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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What happens next now that Sekera is out?

You survived the weekend, maybe got a bit Sunday Funday day drunk, and now you’re looking for ways to kill some company time until the clock tells you you’re allowed to leave. Luckily, your ol’ pal Baggedmilk is back with another chapter of the award-winning mailbag that’s here to not only kill those worktime minutes, but also to teach you a little something about the Oilers and life in general. As always, the mailbag depends on your questions.  If you have one, you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Enjoy the distraction, my friends, you’ve earned it.

Edmonton Oilers Defenceman Andrej Sekera

1) Jeremy asks – With Andrej Sekera out again for an extended period of time, I’d love for you guys to take a guess at what the Oilers will do to fill that gap left in the top six?

Robin Brownlee:

The wildcards are Kevin Gravel and Evan Bouchard. I don’t know enough about Gravel and we haven’t seen Bouchard against NHL competition. I’d rather see the Oilers bring in a D-man — easier said than done — than force Bouchard into the mix. Do you make a call on the back end now or wait until you get a look at everybody in pre-season?

Matt Henderson:

Well, it really puts Edmonton in a precarious position of depending on Kris Russell to anchor his own pairing. I pray that they at least invite one of a couple players like Davidson and/or Franson to try out so there’s SOME competition back there for the 6-7 spots. It’s bad enough that the team is always trying to rush their kids but now there’s a chance to play Bouchard AND Lowe’s son and all they have to do is neglect their jobs as managers for another few more months.

Cam Lewis:

I imagine Klefbom-Larsson and Nurse-Benning will be two pairs while Russell will play on a third pair with somebody else. I hope that somebody else isn’t Evan Bouchard because that’s a horrendous way to bring a rookie into the NHL, but the Oilers badly need to find another legitimate NHL defender to bring on for the third pair. They’re one more injury away from Russell being their second LD and, like, Kevin Gravel playing 18 minutes a night. This D group was pretty ugly even before Sekera got injured.

Christian Pagnani:

Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse are the two left-side defenceman in the top four. Maybe Kris Russell slides down to the left side of the third pairing and plays with Evan Bouchard or someone else while Matt Benning moves up to play with Nurse. I’d add another veteran guy, even though you’re getting the scraps of free agency now. Tobias Enstrom is interesting. Alexei Emelin might be a capable guy in fewer minutes. Peter Chiarelli’s acquired Dennis Seidenberg once before. I don’t think this group is good enough at it stands.

Chris the Intern:

I’m awfully scared that Chia will make some sort of trade. I’d be down to trade for Torey Krug, but I don’t really trust Chia to make that trade without giving up one of our prized possessions. I think the best/easiest move for Pete is to sign one of the UFA’s right now. Brandon Davidson? Cody Franson?

Baggedmilk:

At this point, it looks like they’re going to roll the dice again like they did last year. Not having a replacement for Sekera when he missed the start of the season was a major problem for the team last year, and it looks like, at this point, that this is the strategy they’ll be running with again this year. Fingers crossed, I guess?

2) Clayton asks – Do you think Sekera’s injury makes it more likely that Evan Bouchard sticks around whether he’s ready or not? I’m nervous about another Justin Schultz type of situation happening.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, it does make it more likely based on numbers alone if Chiarelli doesn’t bring in anybody. I see no connection between Schultz and Bouchard. Expectations for Schultz were unreasonably elevated because he came in with a high price tag because of free agency.

Matt Henderson:

It opens the door wide for the club to play Evan Bouchard more than nine games, which would be silly unless he is conveniently more ready than any D drafted in his spot in a very long time. Oh, and Bouchard would be learning NHL defense from his partner, who would probably be Russell. So it’s basically worst case scenario for the kid in my head. The kid is most likely not ready (I’m open to possibilities but let’s be real) and Edmonton has a fragile blueline right now. If he’s up in the NHL he might be the best passing and shooting RHD they have and that’s going to mean opportunities whether he’s up to the task or not. So yeah, now I have Jultz-a-phobia too. Thanks for that.

