The weekend is over, we’re all back to work, and looking (read: needing) for ways to kill time. Enter the mailbag. As always, I’ve taken your questions, passed them to our panel of writers, and waited for wisdoms to spill out of their heads. If you want to ask a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy.
1) Ham and Bun asks – Some chat about Draisaitl playing the wing next year in the NHL vs playing centre in the AHL… what is your opinion on what would be better for his development?
If he is ready for NHL then he can stay and the wing is easier, especially in defensive zone. He turns 20 in October, so he is essentially the same age Eberle was when he debuted in the NHL. If he is ready and beats out some players for a roster spot then he can stay, but the Oilers should not just hand him a spot in lineup like they did last October.
I think penciling him in for AHL duty is the way to go; start him in the minors and if he produces bring him up but don’t count on him to be an NHL player. If he does come up, there’s no reason he can’t start on the wing, either. Lots of pivots around the league have played (and sometimes still play) on the wings and it’s a little ridiculous the club didn’t try it this season.
I guess it all depends on where he is at the start of the year but if the Oilers want to start him in the AHL on one of their top lines and he proves to be an NHL talent BUT there isn’t a spot for him down the middle then let him take a spot on the wing. Lots of young talented centers started their NHL career on the wing.
Ideally you’d have him stay at centre. It’s one of the hardest positions to play in hockey, one of the biggest holes in the Oilers depth chart, and as we’ve seen with Nuge it takes a while to get the hang of winning a draw in the bigs. I wouldn’t be super opposed to him starting the season on the wing IF he blows the doors off training camp and they absolutely need to keep him on the team, but if it were up to me I’d have him start at centre for the B̶a̶r̶o̶n̶s̶ Condors, let him slowly wade back into the pro game and take it from there. LET HIM LEARN TO AT LEAST DOGGY PADDLE BEFORE THROWING HIM IN THE OCEAN MACT!
I think the key is he must earn the NHL job. If it’s a LW gig, that’s fine. For me, Leon’s skill set should mean he’s a strong candidate for any job opening. I think 40 AHL games wouldn’t hurt him at all but we’re talking months until NHL-ready as opposed to years.
I felt that he should have been in junior this season. I feel he should start next season in the AHL at centre. Let him keep his confidence.
Haven’t heard that from anybody in a decision-making position in the organization. Won’t know for sure about where Draisaitl best fits until we see who is added, via the draft, trades and free agency, during the off-season.
The smart thing for the organization to do would be to let Draisaitl develop properly. I’d say to start him in the AHL and go from there. If he’s ripping it up in the A, call him up and make him earn his minutes. Handing him the #2 C spot this year because they had no better option was completely ridiculous and 100% Oilers.
2) Craig Smallwood asks – In your opinion which “stories” have been under and over reported this season?
Under reported: What a great show American Crime is. Over reported: That people still think coaching was/is main issue on Oilers. Coaches don’t play and none win without good players.
I’m not sure if you mean around Edmonton or the NHL in general, but for the sake of this answer I’ll assume you mean around the league. On the under-reported side, I’d point to the strides being made in Colorado (and in particular the fine play of Tyson Barrie). On the over-reported side, by default we have to go to Toronto, and of the various Leafs stories I’d say Phil Kessel, Coach Killer has to be at the top of the list.
MacT trading away quality players in the middle of their careers for picks hasn’t been reported enough. The way MacT handled Petry only got a lot of MSM play right at the end. That could have been tackled more thoroughly. The “Mood of the room” has probably been over reported even if I think what’s been written is accurate.
Over reported has been Taylor Hall and his “behavioural issues” or his not towing the mythical team line or whatever. We’ve seen this cycle before with Ovechkin, Kessel, Seguin, Kane, the other Kane, etc, etc, etc. It’s just one of those things where the bullseye is constantly moving when a team is under performing, and Hall just happens to be one of the Oilers biggest targets.
Under reported is the quiet and steady progression of both Marincin and Klefbom. Obviously they’ve had their bad moments, like literally every other young player in the history of the NHL, but for the most part they’ve been two of the most consistent Oiler defenders all year, which is crazy for two guys with a combined age of 44. It’s also indicative of the sad state of the Oilers depth overall, but that’s another mailbag….
Under reported? Wow. Let me think. Under reported. Okay. I’ll go with Martin Marincin’s steady, reliable play.
Over reported? Probably Jeff Petry’s role on the team. I contributed. 🙂 Sorry about that!
Good question. The most under reported story is of a Great Dane eating 43 socks in the Portland area and surviving. This kept me up at nights until I knew he was going to make it. Most over reported was Kim Kardashian going platinum blonde.
The decreasing number of actual fans in the seats at Rexall Place hasn’t had as much play as it deserves as the Oilers keep announcing sell-outs. Neither has the impending impact of the de-valued Canadian dollar. The attempt by some to push advanced stats/analytics to the forefront at warp-speed got tired early in the season. I say use them as you see fit rather than writing and talking about using them. It’s an evolution not a revolution.
