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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How patient will Chiarelli be with the defence?

Another week is in the books and now you need help killing company time until it’s time to go home. Luckily, the Mailbag is here to answer all of life’s important questions. Will the answers given in this week’s mailbag apply to your life? We shall see, but I’m feeling confident. If you have something you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and get paid to waste as much work time as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

Oct 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets during the third period at Rogers Place. Winnipeg Jets won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Zack asks – Are you at all concerned about the goaltending? Cam Talbot has had a rough start and Brossoit’s last few outings haven’t been stellar either.

Lowetide:

I’m fine with the goaltending. Cam Talbot is healthy and has a fine track record. Goalies can go off the rails a little from time to time, but he’s a veteran and should find the range. He needs to be fantastic for Edmonton to make the playoffs.

Jason Gregor:

Brossoit was good last year, with a .928sv%, (small sample size, but fact is he played well), and was fine off the bench this year. I would have liked him to make one big save, maybe the Staal breakaway, but he didn’t have much of a chance on the first three. Talbot has been back to his normal self the past two games. Goaltending isn’t a concern for me.

Robin Brownlee:

Not concerned. I don’t put more weight in a handful of games over what we saw all of last season.

Matt Henderson:

Nope. Goaltending was so bad that there was no reason to believe it could stay that bad. Talbot has been a fantastic goalie for years.

Cam Lewis:

Talbot has looked like himself the past couple games, and while Brossoit has bad against Carolina, he was strong in a limited showing last year. Seven games isn’t a big enough sample size to worry about goaltenders.

Chris the Intern:

Not at all. I was sort of worried when Cam went though is rough stretch, but you KNOW he was going to snap out of it and become the Cam we all know and love. I think the first few games this year where both Talbot and Brossoit were playing poorly showed us a little bit what things could have looked like last year if Talbot didn’t play so well. Good goaltending is so important to win games, and we need them to make some saves.

Baggedmilk:

Of all the worries I have about the Oilers Cam Talbot is not one of them. He’s been much more like himself over the past couple games and it’s really nice to see. I also think Brossoit will be fine but they need to get him in some games to make sure that’s the truth. They can’t hope LB is the backup that we’ve all dreamed about (is that a thing?) without testing him.

Jan 8, 2017; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan follows the action in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. The Senators defeated the Oilers 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

2) @NewWaveOil asks – When do you think we will see McLellan separate Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

Lowetide:

I think we’ll see it when the coach auditions a RW who can score goals on McDavid’s line. As of this writing, that’s Leon.

Jason Gregor:

They need some wingers to score. I don’t separate them, I put them back together when he returns.

Robin Brownlee:

We’ll see it at some point, but let’s get Draisaitl healthy and up to speed first.

Matt Henderson:

When either Yamamoto becomes a fulltime NHLer or Chiarelli fixes the mess he made at RW. Whichever comes first. It sure would be nice if Draisaitl could actually play 2C and be close to a point per game player.

Cam Lewis:

Considering how difficult of a time the team has had finding good wingers to play with McDavid, I’m not sure you can separate them. That’s a luxury you’d like to have, but even the top line hasn’t looked as dangerous as it did last year.

Chris the Intern:

I could see that happening occasionally throughout the year dependant on hot and cold streaks. The beautiful thing about that duo is how easily it can be adjusted and rearranged. When one of them is cold, put them together until they’re hot again and then separate, rinse and repeat.

Baggedmilk:

First step, get Leon back. After that, I think McLellan is still going to play Leon on the wing because the depth at RW is so shallow. Eventually he’ll move to centre, but I think a big chunk of his 2017-18 season will be spent on the wing again. Stick him with Nuge for a while and let those two make some magic.

May 3, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) and Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchie (37) battle for position during the second period in game four of the second round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) @T2Hess asks – How patient do you think Chiarelli will be with the defence? Do you foresee him adding another player before Sekera gets back from his injury?

