Early 2013-14 Grades for Each Edmonton Oilers Line
Early on in the 2013-14 season, it’s hard to gauge exactly how this Edmonton Oilers team is faring in the newly formed Pacific Division, mainly due to the fact that the team hasn’t all been together thus far.
Injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner and now Taylor Hall have forced Dallas Eakins to be creative with his lineup.
However you choose to look at it, the Oilers are currently dead last in the standings in the Western Conference, which is simply not good enough for a team entering the fourth year of a rebuilding process.
Here are early-season grades for each of the Edmonton Oilers' lines.
Line 1: Taylor Hall/Nail Yakupov-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins- Jordan Eberle
When Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returned to the Edmonton Oilers' lineup after offseason shoulder surgery, it was apparent that “The Nuge” was the catalyst that helped to spark a stagnant Oilers offense.
Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle both currently lead the Oilers in scoring, but unfortunately for the Oilers, Hall will now miss up to four weeks with an injured knee, according to NHL.com.
If you're looking for a positive to this massive setback, the injury has lead coach Dallas Eakins to promote Nail Yakupov to the first line in an attempt to spark the sophomore sniper and help reestablish his confidence from last season.
Yakupov has languished this season and has been a healthy scratch already twice in 2013-14.
The injury to Hall will see Yakupov lined up with the Oilers' most talented playmakers in Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, which should help increase Yakupov’s production.
Eakins has leaned heavily upon his young stars and has utilized his offensive stars in a variety of situations, including penalty-killing, which has resulted in some poor plus/minus ratings for Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.
Line 2: David Perron/Nail Yakupov-Mark Arcobello-Ales Hemsky
Mark Arcobello has been the story of the young season for the Edmonton Oilers, as the journeyman AHL player has seized his first opportunity to play in the NHL and has been thriving so far.
The scrappy center has yet to register a goal but leads the team in assists with eight and has been an absolute fiend in the faceoff circle.
Craig MacTavish’s biggest offseason move, acquiring David Perron from the St. Louis Blues for Magnus Paajarvi, has seemed to work out in the Oilers' favor so far this season.
Perron has six points so far but has shown a tenacity that had been lacking in the Oilers' top two lines for quite some team.
Perron has an abundance of top-end skill, but it is his willingness to go to the dirty areas of the ice and his ability to get under the skin of his opponents that has made him the most valuable to the Oilers thus far.
Ales Hemsky has also endeared himself to his new coach, as Eakins has utilized the gifted forward in all aspects of the game so far, and Hemsky has responded with a respectable five points.
Unfortunately for this line, with the exception of Arcobello, Perron and Hemsky also have dismal plus/minus ratings. Some of this has to do with the fact that both players are utilized on the penalty kill (which is currently one of the worst in the league) and simply that the Oilers have been allowing far too many goals this season.
Line 3: Ryan Smyth-Boyd Gordon-Ryan Jones
Boyd Gordon is the standout on this line, and he has proven to be a type of Swiss Army Knife for Dallas Eakins and the Edmonton Oilers.
Gordon is one of the best faceoff men in the league and has been a huge asset for the club so far while pleasantly surprising the Oilers by being tied for the team league in goals with four tallies to his name.
Ryan Smyth has been his usual self, playing tenacious hockey, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that his best years are behind him as his (lack of) speed and his once vaunted skating ability have often been a liability so far.
Ryan Jones was re-signed by the Oilers in the offseason but was soon released on waivers, and after a brief stint in Oklahoma City with the Barons, he has been recalled to the NHL and finds himself on the Oilers' third line.
Jones has only played two games so far, and though he hasn’t registered a point, he has been a decent energy player for the team.
If Jones can recapture his form from a couple of seasons ago, he will be a valuable asset to the Oilers' third line.
Line 4: Luke Gadzic-Will Acton-Mike Brown/Ryan Hamilton/Ben Eager
The Mike Brown experiment in Edmonton just didn’t work, and as a result, Brown was traded Monday night to the San Jose Sharks for a fourth-round pick after eight games this season.
Brown was brought to the Oilers as a bit of protection for the young stars and just didn’t deliver in that department while racking up many costly penalties.
Nothing was more evident of this lack of physical production as when Taylor Hall was injured against the Ottawa Senators.
Both Luke Gadzic and Mike Brown had opportunities to “enforce” a little retribution against Eric Gryba for a questionable knee-on-knee hit, yet neither player did anything.
Luke Gadzic is a replaceable part on the fourth line that doesn’t really add much to the lineup besides a decently sized body.
Will Acton has been serviceable in the faceoff circle, and for that, he deserves some credit. But the fourth line as a whole this season has been a liability for the Oilers and have averaged less than eight minutes a game.
The Oilers need to find players who can play a physical game but can also contribute decent minutes to a game, and these players just haven’t cut it so far.