Monday Mailbag – November 28th

mailbag

You had questions. We had answers… or at the very least a swinging attempt. Once again, fine citizens, it’s mailbag time. I need questions for next week so please send them in if you have anything you want to ask. You can email your questions (or just to chat?) to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation or DM me on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Adieu. 

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1) Alex asks – There is a lot of chatter about a Travis Hamonic trade right now and who knows if it will even happen this season or at all. My question is what is your favourite trade in Oilers history?

Jeanshorts:

Pronger to the Oilers and it’s not even close. Pronger was my favourite player at the time (and still is one of my top five all time), was one of the best, if not THE best D-man in the league, and while Eric Brewer has had a solid NHL career the Oilers won this trade IN A LANDSLIDE! Obviously things didn’t end up working out SUPER well, but the trade itself was amazing.

Lowetide:

The first one that came to mind was the Ken Linseman deal. It was actually a three-way trade on August 19, 1982:

  • Philadelphia traded Linseman, Greg C. Adams, 1982 first-round pick (David A. Jensen) and 1982 third-round pick (Leif Karlsson) to Hartford in exchange for Mark Howe and 1983 third-round pick (Derrick Smith) on August 19, 1982. 
  • Hartford then traded Linseman and Dan Nachbaur to Edmonton in exchange for Risto Siltanen and Brent Loney to complete the three-way deal on August 19, 1982.

It was a sad day because Siltanen was a fun player but the Oilers needed Linseman, who gave them more nasty and a center who could help in multiple roles. Yes. That’s my favorite trade.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t know about favourite because it was a very negative day for Oiler fans, but the trade of Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders had just about everything — intrigue with the last-minute contract negotiations and drama with the whole farewell scene at the airport. Don’t recall seeing an athlete as shattered over a trade as Smyth and his family were that day.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t have a favourite trade, but I thought about it a little after reading the question. I think the high-water mark that I’ve seen was the deal that brought Chris Pronger to Edmonton, but that’s obvious so it’s probably worth highlighting some of Kevin Lowe’s other work that year. Jaro Spacek for Tony Salmelainen was highway robbery. A first-round pick for Dwayne Roloson was brilliant. Getting Sergei Samsonov from Boston without surrendering a first-round pick was a nice trade, too, even if the Bruins used the second-rounder they got on Milan Lucic

Jason Gregor:

I was hosting the evening show when the Chris Pronger trade broke at 11 p.m. The Oilers acquired him for Brewer, Lynch and Woywitka. It was a steal of a trade and fans went nuts. We went live with calls until three in the morning. Of course a year later we all know what happened, but in the summer of 2005 fans loved acquiring Pronger and it was a fun show.

Jason Strudwick:

I have no idea about my favourite. I am not ordering ice cream. I do know the one I will never forget: Gretzky to the Kings.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t know if I really have a “favourite” trade. That being said, I was super pumped when the Oilers traded for Pronger and then Mike Peca back in 2005. Unfortunately, when I think of memorable Oiler trades they tend to be bad ones. I was too young to fully grasp the Gretzky trade, but I felt the Ryan Smyth trade full force. I remember staring at my TV expecting them to tell me they were wrong. 

Shrug

2) Ryan B. asks – In your opinion, what is it about goalies that make them harder to project than a forward or defense?

Jeanshorts:

It’s such a specialized position, and there are so many factors that are at play at the same time. There are only two spots on each team for a goalie, and it’s not like a team can just say “go out there and play 10 minutes and we’ll go from there”. Either you’re playing or you’re sitting. So there’s virtually no margin for error when it comes to being a goalie. Which is why it can be hard for guys to develop sometimes. For every Marc-Andre Fleury who gets the starters job right out of the gate, there’s plenty of Tim Thomas’ and Scott Darlings who don’t get their shot until later in life. 

And I think a lot of it also comes down to teams as a whole. Obviously we saw Devan Dubnyk fall down a well during his last season in Edmonton, but the next season he goes to a legit team in Minnesota and gets a Vezina nomination out of it. I’m assuming there’s no “How To Be A Good Goalie” refresher course during the summer, so playing behind a solid defensive team makes a pretty big difference apparently! 

But obviously the biggest reason is because goalies are voodoo and will never make sense to anyone, ever.

Lowetide:

I think goalies are easier to project as you get more games and minutes, but it’s also true that luck has a lot to do with the position—good and bad luck. Mistakes are more costly too, so that factors in. Over a long period, say two years or junior and two years in the minors, you should have a good idea about a goaltender.

Robin Brownlee:

Specialized skills and a unique position that is more individual than any other on a hockey team. Mental make-up really matter and that’s something that’s not easy to get a handle on.