Cam Lewis:

It makes zero sense to rush a player out of necessity but most of what the Oilers do doesn’t make any sense. Like I said above, putting Bouchard on the ice with Russell would be a pretty difficult way to get him acclimatized to the NHL game.

Christian Pagnani:

Yes. This is the Edmonton Oilers. They played Leon Draisaitl when he wasn’t ready. Then did it again with Jesse Puljujarvi. They resisted with Kailer Yamamoto but played him nine games. Bouchard plays a position the Oilers are desperate for. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if he made the team.

Chris the Intern:

I too am nervous about that. Honestly, we can speculate all we want right now but we won’t know for sure until Bouchard gets a couple NHL games under his belt. What if he scores 15 points in his first eight games? Are you really going to want to send him back to junior just to follow tradition? If he absolutely flops in training camp then I will hope he won’t be rushed through.

Baggedmilk:

Schultz and Bouchard are different in their situations but I understand what you’re getting at. Schultz was brought in and given way too much responsibility too early on and it completely sunk his ship here, and the Oilers would be wise not to let the same thing happen to Bouchard. I’d like to see them bring in another veteran as a stopgap, but who knows if that’ll happen. I heard from a source I trust that Brandon Davidson turned down a PTO offer from the Oilers so that one is off the table.

Jan 9, 2018; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Calgary Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

3) Terry asks – Glen Gulutzan said last week that there will be changes coming to the Oilers’ style of play and obviously we don’t know what he means, but I’m curious what you think he’s getting at? What is your best guess?

Robin Brownlee:

Gulutzan has already said we’ll see the Oilers speed up the pace of play and I imagine that’ll include a more aggressive forecheck. You cannot totally revamp a roster to add faster players, but you can play quicker.

Matt Henderson:

No idea. Plenty of room for change on the PP and the PK. All the change possible would be welcome. 5v5 I would like to see a strategy of some kind for the three lines that don’t feature McDavid.

Cam Lewis:

I’m guessing really abstract stuff like scoring more goals than the other team.

Christian Pagnani:

Spending less time in their zone, playing faster with the puck, moving it up ice well. Basically everything new coaches say when they come to a new team. It’ll be good to have some new voices.

Chris the Intern:

I think he’s referring to speed of play up and down the ice. The Oilers have quite a few fast players but don’t really utilize their speed. McLellan and his staff have to convert the team to a quick moving, quick breakout team to match the rest of the NHL.

Baggedmilk:

I assume he means better support which would allow for quicker transitions through the neutral zone. I don’t know how many times I complained about the Oilers firing cross-ice passes to nobody last year but it seemed like an infinite amount. More support and shorter passes will help them speed things up.

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) during the face off against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Ryan asks – Bottom six forwards aren’t usually expected to score a lot of goals. There have been plenty of exemptions however and my question is, who from the Oilers bottom six do you feel could score 20 goals and have between 30 and 40 points?

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not sure there are plenty of exceptions in the bottom six, not if you’re talking 20 goals. Strome is the best bet right now. I think Jujhar Khaira could be a 30-40 point guy in time.

Matt Henderson:

I can see Strome between 30-40 points and 20 goals in a good year. Kassian is much more talented than his production ever shows so maybe if everything broke the right way for him. And it’s possible that Khaira can break 30 points one day if he keeps figuring out how to play in the NHL. He’s really proven me wrong plenty already so I won’t bet against him.

Cam Lewis:

Teams that don’t think their bottom-six forwards should score goals are teams who are getting left behind in the modern game. It’s dinosaur thinking. That said, the Oilers could trot out a third line of Lucic-Strome-Puljujarvi that could generate some offence if used properly.

