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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Oilers Strengths and Weaknesses

Can you believe it’s been already been a week since the last mailbag? I guess time flies when you’re banging your head against the wall, trying to figure what the hell went wrong on Saturday night. Fortunately, we’re back with another edition of the Mailbag to try and make sense of it all. As always, you’ve submitted your questions and I’ve sent them off to our panel of mental warlords for their thoughts and ideas. If you have a question for the Mailbag, you can always hit me up through email or on Twitter. Until then, enjoy the free learning opportunity.

1) Anders asks – Was anyone at all concerned that the Oilers were only able to beat the Cologne Sharks in overtime?

Jason Gregor:

The second period v. New Jersey is much more concerning. Playing a meaningless game on big ice is not a game I would take much from. New Jersey needed the same to beat a team in Switzerland so the Cologne game was not the game I focused much on.

Robin Brownlee:

No. Level of intensity for the Oilers in a showcase game like this not what it is in regular season. Meant way more to Cologne in front of home fans than it did to the Oilers. Way more concerned about how they looked against New Jersey in a game that did count.

Matt Henderson:

Nope. I’m much more concerned that the team couldn’t get a single shot on net in the 2nd period against the Devils.

Chris the Intern

Nah. That was pretty much a write off game. Cologne is playing their Stanley Cup Final, and the Oilers are just trying to get through the preseason uninjured. My opinion was solidified after seeing New Jersey also take their European team to OT.

Baggedmilk:

After seeing how they played on Saturday night, maybe we should have been more concerned? It was a garbage effort and I’m more rattled about that one than what happened in Germany.

2) Blake asks – With the pre-season and training camp finally out of the way, I want to know how everyone feels about this Oilers. What are their strengths and weaknesses?

Jason Gregor:

Weaknesses are moving the puck from the backend and the entire team’s defensive awareness. Strengths are their centres and I think their LW is better than many think.

Robin Brownlee:

I think that has been written about every possible way something can be in recent weeks, no? Strength is down the middle in McDavid and Draisaitl. Questions about depth on RW and defence. Special teams must improve. Didn’t see many positive signs from any of those areas against New Jersey in the opener.

Matt Henderson:

Weakness at Head Coach, General Manager, and on the blueline.

Chris the Intern

I think we’ve got great center depth, and great goaltending, and a great Connor McDavid. We’ve got to work on our powerplay, penalty kill, and getting good defensemen.

Baggedmilk:

Strengths – Depth at center. Weaknesses – Still not knowing when games start.

Sep 20, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ty Rattie (8) celebrates his second period goal against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Natasha asks – Do you think people are putting too much undue pressure on Ty Rattie just because he was able to score in the preseason? I remember when Anton Lander put up goals en masse in the training period too.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t compare Lander to Rattie. Lander never really produced big points at any other level prior to the preseason he scored five goals in six games. Some people might have unrealistic expectations of Rattie based on preseason, but I think the astute fan realizes preseason production means very little, when it comes to young or unproven players. Until they prove they can produce in the regular season, I put very little stock in preseason scoring.

Robin Brownlee:

Fans can’t put pressure on Rattie. Do some fans have unreasonable expectations? Probably. Any pressure Rattie feels comes from within — knowing he’s getting the best chance he’s ever going to get to prove he belongs in the NHL.

Matt Henderson:

Yes. He has 19 career NHL points over six seasons as a professional. He was one bad audition from washing out of North America completely. If he stays in the top 6 all year and produces 40 points you call it a complete success.

Chris the Intern

He definitely should have a lot of pressure on him. He’s getting the best opportunity of his life playing alongside Connor McDavid and if he doesn’t perform he could very well find himself in the AHL. He’s doing a fantastic job so far and I truly hope the best for him and hope he can succeed.

Baggedmilk:

Expecting too much from our players is the Oilers way. I heard someone over the weekend tell me that they thought he could get 70 points by playing with Connor, and that’s wild for a guy that has never hit double digits in his career. My point is that, yeah, I think expectations need to be checked.