Lowetide:

It depends on the games ahead. As I write this, Edmonton is in Chicago. As you read this, we’ll have a much better idea.

Jason Gregor:

He will be patient. He needs Klefbom and Larsson to find their game, and I suspect they will. Adding a third pairing d-man won’t help a lot unless Benning continues to struggle, so I see him being patient. Benning has only played four games. Too early to say he can’t rebound.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d bet he’s keeping tabs on who might be available and what the ask is, although that’s pretty standard for most GMs.

Matt Henderson:

Let’s be real. Do you think he’s willing to fix the problem he just anchored to the roster for the next four years? No. He is not. If he acts now, who is leaving? Who is coming back? If he “fixes” the defence it’s probably Nurse for a block of cheese.

Cam Lewis:

If he didn’t view it as a major issue over the summer, I doubt he’s going to scramble to fix it now. They’re being patient until Sekera returns, and based off of how things go after that, we could see an addition or change in the New Year closer to the deadline. Seven games isn’t changing his outlook.

Chris the Intern:

Good question, If we are still struggling badly — say, 15 games into the season — on the back-end, then I can definitely see Chia looking elsewhere. It’s all going to depend on who’s available though. We’re obviously missing him back there but I have a gut feeling we’re going to make it through alright.

Baggedmilk:

Gord damned, I miss Sekera. Right now the defence, actually the team as a whole, is leaking chances in the d-zone and that has to change. If it doesn’t, this hole the Oilers are in is going to get deeper and deeper. I know Chiarelli said he was going to be patient with the defence, but there’s only so long he can wait before that patience runs out.

4) Blake asks – According to the analytics, the Oilers are playing reasonably well but it hasn’t translated to wins in the standings. Is there anything that can be learned from this eyes vs numbers early season battle?

Lowetide:

I think the analytics are strong but also indicate trouble in net and on the penalty kill. The 5×5 numbers are rock solid though and that’s a good tell.

Jason Gregor:

No. Analytics can be useful, and the smart analytics guys will be first to tell you analytics don’t tell you everything. They can add good input, but anyone who says a team is good based on one statistic, or a player is bad based on one or two statistics, shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

Robin Brownlee:

Nothing we don’t — or shouldn’t — already know. The numbers that matter most at the bottom line are how many pucks in the other net and how many pucks in your net. I think the standings are still based on that.

Matt Henderson:

Yeah. The lesson is that PDO makes everyone go crazy. The lessons you learn from the numbers is a long game. What we’ve learned is that percentages for your shooters and your goalies can fluctuate like crazy over short terms and you have to take that into account. If you think the lesson after less than 10 games where the percentages are out of whack is that the numbers are meaningless then you missed that crucial lesson.

Cam Lewis:

We’ve seen dozens of teams with good shot numbers and bad percentages eventually balance out. But then we have the Hurricanes and Kings of recent memory to remind us that, in fact, isn’t always certain. The Oilers have been massively outshooting their opponents, which is good, but their special teams have really held them back.

Chris the Intern:

Yes, that it’s garbage! Analytics aren’t 100% garbage, you can still take some valuable aspects out of them, but this is another show of proof how solely looking at either the numbers or eye ball test will not do you any good.

Baggedmilk:

According to things like shot metrics, the Oilers are doing relatively well. They’re getting a tonne of shots (a lot them from the outside mind you) and that shows that they’re doing some nice things. The problem is that shot metrics don’t track things like “heads up asses/60” which is also sky high for the Oilers right now.

5) Hank asks – Do you think there is any truth to the “it’s good to get on the road” storylines that have been running all week in Edmonton?

Lowetide:

I’m not certain. It’s been an age old story, so maybe there’s something to it. Sometimes we disregard things that old people say, but as I get older it seems I’m the one saying them.

Jason Gregor:

If players think it is and they play well, then sure. A change of scenery can be good at times, but it surely isn’t a guarantee of success.

