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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Why replace only the assistant coaches?

The Draft Lottery is in the books, the weekend has wrapped, and now it’s time to waste company time talking about the Oilers again. That’s why the mailbag is the perfect item to soak up some of that sweet, sweet hockey knowledge or argue with us in the comments section. If you’d like to get in on this segment and ask a question, you can email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. I need questions for next week so please send them to me. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Ian aks – What would be the purpose of getting rid of Todd McLellan’s assistant coaches and not just the head coach? Is it not Todd McLellan’s system that they’re working within?

Jason Gregor:

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Different viewpoints. And to be honest I think there are better options to hire.

Robin Brownlee:

By system you mean, PP, PK? If Peter Chiarelli believes strongly in McLellan but not as strongly in his assistants (specifically the job they did this season), then they need to have that conversation. Todd, Jay Woodcroft and Jim Johnson have been together awhile and loyalty sometimes can, and does, get in the way of evaluating staff. That’s one possibility. If it’s a “they go” or “you all go” situation, what would you choose?

Cam Lewis:

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I think they wanted to maintain the overall continuity of their head coach but they knew the fanbase wanted blood so they fired the assistant coaches. They also likely saw that better options were out there and just leaned into it.

Chris the Intern:

Todd is running the show but he listens to the opinions of every assistant coach, as he should. Bringing in fresh eyes on the team with different ideas and skill sets is a good move in my opinion.

Baggedmilk:

It is weird, right? But maybe this is exactly what Todd needs to get a new perspective on his players and moving forward with this group. I do think it’s weird for the assitant coaches to go and the coach to not say much about it, but that’s the Oilers for you. Gord love em.

Oct 24, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matthew Murray (30) makes a save against Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) during the second period at PPG PAINTS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2) Michelle asks – Heading into next season, the Oilers will have to manage their limited cap space very closely. Do think this means that a player like Kailer Yamamoto will essentially be gifted a spot based on his entry-level deal?

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Jason Gregor:

Not at all. He has bonus potential in his contract. And they can sign some vets for close to $1 million. I don’t see them gifting him a spot. If they do, then they haven’t learned from the previous mistakes.

Robin Brownlee:

No. We don’t know what the Oilers cap situation will look like five months from now. It’ll depend on what deals are made — salary in and salary out — this off-season.

Cam Lewis:

I imagine Yamamoto will be on the team but it isn’t because of the cap situation. They can easily slide cheap-as-dirt veterans into the lineup that’ll be less costly than Yamamoto’s incentive-laden contract, but I figure he’ll crack the squad because he’s good enough to be there.

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Chris the Intern:

I don’t think so. There are many other cheap fill-in players Chia could probably sign or trade for. After an extremely embarrassing season, gifting a player a lineup spot because of his low salary is not a good move.

Baggedmilk:

Unless Chiarelli can move out some money from the backend or Lucic (won’t happen) in order to free up some space for different UFA pieces/trades then I’ll assume Yamamoto is on the roster on opening night. They don’t have many options at RW and they don’t have much cap space to fix that either.

Apr 8, 2017; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) battles for the puck against Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin (33) during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

3) Bruce asks – With all six defencemen essentially locked in for next year, though Nurse and Benning need new contracts, do you feel comfortable in thinking that the Oilers can move forward with that same group?

Jason Gregor:

That group was solid in 2017 and struggled this year. I expect Nurse to keep improving and Benning also has room to grow. They can keep all six, and be competitive, but if they want to improve and be more of a threat they need to add at least one good puck moving defender; ideally one who shoots right, but they are hard to find.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not sure what you mean by locked in. Only Sekera and Russell have NMCs. I’d like to see another proven D-man in this group. It’s not deep enough as it stands now. Don’t want to have to rely on Ethan Bear being part of the picture to start the season.

Cam Lewis:

It’s hard to imagine Benning and Nurse not sticking around. The Oilers aren’t going to subtract from their blueline. The only way one of them isn’t there is if they’re moved in a deal for a better, veteran defenceman. With Pistol Pete in charge, nobody is safe from a trade. So who knows!

Chris the Intern:

I think injuries will play a big part in their success, obviously. Sekera coming late into the season played a huge part in our bad record. I feel about 85% comfortable with our current defence group. I do think we need somebody with a big bomb from the point on the powerplays signed.

