Monday Mailbag – April 21st


I hope everyone had a great long weekend and a huge shout out to those of you that made it down to the Summit Show at Millenium Place to check out the Nation booth. As is Monday tradition at the Nation, we’ve taken your questions and passed them on to our writers for their input and wisdom. If you’d like to submit a question, all you have to do is email it to me at!

Sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy the learning opportunity.


1) Mike Pappas asks – How much importance does the captaincy have on an NHL team? Ference is wearing the C here, so does that mean the others must view him as their leader? Does it make a difference, inside the room, that he was a new player this year?


I honestly don’t know. I think it makes sense that Ference—who has experience playing for bad and good teams—would be able to handle an extra load without it impacting his ability to play the game. However, that’s an opinion based on outside views. I think Brian Sutherby and Jason Strudwick will give more credible answers.

Jason Gregor: 

He has to work harder to connect to the room. Good teams have more than one leader. Ference would be more of a veteran leader to talk about situations and how the guys need to play, but the young guys, likely Hall, have to emerge and want to be a player who takes charge on the ice. Hall is their best player and he ultimately will be the on-ice leader. The harder he works, the harder the guys below him will.

Jason Strudwick: 

A strong leadership group is required to support the captain but there comes a time when the Captain needs to lead on the ice and the room. He shouldn’t have to make a great speech every day but he should have the ability when the need arises to address the group.

Robin Brownlee: 

I think fans put more emphasis on who wears the C than players do. Leaders lead, with or without the C. Ference is a leader.

Brian Sutherby:

Your leader should be someone everyone respects and wants to follow. A team needs good leadership and that can be one standout guy or a group of players. Guys can be leaders whether they have a letter or not.

Given Ference’s age and experience, on the outside looking in, he is probably the model leader for this young team, but I wouldn’t have named him until I knew the room respected him and was behind him. I’m not in the room so I don’t know if it mattered he was new. In my experience sometimes those things take time.


I don’t really get why people get so butt hurt because one of the kids isn’t the captain yet? Why add more pressure on Taylor Hall’s shoulders than he has already? He’s already the best player on the team so what difference does it make? Imagine how much bigger that stupid water bottle story would have been if Hall was wearing the C. When he’s ready, he’ll have it.

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2) @LeefOgolin asks – Developing players in Junior is important. Do NHL teams dictate to the junior club how they want their players developed? If the development plan of a parent club is contradictory to the junior team’s plan, how does that get sorted out?


I think there’s probably some influence in specific cases, such as Oil Kings—Oilers. The Oil Kings acquired kids like David Musil after the Oilers drafted them, and one imagines part of the reason is to impact development. 

Sometimes NHL teams keep junior-age players because they’re concerned the junior team will slow or stop their growth. I remember Craig MacTavish was adamant Ales Hemsky not return to Hull (QMJHL) as a 19-year old.

Jason Gregor:

Most NHL teams will want their drafted kids playing and getting opportunities, but they have to go about it the right way. The agent is more likely to call the junior team demanding playing time for their client. The NHL teams often sit back and want to see how a player reacts to an adverse situation. Most of them don’t interfere that much, but in certain situations it has happened.

Take the Oil Kings for example. This year they had draft picks of PhoenixEdmontonOttawa, NYI andPittsburgh. Those five NHL teams can’t expect Derek Laxdal to play a style that fits them. They just want to see their players given an opportunity to play and hopefully reminded of the details they need to work on to become NHL players.

Jason Strudwick: 

There is communication. Both groups want the player to develop. I think that ice time would be a concern for NHL teams for their prospects.

Robin Brownlee: 

No, NHL teams don’t dictate to junior teams how players are developed. In the case of the Oilers and Oil Kings there is far more likely to be some degree of input and discussion because of ownership and proximity, but that’s the exception and not the rule.

Brian Sutherby: 

I have no idea. I’m sure if a team has questions about a players usage they will pose the question but they aren’t usually affiliated and the junior team ultimately should do what’s best for their team.


I’ll tell you this much, when I was playing Junior C my coaches barely knew what offside was.  And as far as I could tell no NHL teams cared about my development. They should have, but they didn’t. 

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3) @jtizzanator asks – What player that has been traded or unsigned since our playoff run (Pronger excluded) is the most sorely missed and why?


Jarrett Stoll. He offered the team two important assets: a strong two-way center who could play on a 2 or 3line, and a big shot from the point on the power play. That was a helluva trade, but they’ve missed him since he left.

Jason Gregor: 

Sheldon Souray. He was a legitimate D-man and they got nothing for him. The Oilers ended up burying him in the minors and then buying him out. For me, he was the best example of bad asset management.

Jason Strudwick: 

My first instinct is an attractive d man named Strudwick. After that Souray would bring the edge and confidence this group needs on the back end.

Robin Brownlee: 

I might lean toward Kyle Brodziak. He’s been exactly the kind of third-line player in Minnesota the Oilers have needed since he left.

