Monday Mailbag – July 20th

Mailbag

The weekend is over, we’re all back to work, and looking (read: needing) for ways to kill company time. Enter your old friend – the mailbag.  As always, I’ve taken your questions, passed them to our panel of geniuses, and waited for wisdoms to spill out of their brain boxes.  If you want to be included in the mailbag, email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy.

JultzMoney

1) Jackson D. asks – What are your thoughts on Justin Schultz’s new contract? Is this a make or break year for him with the Oilers? 

Lowetide:

I think Schultz is a very difficult player to discuss because of his contract. If he was going into the normal second contract we could evaluate him as a young emerging talent. As it is, he’s being paid real money and money changes everything. He’s not worth the money but the system and Schultz usage of it has him here. In Todd McLellan we trust!

Robin Brownlee:

The contract is what I expected, given the Oilers failure to offer him a lower number last summer. Had Craig MacTavish used the leverage he had a year ago to sign Schultz to something under $2.5 million, we’d be talking about a one-year deal now at under $3 million. Schultz has the opportunity to earn a long-term contract this season and he has a fresh start with a new GM, coach and better depth on the blue line.

Jason Gregor:

It is what I expected. A slight raise comes from the team playing him so much. We can debate his success in those minutes, but the team played him like he was their top D-man. He will needs to become consistent, like most of his teammates. He doesn’t need to be an elite player, just consistent and improve in his own zone. If he does that he will earn a new contract. I don’t see it as a make or break.

Jeanshorts:

I think it’s okay in terms of the crappy scenario MacT put the organization in when it comes to Schultz. I didn’t think they would go much higher than 3.75, so I was a tiny bit surprised he got almost $4 million, but the raise itself I saw coming from a mile away. Yes, angry Twitter/comment mob, I completely agree that he didn’t “deserve” a raise in terms of his play last year, but he played the most minutes of any Oiler defenseman last season, so really you could argue they probably saved themselves some money by not letting it go to arbitration and not letting Schultz’ agent use that card to get him an even bigger raise as the Oilers de-facto number one D-man. 

It’s 100% a show me contract. It’s Chiarelli saying, “Look kid, we still think you’ve got the tools to be an NHL defenseman. You blew everyone away in the minors. Time to show us you can be a legit NHL player.” And I see it as more of a motivation than a reward. People are already freaking out about the contract, and we’re all still shellshocked from the deal that got him in this pay grade in the first place. He will NEVER hear the end of it if he plays as bad as he did last year. I know I’d be motivated to shut everyone up if I were in that situation.

Best case scenario he finally gets some sheltered minutes and a complimentary partner and plays somewhat close to the value of that contract. Worst case scenario he becomes an RFA next summer and the Oilers let him walk into the sunset with his Eddie Shore Award and we put him in the “Defensemen Who Didn’t Work Out As Well As We Had Hoped” pile with Pronger, Souray, Whitney, Cam Barker *shudders*, etc.

Matt Henderson:

I don’t like giving him a raise although I know why he got one. I think it is a make or break year for him. There’s a new coaching staff and a new management group that isn’t tied to him. Chiarelli wants heavy players and I can’t think of a lighter defender on the team, in terms of playing style. Beyond that, he will surely want a raise from 3.9M next year and if he doesn’t deliver then it doesn’t make sense to keep him around.

Jonathan Willis:

It’s too much money for a player who hasn’t earned it and who over the last three years has done everything possible to demonstrate that he’s not ready for a front-line role. With that said, Schultz is a very good bet to thrive on a Todd McLellan-coached power play and the contract is really Craig MacTavish’s fault anyway. I don’t know if I’d describe it as a make-or-break year; to me Schultz looks like a prime candidate for the pump-and-dump treatment.

Jason Strudwick:

I don’t like the idea of ‘make or break’ for a player. It’s just a little too dramatic. He does need to improve his strength this summer which I hope transfers to a more determined style of play in his own zone.

