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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Mailbag Monday – Are You Worried About Defensive Depth?

Happy Monday, fine citizens. May your day go by quickly and the faces of your co-workers go un-punched. Here is another edition of the Mailbag to help you kill off some company time, and give you an opportunity to learn something at the same time. Magic, right? As always, this feature is completely dependent on you guys. If you’ve got a question you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or DM on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, enjoy another round of free lessons from our writers.

1) Steveland Cleamer asks – With the NHL saying the players are essentially banned from going to the Olympics, what kind of impact do you think this will have on the next CBA?

Jason Gregor:

It will be another wrinkle, and likely the main reason the NHL pulled out. It can be used as leverage in the next negotiations. It is gross how the NHL has more trouble finding labour peace compared to the other big sports. Embarrassing.

Lowetide:

I think the NHL and NHLPA are heading to another gigantic storm. Negotiations between these two yahoos usually BEGINS with about half a season cancelled. Tiresome behaviour on both sides.

Jason Strudwick:

It will create hard feelings heading into the next few years. The player response was strong to the news of no Olympics. I don’t like the direction this is heading with just a couple of years away from CBA negotiations.

Robin Brownlee:

Donald Fehr says there’ll be payback in the next CBA talks. Not sure what that means. We won’t know if that’s just posturing until we get there.

Jonathan Willis:

The short answer is that we’ll see. The NHL tried to pressure the NHLPA into a CBA extension in exchange for Olympic participation, knowing that it’s something a lot of (but not all) players see as important. The NHLPA declined to accept their offer. That won’t keep either side from potentially bringing it up in future negotiations, but it does establish that the players are only willing to bend so much to secure something that they see as being in the general interest of the sport. The X-factor in all of this to me is the fallout from the league not going: if it can be demonstrated that the NHL has suffered in some manner from going head-to-head with the Olympics (TV ratings, attendance, etc.) then perhaps it becomes a bigger issue the next time the CBA comes up.

Matt Henderson:

Not a good one, that’s for damned sure. The players want to go. They feel it’s their right to play for their countries at the Olympics. The NHL will agree to send them but it means concessions by the players. Bettman drives a hard bargain. Players will not like this at all.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, not much. It doesn’t sound like the NHLPA fought too hard with the NHL to go to the Olympics so I feel like they won’t have much leverage to negotiate anything more in the upcoming CBA. The new contract MAY have some guidelines and rules in order to get players to future Olympics, but I’m not expecting much right now.

Baggedmilk:

Gary Bettman loves lockouts and it seems like he’s trying to do everything in his power to have another one. I get why the owners wouldn’t want hundreds of millions of dollars in assets heading over for a tournament where they can get injured, but the NHL is also trying to grow the game. The whole situation is gross and it’s the fans that are going to suffer… again.

2) Jim asks – I’ve read in a few media reports that the ice at Rogers Place is less than ideal. Is something being done about that or does it have to wait until the offseason? Or, can it even be fixed? It would be a shame if the Oilers don’t have the best ice in the league to show off their speed and skill.

Jason Gregor:

They have tried many things all season. They’ve moved banners which they thought were impacting air flow. They’ve altered the temperature in the building. It is an issue and they are trying to improve it.

Lowetide:

It can be fixed and I think it is getting better. If they can’t fix it in the first year, I don’t know how they ever will though, because I imagine there are only so many tricks.

Jason Strudwick:

Rogers place is a new building. It is hard to get the temp, humidity, etc right for the perfect ice. I have noticed the building is much cooler than it was in October. That is most likely part of the plan. I have skated on the ice and I would say it is similar to what other new buildings were like.

Robin Brownlee:

There isn’t just a “Making Ice for Dummies” book out there. Every system takes tweaking over time to get the kinks out and match it to the conditions — humidity etc — in which that system must operate. This has been an ongoing issue since the building opened and will continue until they get it right.

Jonathan Willis:

Jim Matheson put together a nice write-up on ice conditions back in November on some of the difficulties with getting the ice correct in a new building. My inclination is to chalk up those difficulties this year to the learning curve that comes with any new facility.

