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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Have the Oilers done enough to make the playoffs?

Whether you’re killing company time or reacquainting yourself with your couch because you’re playing hooky from life, the mailbag is here to help you make it through another Monday. As always, I’ve taken five of your questions that need answers from our panel of heroes and experts, drawing from them the answers that you need to better live your lives. This feature depends on you and if you have a question you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Without further adieu – the mailbag. 

1) Jayson D. asks – We knew that the Oilers weren’t going to be overly busy in free agency due to their lack of cap space but I’m wondering how the writers think they did? Did they do enough to keep up with the rest of the Pacific?

Jason Gregor:

Their improvement will have to come from within. Outside of McDavid, the rest of their best players need to be better. I believe Draisaitl will be more consistent, although I don’t think he was nearly as bad as some suggest, and a healthy Klefbom, Sekera and Larsson will help. The PK will be better (can’t be worse), and so will the PP, likely due to coaching and players be more attentive to details. Las Vegas lost two of their top five scorers. They won’t be as good. The Pacific is wide open in my eyes and the Oilers should be in the mix.

Robin Brownlee:

They did as well as could be expected without making a trade to move out salary. Keeping up with other teams isn’t the focus. Do what you can to address the needs you have and if you do that properly the rest will take care of itself.

Dustin Nielson:

I think they did about as well as you could have expected them to. I’m interested to see if they add another near minimum contract that could possibly fight for a spot. As for keeping up with the rest of the pacific, that will come down to health and goaltending.

Matt Henderson:

Keep up with the Pacific? No. However, I think they did reasonably well given all their constraints. As far as the UFAs go, this crop isn’t hurting them. I like Rieder as a one year with the player betting on himself.

Christian Pagnani:

They didn’t have the cap space to sign notable players. With that in mind, Kyle Brodziak, Kevin Gravel, and Tobias Rieder is a solid day. I don’t think they’ve done enough compared to other teams in the division, but that’s more a critique of their roster moves in general than what they did in free agency. Calgary lost Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland, but added Derek Ryan, James Neal, Noah Hanifin, and Elias Lindholm. They’ll feel the loss of Hamilton, but they definitely upgraded at forward. Austin Czarnik is another nice gamble that could pay off. Los Angeles added Ilya Kovalchuk. San Jose extended Evander Kane and has a boatload of cap space to use still. Arizona added Alex Galchenyuk and Michael Grabner. The Oilers are banking on internal improvement, but a lot of the Pacific added impact players.

Baggedmilk:

I really like the Tobias Rieder signing and think he could be a nice add to the PK and the bottom six. I also like the Brodziak signing because he can win faceoffs and kill penalties as well. Is it enough to get them back into the playoffs? I can’t say for sure but I certainly hope so and so does Peter Chiarelli or else one of us will be looking for a new job next summer.

2) Colten asks – Did signing Rieder, Brodziak, and Gravel realistically improve the team from last year or do you feel, as I do, that these were lateral moves at best?

Jason Gregor:

Brodziak and Rieder will help the PK. I also think Brodziak with Kassian and Khaira could be a very good 4th line. Rieder is better than Cammalleri/Jokinen so I’d say it is an upgrade.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, I think Rieder and Brodziak will help improve the team. Rieder can score enough to play higher in the line-up at times and he can PK. Brodziak fills a need at centre. Decent face-off and PK guy who provides some leadership in the way he plays.

Dustin Nielson:

I think it will improve the team based on penalty killing help alone. Rieder’s speed on the wing certainly can’t hurt.

Matt Henderson:

These do not improve the team over last year. Rieder is not the offensive player that Maroon was. Gravel is an AHL player. Brodziak is back home but is he an upgrade to Letestu and by how much? These signings just keep the Oilers treading water. The improvements have to come from within.

Christian Pagnani:

No. They essentially replaced Patrick Maroon and Mark Letestu with Kyle Brodziak and Tobias Rieder. Brodziak takes Letestu’s role and Rieder is a depth guy that could play with skilled players, like Maroon, but has more speed. Gravel is just a depth guy.

Baggedmilk:

I would say it’s a slight upgrade from how they ended the season. By that point, Maroon had already been traded and so was Letestu so I think bringing in Rieder and Brodziak will help from where things ended, but you’re right to be concerned. I think making the playoffs this year will depend on a lot of guys having big seasons and that’s never a great spot to be in.