Brian Sutherby: 

Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. The likelihood of them still being here now is probably unlikely but for the sake of answering, this team is better over the last couple years if you could reverse that trade in my opinion. Jarret Stoll on the Oilers could play 2C/3C, powerplay, penalty kill and take big draws. On a great team he’s a 3C, but he’s a step up from Boyd Gordon. Matt Greene is big and plays a heavy game, something sorely lacking on the back end. Both are good room guys and play a harder game than most on the Oilers that can play decent minutes.


30 year old Ryan Smyth! After Smytty got traded, the Oilers cratered into the pits of hell that we’ve known for the better part of a decade. Can I do a multiple answer? How about all the actual NHL players that Tambellini traded away for magic beans and lemon pledge? Greene and Stoll for Vishnovsky, which turned into Ryan Whitney, which turned into the stale smell of fart and rage. There are more, but you know the story… *flips desk*

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4) @stukehrig asks – Much has been made of the parade of Head Coaches over the past few years, but what about the Assistant Coaches staying put? What are the major responsibilities of the Assistant Coaches and how much are they involved in developing the game plan?


This is a great question from Brian Sutherby and Jason Strudwick. I’m looking forward to their answers!

Jason Gregor: 

Varies from coach to coach. I find it strange that three different head coaches would keep the same assistants. Some head coaches rely heavily on assistants, while others do not. Smith is in charge of the defence, while Buchberger helped out on special teams. Eakins mentioned in press conferences how he and the assistants discuss the game plan, but I can’t say with certainty to what extent they are involved in developing the game plan, but I’d guess Eakins doesn’t do it all on his own. Very few coaches can.

Jason Strudwick: 

Head coaches usually assign jobs to each assistant. He will oversee and step in when an area is struggling. The PP became an area of weakness the Oilers. I would look for an assistant with that skill set to be brought in.

Robin Brownlee: 

Assistants oversee all aspects of the team — PK, PP, forwards D-men as dictated by the head coach. They’ll run drills and take part in film work with the players under their watch. Most assistants have some degree of input into systems, but the final call belongs to the head coach.

Brian Sutherby:

I get that the Oilers assistants have stayed while many head coaches have left and it looks bad. Head Coaches should be able to pick their squad, but I for one don’t believe assistant coaches do that much. The head coach has final say over every system put in place. Assistants come in and draw things up on the board that I’m sure the head coach has either drawn up or OK’d. Make the change if it’s such a problem, but how about putting a better team together? Blaming the assistants on any team is a reach for me.

When I was in Washington and Dallas, assistant coaches were retained while a new HC was brought in.


One time Craig MacTavish’s son forgot his hockey equipment in our dressing room at Bill Hunter arena. When he came back in to grab it, he was happy that we left it by the door so he gave us a quick pre-game speech. I always figured that moment was enough to land me a job at head office, but here I am. I guess there’s still time… What was the question again?

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5) @humantorch asks – Which Nation writer would emerge victorious from a WWE Elimination Chamber?


Wanye or Brian Sutherby. Willis would be a grease spot, Brownlee and I would be at the bar, Struds would be singing karaoke and Gregor would be pretending he didn’t know any of us.

Jason Gregor: 

Struds would only enter the match if the script had him winning, so I’ll say him.

Jason Strudwick: 

I will answer that question with a question…. what is that?

Robin Brownlee: 

I can name a couple who wouldn’t. That aside, I’d be willing to take my chances straight up with everybody but Strudwick and Sutherby. I am, after all, 55 now. For them, I’d be relying on a foreign object hidden in my tights to even things up.

Brian Sutherby:

Wanye hands down, the guy’s 265 pounds


I’m going to say it comes down to either me or Brownlee. He’s got the type of old man strength that Dallas Eakins has been talking about all year, but I’ve got the youthful exuberance and a willingness to cheat by all means necessary.

Let’s go down the list… I’ve known Wanye a long time and I know that all I would have to do is throw something shiny his way and he’s out.

Gregor is a passionate sports fan, so I would lure him into a conversation about the Edmonton Rush and why the Dolphins are so terrible. While he’s in the middle of it, I would grab sand from my speedo and throw it in his eyes. As you can imagine, speedo sand in the eyes would make him furious and he would be blindly swinging away. As he throws his blind punches, I’ve already opened a gap in the ropes where he goes tumbling out onto the floor and thus to defeat.

As you’ve read before, Strudwick doesn’t even know what the Elimination Chamber is so I’m assuming that he ignored the Facebook event request and is at home watching TV while the whole thing is going down – no problem.

Jonathan Willis is a numbers guy… So while he’s strategizing, I’m behind him with a chair to smash him with. The blow won’t injure him because his superhuman brain is guarded by the strongest of skulls, not known to average folk like us.  He will be dazed, and he will be defeated.  He’ll understand though –  it’s all about shot quality.