Robin Brownlee:

Standard fare.

Matt Henderson:

Yeah. I do. It’s a different environment, different routine, and different pressures. There’s no show to put on for the home crowd. I might place a lot of faith in proof, but I also believe that there’s a lot of psychological factors at play too.

Cam Lewis:

Yeah, sure, I mean, if players and coaches say it enough for it to become a cliche narrative, there’s likely some kind of merit to it.

Chris the Intern:

It’s so cliche and I hate it. However, I do agree that road trips are good for the team, especially in playoffs. Yes the travel is hard, and the away arenas are exhausting, however, you get some valuable team time together on the road, and aren’t distracted by things at home like family and other responsibilities.

Baggedmilk:

It might be good for them to get out on the road, spend some time together, and gel as a team but aside from that it’s a saying as old as time. If they’re struggling on the road they’ll come out with the “it’ll be good to get home” lines and the narrative will be reversed.

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  • ConAir NicCagevid

    Could our D personnel be improved? Probably, as could pretty much every team out there. I am hesitant to blame the ‘personnel’ for our shortcomings thus far, less than I am hesitant to blame said ‘personnel’ making some untimely errors. I feel over an 82 game season with the return of key healthy players that these errors will (hopefully) subside and our scoring will improve to make up for said errors.

    But just how patient will Chia be with our lack of scoring? I read that Montreal and us are top in shot volume, but last in goals produced. I reckon this may correct itself as a team getting 40+ shots* most nights HAS to start scoring more than 1-2 goals per game.

    *even though 10-15 of those shots are Russell slinging it toward the net at will to improve his Corsi so he doesnt appear on Henderson’s hitlist so often.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Talbot has already found his game which should be a surprise to noone. His numbers in his first four games were actually no worse than they were last year after four games where he let in, I believe, 4, 3, 6 and 2 goals. He has a history of a slow start including last year. There are no issues with Cam Talbot.

    Chia expressed just before the season that he acknowledges the risk on the defence without an externally acquired replacement to fill the Sekera hole and that he won’t be as patiant with respect to the defence as he would be with the forwards. Who knows what that means, in particular in light of the D playing fairly well the last couple of games.

    Darnell Nurse is taking that next step in his development, he is looking like a true 2nd pairing left D. The issue is we don’t have a second pairing right D to play with him right now. Kris Russell should not be that guy as he is a left shot D who is better on his natural side. Kris should be playing 3LD where he would be fantastic – its a risk but Benning should get a real shot at the 2RD spot with Nurse as they have a history of playing well together. Russell/Gryba should be a very good defending 3rd pairing.

    • Last season and during the playoffs, Benning, while having a good attack, still has a high “head up ass”/60 and won’t be ready for 2nd pair for at least a couple more seasons. He hasn’t even played a full season in the NHL and many folks think he’s the jelly on a 2nd pair sandwich. Sekera’s injury has really shown a gaping hole in defensive resource management when two players would have filled that role better than a “Russell on his wrong side” were traded away for bags of pucks.

  • dsanchez1973

    I’m just wondering what happened. Three years ago, the Oilers problem was that they had too many of what is supposedly the world’s easiest commodity to obtain (scoring wingers) and not enough centremen and defence. Where are all those easy to find scoring wingers now?

    • OriginalPouzar

      Yamamoto

      Benson

      Maksimov

      Safin

      They are coming via draft, they are just 1-3 years away.

      Safin and Maksimov are looking like fantastic picks from this past draft – they are just a few years away but they bleed talent and one-shot scoring ability – both with great releases and great shots (already, as teenagers).

      • OriginalPouzar

        The draft pick compensation that we had to pay for each of McLellan and Chiarelli (which would no longer be the case if we acquired these men today in the same manner) really hurt our prospect talent.

        Those were material picks that had to be given away from no real reason.