Baggedmilk:

Don’t you just love Craig MacTavish’s negotiating skills? There’s nothing quite like saying a guy has “Norris potential” before he’s ever done anything at the NHL level. I would have loved to see the look on his agent’s face when he got armed with those bullets. As for this contract, it’s pretty much what I expect. Last year’s deal plus 10%. Not much Chiarelli could do with that. 

At least this season’s “show me” contract is for a guy that’s a RFA at the end of the season as opposed to whatever MacT was doing with Petry last summer. It’s a big year for Schultz. He has to make something happen or he won’t be a part of this team going forward. 

Jealousy

2) Deferoiler asks – Hearing a lot of comments from Eastern Media and other fan bases that McDavid will be another “wasted pick” by the Oilers. My question is why do they seem to think our first overall picks have been busts? Hall has been one of the most productive wingers in the league and Nuge is developing into a legit number one centre. There only argument is Yakupov. Where do you think this comes from?

Lowetide:

This is going to sound far fetched, but there are people (in media, and elsewhere) who are jealous, in my opinion. The ONLY No. 1 overall who hasn’t performed like one is Nail and we knew from day one he was not the complete package (while also having considerable gifts). Saying unkind things about Connor McDavid as a hockey player is rude and idiotic but it’s also true that it must be frustrating to watch Edmonton pick No. 1 overall every damn year. Not for me, but others. 🙂

Robin Brownlee:

I haven’t heard anybody with half a brain say Edmonton’s first overall picks have been busts. Aside from some initial whining out of Toronto about Edmonton winning the lottery, I’m not hearing or reading what you are. Yakupov isn’t a bust, yet, he’s a wait-and-see guy.

Jason Gregor:

Because the Oilers have had three #1 picks in the lineup and haven’t improved in five seasons. The wasted pick comment refers more to these players wasting away in Edmonton, rather than them being busts.

Jeanshorts:

It’s a combination of things: lazy narratives seem to be what the loudest, not-as-informed fans seem to latch onto. So because the Oilers as an organization are bad that must mean that it’s because Taylor Hall sucks or something. “Why can’t he single handily drag a poorly built team to the playoffs?” It’s the same stupidity we see when people try to say Crosby isn’t the best player in the world solely because Toews has won more cups, or when Phil Kessel was the Leafs biggest problem despite him clearly being their best player, let alone one of the best snipers in the world. 

And I have to think some of it is also jealousy. The Oilers HAVE wasted the ELC years of Nuge, Hall and Eberle. So when you have a team that picks first overall year after year, and then does absolutely nothing to get better, and arguably gets even worse over time, you’re going to have fans of other teams looking at our good players and thinking, “If we had Hall or Eberle our team would be a legit cup contender! They’re wasting away in Edmonton.” Which isn’t entirely untrue in my opinion (just mostly untrue). Unfortunately since 2010 the Oilers have developed a reputation as being “That place where first overall draft picks go to disappear,” thanks to an avalanche of questionable to downright awful decisions. With the new management and coaching in place they should shake that label fairly quickly, but until the Oilers actually show signs of progress it’ll be hard to get out from under that shadow.

Matt Henderson:

Where it comes from is a combination of ignorance and the fact that the Oilers have lost so much in the Taylor Hall era. Oiler games have been largely irrelevant so paying very close attention isn’t going to happen all the time. Look at Kelly Hrudey who is based out of Calgary. He thought RNH (Edmonton’s best player in 2014-2015 and second most used forward in the NHL) was a third liner. If the guy three hours down the road doesn’t know what he’s talking about then you can hardly blame the Eastern guys who probably catch four or five Oiler games all year. A lot of people conflate winning with skill and if the Oilers are losing it must be because their players aren’t skilled. Conversely players on winning teams will get massive pay increases despite the fact that they aren’t very good (Bolland). As you said, the only one who has somewhat disappointed is Yak but I’ll defend him to the ends of this Earth.

Jonathan Willis:

I think there’s a tendency to assign the sins of a team to that team’s most prominent player(s), regardless of reality. It’s an easy narrative to write and an easy narrative to sell.

