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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Were the Oilers right to send Bouchard back?

Welcome, friends, to the pre-long weekend edition of the Monday Mailbag! Alright, so there’s still a week to wait before the next round of practice retirement but I can’t help but get excited just thinking about it and also that you’re here with me now. As always, we’re giving all of you the opportunity to learn a little something from our panel of deep thinkers and pillars of Oilers’ entertainment, and it was your questions that made it happen. If you’ve got a question, you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy.

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

1)Yves asks – Does anyone think that the Oilers need to try and trade for some kind of temporary solution on the right wing so that Yamamoto or Puljujarvi or both gets send down to Bakersfield? There are players there but they just don’t look ready yet.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see a need. Send them down and keep Rattie, Caggiula, Chiasson on RW. They have produced better. They can recall Brad Malone if they need an extra body.

Robin Brownlee:

No, I don’t think it’s necessary, but it’s a possibility if Puljujarvi doesn’t respond favourably to having been made a healthy scratch and ends up sitting again. I thought he looked pretty good against Detroit, but let’s see how it plays out between now and the 20-game mark.

Cam Lewis:

You can send both Yamamoto and Puljujarvi down and operate with Chiasson, Caggiula, and Rattie as your game of musical chairs on the right side. I think Caggiula and Rattie can compete with each other for the spot on the top line while Chiasson fits nicely with Drasiaitl and Rieder. That said, I think the one place to add would be a good skating, two-way forward for the Strome and Lucic third line. I dig the idea of sending both Puljujarvi and Yamamoto down to get premium ice time in the AHL rather than what they have going on right now.

Matt Henderson:

I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but if Caggiula can remain offensively competent and Chiasson keeps playing solid hockey then I think the Oilers can afford to send both Yamo and Puljujarvi down to the AHL with Rattie back. The Oilers don’t have much more time for Puljujarvi where he’s waiver exempt and they need to use it now. They should both be playing top six and top PP somewhere.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I absolutely think that they should. I’ve been suggesting that they take a look at Mats Zuccarello since the draft and I think that would be a really nice fit. If the Rangers retain a little money, the Oilers should be able to get him for just a package of draft picks. He’s a proven top-six winger, could help on the powerplay, and would allow the Oilers to send Yamamoto down to the AHL where I think he belongs.

Chris Pagnani:

If that was the case I think they would have acquired a veteran option in the summer. Alex Chiasson and Drake Caggiula are running hot so I bet they’ll keep those until Ty Rattie’s ready. I agree. I’d rather see Jesse Puljujarvi and Kailer Yamamoto in Bakersfield getting big minutes at even strength and special teams.

Chris the Intern:

As of right now, no. Alex Chiasson and Ty Rattie are performing great on the right side, so there is no need to replace them. If Chiasson and Rattie can continue like this for the rest of the year (probably unlikely, but I’m hopeful) then Yamamoto and Puljujarvi can play in Bakersfield and grow.

Baggedmilk:

I would love to see both of those guys down on the farm but I don’t know what it would take to make that happen. The Oilers would need health luck and a cheap rental that could fill in as a stopgap, and that’s a pretty specific wishlist item this early in the season.

Sep 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) skates at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Greg asks – What has been your first impression of Mikko Koskinen so far? I know it’s early but what are your first thoughts after seeing him play?

Jason Gregor:

First impression was he struggled on bad angle shots and the scouting report was he kept his glove hand low. I have seen him improve on bad angle (goal line etc) shots. He didn’t face those in the KHL very often so it was more about him getting comfortable. He has looked good in his three appearances, but it is only three games. I’m not ready to anoint him a starter.

Robin Brownlee:

First impression? Thought he was terrible. Improved significantly in wins over Nashville and Chicago before only being OK in win over Detroit. Need to see more of him, but he’s better than I first thought.

Cam Lewis:

He looked like ass during the pre-season but has been excellent during the regular season. He’s playing at the level the Oilers need from their backup goalie because Cam Talbot has proved he can’t be relied on for another insane 70-game season.

Matt Henderson:

My first impressions came in preseason where he was a sieve. This new version that looks pretty competent is trying its best to rehabilitate those first impressions. It’s early for him but I’m happy with his play overall.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Well, through three games he’s been fantastic. I didn’t have any faith in Koskinen given his contract and his play during the preseason but he has made me, and plenty of others, look kind of dumb so far. If he keeps this up and can win 15 games for this team throughout the season, he will be well worth the $2.5 million price tag.

