Monday Mailbag – October 19th

mail 9

The weekend is over, practice retirement has ended, and you’re all looking for ways to kill company time. Thank Gord for the mailbag. Why? These here 3500+ words are not only going to teach you something, they should kill at least 15 minutes of whatever it is that you are supposed to be doing. If you have a question for the mailbag you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 12.09.49 PM

1) Vetinari asks – Some big money is sitting on the roster in Bakersfield.  Out of these players, which ones may get a second chance in Edmonton or elsewhere before the year is up?  Would any of them have any trade value at some point in the year in your opinion?

Lowetide:

Big money as in Scrivens and Nikitin? I’d say the odds of Ben Scrivens recovering a little are good. Nikitin is a defenseman. Every day that gets us closer to the playoffs increases his value. I don’t know why, only that it’s so.

Jeanshorts:

I think Scrivens is the best bet to be called up. Nilsson looked good in his debut against Dallas considering he was facing a firing squad, but he also let in some REAL weird goals. He’s still a question mark at the NHL level, and while Scrivens obviously hasn’t been good during his time in Edmonton, he DOES have a track record as a solid backup option at the NHL level prior to falling into the Bermuda Crease in Edmonton. I don’t necessarily think he WILL be called up, but the odds are more in his favour in my opinion.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see them having trade value. My guess is Scrivens has the best chance. Nikitin’s lack of speed won’t improve in the AHL.

Robin Brownlee:

Outside of Nikitin and to a lesser extent Scrivens, what big money? Nikitin has negative trade value and the Oilers wouldn’t get much for Scrivens. Depending on injuries and performance, we could see both of them back in Edmonton at some point this season.

Matt Henderson:

I think Ben Scrivens has the best chance to play on the Oilers or elsewhere. He can’t possibly be as bad as he was a year ago. If he bounces back in Bakersfield as expected then he can be a relatively inexpensive pickup at the deadline or even before then. Nilsson showed good (overall) in preseason and in hist first appearance but who knows how much that keeps up. Scrivens can bounce back.

Jason Strudwick:

I think we could see Ben Scrivens back in the NHL at some point. His cap hit makes it a little pricey for a trade option though. That is a high number for a back up.

Jonathan Willis:

The path toward Scrivens being recalled is clearest, because all it should take is an injury or for Anders Nilsson to struggle in a significant way; either of those is a plausible occurrence. Nikitin’s road to the NHL is more difficult, particularly if Darnell Nurse blows the doors off in the AHL, but if he plays solidly enough down there that’s possible, too. As far as trade value goes, all either player needs to do is demonstrate NHL-level ability at some point, even in a depth role, and they’ll either have value in trade at the deadline or value as warm bodies to allow the Oilers to trade someone else.

Baggedmilk:

Of the two I would think Scrivens has the best chance of getting back to the NHL. Actually, I was surprised that Buffalo emphatically had no interest in Scrivens when Lehner went down for a couple months. He seemed like he would be a cheapish option to fill that hole, but Tim Murray isn’t asking for my opinion. He should though…

GoesWest

2) Clarison asks – Fayne (second year in the west conference) and Sekera (first year in the west conference apart from a stint with the Kings) have looked just OK. They were both hyped solid Dmen. Is this is a case of them previously playing in the weaker east conference?

Lowetide:

Maybe. I think Sekera may be coming back from the offseason injury a little and Fayne is playing without Andy Greene, who was his safety net. 

Jeanshorts:

With Mark Fayne I think it’s more of a case of the system he played in, and having the advantage of playing with an incredibly solid partner in Andy Greene. New Jersey has been known as one of the most suffocatingly defensive teams in hockey for as long as I can remember. This Oilers team is still learning things like “covering your man” and “not passing the puck in front of your own net”, so any flaws he may have hidden in New Jersey are going to be exposed on a much worse team. 

