Monday Mailbag – Solving the Secondary Scoring Problem

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The weekend is over, you’re back at work, and you need a way to kill some time. I get it, and I’m here to help. As always, I present you with another edition of the Monday Mailbag to help guide you through those workplace lulls. 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.

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1) Frank asks – How can the Oilers solve their secondary scoring problems? Switching up the lines? Different personnel?

Jason Gregor:

I’m not sold it is that big of an issue overall. Lately the team has struggled to score, that is true, but let’s compare them to San Jose and Anaheim, the other top teams in the divisions.

Edmonton’s top three goal scorers, McDavid, Draisaitl and Maroon have scored 56 goals. The next four forwards have scored 43.

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San Jose’s top three goal scoring forwards have 56 goals. The next four forwards have 26. Now, Brent Burns changes a lot for them since he leads the team in goals with 22.

So if I include him then their top-three goal scorers have 60 goals and the next four have 38. Their top-seven goals scorers have 98 goals while the Oilers have 99.


Anaheim’s top three goal scorers also have 56 goals (this was after Thursday’s games) and their next four have a total of 44. So they have 100 between their top-seven.


Prior to Thursday’s games Edmonton had 152 goals, San Jose 149 and Anaheim 145. I don’t see the concern about depth scoring on the Oilers.

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Sure it could always be better and you’d like a few more from Eberle, RNH and Lucic, but the Oilers are ahead of the other teams in their division.

Jonathan Willis:

I am skeptical that the Oilers can afford to keep Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the same line over the long haul. I’d like to see an experienced right wing brought in — nothing fancy, someone like Radim Vrbata would probably do — to play with McDavid and I’d like to see Draisaitl with Milan Lucic on the second line. Lucic’s 5-on-5 struggles are distinctly out of character and it’s imperative to get him back to his production of previous years; playing with Draisaitl is probably the best chance of doing that. As a bonus, it opens up the possibility of a Pouliot – RNH – Eberle third line. I’d be tempted to run those three lines into the ground, basically turning the fourth line into specialists: Lander/Letestu as special teams/faceoff guys and with Kassian/Slepyshev splitting time on Line 2 or subbing in elsewhere as desired.


I think you have to keep betting on men like Nuge and Eberle. Todd McLellan has tried to shake up the lines, but has to go back to the McDavid—Nuge combination. Suspect Peter Chiarelli addresses it at the deadline, as well.

Robin Brownlee:

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Secondary scoring is a problem, but the lack of production from the top-six is the real issue. They’ve all been in the tank at once over the last five games (in some individual cases longer) and that has to change. We’ll see if the tweaks Todd McLellan made to his lines at practice Sunday do the trick.

Chris the Intern:

I mean, they didn’t ALWAYS have secondary scoring problems, and they just ran into it from a couple injuries and running into a rough schedule. I would almost just wait it out until they get back into the groove of an NHL schedule and I believe it will come back.


The Oilers are in the middle of the pack in terms of goals scored overall, but with that said there’s always room for more. The second line has struggled for stretches throughout the year but I think that requires a line shuffling more so than new personnel. The Oilers have guys that can score that aren’t right now. Let’s hope the tides turn rather than hope to lose another trade.

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2) Warren asks – As I write this, Jesse Puljujarvi has 4G, 6A for 10 points in 13 games played in Bakersfield. Do you think this level of production is enough to get him a late season recall, or would he be best served to stay with the Condors for the rest of the year?

Jason Gregor:

Points are one aspect of the game. He is playing well and getting more confidence. If he keeps improving, and looks like he could help at the NHL level, then possibly, but scoring in the AHL is very different than scoring in the NHL. No need to rush him, especially because I don’t see him as a difference maker just yet.

Jonathan Willis:

The important thing in my view is that he plays. Given Todd McLellan’s established practice over the first half of this season, that suggests trading for a veteran RW and leaving Puljujarvi in the minors is probably the best road forward from a development perspective.


I think it is in the range, but you want to see something resembling a point per game. Mikko Rantanen, a Colorado pick, scored 60 points in 52 AHL games in 2015-16, but he was 19. I think JP needs to get up to 1/1 and have no problem with him staying down for the rest of the year.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t think a segment as short as the one you mentioned tells any definitive story — good or bad — especially when it comes to a rookie player. Puljujarvi is fine where he is. I expect we’ll see him recalled at the end of the AHL season.

Chris the Intern:

Back to the first question, if the secondary scoring still struggles running late into the season, then I could potentially see a Puljujarvi call up.


Leave. Him. Alone. DON’T TOUCH HIM OR EVEN LOOK AT HIM! Seriously, though, there’s nothing wrong with Puljujarvi growing up in the AHL a little bit. The kid struggled to produce offence when he was with the Oilers and there’s no need to rush him back into that situation.

3) Sandy asks – Which team do you think will relocate first? The Islanders with their recent cutting of ties with Barclays Center or the new arena deal falling through for the Coyotes and ASU?

