Monday Mailbag – July 6th

DarnellMailbag

Oh hey there, friendly mailbag readers. It’s once again your cue to stop doing anything work related and learn something from your pals at the Nation (most likely me*). I need questions, and those come from you guys, so email me your question to baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get it into the rotation as soon as I can. With that, I present another edition of the Mailbag. Enjoy.

*definitely not me.

HighLow

1) Nathan B. asks – What are the highlights and lowlights of the moves Chiarelli has done so far?

Jonathan Willis:

The best move in my view was the signing of Andrej Sekera. I really like the player and the team was justified both in giving him term and money. There’s no substitute for a top-pairing defenceman. The worst move was probably the Griffin Reinhart acquisition; I really like the player but I can’t get behind the purchase price.

Lowetide:

I’ll go with Connor McDavid!!!! After that, I really like Cam Talbot and Andrej Sekera. These are really astute bets—not guaranteed home runs, but excellent, excellent bets.

Jason Gregor:

He hired an experienced coach, improved his goaltending and is changing the blueline. I’m not sure there is a lowlight, but I felt he overpaid a bit for Reinhart. Time will tell if they did, or if they made a great trade. I still feel they need more skilled size in the top six, but I didn’t expect him to solve every problem the first off season.

Robin Brownlee:

Highlights are Talbot and Sekera. Lowlights? Some questions in Reinhart and Korpikoski, but no lowlights.

Jeanshorts:

I personally don’t think he’s really had much of a lowlight so far. I think the Sekera signing has, so far, been the closest thing to a home run. I LOVE the Talbot signing, but understand why people may have some reservations going in. Same with the Reinhart trade. I think Reinhart will be great in a couple years but I agree that they may have been able to get a more established D-man for that price. 

But if I have to pick a lowlight it would be that he’s essentially doing the MacT “defence by committee” approach. You’re never just going to sign a #1 or 2 D-man, nor are you going to trade for one without giving up a fairly substantial package back, so the biggest hole they’ve had for almost a decade is still there. But they still have three months to sort out which of the 3000 #5 to 7 D-men are going to make the opening night roster, so I’m not too worried, but we have seen this story before so it makes sense there’s a little uneasiness right now about it. I guarantee we’ll see at least one more trade that will help to shore up the backend before opening night.

Matt Henderson: 

I’ll start with the lowlights: Korpikoski in and Marincin out. I can’t change my stripes now. I still firmly believe there’s a good player in Marincin and I believe the Leafs got an NHL player for almost nothing. As for Korpikoski, he had fallen out of favour with the Coyotes and if you can’t stand out on that roster than there are problems.

Jason Strudwick:

Only highlights for me. He has come in and addressed the areas he felt needed to be improved. If the Oilers start the season with both Leon and Nurse in the minors I will truly be impressed!

Baggedmilk:

There have been a lot of highlights for me. Signing Sekera has to rank at the top of them. Most of all, I appreciate Chiarelli’s willingness to make deals and make moves. That was something that previous regimes didn’t do all that well. You could say that the Reinhart trade was an overpay but let’s wait and see where this goes. Reinhart is only 21 years old and has lots to learn. Maybe he turns into that big shutdown guy. Maybe not. Still, I’m not ready to write off an “overpay” as a lowlight yet. 

Griffin

2) Braden asks. – Given the mixed opinions out there on Griffin, I’d be curious to know how you guys feel he compares to Klefbom and Nurse? Where do you see his ceiling?

Jonathan Willis:

I think his ceiling is as a solid second-pairing defenceman, a guy in the Braydon Coburn/Karl Alzner range. I think mobility and puck skills will hold him back, even though I don’t think they’re as bad as some reports indicate. He’s a good prospect but I wouldn’t put him ahead of Klefbom or Nurse. 

Lowetide:

GR is a big, tough defender who plays a very physical game. I’d rank him behind both as a prospect but do believe he’s going to have a fine NHL career.  I think he’ll be a top 4D with lots of EV and PK time.

Jason Gregor:

I see Klefbom and Nurse has having a higher ceiling. Both skate better than Reinhart. I think he will be a solid NHLer, but he off-ice workout will determine if he can become an every day top-four Dman. It is hard to evaluate the off-ice dedication of players until you see them for a few years and see the improvement.

Robin Brownlee:

Klefbom is further along right now because he’s played more NHL games, but that’s  a product of opportunity to this point. As for a ceiling, people love to project and label like they actually know, but they don’t. Reinhart is a kid and a lot of factors will play into what he looks like two or three years from now — how he is used, how good the players around him are, how good the team is. I don’t have the answer you’re looking for.

Jeanshorts:

If Klefbom and Nurse are A+ prospects I would, as of right now, put Griffin in the B+ category. I think he has the potential to be a great complimentary partner in the top 4, but I’m not sure he’ll be the guy that Klefbom and Nurse will hopefully turn into. I would say his ceiling is a #3 to 4 D-man, especially with a solid partner.