Matt Henderson:

From what I’ve heard they’ve already started to address issues like having the banners in the right spot so they don’t prevent the air cooling system from working (seriously). It will get better. They want everything about the arena to be world class. I’ll be shocked if we don’t hear about how much better it is in October. Not sure what it will be like if the Oilers make a long run in the playoffs though.

Chris the Intern:

The ice is terrible but thankfully Connor’s rocket skates aren’t affected by ice conditions. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the Oilers are just used to it which makes them play so much better at home against other teams. I’d call it an advantage, no?

Baggedmilk:

The bright side about the horrible ice is that both teams have to play on it. The downside is that this has gone on all year and it still isn’t fixed yet.

3) Mel asks – Trading Davidson was the right move in my opinion as Caggiula really fits better as 4W right now and Desharnais is an experienced C, however, the depth on D scares me a bit now.  If a little bad luck strikes, do you really see Oesterle or Reinhart being able to hold down a regular shift in the playoffs?  Fayne doesn’t seem to have the trust of the coaching staff at all.

Jason Gregor:

They would need two injuries before one of those three players you mentioned played. If they have two injuries, then the remaining five D would play a lot and whoever comes in as the #6 would play minimal minutes. Only an issue if two injuries occur.

Lowetide:

Fayne would be my first choice as a call-up, but I stand alone on that front. After that, anyone’s guess.

Jason Strudwick:

D-men are worth their weight in gold in the NHL playoffs. Injuries will happen to every team and I think that the first option with be either Gryba or Benning, whichever one wasn’t playing that game. After that, I would go with Fayne. He has experience in the playoffs and that would be a nice luxury to drop into the third pair. If the Oilers lose so many D that they have to dress either Oesterle or Reinhart that would mean they have lost three regulars. Big trouble.

Robin Brownlee:

It would take a lot of bad luck before Oesterle or Reinhart would be considered options of any kind. Don’t see it.

Jonathan Willis:

I’m still a little worried about the depth at centre, to tell you the truth; I don’t think David Desharnais has adequately addressed the third line centre slot. I’d be much less concerned on defence. Mark Fayne is a good option on the right side, and probably one the Oilers should be thinking about – not only is he a veteran, but he’s survived the kind of matchup minutes that Eric Gryba has never played and as long as there’s a puck mover on his left side he should be fine. I think both Oesterle and Reinhart will be in the NHL next season, with the Oilers or elsewhere, and I’m not too worried about elevating them up the depth chart if the need arises. Peter Chiarelli has done a good job of building up depth on the back end.

Matt Henderson:

I see Oesterle as having a better chance of covering Benning’s minutes and Fayne having a better chance of covering Russell’s minutes. I see Reinhart being able to eat a lot of popcorn while he searches for places to rent in Vegas. I know Fayne appears to be on the outs but I’d like to think his contract was a bigger issue than his actual play and $$$ is not an issue in the post-season.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah, I can agree with that thought. I’d rather not have Oesterle or Reinhart have to come up in a playoff series but worse case scenario, we double shift Connor as a defenceman which could make it a win-win in my opinion.

Baggedmilk:

If the Oilers need to rely on Reinhart for the playoffs then they’re in a world of trouble. That said, Davidson has only played nine games with the Habs and has had a hard time staying healthy.

4) Harris asks – Which bottom six player has impressed you the most this season and why?

Jason Gregor:

Kassian and Letestu have been very good. Letestu has really excelled on special teams, especially the PP, while Kassian has been the best EV player in the bottom-six.

Lowetide:

Zack Kassian. He’s faster, effective at both ends, and his 5×5 scoring rates are not far from 2.00/60, which is very good. What’s more, he’s done it (mostly) without McDavid or really any of the high skill guys. I am a fan of this player.

Jason Strudwick:

Kassian has exceeded my low expectations for him. He has become an important player for the team. I love that I was wrong about him. His speed, consistent approach to the game and competitiveness are impressive.

Robin Brownlee:

Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian. Both are versatile and contribute on special teams.

Jonathan Willis:

I have two answers to this one. The first is Tyler Pitlick, who scored eight goals in 31 games before (yet another) season-ending injury. History suggests that he’ll have trouble repeating that performance, but he did it and it helped Edmonton win some games. The other is Zack Kassian, who I’ve come to like a lot as a potential long-term fit at third-line RW.