Jason Strudwick:

First things first: Who cares what other people think?! Hall and Nuge continue to develop. Under this coaching staff I would expect them to round out their games. Yak has a ways to go.

Baggedmilk:

Haters gonna hate, man. I would go so far as to say the only reason our first overall picks haven’t flourished is because management didn’t seem to have any interest in surrounding them with actual NHLers. People keep talking about the Chicago model, but when Chicago started winning they also had players surrounding Toews and Kane that could actually play. There were veterans there to carry some of the weight. That didn’t happen here. I think the haters are going to be in for a world of hurt once we start giving these guys some support. 

AreWeDone

3) Baresnake asks – If you were to guess do you think Peter Chiarelli will add any other pieces to the roster before training camp?

Lowetide:

I think he’ll try for Brent Seabrook if he comes available, keep his powder dry otherwise. If you’re reading this and Edmonton signed Christian Ehrhoff or Cody Franson, that’s my answer.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes.

Jason Gregor:

I’d be surprised if he adds anything of note. I could see him inviting a veteran forward to training camp. Just to add to the competition.

Jeanshorts:

It’s almost a coin flip to me at this point. I can absolutely see a scenario in which Chiarelli adds another legit D-man to the roster before this summer is over. While I think he has transformed the blue line for the better so far, I’m still a little nervous with that group on paper as it is now. But at the same time I can also see a scenario in which they have faith that at least one of Reinhart/Klefbom/Nurse blows the doors off camp and cements themselves as a legit NHL defender. I’m still of the opinion the Oilers aren’t making the playoffs this year, so I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world to let one or two of the young guys stay on the big squad the whole season and let them get sheltered minutes and go from there. 

Ideally I’d like to see Cody Franson come in, which would go a long way to letting one of the young D-men develop in the minors and be even better as a late season call-up or a regular player next season (and also because Franson is a solid D-man and would really, REALLY help bolster the blue line).

Matt Henderson:

I would love to see it happen. I don’t know anything but if the Oilers retain and trade Nikitin or buy him out then I say there’s room for one more move. I want to see another RHD, personally.

Jonathan Willis:

I’d guess the answer to that question is “no” unless we see a training camp invite, but there are some free agents out there I would have time for in Chiarelli’s shoes.

Jason Strudwick:

He has been busy filling holes. There are still questions around this roster but I would be happy to see how it plays out over camp and the first 20 games. So I don’t think he does much without moving another piece out first.

Baggedmilk:

I could see Chiarelli adding another defenceman. I don’t care what he says about being comfortable going into training camp with the roster he has, I just don’t believe that to be true. This team’s defence is still not strong enough even with the additions of Sekera and Reinhart. They need to add better veterans to take some of the pressure of guys like Klefbom and Nurse. I think Absbomb® and Nurse will be fine NHLers but asking them to do it now is the same thing that happened with the young forwards.

hopscotch

4) Anthony asks – If you were to guess, which NHL team is set to make an unexpected jump in the standings (like Calgary did last season) and which team is set to fall?

Lowetide:

I think there are several candidates for spikes both ways. I’ll pick the Carolina Hurricanes in the east and Edmonton Oilers in the west as plus spikes. Negative spikes? Hmm. I’ll go Boston Bruins (surprise!) in the east and Vancouver Canucks in the west.

Robin Brownlee:

Unexpected? Who knows? Based on off-season moves, I expect Edmonton, Dallas and Calgary to improve. I think Boston is headed the wrong way in the east.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see many options for unexpected. If the Kings, Stars or Sharks were back in the postseason, it wouldn’t be a major surprise, and even the Avs considering they were only nine points back of Dallas. The Oilers and Coyotes are the only two who can make massive jumps. I see the Oilers improving by 20-25 points, but that won’t be enough to make the playoffs. 

CBJ was decimated by injuries last year, but they are a playoff team. I will pick the Devils as the surprise team. I don’t expect them to be good, so making the playoffs would be a surprise. 

The Canucks will fall out of the playoffs and it won’t be pretty.

