Monday Mailbag – May 5th


It’s that time of the week when I’ve taken your questions and passed them off to our writers for their opinion and wisdoms. If you want your question answered – email me – [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter – @jsbmbaggedmilk. Everyone that asks a question gets Nation Stickers as a thank you and a shout out on the website when their question is posted.

Without further delay, it’s time to learn something…

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1) Old Retired Guy asks – 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. 

Jonathan Willis

That’s a tough question, and I tried to think about why I don’t write about it. I guess the answer for me is that it takes specific incidents – for instance, the jersey-tossing this year got covered extensively – to garner attention; a low level pattern of behavior just generally doesn’t get talked about.

Jason Strudwick 

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I don’t talk about it because I don’t care about it. I am a hockey analyst, I don’t run a security guard company and I am not a social trend expert.


I’m honestly not aware of it as being a major issue. Do the Oilers have a policy that forces fans to surrender their seats and leave the arena? Or do they take away the signage? Either way, unless it’s vulgar or vicious, I think signs and fan expression should be encouraged.

Robin Brownlee 

A bigger deal? As in  . . . ? I’ve contributed countless words criticizing the Oilers for being heavy-handed with fans for years. I did it at The Journal. I did it at The Sun. I’ve done it in items I’ve written and in the comments section here. You can look it up. I don’t like, and never have, the amount of control the Oilers exercise on game nights. The bottom line, though, is they have that right.  So, what is the bigger deal you’re looking for? Lead a rally? As for other reporters, I can’t speak for them.

Jason Gregor

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Have fans been told to stop Fire Lowe chants? Has someone been told to take off their paper bag? If so, I never heard about it. If it happens they need to tell someone. I recall Rexall being way too sensitive with signs for Chris Pronger’s return and we discussed it at the time. It was a joke. Recently, I had the guy who was allegedly kicked out for having his shirt on backwards on my radio show. He gave his side of the story. Then I spoke to Rexall security about it and they said he was intoxicated. It becomes a he said/she said type of scenario. If someone deals with censorship they need to let us know, but also have some sort of concrete proof, otherwise it is their word against Rexall. Hard to say accurately which side is telling the truth.

Brian Sutherby 

Fans can chant whatever they want, how can they be stopped? I’m pretty sure signs are screened in most buildings. As for everything else I don’t know, and don’t really care.


I’m more offended that the Oilers are raising ticket prices again than I am about some dude being thrown out.

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2) @beerLGbackup asks – Are the oilers in a position to attract top pairing defenceman? Our reputation seems to be a problem( See Pronger, Souray)

Jonathan Willis 

The bigger question is whether there are top pairing defencemen out there to attract; there’s almost nothing on the free agent market this year.

Jason Strudwick

Depends if you mean through trade or free agency? Weaker teams do have trouble attracting top players unless they send over a blank cheque. Trade is an open world unless the player in question has a no trade clause. What are you willing to give up to get a top d man? That is the question you should be asking


They acquired Pronger via trade and Souray as a free agent. I expect we’ll see a top pairing D here in Edmonton by fall, although he may not qualify in some circles. Suspect MacT is going to be very aggressive.

Robin Brownlee 

Sure they are, if you’re talking about UFAs. Start showing some actual progress in the standings. Success and money talk the loudest when it comes to attracting the best players.

Jason Gregor 

There are no top D-men available in free agency. Pronger left because of off-ice issues, I don’t see why that would be a negative. Until the Oilers are a winning team I don’t see top-end free agents coming here. You need to build the foundation of your team via the draft nowadays. Very few teams let their elite players get to free agency.

Brian Sutherby 

If the organization wins, they can attract anyone. Most players have short memories and most just want the chance to win. If this team was on the brink of a championship or a regular in the playoffs, players would be lined up to play here. The Oilers current state isn’t all that attractive.


A reenactment for you…

MacT – “Hello there, top pairing defenceman, we’d love to have you on the Oilers.”

Top Pairing D-man (TPD) – “The Oilers are a great organization and I appreciate the thought. Any closer to being in the playoffs? I really want to win something other than the draft lottery.”

MacT – “We have potential and we’re building something special!”

TPD – “So that’s a ‘yes’ then?”

MacT – “We have a new arena coming and a stable of fantastic young prospects”

TPD – “Yes, there is certainly a lot of potential. But what about making the playoffs, it’s been a while ya know?”

