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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Biggest surprises of the season

My friends, another Monday is upon us and you’re stuck at work, looking for things to kill time until it’s time to go. I know, I get it. Luckily, I’m here to help. I mean, there are things to be happy about even though it’s Monday. The Oilers have won their last three games, Connor McDavid is hot fire, McNuge is a thing, and we’re a day closer to the 10th Anniversary Party. Add in this here Mailbag and you have the makings of a fine Monday morning if you ask me. As always, I need questions. Send them to me. Do it now. Thank you.

Jan 12, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) celebrates after a goal by defenseman Darnell Nurse (not pictured) as Arizona Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta (32) looks on during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

1) Ray asks – Be it positive or negative, what is your biggest surprise from this season?

Jason Gregor:

Oilers special teams being combined worst in the NHL. It ruined their season. Regardless of what the PK and PP does the rest of the season, it was terrible when it mattered.

Robin Brownlee:

How the team has under-achieved despite getting another stellar season from Connor McDavid. I never anticipated special teams being so inept as they have been the vast majority of the season.

Matt Henderson:

I guess the biggest surprise, overall, was that the team never “went for it” after going two rounds deep in the playoffs a year ago, having cap space, and with McDavid on the final year of his ELC. It just never made sense to downgrade up front and settle for what wasn’t good enough at D.

Christian Pagnani:

The Oilers’ place in the standings. I think most thought they’d still be in the playoffs even with a step back.

Chris the Intern:

Obviously, my biggest surprise is how bad the season turned out for us. Other than that I’m going to go with Cam Talbot’s play. I was really counting on him having a solid year and continuing his hot play this season but we just never got that from him. I still love him and absolutely don’t blame the season on him because we have a million other problems in front of him, but it was definitely surprising. I’m convinced he will have a great bounce-back year next season.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to try to be positive in this Mailbag so I’m going to go with JJ Khaira as being my biggest surprise. The dude came out of nowhere to put up 11 goals, became a destroyer of men, and seems to get better as the season goes on. Khaira has been a great story all season long.

Nov 26, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

2) Barry asks – Do you think Talbot’s tough season has impacted the Oilers’ long-term plans in net? Do you think it affected his future with the Oilers?

Jason Gregor:

He had an off-year, no question, but if he rebounds next season I’m sure they would look at re-signing him. They don’t have a young goalie banging down the door to take the starter role. I do think this season likely cost him some term and dollars when he becomes a free agent. He will be 32 when his new contract begins and he will need a solid season next year to get a raise.

Robin Brownlee:

Of course it has. Goal is a position you have to absolutely be able to count on and Cam has been far too inconsistent. That doesn’t mean he can’t be the guy, but he has to establish that’s the case all over again.

Matt Henderson:

I hope it has lowered the cost of his next contract. I think he’ll bounce back and be fine. I’m willing to bet a completely natural (but insanely disruptive) change to his home life is to blame for his performance early in this season.

Christian Pagnani:

I’d always be wary of extending a goaltender into their mid-thirties. I don’t think it’s a slam dunk anymore, but I could see him returning on a shorter-term deal. I’d still look for a younger option that could start 20-30 games next season and possibly supplant Talbot the year after.

Chris the Intern:

I honestly don’t think so. I just want to chalk this season down as a write off in all aspects. Cam Talbot will bounce back next season and all will be good again. I don’t have any blame towards him this season and am not worried at all about his future with us.

Baggedmilk:

Nah, he’ll be fine. This year reminded me of an extended version of his first 10-15 games after he got here. There were high expectations and it took him a while to regain his composure and learn to manage them. This year, the stakes were even higher and the wheels fell off for almost everybody aside from the centre trio up front and a couple of the boys on the back end.

3) Cliff asks – Last week, there was that video that came out showing a group of guys chirping the McDavid family and some eastern outlets turned it into a shot against our city. Do incidents like this make the Oilers less desirable for players? 

Jason Gregor:

Those clowns said nothing. McDavid wasn’t fazed at all by it. Everything gets blown out of proportion nowadays. Those losers wanted some attention and they got it. That will have no bearing on a player signing here. The fact the organization has missed the playoffs in 11 of 12 years is much more of a hurdle to overcome than some lame ass attempt at chirping.

Robin Brownlee:

They’re losers. McDavid laughed it off and we should be done with it as well. You get clowns like those buffoons in every city. It does not reflect the fan base here and players are smart enough to know that.

