Monday Mailbag – Last Competent Defence?


Remember last weekend? Remember how good it felt to not have to go into work on Monday after you spent the past couple days binge drinking and rolling in your own filth? Good times. Thanks for nothing, this week’s Monday! Now we’re all back to our jobs and trying to kill enough company time to last until next Monday. Luckily, this week’s Mailbag is a hefty read and should kill enough time to get you to your first coffee/smoke break. Hopefully. 

1) Riley asks – If you could dream up any changes to the NHL purely to better the fan experience, regardless of barriers to implement them, what would you decide to change?

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I would move the blue line and goal line back to previous spots. 

Jason Gregor:

Get rid of asinine offside video rule. Limit coaching staffs to only one hour of video a day. Would lead to more chances being created.

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Jason Strudwick:

I would let the fans sit on the bench. Maybe even let them coach. They are all experts!


Get rid of TV timeouts, or at least cut them down to only a handful per game. Watching the World Championships the last couple weeks really reenforced just how damn long an NHL game can be sometimes. There were maybe five TV timeouts per period during those WC games, compared to what feels like one for every three minutes of play in an NHL game. Those WC games FLEW by! The game itself felt faster because it seemed like the action never really stopped. I will say that I do appreciate the TV timeouts while attending a game live (BEER! BATHROOM!) but in general I think they should get rid of them.

Robin Brownlee:

To me, the bottom line when it comes to fan experience is providing a better product on the ice. For starters, the league has to continue to consider ways to open up the game and make it more entertaining — that’s an endless laundry list of discussion and debate right there.

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Matt Henderson:

No games before 6PM on weekdays. I would experiment with music playing during game play. Contract the NHL by four teams at least. TSN gets hockey back.


Eliminate the Pacific Time Zone. Everyone in California, Washington, BC, and otherwise will now move forward to Mountain Standard Time. This way, we eliminate 8:30pm starts. We’ll be thankful, the people down east will be thankful, everybody wins. Thank you. 

2) Vetinari asks – Do think GMs be more reluctant to hand out NMCs given that there will be an expansion draft and that they have to add these players to their protected lists?

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This is a great question, but without knowing the date of the expansion draft or the rules it is a difficult one to answer. I will say yes, it will impact things. That is a very unsatisfactory answer, and I apologize for it. If the NHL had its act together we would already know.

Jason Gregor:

Not sure why? If you are signing a player to a multi-year this summer you’d hope he is good enough to be on your team next year. If expansion draft was in three years, then it might be issue, but it shouldn’t be a factor for only one year. And I only see players being bought out who aren’t worth the money or talented enough anymore, not because they have a NMC.

Jason Strudwick:

Sure this is all possible but I am not convinced that the expansion draft rules we hear about now are in fact what will take place in the future.


I mean, who even knows if there will be an expansion draft next year? But even if there was one for certain I doubt it would really have that much of an affect. GMs should already be thinking twice about handing out all these NMC/NTCs due to the cap, so maybe this will help prevent non-franchise players from getting them as often as they do now. And GMs hardly ever trade anymore as is, even those in dire need of turning their franchise around, so I can’t really foresee a scenario in which they start making trades because of a potential expansion draft. I think business will carry on as usual and teams will cross the expansion bridge if/when they come to it.

Robin Brownlee:

They should be more reluctant to hand out NMCs because there are too many of them now. I imagine teams that haven’t used all their buy-outs will take a look at marginal veterans making too much money and try to move them rather than risk losing younger, upcoming players who will need to be protected.

Matt Henderson:

In general there will be fewer NMCs but, naturally, Benning won’t get the memo in Vancouver and hand out two of them to bit players. I’m expecting more buyouts than blockbusters. The expansion draft should make this year’s first rounders worth that much more as the players taken would be exempt.


If I’m a GM I’m giving everybody no move clauses. That way I ensure that I can’t lose anybody by the time the expansion draft comes around. Circumvent the system! Damn the man. 

3) Brock asks – What do you think of the NHL threatening to fine the Tampa Bay Lightning if they didn’t shut down their fan watch party?


