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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s with all the first shot goals?

Well, well, what have we here? It’s a shiny new mailbag for a shiny new week and I hope all of you had excellent days off with your time spent thinking about happier things than the Oilers. Since most of us are headed back to school or work I wanted to make sure that everyone had something to read and help you kill off a few minutes of your day. As always, if you have a question for next week, you can always hit me up through email or on Twitter. Until then, let’s all take a minute to learn a little something.

Feb 1, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a second period goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) David P. asks – The Oilers have had some success with their power play in the last week or so and I’d like to know what kind of differences you’ve noticed that could be contributing to their success?

Jason Gregor:

They had a good game against TB, but are 1 for 9 since. In that one game they moved the puck quicker, but overall the PP is still struggling. Had two PPs in a tie game in final 10 minutes of the third and the first unit did very little. They changed some players, but unless the players are extremely stubborn, I haven’t seen much ability to solve the problem from the coaches or players.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not seeing what you are. The Oilers went 1-for-9 on the California trip. In their last five games, they’re 3-for-16. I don’t see that as a sign of success.

Matt Henderson:

It looks like they’ve been willing to have McDavid move and switch positions. He’s been able to change his passing options because of it. Also, taking Lucic off PP1 has been a good change. Even swapping him out for Strome has meant a decrease in play ending turnovers.

Cam Lewis:

They had success against Tampa Bay but that’s about it. Otherwise, on the road trip, the power play was back to its old 30th-placed self. It’s very shocking it’s been as bad as it has all year given the talent on the team.

Christian Pagnani:

I think it’s just different personnel and a little bit of luck. I don’t think they were the worst power play in the league and now they’re getting some bounces.

Chris the Intern:

First of all, Connor McDavid turned it up to eleven. I’m not sure if they changed up any specific strategy to it but confidence has to be a huge benefit to the power play. McLellan said it after the Tampa Bay game, that after the first two powerplay goals in the first period, the boys got real fired up and had more confidence then they’ve ever had. I think that plays a huge part.

Baggedmilk:

Remember those two games with power play goals? Yeah, that was sweet. Against Tampa, the boys were moving the puck around like crazy but weren’t waiting for the perfect spot to shoot.

Dec 16, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) makes a save against the Minnesota Wild in the second period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

2) Yves asks – I don’t remember a team ever allowing goals on the first shot of the game as often as the Oilers do. What is your take on why this keeps happening?

Jason Gregor:

Lack of focus from the entire team, but mainly the goalies. It has happened in 18.5% of their games and that doesn’t include the other games where they have allowed a goal on the first three shots, which is now at five, if I calculated correctly. So that is 27% of their games they are down 1-0 within first three shots of the game. It is even worse to notice twice on this recent three-game road trip they allowed a goal on the first shot in the first and second periods in LA and SJ. Ouch.

Robin Brownlee:

Flat out not ready to play from the goaltender on out. Never saw anything like this before.

Matt Henderson:

It’s happened 10 times now, or just under 20% of the games Edmonton has played. It’s crazy. Like the Home PK%, it’s one of those things that feels unexplainably bad. I don’t know what’s going on because it isn’t just one goalie letting them in. It’s not a preparation thing, I don’t think. Gypsy curse?

Cam Lewis:

The team just comes out flat so often. Whether it’s a five-minute lull to open a game or a lazy shift to open a period. Everyone just looks like they spent 45 minutes drinking in a hot tub before the beginning of the first period.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t think there’s anything behind it. If your goalie only saves .900 of the shots he faces, some are going to be early in the game.

Chris the Intern:

I mean, an easy thing to say is that they’re just not ready. McLellan has taken the blame for this at times saying that it is a big part of the coaches job to get the players ready to go in the first few minutes. Now I’m not dissing McLellan or anything, but maybe different coaches have more effective ways to get their team more prepared before puck drop?

Baggedmilk:

No one is ready to play and that goes from the forwards, to defence, to the goalie. They all need to be better and it’s embarrassing that I have to say this about guys that get paid millions to play a game for a living.

Apr 20, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN;Edmonton Oilers forward Patrick Maroon (19) passes the puck in front of San Jose Sharks defensemen Brent Burns (88) during the first period in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Harold asks – What would be a realistic return in a trade for a guy like Patrick Maroon? Would you expect Chiarelli to get a warm body back or simply a draft pick?

Jason Gregor:

The Oilers should want a 20 or 21-year-old player who is close to playing rather than a draft pick, likely a second or third, who won’t help for at least three or four years.

Robin Brownlee:

The Oilers can’t afford to take more goals out of the line-up than they already have. I’m not taking a draft choice for Maroon — an unknown commodity for a known one — if I move him.

