Mysteries of the Edmonton Oilers revealed! Who is the team's top power couple and how can they drive success?

Edmonton Oilers Kailer Yamamoto (56) gets a tap on the helmet by Leon Draisaitl (29) after scoring on Ottawa Senators goalie Marcus Hogberg (1) during NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, January 31, 2021.Edmonton Oilers Kailer Yamamoto (56) gets a tap on the helmet by Leon Draisaitl (29) after scoring on Ottawa Senators goalie Marcus Hogberg (1) during NHL action at Rogers Place in Edmonton, January 31, 2021. Photo by Ed Kaiser /Postmedia

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Game Day 27, Oilers vs Senators

I’m bullish on the new top line combination put together by Oilers head coach Dave Tippett.

Why?

Tippett has kept together the Oilers top power couple from the past two seasons, Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto, but he’s given them a lightning bolt of offensive power in Connor McDavid at their side.

The trio could well ignite an Oilers attack that had gone into the tank in three straight losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs and one period against the Calgary Flames. Edmonton was averaging more than 13 Grade A scoring chances per game before facing the Leafs, but got just eight Grade A chances per game against the motivated Leafs and had just one in the first period against Calgary. Not good. A change was desperately needed and Tippett pulled the trigger.

In doing so, he paired strength with strength.

When it comes to power couples of forwards on the Edmonton Oilers, no duo has had more two-way success together at even strength than Yamamoto and Draisaitl in the past two seasons.

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They’ve played together 798 minutes at even strength, a good chunk of time. The team has scored 50 goals while giving up just 28 for a 65 per cent goals for percentage.

That’s the highest Goals For percentage of any Oilers duo in this time, better than Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins at 54.6 per cent and better than McDavid and Draisaitl, 54.7 per cent. It’s much, much better than McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins at 47.2 per cent, with 52 goals for but 56 against in 823 minutes.

That is a huge sample for McDavid and RNH as far as on-ice partnerships go. I’m just not seeing the chemistry there, not even close, largely because McDavid does his best work when he’s setting up others to score, but the same goes for RNH, and he’s not a top drawer sniper himself.

Essentially, they both excel passing the puck, but there’s only one puck and they’re kind of wasted on the same line.

Draisaitl also does his best work with the puck, but because he’s also a brilliant sniper he has done well in stretches at McDavid’s side. 

Which lines might work well for the Oilers?

As everyone who reads this blog knows, I’ve long advocated for the Dynamite Line of Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and Yamamoto to be re-united. Opposing teams consistently failed to stop that line. In fact, it terrorized the opposition. What’s wrong with that? Why not make the other guys stop that?

But it seems, at least for now, that Tippett isn’t going to with the Dynamite Line.

That just might work, at least if he can come up with a top line that is close to as effective as the Dynamite Line, and if he can also come up with a second line that out-scores its opponents.

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I like the chances of this new power line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Yamamoto of succeeding.

In its short time together, it’s got six goals for and two goals against, a 75 per cent goals for percentage.

This trio has done this in a small sample size of just 63 even strength minutes. To be as good as the Dynamite Line, it’ll have to keep up that blistering Goals For % pace for more than 300 minutes, but the new trio is so good it might just be able to get close to 65 per cent Goals For or more over a long period of time.

When we look at Oilers lines 2015-15, the McDavid, Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon trio had a Goals For% of 56.7 per cent. McDavid, Draisaitl and Kassian were at only 49.2 per cent.

Second line woes?

As for the Oilers second line, which will now feature Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jesse Puljujarvi, plus Tyler Ennis or Dominik Kahun or Joakim Nygard, or maybe even Tyler Benson if he’s recalled, or Dylan Holloway if he’s eventually signed, I’m less bullish on its chances of outscoring the opposition. RNH is a strong complementary Top 6 attacker but he’s not a driver of an NHL line.

Can Puljujarvi do that job? That’s a lot to ask. Maybe one day but I’m not sure he has that kind of confidence and ability just yet.

Ennis has a lot of offensive flair, so maybe he can fulfill this offensive driver role for a time. But it seems that if this new top power line were to stay together, Edmonton might well have to trade for a left wing or a centre if it hopes to have a successful second line as well.

There’s some chance they’ll find that left winger for RNH and Puljujarvi from within, but if this new top line sticks, a trade for a top forward becomes all the more likely.

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