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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Can Puljujarvi learn from Draisaitl’s rookie season?

My friends, it’s Monday and that means your ol’ pal Baggedmilk is here to give you a chance at some free wisdom from your friendly Oilersnation staff. As I do, I’ve taken five of your questions and sent them out to our writers to get the all of the worldly wisdoms that you’ve always been looking for. As always, I need questions for next week. If you have something you’d like to ask you can email me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk.com

Jun 26, 2015; Sunrise, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli makes the Oilers pick of Connor McDavid (not pictured) in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

1) Vetinari asks – Chiarelli joined the Oilers April 24th, 2015 and has now had three drafts, three offseasons, one expansion draft and two trade deadlines to shape this team — how would you grade his performance so far in terms of his trades, his signings, his contract negotiations, his player recruitment and his off-ice moves (coaching and scouting)? Where did he shine? Where could he improve?

Lowetide:

A mammoth question I can’t possibly answer in a couple of lines. I will put it this way: Peter Chiarelli has reset the roster in his own image by giving up substantial talents for position-specific solutions, while making up for the talent loss on smaller trades. I think he gave up a lot but has the team in a position to win. If he wins, most won’t care how he got there. I include myself in that group.

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Jason Gregor:

He has made way more good moves than bad. It seems many focus on the one obvious error, Reinhart deal, and keep discussing it like it has had disastrous impacts on the team. It hasn’t. He got a legit goalie for draft picks. A 27-goal scorer for a late pick and a prospect who would never play. He added Zack Kassian for a goalie who played 15 games in the NHL after the deal and is now out of the league. He signed Sekera, Russell and Benning. Traded for Gryba. He signed Lucic, and while the final few years are risky, we won’t know for sure until we reach them. Trading Hall was a difficult decision, but he added a player the Oilers desperately needed in Larsson. It is too soon to evaluate the Eberle trade, but that deal was as also about salary. The Oilers won a playoff round last season and went to game 7 in the second round. They are trending upwards and are positioned to be a contender for the next nine years. After 10 years filled with way more bad decisions than good, I see no reason not to give him an A. The potential concerns about the team have yet to be proven, so today it is an A.

Matt Henderson:

I’m going to start off by saying I’m a naturally tough marker. So I’ll give Chiarelli a B- overall. That’s going to sound wrong because the team has improved in performance significantly since his arrival but here we go.
Trades: A couple hands down winners (Maroon/Talbot) are offset by failures like Reinhart and Eberle. Mixed bag trades like Hall for Larsson we saw off despite where I personally rank it.
Signings/Negotiations: Lucic and Russell are both on deals that are too long. Lucic is arguably overpaid because of the length of his deal but in the short term the market is probably 6M. Russell and Draisaitl are both overpaid. I love Draisaitl. I really don’t love Russell. Still, at least 1.5M overpaid on each.
Coaching: I like McLellan. Every fan/pundit/journalist would do certain things differently than any coach sometimes. Even when I question certain choices, I believe he’s a very good coach. So B- because his trades and negotiations have not been incredible. Too tentative making the Oilers better at the last deadline and over the summer.

Robin Brownlee:

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I’m not going to break it down into categories. What I see is a bigger, tougher team that is more difficult to play against and that size and toughness is functional — guys who can play higher up in the line-up like Lucic and Maroon. That was a shortcoming here for many years, so I might list that as his best work so far. Grading trades and UFA signings is easy with the benefit of hindsight and we won’t know how some moves will work out for a season or two yet. Every GM has hits and misses and there’s been some of both with Chiarelli. It’s the next couple of years — building on what he’s put together so far rather than cleaning up somebody else’s mess — that matter most for me.

