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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Early season highs and lows

Can you believe it’s been already been a week since the last mailbag? I guess time flies when you’re riding the emotional rollercoaster that is being an Edmonton Oilers fan. 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.

Oct 16, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) skates past Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey (44) in the third period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

1) Chandler asks – After watching the Oilers come back from 4-1 to beat the Jets in OT gave me some legitimate hope. Is it a little premature to hope that things are really turning around or do we need to see some more proof of it first?

Jason Gregor:

That comeback reminded me of the resilience you saw from the Oilers in 2017. It is only one game so I wouldn’t say things are all rosy, but a win like that gives a team a lot of confidence. The Oilers still need more guys to get going offensively, but they look much more competitive this October than they did last year.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t think one win swings an entire season. What it can do is provide a bump in confidence and performance like we saw after the Winnipeg comeback. The Oilers played two pretty good games after that, even though they lost to Nashville. Confidence can snowball, so can lack of confidence. Coming back home 2-2 instead of 1-3 provided one of those little bumps. String more of those together and you’re cooking with gas.

Matt Henderson:

It’s too early for everything, but I’m pleased that the Oilers are a .500 team today. It could have been much scarier. McDavid may take this team kicking and screaming to places I couldn’t imagine.

Cam Lewis:

That win was a bit of a double-edged sword. One on hand, it showed how capable Connor McDavid is of singlehandedly winning a game against a good team. On the other, it showed that the Oilers are going to need him to do that quite a bit.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I still saw a lot of things that concerned me during the win over the Jets, but sometimes a big comeback like that is exactly what a slumping team needs to get some confidence. They’ve looked pretty good since then, but there’s no denying that this is just the “Talbot and McDavid Show”. They don’t have a very deep forward core and they don’t defend very well. The wins this week made me think that this team COULD be a playoff team, but there’s no denying they have some serious issues.

Chris Pagnani:

It’s a bit early. That was obviously positive but we’ve seen the Oilers start strong and finish at the bottom before.

Chris the Intern:

I do think it’s a little premature, however, I’m all for drinking the juice and jumping onto the hype train right now. Pulling positives out of a small sample size like this is better than pulling negatives if you ask me.

Baggedmilk:

I loved that Winnipeg comeback. LOVED IT. That said, I would have preferred that they didn’t let themselves fall into a 4-1 hole in the first place, but I won’t complain about that here. I hope that kind of thing brings the boys together because they need to unite as a team. Fingers crossed.

Oct 16, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (37) faces off against Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) in the third period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

2) Brady asks – I read the article by Robin Brownlee where he talked about needing help for Connor McDavid and I’m wondering how you guys think that might happen? Does it have to be a trade or do you think the Oilers are banking on internal improvements?

Jason Gregor:

It will be internal. They don’t have much to trade. They need vets to start producing at 5×5. I expect Draisaitl to get going and then guys like Strome, Rieder, Caggiula etc have to chip in here and there.

Robin Brownlee:

It happens over time. Smart roster moves, like bad ones, add up. At the start of his fourth season, this is Pete Chiarelli’s team. He’s built it as he’s seen fit. For good or bad, he has to own that. He won’t fix it overnight with one big deal.

Matt Henderson:

Internal improvements take time and patience. Chiarelli has neither to spare. So my guess is we will see trades take place. Edmonton’s pick and prospects are on notice.

Cam Lewis:

Part of it comes down to internal progression and patience. Maybe as the season goes along one of Jesse Puljujarvi or Kailer Yamamoto breaks out on McDavid’s wing or Ty Rattie truly is the answer. But if not, Chiarelli will need to pull the trigger on acquiring a good winger for McDavid. Perhaps more important is acquiring somebody that can help give the team more offensive depth. I think it would help McDavid more if the team had a second line than it would giving him some big name winger.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Given their cap situation and lack of tradeable assets, I don’t think a trade for a forward is very likely. If they’re going to make that move it should be for a defenseman. They need one of Draisaitl or Nugent-Hopkins to begin driving the play away from McDavid and they need to bank on young wingers like Puljujarvi and Yamamoto eventually becoming a bonafide top six wingers.

Chris Pagnani:

Internal. They don’t really have any assets to get that help. They don’t have cap space to go spending in free agency. This is the roster and they hope is prospects and younger players develop.

