Monday Mailbag – April 13th

Mailbag

The weekend is over, you’re back at work, and you need a way to kill some time. Enter another edition of the Monday Mailbag. The mailbag only works because of your questions, and if you have something you’d like to ask you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at@jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy the break from productivity, friends.  

PastFuture

1) Sarah H. asks – In your opinion, what are the best and worst changes that have happened in the NHL since you started watching hockey?

Lowetide:

Great question. The best change is hockey in western Canada and access for people in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. It was a far away league when I began watching the NHL. 

The worst change? The Bettman point. It’s a mess figuring out the standings AND impossible to recover for a team behind because of the many three point games.

Jonathan Willis:

The best change is the reduction in blows to the head. By that I mean everything: fewer fights, fewer blindside hits, the crackdown on targeting the head when making contact. I used to really enjoy watching Scott Stevens blow some poor sap up at the defensive blue line, but when I read about the way players’ lives fall apart because of concussions and the long-term impact on these people I can’t justify the trade-off. 

For the most part I think things have moved in the right direction, which makes finding a worst change more difficult. Off the top of my head I’d probably pick the adoption of the shootout; I never had a problem with tie games and think the standings did a better job of ranking teams by their true level of ability prior to 2005-06.

Jeanshorts:

Best I think would have to be the overall skill level going through the stratosphere. Players are so big, so fast and so skilled, and as we’ve seen in recent years you can’t just be a one dimensional player anymore. The other day I was watching a bit of the Jets/Blues game, and I’ve always thought of Ryan Reeves as just guy whose sole purpose is to go out there and be a wrecking ball (which is still mostly true), but one play saw him take a bouncing pass in the skates, kick it up to his stick, and get a solid shot on net, all while in full stride. I can’t really picture Stu Grimson or Tony Twist pulling that off back in the day. And even just watching games from the early 90s, it looks like they’re playing at half speed compared to today’s game. 

Worst would probably have to be the seemingly never-ending series of rules put in place to fix non-existent problems. SEE; trapezoid, puck over glass penalty, soon-to-exist coaches challenge, the “foot in the crease” era, constantly changing draft rules, etc.

Matt Henderson:

I always hated ties so losing them has been one of my favourite changes. That and tag up offsides made the game better. Every night there’s a winner and the flow of the game isn’t interrupted just because someone had the audacity of skating into the zone a millisecond ahead of the puck carrier.

Jason Gregor:

Too much video. Every coach studies systems too much now and the game doesn’t have nearly as much excitement as it used to.

Robin Brownlee:

That’s a complex question. I started watching hockey about 50 years ago. Best big picture stuff — growing emphasis on player safety, inclusion of European players, more access to games through TV and cable etc for fans who can’t go to games in person. Worst big picture stuff — overzealous expansion to 30 teams has seriously watered down talent level, refusal of teams to spend within their means, length of season.

Baggedmilk:

I remember watching games when I was a kid and seeing players get absolutely demolished on the ice only to be back out and playing the next shift. I guess the obvious “maybe taking elbows to the face is a bad idea” change in philosophy. The worst thing to happen is the constant tinkering with rules just “increase scoring” which obviously hasn’t happened. I’m talking about things like the trapezoid and the never ending look at goalie equipment. 

Morans

2) Gary asks – Why do you think has Calgary matched up exceptionally well against the Pacific despite having an undersized and largely inexperienced top 9?

Lowetide:

Several reasons. They have a wonderful defense pairing, they were able to find Sean Monahan good minutes in year one and he blossomed in year two, they have better depth. They have more NHL players than a team like the Edmonton Oilers.

Jonathan Willis:

I’ve never bought the idea that the only way to beat big, mean teams is to be bigger and meaner, so I’ve always found the “Oilers must add Coke Machines to compete in their division” narrative to be a little blown out of proportion. Get better at hockey in all areas – size, skill, competitiveness, goaltending, everything else – and you’ll win more games. I also think when you reduce a sample to games against a division you inject more chance into the equation because there is less time for water to find its level; a year ago Calgary went 11-15-3 against the Pacific and my guess is that the team’s true talent level against its own division falls somewhere between that and the 21-6-1 run it managed this year.

Jeanshorts:

GRIT AND HEART AND HARD WORK AND BOB HARTLEY BEING SOME KIND OF COACHING JEDI! 

