Monday Mailbag – Does Connor Pass Too Much?

Mailbag

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We’re three games into the McDavid era and you fine folks have questions that need answers. As always, I’ve gathered the Nation writers and sent them your questions. Don’t hesitate to store these little wisdom seeds in your brain garden and let them blossom. If you have a question for next week’s mailbag you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, it’s time to learn something.

1) Mitchell asks – What did you guys think of Auston Matthews’ four goal debut? Do you think that helps or hurts him pressure wise for the rest of the reason?

Jonathan Willis:

It’s probably helpful. Like any No. 1 pick I’m sure he’s used to the spotlight and knows how to handle it. There obviously shouldn’t be any question in his mind that he can play at this level.

Jason Gregor:

Don’t see any reason it hurts him. He has been under spotlight for many years. Elite players like him aren’t afraid of the pressure and being in the spotlight, they crave it. It can only help his confidence.

Lowetide:

I thought it was outstanding. I was also impressed by his postgame, where he seemed more concerned about his mistake on the winning goal. He is an insane talent, and a mature young man.

Jason Strudwick:

Very impressive start to the season. He has scored his first goal and the pressure to do that is off. I remember Taylor Hall and his rookie season, it took him a while to get the first goal. You could see he was starting to get worried about it. Having four after one game makes it a lot easier to get to 20 for the season in the next 81.

Matt Henderson:

The debut was incredible. Nobody has done that in the modern era and the second goal in particular was ridiculous. Yeah, that will increase the pressure on him for sure, but more so in the long run. It definitely bought him a week of freebies. But if he goes 4-5 games without another goal that’s going to turn into a massive story.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s a terrific way to break the ice. Might be a one-off — could be the only four-goal game of his entire career — but it certainly doesn’t hurt to start that way.

Chris the Intern:

I thought his four goals were amazing and cool for the game, however I wish it happened on a different team so I didn’t have to hear about Leafs fans talk about it so much. It hypes him up even more so when his first slump comes, Leafs fans will be that much more disappointed.

Baggedmilk:

It was impressive to say the least. What else can you say? The kid popped four goals in his first ever NHL game and I think it was awesome. I assume it will give him confidence moving forward and that will only help. Unless of course Leafs fans get on him for getting in a goal drought here and there.

 

 

2) Jesse asks – If you could wrap up the Kris Versteeg saga (bailing on Edmonton for Calgary) in one sentence what would it be?

Jonathan Willis:

It’s a modest victory for the Flames, a modest loss for the Oilers, and a story line broadcasters can bring up whenever they play this season.

Jason Gregor:

He looked at the best opportunity for him to play and earn another contract.

Lowetide:

A grown man made a decision based on what was best for he and his family. Fin.

Jason Strudwick:

It was a bad choice because I believe there is more opportunity here for him to play in the top six this season.

Matt Henderson:

Both he and the Oilers should have been able to see they needed him to be more than a part-time player and now he’s stuck on Calgary’s sinking ship.

Robin Brownlee:

Business. He saw Calgary as a better opportunity.

Chris the Intern:

Third line in Edmonton or first line in Calgary, Versteeg made the right decision for himself but I still hate him for it.

Baggedmilk:

Kick rocks, smurf boy.

 

 

3) Cory asks – As much as I love to watch Connor McDavid play I think he could still learn to be more selfish with the puck. Do you think he looks pass first too often?

Jonathan Willis:

I remember a story that I think I read in one of Don Cherry’s books which I’m going to relate here and hope I get right. In any event, Cherry was coaching the Bruins, and Bobby Orr came up to him one day to ask him to criticize him a little more in front of the team, something that cherry had been understandably reluctant to do. Cherry agreed, and at some point Orr made a positional play defending rather than taking the body. It worked just fine, but in keeping with his request Cherry yelled at him for passing up the hit. The next time an opportunity arose, Orr crushed the opposition forward and gave Cherry a cocky grin from the ice. The point in all this is that if you really look you can find something to criticize, but these transcendent players have such a grasp of what they’re doing that there isn’t much point. Or, put another way: No.