I heard they were going to send Baggedmilk down there to run promotions.

Jason Gregor:

Typical NHL. Their inability to understand how to properly grow their game has always been an issue.

Jason Strudwick:

I am not a fan of it. In those types of markets anything that creates a buzz or an event for the NHL should be viewed as a success.


The NHL has this amazing strategy going where they are trying to grow the game while simultaneously doing everything in their power to stop people from watching. A southern team trying to bolster their fanbase by having a fun event that people can enjoy with hundreds of other fans? GO HOME EVERYONE, YOU HAVE TO WATCH THIS ON TV! (Side note: EVERY team does events like this, and have been doing it for ages now, which takes this whole thing to another level of stupidity). 

Spend $200 on GameCentre Live so you can watch your favourite team? WELL IF YOU LIVE IN THAT TEAM’S BROADCAST AREA ALL THE GAMES ARE BLACKED OUT AND SO ARE ALL NATIONALLY TELEVISED GAMES! Oh you wanted to WATCH these games? LOL NOPE! 

They keep trying to bring in new fans by doing everything they can to try and turn away their already existing fan base. It’s mind numbing, and if you needed evidence as to why it’s probably time for a new NHL commissioner to take the reigns, I’d start there.

Robin Brownlee:

Lame. There are no negatives to events like these that can expose the game to more people — especially in a non-traditional hockey market.

Matt Henderson:

I think it’s bush league to clamp down on fan enjoyment/engagement in hopes that those households just sit in their homes and watch the games by themselves. How pathetic are the ratings in these markets that an official party MIGHT hurt ratings? And IF it is that bad, won’t it already be too late to save? Wouldn’t the NHL be better served growing the game (as the Lightning were trying to do) so that NEXT YEAR the numbers are better?


I always find that the best way to grow the market is to eliminate a really cool way of enjoying your product. I mean, why on earth would you want thousands of your fans gathering in one place to celebrate a team they willingly pay to follow? Who needs that? Good call by the NHL. 

4) Laura asks – Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are the two longest serving Edmonton Oilers and they’re both relatively young. Is this more of a pro-scouting or an amateur scoring issue? How can it be addressed?


Many moons ago, Al Arbour and Bill Torrey had a motto, Laura. Get good players, keep good players. The Oilers must do the same, and I do agree some quality veterans—older than Hall and Eberle—need to be added to track back the previous damage.

Jason Gregor:

Incompetent organization from 2007-2014 is why. At every level of management, coaching and scouting.

Jason Strudwick:

This is a result of many losing seasons and a quest to turn over the roster to win. I believe a more patient approach to player development is needed. There are not many players who are signed as a result of pro scouting or traded for that become the longest serving members of the team. This is more on drafting and developing.


It’s pro scouting with a little dash of incompetent GMing. I mean, just look at the guys with NHL experience that were brought in during the Tambellini and MacT eras: Khabibulin, Nikita Nikitin, Eric Belanger, Darcy Hordichuk, Cam Barker, Mark Fraser, Matt Fraser, Keith Aulie, Jesse Joensuu, etc, ON TOP of guys who had prior AHL experience like Will Acton and Corey Potter. That is an alarming amount of guys who shouldn’t have been getting minutes in the NHL, let alone being every day players! 

And as far as I’m concerned this has already been addressed. Chia has made some great moves (the Maroon and Talbot acquisitions alone already make his tenure 2000x more successful than the previous two guys combined) and while obviously there is still a lot of work to be done (DID YOU GUYS KNOW THE OILERS DEFENSE IS BAD AND THEY NEED TO ACQUIRE GOOD DEFENSE? Don’t worry, someone will surely let you know in the comment section of every single Oilers article ever written), I have a lot of faith this current regime will continue to turn this boat around.

Robin Brownlee:

Bottom-feeder teams always have the most turnover. Veterans come and go but trading away young promising players, like Hall and Eberle, doesn’t make a lot of sense, so it’s no surprise they are the longest serving. Becoming competitive for a playoff spot again will slow down the rate of turnover.