MacT – “Soon we’ll have a new arena! And did I mention the great young talent”

-dial tone-

MacT – “Hello?” 


3) Sean Maloughney asks – What is the toughest challenge about blogging about the Oilers?

Jonathan Willis 

I guess trying to avoid sounding like a broken record. The fact is it’s a pretty cool way to make a living; I can’t really complain about too much. I think anybody who lives off a job covering hockey (in whatever capacity) has to just remember how lucky they are to be in that position whenever there’s a temptation to feel self-pity.

Jason Strudwick 

Talking about the same issues that take time to change. Building through the draft requires patience, something Oilers fan have seem to run out of.


Getting an idea onto the internet before Willis. The guy doesn’t sleep.

Robin Brownlee 

There is nothing tough about it. Blogging about the Oilers is a walk in the park. Covering the team on a daily basis is way more difficult because of deadlines, travel and the grind of churning out volumes of copy for months on end.

Jason Gregor 

Nothing. I’ve had real jobs, and my job on radio, print and Oilersnation is fun. Everyone has small challenges in their job, but there are none that stick out to me when it comes to writing at Oilersnation.

Brian Sutherby 

Trying to find positives and not forgetting what it was like to be a player on a bad team. It’s easy to say guys don’t care, but I highly doubt that even when it looks like it some nights.


It’s definitely the flock of babes that swarm Nation HQ on the daily. You ever see video of Led Zeppelin driving through crowds of screaming girls? That’s what it’s like… every. single. day. Either that or writing about a team that sucks more than the Hoover factory.

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4) @nahremanissa asks – If the Oilers trade Gagner, who do you see as a second line centre? Looking around the league, who would be the ideal player type to have in that spot? Jason Spezza has been mentioned before, how about chasing a guy like him?

Jonathan Willis 

Spezza would be good. Ideally, I think the big thing is to get a guy who can take some of the pressure of Nugent-Hopkins. If that’s a bigger guy (Patrik Berglund, Aretm Anisimov, Spezza too for that matter etc.) great, and if it’s just somebody who can provide more in the role defensively than Gagner has that’s good too. 

Jason Strudwick 

If the Oilers trade 89 they are doing so after a tough year because of an idiot slashing him in the face. 89 has much better in him with a healthy start.


I’d like to see Mikhail Grabovski as the 2line C next season. Put him between Perron and Yakupov and watch the good times roll.

Robin Brownlee 

I expect the Oilers will trade Gagner, although his value is at an all-time low right now. They need to replace him with a player who plays bigger and is more adept in the face-off circle. Who, exactly, has “mentioned” Spezza? Anybody who actually has a role in the decision-making process? He’s a what-if?

Jason Gregor 

Spezza has 1 year left on his contract. You could trade for him, but then lose him in one season. That is risky, but he’d be a major upgrade on Gagner.

Brian Sutherby 

All depends what the asking price for him is. He’d be an upgrade over Gagner no question in the offence and size department. He wouldn’t do much for the two-way or sandpaper type player lacking in the top 6.


The Oilers need a centreman in the top 6 that doesn’t have to stand by the height meter for rollercoasters.  They also need a guy that realizes that defence isn’t like taking Home-Ec in high school – it’s not optional and just being there won’t help you score.


5) 1979 asks – I am normally a hit-the-refreshments type guy at intermission, but at one game this year I stayed seated and the Octane Girls did a routine. They received like…3 claps. I felt bad for them. Which Nation writer, other than the obvious (Struds), would increase the applause the most if he joined the Octane?

Jonathan Willis 

I know you’re asking a lighthearted question, but I just can’t help myself here. I don’t talk about the Octane because I see cheerleaders in hockey as something owners came up with to a) help fans who don’t really care about the game or b) distract from the poor product on the ice. It’s embarrassing for the Oilers franchise that they’ve chosen to emulate the sunbelt teams in this regard.

Jason Strudwick 

There is no writer I would want to see dance, including myself. Singing would be another thing though….


Jesus Mary and Joseph do NOT make me think about this!! LALALALALALLALALALALLALA

Robin Brownlee 

If men in women’s clothing interests you and you want to join Octane, go ahead. We won’t judge.

Jason Gregor 

I don’t want to picture any of the Nation writers in knee-high white boots. I’d say no one, especially not Struds. People would think he was riding a chicken if he strolled out on to the carpet wearing a skirt and boots.

Brian Sutherby 

Wanye – I’ve never seen a man that heavy move as well as he does.


