Monday Mailbag – November 2nd

LeonMail

Going back to work after suffering through a Sunday hangover almost makes it feel like the weekend never happened. Enter your old friend, the mailbag, to help you kill a few minutes of company time.  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.

Big

1) @Baresnake asks – In your opinion, do you see the Oilers trading away one of the former “Big 3” (Hall, Eberle, Nuge) in an effort to bring in a stud top pairing D-man?

Jonathan Willis:

Not really. Stud defencemen don’t usually get traded one-for-one for top forwards. The only example I can think of that even comes close in recent memory is Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter, and even with a defence as bad as Edmonton’s you don’t want to be the team that trades Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson.

Lowetide:

I think Peter Chiarelli will ‘try’ to use his cap room, prospects and picks to add that top pairing D-man. Failing that, yes, I think we’ll see one of those men dealt.

Jeanshorts:

No. My biggest thing for that NOT happening is that you very, VERY rarely see a top pairing D-man traded away. The Oilers have been looking for one since Pronger left, so why on earth would another team trade theirs? Oilers fans know full well how hard it is to find a player like that outside of the draft, so I REALLY hope people will drop this, “CHIARELLI JUST NEEDS TO TRADE FOR A NUMBER ONE D-MAN!” narrative (though I know they won’t). Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom are both well on their way to finally filling that role in the next few years. We’re not trading for one.

Robin Brownlee:

Not this season. I suspect Chiarelli will take more time to assess what he’s got and then decide what he needs. Might Klefbom and/or Nurse be that top pairing guy by next season?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see a team trading a true top pairing defender, so no. If one of those three gets moved I see it more in a package deal, but I don’t see Chiarelli making a major splash like that just yet. I think he wants to see more of what he has and which players he likes.

Jason Strudwick:

A top pairing D-man would be a big help to the Oilers. I would place all the current D in spots that for most would make them over qualified. Against Calgary, Nurse had the second most minutes on the back end. I don’t think that is ideal for a rookie player. I would be looking over rosters and trying to find the guy to anchor the blue line. It will be very pricey but it is needed.

Baggedmilk:

I doubt Chiarelli moves any of them anytime soon but what the hell do I know? I was surprised when he traded Kessel, and then again when he traded Seguin. One thing about Chiarelli is that he’s not afraid to make moves so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how impatient he is. 

Worse

2) Lance asks – The Oilers started out with a worse record under Todd McLellan than they did with Dallas Eakins last year. Do you think the team has improved even though the standings don’t show it?

Jonathan Willis:

No, I don’t. It’s not just the standings that don’t show it; there’s no evidence whatever (at least as of Oct. 28, when I wrote this) that this team is improved. I may be in the minority, but I don’t really believe that coaching was ever the primary problem with the Oilers . This is and was a terrible roster, and the poor performance under Todd McLellan – who is, indisputably, an excellent coach – reflects this.

Lowetide:

Yes. They are improved in goal, but the difficulty of the schedule, injury to Jordan Eberle and problematic defense have us here. It’ll get better. Todd McLellan is still finding out about his team.

Jeanshorts:

100% yes. They haven’t been blown out in a game yet. And even in their worst game of the year so far against Washington they were keeping pace with an offensive powerhouse until the wheels fell off in the second period. They haven’t done that thing this year where they give up a goal and then just mentally pack it in. They keep battling, and are giving themselves chances to win games on most nights. Everyone needs to settle down about this start. They could not have asked for a tougher schedule to open the season. They’re not losing to Carolina and Columbus here. They’re losing to playoff teams, and teams that have a good chance of winning the entire thing. 

Another thing we should keep in mind is what happened immediately after the first ten games: they lost three games in a row to start November, won two, then only won THREE of their next TWENTY-FIVE GAMES! They managed to get SEVEN POINTS all of December, five of which were OT/pity points! There’s absolutely no way I see them submarining that badly this season. 