Jason Gregor:

Islanders will move first, but not out of the NY market. The NHL won’t let them leave the biggest market in the USA.

Jonathan Willis:

It’s somewhat astounding to me the lengths that the NHL has gone to in order to keep the Coyotes in Arizona, but given their arena uncertainty right now I’d regard them as the team with the greatest chance of relocating. Having said that, I would have made the same prediction at several points over the last few years, so I’m not holding my breath.


Bah. I think the NHL has some kind of fixation with the desert, so will say NY Islanders.

Robin Brownlee:

I expect we’ll see the Islanders relocate first, assuming you consider a move to another part of the greater New York area a relocation. We’re hearing talk of a proposed arena in Queens. It appears the Coyotes, and the 17 fans watching them, will remain in Arizona until the end of time.

Chris the Intern:

I have no confidence at all with anything that’s going on in Arizona right now. They will be next. TO CANADA!


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I assume the Arizona Coyotes have some kind of Trump-like file about the NHL or something. They will never move. They are the stars in the sky. Immovable objects.

4) Tristan asks – Wasn’t the coach’s challenge implemented to prevent goals like the one we saw in the Minnesota Wild game vs Chicago from this past week? The Wild player was clearly offside yet the goal was allowed to stand. If that’s the case, what’s the point of slowing the game down?

Jason Gregor:

The offside rule is the dumbest rule in pro sports. I hope the NHL keeps having errors surrounding it so they just eliminate it.

Jonathan Willis:

I’m a fan of killing the offside review.


It seemed like such a good idea at the time. I do not have a solution but am tired of these crazy delays, and then reaching what looks like the wrong decision.

Robin Brownlee:

You answered your own question.

Chris the Intern:

You’re exactly right. When you’re going to implement something like a coach’s challenge, you have to be objective 100% of the time, even if it ends up taking back more goals than it allows. Poor strategy imo.


I hate coach’s challenges. They do nothing but call goals back from a league that is starved for offence and also slow the pace of the game down. Scrap the rule, it’s stupid. Period. We’ll all pretend like it never really happened.

5) Landon asks – Do you remember when or how you fell in love with the game of hockey? Was there a specific event that flipped the switch or did your affection grow over time?

Jason Gregor:

Not one thing. I played a lot of road hockey as a kid and that combined with playing on the ice built a strong love for the game.

Jonathan Willis:

I always loved it, but the turning point for me was probably the 1993 playoffs. My mom was a Gretzky fan and pushing for L.A.; I was too young to appreciate him properly but I thought Kelly Hrudey was cool and for reasons I can’t remember I liked Luc Robitaille, too. I was pretty disappointed when they got smoked by Montreal in the final.


I watched the game as a small child with my family around. Saturday nights were cards, cigarette smoke, beer and Hockey Night in Canada on the television. Frank Mahovlich, Dave Keon, Tim Horton, tape-to-tape passes, take your man, beat the Habs. It probably began with a beautiful pass or a brilliant goal, but I have loved the game since I can remember.

Robin Brownlee:

Not really one thing, in terms of playing the game. Started really young, like, four years old. Played inside, outside. When I wasn’t ankling my way around the ice we were playing road hockey on our cul-de-sac. In terms of covering the game as a sports writer, the real boost for me came in 1982, when the Vancouver Canucks made it to the Stanley Cup final and got waxed by the Islanders. It was an exciting time out there.

Chris the Intern:

I always loved playing hockey from the very beginning (four-years old?), but it took me a while to really get passionate about watching hockey for some reason. Honestly, I want to say around the ’06 cup run year is when I really fell in love with it. I think the break from the lockout was kind of a ‘don’t know what you have until it’s gone’ kind of thing.


Saturday night. What else needs to be said?





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  • Mr. McDavid

    Mr.McDavid is in charge of
    Bringing this ship to
    Our destination. I like our
    Chances with Captian Connor.
    Trophy’s I predict Mc M. V. P
    Will be setting up on his fire
    Place THIS year- M V P , Art Ross
    Leaster B Pearson, Hart , Con Smyth
    And cross your fingers … the Messier.

    Beats the he ll out of taking
    Draft picks

  • Will

    Keep Nuge, dump Pouliot, demote Eberle, hire a veteran RW with some creativity and speed. Run Maroon, McDavid, ? Then go Lucic, Draisaitl, Nuge. Third line will need some work. But eventually it will be some combination of Cagguila, Kaharia, Shlepyshev, Puljujarvi, or Pitlick. I know that is a young line, but getting 10 min a night on a sheltered third line does not require them to play above their heads.

    Fourth line is really going to miss Letestu, but I feel like they could upgrade on speed in Hendrick’s slot. Obviously keep Kassian. Or maybe he shifts up to the third line. Kaharia, Cagguila, Kassian? That is a terrifying third line.

    Finally getting Benning and Nurse back in the line up will help with the mobility on the back end and ultimately help boost 5 x 5 scoring.