Sep 17, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) skates against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Edmonton Oilers won 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Garrett asks – I’m still very concerned about the Oilers defence. In terms of likelihood on a scale of 1-5, how likely do you think it would be to see the Oilers make an early season trade to bolster their blue line?

Jason Gregor:

I think it is unlikely. Rarely do we see significant trades in October or November, unless the player, Matt Duchene, has been asking for a trade for over a year. The Oilers should simply have their best defenders in the lineup, and right now Ethan Bear should be in the lineup. Winning today should be the #1 priority of the Oilers, not looking down the road or gaining “experience” for a player.

Robin Brownlee:

If Chiarelli isn’t keeping tabs on who might be available, he isn’t doing his job. I’d be concerned over the elevated minutes Nurse and Benning have to play right now with Sekera out. They weren’t very good against New Jersey. Likelihood of an early trade? Don’t know.

Matt Henderson:

Uh…a three? I have no clue. I think if they want an upgrade it’s going to be in the top four, so Benning’s spot. Then just convince the coach to stop playing Russell more than 15 minutes a night.

Chris the Intern

I’d give it a three. It will completly depend on how they start off their season, but I think it could be on Chia’s mind.

Baggedmilk:

I’m at a four. Nothing changed since last year outside of adding soon to be 19-year-old Evan Bouchard. Not ideal for Chiarell’s hotseat.

5) Greg asks – By the time the mailbag gets posted, the Oilers will be on their way home from Europe to face the Bruins so my question is what you thought of their European start to the season?

Jason Gregor:

It wasn’t ideal, but we really won’t know how it impacts them until we see the results of the next few weeks. Maybe the team bonding will help them. We shall see. Game one was not ideal, but remember the Oilers best defensive game of the season last year was their 3-0 season-opening win against Calgary. It didn’t lead to more success, and because the Oilers sucked the hind banana in the second period v. New Jersey, which cost them the game, doesn’t mean their next five games will be as bad. It was one game, and last year proved one game means next to nothing.

Robin Brownlee:

The second period against the Devils was, I’d hope, the worst hockey you will see the Oilers play this season. The faster pace of play we’ve heard about from the coaches wasn’t there. No flow. No sense of urgency. The Oilers played on their heels instead of on their toes way too often. Allowing the first goal on the first shot, again, almost seemed to set the tone for how bad the Oilers were going to be.

Matt Henderson:

Great question. Well, Lucic had a multi-point game for the first time since January 20th. McDavid’s hair has magical properties. I liked Puljujarvi’s forechecking ability. That’s pretty much the end of the good stuff. Bouchard isn’t capable of carrying Russell on a pairing. Benning was all kinds of meh. The all-lefty PP works only by the grace of McDavid’s superhuman skating. McLellan had the blender turned on before the end of the 1st period. Oh, and Talbot let a goal on the first shot. It looked like Chiarelli took the same bad team as last year, added rookies and said “yep, that’s the ticket!”

Chris the Intern:

Well I’m not thrilled after the game against New Jersey in Sweden, and the preseason game against Cologne was fairly entertaining. If anything, I hope the guys come back to North America with some great team morale and chemistry. That’s all I can ask for right now.

Baggedmilk:

How do I feel? I feel like the Oilers forgot to show up to their own season opener and it was incredibly disheartening to watch. That second period was complete dogshit.

OILERSNATION RADIO

With the Oilers season opener less than 24 hours away, we get super excited in this episode talking about projected lineups, injuries, call-ups, and call downs. We’ve currently got some extra players in our lineup right now which means someone’s being sent down. The Oilers also have some excess cap space with Andrej Sekera placed on the LTIR. On this episode, we break down what we each think the Oilers should do with that extra space, and also talk about the Oilers fan experience in Rogers Place.

  • Modern Thinker

    Hey Oilers. I’m 47, and have been a fan since the WHL days. I’m tired of the suck. Since 1990, there’s been nothing but average at best regular seasons. One season. ONE. One season that has been top 13 since 1990. I’m sick of it. Hey Conner, Austin Matthews has 5 goals. Sure he’s played 3 games, but he’s at FIVE! Get going. And Talbot… how about a save dude? I’m so sick of being a fan of this team. Win, or leave town already. Sick of it. Sick, sick, sick. It’s been almost 30 years of suck and I can’t take it much more.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      Are you seriously calling out Connor? Are you serious right now!? CONNOR MCDAVID! Of ALL the people in this franchise you could be mad at CONNOR is the ONE you’re calling out!