They’re missing key players in Eberle, Reinhart and Schultz, and yes the team defence is still a massive fixer-upper. McLellan and his assistants are still trying to undo the damage from the last couple of seasons while also essentially starting from scratch in terms of teaching this team basic fundamentals. Things will start coming together more and more as the season wears on. The losses still do and always will suck, but this team was never destined to make the playoffs anyway. If in the next 15 games we’re still only at three wins, then yes, there is a massive problem. That won’t happen. This team will finally be mediocre rather than abjectly terrible. They’re fine. 

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, in just about every way. Tougher schedule. Eberle out. Better team, regardless of record through 10.

Jason Gregor:

Yes. It isn’t close in my opinion. They are much more competitive. They battle. They actually stop and start and engage in battles, rather than trying fly byes. Better goaltending, better #1 centre and overall more willingness to compete.

Jason Strudwick:

Yes. There is improvement. The issue is consistency. Does Todd know from game to game or period to period what he is getting? No. That will come or Peter will find guys that are. It is just that simple.

Baggedmilk:

I think the team looks more structured defensively than they have in recent memory, and the goaltending has certainly been better (Saturday night aside). The Oilers still need work on the back end, but they also need their veterans to play better. *eyeballs Sekera*

Surprise

3) Catherine G. asks – Which NHL team has surprised you the most this season either good or bad?

Jonathan Willis:

Everyone will say this, but it has to be Anaheim, right? From Western Conference Finals to 1-6-2 overall? That’s been a shock.

Lowetide:

Anaheim Ducks and it isn’t close. Crazy start for a team many chose to make it out of the Western Conference and play in the finals.

Jeanshorts:

I mean did anyone realistically see the Ducks being this hilariously terrible? They have two of the best forwards in the entire league in Perry and Getzlaf, Frederik Andersen has been putting up Vezina caliber numbers despite the losses, they have solid young players like Fowler, Rakell, Lindholm and Silfverberg, and they took the Blackhawks to seven games in the conference final last year. Yet somehow they can’t score a goal to save their lives and they look to be a front runner for the Auston Matthews sweepstakes. It makes absolutely no sense and I hope it continues for the rest of the season!

Robin Brownlee:

Anaheim. Nothing from Perry, Getzlaf and Kesler. Saw them as contending for the Western Conference title. Might be in tough to make the playoffs if they don’t turn this around pretty soon.

Jason Gregor:

Ducks, it isn’t close.

Jason Strudwick:

The Bluejackets. I really thought this was a playoff team. Right now they look like a brutal lottery team!

Baggedmilk:

The Ducks. Seriously. But can I also mention how I think it’s hilarious that some commenters over at FlamesNation want Bob Hartley fired just months after he won the Jack Adams? I don’t know if that’s so much surprising as it is awesome. 

Daryl

4) Brent asks – It’s still very early but what are your first impressions of Darnell Nurse this season?

Jonathan Willis:

My impressions after seeing him play one game haven’t changed at all. He’s fast, he’s physical, he’s competent with the puck and on merit he’s a top-six defenceman for the Oilers right now. He’s also raw and I don’t fault the Oilers even a little bit for starting him in the minors.

Lowetide:

Nurse is a more complete player-type than any of the Oilers current D aside from (possibly) Oscar Klefbom. He can skate, pass, shot, hit, win battles, fight, and talk trash. I love the guy.

Jeanshorts:

He looks great! There’s still a little rawness to his game that needs to be rounded out, but that’s to be expected. In his first game against Minnesota he was giving the business to everyone in the front of the net, he was moving the puck out of the zone well, and on his goal he wheeled from blue line to blue line like a young Paul Coffey and absolutely unloaded a laser beam of a shot. HE’S GOING TO BE SO GOOD! SAVE US DARNELL!

Robin Brownlee:

Real deal. Athletic, Competitive. Dynamic. You have that in your DNA or you don’t. Just needs NHL experience.

Jason Gregor:

I like everything about his game and on ice demeanor. He is exactly what the team needs. A big, strong, aggressive, great skating D-man.

Jason Strudwick:

I really like the way he is physical in his own zone. He is a cycle breaker. It really stands out.

Baggedmilk:

DARYL! I love him. Everything about Darnell Nurse is awesome. With some experience and time Darnell Nurse is going to be an absolute force on the back end. 

Thought

5) @LeaveTheLiving asks – What are the panelists’ favourite hockey related memories?

