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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – The Oilers’ Best Playoff Matchup

Everyone quiet down — it’s time to learn something! As per tradition, I’ve taken five of your questions and sent them off to our panel of writers to give their input and worldly wisdom. Without you guys the Mailbag doesn’t work, and I need questions for next week so if you have something you’d like to ask you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter. Without further adieu, the Mailbag. Get it in ya.

1) Theo asks – With the Oilers clinching a playoff spot I’d like to ask who the panel thinks would be the best first round matchup for the Oil and why?

Lowetide:

I will choose San Jose, but this is not an easy choice at all and it isn’t clear at this point who would be the easy choice. The Sharks are struggling, but as of this writing are about to play the Oilers in a few hours. I would turn it around and ask who wants to play the Oilers with McDavid as the centrepiece? This is so tight it’s anyone’s guess.

Robin Brownlee:

Calgary. Oilers swept the season series. The Flames are the least experienced playoff team they can face. That’s a factor.

Jason Gregor:

I’d take the Flames. Rivalry needs a shot in the arm, but also I see better matchups for the Oilers versus Calgary than I do versus Anaheim or the Sharks, although the Thornton injury could change that.

Matt Henderson:

Flames. Edmonton has owned Calgary all year and what could be a better way to usher in an era of playoffs than with a Battle of Alberta? It’s also the scariest because losing to the Flames would be a disaster.

Cam Lewis:

The Oilers have dominated the Pacific Division all year. Anaheim is a physical, tight checking team with an excellent blue line and one dangerous scoring line. San Jose is a veteran team who looks worn out but knows this could be their last chance to get it. Calgary has skill up and down their lineup and is finally clicking after adjusting to a new coach. All of them have strengths and weaknesses, but right now, I would probably want to hit the Sharks in the first round, largely based on how bad they’ve looked down the stretch. I love their team, Burns, Thornton, and all, and what they did in the playoffs last year, but they look completely exhausted and I don’t think they could stop a fast, strong, energetic Edmonton team.

Chris the Intern:

I honestly think we’re going to walk all over the Calgary Flames. For some reason I don’t feel comfortable with San Jose or Anaheim as a first round opponent. We always match up well against the Flames, and they don’t have anything compared to San Jose or Anaheim in terms of playoff experience.

Baggedmilk:

Honestly, and I mean this, I don’t care who the Oilers play. I think they will have a decent chance to win against any of the teams they can match up against in the first round.

2) William asks – Our playoff spot is locked up but I’d like to know what do you expect from the Oilers for the rest of the way? Will they keep the hammer down or take their foot off the gas?

Lowetide:

This is an untested team, but McDavid doesn’t appear to have a cruising gear and there are lots of veterans. I think we’ll see a strong run to the end of the schedule.

Robin Brownlee:

Foot off the gas? They’ve got a division title and home ice advantage on the line. There is no letting up.

Jason Gregor:

They won’t just sit back because they clinched. They still have a lot to play for.

Matt Henderson:

Hammer down. McDavid is chasing a scoring title and an MVP award. He could hit 100 points before the final buzzer sounds on this season.

Cam Lewis:

Definitely. They’ve played some of their best hockey of the season, I think, in the past few games, largely because they see first place in the division within sight. This is also a young team who can really push hard in the final stretch of the season unlike, say, San Jose, who’s loaded with older players. I’m sure this team wants every advantage they can get come playoff time.

Chris the Intern:

They’ve gotta keep their foot on the pedal. Now’s the time to really throw down some intimidation in the Pacific Division as the playoffs are around the corner. Taking your foot off the gas right now and having guys potentially learn bad habits or have the team fall down the standings doesn’t make sense to me.

Baggedmilk:

They’re battling for the division and I think they’ll keep the hammer down until the final buzzer goes. Not many of the players have been through this kind of pressure at the end of the year and with every remaining game being against a division opponent, they’re all big.

3) James asks – What do you think will happen with Zack Kassian going forward? What would you offer in terms of a new contract?

Lowetide:

Ideally you get him signed to a two-year deal that averages between $2M and $2.5M. Pretty clear based on this season he has earned a raise, and I am not good at these guesses. But that’s my line in the sand.

Robin Brownlee:

The Oilers will re-sign Kassian. He’s earned a new contract with his play on the ice and his turnaround off it. I’d start looking at two years in the range of $1.75 to $2 million per season.

