Game Day 71 Oilers vs Arizona
Fans of the Oilers of Edmonton were greeted with some entirely discouraging news on Friday when the team’s head coached Ken Hitchcock rolled out his prospective lines for Saturday’s game against Arizona.
As reported by Bob Stauffer of the Oilers, the lines were:
In other words, two of the best forwards in the NHL, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, were going to be paired up with two of the weakest attacking wingers in the NHL in Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder.
This year in the NHL, 375 forwards have played at least 400 even strength minutes, including McDavid, Draisaitl, Zack Kassian, Alex Chiasson, Lucic and Rieder.
When it comes to points per 60 minutes of even strength time, they ranks as follows, according to Natural Stat Trick:
- McDavid, 3.29 per 60, 5 out of 375.
- Draisaitl, 2.84 per 60 24 out of 375
- Kassian, 1.41 per 60, 273 out of 375.
- Chiasson, 1.22 per 60, 316 out of 375.
- Lucic, 0.97 per 60, 344 out of 375.
- Rieder, 0.88 per 60, 356 out of 375.
Two of these things, McDavid and Draisaitl, are not like the others.
Based on point scoring, Rieder and Lucic are at best fourth liners and might qualify to be waived and sent to the AHL. They are borderline NHLers. Kassian and Chiasson give you at best third line production as NHL forwards, though a case can be made that Kassian has stepped up his game since being promoted to a top line. That’s not the case with Chiasson, who has had mediocre production — at least if you see Chiasson as a top line or second line winger — this year at even strength despite often having strong linemates.
For all these reasons, I wrote a post on Thursday suggesting that for their last gasp at making the playoffs, the Oilers need to call up Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody, two younger players who are crushing it in the AHL and might give the Oilers a needed boost of skill and scoring.
That was not to be, but the Oilers did make a move, calling up Joe Gambardella.
Gamdardella, 25, has 45 points in 48 games. He’s been a strong AHL performer in his second full season there, after spending a full four seasons in U.S. college hockey.
He’s a small, quick, aggressive player with some skill. It’s unlikely he’s got a long-term NHL future, as his game was slow developing. But I would have said the same of Josh Currie, who has impressed in his brief stint with the Oilers. Currie looks like he’ll battle for a fourth line NHL job next year.
If I were king of the Oilers, I would have called up Marody as well, who has 49 points in 47 games in the AHL. As is, I would prefer to see lines something like:
One can only hope that Gambardella does get in the mix and that Hitchcock gives McDavid and Draisaitl better linemates this game. We’ve seen plenty of Lucic on one of the top two lines these last three years and it’s safe to safe it’s not optimal for the team.