20
Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What is the Oilers biggest need?

My friends, it’s that wonderful time again. It’s that time when you have all the things you’ve always wanted to know about the NHL and about life in general. I like to think of us as a much cheaper alternative to a college education. As always, the mailbag depends on your questions so I need you to send me anything you want to know. If you have an Oilers or life question that needs answering you can always email me, or DM me on Twitter. Enjoy.

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan on his bench against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Trent asks – Seeing what we’re seeing from the team right now, do you think that Todd McLellan got a raw deal by taking the fall for what looks to be a flawed roster?

Robin Brownlee:

I didn’t always agree with the way McLellan deployed the personnel he had available, but I do think the make-up of the roster has been the biggest problem. We’re seeing the same shortcomings under Ken Hitchcock now. People have been talking about lack of blueline depth and scoring up front for a long time — even in the season the cards fell the right way for the Oilers and they made the playoffs.

Jason Gregor:

I said it at the time. Coaching wasn’t the issue. You are only as good as the players you have and the GM hasn’t provided the coach with enough good players.

Matt Henderson:

No. There’s room for both Todd McLellan being a stubborn ass and Peter Chiarelli building a trash roster. Frankly, I think that Todd, Pete, and Bobby all need to be fired immediately.

Christian Pagnani:

There’s legitimate complaints about Todd McLellan but the bigger issue is Peter Chiarelli and his roster construction/management.

Chris the Intern:

Nah. I don’t regret the firing of Todd McLellan. I mean, it proves that our roster is garbage because if Ken Hitchcock can’t fix a team then no one can. Hopefully, this is a sign to Bob Nicholson and Darryl Katz.

Baggedmilk:

I think even Todd would admit that he should take his fair share of the blame given how things went, but as we’re seeing right now with Ken Hitchcock, it’s hard to get wins out of a roster that can’t compete. That’s on Chiarelli. If one of the winningest coaches of all time can’t make it work then what does that tell you?

Mar 1, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Milan Lucic (27) tries to screen Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) David asks – Lucic is supposedly a tough and intimidating player who should be playing with an edge. In the last 15 games, he has taken one penalty (a fighting major). We all know about his scoring issues, but are the lack of penalties indicative of a player not playing with the required intensity?

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see his intensity as the problem, Nobody wants to engage Lucic. He throws plenty of hits and imposes himself physically, but very few players are going to push back very hard and let him be a factor. They’d rather let him sleep. His lack of productivity, given his contract, is the biggest issue. The best bangers who play with an edge, as you put it, aren’t worth $6 million a season. There has to be more.

Jason Gregor:

Very few players in the league will fight him, so he isn’t going to have many fighting majors. I’d argue that because he has as many hits as he does and doesn’t take penalties that is a positive. You don’t need him taking stupid roughing penalties just to pad his penalty minutes. That helps no one.

Matt Henderson:

I think it’s a sign he isn’t involved in the play at all. He’s not fast enough to be anywhere that matters. I don’t really want him taking penalties at all, but if he could actually get to the play then I think he would be taking some.

Christian Pagnani:

Lucic has also seen his minutes reduced. He’s clearly lost a step. I don’t think he skates at a level to make an impact anymore.

Chris the Intern:

Totally. I wouldn’t be mad at all at Lucic if he takes the occasional penalty while playing hard because that’s what happens to guys like that. He’s not getting to the net, he’s not taking shots, he’s hitting a little bit, but that’s it.

Baggedmilk:

He’s still tough but no one wants to fight him. Would you? The Oilers need to find a way to move on from this disaster as quickly as possible.

Oct 23, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates a second period goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Rama Lama asks – Watching Leon play without Connor is frustrating as he appears not to be in control of his line. Do you think it’s possible in the future for him to run his own line and produce?

Robin Brownlee:

Leon Draisaitl, with or without McDavid, isn’t the problem.

Jason Gregor:

Maybe two players in the NHL can run a line on their own, Crosby and McDavid. Stop expecting Draisaitl to run a line when the wingers aren’t good enough. Look around the league and see that the centres who produce play with a winger who is skilled. The most asinine comment in Edmonton is the believe Draisaitl can carry a line when they have no wingers who can produce. There is a reason both Hitchcock and McLellan have played one or RNH or Draisaitl with McDavid. It’s because they want their best offensive player to have someone with a pulse offensively beside him…Like every other top centre in the league.

Matt Henderson:

Well, the best seasons of his career have been playing support roles for either McDavid or Hall. I think he should be in the position to do that if the Oil can’t find him a winger who is playing close to a point per game hockey.

Christian Pagnani:

I hope so. That’d be a lot for a player that relies on Conor McDavid otherwise. I think he can do it but they haven’t given him much support and they keep putting him with McDavid. I’d like to see what he does in a season playing mostly without McDavid.

Chris the Intern:

Yes. Leon is a gem and can absolutely run his own line. He just needs some other forwards to help him out.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t really understand why Leon takes so much heat considering he’s one of four guys that has consistently produced offence. Why are we not looking at the other 19 players on the team and asking when they’re going to score literally anything at all?

Nov 13, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson (6) celebrates their with with Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) as Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom (77) skates towards them at the end of the third period at Rogers Place. Oilers won the game 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

4) Dale asks – What would you say is the Oilers biggest need at this point?