      • TruthHurts98

        Years away and if… that’s the issue. Oilers can’t score and that’s a big problem. Only one more goal than the Habs. Forget the defense right now, we need offense. The team looks slow compared to other teams this year except for Connor, Nurse and Yamamoto.

  • camdog

    I look at this teams forward depth and I think the defensive depth looks better. Everybody else is quicker this season in the west the Oilers are not. Oilers had trouble with eastern conference teams last season that could skate, this season middling teams like Vancouver can skate. Add it up and there is no way that the organization can send Yamamoto down to Whl this season, they need anybody that can skate in the line up.

  • Connor McFly

    There certainly seems like there is a lot wishful thinking all round. Sekera is sorely missed for sure but the Oil could be out of the playoffs by the time he fully recovers. That scares me alot.

  • ed from edmonton

    At the end of last season PC stated that young players would be given a chance to grow. We should have learned by now he does what he says he will do, i.e. bigger roles for Nurse and Benning. So I don’t see the Oil doing much with the D, and after the last 2 games why should they? Their initial high gaa was mostly a product of poor PK and poor goaltending.

    Where to Play LD? The Cult of Hockey has just published high quality scoring chance data for the fits 7 games. McD/Maroon/Y/LD have all been producing chances at the same pace as 16/17. However the “2nd Line” RNH/Strome/Licic is death valley, that is where the offensive problems are. TM might be forced to put LD at center to try to get something going here.

  • tileguy

    Speaking of analytics, what do they say about our Oilers? Is this a good team or a bad team, or is it too early to say? Is this just some type of anomaly like a one in one hundred year storm? Should I bet on the Oilers?When will they tell us, at the end of the season? What are they telling Chiarelli to do? Anybody, anybody.

    • dsanchez1973

      The analytics say we are good, but are being crushed by bad goaltending and low shooting percentage. It’s safe to say the goaltending should rebound, but we are giving up higher danger scoring chances with Sekera out. Given that we are relying on a 150 pound 19 year old to score, expecting our shooting percentage to increase may not be reliable either. Essentially, to paraphrase an old joke “The things we do result in a lower than normal PDO”.

  • Cauliflower McPugg

    Why not a starfish/60 stat?
    It will offer a cathartic release for the myopically obsessed and some levity to the echo chambers tiresome needs.
    It can go up on the #gritchart wall of infamy.

  • 1ncinawhile

    We will never know if our existing wingers even have chemistry with mcdavid, tmac doesn’t allow them long enough to find out… he CONSTANTLY has the blender out – my one major complaint with him….

  • ScottV

    I think there is a fluff factor in the numbers for poor percentage shots at net.

    McL seems to advocate toward shooting vs the benefits of investing in o zone possession. There needs to be a balance in there, but we are tilted in the wrong – shoot from anywhere and everywhere philosophy. Too many unnecessary turnovers, without any real benefit – other than a Corsi tick. 30 seconds of solid forward o zone possession, even if it happens to result in no Corsi tick, is better than 15 seconds of forward possession – a lame @ss shot / Corsi tick, with a turnover going the other way. It’s like percentage possession football. It wears on the opposition.

    We’re slightly improved in this area over past years, but – needs to be expanded upon. Cycling, puck protection – use of the points and then take it to the net. I think that this kind of structure is the key to more secondary scoring.

    • 1ncinawhile

      Totally agree… who knows – rnh “could” put up Drai #s on mcdavids wing… I’d love to see him give a couple solid games worth to see if they could get some chemistry going… but he won’t… we’ll be lucky to see 2 periods…

    • OriginalPouzar

      Ryan Nugent Hopkins is a center, a trusted center by his coach.

      If anything, McDavid would be on Nuge’s wing. McDavid is struggling in own-zone coverage matters – his defensive game is a developing work in progress.

  • Jordan88

    The defence is fine what a dumb question we aren’t scoring that needs to be rectified. We should be averaging 3+ goals. Russell is playing like a 5 million dollar player Gryba is solid Nurse is evolving Klefbom has had hiccups but he’s ironed it out.

