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:   Edmonton Journal

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It is time to break up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl line - edmontonjournal.com. GAME DAY 50: Oilers vs Anaheim. For much of the season, Oilers insiders, such as TSN’ s Ryan Rishaug, have reported that Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan believes that on the best of all possible Oilers

For much of the season, Oilers insiders, such as TSN’s Ryan Rishaug, have reported that Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan believes that on the best of all possible Oilers line-ups this year, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are on the same line.

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.

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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.

We’ve basically been given a one line team built around Connor Mcdavid and Leon Draisaitl . And that’s essentially what Peter Chiarelli and Todd Mclellan banked on getting this team to the glory land.

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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They’ve won just two games in their last seven, and it might be time for head coach Todd McLellan to play with the lines. The Oilers started off the season playing all three of Connor McDavid , Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Leon Draisaitl down the middle.

He promoted Patrick Maroon to the first line with Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle, and had Milan Lucic skating with Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian. “ Connor ’s line is in on a lot of offensive chances, but they’ve been giving up a lot,” McLellan said after practice Friday at Chelsea Piers in advance of

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.

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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.

Todd McLellan Talks About the Oilers’ Struggles, Leon Draisaitl , and Changing the Lines. If Todd wants to keep Connor and Leon together that’s fine, but what about rotating someone else in on the left It would be manna from heaven if the Oilers could get a consistent scoring line behind McDavid .

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.

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Is Todd McLellan switching up the Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid combo in the right spot or not? Frustrated with the current state of the Oilers, coach Todd McLellan made a number of changes, splitting up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the power play but keeping them together at

When Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid are going well, they keep the puck in the Time to break up McDavid and Draisaitl ? After Oilers lose to Habs, David Staples and Bruce McCurdy dig into several vexing questions: Why is coach Todd McLellan sticking with Draisaitl and McDavid ?

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

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