Matt Henderson:

Letestu. He had a massive bounce back after a disaster season prior. He really needed this year to be good and he’s been everything the team thought they were getting when they signed him. The power play production has been really impressive though. They gave him a role, lowered his minutes, and he flourished.

Chris the Intern:

I love Zack Kassian’s story. Yes, I know how ironic it is that everyone loves him now, but I think it’s awesome how much value he now brings to our team. He’s had a great year which makes it more impressive how this chance with Edmonton was essentially his last shot at the NHL.

Baggedmilk:

Since everyone is saying Kassian and Letestu I’m going to do something different. I’ve really liked the way that Drake Caggiula has played since getting moved back to the wing. I think it’s given him more freedom to focus on offence and he’s looked really good since the deadline.

5) Justin asks – As I’m born and raised in Edmonton and now live in Gothenburg, Sweden, my question is what’s your favourite destination you’ve travelled to and why?

Jason Gregor:

Costa Rica. I loved it. Flew into Liberia and stayed in Tamarindo. It was beautiful. I learned to surf, not very well, but it was fun. The weather, food and slow-paced culture was perfect. It was over Christmas and they had “Festival” in each small town. They had a rodeo and built huge circular “arenas” where you could sit and watch. Anyone could go in the ring when they let the bull and rider out. There was no time limit they see how long you can stay on. Once rider falls off or jumps off the bull runs around the arena/ring and people try to avoid getting hit, while also seeing how close they can run by him. I was in the arena/ring for an hour one night. It was a blast.

Lowetide:

Lake Louise, Alberta. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and I’ve been there with all of the people I hold dear in my life. I go every summer and think about all of those people, some who are gone and most who remain. It is my peaceful place, cannot imagine a better one.

Jason Strudwick:

Rome. Love that city. Can’t wait to go back. The history there is amazing as is the food and language.

Robin Brownlee:

Shangri-la Mactan in Cebu, Philippines. The most beautiful beaches and ocean I’ve ever seen.

Jonathan Willis:

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, but I’m going to say London, England. Seeing the British Museum is something that will stick with me the rest of my life, but there’s just so much going on: food, culture, everything you’d expect from the city which ruled a worldwide empire for as long as it did.

Matt Henderson:

I met my wife in Julcuy, Ecuador while on an archaeological field school trip…so not there. I’ll say Rome. I know it’s tourist-y and all that, but there’s a reason for it. It’s beautiful, the history is everywhere around you in all directions, and the food is delicious.

Chris the Intern:

Confession time: I’ve never actually left Canada 😔. BUT I have toured through the Maritimes which a lot of people can’t say they have. Those tiny provinces over there are definitely my favourite part of Canada.

Baggedmilk:

I’ve been lucky enough to spend over two years of my life travelling and I’ve seen so many cool places. In Australia, there’s this rad little hippie town called Byron Bay that was so chilled out and right up my alley. In Thailand, I spent most of my time living on the island of Phi Phi and if you’ve ever seen the movie the Beach you’ll have a good idea why.


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  • Serious Gord

    1. The NHLPA made a terrible mistake leaving Olympics attendance off of the last cba (it was on the previous one) they claim it was an oversight but I think fehr and company gave it up to get 50:50.

    It will be something they will have to buy back in the next cba – probably with a concession to keep escrow where it is.

    2. The ice is bad when it should be the team’s objective and fans a point of pride to have the best in the league.

    I hope they spare no effort to (regain) that title.

    3. If you think depth on defense is bad now wait a year. The depth issue is going to plague this team fir years to come.

    5. Washington DC or Montreal both are marvellous cities for mature people to spend time in. Nashville is a lot of fun too.

    • gongshow

      So, I too look at the Oilers depth chart and see issues in the future but then I stop and think that Chiarelli has been able to plug some depth chart holes with prudent college FA signings so hopefully he can use that route in the future as well. Also, don’t most teams look at heir depth charts and see empty cupboards. Even Detroit (of “the Detroit model” fame) is looking very sparse – and yes I understand that their long run of playoff success has lead to lower first round picks, but I would offer up the idea that dumb luck in some late rounds over the last few decades was what made them look so smart in the first place. So, how does Edmonton compare to the rest of the league for depth?