Jonathan Willis:

It’s cliche, but pretty much all my favourite hockey memories are playing the game rather than watching it. I remember being about 13 years old, and I had a friend who lived out of town and had a pond that froze over every winter. We’d head out there, shovel it, and play for hours. You’d have to improvise lots of things – our younger siblings weren’t very good (well, we weren’t very good and they were worse), you’d lose pucks in snowbanks, generally you just had road hockey goalie gear so a lot of times you’d use that soft orange puck instead of the hard black one – but it was fun. I remember too being about 16 years old and playing rec hockey and the other team got a three-on-one on a guy who didn’t usually play defence. He looked over at the bench with a smug grin said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got it’ before promptly tripping over the blue line. He kind of flailed as he fell and by sheer chance knocked the puck away from the attacking forward and out of the zone. It’s an awfully fun game. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.

Lowetide:

Bruins Stanley’s in 1970 and 1972, Canada-Russia 1972, Oilers expansion into the NHL 1979, the glory Oilers and those fabulous players from that team, Marchant OT goal, SC final 2006, Bruins SC win 2011, Hall-Nuge draft, this summer including draft lottery,
McLellan, Chiarelli.

Jeanshorts:

My first two years of minor hockey were great. It was basically the same team two years in a row, and both teams were deemed too good to play in the St. Albert or Edmonton novice leagues so we ended up just playing nothing but tournaments and exhibition games. We played close to 70 games one year! And we won basically every tournament we entered! It was great and I’ve never been on a team anywhere near that good for the rest of my life. 

Winning our Bantam playoffs in double overtime of game three of a three game series was also pretty amazing. Still vividly remember that goal and trying to kiss Chris Beaudette through out cages cause I was so happy after he scored!

Robin Brownlee:

Man, you’ve got to narrow that down for me. Not writing a book here.

Jason Gregor:

Playing outdoor rink with my buddies as a boy. Also the dressing room banter in junior and then later in Men’s league. The dressing room was often the best part of playing. Lots of laughs.

Jason Strudwick:

Jason Gregor and the season he scored 31 goals for the Rollie View Hay Makers. That area is still talking about that magical season. The old men of that area talk about it like Jesus walking on water or Gretzky’s 50 in 39.

Baggedmilk:

Being at Rexall Place multiple times during the 2006 Cup run. I was lucky enough to get tickets from work, and I went to four or five games. The atmosphere was electric and I will never forget it. Also, McDavid.

  • passenger

    AGHHHHHHH I LIKE MY OILERS AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHH I LIKE WATCHING THEM PLAY AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH THE PLAYERS ARE GOOD, AND PROBABLY PRETTY NICE GUYS AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH ITS PRETTY COOL THAT I DONT GET UPSET ABOUT HOCKEY AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SEX AND VIOLENCE!!!!!

  • Jason Strudwick:

    Jason Gregor and the season he scored 31 goals for the Rollie View Hay Makers. That area is still talking about that magical season. The old men of that area talk about it like Jesus walking on water or Gretzky’s 50 in 39.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    Get this man a t shirt!!

  • Mooseroni

    Jeanshorts,

    Reinhart just lost his job to nurse.

    If anyone thinks Reinhart will make a difference, why is he a number 6 or 7 on a team with arguably one to the worst defenses in the league.

    What planet are you people on hoping for Reinhart.

    Back to the AHL where you belong.

  • Mooseroni

    Reinhart may have lost his job to nurse but there is another job to be filled et la french who I think was on for four of the lame 5 goals by my reckoning

  • The Future Never Comes

    After Willis’s comment regarding the second question, I know longer value his opinion. This team has been in virtually every game by one goal. The mind numbing dumb plays of a few is what have lost us several games. They are more competetive without a doubt.

  • @JW

    I found the point made by Matt a few days ago quite interesting and, if it’s true, it goes a long way towards being able to say the team is better despite similar total underlying numbers if the top six has improved that much. It means that 2/3 of the game is being played to a draw as far as possession goes.

    I’d rather be trying to fix the bottom six than the top, and an improved defense would likely help the bottom six a lot.