Jason Gregor:

NO. NO. NO. He has played fewer than 50 NHL games and he’s already dominating. He had six shots in the first game and two goals. What else do you want? Sorry, but he knows when to pass. A non-issue.

Lowetide:

Six shots in game one, two goals? Heh. I see your point and do think players should shoot more often, but me telling Connor McDavid what to do about hockey is not a good idea.

Jason Strudwick:

No. Don’t ever ask this again. You don’t tell Picasso to paint or Wanye how to meet the ladies.

Matt Henderson:

I thought that a bit at the World Cup of Hockey just like I thought he was using the deke move too much on breakaways. Then he started shooting and the pucks we’re going in. What I think is that he creates SO MANY chances that we get tricked into thinking he gives them away too often. In reality, his line mates are the ones we should be concerned about.

Robin Brownlee:

No. When he sees an opening, he takes it to the net. When he doesn’t, he looks for the open man.

Chris the Intern:

I always think about this. He does pass first A LOT, and sometimes I wish he would shoot more. At the same time, he is the best player in the world and has gotten to this point doing what he does best, so who am I to criticize?

Baggedmilk:

Listen, man. I’m not going to tell Jimmy Page how to play guitar and I’m not going to tell Connor McDavid how to play hockey. My only criticism of Connor McDavid’s offensive skills is that he’s not physically able to play all 60 minutes, though I’m sure he’d like to.

4) Brandon asks – Milan Lucic fought Deryk Engelland on night one of the season because he bumped Connor one too many times. Do you think that means he’ll be fighting more this season or was he trying to set a precedent for the rest of the season?

Jonathan Willis:

After what happened in Game 1, I don’t think it’ll be a big issue. Less because of the fight and more because no NHL coach is going to want a player like Engelland on the ice against McDavid. I had a little chuckle Thursday morning as I saw Calgary had reconfigured its defence pairings to load up its top-four in response to that opening game against the Oilers. Having said all that, I don’t think Lucic responds to every single hit the way he did to Engelland and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was looking for an opportunity to send a message early on.

Jason Gregor:

Precedent for the season. Lucic did that a bit for himself, to get fired up and get in the game, but also to let people know he will be monitoring things. McDavid will take a hit, and most times it will lead to no retaliation, but if Lucic sees a cheapshot on McDavid he’ll take a number or go after guy right away. I don’t see him fighting more than seven times.

Lowetide:

Great question, and the answer is probably yes. Edmonton does not have a reputation for standing up, or initiating, so there will be some teams who challenge several times in a game.

Jason Strudwick:

Setting the tone! I loved it. He is putting everyone on notice there will be no free passes on 97 this year. I am guessing he will end up around six fights which will be up from his total from last season.

Matt Henderson:

He’ll fight when someone takes liberties with the Captain, but that’s really a precedent setter. The Oilers were going to play the Flames again in a couple days and they were trying to rough McDavid up a bit. I think Lucic was telling everybody there would be consequences.

Robin Brownlee:

Lucic only fought three times in each of the past two seasons, so, yes, he could fight “more” this season in comparison, but he won’t come close to hitting double-digits. Opponents already know what the likely outcome is if they get stupid with McDavid.

Chris the Intern:

Definitely set a precedent. I’m sure Looch will have the odd scrap but we were all expecting him to drop the gloves in the first game. Everyone was pumped up enough as it was, being the Rogers Place opener, he wanted to add to that.

Baggedmilk:

You know that Looch was setting the tone for the year. Don’t touch Connor or someone will come for you. Whether it’s Lucic, Kassian, Maroon, Hendricks, Darryl, or anyone else for that matter the Oilers have gotten bigger and they won’t be pushed around as much anymore.

 

 

5) Lucas asks – The Oilers play six of their first nine games at Rogers Place and I think it’s imperative that they get off to a good start. What record would you consider acceptable for the first month considering the home-heavy schedule?