Mar 20, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Matt Benning (83) celebrates his first period goal with forward Connor McDavid (97) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

3) James asks – I’m concerned about the defence for the upcoming season because nothing has changed at all. Is there something you can say that will make me feel better about our top six? Does Evan Bouchard change anything?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see Bouchard being a difference maker this year, but he will be in the future. Oilers D is healthy. That will be a big difference, but the addition of Trent Yawney will be the biggest reason you see improvement. Jim Johnson wasn’t an overly positive coach and it wore on the players. Yawney is a good communicator and has worked well with young defenders. His addition will be noticeable.

Robin Brownlee:

If Bouchard changes anything it’s either because he’s an exceptional talent who proves he belongs here or because the Oilers rush him along. If it’s the latter, then it’s going to be a long season again. If it’s because he belongs, and the rest of the group stays/gets healthy and performs as it did two seasons ago, the defence will be adequate.

Dustin Nielson:

Bouchard may possibly change the way you look at it. The only thing that could make you feel better is that Andrej Sekera should be at his healthiest point in 18 months….that’s huge for this team.

Matt Henderson:

The only thing I could say that would make the situation better I said a year ago. Signing Russell locks the defence in and prevents improvement and allocated money to the wrong part of the lineup, but what the hell do I know?

Christian Pagnani:

No, Bouchard shouldn’t be in the NHL. It all depends if Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, and Adam Larsson remain healthy. Darnell Nurse is a nice safety option back there, but he needs to sustain his play all season. There’s a making of a solid top-four group there, but still a lot of question marks.

Baggedmilk:

Bouchard shouldn’t play in the NHL unless he’s ready. Oilers fans have to get used to proper development paths for these guys and realize that not everyone can make an impact at 18 or 19. I wish the Oilers could send him to the AHL but that’s not an option, so their best bet is to give him another year of development in junior. As for the defence being better, all we can do is hope that a healthy Klefbom and Sekera will be enough to get things back on track. If not? Chiarelli’d.

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) controls the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Philip asks – Despite scoring 70 points last season, I think its fair to say Leon Draisaitl left the Oilers wanting a little bit more last season (especially after his performance in the 2017 playoffs). How important is it for Edmonton that Leon is able to really become a consistent driver of his own line, and do we expect he is capable of that?

Jason Gregor:

Draisaitl was a bit inconsistent, but far from the disappointment some suggested he was. He still produced 70 points, and I will bet everything I have he won’t go pointless on the PP in the first 20 games.

Robin Brownlee:

Draisaitl’s PPG was .90 last season compared to .94 the season before. Given the drop-off the entire team had, that’s right in line with reasonable expectations. I’m not sure there’s a lot more people can reasonably expect from Draisaitl in terms of production. I don’t see him as a 90-point player. If he’s in the 70’s every season for the next 6-8 years playing away from Connor McDavid, that makes him a high-end second-line centre — only 20 centres in the league had 70-or-more points last season.

Dustin Nielson:

It’s critical for this team to have Draisaitl drive his own line, I think he’s more than capable of doing that. His numbers will jump significantly next year if they can get the power-play back on track.

Matt Henderson:

I believe he’s capable of doing it, but he still needs to prove it. Pretty strange to say for a man making $8+M a year. That said, he scored a lot of points without much from the PP. A decent PP makes everyone calm down.

Christian Pagnani:

I’d agree, because it’s still difficult to tell what he can do without Connor McDavid. Draisaitl spent 44% of his five-on-five time with McDavid last season. That’s still too much for me, and makes a 70-point season less impressive. I want to see what he does with almost no McDavid time. Play them together four-on-four, on the power play, and in overtime, but Draisaitl needs to be on his own line five-on-five if the Oilers want to succeed. Can he still put up 60-70 points without all that 97 time?

Baggedmilk:

Leon is going to have the same problem that Nuge had last year and people aren’t going to get it. The problem, of course, is who the hell is going to play beside him? Chiarelli traded away most of the skilled wingers on the team and now we’ve got centremen that will be forced to drag pianos behind them to make something happen. Le sigh.

Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect Evan Bouchard speaks to the media after development camp session.

5) Anna asks – My husband’s birthday is coming up on July 19th and he asked for a new Oilers jersey with an “obscure” player name on it. Who would be your under the radar pick to put on his jersey?

