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Sports Is it time for coach Todd McLellan to break up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl? Yes

04:05  07 november  2017
04:05  07 november  2017 Source:   edmontonjournal.com

Oilers' McDavid, Penguins' Crosby set for NHL superstar showdown

  Oilers' McDavid, Penguins' Crosby set for NHL superstar showdown Traffic comes to a halt as the rest of the hockey world tunes in to see what the two biggest superstars in the game are about to deliver .“Two of the best players on the planet,” said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan, who’s hoping the 2-5 Oilers can finish off their three-game road trip with an upset.“It will come down to team play, but you do appreciate as a coach, a fan, even a player, their skill set and what they’ve brought to their teams and their communities, even off the rink. Both of them are tremendous that way. It’s fun when they’re together.”It certainly was last season.

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (GETTY IMAGES). Throughout training camp, head coach Todd McLellan experimented with using Leon Draisaitl as the No. 2 center, and not McDavid 's right wing.

Is it time for Todd McLellan to split Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl up 5-on-5? McDavid and Draisaitl have played together virtually all season, and both are on pace for stellar individual campaigns again, but the Oilers remain dead last in the league in goals scored.

081617-no_object-55702942-OilersDucks11-W.jpg © Amber Bracken 081617-no_object-55702942-OilersDucks11-W.jpg

There are a number of things that one might reasonably find fault with Oilers coach Todd McLellan, but to be fair to him there are some things going right with the team.

For example, when it comes to creating Grade A scoring chances (hard or dangerous shots on net from the inner slot), the Oilers have outchanced the opposition in this category nine out of 13 games.

But the Oilers have just three wins and six losses in those nine games.

I point out Edmonton’s scoring chances differential not to argue that the Oilers are a good team. They aren’t. They’ve had weak goaltending. Their power play and penalty kill units have been atrocious. They give up the first goal far too often and they have lacked the dynamism to rebound. They richly deserve to be a losing team, yet I’d still argue it’s unfair to call them a terrible team, one of the worst teams in the NHL. They’re a team with struggles, but they’re not a team that can’t find salvation in the playoffs, even this year.

Oilers’ Draisaitl, Caggiula likely to play vs. Penguins

  Oilers’ Draisaitl, Caggiula likely to play vs. Penguins The Edmonton Oilers offence is about to get a big boost as forwards Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula are likely to join the lineup Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. McLellan: Draisaitl and Caggiula will play tonight if doctors ok after skate.— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) October 24, 2017McLellan: "They look good, they feel good. They're ready."— Mark Spector (@SportsnetSpec) October 24, 2017With Draisaitl and Caggiula likely, it appears Brad Malone is headed back to AHL Bakersfield.

lets pretend i'm not reuploading this since i accidentally fucked it up the first time can we take a moment to acknowledge the connor / leon and laurent/oscar photos??? todd mclellan jordan eberle ryan nugent hopkins darnell nurse connor mcdavid leon draisaitl matt benning drake caggiula matt

Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl (GETTY IMAGES). Throughout training camp, head coach Todd McLellan experimented with using Leon Draisaitl as the No. 2 center, and not McDavid 's right wing.

For that turnaround to occur, however, one major change has to be made.

Outside of the obvious special teams issues, McLellan has been presented with two major tactical issues at even strength in 2017-18, and while he looks to have solved his issue with his defence pairings, he’s yet to do so with his forward lines.

McLellan headed into the year facing the loss of Andrej Sekera, who was the team’s best and most consistent two-way defenceman last year. To replace Sekera in the Top 4, McLellan needed one of Darnell Nurse or Matt Benning to step up. Benning was McLellan’s first choice, given that player’s strong performance in the 2017 playoffs but Benning played shaky hockey early on, then got injured. Nurse, on the other hand, has played his best hockey as an Oiler early in the 2017-18 season.

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When Todd McLellan runs out his top forward line with both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and when he builds his second on the duo of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Milan Lucic, he’s doing something that NHL coaches have long done: playing talent with talent.

It is time Todd McLellan changes his top line and the reason is simple. They aren’t producing. In the last seven games Connor McDavid , Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl have produced a 5×5 in goal in one game.

Things would have been swell for the Oilers on the defensive front, but Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell also got off to weak starts, Klefbom in terms of his defensive game, and Russell at both ends of the ice.

To give McLellan and his coaching staff credit, they recognized the issues here and made adjustments which so far have worked out fine.

The rising Nurse was put on the top-pairing with stalwart Adam Larsson, and they’ve generally got the job done in the top-pairing role.

Given a lesser role on the second pairing with Matt Benning, Klefbom also rebounded in the Detroit game, where he was solid. As for Benning, he’s been playing OK two-way hockey in a Top 4 role since coming back from injury.