Sekera I’m still not sure about. I think with him it’s more of a case of the entire team learning a new system and the defense still being a patchwork of mostly sixth and seventh D-men having to play above their heads.

Jason Gregor:

Sekera has only played three games,  so it is way too early for me to comment on how he looks. Fayne was steady in NJ and he played a lot of minutes vs. the Kings in the playoffs, but I think it was more the style in NJ, not to mention Andy Greene is a heck of a Dman. Fayne played a simple game and Greene was the puck mover.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s awful early in the season to let a handful of games override what you thought about these players leading up to now. What did you think of Fayne in previous seasons? Last season? Same for Sekera. They are what they are and they’re playing on a bad team that is off to a bad start.

Matt Henderson:

Lots of observers in LA really liked Sekera during his short time there. I think his issue is the new team and the new coach more than the conference. Fayne, meanwhile, did well playing with a really, really good partner in Andy Greene. Fayne can give you quiet minutes when he’s at his best, but I think Sekera can be more influential on the ice. I think it will come but we have to give it 15-20 games before he gets rally comfortable.

Jason Strudwick:

Combination of new team, new coach, new systems and new partner. In a perfect world this would be the Oilers’ second pair. It is a stretch to have them playing as a top pairing. That being said they can and will play better.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t know about that. It’s going to take some time to tell with Sekera as he adjusts to a new team and new defence partner – his regular guy in Carolina was Justin Faulk, who does a lot of things that simply aren’t in Mark Fayne’s wheelhouse. I think he’ll be fine once he has it all down. Fayne is a limited player with specific abilities who can succeed spectacularly in a certain situation (such as with Andy Greene in a designated role in New Jersey); he’ll either come around when Sekera does or he won’t. 

Baggedmilk:

Way too early to start writing off Andrej Sekera. He’s playing on his third team in two seasons (deadline deal to LA) and it will take him a minute to get settled. That being said, he needs to clean up those giveaways at the blue line because on a few occasions they’ve wound up in the back of the net. As for Fayne I think he is playing above his weight class and that’s not Fayne’s fault but more so a reflection of the Oilers depth on defense right now.

Hole

3) Dave G. asks – What do the Oilers have to do better in order to dig themselves out of this early season hole?

Lowetide:

They have the goaltending, that was a big part of the missing link a year ago. I think Todd McLellan needs to find six defensenen he trusts. He has five now.

Jeanshorts:

Play with consistency. I’m going to get roasted here because THE OILERS ARE LOSING so how dare anyone say anything positive! WE MUST JUST CONSTANTLY DWELL ON THE NEGATIVES!! But in their first two games, even though they LOST they outshot and out possessed two of arguably the top 10 teams in the league, and as far as I’m concerned a lot of the arrows looked to be pointing in the right direction. Yes they lost, and yes they couldn’t buy a goal, but I didn’t have that feeling of dread that they were completely out of the game as soon as a goal against was scored, like I have for the previous two or three seasons. Then against Dallas they came out completely flat, and aside from about 10 minutes in the second period, and a few odd chances here and there, they were soundly outclassed. If they had played the same game they did against Nashville I fully believe they would have left the Lone Star State with a win. 

If they come out banging and crashing, using their speed and skill, and don’t fold up shop the second they get down a goal or two, the wins will come. Probably not A LOT of wins, but some wins!

Jason Gregor:

Consistency, consistency, consistency — in their overall effort and execution.

Robin Brownlee:

What they can’t do is waste solid goaltending performances like they did in the first three games. In the first two, they played reasonably well but couldn’t score. Against Dallas they were just no-shows. The to-do list is long, but it starts with consistent effort and being sticklers for execution. One without the other won’t cut it because this team isn’t good enough to overcome it.

Matt Henderson:

The power play can’t be useless. The first three games Edmonton’s net minders allowed just seven goals against on 107 shots. They’re getting the job done. The problem in those games has been about scoring and the PP just hasn’t been effective enough.