Matt Henderson:

I’m of the mind that pedigree doesn’t really matter this far out of his draft so the fact that he was drafted 4th overall doesn’t paint my expectations for Reinhart. His Offense has been pretty understated throughout his career but he did better in his 1st year pro than I thought he would. I think he tops out as a shutdown 2nd pairing guy but you have to keep in mind that is a very important role. I see Klefbom and Nurse as having higher ceilings based on their better skating ability and Nurse showed a little more Offense as well.  What I’m hopeful for is that he follows a Klefbom-like development path and he proves that he can take his game to another level.

Jason Strudwick:

At this point he would rank third when being compared to those other two. Griff needs to use his body more when he tries to check NHL level players. Arm checking worked well in junior but everyone is as strong or stronger than him in the men’s league. He also needs to do things with more snap. That doesn’t mean skate faster it means read, react and do at a higher pace.

Baggedmilk:

To me, Klefbom ranks at the top of the list based on NHL experience alone. He didn’t look out of place last year despite fighting above his weight class. The beauty of some of the moves that Chiarelli has made is that it creates competition for jobs. I would be that only two of Klefbom, Nurse, and Reinhart make the opening roster and that’s a good thing. Who’s the best right now? Who cares. As long as they help keep the puck out of the net.

Fudd

3) Alex from Boston asks – When will Edmonton be back in the playoff hunt and be a legit contender? Is making the playoffs in 2016 realistic for us in the always competitive West?

Jonathan Willis:

I think they need another defenceman. Sekera was a great first step but the blue line (as of Wednesday, anyway) doesn’t really look playoff-worthy to me just yet.

Lowetide:

I don’t think this is a playoff team for 2015-16. IF things break right, they could do it but I suspect they’ll need another year before the Oilers contend for postseason. Once they get there, Edmonton will be trouble in the playoffs for any team.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see playoffs in spring of 2016, but I expect this team to be in the hunt on March 15th. If not, it is another season without meaningful games and that’d be a major disappointment. Once you make the playoffs anything can happen, so in spring of 2017 I expect the Oilers to be a playoff team.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see the Oilers in the playoffs in 2015-16, but I won’t discount it out of hand like I have the past several years. I thought the Oilers were making modest progress until Dallas Eakins came along, then they took a step back. Long way to go, even with McDavid and the positive additions Pete Chiarelli has made to the player personnel and coaching staff.

Jeanshorts:

I think those are two different answers. I think they’ll be competitive in the playoff hunt by the 2016-17 season (JUST IN TIME FOR THE NEW ARENA) but I don’t know that they’ll be a legit cup contender until maybe the 2018-19 season. And I don’t think it’s necessarily unrealistic that they may sneak into the playoffs next year. Maybe Calgary will pass on that insane PDO luck they had last year and we can be the team that shoots at an unrealistically high percentage and rides unsustainable play from historically average goalies. But if I had to put actual cash money on the line I would say the Oilers finish somewhere between 6 to 10 points out of the playoffs, which would be a massive step forward, as sad as that sounds.

Matt Henderson:

They should be back in the Playoff hunt this year. Even if they don’t make it they should be within spitting distance. Chiarelli didn’t trade 5 picks at this Draft and sign one of the biggest UFAs on the market to sit back and enjoy incremental growth. Can they make it? Maybe. They still some things to break right for them. Namely, Cam Talbot needs to prove the gamble to acquire him was a good one. Quality goaltending alone would be a massive swing.

Jason Strudwick:

Making the playoffs this season would be a huge task. It won’t happen. 10 – 12 more wins would be a big step and put them within stricking distance the next year. If I were Todd I would not focus on the other squads. He should focus on his team and getting them playing as a team.

Baggedmilk:

STANLEY CUP OR BUST! Okay so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I honestly expect the Oilers to be competitive this year, and be in contention for a playoff spot come February. If, and I say IF, they can actually stick in the race beyond November I will be thrilled. The bar has been set that low. 

Orange

4) Vince asks – What do you think of those new orange Oiler unis? 

Jonathan Willis:

Love ’em. Haven’t totally decided how I feel about the numbers on the shoulder but I really like the bold orange.

Lowetide:

LOVE them. I’m assuming Wanye is painting his house those colours as we speak.

Jason Gregor:

I like them. I like bright colours in jerseys and the orange/blue combo is sharp.

Robin Brownlee:

Not an orange guy normally, but the jersey I saw on McDavid at the draft looked sharp.

Jeanshorts:

I’m always hesitant with third jerseys. Generally they turn out more like those Sabres duct tape abominations, than those sick, old school Penguins ones from this year. But these new Oiler jerseys look pretty awesome. It’s the same classic colours we all know and love, and it’s a really nice homage to the WHA days. No wacky new take on the logo. No experimenting with new colours. Just clean, classic and sharp. I’m on board!

Matt Henderson:

I love them. I do. They scratch a nostalgic itch while being new at the same time. Whoever designed them hit the nail on the head. Shut up and take my money.

Jason Strudwick:

I am neutral towards them.

Baggedmilk:

I’m not a big fan of wearing bright orange clothes but those jerseys look slick. When I first saw the renderings I wasn’t sure that I would be a fan but they look fantastic. That being said, I’m sure Connor McDavid could make anything look good.

