Oilers vs Blue Jackets - What's Next for the Oilers?
Corey Perry and Ken Holland sat down in front of the media Monday afternoon to discuss the 38 year old veterans' role with the Edmonton Oilers. As expected, Perry did not go into the details of his contract termination but spoke well about his mental health and what he has done in the last couple months to improve.
Holland confirmed that Perry will not play until Saturday's game at the earliest. That's a smart move. Give Perry time to practice with the team, learn their systems, and get back into game shape. There is no need to rush him into a lineup that is rolling.
The question will be where does Perry fit into the lineup? We know he will play in the bottom six but we likely won't know until Saturday where the coach envisions him. Right now here is the expected lineup for tonight, without Perry.
Pickard gets the start tonight.
Where does Perry go in this lineup? In place of Ryan on the third line? In place of Gagner or Brown on the fourth? A decent argument for both.
McLeod and Ryan have always played well together defensively but the goal scoring just isn't there. We've seen enough different players with McLeod (Janmark, Foegele, Ryan) to know that McLeod's line puts up strong metrics regardless of his linemates. They need a shot to the arm offensively though.
Holloway played excellent in his return, registering an assist and likely could have had another (if Brown could score). Holloway is a bit of a pest himself and has speed and skill to match. Perry could be an excellent match for his style of game.
Who is the odd man out on this lineup?
There are 4 likely candidates here:
Gagner has been the first player to get pulled from the lineup when they've added an extra forward. He also isn't used at all on Knoblauch's PK or on the powerplay. The one thing Gagner has over any of these names is that he is scoring.
Gagner has 5 goals and 5 assists in 20 games this season, averaging less than 11 minutes a game. He has 1 more goal than Ryan despite playing 22 fewer games, 4 more goals than Janmark in 12 fewer games, and infinity more goals than Connor Brown. For a bottom six that is looking for more players who produce, Gagner is a solid option.
Ryan is a steady jack of all trades veteran. He plays the second most minutes on the PK among forwards, is defensively sound, can chip in with the occasional goal and is a right shot centre if the team needs one. He may get bumped down the lineup but I don't see him being taken out.
Has seen his PK time take a bit of a dip under Knoblauch, playing the fourth most minutes among forwards, just a hair above Ryan McLeod (43:52-43:30). Likely best suited as a fourth line player as he plays a solid two way game but doesn't bring much to the table offensively.
At some point the Brown experiment is going to have to end. There are some solid analytic numbers for Brown; the team outshoots their opponent when he is on the ice. He does create scoring chances and plays fairly well on the PK. But the actual numbers (6 goals for 14 against) when he is on the ice just can't be ignored.
If Brown can pot one goal, maybe he can start to turn the season around and the Oilers will have the player they thought they were getting when they signed him. We sit at the halfway point of the season and that hasn't happened.
Right now I am bumping Brown out of the lineup, putting Perry with McLeod and see if he can keep up on that line. The next player I am pushing out of the lineup is Janmark. Here is what I would realistically like to see from the Oilers going into the post-season:
RNH - McDavid - Hyman
Kane - Draisaitl - Foegele
Guenztel (Henrique) - McLeod - Perry
Gagner - Holloway - Ryan
Guenztel is the pipe dream, Henrique is a more realistic (affordable) option. Maybe Janmark or Brown get the nod over Gagner if Knoblauch needs a PK forward but regardless that is a deep forward core with some solid call up options should an injury occur.
The Oilers look to keep their winning streak going tonight against the Blue Jackets. Pickard gets the start.
Thanks for reading!