  • Serious Gord

    1. All the goaltending duo has to do is have a combined drop in save% of 5% and the team likely miss the playoffs. Broissoit has looked poor so far and he will likely play ten more games this year than last. So yes one should be concerned – and should have been concerned before the season started.

    2. Put Drai as number 2c and put rnh on mcds wing.

    3.they are stuck. It’s an issue that can’t be addressed now – could have possibly been before the season start. It’s a depth issue and it isn’t going away even when sekera returns.

    4. Analytics can’t pick up the small differences of a couple missed saves and shots in a handful of games. The difference between where the oil finished last year and missing the playoffs as about 12 goals.

    5. Sometimes it works sometimes it becomes a death march. If they lose vs Pitt it will be the latter.

    • camdog

      The Oilers were plus 35 in goal differential last season, good for 6th in league. If they were to have scored 12 less goals they would have been tied for 9th in goal differential in the entire league. Top 10 teams in goal differential in the entire league equals a playoff team. Right now the Oilers are bottom 5 in goal differential.

      • Serious Gord

        Not necessarily true as the oil proved last year – in theory if they had scored 12 it so fewer goals – lost 8 more games in regulation they would have missed the playoffs and still been in the top 16 in Goal differential – thus pointing out the weakness in analytics.

        • camdog

          They would have been top 10 in goal differential, to be top 16 in goal differential, the Flames were at plus 5, that’s a 30 goal swing not 12 as you state. No team ever misses the playoffs with a plus 20 goal differential. When did goals for and against become “analytics”, that’s school scoring more than you give up.

  • EzraElliott

    Rumour mill is grinding on the idea of RNH for Patches trade (Friedman and Spectre have already weighed in)—any truth in that? I think it’s a win-win: we need a scoring finisher on right-wing, and Patches fits that bill perfectly, while the Habs need a real centre who can play both ways. Patches isn’t performing for the Habs right now, and management/coaching is disappointed, so his value is conveniently down right now. I would make this trade in a heartbeat, but I imagine the Habs will want another piece in addition to RNH.

    • Roberto

      I would also make that deal, although Nuge has been good and may be under appreciated somewhat for all he does. How many years until patches is a UFA? If things don’t turn around, I’d also consider a Duchene deal of some sort for McDavids wing… I ‘m still holding out hope that things will turn around once Drai and Cagguila are back, but hopefully that comes soon before the Oil dig themselves a bigger hole. Yamo is good, and will be excellent, but it’s not really fair to McDavid to be saddled with an 18 year old who weighs 145 pounds, and expect him to lead the team to 100 plus points….. but as of right now, hes’ the best option the Oilers have got it seems. I’m not trying to knock on Yamo, I think he’s been better than anyone expected and he’s gonna be a good player going forward…. but wingers on McDavid’s line need to score.

      • OriginalPouzar

        Its not a rumor – It was a proposal the Friedman thought up – he tweeted that he thinks the Oilers and Habs should make the trade – not that there was any actual talks between the teams on such a trade.

    • This is just Friedman click bait to get the Habs fan base looking for some sort of hope. Chiarelli would be crazy to trade a proven two-way centreman for a streaky winger, let alone a left winger–a position the Oilers have an abundance of (Maroon, Lucic, Jokinen, Caggiula, Khaira).

  • The Oilers PDO has moved up from 92 to 95%. We can expect that to hit 100 in the next 8 games, of which, they will win at least 5 of them, and at 15 games, they will be at 7 wins and 8 losses. If that doesn’t happen, the playoffs start looking more and more in the rearview mirror. Teams only have a 25% chance of making the playoffs if they are already out of it by Nov 1.

  • Mitchvar9412

    Can anyone else agree that Matt Henderson is a donkey for thinking Russell is our biggest issue on defence?? The guy has arguably been between the 2nd and 4th best defenceman night in and night out.