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PRINCIPE: Line Them Up

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Photo by Jeff Nash | Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

It has become one of the most sought after pieces of information in the game. Lines. The lines on a hockey team are the most talked about pieces of information. Everyone wants to know the lines. Who is with whom? Is the first line intact? Have they moved so and so from centre to wing or vice versa? How could they possibly not change up that line because they've been struggling? That and more crosses the minds of fans and I guess coaches because they are the ones that ultimately make the decisons to make a move.

Todd McLellan wasn't shy about juggling his lines on Thursday. Part of the reason had to do with the ankle injury to Nail Yakupov. The other reason was production. Coming off a 1-0 shutout loss and a 4-1 defeat. Two goals in two games on the road trip necessitated a change. Big changes in fact. Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl stayed together but Jordan Eberle was moved onto their line. Teddy Purcell dropped down to join Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Lauri Korpikoski stepped up to join them. Benoit Pouliot slid down a line to meet up with Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks. Luke Gazdic was back in with Anton Lander and Iiro Pakarinen.  Did you get all that?

The Edmonton Oilers coach got it all and then let his team know about it.

"I do it a couple of different ways" said McLellan. "Sometimes I just put the numbers up on the white board and message is sent. Other times I'll speak to the player(s) to explain a little of what the reasoning is behind the movement."

Things have changed dramatically in the sports world and the world in general when it comes to social media.

"I know that analytics is big and people have a lot of interest in it" explained the first year Oilers bench boss. "There is the analyzing of moments as in individual vs. individual. However in a game you can't factor in or it's not humanly possible to match up (analytics wise) with the game changing so fast."

From the day he was hired to present day, the former Sharks bench boss has been quite clear in what his approach is to making up his four lines.

"I like to keep pairs together then have a one-in one-out situation" said McLellan. "What I'll do is look for a complimentary piece to the remaining pair on the line. What I'm looking for can vary. Maybe it's shot, speed or physical play." Other reasons for making changes could be related to a road matchup or whether the new coach intends on playing three lines or four.

In the end, whether it's visually or verbally, it's all about sending a message. When things change, message sent. When things stay the same, another message but a different one is sent. Todd McLellan understands the fascination that exists when it comes to fans, media and maybe even players wanting to know who is playing where and with whom. For McLellan he doesn't concern himself with any of that. He and his staff line them up the way they think will best help the Edmonton Oilers win.
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