I was going to say that the most underreported story of the season is how Nugey is growing into a manboy right in front of our eyes, but now that I read Strudwick’s story about that Great Dane I’m not so sure. Over reported story? The fact that the Oilers felt that Petry wasn’t part of the future. There’s a reason it was reported so much.
3) Joel Short asks – Is Klefbom performing better than Marincin did a year ago? What are the chances that Klefbom regresses like Marincin did this season?
I felt Klefbom was better last year. I liked his game. He is stronger and better at breaking up the cycle. I don’t think Marincin has regressed, I think too many who follow analytics overvalued his Corsi rating last year.
They’re different players. Marincin can play a quietly competent defensive game in tough minutes that simply isn’t Klefbom’s forte, while Klefbom’s raw athletic talent is significantly higher than Marincin’s. I don’t know that Klefbom is performing better (despite the general manager’s assurances, I don’t think he and Schultz have been a solid top pairing) but to me his ceiling is a lot higher and his physical tools are such that regression seems less likely. I’m honestly not sure that regression is the right word for Marincin, either. If he and Petry had been treated as a pairing out of camp (as opposed to getting stuck with Martin Gernat/Keith Aulie) and kept together I’m not sure we’d have seen any drop-off from the tandem’s work last season.
Marincin was fantastic last year playing with Petry. I might rank Klefbom’s performance slightly ahead, if anything, because he’s been forced to do it paired with Schultz. Klefbom is the Anchor of that pairing (scary). Marincin’s “regression” is probably overstated because Eakins and MacT banished him. He has maintained strong numbers despite difficult starts and opponents. I expect all young defensemen to struggle with consistency though.
First off I don’t agree that Marincin has regressed much, if at all. Like I said in my last answer he’s had his off games, but he’s ONLY 23! And he hasn’t had the luxury of being sheltered on a low pairing this season, or not having to drag around guys like Ference or Aulie. And SURPRISINGLY both he and Klefbom have played the best hockey of their careers so far with Jeff Petry (grumble grumble grumble). If MacT is able to go out and get a legit, veteran top four defender to help shepherd Klefbom (and Marincin) along he’ll be fine. HOWEVER if they decide to run some kind of Nurse/Klefbom combo or have Klefbom paired up with some guy who has played a grand total of 23 NHL games over a nine year pro career then we’ll probably run into some problems. Again, I don’t think that will be a case of Klefbom regressing, more of a “getting thrown to the wolves” type of scenario.
Great questions. I think Klefbom is a more aggressive, dynamic player and has outperformed MM from last season. As for regression, it’s impossible to know. I will say he’s a very bright kid whose issues defensively are more a matter of experience (he needs to fly multiple sorties just like every kid blue) as opposed to something missing from his game.
Klefbom, (pronounced “Klefboom” in Finland”) has a stronger defensive game. He is more physical and he will always have that to fall back on.
Different players playing for different coaches. I think Klefbom has progressed more steadily and quicker than Marincin did. He is also more physically ready to play at the NHL level. A lot of players regressed under Dallas Eakins. My main concern with Klefbom is he will be pushed into minutes he’s not yet capable of handling if the Oilers don’t find more depth on the blue line.
Part of me thinks that people are overreacting when the Oilers send Marincin down to the farm. I mean, the kid is 23 and still has some kinks to work out so why not get them worked out on the farm? That said, that same team thinks Nikitin is a top-4 defenceman… Happy day!
Klefbom, for his part, is showing some of that potential that the Oilers raved about when they drafted him. I think Klefbom is going to have a good long career, but I’d still like him playing lower in the batting order than first pairing, but this is the Oilers we’re talking about.
4) Adam V. asks – Are there any positives to be taken out of this season? If so what are they?
Kleffbom is emerging. RNH is still improving.
Anton Lander’s emergence is the biggest positive in my view. He’s always had the ability (readers on this site had to be sick of me singing his praises in OKC last year) but he couldn’t get over the hump. Now he’s here and he seems to be a player.
RNH as an even strength scorer. Klefbom as a legit young defender with a bright future. Eberle and Yak’s revival under Nelson. Should draft a great young player.
Well the players certainly seem to like Uncle Todd a lot more, that’s for sure! Yak’s resurgence is obviously a huge plus and great to see, and I’ve been very happy with how Lander has been progressing during the latter half of this season. Nuge is about to go supernova any minute now and Eberle is continuing to prove he’s capable of more than just riding shotgun with Hall. As mentioned earlier I think Klefbom and Marincin are going to be huge assets going forward. Down on the farm Laurent Brossoit and Bogdan Yakimov have been making some solid headway. You REALLY have to root around but I think there are quite a few positives to take away from another complete disaster of a season. There IS a light at the end of this tunnel! It’s an incredibly small sliver and it could (and probably will) cave in at any moment, BUT IT’S THERE I’VE SEEN IT!
Yes. I’ll count the late development of men like Anton Lander and Martin Marincin, along with Oscar Klefbom’s emergence. Nail has his smile back and I think the Oilers may have their next coach. Nuge/Eberle turned up the heat late too. There’s not enough for a successful season but there are good arrows.
Yes. That it will soon be over.
