Monday Mailbag – Who’s the Best Defenseman So Far?

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Mailbag

The weekend is over, you’re back at work, and you need a way to kill a little bit of company time until you’re allowed to part ways with the office and your pants. As always, I present you with another edition of the Monday Mailbag. The mailbag only works because of you guys, and if you have a question you can email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy the break from productivity, friends.  There’s an Oilers game coming up tonight, and chances are you’ll be angry in a few hours. 

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1) Stephen asks – The Ducks played hardball with two of their restricted free agents in Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm, with the latter missing the first few games of the season. Why don’t more GMs wait out their young players as they don’t really have many options according to the current CBA?

Jason Gregor:

Every situation is different. I found it odd Rakell and the Ducks had such a long negotiation and then Rakell signed for six years at $3.8 mill. Usually, longer term deals are much higher. Not sure what Rakell and his camp were holding out for.

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This year we have seen more negotiations drag on, Trouba still on going, and while you can play hard ball, if it costs your team wins I can see why a GM wouldn’t want it to drag out.

Lowetide:

I think most teams want to start the season with their best available, and in the case of Anaheim it would have been doubly difficult—they started badly a year ago. Great contract for Anaheim (Lindholm) though, so your point is well made.

Robin Brownlee:

Fair question and one I’ve wondered about more than once myself. Players and agents use the CBA to their advantage when the opportunity presents itself, which is their right, and more GMs should do the same. Too often, it’s as if GMs are worried about “offending” the player.

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Chris the Intern:

I feel like it could be taken as a sign of disrespect. Sure it’s business, and you don’t want to be shelling out a tonne of money for every player, but how good do you think Lindholm feels that his management would rather have him not play a few games of the season in order to pay him less?

Baggedmilk:

RFAs don’t really have many rights apart from sitting out, so I’m surprised more teams don’t play that game with their guys. You don’t want to sign this contract? Cool. Have fun sitting. 

2) Andrew asks – I know it’s early in the season but what is the biggest positive change that you’re seeing this year over last year?

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Jason Gregor:

Their ability to defend and make more consistent tape-to-tape passes.

Lowetide:

In terms of Oilers? Well, there are so many things, but one that I find compelling is the lack of those chaos defensive shifts. Experience counts for a lot among defenseman, and having experienced players around Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse has been a key.

Robin Brownlee:

Fewer glaring mistakes defensively and, outside an example or two, goaltending they can count on.

Chris the Intern:

Contribution from all four lines FTW! It’s amazing seeing guys like Mark Letestu, Zack Kassian, and Tyler Pitlick consistently put up points. It takes some pressure off our top guys when they’re having a rough go, for example, Pouliot and Nuge. 

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Baggedmilk:

We haven’t seen the patented Oilers third period implosion and that’s a huge bonus. How many times have we seen the Oilers carrying a lead, or be tied, going into the third period only to watch it evaporate right before their eyes? This alone is a huge improvement in my books. 

3) Lucas asks – When some bodies (Hendricks, Davidson, Pakarinen, Caggiula, Fayne) start getting healthy enough to return to the lineup, who do you see getting sent down to the minors or shipped out entirely?

Jason Gregor:

Fayne would be one to go down by the time he returns, since he’ll be out many months.

I could see Caggiula getting a stint in AHL. He has never played an NHL game and after sitting out a month, at least, I’d be stunned if he doesn’t start in AHL. 

Davidson returns and Benning goes down.

Hendricks returns and takes Lander’s spot in the lineup.

If Pakarinen is ready before Hendricks, he will be challenged to get in lineup. Lander has a role, PK/faceoffs, but Pak doesn’t take draws, while Hendricks can take draws.

Lowetide:

The players who took advantage of injury (Tyler Pitlick, Eric Gryba, Matt Benning, Anton Lander, Jesse Puljujarvi) are the candidates, but I think some of those players will have played well enough to stay. You will probably see Caggiula go down to the AHL for conditioning and that will impact things, too.

Robin Brownlee:

Can’t say. We’ve got a way to go before that happens. A lot can change in the weeks between now and then.

Chris the Intern:

I’m kind of worried about this. Obviously i’m pumped to have those guys back but we’re doing so well right now it’ll be so hard to send anybody down. Slepyshev will get sent down for sure, and maybe Lander. Now that i’m thinking about it, when have we ever ran into a problem where we have too many players we want at the NHL level?!

Baggedmilk:

The Drake has to go back to the AHL to get some game action in before he plays for the Oilers. Mark Fayne hurt himself skating so who knows where that will end up. You know Hendricks will be coming back to the roster so I see a guy like Slepyshev going down for him. The interesting one will be to see what happens with Davidson and Gryba. The Darryl/Gryba pairing has been really good and I can’t see McLellan wanting to mess with that too much. Pitlick is busting his balls to stick and I’m pulling for him to do so. For me, the odd man out is Pakarinen because I can’t see where he’s a fit over a guy like Pitlick or Lander. 

4) OilFan204 asks – I’m curious to know who the writers think has been the best Oilers defenseman to start the season? My eye test shows that Larsson has been fantastic.