Jeanshorts:

Honestly I think Buffalo is going to surprise a lot of us. Tim Murray started out having the worst summer of his life (LOL WE GOT MCDAVID!) but he managed to regroup and since the draft has made a lot of really shrewd moves to help bolster his roster. I mean, their top two centermen are Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, which as far as I’m concerned is a great foundation to build around. Add Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, and Tyler Ennis and that’s not a terrible top six at all. They’ve got some good veterans in Brian Gionta and David Legwand to help bring the young players along, and their defence is also, again on paper, not bad in my eyes. Certainly better than most of the Oiler defensive squads they’ve iced the last few seasons. Robin Lehner is a pretty big gamble but if he pays off he’ll pay off big time. Much like the Oilers I don’t think they have a legit shot at making the playoffs this year but I don’t think they’ll be in the Auston Matthews race either.

As far as a team set to fall I think the Canucks are going to continue to take a big step back. They traded away their clear #1 goalie in favour of a broken down Ryan Miller, and a guy who has put up incredible AHL numbers but is a question mark in terms of being an NHL level tender. They’re still relying on the Sedins to lead the charge, which is fine, except for the fact that they turn 35 before the season starts and you have to wonder how much magic they have left in those creepy twin heads of theirs. Their forward depth is hilariously mediocre-at-best, and their defence is also pretty meh. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this is the year the Oilers finally finish ahead of the Canucks for the first time in what feels like my entire life.

Matt Henderson:

I guess the thing about unexpected jumps is that they’re supposed to be unexpected, but I think the Flames added enough on the backend and up front to not fall too far back, if at all. I love the Hamilton trade for them. I think Vancouver drops dramatically and Edmonton surges (even a huge jump might only get them to 10th in the West).

Jonathan Willis:

If Arizona gets goaltending, they could be the surprise team in the NHL this year. The Coyotes finished just two points out of the postseason in 2013-14, and if Mike Smith can get back to being the Mike Smith of old, rather than an old Mike Smith, a return to that level is entirely possible. On the other side of the scale, Vancouver’s core gets older and older and the supporting cast is slowly eroding; it wouldn’t surprise me if that team took a San Jose-like tumble this year.

Jason Strudwick:

If we aren’t bringing in the Oilers, I think Arizona could actually be worse than last year which is saying a lot! I believe the Sharks return to the playoffs.

Baggedmilk:

I’m looking for Calgary to take a step back and I’m not just trolling FlamesNation either. Yes, they added some nice pieces this summer (Hamilton specifically… stupid Sweeney), but there’s no way they’re going to get the same kind of offence from their D as they did last year. They had guys like Wideman shooting at 12%+ last season and there’s no way he can do that again. I do think the Flames will still be a good team, but I can’t see them pulling off all the come from behind wins in the third period again. Last year was a perfect storm for them. I also think Vancouver is at the beginning of the end. They really look like they have no idea what they’re doing. Are they getting younger or aren’t they? Shut the Sedins down and what else do they have? 

Who will rise the standings? Edmonton. I still don’t think they’re a playoff team yet (defence problems) but I certainly don’t see them in lottery contention next season. Although it would be hilarious if they missed the playoffs by only a few points and won the lottery for Auston Matthews. The NHL would implode and I would love it.

CalmDown

5) Thomas Sharp asks – What can the Oilers do on and off the ice to shelter Connor McDavid from the sky high expectations that are being placed upon him? Thanks in advance!

Lowetide:

Give him veterans who can mentor him on the ice and be patient. I think we’re already seeing Peter Chiarelli trying to temper expectations, which is kind of impossible in a hockey mad city like Edmonton.

Robin Brownlee:

McDavid will likely live with one of the Oiler veterans, maybe even former owner Bruce Saville, as Ales Hemsky did. I don’t expect he’ll struggle with expectations. He’s been in the spotlight for years already. On the ice, McDavid will have the benefit of playing with better teammates than Hall, RNH or Eberle did. 

