Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What are the Oilers’ strengths?

Another Monday is here to ruin your practice retirement and that sucks, there’s no doubt, but the first day of the week also means another edition of the Monday Mailbag. As always, the mailbag is here to help you kill off a few minutes of your day and maybe, just maybe, help you learn a little something while you’re at it. If you’d like to join in the fun, I need questions for next week and you can always email them to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and waste as much company time as is humanly possible. Have a good week, everybody.

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

1) Jeremy asks – The Oilers obviously have strength down the middle with McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Strome but my question for the panel is what other areas of strength do you see on this team? Is there anything else that makes you think, “yeah, they’re good there?”

Jason Gregor:

Their left defence is solid. Their left wing with RNH, Lucic, Khaira and Caggiula is pretty good in my eyes. They have two top-six LW and two bottom-six.

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Robin Brownlee:

RNH will likely be used as a left winger. That aside, left defence, with Nurse, Sekera and Klefbom is fine, assuming they are healthy. That, of course, is a big assumption.

Christian Pagnani:

They covered at left defence. Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, and Andrej Sekera should fill out the left side of their top four. Whoever is left out should be a luxurious third-pairing guy. Kris Russell is another left-handed third-pairing defenceman.

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Matt Henderson:

Pretty solid abs among the team, I’d say. Decent hair as well. As far as strength I go center>abs>hair>defense>goaltending>left wing>right wing>head coach>general manager.

Chris the Intern:

If you would have asked me this before last season I would have said goaltending, special teams, as well as havaing grit & energy. Right now we’re at a middle point where we’re waiting to see how everyone performs. I don’t really feel comfortable saying we have ‘strengths’ in any other area of our game because we’re banking on a lot of bounce backs from players.


I wanted to go off the board and say that I feel good about the Oilers goaltending. I believe in Cam Talbot and I think he’s going to have a solid year after he, along with many others, didn’t play up to their own standards last season. Who the hell knows what Mikko Koskinen is going to be like, but I’m trying to have faith in management on this. Summer positivity!

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Jan 12, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan looks on during the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

2) Henry T. asks – Todd McLellan said that he hasn’t given his new assistant coaches many notes on the players and that he’d like them to form their own opinions. Do you think this is the right approach? Why?

Jason Gregor:

I agree completely. If Mclellan tells them what he thinks it could influence what they see, and they would look for those traits, pro or con, in the player. It is better to let the coaches have their own opinion, because what they see could differ from McLellan and it might change how he views a player or what situations he uses them in.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, it’s a good idea. Why bring in fresh sets of eyes to form opinions if you are going to try to influence how those new coaches assess players ahead of time?

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Christian Pagnani:

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Absolutely. I’m sure McLellan has made up his mind with many players on the roster, but the new assistants should challenge him and bring their own analysis without hearing his input first.

Matt Henderson:

Yes. McLellan’s judgment is suspect and they fired/“promoted” his entire staff because so much went wrong. Not poisoning the minds of his new assistants is probably the best decision he’s made in over a year.

Chris the Intern:

I think that’s a great decision. Todd is putting his ego aside and not telling the new coaches what he already thinks. This is a great way to bring new ideas into the dressing room, and for the new coaches to pickup on things that Todd doesn’t see.


I really like this approach and think it’s the only one that makes sense. McLellan telling the new guys exactly what he thinks about the players won’t help anything apart from creating biases.

3) Breanne asks – Are there any current free agents that you think would make sense for the Oilers to invite to training camp on a PTO? Is this even an option given their limited cap space?

Jason Gregor:

Veterans can look at the Oilers lineup and see the void. If there is a right-shot winger, he could agree to come here. Tommy Wingels or Drew Stafford could be options, but neither excite me that much.

Robin Brownlee:

Jason Chimera.

Christian Pagnani:

I’d invite Nick Shore, Jannik Hansen and Cody Franson. Shore could add another depth centre. Hansen was a useful player for a long time, he could rebound. Franson has heavy boots but he can play.

Matt Henderson:


Chris the Intern:

Nope. We don’t know Darnell’s contract yet but I’m pretty confident there won’t be any cap space left.