Jason Gregor:

Russell for me. He’s been moving the puck well. Has defended well. I think Larsson and Klefbom have been above average, but not great yet. Klefbom has only played nine games in the past ten months so it’s not surprising he’s not at the top of his game. Larsson is solid defensively, and he’s been more physical and competitive than I expected. I don’t expect Russell to be the best all season, but he had a great start and when your best D-man for the first month isn’t who you expected it to be, and you are still winning, that is a great sign.

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Lowetide:

That is a great question. I am old fashioned and use CorsiRel as my guide, and it has Oscar Klefbom a little ahead of Adam Larsson. I agree he has been fantastic and either answer has merit. LOVE the new top pairing.

Robin Brownlee:

I’ve liked Kris Russell.

Chris the Intern:

My first thought is Adam Larsson. But Gregor was in the office earlier and dropped a bunch of knowledge on why he isn’t the greatest right now, but will be better as he gets more comfortable,  and I can’t remember any of it. So I’m sticking with Larsson. Maybe we’re just not used to a solid d-man with his style? But his little nifty, smart, plays to clear the zone has really stood out to me.

Baggedmilk:

For me, it’s Oscar Klefbom. Yes, he’s been a little bit shaky at times but he’s playing some huge minutes and doing it relatively well for a guy that hasn’t really had much game action in nearly a year. His passing is superior, his skating is impressive considering he had a hole in his foot, and he’s slowly turning into the guy that we all hoped he could be. 

5) Stacy asks – The Oilers have had one of their best starts in recent memory and my question for the panel is whether or not we’re allowed to get excited this early on? Bob McKenzie always says not to look too much into the first two weeks of the season. Thank you in advance.

Jason Gregor:

The Oilers are over two weeks into the season so no reason not to get excited. They are 7-2. You should be excited for sure. Being excited doesn’t mean you are planning a parade route, it means you are finally excited to watch games and see where the team can go.

Lowetide:

I have been told 20 games is a good line in the sand. It seems so long but probably makes sense. Early arrows are very strong (this is written 10/27) and the team doesn’t look incredibly lucky in winning. I will say November 15th.

Robin Brownlee:

Why not get excited? Enjoy the moment. Doesn’t take Bob McKenzie to understand that, does it?

Chris the Intern:

OF COURSE WE ARE! When this all comes crashing down in our faces i’m going to say, “Well at least we had fun while it lasted!” instead of being depressed cause you didn’t enjoy it like you should have!

Baggedmilk:

Montreal started out at something crazy like 13-1 last year so I’m trying my best to keep my excitement in check. That said, I’ve already got the parade route mapped out for 48 laps around the inside of the Pint Downtown and I’ve been practicing my hotwiring skills so that I’ll be ready to crash the zamboni into the Chapters on Whyte Ave as soon as the celebration begins. 


  • I am Batman

    When would it be a good time to make an article on expansion draft?
    Like:

    Is there an order of whom Vegas is ripping off first?

    Can there be trades with the “Vegas pick”?

    On the entry draft will Vegas pick first?

    Can a team offer sweetners for Vegas to take a player instead of another? (Example Vegas wants to take Davidson from us but we offer them Fayne + instead)

    Will it be televised / streamed?

    When is it?

    I don’t know if the NHL has issued these rules but wouldn’t it be “avant garde” from the journalists of the nation to address this before anyone?

  • So, what does everyone think the team will come out of November with? Better than .500? Worse? They really need to get their power play going, and need to find that secondary scoring. The team shouldn’t have to count on Conner every single night.

  • @Hallsy4

    Woodcroft must be disciplined accordingly for the PP struggles, if this doesn’t work, he must be dismissed. EBS IS NEXT if he doesn’t start scoring, or at least playing like he wants to be here. After that, Pouliot could be dismissed.

  • GregJP

    There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions.

  • @Hallsy4

    Looking forward to see Hendo back in the lineup and curious to see how it helps our new look team, hopefully he’s up to speed. Also looking forward to the Drake, and have high hopes for him.

  • @Hallsy4

    Overall, I’m pleased with the hot start. However, the lack of offence from anyone other than McD the last two games is a bit worrisome. I liked that they shuffled lines yesterday. Maybe they should try Maroon with McDavid again, or els JP with McDavid. Have EBS NUGE and Pouliot as a 2nd line maybe, as they have been awesome toghether before. Also, I’m really hoping Woodcroft gets the PP going….. I don’t see him going anywhere so hopefully they can figure it out #GOilers

  • Aendayana777

    Larsson has been great. Way more physical than I thought. As for Klefbom, he just needs time. We tend to forget most players, especially after a long time off takes a bit to get going. Finally Russell has been million times better than I anticipated. I was not originally happy with the signing but having him on the second pairing has been awesome. Three-way tie for the best so far.

    but really how great would Karlsson on our pp? wet dreams

    Go Oilers Go!

  • Kris Russell has made the defense and team a notch better because he can actually skate and move the puck, from his off-hand side to boot!

    With that, Darnell Nurse has improved massively because now he’s watching and practicing with actual defensemen.

    Seeing Hendricks in that intro video makes me miss him more and more but I don’t want Pitlick sent down.

  • Spoils

    What lines do you predict for May


    Lucic-McDavid-Eberle
    Pouliot-Nuge-Puljajarvi
    Maroon-Caggiula-Draisaitl
    Lander-Lestestu-Kassian

    Larsson-Klefbom
    Sekera-Russell
    Nurse-Davidson

    Talkbot