I really like Lowetide, so I’m just going to hope that he’s as friendly in real life as he sounds on the radio.  I offer to split my winnings with him and take him for any size coffee, at Tim Horton’s, that he wants. I don’t know if LT is open to bribery, but I’m going to try.

That leaves Sutherby… Yes he’s bigger and stronger than I am, but I’m crafty and also a cheater. So… What I would do is make sure that my intro music is actually an ad for his Pro Connection Hockey Development Camp that’s coming up in July. Suds would be so moved by the gesture that he would reach out to shake my hand.  There lies his downfall!  Once he sticks his arm out, I give him a non-lethal dose of taser to the midsection. (taser also hidden in speedo) I can only hope that the tasing would cause him to stay down long enough so that I could leisurely roll him out of the ring and onto the mat of feathers that I had made the night before.

That leaves me and Brownlee… I’m coming for you, Robin.

  • Arius Mumin

    It should have been taylor hall as captain, it was a slap in the face to him naming andrew ference. Look at chicago and colorado, they named there best players as captain, and both were younger than Hall at the time. Only reason Ference was named captain, was he was a dallas eakins type guy into fitness and stuff. He is barely a 5th defencemen, and cant lead by example on the ice. Once Eakins is fired next season, and he will be, eventually, then perhaps Hall will get the deserved C.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Hey Bagged Milk!

    A few weeks ago, I asked the question

    One question I would like to ask is ” why do the reporters in this town not make a BIGGER deal about the censorship that occurs in Rexall Place? In other barns they can wear bags on their heads, throw jerseys on the ice, chant Fire Wilson or Fire Gillis..or have signs that say the same thing…and there is no censorship or strong arm tactics. Do you not speak out stronger because you don’t consider yourselves Journalists…but just sports reporters? Doesn’t this muzzling of free speech anger you guys?” And, if it’s not the job of the sports reporter, can you not bring it up amongst you’re colleagues whose job it is?”

    I’m asking respectfully….not intended to call you out or embarrass you…but genuinely curious why this doesn’t cause more outrage amongst your profession.

    The question got 56 props

    You Replied:

    “Can you email the question please, so I can post it” that got 23 props.

    I emailed it to you … thanked me…..and ….NOTHING,

    Bagged Milk?! Have the Rexall Thought Police got to you too?!

    • The way I work the questions is that they get added to a queue. Your question is in line to be asked as are dozens of other questions. It’s not that I don’t like the question or have had my mind controlled, but I only send out 5 per week and I literally have 100s to go through.

      Don’t worry, we’ll get to you.

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        That makes sense….thank you….and PLEASE……continue to wear the tin foil hat I sent you…..maybe not today….maybe not tomorrow….but someday soon …when you’re colleagues are all talking like robots….you will thank me!

  • Czar

    Let’s talk about Belov’s reason for fleeing the Oil and Eakins. He is a Russian national and had the option of going home if things didn’t go well. They didn’t. That really isn’t a viable option for most N.American players. He had no prior experience with the smaller ice. When it didn’t go well for him he bolted.

    Who risks burning bridges in such circumstances? One pissed off Russian, that’s who. Regardless of a poor first season result, Belov may be part of a trend.

    In terms of the Oiler treatment of this guy, what will the longterm effects look like? Yakimov, Slepyshev and maybe Yakupov say to hell with the Oil, Lowe, Mact, EAKINS and leave. Given the way Yakupov was handled I would say there is a pattern here.

    I hope that doesn’t happen so we will just have to wait and see. Mact and Eakins will hopefully get their asses fired and they skip down Kingsway hand in mother-freaking hand. My question is, how many other players on the Oil roster feel the same way? How many free agents are going to want to come to work for these idiots.

    Is Olczyk supposed to be the ritual sacrifice to calm the fans? That deal smells. If I was Bill Scott I wouldn’t turning my back on any of the ‘ Old Boys ‘. Just sayin…

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Can I ask a question and get an honest, not politically correct answer.

    After 14 years of Kevin Lowe, arguably the worst run team in the NHL with a record to show for it and negative comments by ex-players and other teams management, Does any one think the Oilers have a legitimate chance of being a contender and classy organization (ie not just scraping by and making the playoffs to exit in the first round.)?

    This is the question the fans need to seriously ask themselves. As a Litmus test, how much money would you be willing to bet me the Oilers will improve with Lowe in charge. I know where I stand.

    • D-Unit

      Not that I support Lowe, but can you out a definition on “improve” as related to the bet? I am willing to try and make money wherever I can.
      You mentioned contender, not first round exit. But the Oil can improve a lot, and still not get to the level of first round exit.

  • Lofty

    I would like to get Strudwick’s opinion on the Oilers defensive gap control? I would also like to hear Sutherby’s opinion as a forward?

    My observation is that it has been much to easy to get into the Oilers zone over the last couple years. IMO the blue line should be used as a tool to prevent the opposing team from gaining the zone.