While the major hole in the Oilers lineup is not having top defensemen, the other huge hole is the 3rd line. Essentially, the Oilers don't have a 3rd line. In most cases, I'd take the 4th line over the 3rd line any day of the week (except Tuesday, because the KFC chicken special isn't a toonie anymore and movies aren't that cheap anyway, plus Netflix is pretty good, you know).
|Oilers' signing Drake Caggiula. Image courtesy USA Today.|
Peter Chiarelli just signed a couple NCAA forwards to two year entry level deals"
1. Dr. Drake Caggiula (Kah-jjjewel-ya), a small-skilled-but-tough Canadian playing in North Dakota. (I added the "Dr.")
2. Patrick Russell (or is it Russell Patrick?), a Dane, a bigger than average dude playing in St. Cloud
So I've been readin' some stats and discussin' on Oilers Facebook groups and thinkin' 'bout next year's 3rd line, these guys, and some folks seem to think that they could slot in on the 3rd line at centre and right wing right away as their numbers translate accordingly to an NHL level.
But I'm like, hold on, hold on, they'll need a stint in Bakersfield, right? They should. The NCAA game isn't a tough as the AHL, that. is. for. sure. for. sure. And while Dr. Drake is a spark-plug of a player, he's small, so let's see how that really does translate.
Coach McLellan said that teams win with good 3rd lines because most teams have a good top 6 that match up anyway, so you need to be really smart about this.
And not only did the Oiler not have even close to an NHL-level defense this year, yes injuries injuries injuries, but that rag-tag of a third line that Chiarelli put together with Korpikoski and Letestu and Yakupov was a mess. A hot stinking mess.
Who did the Oilers mostly have on the 3rd line?
Left wing: Lauri Korpikoski, Matt Hendricks,
Centre: Mark Letestu, Matt Hendricks, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Right wing: Nail Yakupov, Iiro Pakarinen, Zack Kassian
In my super scientific Lineup Value Metric, the end-of-year actual to ideal lineup went like this:
1st Line: 92%
2nd Line: 88%
3rd Line: 57%
4th Line: 92%
Save the Nuge and Yak, all of the aforementioned players make very good 4th line players. Yak really only slots well on a 2nd line sniper role with a good centre like McDavid, but even then, Yak doesn't make McDavid better, but Eberle does.
Then I saw some stats on Patrick Maroon and Benoit Pouliot each playing with McDavid and Eberle, and believe it or not, but Pouliot had more success.
So here's what I'm thinking... Pouliot stays with McMagical and Ebernizer and call it the first line now and Maroon is the guy on the 3rd line, but I worry because he's not the greatest skater. Anyway, if Nuge isn't dealt for a defensemen, we stick with:
1. Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
2. Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Draisaitl
3. Maroon - ? - ?
4. Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
5. Khaira - Lander - Pakarinen
And trade Korpikoski, Yakupov no matter what. That said, Draisaitl really isn't a right-winger or a third-line centre. He's an ideal 2nd line two-way centre.
If you trade Nuge for defensemen, as was rumoured with Seth Jones, you got to find a right-winger. Sorry but Kassian isn't your guy on the 2nd line and is a stop fill on the 3rd line, unless he can light it up with a decent centreman. I say look at St. Louis' UFAs, because they're going to lose against San Jose these playoffs.
Pouliot - McDavid - Eberle
Hall - Draisaitl - ?
Maroon - Backes (.57 ppg) - Brouwer (.46 ppg)
Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
Khaira - Lander - Pakarinen
The key is finding that elusive 3rd line centre and right and if you say David Backes and Troy Brouwer from St. Louis, then there are your perfect ideal answers. Just as Hendricks is filling in for Khaira to develop as a 4th line LW/C, sign Backes and Brouwer on 2-3 year deals while Dr. Drake and Pat Russ develop would be a smart, ideal move.
And that should solve the mysterious missing 3rd line.