Honestly, I don’t know what to say here. What I can definitely tell you is that I hope they pick up someone with some experience that can play on the right wing.

May 30, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vegas Golden Knights left wing James Neal (18) celebrates with left wing Erik Haula (56) after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the first period in game two of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

4) Stephen asks – I was talking to a few of my friends and when discussing the possible new expansion to Seattle, we realized that the conferences would line up as 16 teams on each side. Since the Pacific just got Vegas added to the division, where do you think Seattle will end up or do you think the NHL would re-align the divisions again?

Jason Gregor:

You could move Arizona to the Central division. They used to be in the same division as Dallas. It isn’t ideal, but moving them to the Central and sliding Seattle into the Pacific makes the most sense for me.

Robin Brownlee:

Putting Seattle in the Central Division is the easiest. There is no compelling reason not to do it that way.

Christian Pagnani:

It’s too early to tell. The NHL will most likely mix the divisions up again with the Pacific already having eight teams in the division.

Matt Henderson:

Seattle will be in the Pacific and the NHL will realign. Edmonton might find themselves in the central (but I hope not).

Chris the Intern:

Good question. I couldn’t see it being possible to add another team to the Pacific. They’d have to force someone from the Pacific over to the Central to even things up probably. It would definitely be a complicated conversation to have. I’m curious to see how that would play out.

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Who knows what the NHL will do. Remember when Detroit was a Western Conference team? Someone is going to have to slide out East and there are a couple teams that might make sense based on geography. Chicago? Dallas? St. Louis? What the hell do I know?

5) Blake asks – I want to take my son camping for the first time (he’s 7) and I’d love some advice on places to go or places that you’ve been that would give him a great experience.

Jason Gregor:

Waterton National Park and Cypress Hills. Both are awesome.

Robin Brownlee:

No idea where to go because I haven’t gone camping in 40 years. Are we talking tent or RV/trailer here? It makes a difference. This may sound silly, but if you’re taking a little guy tenting for the first time, you might consider a test run by spending a night in the backyard to make sure he’s good with a different bed and different sounds and surroundings. Chances are he’ll be just fine and will really enjoy being out under the stars etc. If you’re in an RV or trailer, it just comes down to picking the most family friendly area you can find and avoiding the spot beside the guys on the stag camping weekend.

Christian Pagnani:

I’ll leave this to the other guys. I’m not a camping guy at all.

Matt Henderson:

We went camping all the time as kids but I haven’t been in a long time. My wife practically needs an EpiPen when she gets a mosquito bite and my kids aren’t far behind. The last time I tried was near Drumheller because we thought we could do the Tyrell Museum and get the camping itch all scratched up at the same time. It was a nightmare. It was one of those scenarios in life where you know you’re acting like a crazy person but you just keep going. My family ended up hiding from a swarm of mosquitos in the car while I “set up the tent” until I decided to drive to a motel and leave the next morning. *This close* to leaving my family behind. I dream about what life would be like if I hadn’t let them get in the car that morning. How much happier would I be? How fewer would the burdens I carry be? Would I still go camping? Sigh. Anyway, what were we talking about?

Chris the Intern:

I would definitely take him to the mountains someplace. There are a ton of campgrounds in and around Canmore that I would recommend. He’ll never forget a mountain trip with some kayaking/hiking/fishing involved in my opinion.


Realistically, the little man is seven and he won’t care where you guys go as long as you have a good time. Take him somewhere you can go fishing. Or maybe take him to one of those little cabin things near Jasper.


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  • Oilers in one

    Not sure why Henderson is even included in these articles, gives us a lot of sarcasm, clearly doesn’t understand anything about coaching, and is nothing but biased against players who don’t have good “fancy stats” or whom he doesn’t like.

    • Sorry if I wasn’t more complimentary to a head coach or who had the worst PP to ever feature an Art Ross winner, a historically bad PK, and who played Lucic with 97 over and over despite the job he did.