Matt Henderson:

Well games against Edmonton and Arizona are pretty much guaranteed wins for everyone in the Pacific this year but their defense has been very good all year at producing offensively and they have Hudler, Monahan, and Backlund all playing well too. I still don’t believe in Calgary at all as far as sustainable success but the players they added outside of the draft have looked liked they belonged. I don’t have better answers because my brain refuses to process “good things” about Calgary for too long.

Jason Gregor:

They have very good defence and their players play fast, forecheck hard and work hard. They go to the tough areas of the ice regularly.

Robin Brownlee:

They try to play to their strengths — puck pressure, quick puck movement, activating defensemen to attack in groups of five. Coach Bob Hartley has changed his approach since he broke into the NHL and he has the knack of getting the most out of his players.

Baggedmilk:

I can only assume that the Flames have a room full of goats and chickens that they sacrifice on the regular. Nothing else about this season seems to make sense.

I have no idae

3) Clay M. asks – Are the Oilers the most poorly run franchise in pro sports in terms of performance?

Lowetide:

Hmm. I’ll say no. The Philadelphia 76ers would be my choice at this time.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t know; I watch and read hockey obsessively but the trade-off is that I pretty much never watch other sports. They are the worst in hockey at present, taking that title away from the formerly hapless New York Islanders.

Jeanshorts:

Well the Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs since 1993(!!) though I think that has more to do with them being in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox. The Cubs haven’t won a championship in going on 140 years, and haven’t even won a playoff game since 2003! And if you pay even the scantest of attention to NFL football you’d know the Browns and Raiders are hilariously terrible year in and year out. The Detroit Lions didn’t win a single game in 2008, and have made the playoffs a total of two times since Y2K. And I’m sure there are like European soccer teams and cricket teams and other sports I haven’t even heard of who have similar stories. 

The Oilers are unequivocally the worst run NHL team over the last decade. There’s no denying that. But as bad as things are they could be MUCH, MUCH worse.

Matt Henderson:

I can’t think of a worse one. This team is burning through coaches, GMs, young players, and fans but still can’t find the answers. Almost a decade of unwatchable hockey. Who has been worse?

Jason Gregor:

Right now, no question. They have no excuse for being this bad for this long without showing any signs of improvement.

Robin Brownlee:

Can’t say for sure because there may be a team or two that enjoys some success despite the management they have in place instead of because of it, but nine straight years out, way out, of the playoffs certainly makes the Oilers contenders.

Baggedmilk:

I’m sure there are some teams in the KHL that are way worse off than the Oilers! I mean, some of those teams can’t even pay their players and have the cheques clear. That being said, the Oilers are so bad that even Calgary fans are feeling bad for us. That’s bad. Really really bad. 

Terror

4) Ryan Arndt asks – Who is/was the most terrifying hockey player you ever watched and why? 

Lowetide:

Behn Wilson. He was also one of the most fun to watch and was probably crazy.

Jonathan Willis:

Mike Modano, though it’s probably more about me than it is about him. I was a teenager watching the Oilers of the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, and they always faced Dallas in the playoffs. I hated Derian Hatcher and weirdly respected Joe Nieuwendyk, but I feared Modano because he was always so dangerous; he’d step on the ice and I’d move to the edge of my seat because I just knew something bad was going to happen.

Jeanshorts:

He was one of my favourite players to watch growing up, but looking back now it’s amazing that Scott Stevens didn’t literally kill someone on the ice with one of his devastating body checks. And that’s what I think makes him terrifying; he wasn’t known for fighting people, or throwing cheap shots, just giving opponents early onset dementia. I mean, he essentially ended Eric Lindros’ (a guy who was 4 inches taller and outweighed him by probably 50lbs) career with a completely legal (at the time) open ice hit. He’s got “bodies buried underneath the house” eyes too, which doesn’t help.

Matt Henderson:

Scott Stevens. It’s why he was my favourite player growing up (non-Oilers). Watching the games you were almost scared FOR the opposition. And then some star would cross up at the blueline (no tag up offsides) and get as close to murdered as the rules allowed. Did you see Kariya turn blue? Did you see Francis wobble like a drunk bar patron? Did you see the lights go out on Lindros? Who is more terrifying than Scott Stevens?

Jason Gregor:

Matt Cooke. For the first ten years of his career it was like he had no conscience. He had no problem going after an opposing player’s head, knee, jaw or hitting him from behind. He was the cheapest player I’ve seen and when you have no regard for the well being of others that is terrifying.

Robin Brownlee:

Link Gaetz. He was mean, tough and unstable mentally. Some of that was because of brain injuries suffered in a car accident, but he was a violent young man even before that.