Matt Henderson:

Realistic return is different every year. There are a lot of contenders this season who could use Maroon and he’s cheap enough that virtually every team could afford him. I think they could get a decent prospect or a first under the right circumstances. They could also screw up and get very little.

Cam Lewis:

Ideally a younger player who’s close to filling in the same role right now. Somebody like Josh Leivo in Toronto would be a nice fit if the Leafs decided they wanted to sell high on James van Riemsdyk and replace him with Maroon.

Christian Pagnani:

A second-round draft pick or a solid forward prospect. I’d be skeptical of the quality of prospect Maroon would return. A second-rounder could be used in a future trade. The Oilers could also just use the pick. They’ve given up a lot in deals for Griffin Reinhart and Cam Talbot, and for hiring Peter Chiarelli.

Chris the Intern:

With Chia’s track record lately, I honestly don’t trust him to get us anything worthwhile back. I would hope a warm body in return instead of a draft pick, unless it’s a very high draft pick, but that’s unlikely. What we do with Maroon is one move I’m most anxious to find out about.

Baggedmilk:

With Chiarelli at the helm, who knows what you’re going to get? I’d guess nothing of value, again, because it’s Peter Chiarelli.

Oct 28, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Strome (18) looks to make a pass in front of Washington Capitals defensemen John Carlson (74) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Clay asks – I’ve noticed that Ryan Strome seems to be more effective as a centreman rather than on the wing. Where do you see him slotting in on the depth chart next year?

Jason Gregor:

Likely a third line centre, but if they sign him I presume it will be at a deal worth less than his qualifying offer. The Oilers need to qualify him at $3 million and I don’t see them doing that. Yes, he played a bit better as of late, but he has no goals in 18 games, and only seven on the season. I wouldn’t want to pay him $3 million next year. I see him signing a deal before the qualifying offer deadline, but at a lower cap hit.

Robin Brownlee:

There’s a way to go before we know how next year shapes up, but Strome looks at home as a third-line player. He has been OK at centre in the looks he’s had, but hasn’t produced much. We have absolutely no clue what this team is going to look like next season. That goes for the coach and GM, too.

Matt Henderson:

I only cover the Oilers.

Cam Lewis:

If you take away the terrible one-for-one asset management that went into acquiring him, he seems a lot less underwhelming. He’s a fine 3C in the NHL as we’ve moved away from two scoring lines and two shutdown lines.

Christian Pagnani:

I wouldn’t overreact to a few good games. He needs to be qualified at $3 million, which is a lot for a bottom six forward. He’s also been on the first power-play unit. I’d slot him in as a third-line right wing who can fill in as a centre if they can get him signed for less than $3M. I don’t think he’s better in that spot than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or the return on an RNH trade, especially if Chiarelli’s making that trade.

It’s possible they go with McDavid-RNH-Strome down at center and have Leon Draisaitl on the wing. McLellan seems to really like Draisaitl at RW with McDavid.

Chris the Intern:

I would like to see Strome as a third line centre with either Nuge or Draisaitl centring the other line. That is if Nuge survives the summer. *crosses fingers* If Strome succeeds in that position, how great of a position would we be in having Draisaitl, McDavid, Strome AND Nuge as centre options?

Baggedmilk:

Strome should be the fourth line centre but his qualifying offer will be $3 million. You can’t pay that much for your 4C so I’m guessing they’ll assume he can handle the 3C duties.

5) Hardy asks – What were your thoughts when you saw the New York Rangers telling their fans via social media that they would be doing a rebuild? Personally, I thought it was very refreshing to see some transparency from an organization rather than the “I think I know a thing or two about winning,” that we got from the Oilers brass. What did you think about the approach?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t have an issue with it. The Rangers have been quite successful the past 10 years. Playoffs, conference Finals and one Cup Finals appearance. Their fans likely have patience and understand you need to re-tool at some point. As for transparency, I wouldn’t go that far. Saying you will get younger is easy to say when your team is older, but will they make the correct moves? When Peter Chiarelli was hired he told fans his plans and areas to improve the team, so he was transparent, but the moves haven’t worked out like many hoped. I’d rather have an organization make the right moves and not send out a release. The press release is just white noise for me. It makes Rangers fans feel like they know what is going on, but it doesn’t mean it will turn out well. We shall see.

Robin Brownlee:

PR move. Smart. Makes fans feel like part of the process. Probably unfair to compare a well thought-out campaign delivered by the Rangers to Kevin Lowe losing his temper under questioning at a newser, no?