      You are correct though. I am biased towards players who are good at Hockey

      • Oilers in one

        The players are 90% responsible for the PP and PK. Almost every team in the NHL Runs the exact same PK and PP systems and it comes down to players executing those systems… So is it really the coaches fault if they can’t execute the system or the GM’s fault for not find the appropriate players to play within the system?

        • Serious Gord

          IT is widely agreed that PK is mostly coaching and systems and that PP is mostly talent AS LONG AS IT WORKS WELL TOGETHER. The fault for EDM’s PK and PP last season both belong almost entirely with the coaching staff.

          • Oilers in one

            Have you ever coached a successful power play or penalty kill at a high level? if you have which I assume you haven’t you would know that the PK is all up to the players making the correct reads quickly have having good stick position. Every PK in the NHL is set up by the coaches in almost the same way because there is only really 1 effective penalty kill formation teams can have to defend a 1-3-1 power play which is used by all NHL teams. So the players are all in the correct base positions on the ice from that system. It then becomes the players responsibility to make the correct reads and have correct stick position to make the PK truly effective.

      • OriginalPouzar

        Matt, how was the PK historically bad? It ended up like 25th in the league so there were 6 teams’ with worse PKs for the year. It was the best PK in the league for the last two months of the season (from February 1 through the rest of the year).

        To call it historically bad is to discount a third of the season.

        • fisherprice

          This just seems willfully disingenuous. Sure, the strong finish (when playoffs were already out of the question) helped bring up their overall percentage on the year, but there was a good long stretch where the home PK was hovering around 50%.

    • Hemmercules

      I’m starting to find Hendersons angst kinda funny. When I see the monday mailbag is up I always check his answers first knowing its going to be some sarcastic stuff about hating the Oilers in some capacity. The Oilers just make it so easy though. No at all surprised to see that he kinda hates his family as well.

      To expand on Gregors comment about camping. Waterton Lakes isnt really what I would call camping. No fires, you can eat at restaurants every meal of you wanted to and theres water and electrical hook ups. Not exactly roughing it and tourist are everywhere. That said, its a beautiful place and probably better for the more fussy campers who dont want to actually hit the back country but still want to camp in some capacity. Hiking and tenting for the night is also an option and there are many great hikes if you are into that.

      • McNugent

        It’s an insult to the readers and the other writers when he cant even answer a simple question.

        Where are some of the Oiler Strengths?

        Hair and Abs? Like seriously. That’s the best you can come up with? The readers come on here to get valuable insight. The other writers take the time to answer these questions seriously. You had an opportunity to show your unbiased. You tried to be funny, but sadly you are the joke.

        • I don’t think the word “unbiased” means what you think it means and I think you need to relax. There are a couple things very wrong with your incessant whining. 1) Do you believe I’m supposed to be positive about the 23rd best team in the NHL to shown my lack of bias? And 2) Are you under the impression that I’m *supposed* to be unbiased or that it’s even possible?

          Bias in writing/reporting exists throughout all genres, cities, and publications. It’s literally impossible to entirely block out your entire perspective and make something.

          Beyond all this, were you actually personally offended by lacing a joke answer into a mail bag response on July 30th of an off-season with almost no activity? Grow up, snowflake.

          • McNugent

            I think you are entirely missing the point.

            You had an opportunity to write something positive about the team and show the fans who RIP you for your constant NEGATIVITY towards the team that you actually have some insight towards the team… that your capable of being positive.

            A lot of us are getting tired of your constant whining. You need to pick it up even if its July 30th.

            Show some excitement for the 23rd place team. We had terrible goaltending last year and our D was banged up. Our coaching is deeper, more experienced and Connor, Leon and Darnell are a year older.

            It’s an exciting time to be an Oilers fan. We were one goal or one honest video review away from a final four a season ago.

            Things are going to be better. You need to relax.

    • Jason Gregor

      I’m sure you are being somewhat sarcastic…and I understand many prefer to be negative than positive in the comment sections, but Milan Lucic is a top-six LW. Yes, he had a shitty final 46 games. They are the outlier.

      Since the 2010/2011 season Lucic has the 9th most points among left wingers in the NHL with 392.

      In the past three seasons he has the 23rd most points among left wingers, and that includes him struggling mightily for the final 46 games.