Jason Gregor:

Chiarelli has been doing it since the moment they drafted him. It is impossible to stop some fans, bloggers or media from making outrageous expectations. The sane ones need to remind people he is only one player.

Jeanshorts:

I don’t think people give Connor McDavid enough credit in the way he’s already been able to handle pressure every step of the way so far. He’s been dubbed “THE NEXT ONE” since he was 13, maybe even younger. He’s exceeded every single expectation of him at every single level, so I don’t know why the NHL would be any different. He’s finally fulfilled his dream of making it to the NHL so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is now the fun part for him. 

As an aside, I find it really interesting how fans seem to waffle back and forth on athletes; we want them to be hockey playing robots, with no personality, whose sole purpose in life is to score goals and win hockey games, and at the same time treat them as if they have these incredibly fragile psyches and if something negative is said about them or they’re demoted to the minors or something that they’re going to just curl up in the fetal position and be forever broken. They’re human beings, and they handle criticism and challenges the same way, if not better, than the rest of us.

And he’s part of an era where basically everything he’s ever said and done his entire life is frozen in time on the internet. I have to think that Media Training 101 with this generation of up and coming NHL players starts with, “NEVER GO ON THE INTERNET AND READ ANYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF EVER”. 

He seems like a genuinely incredibly nice, down to earth person, and he’s already being treated like a golden god here, despite having done absolutely nothing at the NHL level yet. He’ll be fine. And, hey, if he does end up living with Smytty for a year or two, ALL THE BETTER!

Matt Henderson:

Nothing. He’s a teenager in the most web-connected world ever. There is nothing they could do short of Helicoptering him to and from a safe house in the woods without wifi or cell reception for every game and practice. He would have to live completely apart from normal society. A man alone in the wilderness with nothing but his hockey stick and a crossbow to hunt for his next meal. The expectations have been earned via his unreal ability and results at every level he has competed in. Even lowball point projections rate him abnormally ahead of the last wave of first overall picks. On the ice they should be doing everything in their power to help him reach those expectations, not hide him from them. He’ll play with talented forwards in prime starting position. There’s not much else they can do except let the kid play.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t know that he needs sheltering. When a player is that good at that age, those expectations have been with him for a long time. I don’t think a player reaches the level of McDavid without knowing how to deal with them.

Jason Strudwick:

Very tough to answer. I think it was Coach Todd who said Connor is accustomed to this type of attention and expectations. He will have guys like Hall and Nuge around to support he offensively so he doesn’t have to score all the points himself. Off the ice he will be living with someone that can give him a normal home life.

Baggedmilk

I think the first step is to set him up with a veteran to live with this season. There has been rumours of McDavid living with Ryan Smyth and I think that would be the best possible fit. Smytty knows what it means to be an Oiler and he’s seen it all with this team. Living with a guy like Smytty would also allow McDavid to focus on playing hockey rather than learning to cook, blah blah blah. I also think the Oilers should limit his availability with the press. That’s going to piss the scribes off, but I don’t really care. Let guys like Taylor Hall, Nuge, and Andrew Ference handle the tough questions for a while. In addition to limiting his press availability, I think the Oilers should put parental locks on his Internet to keep him off any website that talks hockey. He doesn’t need to fill his head with the kind of crap we like to spew when guys are having a tough time.

On the ice I don’t think there’s much you can really do. Without even playing a game Connor McDavid is already one of the most famous athletes in the NHL. I’m assuming McLellan will give him sheltered minutes wherever possible to start until he gets his feet wet. Aside from that? Buckle up. I think Connor McDavid will be able to handle the pressure on the ice, it’s the off ice stuff (I’m looking at you Oilers fans/media) that we need to protect him from.

  • freelancer

    I think if Chiarelli does make a move before the season starts it’ll be late August or September. It’s curious to see so many UFA’s (Franson, Erhoff, Fehr to name a few) not having been picked up yet. One has to imagine that a few teams are interested in these players. Combined with teams still trying to manage their cap situations I think we could see Chiarelli take advantage of some situations.

