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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Expectations for Matt Benning

Once again, it’s the Nation’s favourite time of the week as our panel of writers have taken your questions and answered them to the best of their ability as they draw from their worldly experiences. As always, this is driven by you guys. If you’ve got a question, you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Sit back, relax, enjoy.

1) Blaine asks – With a 1-2 punch of Crosby and Connor, is it safe to say we are missing one of the best Olympic teams Canada could ever ice this year?

Lowetide:

Yes, but I’ll tell you this is a tricky situation. The NY Islanders lost John Tavares in 2014 when he was injured at the Olympics (a torn MCL and torn meniscus in his knee). I love the Olympics, but losing an impact player can flush an entire season for a team. I think that’s a legit factor.

Jonathan Willis:

Yes. That’s Canada’s best duo since Wayne Gretzky/Mario Lemieux.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see the team being clearly better than previous ones we’ve seen. The 2010 team was very dominant. The 1987 Canada Cup team with Gretzky and Lemieux was also great. It is unfortunate we won’t see the NHL in the Olympics, but I don’t think this team would be noticeably better than some of the previous great ones.

Matt Henderson:

Missing out on Crosby in his early 30’s and McDavid in his early 20’s playing together on international ice with the best possible linemates either can hope to have is criminal. One of the best ever? Maybe. Just maybe. I mean, you have to consider the other members of the team for that, but we are missing out on something special either way.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah, it’s a real shame and I get angry thinking about it too much. Reading Connor’s remarks on the matter is infuriating and makes me so sad. All the kid wants to do is play with Sidney Crosby and wear the maple leaf but money and politics and greed are getting in the way of it.

Baggedmilk:

Yeah, in a way it’s a bummer that Team Canada will miss out on having Crosby in his prime and McDavid up and coming but that’s the way it goes. Billionaires don’t want their assets getting hurt, and if they’re not going to get a cut of the revenue then what’s the point of putting up with the risk? It’s sucks as a fan, but at least the tournament should be a lot closer than it has in years past.

Jan 21, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Matt Benning (83) skates against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Brendan asks – What are your expectations for Matt Benning for this coming season? He was a very pleasant surprise last year and I’m wondering how much better you think he can be.

Lowetide:

I think there’s a danger in assuming he will step up in a big way, but even if he plays at his rookie level that’s a helluva thing. Benning was a perfect fit addition to the team a year ago and probably gets increased playing time (including PP) this coming year. Helluva player, best FA signing by Peter Chiarelli and it’s not close.

Jonathan Willis:

In a word: Guarded. I really liked Benning’s rookie campaign – he played splendidly, at least up until that hit by Viktor Stalberg changed his season. Having said that, Benning is going to be asked to do more on a Sekera-less blue line and we’ve seen enough young players come through Edmonton the last few years to know that the development process is an inexact one. I think Benning could ultimately be a good second pair defenceman with special teams ability, but whether he’s that next season or not is much harder to judge.

Jason Gregor:

Hard to say. It likely depends how we value better. I asked Todd McLellan about him and he said he will take Sekera’s spot on the second unit PP, so I’d expect his offensive numbers to improve. He will play more and could face a bit stiffer competition so it is hard to say how he’ll play, but I really like how he thinks the game, moves the puck and has a sneaky physical side. I believe he’ll have a sold season.

Matt Henderson:

I am expecting him to be a third pairing defender with the ability to spot into the top four. I don’t consider it wise to expect him to be anything more until he shows it. The Oilers don’t have a good situation for him to get softer minutes or a competent partner on the second pair until Sekera gets back. I would like to see he and Nurse crush the third pair before we see him have to anchor the second.

Robin Brownlee:

Still a young player, so no hurry. He’ll get more power-play time and ice time in general while Sekera is out, so there’s a chance for him to produce some points. Not expecting a huge leap forward, but progress for sure.

Chris the Intern:

I expect him to have an even better year this season. He’ll have more chemistry with the team and should be feeling much more comfortable at the NHL level.

