And we're back! Enough talk of hypotheticals, possible point productions, and potential line combinations. We finally have some real hockey to see and discuss, happy times are here again! As we've discussed many times over the last few months, everything feels different about this team and training camp has been no different. The pace has appeared quicker, the coach, more demanding. For years the Oilers have been criticized for being lacklustre in their practices. McLellan looks to be demanding of his players and doesn't waste too much of his practices in front of the white board.
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Probably the most promising takeaway for Oiler fans is that after one day on the ice, we should have a decent idea of what the opening night lines will be.
Not too many surprises for the most part, although the third line may come as a bit of a shock (more on that in a sec). As of right now it looks like Reinhart will make the team over Nurse but there is plenty of preseason left for Darnell to make his case.
McLellan has said on multiple occasions that he is a bigger believer in pairs over trios when it comes to his forwards. Judging that we can assume these are probably who he is referring to right now: Eberle-Nuge, Hall-McDavid, Draisaitl-Lander, Letestu-Korpikoski. That leaves Pouliot, Hendricks, Yakupov, and Purcell as roamers, guys who may play up and down the roster depending on the situation.
Let me give an example. The Draisaitl-Lander-Yakupov line is brilliant. I absolutely love the idea of it. If it works the Oilers would have three lines all capable of being a scoring threat. At home this line would get the easiest competition and a nice helping of offensive zone starts. On the road is a different matter and there is a very good chance you would see this line get lit up on a fairly regular basis.
A response? Throw Hendricks onto the third line, move Yak or Draisaitl onto the fourth and you have two lines that have some defensive strengths, along with a good helping of speed. Ten minutes left in the game and down by one? Move Eberle onto the wing with Hall and McDavid. Yak thriving and Purcell struggling? Switch em.
While some people are still unhappy with acquiring Korpikoski and losing Gordon I think they may warm up to him more as we see the new TMac blender. While the defence is still a mess, this is a group of forwards that is full of guys who can move up and down as needed. The rest of this preseason should give us an even better idea of how McLellan plans to mix and match his roster. Welcome back hockey, we missed you.
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