Baggedmilk:

It’s a fair question when you consider that they weren’t good enough last season and we probably won’t see much turnover heading into 2018-19. That said, Klefbom was injured, Larsson had a horrible personal year, and Sekera’s robot leg wasn’t fully charged by the time he came back to play. I could see there being an improvement in the same group based solely on guys being healthier both mentally and physically.

4) Alex asks – Connor McDavid has outscored himself in each of the last two seasons. Do you think he will beat this past season’s total of 108 points?

Jason Gregor:

If he is healthy, no question. He lost 15 pounds in November and that slowed him down for a month. I expect him to be around 120 points this year, and he could be the first player to reach 125 points since Joe Thornton in 2006.

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Robin Brownlee:

Yes, and reasonably handily. I don’t any reason why he can’t consistently be a 120-point player over the next 7-10 years.

Cam Lewis:

Assuming the team has a functioning power play he really should blow that total out of the water, to be honest.

Chris the Intern:

YES! Connor did it essentially all by himself this season. He is learning to shoot more and utilize his shot as a dangerous weapon for himself. If the whole team is rolling alongside of him next season, he will easily outscore himself again.

Baggedmilk:

I will never bet against Connor McDavid to do anything. He’s playing a whole different game than anyone else and the idea of beating a 108-point season may seem lofty but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he flew past that mark either. The guy is unstoppable. Put him down for 115 next year.

5) Mason asks – What are your second round predictions and which series do you think will be the most exciting?

Jason Gregor:

I’ll go Capitals, Sharks, Jets and Lightning. I think the Jets/Preds will be great. Too fast teams who have enough nastiness in their respective lineups to make the games highly entertaining, and the Pens/Caps series because of Crosby/Ovechkin will be must-watch for me.

Robin Brownlee:

I like the Vegas-San Jose series. I like the way the Sharks came back in Game 2 after getting waxed 7-0. I see Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Vegas and Winnipeg winning in the second round.

Cam Lewis:

This entire second round is extremely good. But Winnipeg and Nashville is the marquee series. This should be the Stanley Cup Final.

Chris the Intern:

I think the Preds & Jets both have the potential to play in the cup final. With that said, that is my pick for the best series. My heart wants the Jets to win, but my fantasy league brain wants the Preds to win. I choose Preds in 7. I also choose Pens over Caps, Lightning over Bruins, and Vegas over Sharks.

Baggedmilk:

I took Vegas over SJ and Winnipeg over the Preds in the West. In the East I have Pittsburgh beating Washington and Tampa beating Boston in 7.

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  • NewPants

    Mailbag by Milkbag. lol

    New coaches will be a + and we will see if Todd is good or not.
    Yam to the AHL please!
    Hope for a D upgrade but healthy will work.
    Mc D is the best. 120p and PLAYOFFS!
    Good luck jets.

  • Braindead

    I hope Serkera and Russell have career years. After next year their NTC kicks in. Sekera with his glass leg. How many goals scored against last year and where was Russell? Face down on the ice.
    Don’t have Benning play the left side. He is terrible at retrieving pucks on his backhand.
    Klefbom is still a big what if.
    I don’t see how the Oilers will make playoffs next year. There are a lot of good teams in the west and the Oilers once again have bad contracts, too many LD, D isn’t good enough and lack of top 6 forwards and now the goalie is questionable.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    If we can’t find a top RD anytime soon then we absolutely must have a rebound season from Klefbom and Sekera and continues forward development from Nurse or we’re doomed !

  • Serious Gord

    1. It is very common in failing organizations of all types to fire/replace those working at the lowest levels first – kind of like gangrene. I wonder if TMC is doing the firing or if Chia is. I hope it is TMC as it would demonstrate that he recognizes that they have failed.

    As an aside: Can anyone cite a case in the NHL where the firing of assistants saw the team rebound or is it always just one step along the way to a cleaning out of all management?

    2. I certainly hope no one is “gifted: a roster spot. If Yamamoto plays better than the alternatives then he plays. Cap room is indeed going to be THE issue for the oil, but the difference between what yamamoto would be paid or the alternate would be paid is not going to make or break the cap.

    3. Hands up who thinks Sekera or Russell will have career-best seasons next year? The six that played two seasons ago is going to have a hard time playing to that level this coming season. And God help them if one or two get injured. The Oil need depth AND better defensemen to go with these six. And they can’t afford either under the cap constraints.