Matt Henderson:

It’s the result of a half-baked philosophical tenet of the organization that lead the team to surround Edmonton’s draftees with nothing but fringe players for years. The past can’t be fixed. The good news is that it looks like Chia is done filling holes with replacement level players.


Where’s the all of the above option? The amateur scouting/drafting has sucked and so has the pro-scouting. 

To paraphrase: “I think Nikita Nikitin is a top four defenceman” -Mact

To paraphrase: “With the 31st overall pick the Edmonton Oilers select Mitch Moroz.” 

5) Blake asks – In your opinion, when was the last time the Edmonton Oilers iced a roster with a competent NHL defence?


2005-06. It was beautiful.

Jason Gregor:

I’d say the start of the 2010/2011 season. They had Ryan Whitney, Jeff Petry, Tom Gilbert, Lady Smid and some vets in the third pair in Vandermeer and Foster. Whitney had 27 points in 35 games, but then he got injured and was never the same. But at the start of that season they had a guy who could play top pair minutes and produce offensively. It wasn’t elite, but had Whitney stayed healthy they would have been okay. His injury was a big blow.

Jason Strudwick:

2008 – 2009 It was a good mix on the back end.


I’d say sometime during the 2007-08 season. They had Tom Gilbert, Joni Pitkanen, Denis Grebeshkov (who, despite what SOME people will try to tell you was a competent defender at that time), Steve Staios, a young Ladi Smid, Matt Greene and pre-career ending injury/being buried by Tambo Sheldon Souray. That team only missed the playoffs by three points, and while it’s obviously not a murders row of high end D-men, it’s better than pretty much any defense core the Oilers have deployed since.

Robin Brownlee:

The Stanley Cup final team of 2006.

Matt Henderson:

2006. We’ve had competent defenders since then but, as a whole, the last time there was a completely competent group was the 2006 run. It had elite talent at the top and had depth all the way down. The fact that Matt Greene was the weakest link goes to show how good that group was.


Remember when Steve Tambellini buried Sheldon Souray in the minors and then got absolutely nothing for him on the trade market? Good times. But to answer the question, I would say maybe 2009-10. They had some decent pieces in place that needed better support, but as a whole it smelled like an NHL defensive core. 


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  • 24% body fat

    Gregor – i hope you are talking about the video replay calling back goals on offside, this sucks. Butt offside is needed or the game would be chaos.

    Jeanshorts- Tv timeouts speeds up the games. It was when this came into play and the sped up puck drops that moved the game along. It is legitimate to have a one minute break 4 times a period to get the players a rest

    AS for the Tampa thing, what a joke. I had center ice, and oilers season tickets. But ever since the horrible deal with rogers that has stupified hockey I no longer get all oilers games because I have a basic cable package that includes two (but not all) sportsnet channels.

    What a joke, how much more of my money do they want.

    Eat turds sportsnet, you are horrible, and so are your commentators. Why didnt the NHL give Bell a chance to counter the offer. Rating would be higher and the game would be growing in Canada, and the health of the league would be much better in the long run.

    • Seanaconda

      I thought the Tampa fan party thing was less the nhl and more due to whatever tv agreement they have in the states. Which is also stupid but they think it hurts Neilson ratings or whatever?

      But whoever is the cause of it it’s completely idiotic. People still see your adds no matter where you watch it. It’s basically the same as not letting you go to a bar to watch the game.

        • Seanaconda

          Oh for sure but they are gonna do the same thing when they expand too, short term cash for an even more watered down league. It’s short sighted by the cable company or sponsors too if they are the one enforcing it.

          If you have the motivation to go watch a game in a square full of people I’m sure you’ll go to a bar or a friend’s house anyways instead of staying home. / buying the sports package if you don’t have it. Or just stream it as an extra fu

      • 24% body fat

        does it. Ive watched the oilers play in chasos for the the last decade. How much worse would the be if they didnt have offsides and our d couldnt just get it out of the zone.