Christian Pagnani:

That’s a tall order for a bottom-six player. I’m not sure many can score 20 goals in those minutes but I could see a 15 goals and 30-ish points from Milan Lucic, Pontus Aberg, and Ryan Strome.

Chris the Intern:

I’m going to ignore Rieder and Brodziak on this one cause I don’t know too much about them and how they play. With the bottom six Oilers squad that we had last year, I think Ryan Strome has the most potential to put up 20 goals or 40 points. Hopefully, he clicks a little more with the team this year and settles into his groove.

Baggedmilk:

I could see Jujhar getting 20 goals one day, but I’m not about to put that kind of pressure or expectations on him now. I’d be pumped to see him keep developing and taking another step forward after last year’s encouraging campaign. Kassian could maybe get close but he’d have to get more ice time than he does now.

5) Andrew asks – It’s known that consistency over an extended period of time is what separates good from great in the athletic world. Who in your mind would have been one of the greatest athletes of all time if they had consistency figured out?

Robin Brownlee:

Consistency matters, but there’s more to it than that if you’re talking greatest of all time in any sport — talent level, willingness to work, being surrounded by good teammates and playing on contending teams. Then, there’s staying healthy, which might be the most important aspect. In hockey, one of the best examples of that for me was Mario Lemieux. While Mario was considered one of the most talented players ever, it’s difficult to put him in the GOAT time conversation alongside Wayne Gretzky because of the disparity in their career points. Between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and back issues, Mario was limited to 915 games and had 1,723 points, while Gretzky played 1,487 and had 2,857. Mario’s PPG was 1.88. Gretzky was 1.92.

Matt Henderson:

Jeez. I bet there are a ton of players/athletes in every sport that we never heard of because they lacked that one thing. Oiler names that pop up for me are like Linus Omark, Robert Nilsson, and Benoit Pouliot. All three could play great in a flash then disappear for longer than they should have.

Cam Lewis:

Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite. If he has been put in the fourth quarter the team would have won state and he would have gone pro. I bet he could throw a ball over them mountains.

Christian Pagnani:

Daigle.

Chris the Intern:

Isn’t this question like saying if Georges Laraque could consistently score a hat trick every game like he did that one time, he could be one of the greatest athletes?

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to pick Ales Hemsky because I always thought he was going to break out. Every summer, I’d convince myself that Hemmer was going to bust out for a big year but it just never materialized that way. He had a lot of injuries in his time here, and it still bums me out.

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  • Jimmer

    Jared Spurgeon (RD) – Minny needs cap space after paying a boat load of cash for Dumba and being stuck with Ryan Suter’s massive never ending contract. Young player and a high pick should do it. Jared is also from Edmonton.
    Klefbom-Larsson
    Nurse-Spurgeon
    Russell-Benning
    Assuming Sekera is gone for the entire year…the only issue is next year’s contract when you have both Sekera and Spurgeon on the books…but you have time to figure that out. Spurgeon’s contract has two years left on it…this year and next. Cap hit about the same as Sekera.

    • the reasonable person

      Fair idea but I don’t see how we get cap compliant for next year with yet another $5.1 million cap hit next year (or that Minny will necessarily not try to gouge the Oilers in a trade, cause they can wait right?).

      I think realistically we are stuck with internal solutions. I don’t like how people are saying to bring in Sbisa/Franson/Enstrom… None of them are that good, sorry. I mean maybe you talk to Enstrom or get some of those guys to camp but they are not solid solutions and so many what-ifs that need to go right with each players for contract and actual playing ability each in varying degrees.

      Why can’t Bear can’t come in a year earlier than he should have? That can happen with injuries, to me it’s crazy he isn’t penciled into the bottom pairing right side with some PP time. You get Kevin Gravel in the press box to keep in honest defensively and Bouchard gets his chance, but he should have to be nothing short of spectacular to stick.

      The Sekera injury is basically catastrophic to a team that had defence, goaltending, top 6 (mostly cause of Connor because there are not really 6 forwards that belong there yet), and special teams as possible strengths (cause their forward depth is not good).