      • OilCan2

        The Detroit Model was spending more pizza dollars than most other teams had in their budget. The Oilers were cramped for cash for years and years until D Katz showed up with a full suitcase of the stuff.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    Here’s a question about the Olympics and the NHL:

    How does NBC feel about this? If they feel wronged by the NHL pulling out how eager are they going to be paying anything for a new TV deal? How eager will any other US network be in paying a premium for TV rights when this is how the NHL treats its share holders? Fact is the NHL and its quest for single rights holders in both Canada and the US reminds other networks they can live without NHL hockey.

    All I see here is how the NHL has set themselves up for another $200M/year windfall in the US when this contract is done.

    • Oil_in_the_Desert

      Excellent question. I believe TV dollars rule all. NBC was adamant that the Coyotes stay in Phoenix (top 10 TV markets in US). Las Vegas over Quebec City? – purely a TV decision. That said, I’m not convinced that NHL players won’t be at the Olympics. There’s no rule against the players going and implementing one now would never fly with the current CBA.

  • Rob...

    Anyone watch that Leaf’s game Saturday? Remember the last time the Oilers squeaked into the playoffs because the team they were playing chose to rest a bunch of key players? Me neither. Let’s hope the GM’s of the Islanders and Lightning find some creative ways to screw the Pens this summer to get some revenge.

    • Oil_in_the_Desert

      Wonder if the NHL feels any sort of responsibility to look into this. We’ve heard about this for years in the NBA – a league with very little parody. But now that it’s starting in the NHL – a league with so much parody that the final weekend of the regular season is deciding so much, I’m surprised there hasn’t been much discussion on the integrity of the schedule. ON Bloggers – any chance on an article on this topic (if so, it can wait until the off season so we all don’t sound like sore winners). Full disclosure – I love the Oilers and do not like the Leafs.

  • Time to Ride

    Canada has the best curling ice makers in the world and at least one of them lives right in Alberta (Jamie Bourassa). I would hope that the people who manage Rogers Place call on his expertise to fix the ice problems there. After all, it won’t be long until major curling events are held at Rogers so ice conditions there are going to have to be controllable under a variety of situations.

  • Connor'sGotHart

    Thank god for pvr . I work evenings and can make sure to watch game after work. Last time we were in the playoffs I had a wicked Sony VCR. Glad those days are gone.

  • Heschultzhescores

    That offside on Eberle yesterday was the second time an Oiler has been changing and a review ensued. I wonder if moving the bench door 6 feet to the other side of the blue-line might work. Just a thought.

    • Lofty

      It would be best to add a 3rd door just onside and only use it during the 2nd period. I wonder if there’s a rule about the location and quantity of bench doors. If there isn’t, if I were Edmonton, I would only do it on the home bench.

      • Rob...

        I really don’t get it. If he doesn’t count as a player on the ice meriting a Too Many Men penalty, how does he count as an active player for an offside? BS rule, and BS call.

        • ConAir NicCagevid

          That, and if goals can be taken away based on the refs’ “intent” to blow the whistle, it should be assumed that Ebs’ “intent” was to get off the ice and not be part of the play. A good man was robbed of a goal last night.

          • Heschultzhescores

            Yup, the NHL wants goals and then take one away because a guy might have had his skate a millimetre on the ice, but was not part of the play…and had no influence on the outcome of the play.

  • BobbyCanuck

    I was pretty chapped about the Olympics, and no NHLers, but than I remembered the results of the last bunch – pics. Canada always wins, whats the point of going, no one can beat us

  • OilCan2

    Let the Olympics hang out to dry. Them and the NHL arguing about $$$ is such a joke. Both of them (the kettle & the pot) are black on the greed front.

    As far as D depth I for one would slot in Fayne or Reinhart as required. It’s a bit late to showcase either one as Vegas bait. As far as Russell goes leave him unsigned until July and even then only offer one year. I may be optimistic but Bear seems to be making a good case for some serious pro hockey next fall.

  • Harry2

    I think a good old fashioned boycott is a good way to let the NHL know the fans are pissed about his BS.

    During the olympic games dont watch hockey on tv and dont spend money on all things NHL