Cam Lewis: He’s come in and made difficult deals. Some, like Hall for Larsson and Eberle for Strome, aren’t ideal, perfect one-for-one swaps but a lot of that comes down to the situation he inherited. Especially with the Hall deal, it was known Edmonton was desperate for a pretty specific player, a righty who’s rugged and reliable to play with Klefbom on the top pair, and nobody was going to hand it to him for free. Being gifted McDavid is a major game-changer for anyone, but Chiarelli has done a fine job building a big, difficult to play against team around him that can thrive in the playoffs. I worry though about his tendency to hand out big, long-term deals to older players, Russell and Lucic, which was his undoing in Boston. I say it’s best to wait until he’s five years in to assess.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, what’s not to love about Chia’s time here in Edmonton so far? He made a crucial move in 2015 by drafting Connor McDavid and it changed all of our lives forever. If he wouldn’t have pulled that off, I’m sure we’d still be the dumpster team of the league.

Baggedmilk:

I think Chiarelli has done a much better job of making bets than his predecessors and it’s paid off. That said, he also had Connor McDavid fall in his lap and that’s a hugely important piece of information in this story. There are obviously moves that Swag Daddy has made that I don’t agree with, but I’m also willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and see where things end up. When Chiarelli hits a homerun I’m going to shout his name from the heavens. I’ll do the same when he misses. Point is, if the Taylor Hall trade has taught us anything it’s that you have to see how things play out beyond the initial rage or acceptance.

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2) @Ommmzzz asks – Which first-year pro will make the biggest impact in Bakersfield this year? Who needs to step up?

Lowetide:

Tough question. I’ll say Joe Gambardella, who has a wide open depth chart at centre. He could play in all three disciplines and is likely to be given two offensive wingers. I think Greg Chase and Kyle Platzer need to step up, this is the final season of their entry deals.

Jason Gregor:

I’m not sure any have a dominant/breakout year, but I really like Caleb Jones and I believe he’ll have a solid rookie season.

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Matt Henderson:

Tough call. You would have to think the older first year pros like Gambardella might have that spot. It’s tough when defenders make the jump. Still, I’m going with Ethan Bear. I like the kid a lot from what I’ve seen. I hope he keeps improving his speed and agility. I’d say that Dillon Simpson needs to step up. Really haven’t seen much from him that screams NHLer.

Robin Brownlee:

I want to see what Ethan Bear can do against men. He’s been terrific in the WHL. Now, the step up in class.

Cam Lewis:

I would go with JoeGambardella. He had a very good year in the NCAA and is probably just an injury or two away from seeing ice time on the NHL team. A hot start down in the AHL and a bad start for someone like Slepyshev, Pakarinen, or Puljujarvi could get him called up too.

Chris the Intern:

Chad Butcher! I don’t know too much about him but he sounds like a guy that can become successful.

Baggedmilk:

I’m excited to see what a guy like Caleb Jones can do. He’s only had a cup of coffee in Bakersfield so far and I’ll be interested to see what he can do in his first full year. I know people are all about Bear, and I hope that both of these guys succeed at the NHL level, but the more I read about Caleb Jones the more I like him.

Dec 8, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds (17) stands in between Edmonton Oilers right wing Jesse Puljujarvi (98) and goalie Jonas Gustavsson (50) during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. The Flyers defeated the Oilers, 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

3) Andrew asks – Puljujärvi struggled last season and looks poised to have a better one. Draisaitl also experienced similar struggles early on in his career and was able to overcome this adversity. What do you think Leon could pass on to Jesse to help him find success?

Lowetide:

I think Leon’s work ethic and determination to improve can serve as an inspiration to any young player.

Jason Gregor

Work ethic. Draisaitl put in the work in the summer. If Puljujarvi did (I heard he worked on getting more explosive), then he should be a more effective NHLer.

Matt Henderson:

Probably just the knowledge that you can recover from a bad rookie campaign and go on to be an impact player. I think Jussi Jokinen will be playing the role of mentor more than Drai though.

Robin Brownlee:

Draisaitl just needs to be himself. Actions speak louder than words. Puljujarvi is a year older and has had some time to adjust to the language and cultural differences that often are a factor for European players. Jesse needs to be a sponge, taking everything around him in. Not just from Leon but from everybody.

Cam Lewis: They’re two completely different players and people, so it isn’t quite so simple. Puljujarvi played his pre-draft years in Europe and didn’t speak english, whereas Draisaitl had spent two years riding the bus in Price Albert. I think Leon is a great player for a rookie or sophomore to follow because he’s improved so much and plays such a good, well-rounded game at a young age, but there are more factors pushing against Pulju which likely means it’ll take him longer to develop.