Jason Gregor:

I see him signing a two-year extension valued around $2mill/season.

Matt Henderson:

I would be wary of overpaying third liners in this coming era. He’s in the spot that Puljujarvi will likely be in next year so that pushes him down to the fourth line. How much are you willing to pay for a guy who will be playing less than 12 minutes a night? I’m good with 1-year deals at no major pay increases.

Cam Lewis:

Probably nothing more than a two-year deal worth somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million. He’s had an excellent year and has filled a role nicely for the team, but players who play this style of game aren’t ones to be locked up to long-term contracts because of the toll it takes on their body.

Chris the Intern:

I would love to keep him with the team, at least for a couple more years. He’s proved himself to have changed his life for the better and adds a physical, angry aspect to our team.

Baggedmilk:

How do you guys feel about a two-year $1.775-2 million per year? It’s about the same money (roughly) that Mark Letestu makes now and would be decent cash for a bottom six guy. I like Kassian a lot and I think he feels loyalty to the Oilers for giving him a chance to play, and I hope he’d take a discount because of that.

4) Laura asks – If you had to guess which Oiler could be this year’s version of Fernando Pisani from 2006 who would you pick?

Lowetide:

Pisani’s brilliance was that he could play with younger players and give them a defensive conscience on their line WHILE ALSO scoring goals at a very good clip. Could Benoit Pouliot play effectively on a line with Drake Caggiula and Anton Slepyshev or Jesse Puljujarvi? He would be my guess, although Kassian has many of the same elements in his current game.

Robin Brownlee:

There isn’t one. If I had to pick, what about Kassian? He does his best work in the greasy areas.

Jason Gregor:

It would be almost impossible to match what he did, even for star players, never mind third liners. Between 1997-2017 the only player with more goals in one playoff year than Pisani’s 14 was Sidney Crosby, with 15 in 2009. I assume you mean who will be the player who out produces expectations. I will go with Pouliot.

Matt Henderson:

Benoit Pouliot. He’s always been more productive than he has been this season but the third line has offensive chemistry and Pouliot could really go off in the post-season.

Cam Lewis:

I think the Fernando Pisani of 2017 has already showed up — Patrick Maroon. Pisani’s ridiculous playoff streak didn’t just come out of nowhere that year. He put up a career high in goals with 18, and was feeling the groove all year, putting up easily the best season of his career as a 29-year-old. Though, if somebody else is going to click and score 14 goals on 28.6 per cent shooting, I could easily see it being Benoit Pouliot. He’s had zero luck all season, and has been a part of deep playoff runs before. Pou deserves something to go his way after a frustrating season.

Chris the Intern:

This is a fun question. It makes me so giddy just imagining who could be the Pisani but I’m pulling for Mark Letestu. There is no one better for the job of playoff hero than him. Book it!

Baggedmilk:

How about Drake Caggiula? The kid has started to heat up since moving back to the wing and I could see him scoring some timely goals in the playoffs. What about Pouliot? He was great for the Rangers during their Cup run and he’s started to play better since coming back from injury.

5) Braden asks – What do you think about Dan Bylsma dressing Sam Reinhart and leaving him on the bench without playing for violating a team policy? Do you think this type of discipline is effective?

Lowetide:

Generally speaking, humiliating people in public isn’t a good idea. I wonder if this has been a long-term issue, and if so, further wonder if we are at a fracture point in the relationship. It isn’t good, either way.

Robin Brownlee:

Depends on the player. For me, it was a touch over the line, but my opinion doesn’t pre-empt Bylsma from sending a message the way he sees fit. I think taking the kid aside and telling him he was being scratched — and that he’d do the same thing if it happened again — would’ve worked just as well.

Jason Gregor:

I have no issue with it. Sitting in pressbox is easier than sitting an entire game on the bench. I guarantee you Reinhart or other Sabres won’t be late for a team meeting in the future. The Sabres aren’t making the playoffs, and it was a good time to send a message without Bylsma hurting his team’s chances of making the playoffs. I also liked how Bylsma said positive things about Reinhart’s play after the next game. Similar to McLellan earlier this year when he benched Pouliot and then the next game he played the first player he acknowledged was Pouliot. Being fare and supportive is imperative for being a good coach.

Matt Henderson:

I have no idea how effective it is, but I know that setting rules and not following through with enforcement doesn’t help. If the team rules were known and the punishment was established then good for the Sabres.