Baggedmilk:

I’m expecting Matt Benning to play like a guy that’s still trying to figure out the NHL and that’s not a knock. If he can play some sound defensive minutes, throw the odd hit, and chip in with a little bit of offence, then I’ll be thrilled. Where it gets tricky is when they start making him fight above his weight class and expecting perfection. That said, with Sekera out for an extended period of time they don’t really have any other option.

Apr 18, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) hits San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier (28) during the second period in game four of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

3) Frank in GP asks – Why is it that defenceman always take longer to develop than forwards? Do you have a line in the sand – 300 game mark as an example – that gives you enough time to make up your mind on a d-man?

Lowetide:

My personal opinion is that you should be able to see a defenseman’s potential in the first 80 games, but the complete product may not come into view until we reach three complete seasons. Darnell Nurse will be an interesting test of the theory, but that’s my view.

Jonathan Willis:

Because I’m a contrarian I’m going to take some issue with your premise. Generally speaking, I do think defencemen have a different development curve than forwards, but I also think teams can form provisional opinions with a high probability of being right more quickly than is commonly accepted. Selling early on a defenceman – as L.A. did with Colten Teubert and the Islanders did with Griffin Reinhart – can be a really good idea. A defenceman may have (okay, usually has) to add a lot of detail to his game, but good and bad transition defencemen generally show signs early on – and the league doesn’t have a lot of room for defenders who aren’t good in transition these days. So, no, I don’t have a given line in the sand. I look at it in terms of probability each year and accept that a probabilistic approach means you’re going to get some of the calls wrong.

Jason Gregor:

Harder to defend than attack, plus you have fewer people to cover up for you when you make an error in the defensive zone. It also requires many defenders to be more patient than they were in junior or NCAA. Three hundred games is a good bench mark, but there are always uncontrollable variables that can impact how a player reacts or develops.

Matt Henderson:

I’ve always felt that 300 is a little long and that we typically have a better idea well before then. It’s not like at 301 someone instantly becomes significantly better. That said, it’s a more complicated position with higher stakes and it’s constantly evolving with the strategies of the game. There’s a lot less freedom to ad-lib on your breakouts and defensive zone work.

Robin Brownlee:

Not always, but usually. No set games for me because lots of goes into that timeline — where the player is used, how protected the player is, quality of teammates etc. I can see almost right away if a player has traits that will give him a chance to succeed, but that doesn’t always translate to success.

Chris the Intern:

I feel like since defencemen are the last line of defence, the margin for error is so extremely low that it takes that much more experience and skill to be effective in the position. (Same goes with goaltenders, who take even longer to develop). Errors made by forwards go more unnoticed whereas errors made from defencemen often lead directly to goals against.

Baggedmilk:

I think d-men take longer because they have more responsibility, generally speaking, than forwards do. They have to make sure to defend some of the best players on the planet on a nightly basis and that’s a big task for a young guy. That said, I think after two or three full seasons you have a pretty good idea of what a guy can do. This summer, everyone is talking about Darnell Nurse and what he could become and I think we’ll have a better idea after the 2017-18 season is all said and done. Some people in the comments section are ready to give up on a guy like RNH, but when you think about it Darnell Nurse is less than two years younger.

May 7, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) is stopped by Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonathan Bernier (1) during the third period in game six of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Macyn asks – With Todd McLellan being known for moving players around the lineup, do you think we will see some time with Nugent-Hopkins on the wing? What do you think of that idea?

Lowetide:

It appears possible. Personally, I like Nuge in the middle. One reason I wouldn’t mind the idea: perhaps Nuge will get more of that offence back from his early Oilers career. The man has offensive talent. I think he’s cheated for defence too much in recent seasons.

Jonathan Willis:

I think it’s a good idea. Edmonton may need to shed Nugent-Hopkins’ contract next season, and before they do that it would be nice to get a long look at Draisaitl anchoring the second line, just to make sure it works as well as everyone hopes. Nugent-Hopkins seems like a guy who might fit well on either McDavid’s or Draisaitl’s wing. He’s a skilled player, a diligent defensive presence, and I think some time on the wing might help get those offensive juices flowing after a couple of tough years.

Jason Gregor:

I would be surprised to see him there regularly. McLellan likes him down the middle, and at the end of the season, he told RNH he wants him to be more creative and try to make more plays. I suspect he won’t ask him to alter his style and position. It is difficult to make one change in the NHL, nevermind doing that while learning a new position.