Matt Henderson:

I think people here are afraid of everything that could keep good players from coming here the same way dogs are afraid of fireworks. The reality is that the biting cold and the inept management will harm Edmonton’s reputation much more. People are stupid and that’s true in every city. Philadelphia booed Santa Claus, and they still sign players.

Christian Pagnani:

I doubt it. There are idiots everywhere.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, I feel like this happens in all cities with all sorts of players. That’s my hunch anyways. This was the unfortunate time where these clowns video taped it. If this was true, the fact that we have Connor McDavid, in general, would trump any reason NOT to come to Edmonton.

Baggedmilk:

I wrote about it. They were just dickheads being dickheads and the McDavids handled it like the champions they are. The next day, Connor laughed about it and I love that response from him. Dude has $100 million reasons not to give two shits about what those guys think.

Sep 18, 2017; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers left wing Drake Caggiula (91) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Michael asks – It seems like the Oilers have put more focus on finding and signing college players over the past couple years (Caggiula, Larkin, Dudek, Vesel). Is this because they’re generally a little bit older and further along in their development? What would be the reasoning behind this?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think they have to be honest. They drafted Vesel, and many teams draft NCAA players. I don’t see Oiles signing Vesel to an NHL deal. I could see them signing him to an AHL-only deal, but I’d be surprised if he takes up a spot on the 50-man roster. Signing, or trading for NCAA players gets you players who cost very little and gives the organization some depth, and if the team actually continues to draft well, since 2015 it has been good, then they won’t need to sign players like Larkin, since they would have many prospects available to fill out their AHL rosters.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see more focus on it. It ebbs and flows based on what the scouts out on the road see in terms of talent that might be. Generally speaking, though, teams do get players further along in development and more mature, as you mention.

Matt Henderson:

I support finding as many college players as your system can handle because they are free prospects that cost nothing more than a contract spot. In the case of Caggiula, I would probably have a different view of him if the Oilers were trying to develop him instead of gifting him NHL ice.

Christian Pagnani:

I’m surprised Larkin managed to get an NHL contract. NCAA free agents are a bit overrated. Caggiula was the star free agent a couple summers ago and I don’t consider him an impact NHL player. You can find useful players, but they usually arrive quickly because they are older. Chris Tanev, Troy Stecher, Zach Hyman, Alex Kerfoot, and Will Butcher are all good NHL players, though the latter three were drafted but opted to sign elsewhere.

Chris the Intern:

That’s exactly it. College players will likely merge into the lineup quicker instead of having to wait for a draft pick to develop.

Baggedmilk:

With a few extra seasons of flavouring on a developing player, you have a better idea of what you’re going to get from them. I get it. If there’s a good one that’s unsigned then go out there and get him. Recruit, sell, send them the Dany Heatley DVD.

Nov 9, 2017; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils center Blake Coleman (40) and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) battle for the puck during the second period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

5) Dane asks – If you were to guess, what realistic moves do you see the Oilers making this off-season? (Specifically who/what gets moved)

Jason Gregor:

Cammalleri won’t be back. The Oilers will try to find a RD. I presume they bring in a veteran winger who can play in the top-six, but is on a short-term deal.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not going to venture much of a guess until I see how the season plays out because I want to see how close some the players here now — like Pontus Aberg and Ethan Bear — are to filling roster needs. Still a need for a right D-man and an established winger.

Matt Henderson:

If Peter Chiarelli is still here then one of RNH or Klefbom gets moved. Maybe even both. I don’t think he can help himself. I think we should be ready for more of this team to be dismantled.

Christian Pagnani:

I see them trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Oscar Klefbom in separate deals for a right-handed defenceman and a scoring winger. The free-agent winger market isn’t the greatest, but I could see a middle-six guy brought in too.

Chris the Intern:

I’m actually expecting a big move on the back-end somehow. I’m not sure who we’re going to get but I am preparing myself to say goodbye to someone valuable to us like Klefbom.

Baggedmilk:

I hate to say it but Chiarelli is probably going to do something dumb like move Nuge or Klefbom in favour of keeping a guy like Lucic. I mean honestly, tell me who is a better forward option for next year for this team — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Milan Lucic? How about two years from now? 24-year-old centreman, or 29-year-old gravel truck? There’s no debate, but will Peter Chiarelli see it that way or even be able to move Lucic even if he wanted to?