Cam Lewis:

I have virtually zero insight into the situation because I don’t follow the team whatsoever, but sure, why not. Is it effective? Maybe. But there’s also something else to be looked at here, which is why this happened in the first place. Again, I don’t even know what policy was broken, but this sort of indicates to me that the leadership in Buffalo isn’t doing a very effective job. So sure, punish him, I’m sure he deserves it, and all, but also take an introspective look at why this, whatever it was, happened.

Chris the Intern:

I actually love this. The rules to be on an NHL team are way too strict for me but in my opinion, this sends an awesome message. I would be livid if I’m Reinhart, but that’s good. He’ll learn.

Baggedmilk:

Why are people so sensitive about being punished these days? If Reinhart did something wrong, and apparently he did, then what’s the big deal? Literally his only job is to be ready to play hockey games. Figure it out. When I was playing in Midget our coach had a rule that for every practice you missed (excused or otherwise) you would get a strike. When you had three strikes that meant you had to sit out a period. If you had four strikes you had to sit out two periods. On it went. Even at 17-years-old we all knew the rule and when I missed my third practice and had to sit a period I wasn’t surprised that it happened and I understood it. Point is, who knows what Buffalo’s team rules are and if it was a rule that Reinhart knew he broke then he deserved the punishment. The problem comes if he didn’t know that breaking whatever rule he broke resulted in this being the slap on the wrist he would deal with.


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  • geoilersgist

    I don’t there is a bad matchup in our division. I don’t even see any team as an issue in the western conference as a whole. The Oilers are hawt fire right now and McDavid is unstoppable.

  • Oprah sucks

    No brainer, flames! For me it’s flames for sure and it has nothing to do with regular season series record. In comparison oil match up good against the flames, physically, offensively and even defensively. It’s fair to say oilers should have the edge in terms of special teams also. Realistically if oilers get secondary scoring in playoffs they can legitimately compete with any team. Eventhou I think oilers would beat the flames this matchup would go with a purpose for both clubs. For one, why not have two of the least playoff experienced teams play( someone must advance so….). Also, how much more prepared would either team be( or just the oilers lol) for the second round by being able to sleep in there own beds every night instead of hotels and traveling. So bring on the battle of Alberta cause it is beneficial in every way possible imo.

  • stratedge

    I was already thinking San Jose will be the best first round opponent… and then Thornton got injured. Now it’s a slam dunk.

    The Oilers weakness is a lack of depth, it’s bottom 6 can be pretty weak at times. Desharnais was not the bottom 6 centre we needed and I suspect we might see Lander again. Long story short, San Jose have the same problem and are in the worst position to win that battle. And I’ll put our top 6 against any top 6 in the west.

  • El Connor mcdaddy

    honestly, look at the numbers, the only team i would even have a slight feeling of uncertainty is the ducks. The flames are on a hot streak right now but so are we, and we swept their sorry asses in the season meetings. the sharks are old balls guys. and in their last ten games they are 2-8-0, and jumbo Joe is hurt. the ducks however are 7-0-3 in their last ten and are fairly good at shadowing mcdavid. in all honesty we are the best team in the pacific, with 9-1-0 in our last ten with 5 of those nine coming against pacific divison rivals. i say we make it out of the first round no matter who we play. book it!

    • theJason

      The Oilers are built to compete in the West. I really don’t feel nervous about any Western match up. Bring on the Ducks! Bring on the Lfames. Bring on Chicago! The old adage about the Team with the best player wins the series, well guess what, the Oilers have the best player! And he’s not just the best player in the West. And he’s not just a point machine. He’s a leader and he makes everyone around him better. This is going to be a very interesting spring!

  • GreatScott222

    I don’t know who this years Pisano will be, but hopefully management learned that when somebody rises up in the playoffs and contributes in a way that is a historical outlier we don’t pay them twice what they are worth on a to long contract.