Chris Pagnani:

It’s too early to tell. He has one shutout and two games under .890 save percentage for a .935 save percentage in three games. I need to see more.

Chris the Intern:

How can you argue with his 3-0 record? The inner-Oiler fan in me is waiting for him to crash and burn, but he truly has been playing great, and I hope it continues. Now I’m curious to see how Cam Talbot will answer to Koskinen’s strong play.

Baggedmilk:

So far so good! With three starts under his belt, he is 3-0 so there’s not a whole lot to complain about. He’s proving a lot of people, including myself, wrong for doubting him. Here’s hoping it continues.

3) Nathan asks – I find it strange that the Oilers still haven’t played any Pacific Division teams yet and we’re already a month into the season. Do you think this would be an advantage or disadvantage as we draw closer to playoff time?

Jason Gregor:

Considering they have dominated the Pacific Division the past two seasons I see it as a positive if they maintain a winning record prior to facing the Flames on November 17th. They were 19-6-3 in 2017 and 16-11-2 in 2018. Last season they only played three Pacific Division opponents in the first 24 games so their schedule isn’t much different this year. In fact, they play five Pacific teams in their first 24 games. They just didn’t face one in the first 18 games which is a bit odd.

Robin Brownlee:

Neither. Of course, it’s always better to face divisional rivals when you’re playing well and healthy, as the Oilers are now, but you don’t control that. Just go play.

Cam Lewis:

I think the goal of saving the inter-division games for later is to build playoff race intensity. Whatever, just beat whoever you play.

Matt Henderson:

I think it would be best case scenario if they had banked these points against division rivals, but at the end of November, the team starts hitting the Pacific teams. That’s when this season really gets interesting.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The Oilers typically play their own division very well, so I’ll say it’s actually an advantage. As we get later into the season, the games start to matter more and divisional games have an even bigger emphasis on them. Also, the Pacific isn’t very good this year. LA looks horrendous, Anaheim is really struggling, I don’t think this start by the Canucks is sustainable, and the Coyotes are… well… the Coyotes. There’s a real chance for the Oilers to grab one of the three divisional playoff spots, and beating teams in their division will go a long way in ensuring that happens.

Chris Pagnani:

I consider it an advantage. Even if they stop winning they can make those points up in division. That’s a nice option to have.

Chris the Intern:

Right now we’re playing good hockey so I wish we would start playing some Pacific teams now. There will come a time in this season where we are on a small skid, so I just hope we’re not playing any Pacific teams when that time comes.

Baggedmilk:

I guess that depends on how they perform, really. If they can stomp their way through the Pacific then they’ll be in mighty fine shape but if they struggle well then… you know.

4) Dale – Outside of the odd game here or there where the special teams let the team down, I’ve seen a lot of improvement on both the PK and PP this season. Are you seeing the improvements as well? If so, what do you see as the biggest reasons for the change?

Jason Gregor:

PP is too inconsistent, and they have to end Lucic experiment on the PP. He isn’t helping. PK has shown good signs, but then has a game like Minnesota where they allow three goals on three chances. I think the players are more committed to being in the right spot on the PK. The PP has their three most skilled forwards together so it should have success.

Robin Brownlee:

A lot of improvement? It comes and it goes. You can’t just qualify it with “the odd game here or there.” A bad night on the PK and PP cost the Oilers two points against Minnesota Oct. 30. Would rather see consistent good results than alternating between awful and great. Overall, though, I sense improvement in approach that will play itself out over the course of the season.

Cam Lewis:

The PK has still been bad and the PP is inconsistent and thrives largely from McDavid being insanely good. Both need to be better.

Matt Henderson:

I am still really suspicious of the PP’s success. Right now it feels a lot like 90% of its success is dependent on McDavid’s genius. I can’t figure out why Lucic is allowed to be on the ice in an offensive situation at all. Swap him out with a right shot who can make and take a pass and I think it does even better.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The penalty kill is definitely off to a better start than last season and there’s no doubt it’s helped them win games. I would say that the powerplay has not been very good though. The five left-handed shots is not working very well. They struggle generating offence off the cycle and Milan Lucic kills more plays than he makes. I think they need to change up the personnel a bit. I also would like to see them just keep Connor McDavid on the ice for the whole two minutes.

