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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Weighing garbage time performances

Welcome, welcome, friends, to another edition of the Monday Mailbag where we’ve all gather round to talk all things Oilers. This week, we’ll take a look at evaluating players in garbage time, whether the crew would make a move on a specific coaching change, and what they were most wrong about this season. As always, I need you guys for this feature to work so email me your questions to baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and pretend to look busy for as long as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

Feb 3, 2017; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan reacts during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

1) @NotoriousPatG asks – With Chicago out of playoffs and speculation starting that Quinnville could be fired, would you stick with coach McLellan or go after Coach Q in this hypothetical?

Jason Gregor:

It is an intriguing question. To hire Quenneville you are likely going to have to pay him close to $5 million, which is what Mike Babcock makes. Is Katz willing to spend that and two more years of Todd McLellan’s contract, which is over $2.5 million from what I hear? That is a lot of cake to pay for a head coach. If Chicago fires Quenneville I think it will be more of a mutual agreement to leave. Why would you fire him after one bad season? It makes little sense to me, unless he and the star players aren’t on the same page anymore.

Robin Brownlee:

When does Joel get fired — if he gets fired? — does he have any interest in Edmonton? If I come to the conclusion Todd McLellan is the problem, then I replace him regardless of who is available. If I don’t think McLellan is the problem, I don’t replace him no matter who is available.

Dustin Nielson:

I would stick with McLellan to start next season but if they start slow and Coach Q is still available I’d pull the trigger on it.

Matt Henderson:

I would drop the head coach who oversaw the worst PK and PP in the NHL in a heartbeat for Q. Sticking with failure for the sake of “continuity” is a bizarre idea that is very NHL but also very stupid.

Cam Lewis:

It’s a difficult one. On one hand, I don’t feel McLellan is an issue, and this roster was somewhat flawed, but on another, it’s hard not to blame him for the team having such a horrendous penalty kill and power play. I really have a hard time believing Chicago would pull the rug from under Coach Q at this point.

Chris Pagnani:

If Joel Quenneville is available you have to go after him. I don’t know how the Oilers can sell both Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan returning to the fans.

Chris the Intern:

Nah I would stick with Coach Todd. Coach Q has a great track record, better than McLellan’s, but I don’t think coaching is our issue right now. Even the greatest coach in the world can only do so much with bad roster.

Baggedmilk:

I would make that move, sure. There’s no cap on coaching staff and if you’re going to make a move on McLellan then the replacement had better be a guy with Coach Q’s resume.

Dec 21, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a third period goal against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Alex asks – Connor McDavid is on a torrid pace right now. What is he doing differently now as opposed to maybe the beginning of the season that seems to be giving him this extra boost?

Jason Gregor:

He isn’t sick. He lost 15 pounds and was worn down. He has 40 points in his last 25 games. Remember he finished last season with 25 points in his final 14 games. I believe getting fully healthy and shooting the puck more at EV has led to his big push. Also, he is a competitive as anyone and he wants to win the Art Ross and get as many wins as possible for the Oilers.

Robin Brownlee:

He’s not doing anything differently. He’s more determined than anything else. He’s showing what it means to play wire-to-wire even when games don’t mean anything in terms of making the playoffs. This is what a real pro looks like.

Dustin Nielson:

Two things, he’s healthy and he no longer has Lucic on his wing. Honourable mention to having a more aggressive mindset when it comes to shooting the puck.

Matt Henderson:

I don’t know if it can be proven, but it seems like he recognizes that his shooting option is sometimes the best. So instead of passing it off too frequently, he is taking the shot.

Cam Lewis:

There was a lot more to his early-season illness than what was reported, it seems.

Chris Pagnani:

He’s probably not sick anymore and he’s free from lugging around Milan Lucic. He wants to get that second Art Ross.

Chris the Intern:

He’s not sick! I honestly think that’s what was the issue. He battled strep throat and other illnesses throughout the beginning of the year and still put up incredible point streaks. Now he’s healthy as a doctor and is living his best life.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to go ahead and guess that he’s not battling through every illness under the sun as was the case earlier on in the year. That would make a huge difference. Also, the chemistry between McDavid and Nuge is starting to get really good. Bring home the Art Ross, Connor.