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  • Dan 1919

    Chiarelli has traded Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, a FirstRnd Pick, and a ThrdRnd Pick for Strome, Larsson & Reinhart.

    And you guys think he’s dumb enough to pick Lucic over RNH in this 2018 speed/skill NHL? Where do you get off?

  • Spydyr

    Last summer before the expansion draft I stated many times on here Khaira is the player I fear losing the most. He did not come out of nowhere for some of us.

  • RJ

    ON bloggers can’t be bothered to say it, but Talbot’s performance is in the running for worst NHL starter territory, while Montoya and Brossoit are in the worst backup category.

    Blame the PK. The Canucks have a brutal PK also, and Markstrom has a better SV%.

    Blame the babies. As far as I’m concerned that’s a BS excuse. Everyone that I know who has kids steps up and owns their responsibilities without using it as a crutch. I’m sure either he or his wife have family that could help if it truly was a big deal. He also earns enough cash they could hire him a nanny or two.

    Get him a solid backup that can take over when he does his annual dive in play.

    • Big Nuggets

      Same thing happened to Dubnyk when he had a baby, the next year he went to minnesota and got veziva consideration. Talbot will bounce back. He was our MVP last season, IMO.

      • Spydyr

        MVP over Connor……come on , man.

        Talbot had a career year last season. He may never have another one that good. The team needs a backup that can push him. They needed that since the day Talbot arrived. We still wait.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          I don’t disagree. Keumper (sp) would have been a perfect fit.
          Close to Talbot’s calibre, or potential. They would have pushed each other perfectly.

    • Spydyr

      I’m not even sure why Montoya is still on the team. If he plays one more game they lose a fourth round pick. Waive him, hope he gets claimed and call up one of the Condors goalies for the remainder of the season.

      Moves like this seem like no brainers to me but for some reason the “Oilers Braintrust” do not see things that way.

    • grumpyKoala

      While I agree with talbot and brossoit having awefull year, Montoya is not anywhere close to be the worst nhl backup this year. Can he be upgraded for relatively cheap, yes. The only reason he not playing a lot right now is the trade/pick consideration

    • corky

      Better put a clause in Connors contract that he cant have kids while he is an Oiler. I agree with RJ, blaming kids is a cop out. Like hes the first guy with kids in this league. Probably got overworked last season and wasnt pushed at all to keep starting role when camp broke.

  • RJ

    Here’s a question that would have been great to be asked:

    If I was an opposing GM, do I want the brittle Klefbom who’s always got some injury to blame his poor play on, or do I want the smooth-skating Darnell Nurse?

    Nurse has been the superior defender all season, and has quietly put up 20 points without any PP time, no doubt due to the the evil machinations of Oilers management. (The better Nurse is this season, the higher his price tag next season).

    Oilers media get to keep their crush, keep their old dogs in Sekera and Russell, and the Oilers get a better return than they would for Mr. Glass.

    (Then we watch Nurse get handled properly and win a Norris.)

    • Spydyr

      I liked and was excited about what Nurse brings and his upside since the day he arrived and still do but Norris calibre? That seems like a Mac-T prediction.

    • ed from edmonton

      You make a number of good points and that is why Klef might be tradeable. There is no doubt that Nurse’s performance is far more impressive than Klef during their entry levels deals. Sekera has a NMC and would be untradeable in any case until he shows he can play after his surgery. Russel does not have a NMC at present and then has only a partial so he is not untradeable but would not get the return that say Klef should.

  • OilersBro

    I thought for certain Nuge was going to get moved however, with the recent move to him playing on McDavid’s wing, it gives me hope that we don’t trade Nuge for a winger. Let’s not forget that since the WJHC Yamo has been playing like he’s NHL ready and he looked solid in his 9 game stint with us.

    If Peter wasn’t barely clinging to his job, I would say it is better to develop a right hand shot defenceman (like Bear) internally than trade 77 who is on a bargain contract until he’s 30 for one or sign a UFA. If Klef or Nuge get traded it will be because Chia is barely clinging to his job and is making hailmary moves to save his job.

    • Spydyr

      WHL and the NHL are two completely different leagues. Many a small player has lit it up in the Dub but failed to carry that forward to the NHL level.