I like the improvements we’ve seen from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle (in the second half), Nail Yakupov and Klefbom. The power-play has returned to the levels of efficiency we saw under Ralph Krueger.
I think the play of little Nugey could be taken as a positive this year. We’re seeing this kid take steps towards becoming an elite centreman, and it’s been exciting to watch. There’s also the amazing story of how Nail Yakupov turned around not only his season, but potentially his career. He went from having absolutely nothing going on to having that smile on his face that we all saw during his rookie season. To think that Dallas Eakins almost wiped that smile off his face is a tragedy.
5) Vetinari asks – We are nearing the end of the season so who would be your Oiler nominee for the following awards and why: Team MVP, Best New Oiler, Most Improved Oiler, Best Oiler Prospect, and Goat of the Year.
MVP: Nugent-Hopkins. Has been consistent all year and faces tough competition every game.
Best New Oiler: Pouliot. He has matched his career-high in goals with 16 in only 49 games. A nice complementary player who can play on the top line.
Most Improved: Not many fit in this category. Between RNH and Klefbom. I’d lean to RNH because he has played so many minutes and hasn’t worn down.
patience in his game.
GOAT: MacTavish. He didn’t give team a chance at the start of the year by only having two NHL centres, and last summer he chose Nikitin over re-signing Petry.
Most Valuable Player: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Best New Oiler: Benoit Pouliot
Most Improved Oiler: Anton Lander
Best Oiler Prospect: Darnell Nurse
Goat of the Year: Ben Scrivens
Team MVP: RNH – Consistent performance all year. Played more per game than every other forward in the NHL. Might be captain one day.
Best New Oiler: Derek Roy – Solidified the 2C spot (at least temporarily) and works hard to make his guys better. Key part in unlocking Yak’s confidence.
Most Improved Oiler: Yakupov – The GM has admitted to almost giving up on this young man. That’s how close we were to seeing him somewhere else. Finishing the season VERY strong.
Best Oiler Prospect: Leon Draisaitl – A dominant performance in a tough WHL where he produced more points per estimated minutes than anyone else. He’s still on track to be the 2C of the future for the Oilers.
Goat of the Year: Nikita Nikitin. He’s taking Jeff Petry’s money and burning it to ash. He’s a brutal defenseman with AHL speed and the GM believes in him ahead of real players. It’s not his fault, but the Oilers probably make better decisions with their roster if that 4.5M was free to use on Petry (not that MacT sees why he would need that much).
Team MVP: Eberle. HE IS THE BEST EVER AT EVERYTHING ESPECIALLY ATB COMMERCIALS!
Best New Oiler: Derek Roy. His sage wisdom and Mumford & Sons haircut has made him a perfect fit for these young ragamuffins.
Most Improved Oiler: I mean, there was a pretty loud chorus of people who wanted Yak sent back to Russia, and they’ve gotten quieter and quieter with each laser beam he snipes.
Best Oiler Prospect: Leon Draisaitl has taken the WHL by storm in only half a season. Kid is going to be an absolute monster (god-willing they don’t screw him up somehow).
Goat Of The Year: MacT talks way too much, which is amazing considering his feet always seem to be in his mouth, the team has gotten abjectly worse, or AT MOST stagnated under his watch so far and I think the only person who still has faith in him turning this ship around is Kevin Lowe.
Team MVP: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. No brainer. Baby Nuge is going all Man Nuge on the NHL.
Best New Oiler: Benoit Pouliot. Outstanding player.
Most Improved Oiler: Anton Lander. Lordy.
Best Oiler Prospect: In the NHL? Klefbom. Outside the NHL? Nurse just a little ahead of Leon.
Goat of the Year: Goaltending. Good Christ, can’t anyone stop the puck?
Best new oiler – Pouliot
Most Improved – Nuge
Best Oiler Prospect – Draisaitl
Goat of the Year – I will pass on this one. I haven’t been to a goat show in a number of fort nights.
MVP is RNH. Best new Oiler is Pouliot. Most improved is Yakupov. Best prospect is Klefbom. Goat is Nikita Nikitin.
MVP: Nuge. Even with the season going as badly as it has, he’s taken this team over. I think we’re looking at the next Oilers captain. It may not happen right away, but stitch the C on this kid’s jersey when he’s old enough to shave.
Best New Oiler: Has to be Pou Bear. He’s set a career high in goals despite being sidetracked with injuries a little bit. A nice story in a crappy, awful, angering season.
Most Improved: Anton Lander. With how this guy is playing right now can you imagine that he was on waivers earlier in the season? Ridiculous, right? I also want to vote for Yak because he’s turned his season around from a complete disaster.
Best Oiler Prospect: Has to be a toss up between Draisaitl and Nurse right? You would think.
Goat of the Year: Nikitin is too easy. He’s awful and shouldn’t be on the roster. Jultz would also be a contender for the horns this year, but I’ll give him a pass based on youth and inexperience. The emperor of this goat gathering has to be MacT. Either he has zero ability to judge talent (see Nikitin comma Nikita) or there needs to be massive reforms in the Oilers vision plan. MacT, this is your team and these are your horns.