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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Milan Lucic’s Leadership

Another Monday is upon us and that means it’s time to learn again! Well, either that or argue with us depending on whether or not you agree with the answers held within this here mailbag. If you’d like to join in the fun and ask a question, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and waste as much company time as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Al asks – If the NHL doesn’t go to the next Olympics, what would your starting line-up for Canada look like? Where would the players be drawn from?

Lowetide:

I think we could see players come from juniors, college, AHL and European teams housing Canadians. I couldn’t begin to guess a lineup, but the rosters would probably contain a lot of ex-Oilers. 🙂

Robin Brownlee:

Line-up would have to be made up of players in the minors not on NHL contracts and college guys. Can’t see that happening.

Matt Henderson:

If the NHL doesn’t go to the Olympics I will not be watching the games that intently. I mean, I’ll watch, but the same way I watch the fake ski sports. So I don’t really know who they would take, probably college kids and guys in European leagues.

Jason Gregor:

I would move the U20 Championships to February. It wouldn’t be ideal for CHL teams, as players would be missing closer to playoff races, but I’d still do it.

Jonathan Willis:

That’s a tough question to answer without knowing what eligibility criteria gets set in place by the IOC and IIHF, as well as which players are competing and where and which NHL owners are going to turn a blind eye to their guys jumping ship for a couple of weeks. Tom Renney’s team in 1994 won silver, leaning on a collection of top prospects and older veterans just below the NHL level. So you might have a roster that draws on top outside-the-NHL prospects, or top pros in the KHL, Sweden/Finland and the AHL. It’s impossible to really get into names at this juncture, but you have to think that players like Nigel Dawes and Tyson Jost would get long looks.

Chris the Intern:

I would literally just ask the whole Canadian World Junior team to play along with Ryan Smyth and Wayne Gretzky. We could still probably walk away with a bronze medal.

Baggedmilk:

Can you imagine how anticlimactic the Olympic hockey tournament will be without NHLers? It will basically become the Spengler Cup. How fun!

2) Bradley asks – At the time of submitting this question Ethan Bear has 70 points in 65 games (28G, 42A) with Seattle and I wonder if you think there’s any chance that he plays for the Oilers next year?

Lowetide:

It will take some time, partly because the Oilers have better depth than in the past. It is also true that defensemen rarely step right into the NHL, so Bear in Bakersfield is a good bet.

Robin Brownlee:

No chance. Bear doesn’t turn 20 until June. There is no place for him on the Oiler roster now and there is no rush to push him along. His numbers in the WHL are very good, but the reasonable next step is to see how they translate at the minor league level.

Matt Henderson:

I think the Oilers would be smart to start Bear in the AHL next year and forget about him until after Christmas. He could end up playing but unless he outplays Benning spectacularly, the only way he wins a spot in the Fall is if Chiarelli drops the ball in the summer.

Jason Gregor:

I say none. He is an undersized defender, who will need to learn to defend against men. I’ll be stunned if he plays top-four minutes regularly in the AHL. It is a massive jump from the WHL to even the AHL. At 19 in the WHL he should dominate, but next year will be a much tougher challenge for him.

Jonathan Willis:

I think it’s pretty unlikely that he makes the team out of training camp. The Oilers already have five guys under contract for next year and two more (Jordan Oesterle, Griffin Reinhart) who would need to clear waivers and who look like they’re probably for real, and that’s before we even get into Kris Russell, Eric Gryba or any offseason additions. Moreover, it’s a very rare thing for a 20-year-old D drafted outside the top-100 to be ready to compete in the NHL as a rooke pro; if we look at the 2014 class, Gustav Forsling is the only one who qualifies and he was already playing against men in Sweden. If Bear earns time with strong AHL play, that’s a different conversation but right now I have him as a virtual lock for Bakersfield.

Chris the Intern:

Ethan Bear’s doing amazing things right now, and that’s exactly why I wouldn’t want to see him with the Oilers next year. I’d have him play the year in Bakersfield and maybe call him up for a game here and there to dip his toes in the water before throwing him in the deep end.

Baggedmilk:

The Oilers need to lead Ethan Bear marinate for as long as possible before trying him out at the NHL level. I think he should spend AT LEAST a year or two in the AHL before being called up to the Oilers for anything longer than a cup of coffee. We need to retrain ourselves to appreciate slow development rather than expecting prospects to contribute to the Oilers immediately.

3) Oiler fan Dan asks – What can veteran players like Milan Lucic do to help his younger teammates deal with the added pressure of a playoff run when they haven’t seen anything like it before?

Lowetide:

Todd McLellan has mentioned this a few times, suggesting that a veteran can calm the waters just by his presence. That probably has a great impact as these young Oilers go through new situations.

Robin Brownlee:

Lead by example first and offer advice when needed. Players like Lucic can be a calming influence if/when the intensity and pressure of any particular moment gets overwhelming.

Matt Henderson:

I’m sure it’s not altogether too different from any high pressure situation where you’re a first timer and your partner has been there before. Those guys are going to warn the newbies about what to expect. They’ll be there when bounces don’t go there way and should lead the way when possible and be strong supports the rest of the time.

Jason Gregor:

He will be a voice of calm and reason. Ultimately, the players will have to adjust on the fly when they experience the heightened urgency, speed and tenacity of playoff hockey, but Lucic can share his experiences. But it is up to each individual how much they listen and use his words as guidance.