Chris the Intern:

I think the longer Puljujarvi spends playing hockey in North America the more he will become more comfortable to play his own game. I’m not sure if all it will take is Draisaitl giving him some advice, but just more time for him to settle in. Just like Draisaitl did.

Baggedmilk:

At the very least, I hope Leon goes to Jesse and lets him know that he can succeed at this level. The storyline writes itself. Draisaitl was a high pick that struggled in his first year only to come out like a house on fire in years two and three. Puljujarvi has the size, speed, and skill to make that same jump, but he has to make it happen. Comparing the stories can only go so far. Let’s hope the big Finn brings the heat.

Apr 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Anton Slepyshev (42) celebrates after scoring a goal in the second period against he Anaheim Ducks in game three of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) @Eric_Thompson1 asks – With Slepyshev potentially out for opening night, who is your dark horse to make the roster out of camp?

Lowetide:

Kailer Yamamoto, I’ve been saying it for some time. I’m not certain it’s the best idea, but Yamamoto’s skill is likely to be on display. Edmonton needs skilled RW’s.

Jason Gregor:

It won’t be Yamamoto. He isn’t strong enough yet, but he is very dynamic. I will go with Ryan Stanton on the blueline. He battles Auvitu for the #7 job.

Matt Henderson:

Dark Horse is Yamamoto. A Slepy injury opens the door a touch for KY to get his nine games in. It’s still going to be a stretch and completely dependent on him playing out of his mind in camp, but he’s got a shot.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see a darkhorse. I see everybody on the right side moving up a spot on the depth chart until Slepyshev returns and there aren’t any names on that RW who would be coming out of nowhere.

Cam Lewis:

I think it would be pretty weird to throw a small guy like Yamamoto into the deep end when you could have somebody like Ty Rattie with actual NHL experience fill the void for that couple of weeks. If Slepyshev isn’t good to go, I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Kelly gets a contract.

Chris the Intern:

Pool Party! I guess he’s not really a dark horse, but I definitely don’t think he’s a lock to make the roster. I’m feeling good about him though and believe he can do it!

Baggedmilk:

With Slepyshev potentially out for the night, I’m thinking that Draisaitl plays on Connor’s wing and it’s a centreman that gets a taste. Chris Kelly on the fourth line with Letestu moonlighting at 3C.

Apr 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) celebrates Draisaitl’s third period goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. The goal marked McDavid’s 100th point of the season. The Oilers won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

5) Hank asks – As we know the start of the season is hugely important. What would be an acceptable record in your minds for the first 10 games of the year?

Lowetide:

I think 6-3-1 is fine, Edmonton fans don’t need to worry and fret as they did three years ago. Connor McDavid changed everything.

Jason Gregor:

It is funny how we look at a good start. The Oilers were 7-1 in their first eight games last season, a great early start, but they were only 9-8-1 on November 17th. At that point many were questioning the team. They went 38-18-8 in their final 64 games, and some Oilers fans still weren’t impressed, which shows there will always be naysayers. If the Oilers have six wins in their first ten, they will be fine, but I suspect we see seven again.

Matt Henderson:

Acceptable? 6-3-1 would be a fantastic start to the year given the fact that they are down Sekera. I think a lot of people are underestimating how important he is. If the Oilers are simply above .500 after 10 games I would call that acceptable.

Robin Brownlee:

Acceptable is setting the bar too low. Five or six wins is probably acceptable but why not seven or eight in the first 10 games?

Cam Lewis:

The goal with Sekera out of the lineup is to stay above water. The divison isn’t so good that the Oilers need to go, like, 8-1-1 to start the season. Rolling out 5-5 with a not-full blueline wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, I think we might come out of the gate struggling without Sekera. I would be satisfied if we came out 6-4.

