Everyone’s favorite Bison King has not been on the top line for the Edmonton Oilers in the past few games. For some reason, that’s not sat well with a number of Oilers fans who wonder why head coach Dave Tippett wouldn’t want to put him in the best position to succeed. A player who scored a nice breakaway goal the other night versus the Vegas Golden Knights, Jesse Puljujarvi hasn’t scored much since opening the season on a torrid pace.
Puljujarvi being moved down to the third line might seem like a demotion, but it really isn’t. Yes, one could argue that not playing with Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl isn’t ideal, but this is a showcase for the young winger who has shown in spurts he’s not just a passenger on a line with top stars. Puljujarvi is capable of being a star himself.
Now part of a trio that consists of Warren Foegele, 22-year-old speedy center Ryan McLeod, and Puljujarvi, Jesse is pegged to be the driver on that line. Tippett believes he can do it and getting the chance to show his stuff with capable and skilled forwards is an opportunity, not a punishment.
“I think he can drive a line. I spoke to him about taking a leadership role on the line with Mac (McLeod). I loved how he played against Vegas. I see him as more than a complementary player and we want to get a third line going.” Tippett said on moving Puljujarvi down with McLeod. So far, it’s worked as Puljujarvi scored his first goal since Nov. 9.
Jamie McLennan said during TSN’s Dustin Neilson Show said Puljujarvi is just scratching the surface of what he will become. “I think he can take pointers from a guy like Zach Hyman” who McLennan said the Maple Leafs often moved around the lineup for different reasons. “He has all the tools,” added McLennan. This is just a bit of poke while saying “Go down and drive a line and see what happens.”
At the same time, Zack Kassian gets a chance to spread out the offense playing alongside McDavid, where he’s proven to be effective. If the Oilers can put three dangerous lines together, all with the ability to score at any given moment, they’ll be dangerous and more of a problem for opponents to match up against.
For Puljujarvi, the third line means fewer top defensemen. It means more room to move and be aggressive and offensive.
Keep in mind, Puljujarvi will still get power play time, so those opportunities will exist as well. And, if things go south, Tippett can also pop the big Fin back up on the top line and he knows he’ll be effective.
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