Jonathan Willis:

From a statistical point of view, save percentage is a pretty limited stat, even if it’s the best we have. It’s limited at the NHL level; it’s even more limited and less predictive at the AHL and junior levels. It’s hard to get more than a general idea of a goalie who hasn’t had a fairly long NHL career.

Jason Gregor:

The develop later and it is harder to project where they will be in six or seven years.

Jason Strudwick:

They take longer to develop and of all the positions confidence plays the biggest role with goalies. You can tell when the puck looks like a beach ball for them and when it looks like a pea. The play of the skaters in front of them affects their play as well. Are they a steady group of do they let chances come from all over.

Baggedmilk:

I guess my honest answer is that I have no idea but going to give it a swing anyway. Goalie projection has to be tough because you would almost have to take into account the team that they played on. If Carey Price came to the Edmonton Oilers tomorrow you couldn’t guarantee that he would make them a playoff team. There are too many holes in the roster. So if hypothetical (Oiler) Carey Price got lit up that doesn’t, necessarily, make him a bad goalie – it’s partly because the team sucks. Does that make sense? I had the flu so I’ve been pumping cold medicine and talking nonsense all weekend. 

Goalies also have a reputation for being strange so maybe there’s sorcery involved? 

HappyThoughts

3) Andrew F. asks – Todd McLellan remains fairly positive with his press availabilities despite the fact that the Oilers are losing, and I would like to follow suit. What are the biggest positives that you see at the quarter mark of the season?

Jeanshorts:

The biggest one for me is that the team doesn’t just fold up shop and mentally check out after they go down a goal or two. In the last few seasons if they gave up an early lead they basically never recovered. This season they’re coming back from deficits, they’re forcing OT and they’ve been able to hang in games with teams like the Hawks and the Kings. Obviously they’re still missing a step in terms of turning these close losses into wins, but a lot of arrows appear to be trending in the right direction as far as I’m concerned.

Lowetide:

At this writing, the Oilers are -9 in goal differential and they have extreme strengths (Leon-Hall, a pretty solid top four) with more on the way (Nuge’s line will get on track, McDavid coming back). More good arrows than we’ve seen in the last decade, and I’ll add in Todd McLellan who is having an impact.

Robin Brownlee:

They hang around in games. They don’t sag and quit when things don’t go their way. They’ve tightened up their goal-differential and that’s a significant plus.

Jonathan Willis:

If we’re being totally honest, there are a bunch at both the team and individual levels; the last dozen games or so have really altered my perception of this team. Goal differential has taken a massive step forward, and I think a sustainable one; if that’s the case it’ll show up in the point totals sooner or later. On the individual level, you guys have all seen Leon Draisaitl, right?

Jason Gregor:

The play of the young D-men: Nurse, Klefbom, Davidson and Reinhart.

Jason Strudwick:

I see an improvement in their team play. Last year it was all over the map. I think we can check a few things off the list as to what is getting better.

Baggedmilk:

The Oilers look like they’re playing with much more structure than what we’ve seen in years. Oh, and Connor McDavid.

PacificDivision

4) Adrian asks – What is happening to the Pacific Division, in your opinion? As I write this four of seven teams are playing at .500 or below. Isn’t this supposed to be one of the best divisions in hockey?

Jeanshorts:

Realistically Anaheim is the only team REALLY under performing. Calgary is regressing as we all knew they would. Edmonton still has glaring holes in the roster and are still at least a season away from being a legit playoff contender. The Yotes and Canucks are slightly overachieving but not by a lot. And the Kings and Sharks are pretty much where they should be. 

We’ve talked at length about the Ducks already, and I still have no idea what’s going on over there. They’ve picked their play up slightly over the last few weeks, but still aren’t nearly as good as they should be with a roster like that. 

And it may just be an optics thing. The Central Division is SO GOOD that it makes the rest of the West look very pedestrian in comparison.

Lowetide:

It isn’t that strong a division anymore. That’s good for Edmonton, who may be able to push close to that final playoff spot in the division if things break right in the new year.

Robin Brownlee:

Anaheim is the only significant straggler right now, although Calgary hasn’t played nearly as well as I expected. Ducks won’t struggle all season, so I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions just yet.

Jonathan Willis:

Not these days. San Jose is loaded with aging players, Vancouver’s in decline going back a half-decade, Calgary was never that great, while Arizona and Edmonton are bad. Anaheim’s having kind of a weird year; I thought they were a bit overrated coming into the season but didn’t see this coming at all. Outside of the Kings, there’s not a lot of strength in the division. It’s certainly the weaker of the two Western divisions, and there’s an argument it’s the weakest in the league.

Jason Gregor:

It hasn’t been for a few years. The Central is the best division in hockey and the Pacific might be the weakest. The good news for the Oilers is if they ever improve in the standings it won’t be as difficult to make the playoffs.