I will challenge any and all writers to a dance off right now! Not only do I have moves for days, I also look fantastic in tights. Ask anyone, it’s true…

  • Bucknuck

    Trading gagner… sigh…

    remember those heady days when everyone was afraid we wouldn’t be able to resign, Cogs, Gagner, and Nilsson in the same year. Saying “the oilers are screwed…”

    They were right about the Oilers being screwed, but not about the Why. I would love it if we could get real value for Gagner, but they keep selling when the value is low. Do you keep him until he has a good start (hopefully) and you can get some value for him… or do you just move on and take a bad salary in return.

    I move toward the latter, but Gagner is a gamer and I am pretty sure he will make the team regret it. He’s only a couple months older than Eberle.

  • oilabroad

    Not a shot at Studs but I am always a bit confused by the talk of getting rid of a player when they are not at the peak of their value. What is the solution for our 2C and for Gagner if we keep him around? Obviously he has no 2 way game what so ever, he is still low 40’s on the faceoffs, and his point totals are not improving… what is the upside to keeping said player and how do you fill the massive hole that is now our 2C if you keep him around??

    Is you get a solid 4th line guy and clear up a couple million in cap space to sign new 2C is this not a better use of assets?? If Gagner has not learned his job by now, I don’t think we can count on him doing it over the summer… in a cap based world, I really think not enough thought is put into the value of cap space vs the value of the player himself.

    Enjoy the mailbag by the way, great questions and answers by all!

  • The Soup Fascist

    Pieces to obtain a second line centre:

    – 2014 1st, 2015 1st, Klefbom, Marincin, Sam Gagner, Jordan Eberle

    A combination of the above should do it


    – Spezza – would not give up a lottery pick for a 30 year old guy one year from UFA status – would give up Gagner + 2015 2nd + conditional 2015 1st if he resigns for more than a year

    – Johansen – offer sheet him or use Jordan Eberle as a main piece since they have Centres like Jenner, Dubinsky, Anisimov and could use a gamebreaker like Ebs

    – Ryan O’Reilly – offer sheet

    – Eric Staal – no lottery pick for a 30 year old – give the 2015 1st + Gagner + Marincin/Klefbom

      • The Soup Fascist

        I was pumped about Draisatl but am slowly being swayed to the Bennett side. Despite the fact he is not as big a body as Heir Draisaitl the “will to compete” that SB allegedly possesses and everyone is yacking about, is sorely missing on this team. I did not see the kid play other than a couple of highlight clips, but I like what I hear.

        I vaguely remember the Vargas girls but whenever I hear “Vargas” I think of the Bizzaro Newman on Seinfeld.

        “Helloooo Vargas!”

        • While I don’t have an issue with drafting Sam Bennet due to his complete game, don’t forget that the Oilers had a smaller, gritty, aggressive/mean centre before. His name was Gilbert Brule. Check what they were saying about Brule in 2005 (specifically Burke) Making space at the next level is not the easiest thing. Bennet’s frame isn’t big either.

          I’m not saying he will be like Brule but it’s something to remember.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Point taken and coming out of junior the hype around each of these players was likely similar, but consider the following:

            In their 17 year old “pre-draft season”:

            Brule 70GP / 39G / 48A / 87P / 1.24PPG / +4

            Bennett 57 GP /36G / 55A / 91P / 1.60 PPG / +34

            * Both players were top scorers on their teams. Brule scored 9 points more than his closest teammate. Bennett scored 21 points more than his.

            * Brule was a full 6 months older than Bennett in terms of hockey age.

            To be fair these are very rudimentary stats. You made a very good comparison in terms of Brule / Bennett’s respective scouting reports coming out of junior. And these are 18 year old kids, so it is a bit of a crapshoot anyways.

            But truth is there are also a lot of busts for big-bodied high scoring forwards drafted high out of junior that can’t keep up at the next level(s) as well. Doesn’t matter what we think. Let’s just hope MBS and his crew get it right.

          • The Soup Fascist

            Good post.

            I don’t think either will “bust” but we have to tame our expectations, especially this draft class. This seems similar to the 2007 class where the top end talent only really became solid top 6/top 4 guys. See JVR, Turris, Voracek, Alzner, etc. Some obvious exceptions are McDonagh, Patty Kane, and Couture. The top guys here may only be career 50 to 60 point guys which is still a good complimentary piece.