Feb 21, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andrej Sekera (2) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

3) Sandy asks – Do you see the Oilers making any improvements to their defensive group for next season? Considering all six guys are locked in, or likely will be in the coming months (Benning and Nurse), who do you see moving out or do you see anyone moving at all?

Jason Gregor:

Good question. I could see them standing pat with the six they have. Sekera will be healthy. And the Oilers hope Klefbom is healthy and Larsson doesn’t have to deal with a horrible tragedy. Nurse continues to improve and I’d expect Benning to be better. I don’t see how they can afford to sign big ticket free agent, but I’m sure they will look at finding another right shot defender.

Robin Brownlee:

I would hope that they do. I don’t want to see the Oilers counting on Ethan Bear to make the line-up next year. If he does, great. If he doesn’t, don’t get caught without the right-shot D that’s lacking.

Dustin Nielson:

I’d be surprised if there is any change on the blue line. The only move I could see being made would be Klefbom for a right shot d-man but I’d say that’s highly unlikely at this point.

Matt Henderson:

I see Chiarelli trading Klefbom because of his low PDO.

Cam Lewis:

Standing pat and just coming into next year with a healthy Klefbom and Sekera would be making an improvement, IMO. I really hope Pistol Pete doesn’t pull another sell-low with Klefbom.

Chris Pagnani:

I think they should, but it’ll be difficult with Andrej Sekera and Kris Russell having expensive contracts and trade protection. Oscar Klefbom has been rumoured but the Oilers would be selling low again. I’m not sure how much trust I’d put in a left side with Sekera returning from injury and Darnell Nurse. They still need a second-pair RHD.

Chris the Intern:

I can actually see a larger named defenseman getting moved this summer. Maybe Klefbom, maybe Sekera? I don’ think Chia is happy with that group and he shouldn’t be. He’s going to be looking for a top-end defenseman for the rest of his life.

Baggedmilk:

That’s a good question. Unless they do something crazy like move Klefbom, or find a taker for Andrej Sekera, then I don’t see how things change. Good if you don’t like change, bad if you’re hoping for some kind of defensive upgrade.

Ty Rattie recalled from the AHL Bakersfield Condors

4) Garrett asks – How much stock can you really put into successes that come at this garbage time of the year? Many times through the DOD we saw guys play well down the stretch and not have that translate the following season.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t buy the garbage time theory much. Will anyone question McDavid because he is scoring a lot down the stretch? I doubt it. It seems people who want to find something to complain about will. They will applaud McDavid for scoring a lot, but Drake Caggiula will likely be ripped for producing, even though he’s only played 120 NHL games. I’d argue it is more difficult to play down the stretch when the games mean nothing. It would be easy to fold the tent.

Robin Brownlee:

Lots. “Garbage time” is a lazy way of dismissing or downplaying performance when a team is out of playoff contention. Players are playing for jobs and contracts just as they always are. Opponents want to win, just like they always do. You don’t think the LA Kings desperately wanted two points here Saturday night? Like the question about McDavid above, how he’s playing now without playoffs on the line tells you a lot about him. Who quits when it doesn’t matter? Who digs in? You can learn a lot about a player at this time of year.

Dustin Nielson:

I think this depends on the opponent. I wouldn’t put much stock into blowout wins over the Senators and Hurricanes but a win over a Kings team fighting for a playoff spot is something to build on.

Matt Henderson:

I think if the Oilers plan for Aberg and Rattie to both score 20 goals next season then they deserve to have another terrible season. It’s nice for these guys to suddenly start producing in their NHL careers, but assuming it will keep up is no different than what they did with Caggiula and Slepyshev after the playoffs.

Cam Lewis:

It still matters a bit. It’s not like all the other teams the Oilers are playing have given up. These games are still competitive. I would suggest the good performances are just giving the team more options and depth to work with next year. They lacked internal competition this year and I think good performances during garbage time have given them more of that for next season.