    4. Tell me who his wingers will be and I would venture a more firm opinion. Certainly the trend is for him to get more points. But I would rather he develop his defensive game.

    5. Caps, Sharks, Jets & Bruins. Jets Caps in the final. Jets win the cup. Am I the only one who thinks that the west looks much stronger in these playoffs than the eastern teams and that that is not what was expected?

    Also the second round has been better/more exciting than the first which is really a change.

  • ed from edmonton

    1. I think that replacing assistant coaches was a middle ground that PC compromised on. Middle ground between replacing all coaches and maintaining continuity.

    2.I sincerely hope Yamamoto is nowhere near the NHL next year. Salary cap will have nothing to do with it. Assuming the Oil resign Strome for 3M, Nurse for 4.5M and Caggulia and Benning for say 1.5 to 2 Aviutua for 1M and the Finnish goalie for 2.5, the Oil will have 3 roster spots and say 6M, if the cap is 83M. This can move around a bit depending on where the cap ends up but the fact is the Oil are not is such a tough cap spot. Only wild card here is what they do with Nurse. Best case is they will have about $4M to spend on a worthy addition.

    3. Only Sekera is locked in for next season. Russel’s contract goes to a modified nmc on July 1. I expect that there is some movement on the D. PC has stated a RHD is his No.1 priority, whether he can find one will be the question.

    4. I expect CMcd to be in the 130 +point range. Remember he struggled with an infection in November and the PP stunk. Lots of upside still remains.

    • crabman

      I think you are over estimating the new contracts, or at least I hope you are because everyone of them is an over pay.
      And until a new cap is announced we can’t count on such a large cap increase. The NHL announced recently that the cap will be between $78-82M depending on if and how much the NHLPA use the cap escalator. If they don’t use it the cap will be around $78M if they max out the 5% increase they can it will be $82M. Many experts are predicting it at $80M. With your player salaries increases and a cap at $80M it would leave almost nothing to improve the team.
      Russell has a full NMC until next summer.

  • The Future Never Comes

    The Oilers need depth at the NHL level to keep players on the roster battling for ice time. They need at least 7 NHL caliber defenseman (no Auvito) and 13-14 forwards that can rotate in on any given night. This will keep the players more on their toes and honest. Last year had no internal competition for spots, hence the low effort threshold as no one had to be worried they might be scratched the following game.

    • Serious Gord

      Depth is THE most important issue for this team. Lousy drafting and lousy acquisition of cheap veteran talent – the fault of both the pro and amateur scouting – are to blame for that. And it takes years to build depth…

      • The Future Never Comes

        12 years of incompetence and zero playoffs (except last years outlier) in order to “add depth through the draft” and we still have baron wastelands in the farm system, other semi-professional ranks, and the NHL. It’s just comedic at this point. Almost at the salary cap ceiling and we have not even came within a sniffing distance of the Stanley cup. What happens if we come sniffing in the next few years, those roster players get more expensive to keep. We kneecapped ourselves before it even started.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to the head coach, while I do not know if keeping McLellan was the right call or not, I am not in favor of firing the head coach for the sake of firing the head coach just to please some pissed off Oilers after a miserable season. McLellan is 1 year removed from being a Jack Adams nominee. I assume in order to get considered for that award, you have to at least know something about coaching in the NHL. I don’t think you can get nominated for a coaching award by only saying “McDavid, go score me a goal.” I don’t want to come off as sticking up for McLellan completely because the coach staff including McLellan wears some blame for this miserable season but at the same time, I don’t think he is a terrible coach like some Oilers fans seem to think. I am of the belief that if you decided to fire your head coach, you should be doing it because you are looking to upgrade and there are actual upgrades available. I don’t see any upgrades available. So much like the Oilers did when they fired Kruger to hire Eakins which was a firing for the sake of firing, firing McLellan when where is no clear upgrade wouldn’t make sense to me.

    • camdog

      Based on last years coaching performance Mclellan and his associates deserved to be fired. Firing his associates that have been with him for years, his guys, his hires tells me the organisation also thinks the coaching staff failed last season. This isn’t the same situation as Renney/Krueger, those were the 2 and only 2 head coaches ever fired by this organisation for the sake of firing a coach.