Jonathan Willis:

The two teams that took the last wild card slots last season had an average home record of 22-13-6  and an average road record of 18-17-6. If you figure that those rates hold and you’re projecting the Oilers to finish inside the postseason, you’re hoping for something like a 4-3-2 start to the season as a minimum.

Jason Gregor:

It isn’t just the home schedule it is their opponents in the month of October. Seven of the nine games are against teams who didn’t make the playoffs last year. Oilers need a total of 12 points. Whatever the combination is between wins and OTL doesn’t matter, but they need five wins at least.

Lowetide:

I will say 5-3-1 through the first nine.

Jason Strudwick:

A good benchmark is to get six points in every five game segment. It breaks the season up into more manageable pieces. That pace should be a playoff spot. So let’s call it 11 points for the first nine games.

Matt Henderson:

6-3 is a pretty good start to the year. They’ve started 2-0 at the time of me writing this. There are winnable games here as long as Talbot keeps his end of the bargain.

Robin Brownlee:

That no-show against Buffalo hurts. Five is “acceptable,” but at 2-1, they should still be looking at six wins.

Chris the Intern:

I will be upset if they do any worse than 6-3. Looking at their competition, I could see them doing better than that. Time will tell.

Baggedmilk:

Over the season I would think you’d want to win at least six of 10 games to give yourself a spot in the playoffs so I’ll go with somewhere around there. Five or six wins please.

  • Serious Gord

    1. AMs record breaking first game was an earthquake event. NBC carried the leafs game Saturday night because of it. If AM develops into a superstar he could be more impactful than Connor.

    He’s an American. Playing on an eastern team that plays far more in the eastern US market than Connor will. And most of his games will be played at prime time.

    This is manna from heaven as far as the league is concerned. It is entirely plausible that he will get more endorsement money than Connor.

    That noted I think that he may be the second best player on the leafs. Mitch marner IMO had a better game Wednesday than AM did without the luck that AM had.

  • Serious Gord

    2. Versteeg made the right choice. First line minutes versus third line or worse in EDM. I guess he just wanted to practice with Connor so he could tell his grand kids.

    3. He probably does pass too much. He and his coaches will likely work that out in time. The Picasso comment above is ridiculous. Even Picasso was mentored and taught how to paint. Coaching never stops just as learning never stops. Connor is not infallible nor does he know all there is to know about how to play this game.

    4. Lucic will fight more. He has someone to protect – and is being paid in part to protect him. That was t the case last year.

    The better question is will he be able to stick with the first line?

    5. The lost last night. Caorolina is no pushover and could win tomorrow night.
    I will guess 4-4-1.

          • Serious Gord

            I absolutely believe he should be mentored. And he likely is being mentored by many including his agent – some guy named Bobby if i recall correctly.

            He does seem to pass more than he should but it certainly wouldn’t Be something to panic about and I’m certainly not the authority on such things.

          • McRaj

            Through 3 games, hes averaging 3 shots on net. That would average out to 240 shots over 82 games. Only 28 players took that many last year.

            I think McDavid by season’s end will average 3.5 shots per game (281 shots over 82 games) which will likely land him Top 10 in Shots. So no, he does not pass too much. If it seems like he is, it’s because we do not understand the game on the same level that he does, he is smart enough to make the decision that will give the team the highest chance to core on any one play.

            Have you ever seen McDavid play live?

          • Serious Gord

            Obviously whether or not he passes too much is a debatable topic. Certainly last night he passed rather than shot several times. And had only one sog.

            I have seen mcd play live last season in cgy. An electric player who was and is a work in progress – not just for him but his coaches, linemates and opponents.

          • McRaj

            I’ve seen 2 games of his in Calgary, early last year and this year, plus another in Edmonton. He is already one of the 3 Best if not the best player in the NHL. So stop worrying about him and critiquing his game.

            I was at the game on Friday here in Calgary, and the kid was by far the best player on the ice, and it was his work when he did not have the puck that had me most amazed, something which you do not see on tv.