Baggedmilk:

They have to come out at .500 or better. Making up ground is not an easy thing to do and the Oilers need to make sure they AT LEAST can find a way to win as many (or more obviously) than they lose. Ideally, they’ll be able to cash in off of some early season rust and bad teams (CANUCKS!) but I think .500 after 10 games would be acceptable.

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  • OriginalPouzar

    Darkhorse for a roster spot – Ty Rattie. If they feel they need some additional offence and he has a solid camp.

    The Oilers have a fairly manageable schedule to the start of the season – I feel like they should bank a good 14 points in the first 10 games. If they get off to a poor start, I fear they will be battling for a wild card spot – there isn’t alot of room for error in the NHL these days – 6 points over 82 games is numerous places in the standings.

  • Mitch92

    1. Peter Chairelli did not luck into Connor McDavid. Connor McDavid lucked into Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli was brought in AFTER it was known that the Oilers would draft first. Then they went out and hired a GM who would build a team that fit Connor McDavid’s vision. That is exactly what Peter Chiarelli did. He was hired because the brass knew he would not be afraid to make some difficult changes(trading Hall and Ebs) to bring about a cultural shift after ten years of futility. Yes some of his moves are questionable but they all served a purpose of moving this Oiler team towards a championship. Chiarelli gets an A- from me. There is still some unfinished business but a GMs job is never done.
    2. Shiny new toy.
    3. Not knowing how these players get along behind the scenes makes this a difficult question to answer. I would hope that Drai would be supportive of Jesse and help him develop strong off ice habits that will help him develop the consistency that is required over an 82 game season.
    4. I don’t think any existing prospects are going to make the jump this camp other than Puljujarvi who will benefit from Slepyshev’s injury. If required I think Chiarelli will sign another vet or two to provide some depth.
    5. 11 points in the first ten games is a reasonable expectation. Hopefully they jump to a strong start against four Canadian teams before they face some of the leagues best in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Washington. When do we play Vegas?

    • Rebuild3.0

      im a chia fan but saying he didnt luck into connor mcdavid is silly. he was employed by the bruins only weeks before the lottery and got hired because the oilers won that raffle. mact probably would have been given another year had it not been for winning mcdavid.

  • Jaxon

    Dark Horse for a roster spot: Cody Franson, Alex Chiasson, Jimmy Hayes. I know they all signed PTOs with other teams, but last season 5 of the 12 contracts signed from PTOs were actually signed with teams other than the team they actually tried out for. Franson represents a player that may prove to be a value signing that could turn into a long term solution. He is young enough, he is huge (he hits 18th most for D in 2014-2015). He has the potential to really produce from the 2RHD position (he scored at a 53 pt pace in 2014-2015). If they can get him back to for from a few years ago he will be a steal. Alex Chiasson and Jimmy Hayes are both huge wingers who played in Boston, so Chiarelli should be familiar with them. Hayes scored at a 22 goal pace in 2014-2015 and is only 27. Chiasson had a decent season last year and could become a valuable piece (26 years old). I think these 3 could become the Maroon/Benning type signings of this fall. Low risk, cheap contracts that could pan out in huge ways and they fit the Chiarelli type player.

  • Spydyr

    The best part about this camp is the team is pretty well set. Chia has done a good job getting most of the pieces in placed for a balanced line-up. It is not there yet but we can see it from here.

  • Spydyr

    The old Oiler regime headed by Lowe would have had Yamamoto penciled in to start this year. It is a good thing the team has evolved so much from that. It is not hard too see Yamamoto would benefit much more as a player being sent back for one more year of Junior. He can compete for the WHL scoring title and play in the World Juniors. I’m cheering for the kid but he is just not ready physically to play against the men in the NHL.

    • Rock11

      And I believe half of the posers, I mean posters, on this site will take every opportunity to slam Henderson no matter what he writes. I thought his answer to that question was by far the most thoughtful of the group. I’m not sure how Gregor can even write with those pom poms on. Brownlee likes old time tough hockey(shocking I know). Chris, well lets not even get started on Chris. Henderson broke down the transactions, saw some good and some not so good and gave a pretty high grade as his opinion. Isn’t that what we want from a contributor here.