Jason Gregor:

There is only one choice.  Strudwick #43. But other good choices would be Beers (#2) or Price (#26) as in Priceless! **I’ll show myself out.**

Robin Brownlee:

Get him a Craig Muni jersey. Not really an obscure player, but Muni was also born on July 19.

Dustin Nielson:

Can I say Puljujarvi? Because I really want to say Puljujarvi. I’ll go Khaira…I think he has what it takes to become a legit fan favourite for the next five years.

Matt Henderson:

Can’t go wrong with Ulanov. He’s the best.

Christian Pagnani:

Obscure player? You still want someone that could be here for a while. I’d go Benning or Strome.

Baggedmilk:

SHAWN VAN ALLEN! Remember when he was the answer? How about Mats Lindgren? Both beauty options.

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    • Bond

      I totally agree, based on last years results injuries and coaching killed us. I’m not making excuses, but if your driver can’t drive and your mechanics can’t fix anything you aren’t going to win many races. Klef and Larson are going to be a very good pairing, Darnell is also ready to impress. McNuge is finally going to be the norm instead of the exception and that’s a VERY GOOD THING.

  • Phattmike

    I think Drai is better than people think. Kinda sorta, but not really bold prediction is that he tops the past P/G Robin mentioned and scores at a 1.0 P/G clip or higher this year.

    • Big Nuggets

      I think Drai has 90 point potential, but maybe not with this year’s linemates. Hopefully either Puljujarvi improves or there is some special German chemistry between Drai and Rieder.

    • LAKID

      He had better he is paid 8.5M and should be a beast for that kind of contract. Leon although doesn’t seem to play with good wingers so who’s fault is that? They have to get Lucic off his line and Jesse has to make that jump this year. Leon does look slow and disinterested at times though so after the Taveres signing his contract easilly moveable.

    • E-Mac

      100% agree. I found myself hating his play at the beginning of last season and I’m sure his concussion had a lot to do with it. It amazes me he had 25 goals and 70 points in what I would consider a sub-par year. I feel we undervalue how good he really is, myself included.

      No doubt in my mind he is scoring 30 goals this year and topping over a point per game. The PP should be better so that is only going to help his stats.

      I think the Oilers rebound and make the playoffs. With McJesus scoring 115, Drai scoring 85, a healthy defense, new coaching improving special teams, and Talbot bouncing back to at least league average we will be back.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    1. This roster isn’t that different from the one that made the playoffs in 2016-2017 (minus Eberle). With everyone starting off healthy, Talbot returning to form, and even the PK and PP being VASTLY improved, I say playoffs are very likely this year.
    2. Brodziak and Reider will make a difference, especially on the penalty kill. I can’t say too much for Gravel, but he might make a good 7th D if something goes wrong. Plus we already have Ethan Bear to call on as well.
    3. The fact that the D core will be 100% healthy come puck drop, it’s not hard to assume that things will be better on the back-end. Bouchard is too young and too inexperienced to make a big impact, but that should viewed as a good thing, not a negative one.
    4. Driaistl also had a concussion early on (thanks Loserpeg), so you’ve got to cut him some slack. Plus the fact that he had 70 points despite a garbage Oilers PP must count for something. I’m not worried about Draisitl at all and neither should management. His contract is good for what he brings (if he scored 80-90 points, will you all stop whining about it?) and he’s 1st line center on 24 other NHL clubs. There are other concerns on this team than the Deutschland Dangler.
    5. Umm…Jussi Markanen.

  • TKB2677

    I don’t care who stacked your line up is, if you don’t get goaltending, you won’t win.

    Jets came into this season with mostly the same roster that missed the playoffs the year before and they were dominate. What changed? Well Hellebuyck figured it out, was outstanding and was a Vezina finalist.

    Vegas was the extreme surprise of the year. They broke expansion records, made it all the way to the finals. Why? Were they a solid team, yes. BUT Fleury was 2.24 GA and .927%. His best numbers EVER. If he plays more games, he is in line for the Vezina. Through the playoffs, he was even better.

    If Talbot can be even a middle of the pack NHL starter, they Oilers make the playoffs.