Matt Henderson:

The Oilers were up front about adopting a rebuild too. They just have no idea how to stop rebuilding. It’s nice that the Rangers were up front with the fans, but it’s easy to do that now. It’s harder in two years when you don’t have the horses to compete and you’re still looking to fill holes through the draft but the fans are calling for your head on a platter.

Cam Lewis:

I’m sure it’s nice for their fans to feel like the organization appreciates them enough to do something like that.

Christian Pagnani:

I loved it. I’m a little surprised they think they need to rebuild, but I like them being upfront to their fans. The Oilers get in trouble when they talk down to their fans, whether it’s their plans or qualifications. No one should give them the benefit of the doubt with their track record.

Chris the Intern:

I loved it! I had a couple people tell me that the Oilers did the same thing in 2011, but I couldn’t really find anything on it. Twitter’s a great communication tool so why not have team management on it every now and then discussing things? It definitely beats being angry at a manager all year round because they never address the fans.

Baggedmilk:

Why didn’t they insult their fanbase and say they know a thing or two about winning? I’m sure ol’ six rings was confused why the organization didn’t belittle the fans while letting them know their plans for the future.

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    • GriffCity

      Good question, Chiarelli has really done a very poor job with this club and it’s assets. May have to go younger, much like Toronto, guys like Yamo, Benson, Maksimov. Another reason why Trading cheap contracts like Slepyshev and Pakirinan is not a prudent move at this point. Lucic, Russel, and recently Sekera all have contracts that are killing this team right now.

      • 24% body fat

        i think he has given up. This team was way to dependant on Klefbom, McDavid, Draisaitl and Talbot last year. A rough start for 3 of these guys and it is over. When they see Lucic making 6 million to do nothing, Rusell 4M to lay on the ice, and Caggulia getting undeserved icetime all while continueing to lose, you give up. Even for Connor there is only so much you can do.

        97 needs to go to Nicholson and say Chia out or Im out.

        • Spydyr

          Same goalie who lead the league in starts last year?
          Same goalie that has two babies at home?
          Same goalie who is at the bottom of most NHL stats that matter for goalies?

          If you cannot see he is not the same goalie as last season,that is on you.

  • 24% body fat

    also, does being associated with sportsnet make you dumber. CBC knowledge is getting lower by the year. Draisatil not playing well. He is an Elite 5 on 5 producer. There are only a handful of players around him in this category. Hall, McDavid, Barzal, etc.

    The worst thing about what Chia has done, is that more than half the amateur bloggers, posters, commenters, where correct when critisizing his moves. None of it is hindsight! We all stated how bad it was and are on the record for what we would have done.

    The only ones that praised him were old school newspaper guys, whos medium is dead and dont know how to adapt. Oh and the 3 clowns that work for the oilers on the radio, and dont have their own opinion.

    • MrBung

      Don’t forget the company man Stauffer. It is nauseating listening him defend Chia. Focusing on the couple of decent deals he did – although those have lost the lustre with Talbot and Maroon. And ignoring the long list of bad moves, contracts and lack of proper talent identification/acquisition.

      Can’t wait to hear go on about how the Oilers are built to play the Pacific…hey wait…didn’t the Oil just get cleaned playing three straight against the Pacific…oh…now he will do his passive aggressive thing where he says it is not due to injuries but there are injuries and it is a factor. Puke.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      1st you need a Big/Heavy chair, then U get off ur Knee’s and stand up, finally grab the light bulb and Relli give it a turn to the left until it’s Lucic before discarding it as far away as possible.

    • MrBung

      Watch their team/organization hold another ceremony celebrating the glory years to distract from the disaster that is the last 12 years … change the bulb, then laugh…eventually breaking into tears.

  • btrain

    I like Strome just fine, but as he was in New York the last 2 seasons before this one, he has been almost exactly the same as an Oiler. He is a 3rd line utility player, who can chip in a little secondary offense and fill in almost anywhere in the lineup when needed. There is nothing wrong with this. However, a couple of good games, does not mean he is about to break out offensively or that he is suddenly the next reliable center on the team. I would prefer if they keep going to Khara at center, as he is still developing and with his decent offensive instincts, speed, size, and strength, he is literally the ideal 3rd line center. Anyway, I have no problem with Strome but I don’t think anything he has done this year, including the occasional uptick offensively, would suggest he is anything different than he has already established himself to be over his NHL career.

    • MrBung

      Strome. WYSIWYG. He is no different than what he was on the Island. Problem is that in typical Oilers/Chia fashion. Trade him straight up for an offensive player and then put them in a position that he can’t live up to.

      Chia is a bad GM.