      • All Ice

        Really? You don’t actually watch the games do you? Check possession stats, plus/minus, corsi whatever you want and the evidence is all one sided. And it’s on his side

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      While I did call you out for calling out McDavid, I can’t imagine going through that many years of suckage (is that even a word). I mean I became a fan in 2006 and I’ve enjoyed 2 playoff seasons lol. But I know these things take time and I’m willing to wait. When it finally does happen, it’ll have been worth it

      Happy Thanksgiving man

    • VvV

      You mean a Fairweather fan since the WHL days ( what’s a 2-1-2?) Haha either that or you’re a closet Leafs fan. Yea Connor should have 6 goals after 1 game. The Leafs also lost a game, just like the oil, they’ve had a lot of goals against, and had to take two to the overtime scrimmage to win.

  • OilerForLife

    I’m concerned about Rattie, Yamamoto and Bouchard and they may not be ready. Draisaitl, Benning , Brodziak, Kassian and even Nurse looked really bad in their roles. Hopefully this game was just a hiccup, but I’ve got a lump in my throat now. I’ve been one of their Oilers best supporters and have supported them to a fault. If the Oilers play anywhere near like they did against New Jersey then we will face another long offseason and expect more changes with our hands tied by the salary cap, and poor performances preventing a win situation in just about all trades except for the few that played well for their cap hit. That would weaken the team even more. I’m out of answers, what say you?

    • OilerForLife

      PS. I’ve been a fan from the beginning of the WHA and begged for a salary cap, but bad luck and a poorly managed cap is holding us near the bottom of the league, and better drafting hasn’t seemed to help us. A real head scratcher.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Rattie had 2 full post draft years in the WHL. He’s been in the AHL. He’s bumped around on three different teams. But he’s been developed as much as he’s going to develop.

      Not saying he sucks or anything but if you are indeed right that he’s “not ready” this will be his last year in the NHL.

  • 99bestever

    They have to tell the young players not to defer to the older players. Play like you did in the CHL or wherever else you found enough success to be drafted. Yamo take the shot not the pass, Bouchard take the one timer when Conner or anyone else puts the puck on a tee for you. And not just the younger players veterans STAND UP and be accounted for. Sure this is a team game but as Gretzky said you don’t score on 100% of the shots you don’t take. 0-2 shots in a period is pathetic! And Talbot STOP the first shot on goal. That does more to take away from team momentum than anything else. 14 times last year you let in the first shot now in the turn around year you do it again not in just the first period but the first shot of the second period again! WAKE the hell up and be ready to go!!

  • Elgando

    Benning sucked last year and the trend continues this year. He’s got to go. Defense is this teams Achilles heel. Can’t defend, can’t pass, forwards can’t show when they’re always back checking our trying to pick up passes in their feet.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I agree with you Benning routinely gets beat by his man or gets caught out of position. it is even worse when Benning is tracking the puck carrier in our end, he just seems to be unableto stay with him and end up loosing him.I would say package Cagguila and Benning for whatever you can get, dump the two contracts and move that money for someone else. I would be letting Benning sit and play Bear, if Benning had to be stuck on waivers with the chance of loosing him I say jump all over that opportunity, I would much rather see Garrison play with Nurse than Benning, I dont even list Benning as an 8th

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    It’s both the team and the fanbase. We had Gretzky when we won 4 cups. And when we got McDavid, some of us thought we’d get 3 cups in McDavid’s ELC. But the reality is that times have changed and you can’t buy a winner (unless you’re Vegas). It takes time. McDavid is here for 8 more years guys. And we’re gonna start seeing some great things happen here shortly. Hang tight, and say you were there from the beginning.