      I hope Yamamoto can make the transition but I don’t have as much faith in that as many here.

      The Oilers will give him every opportunity as they have no choice. The cupboards are bare.

      • ed from edmonton

        Small guys are always challenged to make it in the NHL and Yamamoto is still a long shot in my books. The current NHL is more little guy friendly than during the dead puck era, but a 150 lb player will always be a long shot.

      • OilersBro

        You make a good point however, I don’t think size will be too much of a factor. Yamo may be a midget but he battles in the corners and isn’t afraid to initiate the contact. He also looked like he could compete in his 9 game trail and he put on 10 pounds in the weeks following the draft. If he can get to 160 lbs (currently at 155) he’ll be fine in the NHL
        I’m being bullish but I’m calling a 20G 30A season in Yamo’s first year.

      • Hemmercules

        I think Yamamoto has just as much of chance as JP did. Everyone is always talking about how the league is going faster and skilled instead of size and power so I dont see any reason he can become an Eberle of sorts. Like to see him get another year in the lower leagues before NHL time but might have to rush him as usual.

  • camdog

    I still remember th 90’s when Bill Ranford played through an ankle injury – he was bad. The fans were on the radio saying that he was faking the injury and intentionally playing bad so he could get traded. Things haven’t changed much in E-town. Hemsky would play through big injuries and fans would call him a soft player. Hemsky didn’t shy away from the tough areas on the ice, he never did.

    Running Talbot without giving him games off when banged up and giving the most minutes on the team to a banged up Klefbom was partly what sunk the team. GM went into season short on depth with lots of cap space and a coach unwilling to adapt. This team is a few depth players away from competing for a playoff spot.

    • Spydyr

      If you think the goaltending that the Oilers received this year gets them into the playoffs next or any other season you are wearing orange coloured glasses.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Trading Nugent-Hopkins for a top scoring forward is an “Oxy-Moron”.
    I think the Oilers should build a team around McDavid, Draisaitl & RNH.
    Those three definitely have what’s needed to be an elite team core.
    With Khaira & Slepy (hopefully the latter) developing & a pretty solid, know what your getting player in Strome.
    I don’t think the Oilers are that far off. But they have to keep that core, or it is going to be a very painful & long start over.
    I for one, want more than one cup over the next 7 years…

    • Spydyr

      Most of us here agree keeping Nuge is a no brainer. The thing is we are dealing with the “Oilers Braintrust” here and a scared GM trying to keep his job.

      The tell for me was Nicholson’s interview mentioning two good centres moving forward and adding a defenceman. It does not take a rocket surgeon to read between the lines.

  • ed from edmonton

    Biggest off season move might be a new coaching staff. Nicholson’s recent comments certainly left the door open for this. I would suggest 50/50 whether Tod Mac is back.

    • Spydyr

      Chicago skids Quenneville after the season. A few days later the Oilers announce their new coach. Most GM’s get one coaching change before being let go. Does Chia deserve that chance? Only the shadow (Katz) knows.

  • he shoots he scars

    I think an offseason move should be getting a solid #2 in net. Is Talbot’s play this season due to a nagging injury or not enough rest ? If Talbot were to be out injured for a dozen or more games next season, that could sink the Oilers.

    • ed from edmonton

      The Oil really haven;t had a 2nd string goalie of NHL quality, Gustaffson probably cost them 1st place in the pacific last year. The gamble on LB this year didn’t work out (like everything else) and Montoya is not an answer. PC has to take this position more seriously.

    • Glencontrolurstik

      Talbot’s play this year was indicative of a porous defense with too many bakers apprentice’s.
      Last year Talbot was great, because the defense was getting better than the ten years previous.
      This year that regressed, along with special teams.
      That all reflects on the goalie. I do however think he needs a backup of similar potential to him.

  • grumpyKoala

    So the cool kids are waiting for the day to pass by. Id say If you are at work, then you own to yourslef to make the best of it. A crappy job is still one and we should all take pride in what we do. I wish you all a Great day, at work, or not.

  • madjam

    I expect changes to officiating this off season , as it is out of control and goalie interference equally in shambles . One can barely touch another player and /or stick and draw a penalty . Diving terrible , and each hit seems to draw a penalty . Getting worse and less physical than women’s hockey . Most games bore you to tears and only highlights are bearable most games . Most goals are 3 bank cushion shots into net . not very enjoyable .