    • Dirtbag Daddy

      I agree with the statement about goaltending. I’ve always stated that Sather made sure he had the best or close to the best goaltending and in fact gave up first round draft picks to obtain them. From Cujo to Ranford he obtained what he needed. He was never satisfied with mid to lower rated goalies. Seeing Talbot may be working towards a new contract he will most likely have a decent year but if not then changes should be made.

    • Edmontoncanucks

      Nailed it. The Oilers can’t sit idly by and wait for the usual 20 game dlow start to the season of Talbot. 2 or 3 bad starts in goes number 1A. Why the hell Chia let the Oilers waste a year with no legit NHL backup goalie to push Talbot when they were floating around like candy…and no support for the D knowing Sekeras was hurt was inexcusable (with the expansion D was floating around like candy too)Chia should have been fired

  • ubermiguel

    Obscure player name? That’s a tough one, usually you want that obscure player to mean something to you. For me it might be Zack Stortini (#46). I went to a couple of games that must have been the greatest games he ever played, he was really fun to watch. If your husband is into advanced stats how about Jim Corsi’s #35?

  • ed from edmonton

    A lot of these questions and answers revolve around the fact that Oil “core” must play better in 18/19 for team success. Hardly stop the press stuff but that’s the way it is. The Oil have invested heavily in this “core” and will win or lose with them.

    WRT a obscure Oil, how about Don Cutts. I know many readers were not alive when Don Cutts appeared in 6 games in the 79/80 season. He was a goalie who put up a 1W-2L-1T record and 3.57 GAA.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Lots of talk about improving the PK – lets not forget, from February 1 through the rest of the year, a good two month sample size, the PK was the best in the NHL.

    This generally conincided with McLellan taking over from Johnson (from accounts) and Caggulia and Letestu being replaced on the PK with Khaira and Strome.

    Of course, I’m happy with the likes of Brodziak and Rieder to further improve the PK.

  • Bills Bills

    Anyone else do the eye roll when Matt’s comments appear? I seriously wonder if someone caca’s in his corn flakes every morning. How else does someone become so bitter?

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Uh no, No they have not. Chia has the Oilers line up filled with “Hope” and last year that didnt work out too well. Would I love to see the Oil make the playoffs, you bet, do I think they are going to, hell no. There is a better chance of all the commentators to this story winning the Lottomax than the Oil making the playoffs. There are far too mnay holes, we are up tight to the cap and last year Chia didn’t want to get any help because he thought the oil could turn it around. This year there will be no help unless there is a significant trade, because there isn’t any cap space, so unless all the hope and everyone else especially TM can get the team o and player on track, I think we fall well shy of the playoffs

  • Foximus

    Sounds like the most impactful changes of the off season came in the coaching department. If special teams get better everything will look like a massive improvement. I think they make the playoffs and then who knows what can happen.

  • Foximus

    And no one is talking about Larsson having a bounce back season. Injuries and the death of his father in Edmonton would throw off any young person. I see Larsson being a difference maker this year.

  • OiLNATION

    Oilers playoff line up against sharks:
    Maroon – McDavid – Draisaitl
    Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
    Pouliot – Desharnais – Kassian
    Caggiula – Letestu – Slepyshev

    Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
    Andrej Sekera – Kris Russell
    Darnell Nurse – Matt Benning
    Cam Talbot
    Laurent Brossoit

    Oilers predicted 2018-19 line up:
    Nuge-Mcd-Rattie
    Lucic-Drai-Ried/Pulju
    Khaira-Strome-Pulju/Ried
    Caggiula- Brodz- Kassian
    Aberg
    Likely same defense

    I notice the bottom 6 was very weak for the oilers in the ppayoffs considering desharnais was third line center with pouliot, the present line up has a much stronger bottom 6. However the top 6 of the playoff line up might have the edge over the present line up if players dont step up to fill the voids of the players oilers have lost.

    • Gravis82

      The top 6 this year is down 3 players. Lucic is not going to regain form. Maroon and Eberle have no been replaced. We are going to see another awful season, I am sorry, but I just don’t see it. How can anyone think we can win the cup with Lucic, Rattie and Reider in our top 6.

  • McNugent

    We get top 16 goaltending we get into the playoffs.

    We get top 5 goaltending and we most likely win the division.

    McDavid, Nuge, Drai are great players and can carry the offence.

    Will it be Talbot 16 or Talbot 17 that’s shows up this year?

    That question ultimately decides the teams fate.