      I think they should sign Rick Nash to one year and that would improve the team more than any realistically available D Man could.

      I think no matter what we need the emergence of Jesse Pulujaarvi this year if we are not going to have another failed season.

      Sadly we are again hoping everything goes right instead of knowing the team is solid. The difference between now and the 2014/15 etc years are that the defence depth is not as awful and there are prospects, the goal tending is better, and the elite forwards we have provide an actual realistic chance.

      Still hard to be sitting here thinking/writing this stuff out. The past blunders we all know about hurt a lot.

  • OriginalPouzar

    I’m big Andrei Sekera fan. When 100% healthy, he is an elite second pairing d-man that can step up to play in the 1st pairing. With that said, even a week ago, prior the news about his achilles, while we could reasonably assume he’d be much better than he was when he returned last season, we weren’t sure quite how effective he would be.

    To me, Reggie was slated in behind Klefbom and Nurse on the left side and was set to anchor the 3rd pairing (likely with Kris Russell).

    The injury, while it will hurt, may not be catastrophic as Reggie was set for 3rd pairing at even strength and that can be replaced. We lose the potential to have maybe the best 3rd pairing (and most expensive) in the NHL but so be it.

    The bigger issue is the injury cover that we lose – Reggie would have been the guy to move up if anyone in the top 4 got hurt. That is the main issue. If the top 4 stay relatively healthy, there will be no issue but that is probably unreasonable to expect.

    To me, the guy to try and get is Toby Enstrom – if he doesn’t want to head to Europe. He is a similar type player to Sekera and spent all of last year in the top 4. To be fair, he played almost all his minutes with Dustin Byfuguelin but they were top 4 minutes. He can come in and play third pairing and move up to the top 4 if required.

    I am remiss to acquire any cap hit with term that we wouldn’t have acquired prior to Sekera’s injury. This isn’t a free $5.5M of cap space. It provides a cushion while we are at the cap limit to go over but, as soon as Sekera is activated, and he will be at some point, its gone. Even if Sekera isn’t activated this season (and he might be), he will be for next season and that $5.5M remains on the cap and there is no cushion to go over. If we’ve added a material contract like Faulk (who I don’t like as a player to start with), we will be forced to move a big contract to get compliant.

    • Redbird62

      Of all the free agent D left out there, to me Enstrom seems like the best fit as a replacement for Sekera. Slightly older, but they play a similar game, and he had an offensive touch and could be a good fit with Russell on the third pair. He is used to playing in Western Canada. The question is can he be enticed to sign for just one season with a chance to finish his career on a better note than being a healthy scratch in the Jets last playoff game. He is thinking of playing with Modo in Sweden with his brother, but Modo is now in Sweden’s second tier league. One question is how to manage the cap space issue if Sekera is cleared to play by the trade deadline, or worse, after the trade deadline. I am guessing Enstrom would cost a few million at least. And would Enstrom agree to sign for 1 year, without a no-trade clause. I think that would have to be a non-starter for the Oilers, but would Enstrom want to be a fill in only till Sekera is able to play. One additional consideration as well is that he hasn’t played a full season himself since 2014, but maybe with 3rd pair minutes, he could hold up.

  • Ten Long Years

    I don’t see Ethan Bear mentioned in this article, does that mean we’ve written him off already? He’s young, but more NHL ready than Bouchard isn’t he?

    • rivid

      Ethan bear has warts to his game still that needs to be addressed in the AHL. The problem as you have stated is Bouchard has many more. He is not NHL ready but people continue to throw his name out as if he should be starting. These people need to give their head a shake, because all they are doing is creating a Justin Shultz like situation. How did that work out. Develop the young guys, find a filler that gets beat out during camp, or find a replacement that cost you draft picks for a expiring contract.