Jason Strudwick:

I think the PP needs to improve. It is very difficult to win games if you are losing the special team battle every night. In this link I outline the issues on their PP.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t think the defence works. The power play will come around, the top-six forwards have already started to and the goaltending has been pretty good, but the blue line is slow and lacks puck-moving ability and that’s crippling. It was bad to start with, and of Peter Chiarelli’s three off-season additions only one addresses both those areas in a meaningful way – and in the early going Sekera has clearly had trouble adjusting.

Baggedmilk:

They need to find a way to generate more offense from their special teams. Saturday night’s game in Calgary was the first time the Oilers have really been able to get something going on the PP and they’ll need it if they want to make up some ground in the standings. 

Advantage

4) Alexandre D. asks – Do you think Jack Eichel has an advantage over Connor McDavid in that he seems to be facing less pressure from outside sources and would be better able to concentrate on the game? ***BM Note: Question was submitted and answered before McDavid made the Flames looks stupid***

Lowetide:

Nah. He has an advantage because he’s facing the Eastern Conference and that’s an easier gig.

Jeanshorts:

No. As I’ve said multiple times already this year Connor McDavid has had immense pressure on him since he was like 12 years old. He’s had cameras and microphones shoved in his face en masse since he entered the OHL at 15, and while the NHL is obviously the biggest stage of them all, I don’t think it’s much different than anything he’s already had to deal with. By my eye he hasn’t looked uncomfortable out there, or that he’s trying to do too much. He looked like he belonged instantly. 

And just like Connor McDavid, Eichel is also tasked with more or less single handedly turning an entire franchise around. McDavid at least has the fortune of being one of a GROUP of players who were supposed to be that guy over the last five years. Jack Eichel doesn’t have that luxury. It’s him or bust.

Jason Gregor:

Maybe a little bit, but McDavid has been fine. McDavid is used to dealing with hype, so I believe he is used to it. Scoring his first goal will allow him to relax.

Robin Brownlee:

No way of knowing, but I suspect the answer is “no.” I don’t know how much pressure Eichel feels or how he processes it. Same for McDavid.

Matt Henderson:

Every player in his peer group has been able to face less pressure than McDavid from the time he was in Junior High. It’s just something that McDavid will have to deal with forever and to day he’s managed just fine. Does that give Eichel the Calder edge? I don’t know. Playing in the Leastern Conference probably gives Eichel the bigger advantage.

Jason Strudwick:

There is a difference between going one or two in the draft. I think Connor has put a lot of pressure on himself, too much in fact. His veteran team mates I hope are telling him to just go and play and not to worry about the outside noise or expecting to have to do it all himself. He is a smart young guy but he is a young guy.

Jonathan Willis:

McDavid wouldn’t have gone first overall if he wasn’t capable of handling obscene amounts of pressure at a young age, and Buffalo is a pretty hockey-mad market in its own right.

Baggedmilk:

Maybe? I guess on one hand you don’t see every hockey website with a live blog of what Jack Eichel is doing and I’m sure that’s kind of nice. That being said, Connor McDavid has been facing outside pressures since he was a 14 years old and I think he’ll manage things fine. I don’t think anyone was worried about him when he was lighting up the Flames on Saturday.

Anger

5) Melissa B. asks – Are you surprised at how quickly some Oilers fans have turned on the coach and management with the recent slide? Some of the comments on Oilers Nation make it seem like the world is ending.

Lowetide:

I think people have 10 years of suffering and would like to watch 80 games that are exciting while drinking beer and getting a slow buzz. The way this team has played the last 10 years, I start at happy hour and don’t let up until last call.