      I wish they would have kept Todd Nelson around, because he believed in some of these depth players and was with them during the AHL days. Sometimes all it takes his a head coach that believes in his players and that certainly was not the case this season.

      • TKB2677

        You are entitled to your opinion that McLellan after 1 season removed from guiding the team to the playoffs, 103 pts and game 7 from going to the Western finals which the Oilers got screwed out of. Even if the refs called ONE of the goaltending interference they decided to let go of the what was it 3 where everyone was shocked the goal stand, they would have went to the Western finals. Anyway.

        So if you think McLellan should have been fired, who do you think is better that is available? If you are going to fire him, you want to bring in someone better I assume. If you are a team that thinks they are in a winning window which I believe most Oilers fans think they should be, you probably aren’t rolling the dice on a rookie coach even if he is maybe the next “hot shot”. If Quenville ended up being available, I would have been all over him but he’s not. So who’s available that’s an upgrade?

    • Spydyr

      The media votes on the Jack Adams Trophy. You know the same media that does not thinnk Connor is one of the third most vaulable players in the NHL.

      Media voted Trophies hold very little weight with me.

      • OriginalPouzar

        This is NOT correct.

        The Jack Adams is voted on by: the “National Hockey League Broadcasters Association”.

        The Hart Trophy is voted on by: the “Professional Hockey Writers’ Association”

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    It’s scary to think that McDavid was still a PPG player while battling that kind of illness. I wonder if he saw the PP “system” Woodcroft was trying to implement and the horror of it laid him low.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Two mentions to Yamamoto’s bonuses and “incentive laden” contract. Come on guys – his max performance bonus for this year (and each other year of his ELC) is $230K. He was a 22nd overall pick and got an ELC contract worthy of that draft spot – the potential bonuses are nominal and essentially a non-factor.

  • OnDaWagon

    I couldn’t care less if Connor gets more points than this year. However, I do care if the Oilers get more points than this year.
    GET RID OF KATZ, and progress will happen. Not before.

    LV
    WPG
    PITS
    BOS

  • bazmagoo

    I’m happy at least the assistants were let go. But would have been happier if McLellan and/or Chiarelli were also shown the door.

    I think we end up signing a stay at home right shot dman. Luke Schenn, Christian Folin, or Greg Pateryn should all be available at less than $1.5.

    We should also look at signing either Michael Grabner or Thomas Vanek, again because they’ll be relatively cheap (maybe $2.5 for 2 seasons).

    I’d also target some wingers who need a change of scenery via trade. Josh Leivo from the Leafs and Josh Ho-Sang from the Islanders come to mind.

    Can’t see how we can do much more than that, we don’t have the cap room.

  • madjam

    Oilers do not have the time to fiddle around another season with last years underachieving team . It would cost upper management their jobs trying to bank on last years results as being good enough in upcoming season . Thus , I expect some (at least two) major acquisitions in the off season to fill a bonafide winger better than Rattie for top 6 and a major push to add a decent RD with a shot . Example only – Seabrooke and Kovalchuk . To do so Chia will have to move out maybe a big contract or two . Let us not waste another season of McDavid and Draisaitl playing with questionable top 6 players , etc.. Coaching can only do so much with last years overall squad – not enough to get us back to playoffs I am willing to think . Why would they announce all those firings , but still maintain Coffey ?

      • The Whispererer

        Coffey is not being retained as a bench boss. He is a skills development coach just like Pelletier is a skating coach. Are you seriously saying that a guy who is in the conversation for best offensive defenseman of all time has nothing useful to impart to a crew of defencemen whose biggest weakness is puck movement and the transition game ?

    • Big Nuggets

      I would prefer they don’t go after overpayed former star players. If they can fit in Kovalchuk on a one year deal that’s fine. Otherwise stop chasing the missing piece and get back to drafting and developing, and add some low key depth players ie Brodziak. We can add some quality PK players for cheap, the PP just comes down to execution. we have enough skill; figure out how to use it effectively, then add an NHL level defenseman for depth. Give out a few professional try-outs to some RWs like Joel Ward, Matt Read, Lee Stempniak, etc. Of an AHLer can grab a spot on our top line then chances are an NHL veteran can find some chemistry as well. If not it doesn’t cost anything.