    • OriginalPouzar

      Bear is still in the conversation but we know that he belongs in the AHL for at least a good portion of the season. We don’t know that Bouchard is more NHL ready than Bear but we don’t know that he isn’t, we haven’t had a chance to see Bouchard in a training camp or in an exhibition game against NHL competition.

      I have no doubt that Bear will play plenty of games for the Oilers this year – here is hoping that he is able to play enough in Bakersfield before the call-up to work on his game away from the puck (gaps, angles, decisions at the blue line) and a recall is on merit and not on November 3 because Benning (or god forbid Larsson) is out for 6-8 weeks.

  • CMG30

    Good for GG for recognizing that speed has been an issue on this team. Speeding up the pace of play is vital for this club. The NHL gets faster every year because speed is one of the biggest keys to victory. However, it’s one thing to recognize this and another to actually execute on the plan. I wait. Speeding up the pace of play will also have some unfortunate consequences for some of the plow horses like Lucic. Even in his prime he was never fleet of foot and last season it became glaringly obvious that he was having difficulties keeping up with the pace of the kids. Hopefully he found another gear in the off season or the Hockey News may have overestimated his point production this year.

  • ed from edmonton

    I would be very disappointed if PC doesn’t shore up the D with some Dman from what is left out there (Franson, Siba etc.). They need to use the salary cap space that has opened up. Even if its an overpay for a bottom end Dman for a year is better than not using they cap space.

    A person could spend all day listing players who seemed to have the talent to excel at the NHL level but it never happened. Obviously for the Oil Hemsky comes to mind. His career was the occasional flash of brilliance between periods of mediocrity. His policy of last on first off at practice told us a lot.

  • bcoil

    You know when it comes to the Oilers and their management you 6 are far too negative all the time .Cant you look a little deeper and analyze any decisions these career professionals are making .Heck there might be a reason for example that the aren’t rushing out there and make a trade tomorrow morning for a defenceman .Heck maybe they have done their home work and know that there are 3 or 4 teams with a great stable of defensemen that they cant keep and will have to put some them on the waive wire.. Maybe you could write a story on which teams have the excess of talent instead of getting up every morning and finding a new way to crap on the Manager and the coaches .. Come on guys a couple of you are getting on peoples nerves with your constant negativity . When players talk about the tough environment in this city you have to take more then a little share of the responsibility for that you know .Lets dig a little deeper and find some real stories instead of just crapping on the team its management and its players .. Heck maybe you could start picking on the stick boy or the physio’s or the club house team

    • Spydyr

      One playoff appearance in twelve years prove that all the criticism of the “Oiler Braintrust” is entirely warranted. Over that time they have not only been one of the worst managed teams from the owner on down in the NHL but in the entire sporting world. Results matter.

      • bcoil

        It is like If you continue to ruminate over a girl friend that dumped you 12 years ago .This brain trust has been in charge for 3 going on 4 years and during that time we have turned this team around in its depth its development and in its management decisions .If we had not had a lot of bad injuries etc last year we would be talking about being in the playoffs two out of the last three years .Different perspective Right? So let this very good management team finish of the 5 year plan they put in place i think you will be happy with the results . But ruminating about the organization that was in place 10 years ago is like saying YOU are the same person you where 10 years ago which isn’t true

    • Serious Gord

      Are you implying that the decisions this team’s management have made over the last dozen or more seasons haven’t been examined deeply?

      Where the heck have you been?

      What is disturbing is that upon deep examination the shallowness and ineptitude and cronyism that the moves first appeared to be WERE CONFIRMED.

      The real underlying story of the sekera injury this off season is the the management had no plan ‘B’ – no options on hand that are even remotely sensible. The management has yet again been exposed for having no quality depth on defense.