Jeanshorts:

Sadly no, not at all. I would like to chalk it up to the fact that the Oilers have been so bad for so long that we’re used to expecting the worst, but I honestly think there is a group of fans who will NEVER be happy. McDavid scores his first goal? “TOOK HIM LONG ENOUGH AND IT WASN’T EVEN THAT NICE! ALSO EICHEL HAS TWO ALREADY!” Oilers go on a four game own streak? “YEAH BUT THEY LOST THE FIRST THREE!” It’s incredibly tiresome and the worst part is we’ll all have to share in Stanley Cup revelry with these negative Nancy’s and they’re gonna act like they had faith all along. I CAN’T WAIT!

Jason Gregor:

I’m not surprised, but the vocal minority doesn’t speak for the majority of fans. Only a clueless fan would think coaching is the issue three games into the season.

Robin Brownlee:

No, I’m not surprised at all. Having watched almost a decade of ineptitude and failure, cynicism and panic at the first hint of trouble are the hallmarks of Oiler fans.

Matt Henderson:

Nothing surprises me anymore. There are loud but small groups of Oiler fans who will blame all the losses on Hall, RNH, or Yak if any one of them makes the slightest mistake in the game. Why should McLellan or Chiarelli be any different?

Jason Strudwick:

Ha! I don’t remember any of the Oilers brass saying they were going to make the playoffs. It takes time to change habits. If at the end of this season we don’t see an improved style of play by the group that will be disappointing.

Jonathan Willis:

One of the most dangerous times in the transition from a dictatorial regime to a freer society is during the reform process, particularly if that process stalls; what seems to happen sometimes is that a despairing and defeated people get hope and when that hope is shaken they revolt in ways they would not otherwise have done. It’s an old (Biblical, in fact) maxim that hope deferred makes the heart sick, and it’s interesting in retrospect how quickly the situation among fans deteriorated after Craig MacTavish was installed as general manager. Peter Chiarelli, Todd McLellan and Connor McDavid represented hope, and that hope is impatient.

Baggedmilk:

I’m not surprised that some fans turned on the coach when the team opened up 0-4. Oilers fans have been through a lot and are tired of excuses and moral victories. That being said, that start may have also been a blessing in terms of readjusting their expectations. 

  • paul wodehouse

    The reason the Oilers won the last two games was McDavid. He was the difference. The kid is phenomenal. The Oilers still need a tremendous amount of work. Where would they be if they hadn’t won the lottery?

      • freelancer

        This is really the first time in the last 6 years that teams will actually have to think twice about who to send out against the oilers top 6. Especially when Eberle returns the scoring potential here is unreal.

    • Johnnydapunk

      In the minority I’m sure but I think the Oil won because they had better goaltending, and both Talbot and Nilsson have been the saviours of the Oil.

      The defence is still suspect, the offence has not really produced too much yet (the Flames game was a minor exception) but it hasn’t just been the number of shots faced, but the quality of shots they both have been dealing with, there were some serious bad giveaways in the faceoff dots that resulted in quality chances that were stopped.

      The one thing I seem to be reading a lot is that it does really seem that the focus has been constantly on the shots that Nilsson let in as opposed to the saves he has made. I mean the one goal he let in yesterday wasn’t terrible, when you have a player charging towards you from the side, you will probably be a bit occupied with him. The fact that he was run over pretty well when the shot just passed means that it wasn’t like he just completely missed it badly.

      Nilsson has outperformed Talbot so far, he has faced near as many shots as Talbot and made proper ten bell saves. It’s a small sample size but when was the last time the Oil had a goalie with a sub 2 GA and a save percentage over 0.940 ? I don’t know what he has to do to get some proper recognition here.

      I think that the label of number one goalie for the Oil is still up for debate, it’s a long season and it could all go horribly wrong for either one, but based on performances, Nilsson is giving Talbot a run for that number one.

  • “One of the most dangerous times in the transition from a dictatorial regime to a freer society is during the reform process, particularly if that process stalls; what seems to happen sometimes is that a despairing and defeated people get hope and when that hope is they revolt in ways they would not otherwise have done.”

    JW: Not to quibble, but aren’t we actually moving from one dictatorial regime to another here? The head despot still in place too, really.