Jason Strudwick:

The strength of the divisions goes up and down. Nothing is ever set in stone.

Baggedmilk:

I’m happy that there are other teams in the division that suck. Welcome to hell, buttholes. *DX crotch chop*

WorldCup

5) Vetinari asks – The new World Cup of hockey is coming up and the prospective teams look interesting, especially Team North America’s young guns. It looks like they may end up like a reflection of the Oilers– lots of promising forwards with an inexperienced defence and unproven goaltending. Can they be competitive in a tournament with this kind of format?

Jeanshorts:

I think they’ll be competitive, but they’ll also have no chance at wining the thing. You could arguably build two Olympic rosters with just the player pool that will make up the Team Canada selections. These are guys that have won Cups, Olympic gold medals and are some of the best players in the world. The Young Guns team is going to be brimming with talent but I don’t think they’ll have quite enough horses to upset the front runner “senior” teams.

Lowetide:

I wonder about that team. They’re going to be at a physical disadvantage but should also have some sublime talent. It’s also an open question in regard to the goaltending for the young crew. I don’t think they’ll win it but should be competitive.

Robin Brownlee:

Based on the projected roster, they’ll be competitive. Chance for John Gibson to shine in goal.

Jonathan Willis:

Sure. I don’t think they will win, but with the compressed schedule (and single-game elimination in the semifinals) almost anything can happen. Remember Belarus knocking off Sweden back in 2002? This format is a little tougher because the round robin is so important but weird stuff happens all the time in short tournaments.

Jason Gregor:

I believe they will be more competitive than Germany, Norway or other countries from the Olympics. Their inexperience in goal will hurt them, but they should be competitive. I don’t see them losing games 10-1.

Jason Strudwick:

I think they will be in tough especially in the pipes. These will be high pressure games and I don’t think a goalie for team NA without NHL experiences will do very well. They will be fun to watch but don’t bet the farm on it.

Baggedmilk:

They may get a lot of goals scored against them, but that team is going to be fun to watch. Maybe Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel will become friends and be cast in a buddy-crime sitcom! Think of the possibilities.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I really wish the NHL would just stick with participating in the Olympics rather than this World Cup of Hockey with its Young Stars and Team Europe crap.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    Positive thoughts, peeps! We’re last, but it doesn’t feel the same as last year. By my eye, we’ve played about four games that we were inches from winning, except for a goalie making an incredible save or the guys hitting the post. When talking about the Oilers, that’s improvement.

    How funny is it seeing Calgary beside us in the basement? We thought we were due for a jump in points, they thought they wouldn’t regress. Joke’s on both of us, I guess.

    • Derzie

      Someone should let Brian Burke know that it is a pretty low down thing to tank the season, in order to get a high draft choice. It would be awesome if Calgary finishes dead last and still only gets the third over all pick. I think that I like the new draft rules now.

  • Rhettimus1

    “Welcome to hell, buttholes!” Everyone in the office looked at me when i lol’d on a Monday morning like “who the f* does that?!” People who read the mailbag, that’s who!

  • Serious Gord

    1. Smyth trade I think. I supported it. Taught Smyth and a lot of oiler fans that the NHL is a business.

    2. Goaltending is toughest position mentally. And the most demanding from an intuition standpoint. Also it has undergone revolutionary change in the past 20 years – change that hasn’t stopped – making it hard to see what is working today and whether it will work a couple years from now.

    3. They are far better coached. And that coaching has made them more resilient. Having said that the Detroit and Carolina games were a bit frightening – they lost the plot.

    4. Pacific is bad maybe the worst a mix of teams getting long in the tooth and others mired in rebuild.

    5. Young guns could really surprise everyone. Unconscious goaltending and lots of heart could see them take it all.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    The question regarding teams in the Pacific division – we should not be surprised as Calgary last year won many games trailing after 2 periods and Anaheim won 20 plus games by the 1 goal.

    Those stats eventually catch up and it did for both teams so far this year.

    Also, the Duck now have Horcoff. lol

  • BobbyCanuck

    World Cup could be hilarious

    I am going to be rooting for Team Euro and Team NA to make it to the finals.

    Are they going to design a special flag for these two teams, what about the anthem?

    Team Euro should use 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes, perhaps Team NA could use a combination of both national anthems

    O North America!
    Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons, daughters and transgendered command.

    And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there

    God keep our land glorious and free!
    O North America, we stand on guard for thee

    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

    And the North American banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  • Derzie

    Anyone who says they saw just how bad the Flames would be is delusional (Homeboy Willis and Jeansguy). This is not regression (i.e. down on your luck) this is an all out collapse. That said, the Oil are where most thought they would be. Trending better (close games, goal differential) but not ready for prime time.They’ll only get better when McDavid returns if they don’t rush him back and risk longer term injury.