Chris the Intern:

Personally, I think we found Connor McDavid’s linemates in Nuge and Rattie (for the moment; you can’t deny the success they’ve had). The help Connor needs is in the second forward line and defence. We need some secondary scoring and an elite level defenceman that will take the weight off of Connor’s shoulders. This can be done by Draisaitl picking up his game and contributing, and probably a trade for a d-man.

Baggedmilk:

It’ll have to come internally because Chiarelli hooped himself for cap space with the way he shelled out dollars to fringe players.

Sep 23, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) celebrates his first period goal against Winnipeg Jets at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

3) Danielle asks – What do you see from Kailer Yamamoto‘s game so far? What does he do well and what does he need to continue working on?

Jason Gregor:

He is very smart. Coach trusts him a lot. He has good skill and scoring his first goal illustrated that. He just needs to get stronger, which won’t happen quickly. You can’t speed that up, so I think he will be more of a factor as he gets older and stronger. I still think he’d be better off in the AHL, because he’d be producing more, but he is getting a lot of icetime in the NHL so that is a positive. My thoughts with young players is if a veteran like Tobias Rieder, for instance, can produce the same points as Yamamoto, one point thus far, then why not send the young player to the NHL where he can produce more and have his offensive confidence sky high?

Robin Brownlee:

We’ve seen flashes of skill and periods where he doesn’t get much done. Extending the former while seeing less of the latter comes with confidence and enjoying some success. The elements of his game — quickness, a nose for the net — are as billed. We’ll see more of that as time goes on.

Matt Henderson:

I like Yamamoto’s tenacity around the net and on the boards. He needs to be more confident about making plays with the puck and shooting. He needs permission to be who he was in Jr.

Cam Lewis:

I haven’t noticed him as much as I thought I was going to, so that probably isn’t a good thing. When I do notice him, Yamamoto is tenacious in the offensive zone and plays the game at a quick and aggressive pace. I think he’ll be an excellent compliment to McDavid once he figures out how to do what he’s capable of doing at this level.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He thinks the game very well, he makes smart plays in his own end, and for a small player, he’s good at retrieving pucks. I don’t think there are very many problems in his game, but I also don’t think he’s ready to be a top-six winger quite yet. I love that the coaching staff is sending him out to kill penalties and trusting him in the defensive zone. That speaks a lot to how high they think of him. Once he gets a little stronger and a little more comfortable at the pro level, I think we’ll see him become an impact player.

Chris Pagnani:

He’s had his moments but I’m still wondering if he should be dominating the AHL instead.

Chris the Intern:

I think Yamamoto has looked great. He’s a lot faster, agile, and swifter than a lot of the opponents he faces. He makes a lot of smart moves on the ice and anticipates the play very well. My only concern with him is his size. Sure it helps him from a speed standpoint, however, he is easily taken out and managed by defenders during battles for the puck. I don’t think that’s a big enough reason to send him down to the AHL though. He should stay up here in my eyes.

Baggedmilk:

The guy has a ton of speed and skill going for him that could take him a long way if he keeps working on his overall game. Right now, I think he should be doing that in the AHL but the Oilers have some depth issues that prevent that from happening. He’s shown flashes of being awesome and I look forward to when he puts it all together.

4) Yves asks – So far this season, we’ve seen stretches in games where the Oilers look like they’re being seriously outworked and that’s been a problem for years. Is this a coaching issue? On the players?

Jason Gregor:

Coaches can’t make you work harder. You choose to work hard. I don’t think they were outworked in game outside of New Jersey. They made some bad decisions early in the Winnipeg game, but I didn’t see a lack of effort of work.

Robin Brownlee:

I think being out-executed and out-smarted can sometimes be mistaken for outworked. When it’s not second nature, uncertainty in systems and what players believe they are supposed to do can cause hesitation and lack of pace. The Oilers have been outworked at times, but their problems are tied to more than that.

Matt Henderson:

Both? Maybe? Effort is something players control, but at the beginning of games if a team is unprepared then they will be overwhelmed. It may even look like they aren’t trying, except they just don’t have the tools to deal with the other team until they adjust.

Cam Lewis:

I think this is more of a roster limitation thing. The team isn’t overly fast so it isn’t surprising they look like they’re being outworked when in reality they’re just a step behind.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Not a coaching issue at all. Everyone likes to think that it’s the coaches job to come into the room and fire up the guys with a great pregame speech, but that’s not how it should work. At the NHL level, it is 100% on the players to be motivated and ready to work hard for 60 minutes every single night. The coaches need to get the team ready by having good, up-tempo practices, but once the game gets going, it’s all on the players.

