Oilers News & Rumors: Smith, Hyman, Tippett, Shore, McDavid, Draisaitl

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there is ever-changing news when it comes to the Oilers’ roster. From injury updates to COVID protocol news, some players are in, some are still out. Meanwhile, the team is dealing with six-straight losses and trying not to let frustration turn into negativity. There is chatter about splitting up Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl or putting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back on the third line as a center and questions about how secure head coach Dave Tippett is if the Oilers keep losing.

Oilers’ COVID Protocol News

On Wednesday morning, the Edmonton Oilers placed Devin Shore into COVID protocols. He’s the second player to be added as Ryan McLeod was already removed from the lineup and head coach Dave Tippett was as well for precautionary reasons.

Devin Shore Edmonton Oilers
Devin Shore, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Oilers have been relatively lucky when it comes to the COVID infection and being forced to remove players from the lineup. Cody Ceci was out, but is already back and none of the major stars have been hit with the news they can’t play based on test results. Knock on wood things don’t rapidly change. Reports of teams being decimated by player removals and games being postponed will only lead to more concern that the Oilers need to be as cautious as possible.

Tippett Gone Offers Glimpse for Holland

I don’t believe the Oilers are actually considering a coaching change, but even if his job is completely secure, the next few games will offer general manager Ken Holland an opportunity to see what this roster looks like under the guidance of someone else. If there’s any concern that Tippett’s message isn’t sinking in, the next few games will be the telltale sign.

Glen Gulutzan and Jim Playfair will work together to coach this team out of their current slide and it will be interesting to see if that’s possible and how well the team plays under their guidance. Only if Tippett comes back and the team nosedive again might there be a reason to worry.

Mike Smith and Zach Hyman Still Not Ready

According to reports on Thursday, goaltender Mike Smith is close, but still not ready to make his return to the lineup. Stuart Skinner will get the start for the Oilers versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Meanwhile, Zach Hyman remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Split or Pair McDavid and Draisaitl?

The question about what to do with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl is an interesting one because there are two logical arguments the Oilers can make during this run of bad games. First, an argument can be made for putting the two stars together for a full 60 minutes to give the team the best chance of breaking out offensively. Both players have great chemistry and tend to feed off each other. Second, an argument can be made that depth is what will snap this losing streak and the better depth sees McDavid and Draisaitl on separate lines.

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The two stars will still see plenty of time together if the Oilers are given power-play opportunities, but should the Oilers try to come out of the gate strong against Columbus and put those two on the ice together off the opening faceoff? A quick goal after a run of bad starts could help the Oilers get in the right headspace.

Nugent-Hopkins Back as Third-Line Center?

Bob Stauffer had numerous conversations during Wednesday’s Oilers Now show about the idea of moving Nugent-Hopkins back to the third line as the center and while Ryan McLeod is out due to COVID issues. The argument seems to be that Nuge has struggled of late and the Oilers badly need their third line to get going.

While he’d still get power play time, the question about whether Nugent-Hopkins makes for a better center or winger is one that has been debated for some time. His faceoff success is a real concern and one of the biggest reasons not to put him back in the middle.

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