          • Serious Gord

            No player is above critique.

            Bobby Orr was the greatest NHL player who ever lived from the moment he stepped on the ice as a rookie. Yet he had aspects of his game that needed work – one famously being to not get into fights because the other teams were using his famous volcanic temper to get him off the ice for five minutes at a time.

          • S cottV

            Lol – an unwinnable argument in Edmonton.

            But – I have to agree with Serious Gord.

            You have to be ancient to appreciate how good Bobby Orr was. You had to see it for yourself.

            I think 5 Orr’s on the ice, would have clobbered 5 Gretzky’s – not that this is a definitive criteria.

            Lets go with Gretzky the greatest forward and Orr the greatest d man?

          • McRaj

            Unwinnable argument mostly anywhere (and I don’t even live in Edmonton, Born and raised Calgarian). Majority of people look at Gretzky as the greatest. I am too young to remember him in his Prime and wasn’t born when he was on the Oilers but I have done extensive research to prove how dominant he was.

            I have no issues with saying Orr is the greatest D-Man of all time but even Orr did not dominate his peers like Gretzky did.

          • S cottV

            Well – I think a lot closer than you think.

            I’ll give you the edge, based on Orr’s health limiting the length of his playing career.

            Longevity counts. You have to survive to be the greatest.

            As for dominating his peers? I think it was Bobby Clark who said “Orr should have a league of his own” and another for the rest of us to play in.

          • Serious Gord

            Longevity does indeed count somewhat. A counter to that is that Wayne was a protected asset with semenko and mcsorley (and the league) looking out for him.

            Orr certainly didn’t have that nor did Mario.

          • McRaj

            Mario finished first in points 6 times. Of those 6, he had the following number of points more than the player who finished number 2 (19, 31, 8, 12, 12, 13).

            Wayne finished first 11 times, and of those 11 the following were the leads he had in points over the the player who finished number 2 (tied, 29, 65, 72, 79, 73, 74, 75, 13, 32, 10).

          • Serious Gord

            You overlook the fact that by marios third year he led Gretz every year after that when he was healthy.

            And in the marios first two years he didn’t have the supporting cast that Wayne had. In his second year he finished second. Gretz was first with Coffey and kurri finishing 3 and 4

          • McRaj

            Um Wayne beat out Mario in Mario’s 3rd year. In Mario’s 4th year he beat Wayne cause Wayne played only 64 games.

            Oh Mario didn’t have a support cast? Come on dude, get with the program. How much better did Wayne make Kurri and Coffey. Wayne went to LA and still put up insane numbers.

            You are one of those people that the opinion of the majority, statistics, and evidence mean nothing to.

            Honestly, like another poster said, get out of here. Stop trolling.

          • McRaj

            How much better did Jagr (better player than Kurri) or Francis or Coffey make Mario?

            Educate yourself, there is a reason #99 is retired in the NHL. No sensible person says Mario is better than Wayne. For every 10 pieces of Evidence stating Gretzky is the GOAT, there is 1 that will try and show Mario was better.

            You talk about injuries? Mario had a better points per game twice when Gretzky won Art Ross and Mario was injured. Wayne had a better points per game once when Mario won Art Ross and Wayne was injured.

            Man your logic is so flawed. I just showed you how much better Wayne was than the 2nd leader in points in each of his seasons and you had nothing.

            Here’s the number of points Mario had more than the 2nd player on his team each season that he was relatively healthy and led his team in scoring (28, 58, 36, 89, 84, 20, 8, 49, 12, 27, 28).

            Gretzky had the following under the same scenario (43, 89, 107, 90, 79, 73, 77, 75, 38, 18, 41, 72, 14, 44, 13, 17, 13, 28, 7).

            Mario led his team while relatively healthy by over 40 points just 4 times. Gretzky led it by over 40 points 11 times or more amazingly 70 points 8 times HAHAHA and yet you sit there trying to make a rationale argument?

            GTFO. Mario was an amazing player, Top 5 all time, probably Top 3. But he was not the Great One.