RexallPlace

5) TheBirdOfAnger asks – What is your favourite memory of Rexall and what do you look forward to most about the new arena?

Jonathan Willis:

I saw my first NHL game in Rexall. Hard to top that.

Lowetide:

Watching the early NHL Oilers put it all together. It was awesome, which sounds like I’m bragging but my sincere hope is all the young people who didn’t get to see that build will experience it in the coming years. Selfishly, I hope to be around for a second golden era.

New arena? Stanley tour by captain McDavid. I’ll cry, not ashamed to say it.

Jason Gregor:

Hard to pick one… Atmosphere before and during game 6 of 2006 Cup final was great. Watching Oil Kings win a Championship in 2012, calling the Rush championship game this year was exciting. Also, playoff games in 1997 with my buddies were good times. 

My favourite memory though was a conversation I had with Ken Hitchcock in February of 2006. He was coaching the Blue Jackets at the time. It was after the game and the Jackets had won in a shootout. He had been fired earlier that year in Philly and then hired with CBJ quickly after. I wanted to speak to him about my hockey coaching 101 segment. Once he did postgame interviews, I did a one-on-one for 15 minutes with him for my segment asking about coaching. When it was over, we chatted about hockey. He told me he really enjoyed the interview and said he appreciated the questions. He told me to call him anytime I wanted to talk coaching tactics and complimented me on my questions. That conversation gave me a lot of confidence about my job. Over the years Hitch always answered my calls or texts. He also told me when I’d ask a stupid question, which is a great learning tool as well.

Robin Brownlee:

Too many memories over 25 years to list just one. For me, most of the memories are about the players and people with and around the team as opposed to the on-ice action. Loved walking around the upper ring (press box) and talking to other scribes, scouts and hockey people or slipping down the back hall to chat with coaches and players outside the scrums that are the main access now. As for the new building, it’ll be far more spectacular and spacious in every way than the old joint. Better for fans, players, everybody.

Jeanshorts:

Not hockey related, but we had a tradition in our high school that one of the places everyone stopped to take pictures on grad day was at Rexall with the Gretzky statue. I guarantee we weren’t the only school to have this tradition, but I always thought it was so cool, and some of my favourite pictures from that day are of me and my idiot friends hanging off The Great One. 

As for inside the building, when I was 8 or 9 my dad bought me tickets to a Ducks/Oilers game for my birthday (full disclosure: I was a Ducks fan at the time. The first movie had just recently come out and the jerseys appealed to my 8 year old sensibilities and Paul Karyia was awesome and the Oilers were mediocre at best. I HAD NO CHOICE!). We were in what now are the gold seats, about 11 rows up from behind the visitors net. I don’t remember anything about the game but I thought it was so cool to be that close to the action, and it was just a really fun time with my dad. 

What I’m looking forward to the most in the new arena is a combination of A) being able to walk through the concourse at the pace of a normal human being, rather than feeling like a cow being herded through a slaughterhouse, and B) fitting in the seats! I’m 6’4” and apparently when they built Rexall no one was taller than 5’5″. My knees/shins embed themselves into the seat in front of me as soon as I sit down. Needless to say it’s not the most comfortable experience (though I’m usually too drunk off $700 worth of crack beers to notice most of the time anyway).

Matt Henderson:

Favourite Rexall memories? I was too broke to be there in person to witness the 2006 Cup run but after high school I went in on ticket package with my good friend Kevin Jesus and highlights included booing Tom Poti until even the nosebleed section felt bad for him and the lady with the blue hair left the game early in tears. More recently it was seeing the Scrivens 59 save performance. Non hockey, all my major concert experiences were at Rexall. So I’m looking forward to seeing some shows.

Jason Strudwick:

Playing there the first time as NHL player was an incredible experience. One of my fav as a NHL player. I have seen what new arena districts have done for other cities. Can’t wait for that to happen to my home town.

Baggedmilk:

I have so many great memories from Rexall Place. My dad used to get tickets from work, every so often, when I was a kid and he would take me and I loved everything about it. I loved the food, the crowd, the atmosphere… It was the best. For a kid, NHL games are the pinnacle of existence – at least they are for me. 

I was also lucky enough to go to most of the home games in the 2006 playoff run. I remember the game six win against Detroit. I’ve never high-fived and hugged so many strangers in my life as I did that night. I remember Smytty picking up his teeth off the ice after Pronger cleared a puck into his mouth only to come back and get an assist on the winner in overtime. 

Lastly, as JS said above… One of my favourite pictures ever taken of me is from Rexall Place. Before our grad in grade 12 we all piled out of our limo and took pictures with the Gretzky statue. My dad still has that picture of our group of friends, crowded around Wayne, hanging up in his house.

I love Rexall Place and I’ll be sad to see it go. 

  • Oilerz4life

    I too am a Griffin Reinhart fan that thinks it was an overpay BUT, at this point I will assume the new Oiler Management team have and more informed opinion than me.

    My concern is that someone (Bob Greene?) mentioned not having seen him play since juniors. I hope they didn’t base their decision solely on his junior career.