Baggedmilk:

Scott Stevens used to absolutely demolish people (see Lindros, Eric or Kariya, Paul). When Stevens was on the ice you had to keep your head up or you may end up staring skyward from the flat of your back. I also remember watching Mark Messier play for the Rangers and the way he was always willing throw his elbows up would probably get him suspended until death in today’s NHL (see Modano, Mike). You gotta love the Moose.

GirlyMovies

5) Richard Duval asks – Over the last month of the season I’ve found myself watching more girly movies with my wife than Oilers games and some of them I even find myself enjoying. My question is what “girly” show or movie do you enjoy that you may not have expected before you watched it.

Lowetide:

I like a movie called When Harry Met Sally. Always have, and won’t apologize.

Jonathan Willis:

I’m repeating myself from a guilty pleasure question a few months back, but I found Desperate Housewives surprisingly enjoyable. My wife doesn’t watch a lot of really girly shows as a rule, though; she’s more into black-and-white movies.

Jeanshorts:

Mean Girls. “A Lindsay Lohan movie about catty girls in high school? PASS” is what I thought when it came out. Then I finally watched it and it’s now unabashedly one of my favourite movies! I still watch it semi-regularly! YOU GO GLENN COCO!

Matt Henderson:

Mama Mia. Don’t judge me. I will sing ABBA all night long if DJ Suitcase is spinning records.

Jason Gregor:

The HBO show Girls. It’s not as bad as I expected to be, in fact it’s actually decent, and Adam is hilarious.

Robin Brownlee:

The Notebook.

Baggedmilk:

Where do I begin… I love shitty pop songs and teen movies so picking only one would be hard. I’ll do things like get stuck in holes where I end up watching a marathon of Teen Mom and have no idea how it happened. One thing will lead to another and all of a sudden five hours of my Saturday are gone. 

    • I was covering the WHL in Kamloops when Gaetz was in Spokane.

      We were in Spokane and I was in for a scoop because I’d learned Chiefs GM Bob Strumm was going to suspend Gaetz for internal misconduct — a big deal because Gaetz was a pretty important player for Spokane.

      I waited outside of Strumm’s office while he met with Gaetz so I could get the interview. When Link emerged his face was flushed and he was quivering with anger. I said,” Link, you got a minute?” He looked at me and his eyes were rolling up in his head. I almost shat myself then and there. He said nothing and brushed by me like I wasn’t there. Sounded like a rodeo bull snorting and blowing snot bubbles in the pen just before the gate opens.

      I did the interview with Strumm — he suspended Gaetz for the entire playoff series with the Blazers — and called it good.

  • Rob...

    “I used to really enjoy watching Scott Stevens blow some poor sap up at the defensive blue line, but when I read about the way players’ lives fall apart because of concussions and the long-term impact on these people I can’t justify the trade-off. ”

    I can remember how awesome it was seeing them break out the smelling salts on the bench, snapping a player back to reality, then sending him out on the next shift. Now those were hockey players…

    Why do I feel so guilty for reveling in something I had no active part in and that nobody knew the consequences of at the time?

  • freelancer

    Who knocked out kariya in the playoffs? I remember seeing him knocked out on the ice, went to the room for a bit, then came back and wired a slap shot for a big goal. Was that Stevens? I can’t remember

  • ubermiguel

    The 76ers definitely are not the worst run team in pro sports. The only way to win a title in the NBA is to have a true impact player and surround him with very good pieces. The sixers got Noel/Embiid for their bigs and the next thing is to get a very very good young player who can play the 1 and another who can play the 3.

    MCW is kinda not very good so you can see why they traded the ROY.

    Also the mass amount of 2nd rounders they still have in europe who are athletic freaks like Antetokounmpo and can come over in a few years and spend there rookie contracts from 23-24ish to their primes and you can make the decision there

  • You know, without the shootout and the Bettman point, the Oilers wouldn’t just have broken a franchise record for fewest wins this season, they’d have smashed right through the floor, with a 19-44-7-12 record.

  • vetinari

    Stevens was a blue line monster. I remember when you saw him set up just behind his blue line and some opposing forward would be caught with his head down taking a pass and WHAM! Gloves, stick and helmet everywhere and an opposing player laying like a starfish on the ice. We all wanted to hit like him and avoid those hits. And I’m sure it caused brain damage. And I’m sure it caused drain cabbage. And I’m sure it caused strained baggage…