Monday Mailbag – Who Are the Unsung Heroes?

ATB 2016 Sponsor Banner

Mailbag

If you’re reading during the daylight then there’s a good chance that you’re using this mailbag as a means to kill company time, and for that I salute you. This week we take a look at All-Star Breaks, the heavy road schedule in February, the unsung heroes, and more. If you have a question you can always email me or hit me up on Twitter and I will slot you into the queue as quickly as possible. Until then, enjoy the free learning opportunity. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

1) Mitch asks – What do you think about the Oilers having their five-day break coming so closely to the All-Star break? Do you view this as a positive or negative for the team?

Lowetide:

Ideally, you would have space between the All-Star break and the five-day break, but it probably helps some of the injuries like Darnell Nurse. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but would be interested in how the players feel about it after the season (where it might have better fit, if anywhere).

Jason Gregor:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I don’t see it as much of a factor either way. It is really is a four-day break because they can practice Friday afternoon, and I’m guessing McLellan takes advantage of it. Also the main advantage I see is McDavid gets four days off. He didn’t get an All Star break and I suspect he might be a bit fatigued, so the break is perfect for him and it should help the team. 

Matt Henderson:

I guess it doesn’t matter what I think because it just is the way it is, but I’ll choose to look at the positives. Edmonton is a little dinged up and the All-Star break plus this five day break gives the club a chance to heal more. Benning, Russell, Khaira, and likely a half dozen others we don’t even know about can use the break.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s fine, Lots of road games this month so I don’t see time off as a negative.

Jonathan Willis:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I think we’ve already seen some of the impact, when they had to play 26 games in a pan of just 48 days between October 26 and December 13. They went 10-11-5 over that run. Otherwise, they’re 19-7-3. We’ll see the rest of it in the last month of the season when they play 16 games in 30 days to close out the year. I don’t think there’s any question that the compacted schedule has hurt the Oilers, and having their two big breaks so close together won’t help matters – with the exception of Connor McDavid, who didn’t get an All-Star break and now gets some much deserved rest.

Chris the Intern:

The All-Star break was enough to get the boys back on their heels. I feel like the bye week will be disastrous. It’s just tough timing for everything. But at the same time, if the Oilers were 0-6-1 before this bye week I would be thanking the hockey gods for that the break is finally here.

Baggedmilk:

Every team gets the mandated break and some point and it was just a coincidence that the Oilers’ break came this close to the ASG. I’m not blaming the break per se but it is alarming how the offense seems to have dried up since coming back. Who knows what that’s all about but the Oilers need to get more than the one line firing again. 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

2) Steven asks – The Oilers have a very heavy road schedule in February with only three games at Rogers Place all month. What do you think will be a passable record for the month? (12 games total – 3 home, 9 away)

Lowetide:

I will say 4-5-3, 11 points in 12 games. You are right, this is going to be a tough month.

Jason Gregor:

Six wins would be a solid month.

Matt Henderson:

I’ll be happy with eight wins and four losses, but in all reality, anything above .500 will be acceptable.

Robin Brownlee:

Passable is half the available points, so 12 points is OK. Actually, 12 is better than OK with the start they’ve had to February.

Jonathan Willis:

They’re now 1-2-0 to start the month. Arizona, Philadelphia (home) and Tampa Bay (away) are the easiest games on the slate. Two games against Chicago (home and away), and away games against Washington, St. Louis and Nashville will all be tough, as will playing a rested Florida team in the back half of a back-to-back. Call the three easier games wins, the Florida game a loss and split the other five down the middle (a 2-2-1 record) and Edmonton would finish the month 7-6-1, which would be really solid. That’s what I’d be looking at if I were setting a February goal for the team today.

RELATED ARTICLE:
NHL Buyout History... Window Opens Today

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, I would be happy with a .500 record through it, especially after watching the first three in February. Knowing our road record, I would love to come out 8-4, but we will see.

Baggedmilk:

They need to be at .500 or better. The Oilers have a solid road record this year and they need to continue to build on that. Every team has 41 road games and I hope the Oilers can use that time to bond, or grow the team culture, or something like that. This is a big month. 

3) Stephanie asks – Aside from the guys on the top line and Talbot, which secondary player(s) have had the biggest impact on our team this year?