Chris Pagnani:

Both. The roster has its limitations and the coaching staff clearly has a style they prefer and don’t like to deviate from that.

Chris the Intern:

I think it’s a little bit of both. The players work level needs to increase, but it’s also up to the coaches to motivate them to do so. This is a touchy subject as I don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors so it’s hard to comment on it. But I agree with you that there are times where they don’t seem to give a care.

Baggedmilk:

Personally, I think they’re being out-passed over everything else. I don’t know how many times the Oilers have struggled to hit their teammates on the tape with a pass but it’s causing some serious issues. The giveaways are so preventable too, which makes the lack of execution frustrating to watch.

5) Trent asks – It’s still very early in the season but I’d like to see who or what has impressed you so far, and what has you feeling concerned?

Jason Gregor:

The powerplay has been good despite not getting many chances. Talbot has been solid. The main concern is lack of 5×5 scoring from lines two-four. I expect it will improve, but right now the entire group is struggling. It is ridiculous really. They need some depth scoring ASAP.

Robin Brownlee:

Aside from the obvious, McDavid and RNH, I’ve liked Lucic’s level of engagement and Evan Bouchard, considering he’s a raw rookie. I’m still waiting for Leon Draisaitl to grab a game. He’s getting his points, but I’d like to see him string more dominant shifts together.

Matt Henderson:

I’m impressed with McDavid’s unbridled willpower. I’ve also been moderately intrigued by Strome’s chemistry with Lucic. I’m most concerned about the team’s struggle scoring with McDavid on the bench. Draisaitl has been getting his points, but man would I love to see him score 5v5 with his own line.

Cam Lewis:

McDavid has been insane, obviously, Cam Talbot has looked largely good, both Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom have had games in which they’ve looked like a No. 1 defenceman, Ryan Strome has developed into a very dependable defensive centre, and the top power play has looked excellent. The biggest concern is Leon Draisaitl getting pummeled on the second line.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Well, obviously Connor McDavid has impressed me. Cam Talbot has looked very solid as well. I think Darnell Nurse has been their best defenseman. Support players like Ryan Strome and Milan Lucic have been doing their jobs as well. As far as concerns, their inability to come out of the gate hard is very concerning and their inability to consistently and efficiently get the puck out of their own end has been a problem.

Chris Pagnani:

I like Darnell Nurse’s game and Connor McDavid is always Connor McDavid. The third line has had some good moments but outside of the top line is somewhat concerning. They can’t rely so much on McDavid to produce.

Chris the Intern:

Connor McDavid and Cam Talbot have impressed me obviously. Besides that, I’m liking the way Milan Lucic has come out of the gates this season, he’s playing strong and is moving fast out there. Puljujarvi’s consistency is something I’m concerned about. He’s shown flashes of greatness but then a game later he’s flat on his feet.

Baggedmilk:

McDavid has been great (obviously), Nuge looks good with him, and that duo makes me happy. Cam Talbot has also looked more like himself this year than he did last season and that’s awesome to see as well. On the downside, nobody other that Connor McDavid’s line can score and that’s a real problem. Like, really really bad.

NATION ROADIE TO CALGARY

Photoshop: @isuckatpicking

Just like last year, it was important for us to try and make this trip as cheap as possible and to announce it as early as we could to give you as much time as possible to get your life in order. Based on last year’s trip, this is a roadie that you really won’t want to miss — it’s an absolute blast and a good chance to get ridiculous behind enemy lines. And since I already know that you want to come, let’s get to the when, where, and how much, shall we?

Give me the details, guy:

  • When? Saturday, November 17th, 2018
  • How much? The depends on how many people are coming with you. To put it another way, we’ve got a range of options including single occupancy ($329/person) up to groups of four ($249/person).
  • Why? Because we love to party
  • Where do you buy tickets? Right here, friend. But be warned, just like the last time we did this, the trip sold out quickly and procrastinating will be your enemy if you want to come.
  • Big Nuggets

    Maybe a team like detroit will be willing to take a chance on Benning because he is young in exchange for an older, more reliable defenseman. Just someone tobsettle down the bottom pairing and be a good partner for Bear or Bouchard would go a long way for this team I think.

  • ed from edmonton

    Re question 5 there has been a lot of improvements this year.
    1. Talbot has been strong in every game safe the first
    2. Special teams were key in each of their victories
    3. Klef looks like the Klef of 16/17 or close to it.

    Not to say there is not danger lurking out there.
    1. If Larsen were to get injured a 19 year old becomes their best RHD.
    2. Obviously secondary scoring is a big issue.

