Ok so the Oilers draft Yakupov on the 22nd. How does that impact the rest of the Oilers Top Six?
In this past season the Oilers top six consisted of Hall, RNH, Eberle, Gagner, Hemsky and for at least the first part of the season Smyth. Just replace Smyth with Yakupov and bang, the Oilers now have an awesome top six, right? Nope I don't think so. It takes more than skill to win the Stanley Cup and a group of Hall, RNH, Eberle, Gagner, Hemsky and Yakupov isn't going to do it.
If you look at the stats for the last six Stanley cup champions you'll notice a couple things this group is missing.
#1 - This group is soft, really soft. Five of the last six champions have had a player in the top six who was very physical and had over 150 hits in the regular season. You know who the biggest hitter in the Oilers past season was? Smyth with 53 hits. If Hall had played the whole season he'd probably have around 60. I don't see that being good enough. You can't win every game with skill you got to win some with grit and the top six players have to have some.
#2 - The oilers top six is weak with an average weight of 187.5 pounds, with nobody over 200. The last six champions had at least 2 players over 200 pounds most teams had 3. Now the Oilers are pretty young but Hall is probably the one of the group who could probably eventually play at 200 pounds. Why is this important? Well because no matter how strong on the puck a 190 pound player is when a 220 pound defenseman is pushing them, the chances the 190 pound player wins is low.
Now looking at what changes when (ok if but it’s really been decided) the Oilers draft Yakupov.
Do the oilers gain that physical player they are looking?
I don't think so unfortunately I haven't been able to find stats on hits for him.
Do the Oilers get stronger?
Possibly. Yakupov is listed in most places at 190 pounds however I have seen one place (hockey futures) that lists him at 170. Pretty sure the 190 is more accurate. Could he get over that 200 pound barrier? Sure, however it would surprise me.
Ok given Yakupov is likely not going to solve those two problems what should the Oilers do? Considering Hall, RNH, Eberle and Yakupov are pretty much untouchable, that leaves Gagner and Hemsky. I honestly would replace both of them, with who I’m not sure.
For this upcoming season I’d get rid of Hemsky for well anything. He's not going to solve any of the problems and he's also a right wing same as Yakupov. Some people say just switch somebody to the other side, some players can do that others cannot (e.g. Eric Cole). My opinion is that Yakupov should play his strong wing (right) and I doubt Hemsky can make an effective transition to the left at this point in his career. I also wouldn't put either of them on the third line since I’d expect something resembling defensive play and that’s not them.
Now Gagner, I would probably consider keeping for this year, however I don't think he should be part of the long term plans. He's not defensively strong so putting him on the third line makes no sense. He's been in the league 5 years now so I’m pretty confident that he's at his optimal playing weight so he's not going to get much if any stronger. He doesn't throw hits (21 this year). I don't see him as part of the solution to bring the cup back to Edmonton.
Hartikainen and Paajarvi could potentially fill both roles, although both are wingers. I really hope Hartikainen can up his offensive game; he could really help in both areas.
What are your thoughts?