    It took Gretzky 5 years to win his first cup. 5. You can wait

    • Oscar from Vegreville

      I should have been from Missouri … the Show-Me State … not the Tell-Me State … this is likely to be the earliest the Oil are out of playoff contention this season with how they are playing & the difficult schedule they face early …

      The Panthers have 21 season playoff series victory drought going on, the Jackets 17 seasons, the Leafs 13 seasons, the Sabres 11 seasons, the Av’s 10 seasons, the Canes 9 seasons, the Nucks 7 seasons, the Yote’s 6 seasons, the Devils 6 seasons, the Flyers 6 seasons, the Wings 5 seasons, the Kings 4 seasons, the Flames 3 seasons …

      If not for the solitary, aberration season where the Oil beat the M.A.S.H. Sharks the hapless Oil would be sitting at twelve seasons … you wait, you’re going to get a lot more of that …

    • oil.99.97.11

      I well remember the Oilers pledge to win the Stanley Cup within 5 years of joining the NHL. It didn’t seem likely, but with Gretzky and Co. it did seem possible. And I could certainly wait.

      Here’s the difference; Gretzky was the best player in the world and the coach/management/ownership were 100% committed to winning. They surrounded a guy with an undeniable will to win with equally committed and well-qualified team ‘mates’. They got better every year, they were competitive every night, they were fun to watch, and their fans KNEW they would soon be knocking on the door of a championship.

      Now you tell me if that’s what the current Edmonton Oilers offer McDavid…or their long-suffering fans.

  • percy

    Give this team another 6 or 8 games, see what happens. If nothing changes then it’s time to clean house at the top. K Lowe and the boys should have packed it in last year. If they had any dignity that is. They care more about their wallets than this team. Time for the owner to do something positive for the future of this team.

    • Rufio Barcoli

      With all due respect, what do KLowe and the boys, and Chia for that matter, have to do with the effort and confusion that the team displays on the ice?

  • The future never comes

    The Devils game was a carbon copy of almost 80% of the games last year. Sleep walk through most of the game until the game was out of reach, with 10 minutes left try to salvage something with some intensity. Let the other team disctate the pace and react instead of assert themselves first. Powerplay looked gross, first goal against, defense looked very suspect. I noticed Bouchard was to timid to be first to the puck in some cases, I would send him down already and bring in Bear. This is not a tryout anymore, these games mean points. Yamo also looked like a shadow of himself from the preseason, I would probably sit him next game and bring in Caggiula for a look against Boston and let him do some crashing and banging. The most concerning is after how last year went down, and with the entire city and almost NHL see how you react to the skeptiscm, you show up and look disinterested in the first game of the year? How can you not get up for the first game of the year?

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      I agree wholeheartedly. This is their chance to show people “we’ve changed. We’re not the same Oilers who get pushed around”. And then they put forth that pathetic effort. Look I don’t care if the team loses. Doesn’t matter the score, doesn’t matter how it happened, I don’t care if they lose. But if they don’t put the effort into the game, that’s what sets me off. The rolled into that game like a bunch of nobodies and it was infuriating. To see that as their first game of the season? That was embarrassing. I’m not writing them off, still locks of hockey left, but that first game was atrocious.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Chia ought to be the first head to roll if the Oil start a repeat of last year. It was his decision to fire one Asst Coach, give one the AHL coaching job instead of firing him and retain TM. The Oilers failure to hire a real goaltending coach still baffles me, they picked Dustin Schwartz from the Oil Kings where he was the Oil Kings Goalie coach and has zero NHL experience after the Oilers Fired Chabot and yet watch the games and you will stills ee Talbot going down early and staying there already this season, it was why NJ was shooting high on him and think how mnay goals did you see go over Talbot when he was down, yest I dont see where Schwarts has done zero to address it and I see Koskinen is doing that as well ( mind you with his height he is in the way more than Talbot is) My point is that Chia and the Oilers seem to have left a lot of areas untouched where nothing was done to improve them.

        Chia is on the hot seat but if this season goes south I think he will be out the door and TM wont be far after that, because the fans arent going to have the patience for the Oilers to be out of the playoffs before half the season is over.