            I as well hope management makes the right decision. Just can’t help getting excited at our chance to get a good sized centre since Leon is listed at nearly 6’2 (closer than 6’1) and 210 pounds at 18 years old.

            I’d almost prefer a big centre who puts up 50 points vs 60 points if he can increase the time in the offensive zone due to his puck protection skills and board play (in comparison to the 60 point guy). Best defense is a good offense…. sometimes.

  • Bucknuck

    i’m not certain those are the answers Old Retired Guy was looking for but it had to be expected.

    these guys are either formers players, or directly involved in the sports community – aside from Brownlee, anymore. if you expect to diagnose those issues as trivial as they may or may not be, you require an actual invstigative journalist.

    i don’t blame the bloggers – bread and butter. they’ve got more pressing sports things to report on.

    i’d like to learn more as well.

  • gus1000

    Struds, I enjoy your articles and comments, but really, how much more patience should the fans give this organization?? It’s been 8 years of not even showing up to play.

    And good news, we are also on the hook for things like new infrastructure and part of their new barn, so don’t we at least deserve a team that will try and compete?? I haven’t seen any bold moves in many moons.

  • paul wodehouse

    Steve Ott and/or Dave Bolland need to be in Edm, push Gordon down to Line 4 (he has zero offensive contribution).

    Why are common sense moves so difficult for Edm management? They realized just now that Froddo Baggins is too small as a 2nd line C (or a C in general?) It took my 9th grade cousin to announce, 1 day after the realignment news, “wow! LA, SJ and Ana! Nugent Hopkins and Gagner will get crushed!” but MacT and Klowe understand this now!!?? jesus

    • I like the idea of Dave Bolland playing for the Oilers but the problem is what it would take to get him here. I’m guessing it would be a massive contract in the David Clarkson stratosphere and that’s scary.

      • The Soup Fascist

        yes but deleting $ from ryan jones, gagner and smyth leaves us with a lot of moula. Dave Bolland is the instant checker against Big Joe, Perry/Getz, Kopitar leaving Nuge free to dance. Again….Edm management will understand this in 2018.

  • Gregor on Octane question…

    “I’d say no one, especially not Struds. People would think he was riding a chicken if he strolled out on to the carpet wearing a skirt and boots.”

    Classic. Are Struds’ legs really that skinny?

  • Do what Weight did?

    As a former member of the print media in Alberta (in a much, much smaller sports market, mind you), I often got a chuckle from those who figure the local media should be doing more to criticize the local team when things are going badly. It’s like some people think that the media should be lighting the torches for the mob to storm Rexall with.

    Otherwise, Robin’s absolutely correct, IMO anyway. The truth is, the media in Edmonton’s done a pretty good job of covering the various turmoil that’s surrounded the organization, from without and within, for the past … oh … eight years or so. I haven’t sensed any gaps or anything like that. I don’t feel that I’m under-informed at how miserable the Oilers have been.

    In fact, I’d argue that some of the turmoil’s been over-covered.

    Jersey-thrower shouldn’t have merited a mention, never mind an interview in the media. Heck, he probably didn’t even deserve a phone call from Laforge or MacT (seriously – can you imagine Glen Sather ever doing that?).

    The guy kicked out for putting his shirt on backwards? Well, I think Gregor just solved that one. It sounds like he was a malcontent (nothing wrong with that) was making a major ass of himself (definitely something wrong with that) because he over-consumed. That gets you tossed from a nightclub … it only stands to reason that it would get you kicked out of a hockey arena. That’s not censorship, that’s crowd control.

    Fire Kevin Lowe? OK, fine … but can I please – please, please – get some specific examples of what he – and he alone – has done to mess things up? Sorry, you can’t just point to the team’s record and string of non-playoffs. And you can’t use his record as GM record, either. I need presidential examples. Anecdotes, facts, anything. Please. I beg you.

    But, all that said, none of the above is out of line for coverage, IMO. The media’s welcome to cover and not-cover what they wish and let the fans and consumers draw their own conclusions and opinions.

    I applaud the work of guys like Brownlee and Gregor (and the other contributors to this site), just as much as I applaud the work of people like Matheson and TJ and the other folks who cover the Oilers beat in the “traditional” media. Until you’ve worked in the media, it’s best not to criticize too much of how they do their work. All have different approaches and everyone in this market does it well.