        • Lofty

          The chaos of less structured play in the 70’s and 80’s was awesome to watch.

          I would like to see what the NHL game would look like with a floating blue/center line.

          • 24% body fat

            It was, but advances in technology, equipment, ice surfaces, and nutrition have vastly changed it. Chaos in the 80s may not be chaos in 2016.

            People say Gretzky may not have scored as much today, may be true, but what if he had the nutrition, training, lighter equipment and better sticks of today.

            How good is mario if he didnt smoke, unless that was what gave him his edge.

          • Morgo_82

            Besides, imagine what Gretzky, Kurri, Lemieux, Lafleur, Bossy, etc… could’ve done if the obstruction rules were in place then, there would’ve been a few 100 goal seasons for sure. Can’t really compare the two generations.

          • NewPants

            The net should move up down and side to side. Make the puck smaller. lol

            ps. add Walt Disney characters.

            I don’t think the league GM’s want any changes unless it will help their own teams defensive style. I hope there is lots of scoring in the finals and help GM’s think about scoring to win.

            Go OIL!!!!

  • madjam

    I’d like to see an adjustment to the NMC that allows all teams to buy them out and not effect their cap . Player still gets paid , but club not strapped by cap , so they can improve better and faster . Players should go for it as well , as the extra dollars will actually flow to them as well .

    . The buy out would be at 100% of contract , not2/3rds . Ference and Nikitin are good examples, as we could have bought them out and had two maybe decent players added to team over last couple of years for the price of those contracts .

    • why give GM’s an opportunity to just buy their way out of bad decision making? What i think the NHL should do in order to stop GM’s from offering marginal players NMC contracts with ridiculous money is to make any buyouts count double against the cap. Imagine if it there was a threat of it costing $18 million to buy out Nikitin! In fact…make the buyout cost double, and a first round draft pick. Maybe then we’ll see some real thought going into who signs whom and for how much/long.

      • madjam

        I understand your reasoning , but it’s the fans and teams who suffer not just the Gm.s . Under my scheme the fans and players benefit the most , owners suffer financially due to GM’s poor decisions . Your already punishing the GM and owner paying 100% buyout so why carry it further and hurt the fans as part of that fallout . The players also win .

        Example only : Clarkson being bought out at 100% still financially hurts the parent club . Clarkson then signs with Oilers as an example for a contract paying about 1/2 of what his previous salary . Oilers get a good player at a reasonable price and Clarkson makes a hefty bonus by being bought out . If each club allowed just one a year that would put 30 players back into marketplace each season for bid , and parent clubs more cap space to add better players . As a hockey fan I prefer to have better hockey on all teams .

        • McRaj

          1.) This would put small market teams at a disadvantage because bigger market teams (New York, Toronto, etc) would buy their way out of mistakes annually.

          2.) Clarkson is not even remotely close to a good player anymore, probably not even a decent player.

          3.) Because even when these players are bought out, team’s will still make mistakes and sign them to big contracts (i.e. Vinny Lecavalier).

          • madjam

            Small market teams might therefore be able to improve by picking up one of those players at a price they could afford , and NMC would be voided and perhaps more would end up on Canadian teams . Calgary and Edmonton almost lost our franchises because we were small market teams , but cap changed that and we spend up to cap limit like most others . You are still restrained by cap limit . Mistakes are still inevitable getting those players ,that should be punishment enough for poor asset management . Crippling teams for years is over punishing them . Clarkson was maybe a poor example , but at 2M he probably still has good value .

            Even small market teams could buy themselves out of poor contracts , not just the big spenders . One a year not such a bad thing .

  • Jersey#67

    I’d make the nets 6″ taller and 6″ wider for a better fan experience. Goalies are so huge these days its no wonder the top scorers barely crack the 100 point plateau any more. The nets are too small.