    • People ask me questions. I write answers. If I wasn’t giving an honest assessment you would see right through me and rip me for giving you bubblegum. The team’s performance, the players’ performance, the coach’s performance, and the GM’s performance are connected but they are not the same thing. It’s my opinion that too many people make the mistake of treating them as the same.

          • oilfan4ever

            It is that complicated and to call it not so displays your arrogance being equal to Henderson. Let”s see in three months when the Oil are probably a better team with Strome than the floater.

          • Rock11

            So oilfan thinks I’m arrogant for having an opinion but doesn’t see the irony in deeming his opinion more valuable than mine. Interesting reasoning. Look I hope you are right oilfan but it seems to me people are expecting a mini Lucic type game from Strome when to this point in his career he has been a stylistically very similar to Eberle just without the production. Who knows what happens in 3 years but right now, today, the Oilers aren’t as good a team due to that trade.

    • OriginalPouzar

      I’m not sure how you know this until you see how he performs at camp and in the exhibition games.

      It very well may be true but its an unknown at this point.

  • JimmyV1965

    Chia is an interesting cat. He clearly has a vision of what a winning team looks like and he has completely remade this roster. It’s bigger, stronger and he knows how to evaluate NHL talent . He deserves credit for that. On the other hand, I think his negotiating skills leave a lot to be desired. He tends to overpay players in term and money. And he appears to get killed in trading the big pieces. The Ebs deal is a good example. He had Snow over a barrel. The islanders were desperate for scoring and Snow didn’t have a lot of guys offering up 25 goal scorers. He should have been able to extract more than Strome for Ebs. It would be nice if he got even a 2nd rounder thrown in. I don’t think these deals have hurt the team, but in the long term it might. On the other hand, I just read somewhere the Treleving has dealt away 9 draft picks in the last three years, many of them high picks. That will definitely bite you in the butt long term.

    • PimpTaco

      Well the last time I looked Eberle was a 20 goal scorer last season and any GM worth their weight most likely watched the playoffs. 3 of Eberle’s goals cam against the Canucks in the final game of the season. Eberle for the first time in his NHL career made it to the playoffs and laid an absolute egg.

      I would like to think Chiarelli out-foxed Snow and dumped some salary for a player who has a lot of potential and was lighting it up ever since Weight took over for Capuano in NY. People need to let Eberle go, he’s no longer “Clutch”, the World Juniors he was so clutch in was a very long time ago. The only reason Snow made the deal is JT is up for a contract and Snow had to make the effort to bring in someone with pedigree to play with him (or potential pedigree).

  • madjam

    An area of major concern seems to be defence , especially with Sekara on the mend . I like what I am seeing in that regard in the rookie tournament . Mantha and Paigin seem to have taken major steps forward and are now in the conversation with Jones and Bear . On defence I am leaning now toward dark horse Mantha , but to early to tell for certainty just yet .
    Chia and Todd were able to transform a soft underachieving squad into a truculent achieving squad in a manner we did not expect . For that they deserve cudos and an A rating .
    Like to see Oilers go 10-0 to start the season , but feel a 7-3 start would keep them in good stead to win Pacific Division title .
    Hopefully we can get a good read on Jesse in pre season .

  • Oil4Brains

    I think Chia has done a really good job of bringing in the players for a championship team but most of the signing are $1M more than he should paying which come back to bite him if the cap doesn’t go up a ton in the next few yrs.

    For me less than 10pts would a disaster of a start, 14pts good & +14pts excellent. CGY, VAN, WPG, CAR, CHI & PHI all beatable teams; OTT & DAL tough wins; PIT & WSH the most difficult. I see CHI taking a huge step back this yr

    • Oil4Brains

      I don’t have a dark horse to make the team because the roster is set besides Kelly. I’m more interested to see who plays on Conner’s wing if Dia plays center. Maybe Nuge gets an opp, Todd did challenge him to be more offensive.

  • oilfan4ever

    Memo to Rock11, Having an opinion isn’t arrogant, it’s how you express your opinion. I kind of agree with a previous poster regarding you being Henderson’s nom de plume.