Chris Pagnani:

I’m not sure about that. I’m extremely skeptical of the five-lefties power play and their penalty kill is bottom five in the league.

Chris the Intern:

The Oilers are moving the puck really well on the power play, and they’re making things happen. Does this come from a confidence thing? Maybe, I’m not sure. Whatever is working for them, I would credit the new coaching staff.

Baggedmilk:

I like how aggressive the boys are on the PK and that’s a big difference from last season. Last year, I found that the Oilers would sit back in a passive box whereas, this year, they’re pressuring the other team’s powerplay a hell of a lot more.

Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect Evan Bouchard speaks to the media after development camp session.

5) Lance in Sasky asks – Do you think it was the right move to send Evan Bouchard back to junior? I thought he played well enough to stick around and don’t know what else he has left to learn in junior.

Jason Gregor:

100% it was the right move. He needs to maintain confidence. He can learn how to handle pressure situations via the World Juniors. He can also continue working on defensive areas of his game. There is a lot a player can learn, and often they learn better when they are playing a lot and playing with a high level of confidence.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, it was the right move. He did play well enough to “stick around,” but the bar should be set higher than that. He’ll continue to mature in the OHL and that’s not a bad thing.

Cam Lewis:

Yeah, he was fine, but playing nine minutes a night isn’t going to do much for him. Now he can go back to Junior, play in the World Juniors, and actually have an idea of what to work on to thrive at the NHL level.

Matt Henderson:

He can learn how to be automatically protected in the expansion draft down in London. Also, the NHL is not a development league and Bouchard is not so much better than every junior defender that came before him that he belongs in the NHL where they had to be sent back. It will not hurt him to play huge minutes in the CHL then for team Canada and play for a Memorial Cup hopefully at the end of the year.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I believe he was their fifth best defenseman, but ultimately they did what was best for his development. He was very impressive though and it will be interesting to see him go back and dominate at the OHL level. After seeing him for seven games, I have no doubts that he will be a very good NHL defenseman, it’s just a matter of how long it will take him to reach his full potential. I think next year we’ll see him in the NHL for a full season.

Chris Pagnani:

Absolutely. I didn’t see enough to convince me he’s ready for the NHL. Playing limited minutes in the NHL at 19 doesn’t seem beneficial to me. Let him play 30 minutes for London and focus on improving his skating. The counterargument is he’s learned all he can in junior and or will develop bad habits. NFL players often sit a year or two after being drafted and play after learning a bunch from the coaches and veterans. I feel like that’s a different situation. I’d rather Bouchard play 30 in junior than 13 in the NHL.

Chris the Intern:

I would have loved to see him up with the Oilers, but it was the right move to send him down, especially that Matt Benning has found his game a little bit. Evan will go down and hopefully win a Memorial Cup, and play for Team Canada in the WJC. This will be a great developmental experience for him.

Baggedmilk:

It was absolutely the right decision. It was what’s best for the player and good asset management as the cherry on top. See you at the World Juniors, dad!

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  • OriginalPouzar

    Tyler, lets say the Oilers acquire Zuccarrell where the Rangers retain $1M so for a $3.5M cap hit. He replaces Puljujarvi in the lineup so subtract $925K off the cap. We’ve added apx $2.6M to the cap all in LTIR relief/cushion.

    From all account, Sekera will be activiated this year and return. I know you’ve said you don’t think he will but that goes against almost all accounts.

    What do we do when he’s activated and we, all of a sudden, lose the LTIR bonus cushion and have to dispose of apx $2.6M immediately to get under the cap?

    With Sekera likely to return, the Oilers simply cannot use the LTIR relief cushion and there is no cap room for these types of acquisitions.

    • RyanCoke

      It will be a problem for next year. Sekera cap hit will be for remaining games played. So if he misses 70 percent of the year then we only have 30 percent of his cap hit even though he got paid all his salary. At least that is my understanding of LTIR

  • FISTO Siltanen

    I can’t believe I’m going to say this…but I’m happy to read a measured response from Henderson.

    Albeit, it’s only his first response so not expecting it to be a theme this, or any other, week.