    If you want to see how big goalies are compared to the past one only needs to see Can Talbot standing in the group of former Oilers goalies at Farwell Rexall to see. He towers over Low, Fuhr and even Ranford.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ah yes the absolute heartbreak of injuries to Whitney and Souray who, when healthy, were very productive players. but of course they never were completely healthy for the time they were here. why? #becauseoilers

  • Morgo_82

    Simple way fix to the NMC / NTC is to go to the NFL style of no guaranteed contracts, you suck and they cut you; don’t want to get cut, play better. It’s something the NFL is actually doing right in an era of so many wrongs. Thanks Goddell.

  • ubermiguel

    Improve the NHL? Shrink goalie equipment (already being worked upon). Contraction (will improve the talent on the ice). Limit NMCs (e.g.: two per team; will make the business of hockey interesting again). Allow fan watch parties (this is really a no-brainer and shouldn’t have to be mentioned but the NHL head office is apparently full of idiots).

    Lowetide, because of you I’m quoting Al Arbour at work regarding general HR decision: get good employees, keep good employees. It’s so simple, but when you look at every decision and ask “does this help us get/keep good employees?” it makes you think.

    Gregor’s got it, in 2010-2011 Whitney was playing very well and the defence had a good mix. Whitney’s injury exposed our lack of depth though; no one was ready to replace him or his minutes. It’s the Pronger effect: take away your #1 defenceman and watch your team collapse.

  • Thank you for bringing up Centre Ice. What a terrible package. Even when Edmonton was playing in Florida, the game was still blacked out because it was considered a ‘local market game’. Who is this product for? Why does it have to be so excruciatingly terrible.

    One day, entertainment services will not be held behind an old regime controlled by telcoms companies. All it will take is for one single major league to make more money distributing their product themselves, then they make on exclusive television rights.

    • Leaking5w-30

      Center ice has its issues… But it is designed for fans like me. I live in central Illinois and subscribe to center ice to watch the oil. I get over 70 oiler games a year. (Black hawks and blues games blacked out).

      To me the biggest issue with center ice is that they sometimes put up a blank screen to prevent You from watching out of market commercials. And yes a black screen for 2 min is worce than commercials.

  • As for improving the NHL, go to international ice size.

    The last Olympics was some great hockey. Sure, Canada played perhaps the best defensive game ever on ice, but it was still very good hockey. International ice doesn’t have as much chip and chase, and all the fast and skilled players have just a bit more space to get around.

    I understand that would mean millions of dollars in retro fitting for arenas around the league. But that is my pick.

    • camdog

      Sure Olympics is great. The World Cup of Hockey is going to be great too. Try watching league game on the big ice, it doesn’t bring the excitement that the Olympics on the big ice brings.

    • Bandwagon jumper

      I agree that a larger ice surface is an excellent idea. It would free up some space to give the skilled guys more room to work their magic. Did you see how Hall excelled on the larger ice surface? It was awesome to see that.

      I don’t think they need to go full Olympic size ice, but even an extra 5 – 6 feet in width would help. However, as much as I think it is a great idea, it will never happen. It means a cost in retrofitting 30 rinks as well as losing the first row of seating. That is a financial hit that none of the owners would go for.

      • YEGswede

        Coming from Sweden, I don’t support the idea with a larger ice-surface (at least not international size) at all. During a tournament it works fine, because the teams don’t have enough time to optimize the defensive tactics. In regular season this becomes much more of an issue. Top end players would be able to work their skill a few times a game and maybe produce even more magic than they can on a NHL surface due to the space. However, my guess is, that overall the games would slow down and be even more focused on defense and shots from the perimeter (look at the SV% in KHL), to minimize odd man rushes.

  • Serious Gord

    1. John Shannon had an interesting idea that would make for more scoring and also make the game go quicker:

    Only allow on-the-fly shift changes.

    2. No idea what the answer is. But I think there should be an NMC cap for every team say 10 man years per team.

    3. The NHL never seems to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity (apologies to Winston Churchill). The league should have pushed back against the marketing Dept or the advertisers or whoever demanded it be shut down – they need to think much longer term.

    5. That it has been 6 years since the team has – arguably – had a competent defense core is probably the greatest indictment against management and ownership.