Chris Pagnani:

It still matters but I wouldn’t be penciling Ty Rattie in the 1RW spot next season.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah, that always sticks in the back of my mind. That goes with our opponents too. Watching Connor McDavid walk Hoffman in last Thursday’s game against the Sen’s was a pure example of a player (Hoffman) on a team out of the playoffs (senators) not caring and giving any effort at all. It’s good to see that the Oilers are still working hard though at this point of the year.

Baggedmilk:

We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we? Remember when Todd Nelson came in, the boys started to feel good about themselves, they played well, and we were all sent off in the summer with hope in our hearts? Proven skilled players aside, I’m wary of putting too much stock into guys cashing in points at the end of the year when the playoff teams start to worry more about staying healthy. Do they matter? Yes. But I’d like to see points go up more when the games actually matter.

5) Trent asks – What were you most wrong about this season? What were you most right about?

Jason Gregor:

Wrong about where they finished. I thought they would compete for division title. I wasn’t close on that.  I was right about Darnell Nurse taking a big step and that Chiarelli wasting cap space would hurt the team.

Robin Brownlee:

Most right about McDavid not taking a step back or falling off after his breakout season. Wrong about just about everything else. Didn’t see the Golden Knights being anywhere near a good as they are. Didn’t see the Oilers being as bad as they’ve been.

Dustin Nielson:

I’ll admit I was wrong about Strome being better on the wing then he is down the middle. He’s fitting in nicely as a third line centre. I still would have liked to have seen him get three or four games on McDavid’s wing though, surprised that didn’t happen.

Who wasn’t right about the team making a mistake by not having someone to step in while Sekera was hurt? Their entire blue line was a step behind from the very beginning and basically had no room for error or injury.

Matt Henderson:

Wrong: I thought they would be fighting for a playoff spot. So that looks like I was drinking the Kool-Aid in hindsight.

Right: I was pretty bang on with the Strome expectations.

Cam Lewis:

Wrong about them being a contender, obviously. Right about McDavid being far and away the best player in the league and him making that $12.5 million deal look like a bargain.

Chris Pagnani:

I thought Klefbom would have another strong season and Lucic could have ~45 points. I was right about their defence not being strong enough with Sekera out and their inexperience on the wings.

Chris the Intern:

I was most wrong about my Stanley Cup prediction (the Oilers). I was the most right about the NUGE having a great successful year! (Despite some injury trouble).

Baggedmilk:

I was way wrong in thinking that the Oilers would easily make the playoffs. I didn’t have them pegged for a division win, conference win, or anything like that, but I certainly thought they would make the bonus tourney.

I was right about the downgrading of skill on the wing and questioning why there was no experienced help brought in on the back end with Andrej Sekera out because of his ACL surgery. I was also tweeting that McNuge should be a thing as early as February of last season. Thanks for listening, Todd.

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  • Serious Gord

    I was wrong on nothing regarding the oilers. Not that that pleases me.

    The old boys still need to be removed from stem to stern; TMC should not have been hired. RNH should continue to play on the wing after it only took 1.5 years for the management to figure that out.

    And now there has never been a more obvious move than to fire the PK and PP coaches.

    I guess you could say i was wrong on the knights – but then I never expressed an opinion on them one way or the other.

  • Kepler62c

    Fully disagree with the “He doesn’t have Lucic on his wing” for why Connor is ripping it up. Sure, McNuge has been fire – but there was a post someone did a week or two ago showing McDavid with and w/o each of the wingers he’s played with.

    Apart from Nuge and Draisaitl, where he does get a significant boost, and Caggiula where it is poor – his GF% is positive and not much different among every other winger, including Lucic. Now, of course, GF% isn’t measuring points/60 but I’d like to see that data, and have a feeling it would show similar results.

    In other words, playing Lucic with McDavid was essentially equivalent to every other winger except Nuge/Drai (not surprising) and significantly better than Caggiula.

    • Leo Tard

      No chance. Lucic has been a boat anchor who was giving the puck away constantly forcing Mcdavid to try to get the puck back. Take your fancy stats and stuff em. It does not take a genius or any fancy stats to see that Lucic slowed Connors production. Just use your damn eyes!

  • Spydyr

    Wrong: making the playoffs and then making some noise.

    Right: Talbot needing a legit back-up someone to push for the starters job,Nuge should be on Connor’s wing,needing a top six right winger after trading Eberle.