    Personally, I think Nicholson and Chiarelli should follow some of the great Roman emperors and do some more culling, although they have done quite a bit already. Chop as many heads as you can get away with at the start of your reign to show people you mean business and write it off as a necessary evil, then when the chaos settles down begin a more enlightened, calmer reign, with some token of esteem tossed the way of the little people. They used to give free grain, so free beer would be a proper modern substitute.

  • stonedtodeath61

    Sekera and Fayne new to the west, well right now Fayne is what he is in regards to the West but lets wait and see how he develops with Sekera. Speaking of Sekera, he is a very good two way D, regardless of East or West he is a smart player with good wheels and nice hands. It’s only game 6. The big miss here is you forgot Big Earl and I assure you we need players like Gryba. Nothing special just solid and when we have a one goal lead and are holding on, he will be on the ice in the last minute like he was during the Sen’s magical 23-2-1 run to end last season. The D will come together and the most encouraging part is that their most talented Dman is in California and like all winning pro teams, the Oil are going to call him up when they feel it’s right. He will arrive frothing at the mouth and be an addition not a pressure filled savior. GOG

    • For Pete's Sake!

      I have been pleasantly surprised at how well Gryba has played. I thought in Vancouver last night he was our most solid D-man.

      And yes, it will be so great when a more mature, better prepared and hungry Darnell Nurse gets called up. The stud D-man we need is right there.

      I think all this team will need on defense after that is another 1st or 2nd pairing D-man with a howitzer point shot. That’s something we really lack on our powerplay.

    • McDavid#97

      Yes he did. Jeanshorts, I totally agree with your answer about Negative Nancy Oilers’ fan. Most of them just see the four losses and probably didn’t even watch any of those games. PS: MacDavid is a beast!

      • Canoe Ride 27.1

        I second this. If anyone thought we were going to be 4-0 after facing St.Louis twice, Nashville, and Dallas you’re delusional. The fact that we were competing and in those games aside from the Dal loss, was a victory. A lot of people are really dumb. Now we’ve beaten Cgy and Van back to back and I bet it’s all sunshine and rainbows. It’s called bipolar disorder. There’s a prescription you can get for that. In the mean time If you want a little pick me up when times are tough just look to the bench. Every time I look and see that Mr.Bean is no longer our coach it makes me really happy.

  • Lowetide:
    I think people have 10 years of suffering and would like to watch 80 games that are exciting while drinking beer and getting a slow buzz. The way this team has played the last 10 years, I start at happy hour and don’t let up until last call.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^

    Indeed.

  • Wow, Edmonton currently ahead of both Flames and Anaheim in the standings, ties with LA.

    So much for prognostication in this early going. Hopefully though these guys can keep the streak going and get up to .500 hockey.

  • sitting with my wife, shes looking at her phone with a surprised expression. so i ask her whats up, she says someone on her facebook says the oilers got lucky last night and the nucks are a better team.

    then she says “unfriending…” and deletes them.

    ive never been more certain i married the right woman

  • Lots of work to be done before we can tell if progress is going to follow . Defence – better or just benefiting from better goaltending ? Power play still less than wanted/expected . We got outplayed last night , but still won . Some pleasant surprises in Gryba , Korpikoski , Letestu , Nilsson , Hopkins , And Yakupov being a much better *- player and also contributing scoring . Disappointing so far is Purcell . PK doing very well . McDavid will keep getting better as season progresses . Lander has to get going scoring wise . Hall shows signs of a good season and Eberle should help club a lot when he returns . Club could go either way yet as we are not dominating most opponents .

    • For Pete's Sake!

      Of course our defense is benefitting from better goaltending. But show me a good defense that doesn’t have a good goaltender behind them.

      Good goaltending and good defense go hand in hand. Always have. They feed off each other.

      Mind you bad defense and bad goaltending feed off each other too. We know that only too well from the last few years. Let’s hope we can bury that combination forever.