          • otter2233

            Bobby Orr didn’t have protection? Soooo the “Big Bad Bruins” must have been an ironic nickname? Like slim for a fat guy hey? Considering the 1989-90 Pens had 10 guys with over 100 PIMs I think it’s safe to say Mario was protected just fine too…

          • Serious Gord

            The big bad bruins didn’t become big or bad until about three years and several surgeries after bobby came into the league. And Orr was targeted immediately by several players in the league who not only tried to hit but to injure Orr – most famously Pat Quinn. Gretz was never subjected to such abuse.

            As you probably know Mario’s (and bossy’s) big injury issue was back related due to how hard he was hit into the boards. Mario started in the NHL in 85-86. His injury issues started shortly thereafter and he started missing significant games beginning in 89-90. The damage had largely been done by the time the pens got the grit you cite.

          • Oiler Al

            Hey Gord, you know the old saying ” if your aunt had balls she would be your uncle”.
            The counter is Waynes record book, never to be broken. He was to smart of a player to get injured.

          • Serious Gord

            several years ago ESPN classic aired a game between the leafs and bruins where Johnny Bower recorded his last shutout.

            Orr was amazing. All over the ice, Shooting, passing, covering for his d partner controlling the tempo – unbelievable dominance of the game by one player.

            The leafs won 2-0.

            Foster Hewitt – as big a leaf homer as there has ever been – selected the three stars – he named Orr first star and Bower as second star.

          • Serious Gord

            I would put Gretz at #3 behind Orr and Lemieux. There would be no debate if both of those guys hadn’t been injured as much as they were.

            Critiquing is something anyone can do. Where do you get the authority to determine who can or cannot?

          • bored

            I am 37, I slightly missed Gretzky at his most dominant, but I saw Lemieux. Numbers do not tell Lemieux’s story completely, he could dominate the way Wayne did and maybe more. Physically, he was unstoppable.

            That all being said, from a career and legacy standpoint, Gretz was just too good to not have as the GOAT.

          • Serious Gord

            Actually critiquing on a platform like this is open to anyone.

            So are you saying only people who play pro hockey should critique?

            Let me get Scotty Bowman on the line…

          • chickenStew

            What is it that makes you think that people here, or on the radio, or on other media, want to hear your constant criticisms?

            We all get that you get off on the attention, but you must realize that you are the proverbial laughing stock?

            The radio hosts always chuckle before you say your piece and only let you on for the comedic relief.

            All of your posts here are trashed to pulp.

            At first we all though you were a moron, then it became obvious that you were just running an Andy Kaufman-like act for kicks, but it has gone on for far too long for it to be simply as dull as that.

            You are beyond the level of troll, because you actually believe your nonsense now don’t you?

            To wake up and decide to publicly pick apart Conner McDavid without regard to the feedback is very telling as to your mindset. It ain’t good Gord..

          • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

            “What if” does not move you up the ladder of all time greatest for several reasons. 1. Gretzky had a target on his back every night. Many players stated that he was very difficult to hit. That is part of the skill. Sure he had big Dave there to protect him but he still had a lot of guys after him. 2. The record book is there and it is real. Either you are at the top or you are not. Facts are where you start, after that opinion is used to convince.

  • madjam

    Not a huge fan of benching one of top players for most of game and screwing up all the lines rest of way . We were outscored 4-0 after Pouliot got benched for rest of game .

    • McRaj

      Then you probably won’t like him being scratched next game, which he most likely will be, that too deservedly so. And Pouliot is not one of our top players. He is not even Top 10 most important.

      • madjam

        No . Benching him next game might be more appropriate . Contraversial ? Do you believe it had a negative effect on rest of last nights game benching him entire rest of game is the question ? Or did the action lead to rest of game deterrent negatively ? Pouliot is a top 6 forward with our club . Was benching him a major reason for our loss after game was 2-2 ?

