Game Day 25 Oilers vs Leafs
We don’t know if the DYNamite Line of Leon Draisaitl, Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can again capture the magic that made them the NHL’s top attacking line in the 2019-20 season.
But we do know that splitting up the Dynamites has had a massive and negative effect on each player’s offensive performance at even strength.
Here are a few highlights of that offensive collapse, comparing the trio’s performance in the 28 games they were together last year to the first 24 games of the 2020-21 season, when Nugent-Hopkins has been away from Draisaitl and Yamamoto.
- RNH’s point scoring is way, way down, 0.92 points per 15 with the Dynamite Line vs 0.30 per 15 on Connor McDavid’s line. He had 27 even strength points in 28 games with the Dynamites, but he’s got just seven in 24 games with McDavid.
- Kailer Yamamoto’s point scoring is also way down, going from 0.85 to 0.43 points per 15, with Draisaitl also dropping from 0.96 to 0.76. Yamamoto has dropped from 22 even strength points in 25 games with the Dynamites to 10 points in 24 games this season.
- Draisaitl has had one quarter the number of Grade A scoring chance shots this year, 39 in 28 games with the Dynamite Line, but just 10 in 24 games this year.
- Draisaitl’s major contributions to Grade A chances is also down, going from 99 in 28 games with the Dynamites to 55 in 24 games this year. RNH and Yamamoto have also seen significant drops.
Oilers coach Dave Tippett said he made the change to bring more balance to the Oilers’ attack but that has failed to come about, at least when it comes to the top two lines.
As we’ve now seen, Draisaitl, RNH and Yamamoto’s offensive production has dropped or crashed in every category.
As for Connor McDavid, he’s doing about the same with Nugent-Hopkins on his wing as he did without RNH. He’s scoring a bit less but getting a few more even strength points in 2021 but he’s making almost exactly the same rate of major contributions to Grade A chances at even strength.
He had 18 even strength points in 22 games when the Dynamite Line was doing its thing last year and he’s got 22 even strength points in 24 games this year.
These downward trends of the Dynamites has been evident for some time. It took the Oilers getting shut out twice to the Leafs to make the change. It was clearly time to move, the Oilers coaches have now done so, so we’ll see how the new lines work. I expect all players involved will find more success with these new combinations.
It looks like James Neal will be on the top line with Connor McDavid and Jesse Puljujarvi tonight vs the Leafs and that Kris Russell will go in for Evan Bouchard. Neal is likely not a long-term answer on the top line, as he’s not quick enough to match McDavid and Puljujarvi’s pace. But for a short term jolt of energy, he will do. As for taking out Bouchard, if that does happen I’m not a fan of it. He’s the Oil’s most talented puck moving d-man. He should be in the line-up. If I had to make a choice, I’d take Ethan Bear out of the line-up instead and go with Bouchard. Bear has struggled all year. He’s making the highest rate of major mistakes of Grade A scoring chances against of any Edmonton Oilers d-man.
That said, Bear played solid two-way hockey all of last season, so it’s not a major issue that he’s playing over Bouchard just now, if that is now things play out in tonight’s game. The fact is that the Oilers have a wealth of useful players on defence, and until a trade is made or injuries hit hard, good players will have to sit now and then.
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