      Lucic isn’t done yet. It won’t surprise me at all if he scores 45+ points next year.

      • Opi

        No sarcasm intended whatsoever. I simply don’t share your overly optimistic view on the guy. The speed to keep up in the NHL is not a skill that can be turned on and off year to year whenever Looch desires. I agree the guy may have been somewhat snakebit around the net but no way he is capable of coming back to anywhere near his prime form. Only year two into a terrible contract offered by Chiarelli and he is reduced to essentially policeman duties at six million per for another five. There is very little value in that.

        People suggest that Looch fell off the cliff only in the last half season when that’s the furthest thing from the truth. The 45+ points you suggest … Looch actually has only scored 50 points since Jan.1, 2017 … a 125 game period so forgive me if I don’t buy into what you are selling, Gregs … this guy is net to done …

        • Jason Gregor

          I don’t think 45 is overly optimistic. He had 26 points in the first 36 games of the season last year. Footspeed isn’t his issue. Playing fast was, as in making quick, smart decisions was his downfall in the second half of last season. He tried way too many HOPE passes.

          As for bringing up January 1st, 2017…Lucic had 23 points from Jan1st to end of the season (43 games). In those 43 games, RNH had 24 points, Eberle had 23 and Maroon had 25. They were all the same. I don’t see any suggestion they fell off. In the calender year of 2017 Lucic produced 49 points in 79 games. So outside, of a bad final 46 games last year there hasn’t been the fall of you are suggesting. The final 46 games is the outlier.

          • Opi

            Yet, Ebs14 put up 32 points this past season since Jan. 1, 2018 in his final 41 games & RNH put up 19 points in only 22 games this season in the same period. So using your train of thought, it’s logical to say that two of the three examples you gave were indeed having declined production the previous season from Jan. 1, 2017 onwards … for whatever reason. We can go back & forth all day long and make the stats back our positions but the fact remains …

            Milan Lucic has cored 33 goals & 51 assists for 84 points in 164 Oiler games. His production has been declining since his first half season. This isn’t just a handful of games for a sample size. It’s sizeable at 125 games. I would suggest that nobody, yourself included, would have never thought that Looch would bring so little to the Oiler table given the fanfare he had coming in & his history of being a pretty solid power forward. Looch is 236 lbs and from what I’m told has very little body fat. He’s fit & he gave it his all during that large window of 125 games but it wasn’t near what his bloated salary would justify.

            Looch came up short & that’s indisputable … for 75% of the time he has been an Oiler … the best prognosticator for the future is the recent past, no?

            Love your radio show, btw. I’m an avid fan & look forward to you hitting the mark far more often than not. Keep up the great work.

          • Redbird62

            Even though it has been posted several times over the past few months while Lucic’s performance has been debated, people continue to ignore that the evidence does not support a continual 2 year decline in his play. Lucic’s points by half season over the 2 years – 26, 24, 27, and 7. That is 3 very consistent half seasons followed by one atrocious half. And 5 on 5, the first half of the later season was his best. Maybe he doesn’t bounce back, but nobody can legitimately justify their prediction of that by pointing to a lengthy trend because it does not exist.

          • crabman


            When looking at Lucic’s scoring you need to look at where he has been getting his points. Lucic is not traditionally a big PP scorer but scored 25 PP points 2 years ago masking a sub par, by his standards, 5×5 scoring year. So Lucic has had 2 seasons of bellow his average 5×5 scoring. I don’t think we can count on him getting a big boost from the PP and 8f he can’t improve on the past 2 seasons 5×5 scoring his rebound will be limited.
            I’m not of the group that believes he is done but I think he is on the decline and a 45 point season would be a terrific season and probably the best case scenario for next year. Although I wouldn’t be suprised this a season high 35-40 points either.

          • Serious Gord

            The last 45 games might be the outlier, or they might be the sign of what it to come.