        • McRaj

          I do not think that it affected the game much if at all. Pouliot is a replaceable player, if he isn’t, then the Oilers are in a lot of trouble. I think he had to be benched because he had now taken 5 dumb penalities in less than 5 periods. He was not benched until it was 4-2 so no I do not think his benching played a role in the loss what so ever.

        • Randaman

          The major reason we lost was we sucked from top to bottom.

          Period

          Nationally televised game and we play like that. Talbot lets one in that will be on blooper reels for the entire season.

          And we wonder why we are so highly revered around the league? LOL

  • Sean17

    HAHAHAHAHA – Special Guest Appearance on the Mailbag: Serious Gord…. LOL. Like Dwight inviting himself to Michael’s house party. Go back to buggin the staff at Innisfail A&W with the other seniors.

  • Smuckers

    Pouliot absolutely needed to be benched and will hopefully be scratched a few games. It’s deflating for the team when he takes his usual selfish/careless penalty.

    I would not be surprised to see him traded early. Can’t have him blowing any momentum the team can muster on tough nights like last night.

    They may still have lost but taking that penalty that lead to a PP goal against certainly let the air out of their tires.

    • Serious Gord

      Pouliot has been bounced around the league for precisely this seemingly incurable issue.

      I think there is little point in trading him as he has nil value. He does need to be kept on a very tight leash – essentially zero tolerance. Perhaps he could be dealt at the deadline for a little bit more than he’s worth today.

    • Totally, the game is about gaining momentum through one isolated action (extended o-zone shift, goal, fight, big hit, etc.) and then maintaining that momentum as long as possible.
      The Oilers threatened to seize control of the game numerous times in the first two periods last night, in fact they were controlling much of the play albeit not getting a lot of great chances on net.

      And then every time the Oilers would look to build, something bad happened. Turnover by Klef = a goal. Bad penalty by Pou = another goal. Half court knuckler let in by Talbot = another goal. It’s tough for the entire team when single players make so many boneheaded mistakes that it is literally impossible to build any sort of momentum.

      I don’t think we were outplayed completely, I pin the loss on three players that for some reason did everything in their power to get us a loss. 33, 67 and 77.

  • @Hallsy4

    Connor NEEDS to hire ADAM OATES as a skills coach to learn when to pass and when not to. In all seriousness I agree with Struds 100%, especially the don’t ever ask this again part. Had a good chuckle.

  • S cottV

    McD will likely become the worlds best hockey, but mentoring him properly will be part of the process.

    Whether he passes or shoots more is minor and I’m sure they will get that part down.

    The bigger issues are finding the balance between offensive and defensive focus and the right mix of tactics to most effectively use the guys he plays with.

    McD is gonna be an offensive force but it can’t be at the expense of too many ga’s, particularly at the wrong times.

    Example – he prematurely flew the zone on yesterdays first ga and his check scored on the 3 on 2 counter attack. Sure – Klefbom should have cleared but s— happens and you dont want your safety valve centreman at center ice on a d zone turnover. He should have been lower and slower to able to respond, particularly when the first goal is so important.

    As for tactics, he is gonna be a rush oriented guy, but again – playing with a guy like Lucic, mixing rush with o zone possession tactics like puck protection, cycling and using the points, needs to be somewhere in the mix.

    So – finding the right balance through experience, coaching and or mentoring – will be a challenge to develop a true #1 in the world.

    I think he’ll get there but will need support, because uprooting the likes of Crosby – shouldn’t be under estimated.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Some of you seem to disagree with Mr. Strudwick all I can say is his response is always the one I take most seriously. He has worn an NHL jersey for the best reason anyone ever could. He got to live every Canadian kids dream. I enjoy all the responses from all the writers but I never look at Strudwick’s in the same way and I learn much more from him about the game. His comments that remind me of Dryden’s “The Game”

  • I know this is nitpicking and it is like complaining about paying Taxes when you win the Lottery. However, the only area that McDavid needs to get stronger is Face Off’s. Knowing his pride and competitive nature I am 100% sure he will dominate the Dot soon enough…