        • Hemmercules

          I know. I was kidding. You mention the goaltending daily. Bigger broken record than Chia’s resume haha.

          I’m with ya though. Need better than Montoya for sure. Hopefully Cam is back to full season form again next fall because I don’t see Chia making a major upgrade in that department.

          • Spydyr

            I fully believe Chia will stand pat on the goaltending this summer as well. We can all see how well standing pat worked out for the entire team last summer . Every other team in the NHL is trying to improve their team each and every summer. Chia has to at least try and keep up.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Sorry guy’s but really? Judging Edmonton’s goaltending situation with the worst PK in NHL history is just dumb… Fix the special teams first. Then assess the goaltending. I do agree though that Talbot should be challenged. But, we won’t see that until our special teams are up to snuff. Just my opinion. Maybe Montoya is the guy? He has let in a lot of PP goals.

  • LAKID

    Well if we are weighing garbage How much does Lucic, Chia and the assistant coaches weigh? How about the goaltending situation? I doubt there is a land fill that would except this toxic garbage.

  • ed from edmonton

    1. I rate Tod Mac’s likleyhood to return at about 50%. Whether Q is available or not shouldn’t factor into the decision. If it were my decision he would be gone.

    2.McD is shooting the puck more and scoring with laser like wrist shots. I think opponents were playing hi as a pass first, take the puck ti the net and attempt a deke as 2 and shoot as a last resort. The dynamic has changed and it must make opponents even more nervous about facing McD.

    3. I would be surprised if the Oil start next season with the same D group.

    4. Wins and losses in garbage time mean nothing. The play of individuals can be meaningful, eg Rattie, Bear. The important thing is to keep the 82 game season in perspective and not just remember the most recent 10 or 15 games.

  • Dan 1919

    “How much stock can you really put into successes that come at this garbage time of the year?”

    It’s not that it’s garbage time, it’s that it’s a short time. Great that the Oilers have put together a solid 7-10 games of hockey. Are you going to evaluate & extrapolate next year’s 82game season on those 10 games, or are you going to look at this year’s prior 5-6 months of hockey when they were hot garbage to also help evaluate?

    It’s the same thing when a terrible team wins two games at some point in the season but are still 15 games below .500. If you were to poll the fans after the 2 game winning streak, literally many fans would all of a sudden feel optimistic about their team.

    Every team in the NHL has enough talent to put together a dominating stretch of hockey, the goal is to have a team that is skilled and built well enough, that when they just play average (as that occurs often throughout the year), they still end up beating the opponent on most nights. If you have to bank on your team playing lights out every night to win you’re probably looking at 1 hit wonder seasons.

    • Dan 1919

      That to me is why the Oilers still need a #1 D who is on the ice for almost half of every game. To have a guy on the ice for half the game that is just flat out better than most of the other players would pay huge dividends for this team, especially when you’ve already got Connor/Drai/Nuge on the ice up front for most of the game who are just flat out better.

      Please come to Edmonton Karlsson.

      • Glencontrolurstik

        I don’t think the “Karlson sideshow” would be good for the Oilers? I don’t know?
        If I were to add a top tier “D-man” it would be Doughty. That’s the kind of heart the Oilers need.

          • Glencontrolurstik

            Not if you offer Draisaitl? Is he really worth 8.5 or 9-10 with bonuses?
            I know Doughty would be worth 8.5 – 9 for this team.
            Plus he’d love to play for a City that gave a damn about hockey.
            Just spit-ballin’, but it’s worth a thought? Draisatl could be replaced by Nuge (i know..i know).
            The wings could then be filled in by whatever dime a dozen winger you can get?

  • Right: How in the Hell do you go with a green backup? Did everyone expect Talbot to have the same year as last? Right Pt. 2: Trading Ebs for cost saving and you spend NOTHING for a Winger? Nothing?
    Wrong: A nice run in the Playoffs..D’OH. Wrong Pt. 2: I thought Drake would take a nice step forward this year. ..

    • Leo Tard

      I think there is a player in there somewhere with Drake. But at his age, I wonder if he has time to find the consistency required. Takes way to many games off.