Matt Henderson:

I’m torn. On one hand, I want to see what happens when you tell RNH that he doesn’t have to be the responsible one. What can he do when he doesn’t have to come back so deep defensively? On the other hand, you would think that we would have seen it already even just for a game or a couple periods in a month. I think Nuge is a centre until Draisaitl proves he will be a full-time pivot at the very least.

Robin Brownlee:

At some point, possibly, but I’m sure McLellan starts the season that way. I like RNH as a centre.

Chris the Intern:

Absolutely. Nuge will start the year as a center but if things aren’t going well I can almost guarantee Nuge could play wing. I think so many people in the media are in Todd’s ear that if Nuge finds himself in a slump again, Todd will pull the trigger. I would love to see it happen.

Baggedmilk:

I would love to see Nuge playing with McDavid. If they could get a straight shooter with those two then there could be all kinds of mayhem to defend for the other team. Besides, the Oilers need to find out if Draisaitl can carry his own line so why not replace him on the RW with Nuge? More centres is a good thing, people.

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5) Trish asks – After seeing the video from Jordan Eberle’s wedding I would like to know what is your go to sing along song with your friends or go to karaoke jam?

Lowetide:

Crazy by Patsy Cline. I kill it, but not in the good way.

Jonathan Willis:

I’m not big on karaoke (you’re welcome, world). My son gets either Stan Roger’s “Northwest Passage” or Corb Lund’s “Horse Soldier” when he’s fussing, though.

Jason Gregor:

I can crush Bust A Move on Karaoke. Great sing along song with friends is Sweet Caroline or Jump Around by House of Pain.

Matt Henderson:

Truth be told, I’ve never done karaoke but I am always singing along to the music. As long as it fits in the rock genre there’s a good chance I’ll be singing along. Hell, as long as it’s not modern pop there’s a good chance I’ll be singing along.

Robin Brownlee:

Don’t have one. I’m a brutal singer and have come to grips with that. I wish more people would do likewise.

Chris the Intern:

A go-to sing along as of late for me has definitely been Closer by the Chainsmokers… for no other reason than the world needs more Chainsmokers. On the karaoke side of things, I’ve been known to dabble in some Eminem from time to time.

Baggedmilk:

What don’t I kill at karaoke? Dr. Hook – Cover of the Rolling Stone, Johnny Horton – Battle of New Orleans, Billy Joel – Only the Good Die Young, Eminem – Lose Yourself, Wallflowers – One Headlight… I could go on forever.

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  • Spydyr

    Here is my solution that will rectify the Olympic problem. The players invited to play retire from the NHL just before the Olympics games begin. After the games they change their mind and come out of retirement. It would send a strong message to the owners.

    • ricardo2000

      Let Trudeau use the War Measures Act and induct the players into the armed forces.
      I love the sound of Colonel Crosby and Captain McDavid.
      Then invite Bettman and the owners to an emergency meeting were they are arrested and sent to a nameless NWT lake for 9 months of winter and 3 months of mosquitos and black flies so bad they beg for snow. Leave them in pup tents and sleeping bags until the next NHL season starts. Don’t let them watch any TV.
      The NHL could survive with minor league call ups for a month.

    • ricardo2000

      Everyone brings up Tavares, but has anyone asked him if he wants to go, or if he regrets going to the Olympics?
      I’m willing to bet the answers are, ‘Hell Yes!!’, and, ‘Are you stupid? Of course not!’.

      • Jay (not J)

        Tavares isn’t the issue, Islanders fans are the people who got screwed on that one. How much did it soften the blow to them that Canada won (another) gold medal?

  • Bettman using injuries as his main excuse for NHL players not being in the Olympics is b.s. because he was okay with the World Cup of Hockey happening last year just before the season started. It’s about money, plain and simple.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Henderson…”The Oilers don’t have a good situation for him to get softer minutes or a competent partner on the second pair until Sekera gets back.” Thinly veiled jab at Russell; man, are you ever predictable. Thankfully nobody involved in the NHL pays any attention to you.