  • ricardo2000

    There is some chance that the OIL finish first in the division, with the wild card #1 to play in the first round. In answer to the coast or crush question: the OIL push for a thunderous end to the season, 14-1-0 (15-4-0 since Feb) for 105 points and the ANAHEIM tie breaker. I pick the SHARKS to fall away as it appears that Big Joe Thornton has a serious knee injury to go with a substantial losing streak. This leaves them at 8-12-0 since Feb for 97 points. ANAHEIM is playing hard to the end, looking to finish with 13-6-0, 12-7-0 if they loose to CHICAGO at home (last contest went 1-0 for Anaheim @ Chicago). They are looking for steam from their wins to propel them through the first two rounds, after finishing with 105, or 103 points. If they lose the next game in ANAHEIM, CALGARY will go 12-6-0, including OT and SO wins. This has them at 96 points. NASHVILLE should go 11-6-2 with 2 OT wins, and SO and OT losses. They could loose to the Islanders and Winnipeg, but they didn’t in March, so they finish with 97 points. ST. LOUIS could go 16-2-2 to end things, finishing with 101 points. They have lost to Colorado and Winnipeg last month, but that won’t happen again. So it looks like it’s either NASHVILLE, CALGARY, or the SHARKS. Their ranking seems to depend on whether Calgary can beat Anaheim tomorrow. NASHVILLE has the tie-breaker against the SHARKS. I would say EDMONTON meets SHARKS, and stomps them 4-1 to ease into round two. CALGARY gets HAMMERED in CHICAGO’s 4 wins, while squeezing hope out of two close wins to lose 4-2. ANAHEIM pushes NASHVILLE onto the beach 4-2. MINNESOTA vs ST. LOUIS goes the distance depending on Dubnyk and team defence. EDMONTON beats ANAHEIM 4-2 to meet CHICAGO for the conference final.

  • A-Mc

    I am stressing about these final 3 games like a mad man. The schedule makers couldn’t have picked a more nail biting series of games between pacific teams to close out the season. I have been watching Calgary games, hoping they steal wins to help out the Oilers. Atleast they beat SJ, but let out a total brain fart vs ANA last night.

    The oilers could very easily end up in 1st and end up playing CGY… but ANA is a strong force right now. GAHHHH WHO WILL WE PLAY!?!?!?

    I’ve been trained for situations like this. *Cracks a beer*

  • Derian Hatcher

    “Why are people so sensitive about being punished these days? If Reinhart did something wrong, and apparently he did, then what’s the big deal?”
    Because unfortunately, we live in a society today where it’s usually someone else’s fault, SOME youth (and SOME adults) are entitled, not accountable and blameless. Some parents are more interested in being friends with theri kids than being actual parents and getting their kids ready for the real world. When kids grow up entitled and irresponsible*, any accountability placed on them as teenagers or young adults is foreign to them.

    Steps off soapbox, falls, breaks ankle, then takes the manufacturer of the soapbox to court for punative damages.

    *I am not saying Sam Reinhart is entitled or not accountable, just using this example for context.

  • West

    Does Oilersnation have a proofreader? Or maybe the problem is the typist (is it bagged milk? I bet it is). In one of Cam Lewis’ answers he or someone used the word “tole” which means painted, enameled, or lacquered tinplate. I am pretty sure this is not something discussed on Oilernation, but it could be if the website changes direction toward interior design. Then Gregor used “fare” which is fine when hailing a cab but not when discussing if something is equitable. I know it doesn’t matter much in a blog setting and homonyms can be missed by spell check programs, but I am a little obsessive about the English language. I like it when the right words are used.

  • West

    Does Oilersnation have a proofreader? Or maybe the problem is the typist (is it bagged milk? I bet it is). In one of Cam Lewis’ answers he or someone used the word “tole” which means painted, enameled, or lacquered tinplate. I am pretty sure this is not something discussed on Oilernation, but it could be if the website changes direction toward interior design. Then Gregor used “fare” which is fine when hailing a cab but not when discussing if something is equitable. I know it doesn’t matter much in a blog setting and words that sound the same but are spelled different can be missed by spell check programs, but I am a little obsessive about the English language. I like it when the right words are used.

    • West

      I tried posting this 5 times and it kept getting rejected. The site didn’t like the word h o m o n y m, therefore had to change one word to “words that sound the same but are spelled different” . Very inefficient use of my time.

    • Kaplan

      Agree about the spelling, syntax and grammar on this site. Now, some of the stuff I can live with, given not everyone on the roster is an experienced writer/journalist, but sometimes the writing’s plain bad at times. Now, given I pay nothing for the content, Nation folks can take my comment and tell me to jam it. But I’d like to think that they would try to improve their writing, so take this as a few unsolicited opinions.

      Also, since when are the Oilers – as of Monday, April 3 – about to play the Sharks in a few hours?