  • Props to Willis for being the only one to take the Octane question seriously. It’s ridiculous that a hockey team in Alberta has to bring itself down to sunbelt-team depths and bring in cheerleaders to distract from how staggeringly inept the team is at every other level.

    Mind you, this is also an organzation that has continued to employ Patrick Laforge, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

    • Bucknuck

      Patrick Laforge is a genius.

      He manages the business side of things, and he’s managed to sell out the arena and get full advertising dollar for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs in EIGHT years.

      How does he suck. If anything he’s the smartest guy in the Oilers front office. At the very least he’s the only one who is fulfilling his mandate.

      • Word to the Bird

        Laforge also came up with the idea of the heritage classic, which has blossomed into a league wide tradition. Its funny how the Oilers have one of the best presidents in the NHL (Laforge) and the worst president (Lowe).

  • vetinari

    If I had to rank our top offseason needs right now to give us at a shot at the 2015 playoffs:

    Stud Defenceman

    Second Line Centre

    Experienced NHL Assistant/Associate Coach

    Veteran Defenceman to bridge the kid brigade coming up through the ranks right now

    Heavy, Power Forwards (x 3)

    New DJ

    Mike Milbury to become GM of the other 29 teams

    • The Soup Fascist

      I agree that both players could / should bounce back. The difference is Gagner has 2 years left to go on his horribly overpriced contract and Clarkson has 6 years left on his horribly overpriced contract.

      That’s a pretty big matzah ball hanging out there.

      • Bucknuck

        You’re not kidding. Hence the second rounder. I like Clarkson and can’t believe that the terrible season he had isn’t an aberration. HIs high water mark was 46 points and thirty goals. He’s 30 which is the tail end of his prime. He just plays with the fire and passion and gritty hockey which the Oilers really need.

        You look at how much everyone loves Hendricks. Imagine a player like that who can pot 20-25 goals in a season on the second line.

        It’s an overpay, but…

        • The Soup Fascist

          We agree if you get Clarkson’s style of play and 20 plus goals you sign up all day long. I am just not sure who exactly this guy is.

          I don’t think he is an 11 point guy, but the 46 point season seems a bit anomalous, too.

          What I can’t get over is the fact it seems like MacT miraculously sidestepped the landmine that was DC last year (he offered more than T.O. did, FFS!). To do it again – with your eyes wide open – would be foolhearty, IMO.

          I totally get that you have to take a risk sometimes and maybe Clarkson is actually a truculent 40 plus point guy. But unfortunately this is an organization that can’t really afford a $5.25M x 6 year “oops”.

          Edit: Plus Clarkson has a modified NMC, so who knows if they could get him. Although you would think an 11 point guy with a sketchy suspension history and a crazy contract may not have a ton of options or teams beating a path to the door.

          • Bucknuck

            All of that Clarkson stuff did was show YET AGAIN how inept the Pro-Scouting Dept is. Without an overhaul it is the Pro Scouts that will ultimately be downfall of this club.

  • 1979

    Great point on the Octane JW! I am in total agreement it is painful for all involved to have them around. If the team wants to distract fans from a poor product I would suggest taking the money paid to the Octane and use it to subsidize beer prices!

    P.S. Great work on the mailbag again! Thoroughly enjoyable and good array of questions!

    • Do what Weight did?

      1. I followed your link, PandaPuff, and would encourage you to reread Gregor’s answer to question 1, regarding he said/she said scenarios. Even if the things written in that blog are true, are there other things left out that are also true?

      For anybody who is considering following that link, my advice is ‘don’t bother’

      2. I appreciated the answers to the censorship question. I have felt like this has been brought up a few times, because some readers expect the media to solve the problems, or rally against the injustices at Rexall. I think most organizations would behave the same way. If a high school student wore a “my high school sucks” shirt to class, the student would be forced to change it or face further disciplinary action. If a citizen were to stand inside a bank with a sign, claiming that said bank was ripping its customers off, they would be asked to leave, and then be removed forcibly if need be. There might be some borderline censorship at Rexall, but I don’t think it’s the “we’re losing our freedom, the terrorists win, ‘murica” type of censorship that requires anybody to rally against injustice

      3. What I would like to know is: What is the official Rexall Place policy regarding signs, paper bags, chants, etc…? While the details of the inside-out incident seem to be in dispute, should a polite, friendly, model-fan expect to be removed for wearing a paper bag or an inside out jersey? What is allowed and what is not? Does Rexall have a legal right to remove a fan without refunding their money? Under what circumstances?