            IMO Lucic’s issues are all between his ears – even he pretty much admits that. Perhaps he can address it, but I think he has lost the mental edge – the viciousness – to his game that made him effective. Maybe he can be like Howe and get nastier as he ages (especially once he started playing alongside his sons) but he may be out of the league before then…

        • Bills Bills

          Overly simplistic?? Overly simplistic is making blanket statements like “he’s done” or my other favourite “he sucks at hockey” awesome in-depth responses there. Lucic had personal issues which if anyone has ever had some personal mental or emotional issues, the first step is admitting you have an issue. (Hint hint MH) The second is getting the help which it sounds like he is doing.

          I also want to say that I think Lucic needs to have a slightly different deployment. Contrary to the results of his first season in Edmonton. Lucic is not a PP guy. He has always been a VERY GOOD 5X5 player. He was not on Boston’s top unit and I don’t think he should be on Edmonton’s. In the last 3 years before coming to Edmonton, Lucic had scored 62 goals, with a whopping 7 of them on the PP of his 96 assists in that time, 21 were on the PP. Please get him off of it! Save his energy for shifts where he can make a difference. Is it a coincidence that his 5X5 play has suffered since he starting getting more special teams time? Just because he is big, doesn’t mean he needs to stand in front of the net on every PP. We have guys that can move the puck quickly and accurately on the PP and PK, Lucic is not one of them and he is not a shooter.

    • Serious Gord

      Interesting that everyone is trashing this obvious solution. Is everybody that upset that Vancouver won’t be in the same division?

      The logic is simple and has long been a quest by the league – to have divisions play in the same times zones and regions. My suggested changes (and I think the league will do it) gorups by timezone and then by region. Denver has far more in common with the pacific and desert teams than it does teams to the east.

      Like or not, small, northwest inland cities like EDM and CGY are more like WPG, MSP, CHI than Vancouver and LA.

      And Robin, with Seattle paying the league over 1/2 billion dollars and not being put in the division with Vancouver, San Fran, SJ and LA is simply not happening.

      If there are readers who have better suggestions than mine i would love to see them.

      • Redbird62

        The only other logical alternative, is moving Phoenix over. In the winter, Phoenix is also in the Mountain Time zone so from that perspective they are just as logical and Edmonton/Calgary. Colorado’s travel would not be made better and Edmonton/Calgary would get worse for miles traveled. Plus, Phoenix is more likely than any other franchise to move anyway (except maybe the Flames tee hee) and it won’t be west so even more reshuffling would be required.

        • Serious Gord

          Colorado travel time is little changed in either division. It’s far more interested/related to pacific cities like San Fran and LA than EDM or cgy. It’s a better fit. Phx isn’t going anywhere- look for a Scottsdale arena in next few years to address their problems and it too has far stronger links to pacific teams than central ones.

          And I don’t see how cgy travel issues are much changed flying to Chicago and Minny compared to pacific teams.

  • OriginalPouzar

    1) Of course, left defence is in good shape if Sekera is close to 90% health and Russell is actually playing the left side (come on Benning, grab that 2RD spot and solidify it).

    Also, the team has many forwards that can (seemingly) play multiple positions as well as up and down the lineup. Guys like Rieder, Strome, Puljujarvi, Aberg can likely make plays on the 1st line as well as the 3rd line.
    Even Brodziak has shown an ability to play up the lineup (he scored at 2.74 P/60 at 5 on 5 during the last 16 games of the season last year – this was after Stastny was traded and he was playing with Berglund and Steen – he led the team – 8 of his 11 points in those 16 games were primary as well).

    Further to the ability to move up and down the lineup, a number of the wingers are able to play both sides (Rieder, Aberg, Caggulia) and we have about 6 players that can play center (Khaira and Nuge starting off as wingers).

    As far as PTOs, there is zero harm in a PTO, its simply a camp tryout – the only potential harm is taking playing time away from another player (and decisions need to be made early this year with the team heading over seas). I truly think they need to sign one more established NHL player to but another body between the NHL and the likes of Brad Malone. Depending on Yamamoto, we are currently one injury away from Malone in the lineup (or rushing a prospect like Marody). Nick Shore I would be OK with signing to an NHL contract. There are a number of other veterans out there that would be fine to bring to camp to see if they have anything to give.

    There is plenty of room on the 50 contract limit to acquire one more forward.