Lowetide:

Matt Benning has been a real Godsend, possibly the best story of the year before getting hurt on the weekend. The defense overall has been improved this year, suspect credit has to go to the entire group. Zack Kassian has impressed me, too, as well as Tyler Pitlick until his injury.

Jason Gregor:

Mark Letestu had scored some big goals and does many little things well. The entire defence core has been a major improvement. The Oilers are top-ten in goals against. That is a massive improvement.

Matt Henderson:

I think Sekera and Klefbom are more impactful than they get credit for. I also think RNH has been playing a critical role for the Oil all year long on what is effectively been a shutdown role. His offense has been down, but his importance is still quite high.

Robin Brownlee:

Kris Russell has been very good. Likewise Andrej Sekera and Mark Letestu.

Jonathan Willis:

Andrej Sekera. I wrote about him at length on Tuesday, and he’s been Mr. Everything for an Oilers team taking a by-committee approach to defence.

Chris the Intern:

A lot of guys have. First thought that came to mind is Mark Letestu. His faceoff work is stellar as always and has been killing it on the powerplay. Gotta love Zack Kassian also.

Baggedmilk:

I’m really liking the progression on guys like Anton Slepyshev. He seems to be getting better and better as the season goes along. I also really like Matt Benning (#PrayForBenning) because he’s been found money on the year. I like Kassian mixing it up and causing a ruckus. Lots of guys have stepped up this year, but they still need more. 

4) Reid asks – How do you think a flat cap for next season will affect the Oilers’ offseason plans?

Lowetide:

If anything, I think it may mean PC doubles his efforts to trade Benoit Pouliot, even if he has to overpay. Edmonton will need to clear the decks and then some in order to sign everyone and add sufficient help. It may also mean a fourth line filled with inexpensive contracts like Jujhar Khaira.

Jason Gregor:

It should help them. They aren’t close to the cap this year, and only Draisaitl should be getting a significant raise. Many teams close to the cap have bigger issues than the Oilers, and that could give Chiarelli more flexibility when making a trade or signing a UFA.

Matt Henderson:

My guess is they’ve been planning for a flat cap all along. How things go in expansion will play a big role in their plans. My guess is they want to replace Pouliot with a cheaper option, Ference goes off the books, they’ll try to give Fayne away (probably to Vegas then anyone else if that fails). They might even choose to buy out one of those players. 

Robin Brownlee:

If it stays at $73 million we could see the Oilers offer Leon Draisaitl a bridge deal rather than commit to big dollars and a longer term right now. He’s by far the most noteworthy of the team’s RFAs. I also wonder how the flat cap might impact any deal with Kris Russell. Will he take fewer dollars or less term to stay if things are tight? I doubt it. Can the Oilers offload Benoit Pouliot to save money? There are a few variables here.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t think it will hurt them. I expect the team was already looking at signing Leon Draisaitl to a bridge rather than long-term deal, and the flat cap will only encourage that kind of thinking, but it was already a defensible position. I broke down the contract math on Friday, shortly after word came that there wouldn’t be growth in the cap.

RELATED ARTICLE:
Will Holland Continue Oilers Tradition of Draft Week Trades?

Chris the Intern:

Of course there’s a flat cap next season. As if we need another thing to worry about! The first thing that comes to mind is the Draisaitl contract.  We’ll probably be leaning to give him a bridge deal or sign him big.

Baggedmilk:

Every dollar matters in the Connor McDavid era and I’d expect Chiarelli to try and shed some salary. Mark Fayne, maybe Eberle, Pouliot… Those guys don’t seem to be in the plans and are taking up nearly $14 million on the books. That’s a huge chunk of the McDavid/Draisaitl extensions right there.

5) Sasha asks – Before the All-Star Game the NHL announced their Top 100 players ever. Of those players, who would you like to sit down and have a drink or chat with? If you’ve already met that person can you please share the story. 

Lowetide:

I met a few of the Oilers back in the day, nothing massive but still a pretty cool experience. I would love to have a beer with Bobby Orr, and ask him one thousand questions. I bet a lot of Canadians my age feel the same.

