It’s that wonderful time again, my friends. A fall chill is in the air, training camp is firing away, and a new NHL season is nearly upon us. As always, the mailbag is back and we’re answering the questions you’ve always wanted to know about the NHL and life in general. Our panel of
experts bloggers dove into the depths of their experience to give you every last juicy nugget of wisdom that their brains could muster and all for the low low price of absolutely nothing. I like to think of us as a much cheaper alternative to a college education. As always, this feature depends on you guys so I need you to submit your questions. If you have something you’d like to know you can always email me, or DM me on Twitter. With that out of the way, it’s time to learn something. Enjoy.
1) Blake asks – Todd McLellan says that Ty Rattie will get to start the year with McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins based on his finish to last season. Do you agree with this strategy, or is this a product of the Oilers’ complete lack of depth on the wings?
He said he would get a look at the start of camp, and if he plays well then he will stay there. They won’t be the first team to have a non-proven player get a look on the top line. Pittsburgh had players right out of college get a chance with Crosby. They don’t have a proven top line RW, so they will look to see if one of their RW can become a solid complementary RW. It isn’t ideal, but also not a total shock. They are hoping in the future one of their young RW will develop into a top RW. But, maybe Rattie is ready. Maybe he can become a 40-45 point player this year.
You’re asking a loaded question and it’s not a matter of either/or. Yes, the Oilers have a lack of proven veterans on RW. Given the options available right now, I think Rattie is probably the best bet based on his brief look with McDavid last season. So, yes, I agree with this strategy based on the options available.
I think it’s pretty misguided if he legitimately thinks a guy with Rattie’s resume actually earned anything that deserves his full commitment. That said, you probably want to let him start game one where he left off and then see where the chips fall. It all comes down to how long you keep Rattie on the top line and how you measure the success of the whole line.
There’s definitely a lack of depth on the wings, but Rattie earned himself this opportunity with good play towards the end of last season. Obviously the lack of depth afforded him this opportunity, but there’s some chemistry there.
Chris the Intern:
Both. I agree with it because the three of them had chemistry at the end of last year. However, if we actually had someone who can produce with Connor that’s not another centerman, he would definitely be in Rattie’s spot.
I think he will unless he gets outplayed in training camp by either Kailer Yamamoto or Jesse Puljujarvi. Based on McLellan’s comments from this past week, though, it seems like Rattie will get the first crack at the spot whether it’s earned or not.
2) Vetinari asks – With the new players and the new assistant coaches, what changes do you think we will see at training camp this year in terms of who makes the roster and how it will be deployed?
Changes will be in the systems. PP and PK, along with a different forecheck will be implemented. McLellan did say he has yet to share his opinion on players to the coaches. He wants them to formulate their own, without his input, and then see if they see what he sees. “I might be wrong on how I view some players,” is what he said. So it’s a clean slate for many players. I don’t see many surprises making the roster, but that isn’t new since most camps I believe there really are only around 26-27 players with a shot of making the 23-man roster.
I see a clean slate for many players on the roster because of the changes in coaches. Not for the top guys so much, but for the middle and bottom of the line-up. We’ve already got some hints about how the lines and defensive pairings will look in the absence of Sekera and, for now, Nurse. We’ll see a more aggressive forecheck and D-men will push the puck up ice more quickly. More pace to the game. Whoever fits into that best is going to have an edge.
I think we can expect a complete overhaul of the PK and some new looks on the PP. the new assistant coaches didn’t come in to keep the worst special teams in the NHL trucking along in the same direction. Hopefully, it’s an end to Caggiula on the PK and the PP is more than “give it to 97 and pray”.
The strategy on the special teams is going to be completely different, I imagine. Beyond that, I bet we see the defence get more involved with the play offensively.
Chris the Intern:
Our bottom six is going to be real interesting. With all the PTO’s handed out this summer, I’m very curious if the coaches are going to cut anybody from the team last year. (ie – Caggiula, Aberg). I hope they do the smart thing with Yamamoto and keep him in the AHL, but only time will tell.
Just because the Oilers are heading to Europe, I’m curious to see if the cuts happen a little bit faster than they normally would. The first round of cuts ahead of last seasons saw five guys get sent down in the first round of cuts, and eight more in the second round four days later. Will that be in line with what happens this year? I guess we’ll see.
3) Andrew asks – Besides improving the on-ice product and winning more games what do you think the Oilers could do better with their in-house entertainment? Same vein, what could they do better to reward their season ticket holders? I know Jason Gregor mentioned the in-game experience in an article late last week and I’d like to know what should change.
More replays on the gorgeous big screen. Also maybe some pre-produced features on the players. How about after 20 games you have highlight package of McDavid’s great plays from the first 20 games, and same for other players? Get fans jacked up by showing things like that rather than the cheap, easy panning of crowd that does nothing to ignite passion in the building.