      You would think they would have learned that lesson over all these years…

      • Hemmercules

        I dont think most teams make plans for losing one of their top 4 dman mid summer. They were expecting him to play this year and earn his 5.5 mil. He appeared to be recovered, ready to train all summer and return healthy in October. They cant just go out and sign another top 4 in July guy just in case someone gets hurt. Had they known prior to July 1st that Sekera would miss the season Im sure they would have targeted a dman in free agency or made a trade of some kind to acquire one. This was just bad timing and now the options are limited.

        I’m not saying I love the management or that they haven’t done some stupid things but this was just unfortunate timing.

    • ed from edmonton

      The format of the Monday mail bag does not lend itself to an in depth analysis so I give the guys a bit of a break that the answers are superficial for the most part. However I will single out Hendo as being a waste of time. Over the last two years everything he says has been a variation on PC should be fired and Kris Russel is not very good at hockey.

  • Redbird62

    Yes, Leon Draisaitl made the roster because the Oilers were woefully inadequate at center. The other centers at the start of that year were Hopkins, Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks. Leon was keeping Will Acton out of the line up. Maybe they could have gotten more out of Anton Lander who also did not get brought up until December. They finally sent Leon down when Derek Roy showed up. Not sure why they did not want Leon to play the World Jrs., but they certainly did not want him going back to the Raiders. With or without Leon, that line up was not going to be very successful, and I think it would be hard to argue today that Leon’s development was impaired and in fact, those 37 games really drove home to him what he needed to get better at.

    If Bouchard sticks around, he will be at best the 3rd RD and maybe the 7th D if any game they dress 7. Just because he sticks around if he has a good camp, they don’t even have to play him the full 9 if he clearly shows he is not ready once the real games start. It is not often a defenseman drafted out of the top 3 sticks in his draft + 1 season, but Cam Fowler (picked 12th) and Noah Hanifin (picked 5th) did it. Bouchard is probably not ready, but maybe he will surprise us. I think the Oilers are deeper now on defense than they were at center in 2014, so I don’t think they will have to force him. By the way, that Justin Schultz guy finished 7th in the Calder race his rookie year so he easily NHL ready, but again on a bad team so he played more minutes than would have been ideal. A lot of things did not go well after that season.

    • ed from edmonton

      I think it’s quite obvious that LD’s half year with the Oil in now way hurt his development. Although it was painful to watch him overmatched it gave him a fuller understanding of what it takes to play at the NHL level. However, every player is different and being overmatched as a Dman can be much more obvious. We will just need to see where Bouchard ends up, one size does not fit all.

  • Himynameistaylor

    Only in Edmonton would you nutty fans get all worked up over what to do with the pairing that maybe plays 18 minutes a night against soft competition. If Bouchard plays the third pairing and blows the doors off, then what? If he doesn’t play up to Edmonton’s crazy notion that he’s gonna be the second coming of Coffey then he’s a bust?
    The fact he’s even in this conversation should be a testament to how good he could be, and let’s be real with a 6’ 2” (and only going to get an inch or two bigger) and a 205 pound frame he’s got the size to be better.

    Bear played well in limited minutes on the >third pair<

    Take it for what it is. It’s the third pair. The pair you shouldn’t see a lot of, lmao.

    Relaxxxxxx Edmonton.

    • Redbird62

      I do agree with your premise that the Oiler’s fan base seems to get a little more worked up than most with only Montreal and Toronto fans being similarly harsh on players. And I would agree with you on the relative importance of a 3rd pair if the Oilers had a Chris Pronger or Drew Doughty on their team to chew up 27 minutes a night, allowing the 3rd pair to be more sheltered playing only 14 or 15 a night. With Sekera out, the remaining Oilers top 4 has not yet shown to be strong enough that the 3rd pair can be that protected. The slated top 4 is all 25 or under right now, (Larsson turns 26 in November), so they have a strong potential to improve, but that is risky.