Jason Gregor:

I’ve been blessed to speak with many of them outside of a regular interview. Sitting with Gordie Howe a few years ago was fantastic. I sat beside him at the Alzheimers luncheon. Even with his health deteriorating he was still incredibly genuine and polite. He had a wonderful sense of humour, and the respect other former NHL players showed him when they interacted was amazing to watch.

Matt Henderson:

If I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really wanted to sit down and talk with too many hockey players. Not even the best ever. I doubt we have a lot in common to chat about haha. I think I’d be most interested in hearing stories from guys who played in the 60’s and 70’s. I wouldn’t mind sitting in on conversations between Lemieux and Gretzky too. I probably wouldn’t say much.

Robin Brownlee:

I’ve met, talked with or interviewed just over half the players on the list. Bobby Hull sticks out for me. When we chatted in Dallas one night in 2000 or 2001 (he was there to watch Brett play) it was the first time I’d seen him in person since I was like, 13 years old. The Chicago Blackhawks were in Vancouver to play the Canucks and Hull, Stan Mikita and Jerry Korab came out to a suburban rink in Coquitlam to watch a senior game. I sat right beside Hull and even shook his hand before security shooed us away. I remember he had a grip like a bear and he wore a gold band on the forefinger of his right hand. I never forgot that. When I told him the story that night in Dallas he laughed and shook my hand again with that same grip.

Jonathan Willis:

Eddie Shore. Shore died before I was born, but I’ve always been fascinated by his career. It’s his viciousness or his bizarre run as an AHL owner that gets attention but he’s legitimately in the conversation as one of the two or three best defencemen of all-time, too. He’d have a pretty unique perspective on the modern game and would be able to tell you things about his era that have been entirely forgotten.

Chris the Intern:

Jaromir Jagr will always be a favourite even though he’s still active. I’d say someone like Marty Brodeur as well, and obviously the Great One.

Baggedmilk:

I’d love to sit down and have a beer with Jaromir Jagr. The guy is a legend, a ladies man, a flow champ — what’s not to like? I bet Jaromir Jagr has the kind of stories that could keep you engaged for hours on end and that’s the guy I’d like to party with. And, obviously, I’d want to party with Wayne. There’s still time.

CELEBRATE HOCKEY WITH ATB FINANCIAL

At ATB, we hear you: being a hockey fan is expensive. We want to make it cheaper for you. Tell us how you and your squad celebrate hockey and you could win $1,000! Learn more at ATB.com/yegfans.


  • Jehu23

    I think one of the things we forget too easily is that all of the perceived negative situations effecting the Oilers are also effecting the rest of the league. All 30 current teams will face the expansion draft and a flat cap in the coming season. It’s not as if the Oilers are experiencing this in a vacuum.

    I honestly thought the expansion draft would lead to some really interesting trades this deadline when I heard about it last summer – however, it really is a 4th D/8th F/Backup G focussed draft.

    There are really only two or three teams with two solid goalies currently in the NHL (Pitt/Fla/NYI) so that will likely curtail the goalie market. No one really has an excess of quality F or D that doesn’t fit into one of the 7-3-1 or 4-4-1 models. I no longer anticipate much movement based on the expansion draft, and I really thought that would be an exploitable area for the Oilers.

    That said, to be honest, I also thought the Oilers would be sellers at this deadline, so the switch to buyers has closed the arbitrage gap (for the Oil) that the rules have created for the weaker teams.

    As a fan, I’m pretty happy to not have to take advantage of being crappy for the first time in a decade, so there’s that…

    • Natejax97

      These are great points!

      The Oilers will need to sign Drai and McDavid in the next 2 years, and also Nurse.

      What worries me is that there will be some salary that needs to be “removed” in an effort to make this all happen. Even with modest increases we were probably in a position to move forward.

      With a lot of the players underperforming (to the expected standards set by their salaries), it is going to be difficult to move some of these players.

      Players on value contracts will be in high demand, but others might be unmoveable to some extent.

      So while I believe the Oilers are in great shape today with regards to cap (compared to other teams) we might be in absolute cap hell 15 months from now.

      Do we leave some high salaries “unprotected” for Vegas?