    The other option, which may be better than a signing, is the waiver wire – there will be a few solid players available I would think.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    I’m okay with Matt Henderson working here and offering his unique insights but I think it is time he change that avatar from Indy to Eyore. Indy is a little too positive for Henderson’s insights IMHO. Heck, Eyore might be too positive if I’m being completely honest.

  • Spydyr

    McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, and Strome but my question for the panel is what other areas of strength do you see on this team?

    It is a short list:

    Nurse, Larsson,Khaira and Puljujarvi has the tools just needs the toolbox.

    • McNugent

      One of the most experienced coaching staffs in the league.

      Nurse, Larsson, Klefbom, Khaira.

      Short list indeed. Luckily for us Center depth is the most important to running a good NHL team.

  • wiseguy

    The Oilers additional strengths are McD on the wing, McD killing penalties, McD playing the point on the PP, McD playing D, and McD playing in goal. All McD all the time is the Oilers strongest bet.

  • “Putting Seattle in the Central Division is the easiest. There is no compelling reason not to do it that way.”

    No compelling reason? They’re literally on the Pacific coast, a couple hours from Vancouver and only a couple more from San Jose and the other California teams. There’s no justification for putting them in any division *other* than the Pacific.

  • camdog

    Sekera and Klefbom healthy/healthier is a significant upgrade over last season. Having a coaching staff knowing how to deploy the forwards properly will be another big win. We all knew RnH should have started the year on the wing and Leon at centre. Coaching staff also figured out that they do have the personnel to run an effective penalty kill. If Koskinen is any good is my biggest question? I like the diversity at forward, there are some options that the coaching staff can work with and some young guys in the fold that may be ready for some games here and there.

    This team is significantly better than last year, the three keys to success will be goaltending, being healthy and the powerplay.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    1. Aside from the 2nd best center depth in the league (don’t let those ingrates in Toronto tell us any different), I’d say our other strengths are the LW depth and defence (when healthy).
    2. I like Todd’s approach. He has 3 new people with 3 new voices in his locker room, two of them were opposing bench guys. I’d love to hear their take on the Oilers from an opposition coach pov.
    3. No
    4. As long as we’re not stuck with the central division, I’ll be happy. Otherwise we can kiss the playoffs goodbye 10x as quickly as before.
    5. I can’t comment as all of my camping was done at CFB Cold Lake when I was in Air Cadets

  • lee

    Hopefully Sekera is 100% it would have been almost 1 1/2 year since the injury. That should be enough time, the player I worry about the most when it comes to injury is the Nuge, he has had quite a few injuries already and when he is hurt, he never seems to be out for a week to 10 days, its part of the reason he has never been a big point producer.
    I love the player but knowing they could have gotten Galchenyuk and probably a good draft pick, I would have made that pick.
    The Nuge has got to put together a couple of years where he is not out of the line up for a long period of time.

  • RyanCoke

    Just got back from camping in Jasper. Most amazing locations and hiking trails. Go to a spot that allows fire pits. We are normally a camping family so we have rifles and bear bangers in case of bear scares which happened this past weekend. Thankfully the bear didn’t walk into our camp but he was 100ft away. All the kids loved it though. There is cliff diving a short drive away and many extremely beautiful lakes nearby.

    • Serious Gord

      AB has very nice camping assets, unfortunately it has the fewest per capita than any other province. Coming from Newfoundland and having spent time in all of the other eastern provinces it amazes me how crowded the more easily accessable (read: with a 7 year old not requiring thousands of dollars in quads or horses) options in AB are.

      If you have time, going east to SK or west to BC there are better, less busy options.

  • Bills Bills

    Johnston Canyon gets my vote. Nice sites for tents or trailers, showers in the washrooms, you can have a fire if no bans are in place, some easy hikes and as all 7 year olds will love, there is an ice cream stand. Good luck booking a spot in a provincial or national park this late in the season though.

  • Cahoon

    Take your seven year old to Writing on Stone provincial park. There are these fun sandstone plateaus to trek around on, a nice river with sand from the sandstone that is practically a beach. Perfect camping for young kids.