Jonathan Willis:

I don’t want to make sweeping statements about intangibles, but this is one of the plot lines that I strongly suspect gets overblown. Connor McDavid has been labeled a generational talent since his early teens,  been an OHL playoff MVP, represented Canada internationally and been tasked with saving the Oilers before he’d even played a game in the NHL. Jordan Eberle has played at five World Championships, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl have played at the World Championships and World Cup, and a lot of other players have also played through high-stakes international tournaments. If Cam Talbot can lead Canada to gold at the Worlds with a 0.940 save percentage, I don’t really expect him to wilt in the playoffs. A big part of the reason the Oilers have encouraged this kind of tournament participation over the years is as a way to get players used to playing hockey that matters in April even when the team misses the postseason. That’s not to say there’s no value to having guys like Lucic, Benoit Pouliot, David DesharnaiMatt Hendricks and Mark Fayne who have gone on lengthy playoff runs at the NHL level, but it’s not like their teammates have never played in an important hockey game before.

Chris the Intern:

I love listening to Lucic’s interviews, he’s so candid and relaxed. Even though he’s an intense guy on the ice, I think he’s really relaxed when his team needs him to be. I think the inexperienced guys could get a little excitable come down the stretch and even in the playoffs, so I think Lucic can help calm down the team.

Baggedmilk:

Lucic has been in these situations before and he will need to use that experience to be a calming force in the dressing room. The sky isn’t always falling and I’d hope that he can express that to his teammates with a calming voice in the room and big play on the ice.

4) Yaris asks – Has the balance of power shifted from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference? After being so good against the east for years the Oilers will have a record below .500 for the first time in six years.

Lowetide:

It has been an amazing turn, you’re right. We will see, the eastern conference has a lot of new stars and some outstanding teams like Pittsburgh, Washington and now Columbus.

Robin Brownlee:

Balance of power? Does it matter? One team comes out of the east. one team comes out of the west. Overall standings are top-heavy with teams from the east this season and the two weakest teams, Colorado and Arizona, are in the west. It swings back and forth.

Matt Henderson:

Sure. A little. Some teams in the Pacific have dropped off quite a bit and the East is doing well. Pittsburgh and Washington are still the best as far as I’m concerned, but they have to go through each other before taking on whoever comes out of the West.

Jason Gregor:

This is the fourth year were they play every east team twice. In the previous three years they were 46-42-8. Much better than against the west. Chiarelli built the Oilers to compete within their division, which makes sense since you have to come out of your division first, unless crossing over in 1st round. The East is having a great season, especially the top-four teams in the Metro, but I don’t see it as a change of power really. It’s not like top teams in the West aren’t good. San Jose is 20-7-4 vs. East. Chicago is 18-7-2, Minny is 16-10-1. I wouldn’t use one team to suggest the East is the clear dominant division. Overall they’ve had more success vs. the West this season, but it is only one year.

Jonathan Willis:

Yes, it has. The league achieved rough parity between the conferences in 2015-16, when the West won just four more games than the East. This year that parity is gone, and the East is crushing the West; according to Tyler Dellow, this is the most dominant the East has been since the 1980’s. That’s something worth keeping in mind when people talk about the way the Oilers have been built to beat the West this year: It’s less a matter of adopting a Western style and more a side effect of the bottom falling out of what was the league’s strongest conference.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, it appears so and I love the change in balance. It’s really entertaining. I think it shows with the Penguins winning the cup last year using their roster made up of speed. I like our team’s dynamic right now because we have a heavy roster, but we also have Connor McDavid, the fastest man alive.

Baggedmilk:

The pendulum has temporarily swung to the east but I can’t imagine it will be long before the West is dominant again. Frankly, it’s the perfect time for the Oilers to rise up from the ashes and grab the Western Conference by the balls.

5) Blake asks – Are the Oilers doing much for Brossoit’s development seeing how he isn’t playing games at all? How much better can he be getting by practice alone?

Lowetide:

My feeling is that Brossoit is no longer a developing player, he is probably established now as being a complete product. We haven’t seen him much, but his opportunity will come.

Robin Brownlee:

Not an ideal situation, but the Oilers need to win games more than they need to worry about the development of Brossoit right now. You address that going into a season not during a stretch drive. That’s where the Oilers erred in making sure they had an adequate back-up.

Matt Henderson:

I’m sure I’m going to be accused of being callous, but I don’t care about Brossoit’s development. He’s a backup goaltender and it’s easy to replace that position so long as you don’t take the Chiarelli approach. I don’t care if he ever gets better in the future. I only care if he’s good enough right now to play. Honestly, I’m not convinced he should be the 2G at all.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see it as a major issue. While he isn’t play as much as they would like, he’s still getting to practice against NHL players and work with the Oilers goalie coach every day.

Jonathan Willis:

While I don’t think the Oilers are doing Brossoit any favours, I don’t know that it’s a huge concern, either. Brossoit turns 24 this week, is in his fourth professional season and is rapidly approaching the end of his waiver eligibility. Not playing is never an ideal development situation, but we’re past the point where we should really be looking for Brossoit to make huge strides, either. I’d like to see him get a few more games mostly as a way to have Cam Talbot at 100 percent entering the playoffs rather than in the name of development.

Chris the Intern:

He’s definitely gaining experience going through this playoff run and practicing with Talbot, but you’re right. I’d much rather see him playing in the AHL playoffs in Bakersfield than riding the pine right now in Edmonton. 

Baggedmilk:

This all goes back to when Chiarelli signed Gustavsson rather than literally any of the other options that were out there. I said at the time that I wished that the Oilers had gone in a different direction (read the responses to that tweet) and got roasted for it. Now that Gustavsson dropped the ball and finds himself in the minors I still haven’t received a single apology. 😂


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