  • freelancer

    I see struds still answers in the mailbag section, which is awesome. Will we see anymore articles from the former #7 stud dman of the past Edmonton Oilers?

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    I’ve heard from a little birdie that Connor will live at the Katz compound. He will never have to do anything else but train and play hockey. He is still a kid and needs protection from the media hoard which Smitty can’t provide. There is heavy security at Katz’s place and I’m all for that.

  • BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull

    $3.9M for a 25 year old dman that plays 22 minutes a night seem reasonable by NHL standards. Lots of posts last year around Petry isn’t worth a contract and we all watched that play out.

      • A 28th place team, touching up to the cap, is focussed on a 25 years old’s 1 year contract. I think there are much bigger issues.

        If we didn’t sign Shultz who on the roster is going to play those minutes next year, Nurse, Reinhat … that might be the same bumpy road we just travelled.

  • 15w40

    I think the answer to how busy the GM will be in the next 6 weeks will be answered in the next 4-6 hours. If there is no buyout then he’ likely has buckled up his chin strap and is ready to crash into September with what he has on defence.

    Unless he can deal Purcell and retain some salary to make room for Drisaitl or Pitlick.

    Might be some movement on goaltenders depending on what happens in camp.

    McDavid is probably more prepared to deal with the rigours of the media in Edmonton than 80% of the existing roster.

    I’m sure he gets billeted out like most junior age kids should be, personally I think it would be better at a residence that isn’t a current roster player but has some connection to the team and knows what the demands and schedule are going to be like.

    Someone like Smyth, Pisani, or Strudwick – if they were willing.

  • oilbaron

    I like the comments about McDavid that Baggedmilk said. even if it was with a little bit of sarcasm. I like him staying with Smyth for his leadership and experience but at the same time if McDavid is not a religious person, having to say prayer before dinner may not be the best thing….

  • oilbaron

    Yak and Schultz have both suffered from having three different coaches since they began. These two can become more then useful players. Yakupov started becoming a bit of a thief last season. He still has the best shot of anyone on the roster. Schultz has a nose for the net and knows how to be the trailer on the rush.

  • oilbaron

    Looking at the way he started in Boston with the Chara addition, I would not be surprised to find out that Chia is working on an ambitious trade to start the season with a legitimate top pairing defenceman. Years from now he wants people to look back and say ‘Bringing in Chiarelli really turned things around for this club’, not ‘Holding onto Conner’s jersey has really made Chiarelli look like he knows his stuff’. Sometimes nothing is the best move, but I suspect that Chia’s motivated to do something earth shattering before the season starts.

  • oilbaron

    So Brownlee says Calgary will improve? based on what?…The fact that they collectively all had a career year as well as incredible luck with all their third period comebacks…I just dont see that being repeated.

    Vancouver,Boston,Phoenix all good bets for big drops and my surprise pick is LA…I just think that Sutter’s grinding hockey style has its limits and that last year showed that the veterans were starting to tire of the message. Methinks that like Hitchcock in StL the best before date has been passed in LA.

  • oilbaron

    It would be great if the Oilers made it mandatory for all rookies to spend their first year at Ryan Smyth’s house. Of course it would be impossible, but damn would we see a lot of kids bleeding copper and blue.

  • oilbaron

    The conversation should end with the first question – Is this a make or break season for JSchultz? That was the question posed to both Petry and Schultz last season, was it not? Clearly, Justin Schultz beat out Jeff Petry in the eyes of management, one is here, re-upped and re-signed and the other is gone. Somehow someway management believes in Justin Schultz over Jeff Petry short term and long term and thats the way it is.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    I totally agree with limiting Connor McDavid’s internet access.

    Reading the inevitable critical piece from guys like Mark Spector or Steve Simmonds will do nothing but harm for a young player’s confidence.

    In addition, Connor needs to focus his free time on practicing hockey and socalizing in the real world, not on World of Warcraft and http://www.oilersnation.com.

    Also, a little birdie tells me (although I have not yet been able to confirm) that there is pornography on the internet (!).