  • Bills Bills

    5) The biggest concern is still the defense and their inability to transition to offence. They are constantly banging the puck off the boards or the glass in an attempt to clear the zone. That just leads to sustained pressure and constant zone re-entries. Panic hockey is what I am seeing from over half the players on the back end. Darnell has improved but he is still in panic mode when he has the puck in his own zone and is under fore-check. Hoping the Yawny effect happens sooner than later. In the meantime a full commitment to team defense by all forward lines is a requirement. No bystanders allowed. That directed at lines 2-4. The reason we have a lack of secondary scoring is they play most of the game in their own zone. Help your teammates to counter the fore-check and give them a moment to transition rather than waiting for the other team to make a line change.

    Power play zone entry is predictable as old faithful. Please give the opposing team different looks.

    Russell, Larson and Klefbom are all playing well. Talbot is giving the team a chance and playing like we expect.

    McDavid is awesome.

    This site is extremely buggy, my page crapped out 3 times while writing this comment. Got to the point I wrote it in word and then copied and pasted. Which was good, because the post comment button keeps just reloading the page and not posting the comment. I thought the mobile platform was bad but I actually emailed the post to my cell just to post it.

  • ubermiguel

    Concerned? Complete absence of secondary scoring. Strome, Caggiula, Kassian, Rieder, Kharia, all big fat zeros on the scoresheet. Everyone else is scoring only because they’re in the vicinity of McDavid.

  • Dave2

    A very optimistic article. I thought the Oilers turned a corner in the Jets game with you he level of intensity that they need to win. It appears now that the Jets game just demonstrates how well the can play rather than how well they will play.

  • Rama Lama

    It sure would be nice to see Leon play like he is trying………watching him backcheck is painful.

    We need the second line to produce or at the very least, constantly move the play north. Leon look like he has the ability to skate for at least a shift or two, and then he seems out of gas………..I’m seriously wondering if he prepares in the off season? I know he starts slow, but come on fatigue should not be an issue so early in the season!

    • The future never comes

      I don’t know who downvotes this, they are just either lying to themselves or trying to dismantle any negative talk of Leon. I really do not think Leon has looked good in a single game yet, despit his point totals (thanks to McDavid). That includes preseason as well.

  • Moneyball

    There is not much to trade, however the prospect pool is better than it has been before. A dman is the number 1 need right now. Puljujarvi for Faulk woudl do it.

      • Moneyball

        Who are you willing to give up then? Pj has looked better this season but is still a turnover machine and needs a lot of work. The oilers need one more rh D to compete and puljujarivi’s Contribution can be replaced with a guy like Marody.

      • Hemmercules

        Whats so great about JP anyway? All he has right now is “Potential”. We all know Edmonton is where potential goes to die. Look at Broissoit, looking like a pretty nice backup in the Peg for pennies after we ran him out of town. I guess playing in front of a competent defence can do wonders for even average goalies. Faulk will probably get more points a year than JP ever will but Faulk is not all that great defensively. I personally think Chia would have already made that trade if it was on the table.

        • Moneyball

          Hammer I agree with you about Faulk, but he was behind a very poor team in Carolina. That being said he would be an improvement over Benning or anyone else we have and would shore up the second defence pairing. It’s a good Hockey Trade for both teams as pj does have potential and Carolina is in a rebuild.

        • Spydyr

          Puljujarvi is only 20. He has a possible eight more years under club control . He has size ,speed and a good shot but by all means trade him away for a career -106 player that is six years older has a Modified NTC is paid 6 million and is UFA in 2019-2020. Even if the Oilers where dumb enough to make that deal they need to send at least the six million back the other way to make it work. Say Lucic for Faulk .

          • Hemmercules

            Just saying Chia would have made that trade if he could have. I don’t see a great player in JP even if he is only 20. Seems like a great guy but I don’t understand the love for the guy as a player. I hope he pans out but to me he looks very sloppy still. He can’t make a decent pass half of the time, he’s not overly quick and doesn’t really use his size that much. He has time, maybe he gets better, maybe he’s just another Yak with a good shot when he manages to hit the net.

  • VvV

    Question 4, Tyler and Jason are wrong. If it happens once here and there sure the lack of effort can be on the Oilers players. But when it’s happened year over year, even with new players, there is a lack of culture and motivation somewhere, yes it is still on the players, but when there is a such a long his it also comes down to the coaching staff.