Finally, Russell looks to have settled down somewhat in a bottom pairing role, with either Eric Gryba or Yohann Auvitu at his side.

After going with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on their own lines in pre-season, McLellan decided he needed one strong line to carry the team until a few players stepped up on the wing.

Connor McDavid completes no-look pass to Draisaitl for Oilers' goal

  Connor McDavid completes no-look pass to Draisaitl for Oilers' goal Watch Connor McDavid's impressive no-look pass to Leon Draisaitl.Connor McDavid is at it again.

On Draisaitl ’s Struggles. If you’ve been watching the games lately you’ve likely asked yourself what’s up with Leon Draisaitl . He’s not the dominant force that he has been and the slump couldn’t have come at a worse time . When asked about it , Todd McLellan offered the following

It took 20 games for Todd McLellan to finally, reluctantly, revisit the experiment he abandoned in training camp: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on different lines. It ’s a good idea, one we looked at in detail earlier this month, and deserves some time to play out.

This move has given the Oilers one strong top line. Both McDavid and Draisaitl have played well at even strength (save for a weak game against the Redwings).  But by stacking the top line, McLellan has left obvious holes and weakness on his second and third lines.

You can’t win consistently in the NHL with just one line, it seems.

As it stands now, Oilers fans can hope to see a goal when the McDavid line is out there, but then we’re left to wait until they’re back on the ice. The other lines simply haven’t been getting it done.

My take? McLellan has got to ask even more of McDavid and Draisaitl now. He needs them step up and lead their own lines, to be a one-two punch for the Oilers. It strikes me that while both have attacked well on the same line, they’re not playing as well as they might on defence, as seen by both committing a fly-by on the second Detroit goal on Sunday. Both players take turns playing centre when they’re on their own line. Could it be on that particular scoring play both  McDavid and Draisaitl were a bit confused, that both were thinking the other guy had the main defensive responsibilities down low by the net? It would help explain the fly-by plays by two players who are usually defensively responsible.

Malkin leads Penguins in 3-2 win over Oilers

  Malkin leads Penguins in 3-2 win over Oilers Malkin leads Penguins in 3-2 win over OilersEDMONTON - Evgeni Malkin scored the go-ahead goal on a power play in the third period as the Pittsburgh Penguins snapped a two-game losing skid with a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.

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#hockey # connor mcdavid # todd mclellan #team north america. #mcdrai # todd mclellan # leon draisaitl # connor mcdavid #otp #edmonton oilers #i love them so much.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has won over many Oilers fans with his greatly improved faceoff percentage of 56.8 per cent and with some timely goal-scoring. With my own focus on scoring chances, however, I’m seeing a player who has leaked far too many Grade A scoring chances against at even strength. I don’t see him able to lead the second line to success at this point, at least not with the current selection of wingers.

Last year, RNH made 48 major mistakes on Grade A scoring chances in 82 games. That works out to 0.62 per 15 minutes of even strength time.

This year, RNH has made 14 such mistakes in 13 games, 1.21 per 15.

Essentially he’s making twice as many major mistakes on the most dangerous of chances. He’s not getting the job done in his own zone and Milan Lucic hasn’t been much better. He’s making more major mistakes on Grade A even strength scoring chances per game than any other Oilers winger.

RNH and Lucic aren’t the answer on the second line. They clearly need some help. Will the coach finally give it to them?

The obvious move would be to simply switch RNH to McDavid’s wing on the first line and move Draisaitl to play with Lucic and Drake Caggiula/Anton Slepyshev on the second line. Kailer Yamamoto is now out of the picture, having just been sent down to major junior.

Or the Oilers could go with McDavid as the first line centre, Draisaitl as the second and RNH as the third.

However McLellan wants to adjust, until Edmonton breaks up McDavid and Draisaitl, balances out its lines and gets a far more functional two-way second line, I don’t see the Oilers consistently playing their best game.

McCURDY: Yamamoto sent down

LEAVINS: Player grades in 4-0 loss to Red Wings

STAPLES: Klefbom slumping? Not on the attack

'Take a deep breath': Evolution of Darnell Nurse one bright spot for Oilers this season .
In a sports-crazy city where every hockey fan is an expert and social-media critics fire a constant barrage of 140-character rants, one promising background story has been the slow and inexorable evolution of defenceman Darnell Nurse. Fourteen games into the Edmonton Oilers' substandard season, with playoff hopes in jeopardy, Nurse has quietly gone about the business of growing into the role thrust upon him. Promoted at the beginning of the month to play in the top pair beside Adam Larsson, Nurse has looked more comfortable with each passing day.

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