  • JariCurry

    Like we all dreaded all summer, the first 11 games are gonna be tough. Hopefully we can scrape out 5 wins or so and then get down to business. Because of last year most of us are going to our dark place after one game. Give it 25. The doom and gloom was present here all summer. It’s a new season, last season is old news even if your PTSD makes it feel like yesterday. If you can’t get postitive about your team at game 2 then why bother being a fan, it sounds unhealthy. I don’t think it matters how long anyone has been a fan. The state of Canadian hockey teams has been brutal for almost 30 years. Nobody has championship recency, so I don’t see all the hate towards still enjoying the Gretzky era. Many canadian teams have only long playoff runs to celebrate or a one off cup.

  • CMG30

    Let’s be honest, somebody needs to get these boys a heart transplant. Outside of the top line, it looked like they were all waiting for someone else to do it for them on Saturday. Sure, it’s only one game but it’s the first game after a tremendous season of suck. If they came hard and lost that’s one thing. You can’t always control luck, but you can always control effort and diligence and those were the missing pieces…

  • Rufio Barcoli

    My main concern is the head coach. I’ve never seen him make an adjustment that the Oilers benefitted from.

    Secondly, I strongly believe that Khaira should be with McDavid instead of RNH. Spread the wealth and create depth.
    Nuge is seasoned former 1st overall pick, he should not be riding shotgun with McDavid.

    Lastly, I suspect lot of people will soon be disappointed with Kailer. He is still 2-3 years away from being a professional contributor.

  • Heschultzhescores

    I miss the days of the hatd working Oilers. I would honestly trade this entire team away for a team that worked hard every night. Keep the hard working guys and dump the test. Drai being at the top of the lazy list.

    • MrBung

      The fans that jumped off the ship are long gone.

      The fans left are rightly critical. This team, particularly the defence are the same as last season. It feels and looks very much like an extension of last season. Same team, same results.

      • chezzychez

        Let’s talk at the end of November. After last year’s first game we all thought we were stanley cup bound. I understand the pessimism but if the team goes on a roll and gets some confidence then we have a shot, just like every other team in the league. I’m here cheering for that to happen instead of writing them off. It’s more fun that way

  • Serious Gord

    1. My concern with the cologne game and the pre-season in general is that the rookies – especially the D – weren’t pressed as hard as the regular season and as result we were getting too positive a perception. That perception – for one game at least – got obliterated in Sweden.

    2. Defence and Depth – has been for what? A decade?

    3. Rattie has a pedigree that might make him a perfect fit. But he is essentially unproven in the role he will have at the NHL level. If he fails it will be a big blow to the team.

    4. If the team has 6 points after the first ten games and it is patently obvious that the defence is THE issue then for sure he will make a move – if he doesn’t then TMac will be fired by Christmas as Chia will have to sacrifice someone to save himself at least to the trade deadline.

    By the By – I wonder how Nicholson’s Plan is working out?

    5. My question is: Why did they go all the way there to just play two games?

  • jayb

    Chiarelli came to this team , McDavid Hall Eberle Rnh , some draft pick and a good salary cap all the tool to built something great .Now he starting year 4 and he f… up really bad ,the team is really in a bad place .The only way to get out this , pullijarvi yamo bouchard and couple other prospect to surpass expectations and become great nhl players.

  • Happy Thanksgiving BM!

    Oilers needed a good effort against New Jersey. They didn’t get it and now have to stew over it until facing the big, bad Bruins. Not an ideal start when you consider almost a one week brake between games.

  • Bills Bills

    Agreed with Jason completely, having Bouchard in instead of Bear is a mistake. Taking liberties this early in the season with the roster is arrogant.

    MH your take on Bouchard carrying Russell only shows what a hack you truly are. Get a grip.

  • toprightcorner

    Suprise, surprise, Henderson was able to take shots at the GM, coach, and Russel in his answers. Would be nice to see some originality for a change.

  • CRONENBERG

    Brownlee’s response on Q2 is hilarious hahaha. “I think that has been written about every possible way something can be in recent weeks, no?” hahahaha

  • Gordie Wayne

    Usually, I roll my eyes at Matt Henderson’s responses, but this one answer nails it regarding Oilers weaknesses:

    “Weakness at Head Coach, General Manager, and on the blueline.”