0 road trip and made a few roster moves on Thursday. The club, who plays two huge games at home this weekend, assigned Patrick Russell to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors and placed Drake Caggiula on IR.
In response, the club recalled (again) Cooper Marody from Bakersfield and activated waiver claim Valentin Zykov. Zykov had been skating in Edmonton, but could not join the team’s roster because of immigration issues. Those issues, clearly, have been resolved.
Time For Change:
One could argue that, offensively, the Edmonton Oilers rode the Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl line to the playoffs in the spring of 2017. Ken Hitchcock tried to recreate that magic by teaming McDavid and Draisaitl up once again after taking over, but it just hasn’t worked out.
Yes, the club is 5-2-1, but the offense has dried up and the McDavid/Draisaitl duo simply does not look comfortable together. McDavid scores better away from Draisaitl, and even though Leon’s numbers decline a bit they are still very strong away from McDavid. I thought Draisaitl did an excellent job on Monday night of handling his own line against the Stars with McDavid out of the lineup.
The temptation to play those two together is obvious, but the right call is to separate them and spread the offense out a little bit. Having both McDavid and Draisaitl centering their own lines gives Edmonton an impact player on the ice for at least half the game, making them a much tougher team to defend.
If I were coaching? I’d have McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH on their own lines. I’m not sure the team has enough wingers to do that, but in this scenario one of the best three Oiler forwards is almost always on the ice and it creates the chance for favorable matchups, especially at home.
Drake Caggiula went on IR yesterday with a hand injury, while Tobias Rieder is still out with an upper-body injury he suffered earlier in the season. Both of those players would be in the lineup if healthy, and I think both could be big parts of this team when they do eventually return.
In the meantime, Here is what I would roll out if I were Ken Hitchcock
Alex Chiasson – Connor McDavid – Ty Rattie
Ryan Spooner – Leon Draisaitl – Valentin Zykov
Jujhar Khaira – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jesse Puljujarvi
Milan Lucic – Kyle Brodziak – Zack Kassian
Chiasson has begun to cool down a bit, but he’s shown he can still contribute a bit when with McDavid and I’d milk that heater until it is completely dry. Rattie and McDavid have some chemistry and I think Rattie has actually been playing quite well lately.
The Draisaitl line is an interesting trio, but I do like Spooner’s speed and playmaking ability. Leon is obviously the driver of the line, while Zykov is another big body that brings smarts, net-front presence and goal scoring ability. I think it could be a decent group.
I’ve loved Khaira’s game since being promoted to RNH’s line, and I’d keep those two with Puljujarvi for the time being. JP isn’t posting numbers, but he looks more comfortable and appears to be settling in at the NHL level. I do believe the results will come for him.
I’m tempted to move Kyle Brodziak off the ‘identity line’ and into the pressbox in favor of Cooper Marody, but have kept him here for the time being. The play is dying on Brodziak’s stick far too often, and I think he is holding Lucic and Kassian back offensively five-on-five. That said, I’ve kept him in the lineup for faceoff and PK purposes.
It’s a nice thought, but I’d be stunned if Hitch split McDavid and Draisaitl up during this brief two game home stand. I suspect Zykov will draw into the lineup tonight, and I’d imagine Marody isn’t here to sit. I’d love to see Hitch employ my lines, but suspect he goes with something more like this:
Chiasson – McDavid – Draisaitl
Khaira – Nugent-Hopkins – Puljujarvi
Lucic – Brodziak – Kassian
Spooner – Marody – Zykov