      Ethan Bear may have played as well as expected, and showed flashes of being good puck mover, but overall his defensive game was weak. This is why, paired with any other partner, the team got badly outshot, out chanced and in most cases outscored significantly. He was playing 18 minutes a night. And that was when the Oilers played not bad and were actually above .500 during his tenure with the team. The sky is not falling here, but I think if Bear or Bouchard were going to hold the 6th spot down, the Oilers will be expecting a better all around game. The season was already done when Bear was given this chance, so the risk was small and it was a great learning exercise for Bear. Maybe he will improve during the summer on those areas and with a full camp, maybe he can do a credible job, but more likely he will need more time in the minors.

      • Himynameistaylor

        No I totally agree with the points you’ve made, I just think the pandemonium surrounding the injury is over done. The Oilers will miss Sekera, yeah of course but someone should step up, and if not there’s always other routes. Other teams can sustain injuries too, and maybe the Oilers can capitalize on someone losing a top centre or something along those lines.

        There’s too many maybes in this situation for everyone to be giving themselves aneurisms over it.

        What happens happens. We can’t change that.

        Just believe in the team. Management kinda sucks, but that’s not the players fault.

  • oilfan4ever

    Another cheap shot and lack of journalistic integrity from Henderson. Rather than naming Kevin Lowe he calls him Lowes son in an obvious demeaning manner. Kevin Lowe adds far more to the Oiler organization than what Henderson offers to Oilers Nation. It’s a shame that ON can’t do better.

  • ubermiguel

    Hold the presses everyone, the Oilers just signed under-sized left-hand shot defenceman Jakub Jerabek! Defence: solved, start planning the Stanley Cup parade route.

  • Redbird62

    I agree with Christian Pagnani on Daigle, though I don’t ever recall watching him play a game and thinking wow, this guy has skill few others possess. Two guys who did have that kind of skill and showed it for many parts of their career were Pierre Larouche and Kent Nilsson. Both had unbelievable hands and could skate well and both could bring you out of your seat with their play. Larouche’s finished second in Calder voting then had his best season in his second year when he scored 111 points, but only got back to the kind of level once or twice and never consistently as his off ice focus was not what it should have been. The Penguins learned from that experience in how they handled both Lemieux and Crosby when they joined the team. Nilsson had one outstanding year with the Flames, then some really really good years, but never got back to that level and he left the NHL at 30. It seems to me that if Larouche and Nilsson had Gretzky and Crosby’s drive to be the best, they both would have had a shot at being among the top 100 players of all time, but instead neither even made the hall of fame. Alexei Kovalev may be a more recent example of someone who was an excellent hockey player with tremendous offensive gifts, but for some reason had the reputation for not bringing his A game night in and night out and so also fell well short of what his potential could have been. He still scored over 1000 points in his career.

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Benning in the top four? How in the hell did Benning become the next Jesus Christ where he is anointed to an automatic top 4 defencemen? Benning is a 6th and even that is being generous in my opinion. Does Benning show flashes of being good, sure, but they are far and few moments of that, half the time Benning is a liability in his own end because he gets overwhelmed and out muscled, honestly I would have rather seen the Oilers keep Davidson and trade Benning. Just cause Benning got overpaid 2 mil a year doesnt make him anywhere near a top 4. If the Oil are counting on Benning to be in the top four we are in deep trouble.

    Brouchard should not make the team if he is going to sit half the year in the press box, Oilers had more than a few people sit last year who should have been playing IMHO but send the kid to the AHL and let him grow his game.

    • Redbird62

      Benning has had some growing pains in his first two years in the NHL but has been a lot more solid that you suggest. With every Oiler defenseman he has been paired with over the past two seasons except briefly with RusseIl and a hobbled Sekera, the Oilers have consistently out shot and out scored the opposition. Benning paired with Nurse had very impressive results this past year with a positive corsiof 58% and GF/GA of 10/2. The sample size was limited compared to their first year together with Nurse playing up in place of Sekera. He is a bonafide 3rd pair NHL defenseman, and, though he is not a lock to be ready for a 2nd pair role, his development shows he is getting close to that.