  • Dr. Merkwurdigliebe

    The great thing about the playoffs is that regular season results mean very little. Yes, the Oil swept the season series vs the Flames, but the Flames will remember this and will be out for revenge. Out of all the 1st round opponents, the Flames scare me the most. I think it’ll be a long series.

  • JimmyV1965

    If Thornton is out, would definitely like to play them. If not, the Flames. Hope the Preds don’t end up in our division. We can’t beat them for love or money. Don’t want to play the Ducks either. I think we can beat them, but I could see someone getting hurt. From what I’ve seen, they are the dirtiest team in the league, and it’s not even close. I’m serious. Is there another team dirtier than the Ducks? I’ve never seen so many slashes, whacks and cross checks. And the stuff after the whistle. They slash someone after losing a faceoff and dotesnt called. WTF.

    • McDynasty97

      You’re bang on jimmyv! That’s been eating at me too since that game. I was even telling my kids to watch and learn how not to play hockey. I don’t care how good Kesler is at hockey. If you can’t play within the rules you might as well quit.

  • 2centz

    Gentlemen,Dan Bylsma explained the situation regarding Sam Reinhart. He was going to be healthy scratched,and in the press box for the game. But Kyle Okposo I believe it was,became ill,and could not dress. I give Bylsma credit for sticking to his guns,and don’t believe this has “fractured” their relationship. I’m sure this is nothing more than a young man having a few pops,waking up next to a beautiful woman,and being late for work. Sam being a professional,likely knows he deserved it,and both men have moved on from it.

    I’m surprised nobody has said Jordan Eberle? If there’s anyone who could shock the world,and score 14 in the postseason,I’d say it’d have to be #14 himself?

    Zack…? 2yrs x $1.85

    Connor wants 100pts and to shut up the eastern media,who is trying to give the Hart Trophy to ANYONE but McDavid. This kid looks highly motivated by this,and there is no taking the foot off the gas.

    Calgary for sure!!! Could you imagine a better way to break in the new building,and return to the playoffs?

  • Dreadguy

    Did anyone see the stinker that Elliot let in for the GWG last night against the Ducks? Expect more of that. He played his way out of a job in STL by playing poorly in the playoffs last year (there was even a segment on his poor play on HNIC). Eliot has *somewhat* decent numbers this year because he got hot for a short stretch. The Flames are our easiest 1st round match-up by far for many reasons, but their Goaltending is reason #1.

  • Bob Cobb

    The only people that should want the Oilers to not play the Flames are Flames fan. The series may go 5, the Flames are a smoke and mirrors show. They aren’t big, their goaltending is average at best, the Defense is vastly overrated, and lets face it Little Johnny isn’t McD.
    Completely out of the ballpark, how bad is Cassie Campbell Pascal on commentary? She’s the female version of Kelly Hrudy, I had to mute the game Saturday when she began to speak.

  • Spoils

    the missing question for me right now is about the line-up – who do you start on the 4th line and final d-man, and who will TMac start? Will players swap out during the run or not?

  • 2centz

    Also,I have a question for The Nations fans and writers…

    Would you trade Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to Florida,for Nick Bjugstad? Both players have had miserable seasons,and could use a change of scenery. Bjugstad is 6’6 218lbs and fits the mould of big tough center. He is 27 with a career best 24 goals a couple seasons ago,and also had 2g 2a in 5 playoff games,last season. Bjugstad also shoots right, and is $1.9m cheaper. He can move from the 2 to 3 slot,depending on where Leon Draisaitl is playing.

    Is this a straight up,hockey deal,or should one team get some sort of sweetener? I think RNH and Jonathan Huberdeau could be a pretty dynamic pair,what say you?

  • Strunzo

    The guy who states ” Pou deserves something to go his way” must be baked. Pouliot played with ZERO heart or hustle for 65 games and has only shown like he wants to play nhl hockey for the past 10 games. He deserves nothing. Its his team mates who deserve much more from someone taking 4 million away from the payroll.

  • CMG30

    Best opening matchup for the Oil: Calgary. They’re soft and seem to be staggering backwards into the playoffs.

    Worst matchup: Ducks. They’ve still got it and it would be a fight to the finish.

  • 916oiler

    My first thought about who could be this year’s Pisani was Caggiula! Kid has been playing with passion since his press box stint! Also – where is ol Struds at?? Loved hearing his thoughts in these discussions!