Author of the article:

David Staples  •  Edmonton Journal

Publishing date:

Jan 20, 2021  •  8 hours ago  •  3 minute read

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a goal with Leon Draisaitl (29) and Kailer Yamamoto (56) on Nashville Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne at Rogers Place on Jan. 14, 2020. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

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On March 11, 2020, when Connor McDavid returned to the team after a short illness, Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett gave McDavid a new set of wingers, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian.

For the previous 27 games, RNH had been playing with Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto, forming the most successful line in the NHL during that stretch, scoring 30 even strength goals and allowing just nine.

My initial response to Tippett breaking up that line, which Oilers fans had dubbed the Dynamite Line?

I honestly couldn’t believe it.

Keep together the Dynamite Line, I wrote. You have likely the top attacking line in the NHL and you don’t play them together? Why?

The Dynamites weren’t just good together. They were phenomenal. Their chemistry flowed from the fact that they are all smart players with high hockey IQ and great hands. They all knew their roles well but also read the play brilliantly, responding to the movement of their line mates and to the rhythm of the game. They combined well and improvised to create dangerous chances. It’s like they were playing jazz on the ice.

Yet Tippett decided to experiment. Fair enough. He’s an excellent and experienced NHL coach, who knows his team and players much better than any of us do, and that certainly includes me.

I didn’t get the move and didn’t like it, but maybe Tippett was on to something.

The Oilers lost the first game, 4-2 to the Winnipeg Jets, that the Dynamite Line was dismantled, but the two news lines, McDavid, RNH and Kassian, followed by Draisaitl, Tyler Ennis and Yamamoto, both played well.

When the Oilers returned in July after the first lockdown, Tippett again went with RNH and McDavid on the same line, again breaking up the Dynamites. Tippett talked about wanting to have a more balanced attack.

The Oilers won just one out of four play-in round games. It was my opinion at that time that the most significant issue for the Oilers in those playoffs was Tippett breaking up the Dynamites.

To start this new season, Tippett again stuck with RNH on McDavid’s line, trying out Dominik Kahun with Draisaitl and Yamamoto.

It seemed like a decent bet, given that Kahun and Draisaitl had played together for years in Germany.

But with the team now at one win and three losses, I must admit I’ve lost patience with the break up of the Dynamite Line, and I’m certainly not alone, not if you go by a Twitter poll I ran on Tuesday.

Of the more than 2000 fans who had responded, 93 per cent were itching to see the Dynamite Line reunited.

The Oilers have just two wins and seven losses since Tippett dismantled the. best two-way line in hockey. It’s little wonder fans are yearning to see that old line back together again.

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In their almost three months together the Dynamites were only the single most effective line in the NHL, the best two-way line going, with a 77 per cent goals for percentage.

I’ve asked these questions before but I’ll now ask them again: Why not see if somehow the opposing teams can stop both the Dynamite Line, and also a line with soloist extraordinaire Connor McDavid as its centre? Why not have the Dynamites out there every third or fourth shift, and every truly big shift, to dominate the play or shift the momentum when the Oilers most need that?

When you need to hold that lead and to kill off the game, or you need to score that goal to claw back into the game, what better thing than to have such a line, the best line in the NHL, doing just that? And why give an opposing team a chance to beat you if they can’t prove they can stop the best line in the NHL? Why give them that out?

Finally, it could well be that Kahun is an excellent fit with McDavid. Why not give that a try?

P.S. As a placeholder, I’ll post the first Performance Rankings of the 2020-21 season, even as the Oil have played just four games and it’s hard to get a read on some players.

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