      • Dwayne Roloson 35

        Worst case scenario, we trade Nuge or ebs with retained salary. I think most teams would like an ebs or nuge at a 4M cap hit. No need to panic and give them away for nothing.

  • Spydyr

    I hope they lose the bye week in the next contract. It sounds like a good idea on paper but compressing the schedule to allow for the five days off does more harm then good IMO.

  • Wintoon

    Given the existing compression in the schedule, anything the NHL can do to alleviate this problem would benefit both the players and the fans.

    Hockey is not like baseball. There is simply too much contact and resultant dings/injuries to allow players to play at their best if there aren’t a reasonable number of days off or breaks worked into the schedule. Having 5 consecutive days off does impact the teams and players in a negative way. Much better if they were interspersed throughout the year.

  • Burns14

    ‘If I’m being totally honest, I’ve never really wanted to sit down and talk with too many hockey players.’ – Matt Henderson. Says all you need to know about the guy…

    • What the hell am I going to say to Gretzky that he would want to listen to? “Hey Gretz, you sure were super amazing. Wanna hear about pre-Columbian cultures of coastal Ecuador?”

      I’d rather just be there when he’s having a candid conversation with someone like Lemieux or Mess. I dont presume myself to be that interesting to superstar athletes.

      • Spydyr

        Instead of talking about your interests as in “pre-Columbian cultures of coastal Ecuador” perhaps it would be less awkward to have a conversation about a shared interest. Say hockey?

          • Spydyr

            See the thing is it is not all about you. One of the questions I would ask would be what do you think of the slew foot McDavid took last game and do you think someone should have clocked Shaw. Or what is your greatest regret you have about your career. The one thing if you could change you would. You know intelligent relevant questions that involve the other party in which you are having the conversation with.

          • That’s fine, but the question was about who I would chat with over a drink, not who I would interview. FYI, I will drink with anyone on the list (except Mike Modano), but I work on the assumption that these guys dont need some weird random blogger bothering them at the bar with questions about their biggest regrets.

            So to just sit and chat with these guys is what I’m working with. Maybe I’ll take my allotted chat time to just let them be and enjoy a refreshing beverage instead of bothering them with forced conversation.

      • I am Batman

        Were there pre-Columbus cultures in coastal Ecuador? I didn’t of any other cultures pre-Columbian other than the Mayan, Aztecs, incas and their close relatives….

        That’s interesting! I would actually like to hear about that! I would hear about that a million times before hearing you go off once again at our amazing Kris Russel. Don’t sell yourself short Henderson!

  • MessyEH!

    Do not sign Russell. That dude is horrible. He is the Ryan Jones of defense.

    It appears as if he’s having a seizure when he’s pressed in his own end. Has all the puck finesse of someone juggling hand grenades.

    If the Oilers sign him I hope it’s in the low 3m range or better yet high 2s.
    He’s got heart but he also plays like Henry Winkler being swarmed by Bees.

    • MessyEH!

      OK I understand the Trashes. The Fonz being stung by bees is way too cool of a comparison for Kris “I’m a goalie” Russell.

      Defense men are suppose to get the puck out of their end. Not play goalie like a modern day Gump Worsley.

      Russell keeps the play in the bad end of the rink far too long.Sure he blocks a lot of shots. That’s because the Oilers can’t seem to get possession when Russell is being swarmed by imaginary bees.

      • Rock11

        I’m not sure why others don’t see this. I guess they get distracted by the blocked shots as though that is what a “real defenseman” does. My idea of a real defenseman is to take the puck from the other team and move it forward and never have to block a shot in my life cause my team always has the puck. But different strokes for different folks I suppose.

        KR would be an absolutely wonderful 7th D at $1mil per season. Can fill in on either side and not kill you and help a bit on the PK. What he isnt is a top 4 D on a contender. Please, Please, Please let’s not pay him like one.

    • passenger

      Hi everyone! This guys is mostly right, except his expected salary ceiling for Russell is way too high. Russell is a 3rd pairing player, and should be paid as such. Less than Gryba, ideally.