Honestly, and you won’t like the answer, I’ve never paid attention to the “in-game experience” because I’ve only ever gone to games in Edmonton when I’m working. I’ve never sat in the seats during a game. You say aside from the on-ice product and winning, but for me that’s the whole package right there. Nothing puts a charge in the building like that. Obviously, the choice of music matters. Never play Cotton-Eye Joe. If a promotion is lame, gas it and come up with something better. Take time to actually ask fans what they want, what they like and what they hate and accommodate them, if possible.
Rewarding season ticket holders isn’t a priority. They just want your money and until they stop getting for minimal investment it they aren’t spending money on attracting it.
Get more replays, highlights from different games, and video content on the scoreboard. Never, ever do crowds shots again. Prizes and trivia and things of that sort are always good. I don’t know. Hockey doesn’t really lend itself all that much to that, save for in Vegas. I’m not sure if this fanbase cares that much. Lower the cost of liquor and have better food, that would make people happy.
Chris the Intern:
The Oilers theme online and in-game is so so corporate. They need to let loose and get some young ideas in the system. Maybe a performance or two before a game? Less crowd shots, more actual important replays in between whistles. More cool chants. Lower beer prices, you name it. I don’t know, maybe they should install a zipline across the rink and let people go across it? I would enjoy that.
I’m guessing that the answer is NOT to raise beer prices to $13.25 like they did this year? Anybody? No? Don’t leave me hanging here, people. Alright, for real, I’d like to see them take better advantage of the jumbotron with highlights from other games, highlight packs for players, pop-culture references if applicable, and anything else that can tie the game into what’s happening in the real world. Music, fan memes, interaction… there’s so many things they could do to improve the experience with those giant screens alone. Man, I’ve got ideas and the Oilers should probably call me.
4) Judah asks – Random question, but which of the junior leagues do you think is closest in skill to the NHL?
None of the junior leagues are. Closest in skill to NHL is either AHL or KHL, but realistically even 70% of the players in those leagues are a big step down in skill from those in the NHL.
Changes from year to year. No one answer for your question.
Probably the OHL. Sorry, WHL. Nobody cares about you QMJHL.
The best Junior league is the OHL. The closest actual league to the NHL is the AHL, though the KHL features the highest upside players.
Chris the Intern:
This could be biased but I have always thought of the WHL as the best league in the CHL. It’s a great development league and a lot of guys continue to pro hockey afterwards.
There is none. The NHL is another level entirely and it’s not close.
5) Matthew asks – What were your first thoughts on the Erik Karlsson trade, and how do you think it affects the Pacific Division power rankings?
It is a great trade for San Jose. It clearly makes the Sharks the best team. They have the best defence in the league. It is only the 9th time in NHL history that two Norris Trophy winners, Karlsson and Burns, are on the same team, and then throw in Vlasic and Braun and their top four is outstanding. I said prior to the trade the only Pacific team I would say is a lock for the playoffs was the Sharks, because 90% of the time they make the playoffs. Now I’d say they are the favourite to win the division.
My first thought was Doug Wilson fleeced Pierre Dorion on the deal, assuming the Sharks can re-sign Karlsson. For my money, Wilson is the best GM in the league. My second thought was the Sharks now have the luxury of having either Karlsson or Brent Burns on the ice for almost half of every game. No other team has a one-two offensive punch on the back end like that. Sharks are contenders to come out of the Western Conference.
My first thought was “That’s it?” They got six assets and maybe one has the *potential* to be an impact player…and not to the level of a EK. The Sharks scare me to death. They can play 50 minutes a night of Burns or Karlsson and Vlasic is just hanging out doing his thing. Ugh.
San Jose was already more than likely a playoff team, but now they’re the team to beat the Pacific. All of the teams in the division got better other than Vancouver, so it’s going to be a hell of a climb for the Oilers.
Chris the Intern:
I wasn’t TOO surprised cause I knew San Jose was pushing hard for him. I’m shocked that the return was so low for him and I’m even angrier when I compare that to a lot of previous trades Chia has made (Hall, Eberle) and their returns. San Jose leapt to the top of the Pacific power rankings and knocked Edmonton down a peg for sure.
First thoughts? Shit!
If you’ve ever been to one of our season opener parties before, you already know that one of the best parts is getting 200 Nation citizens together to meet up and start off the new season on a high note. Not only are these parties a great way to get the band together, it’s especially fun to meet new people that you’ve been
arguing with talking to online for Gord knows how long.
WHAT YOU GET:
The bag: Exclusive Season Opener Party tee, Pint GC, Oodle Noodle GC, stickers, and a ticket to enter all of the draws and raffles
The giveaways: Memorabilia giveaways, NationGear giveaways,
Anything else: We’ll also be having a NationGear pop-up shop that features some of the new shirts and hoodies that we’ve got for the upcoming season.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Where: The Pint Downtown
When: October 6th, with doors opening at 10 am and the hockey game starting at 11 am
Who: Every single one of you… that is of legal drinking age
Why: To celebrate the launch of a new season, get together, and to raise as much money as possible for our friends at KidSport
How much: Tickets are $25 each with net proceeds going directly to KidSport
How: Tickets are available here.