  • Redbird62

    Question 1. Don’t trade for anyone on RW yet. Go with right wing by committee with Rattie, Chiasson, Caggiula, Yamamoto, Kassian, and even Reider, with Marody or Hebig as potential call ups. See if two can establish themselves as long term solid top 6 wingers. Team is doing okay right now.
    Question 2. Koskinen got better every game in the pre-season. His first game was terrible, second was below average but he was NHL caliber in his 3rd pre-season game. He likely had to get used to changes is ice surface, style of play and new teammates. If the small sample size starting the year isn’t enough to establish him as a quality back up (which I agree it isn’t), then don’t conclude that he is not if he does have a bad game sometime in the next few either. He is definitely arrows up right now.
    Question 3. Each season is different, so I won’t assume that the Oilers past success against division opponents guarantees anything for this year. However, it does not bother me that they haven’t played against their division opponents yet, and I am optimistic that if they keep playing the way they are, they will continue to win more than they lose against any division.
    Question 4. Special teams are still a work in progress. Clearly in the Minnesota game, their special teams’ performance cost them the game, but they have also had 6 games where they gave up no shorthanded goals and they won 5 of those. The power play also had 7 good games, with a success rate of 25% or better in which they were 5-1-1 and 5 games with no power play goals in which they went 2-3.
    Question 5. Yes it was good to send Bouchard down. While he showed his offensive talent on several occasions, there were too many quality scoring chances against and that while he was playing sheltered minutes against weaker opponents. And the Oilers’ defensive depth, while not great, is good enough that they don’t need him to stick around.

  • IRONman

    Wait. If Sekera can’t return to nhl then you have 5.5 million to get a player. Jesse needs to give excellent effort every game. He was flying in preseason. He can do it if he wants to. Kassian picked up his game and made a difference last game opening up ice for Brodziak

  • TKB2677

    Does anyone give a crap what Koskinen’s save percentage is as long as he wins games? The Oilers dominated the game and only gave up 24 shots. He made an absolutely incredible glove save. The one goal that is a shot wide, bounces off the boards perfectly, hits him perfectly in the back of the skate and goes in. If that puck is off in any way by 1/4 of a inch, it doesn’t go in. All of a sudden, he has a .917 on the night.

  • cityofchampions

    1. Who would have thought before the start of the year that Rattie, Chiasson, Caggiula and Kassian could be the starting 4 RWs? This allows us to put both Yamamoto and PoolParty in the AHL to learn the game whereas in other years they both might be forced to stay. In case of injuries we can then call up Marody, Yami and/or PP if needed depending on who is doing best for the Condors and not have much of a fall-off. This is how things are supposed to work in the NHL. You are supposed to have depth in the organization (something that’s been missing for decades with the Oilers).
    2. Koskinen has been a pleasant surprise after a horrible pre-season. If he can be trusted play 20-25 games and win more than he loses then he is well worth the price paid as it’ll keep Talbot rested for playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see if Koskinen can continue playing well once other teams start getting a book on him (there are lots of examples of goalies who start hot, but fall back into mediocrity once other teams get used to them).
    3. The schedule always tilts to in-division games later in the year. This year is a bit more extreme than most, but teams got to play who they are scheduled to play. Past success against a division is no guarantee of future success, but based on this year’s performance I’m hopeful that we can continue to do well against other teams in the Pacific.
    4. PP is doing alright, but agree that Lucic should be replaced on PP1 with a right shot. I’d go with Chiasson right now as he is big and can park in front of the net and has hands, but this spot can be rotated among right-hand shots plugging in whoever is on a hot streak. Move Lucic to the 2PP to stand in front of the net and be the left-hand shot. If he is not effective there, leave him off the PP altogether. PK has also improved by my eye, they had a bad statistical game against Minny but it is still early so don’t let that cloud percepetions too much. Percentages aren’t that reliable with small sample sizes. Overall, special teams look a lot better this year.
    5. Again, moving Bouchard out even if he could play in NHL is a step forward. We have Bear and Jones pushing in the AHL neither of whom is much of a downgrade on Bouchard. Bouchard looks like he’ll be a stud but we don’t need to push him into the NHL this year, again a good sign of depth. This also saves a year on his entry-level and means he’ll be exempt in the expansion draft. A good long-term move.