  • TruthHurts98

    “Nuge has been good in a shut down role.” LMAO!!! -11 for the worst plus minus on the team, can’t punch his way out of a wet paper bag let alone score or win face offs. 6 million for that?!? Nuge, Ebs and Poo are killing the Oilers. Looch hasn’t been very good either but will probably play a big role in the playoffs. If the 2nd line ever gets going the Oilers will be a force. I hope it does, their performance this season has been pathetic.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      I like the hustle on the kid and still see a really good player there.

      The face offs though? At a point where maybe he should play OT with Letestu or someone else. Get Eberle to work on his face off. Try anything because it is getting ridiculous.

      Didn’t it take a while for Marchant to improve his impact in the face off dot? Find out and do whatever he did to get competent.

    • @Hallsy4

      I agree. Any chance we see any changes before or on the deadline? I hope so but I think it won’t be until the summer, with the exception of possibly pouliot.

    • btrain

      Nuge HAS been effective most of the season at shutting down top competition. He Eberle and Pouliot can and need to be better offensively. However, if you don’t think there are at least 25 other teams with similar season disappointments, you are kidding yourself. Just to demonstrate, the following list of players are at 32 or 33 points on the season (Eberle is at 32):

      Okposo (many wanted him over Eberle/also earning 6 mil)
      Duchene (6 mill)
      Thornton (6.75)
      Hossa (5.27)
      Stastny (7mil)
      Forsberg (6mil)
      H. Sendin (7mil)
      Kopitar (9mil)

      You could have an even more extensive list for those below this point total which would include guys like Ladd (16pts; 5.5cap/8mill with bonus), Parise (24pts; 7.5cap/9 mill w bonus).

      The point, these lackluster seasons are happening to players on almost every team. Even the Wild who sit atop the Western Conference. So lets broaden our lens a little bit and be happy we don’t have a Ladd or a Parise situation.

        • btrain

          It’s honestly not that I forgot, it’s just that there are so many examples to mention I just narrowed it down to those around the same point total as Eberle. Bergeron is another who has struggled offensively but you would never know it was much of an issue because the Canadian sports media isn’t feeding on the emotions of Boston Bruins fans by making it a much bigger deal than it is.

  • Looch#27

    Hard to fathom the negative comments but our fan base always needs a whipping boy for some reason. Russel is part of the most improved Def in the league, Eberle, Nuge haven’t been lighting it up but sure as hell aren’t dogs(were tied for 2nd in div) and no one including Lucic can play Lucic style hockey for all 82 games let alone this ridiculous schedule. Enjoy what this team is doing its been far to long

  • I am Batman

    Unsung heroes?

    The Edmonton Oiler fans for putting up through thick and thin and for then being insulted as “second tier” and still filling up the arena, watching the games….cheering, crying, getting angry.

    We are the true heroes , anyone else (see Cannots or Shames fans) would be cheering for the Chicago Blackhawks by now or not cheering at all

    • btrain

      Listen, there is no denying that we fans have been through much disappointment. However, lets not mistake what a privilege it is to live in a Country where we have such luxuries as a professional sports franchise. That we have a team that literally impacts the culture of our communities. That we pass down our passion for the sport and our team from generation to generation. 10 years of losing sucks, but none of us have truly suffered anything we should expect to be compensated for, that we should have some sort of sense of entitlement over. I mean the Saskatchewan riders have won 4 grey cups in around 100 years! Considering the amount of teams, this is outrageous and maybe even statistically impossible. However, the Riders have more fan support today than many and maybe even most NHL and NFL teams.

      I think its fantastic that we finally have a successful team to watch, but lets not take for granted what even having a losing team to cheer for has meant for many of us.

  • passenger

    Anything written about Bobby Hull that isn’t appended with “pro-Hitler/wife-beater” is against the CP style guide.

    So here I am, your faithful editor, correcting that error.

  • StephLee

    Thanks for answering my question ON FAM. 🙂 I feel like Matt Benning has been a great surprise this season, as well as Pitty before injury. I’d love to see us get 12 points to finish the month, and then ideally Calgary gets nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing makes Edmonton fans happier than to see the oilers flying and the flames sinking.

  • @Hallsy4

    How long does Bergeron have left on his contract? Maybe Boston’s GM will lose his marbles momentarily and trade him for EBS. In all seriousness, I think an EBS trade for another player not performing to their normal standards with a big contract might work out for everyone involved. Change of scenery often helps players.