  • camdog

    The Oilers stopped going to the dirty areas for the last 4-5 games. More worried about Corsi, after the last practice they’ll start going back to the front of the net and start battling again. The goals will come.

  • Jay (not J)

    Difficult to tell to what extent this ridiculous schedule the team has had the last 2 weeks has impacted play and scoring. They’ve looked like turds out there more times than not over this stretch and I think (hope) that has something to do with all of the stopping and starting that they’ve been dealing with. No excuses against AZ tomorrow night, and hopefully getting back into the regular season grind gets everyone looking like the players they were in January. Get this thing back on the road already!

  • Gregor, I think you’re just illustrating that San Jose and Anaheim are ALSO struggling to find depth scoring. That isn’t reason enough to say the Oilers are ok with the goal totals of their secondary offensive weapons.

    There’s no doubt that Nuge, Eberle, Lucic, and Pouliot are all way underperforming offensively, and it is a concern.

    • btrain

      It is a concern, but I think Gregor was just trying to demonstrate that its not as atypical as some folks are making it out to be. My theory is that RNH and Eberle in particular, are struggling to adjust to new roles on the team and Lucic’s adjustment to a new team just compounds the issues. No longer are RNH and Ebs the primary numbers called for offensive opportunities. They aren’t being considered for the gravy minutes in terms of line matching and zone starts. They also get the sloppy leftovers on the 2nd PP unit. This is all rightfully so as the Oilers now have better options. However, you have to expect a dip in offensive production as a result. Not as large a dip as we have witnessed, but to expect career average numbers in these new 2nd tier roles, is unrealistic. Especially for RNH who has not played on the top line or PP unit at all and instead has been taking on the opponents best line all season.

      The PP demotion alone not only takes these guys off the score sheet, it also removes opportunities to break out of slumps, to get ones confidence going. That doesn’t mean I think they should be there, but we cannot remove those opportunities and expect the same results. Not too many 50 point + players that aren’t also playing on the top PP unit. The vast majority of the top 40 scorers in the NHL have double digit PP points and 75% of those 40 have 15 or more.

  • Heavy Stick

    Giving up 5 goals isn’t a problem with offense. Problem is puck movers aren’t always great defensively. The scoring part is of equal value but we are weak physically on the back end. Give up less..need less.

  • nuge2drai

    Trading for Boyle and Vrbata would be ideal.

    Maroon McDavid Draisaitl

    Lucic Boyle Vrbata

    Pouliot Nuge Eberle

    Khaira Letestu Kassian

    Can swap Hanzal with Boyle if need be.

    Run the top 3 lines into the ground.

  • tileguy

    If you haven’t seen that offside goal replay in the Minn. Chi games, google it and have a look, then just imagine Oilers Nation wailing and gnashing of teeth if that call went against us. can you say “conspiracy”.

  • Hemmercules

    After getting smoked the last few games by the good teams in the west it makes me feel like the Oil aren’t quite ready yet to make the playoff jump. They are letting their lead slip away fast and all the teams behind them are winning.

    Losing the next two games could be damaging, they should get at least 3 points in the next 2 games against teams they can/should beat. The rest of the month is grinder on the road after these two “easy games”. They could be out of a playoff spot by the end of the month if they aren’t careful.

  • Oilerz4life

    The back end has to be moving the puck up the ice, getting it on net too, it’s a team sport. Right now half the D are young and developing. Until there is a solid mix right through the whole line up there is always going to be ups and downs like this.

      • Oilerz4life

        I’m not sure about that 50% stat but I hear what you’re saying. We can’t get 5 goals a night scored on us is all I’m saying. We’re back to the old half of the D are NHL, AHL stars so it’s the age old Oilers scenario. We need another solid D, even another Russel type, whatever, but it’s young inexperienced line up thats for sure.

        It’s just right now it’s all about no offense. They have to be better defensively though is my point I guess. Losing 4, 5-1 is unacceptable. If they can tighten up like against Montreal I can live with that.

  • morsecode89

    Hoping the scoring starts coming from the wings and down the middle past Connor. This team needs Eberle, Lucic, RNH and others to step up quickly.

    I really think T-Mac should leave Connor and Drai separated. The best thing he can do is try and get some offense from guys not on that line.

    The other thing this team needs is Connor to shoot the puck. I hate ragging on this kid because I think he’s the best player in hockey, but the team needs him to stop being so-unselfish.

    Shoot Connor! Your speed and your rebounds create chances. Every game I watch him pass up 2-3 grade A scoring opportunities. Sometimes these get converted into goals, sometimes the pass goes no-where. The best thing that can happen to the oilers is to have this guy scoring and the other team so focused on stopping him that the rest of the players can get back to putting the puck away against weaker opposition.

    • MessyEH!

      Should have been gone 12 years ago. With the elimination of the offside hockey would become even faster. Less system based. More “run and gun” and man on man defense. The game would become about generating offense.

      With today’s speed the only offside should be at the Centre ice line, or not at all.