Robin Brownlee:

A better GM, then scoring depth on the wings and getting Oscar Klefbom back. This we already know.

Jason Gregor:

An entire makeover of their management.

Matt Henderson:

General Manager who understands the game of hockey, how the cap works, and how to make a trade without soiling himself.

Christian Pagnani:

A new front office. Until they have the people that will make the right decisions it won’t make a difference.

Chris the Intern:

A new GM.

Baggedmilk:

A clean sweep of the entire management team: CEO, GM, AGM, everyone… Wayne you’re still cool.

5) Oilers fan in Van asks – I’ve noticed a lot of people saying that the Oilers need to upgrade their defence but how would that work? Given the lack of depth, I’m confused about what we could possibly trade to get the upgrades we need. Are there any players or picks that the panel could see being in play?

Robin Brownlee:

The Oilers don’t need to make big trades. They need a proven top-nine winger and a proven defenceman, which they addressed Sunday. I like the move to bring in Alex Petrovic for Chris Wideman. He’s had a tough season, but can play reliable third-pairing minutes. That’s a start. Wideman showed nothing here. What I don’t get is shipping out Drake Caggiula, one of the few forwards who could score a little bit (despite other faults) for another third-pairing guy in Manning.

For me, improvement doesn’t have to involve a big name or a big salary. If they opt to go bigger, it’s salary in and salary out, as always. The problem as I see it is Peter Chiarelli can’t be trusted to make that kind of deal.

Jason Gregor:

Klefbom’s injury really hurt them and no team is going to trade them a top-three defender for anything less than RNH, and the Oilers, I’d hope, aren’t doing that. Unless they grossly overpay there is no realistic way I see them adding a top-three defender during the season.

Matt Henderson:

It doesn’t really work but that doesn’t change the fact that the team needs to upgrade the blueline. They may be forced to wait for Jones, Bouchard, and Bear to force their way up. Chia blew all the best assets (Hall, Eberle, 2015 1st & 2nd) and the team only has Larsson and Ryan Spooner to show for it. He also committed $9.5M in cap space to Sekera and Russell, who will most likely limp out the year on the 3rd pairing assuming Sekera ever plays at all. This is a disaster and it’s shocking anyone involved still has a job in hockey.

Christian Pagnani:

They lack significant assets to trade. I’m becoming more and more skeptical there’s a quick way out of this. They need to shed bad contracts, but those contracts are really tough. I’d look what you could get for Jesse Puljujarvi or Darnell Nurse and hold onto first and second-round picks.

Chris the Intern:

To acquire a top four d-man we would likely need to give up our first overall or a top six forward. I’m annoyed just talking about this because trading, in general, should be off the table while Chiarelli is in power.

Baggedmilk:

Peter Chiarelli traded a 1st, a 2nd, and Taylor Hall to upgrade the defence and here we are. Do you really trust that he can do it right this time?

MAILBAG BROUGHT TO YOU BY BACKSIDE TOURS

New Years with Backside Tours! Tired of going through the usual hassle of dealing with New Years plans and booking hotels during the holidays? We don’t blame you. That’s why we have put together a ton of New Years trips to change the way you approach the holidays. Let us do all the work, so you can have all the fun. Check out Backside Tours for more details.

  • JasonY

    Regardless of the Oilers making the playoffs, I cannot see Chiarelli making it to the off-season. He has completely fleeced the team of its strength on LW. Draisatl can’t carry a line, he’s a strong 2nd line C that is not worth $8.5M. It was Hall that was the driver. Anyways, Chia should have done what Toronto did with Nylander but caved when he had the leverage.

    Nicholson’s comment of Chia and noting his prospect development is premature. There is nothing to substantiate such a claim. All of them are right now border line NHL/AHL tweener’s at this point. Based on those comments, I would also consider firing Nicholson as he has a poor sense of prospects.

    We continue to leak talent and I found Cagiulla a valuable 4th liner that could work up and down the roster when needed on a short term basis. Adding marginal D depth at that cost is due to the situation that Chia put himself in, a position of weakness. We can’t make any move of significance of the cap hell we are in. How we are still one of the bottom 1/3 in the league in cap hell should see Chia being fired. Nicholson misidentified the GM. Chia model of “heavy hocky” failed miserably. He was a GM hired 5 years too late. For that, Nicholson should be fired.

    • JimmyV1965

      Geez. I really find the Drai hate annoying. The guy is 13th in league scoring. McDavid isn’t expected to drive a line with zero wingers that’s why RNH or Drai are always on his line. So how can you expect Drai or RNH to drive a line with the garbge wingers on this team?

      • JasonY

        JimmyV1965, you are confusing my Drai hating. I do not hate Draisatl. I find him a good 2nd line C/and a weak 1B line C. He is not consistent enough to prove me otherwise. My issues are how the organization misidentified him and overcompensated his salary.

        Everyone has stated and he needs wingers. So how can you say he can drive a line? Hall was the main driver imo. His performance was almost always consistent regardless of who he played with. It would have been a great 1st/2nd line had Hall been still in the loupe.

      • Jimmy_Gatz

        In Germany, many people in the hockey community think, Drai is getting so much heat from Oilers fans because he comes from a small hockey country. It’s completely bizarr that a player who scores 47p in 38 games is treated like that. Trade him. Please.

        • JasonY

          I am not saying he’s a bad player. In fact, I find him to be a really solid player 1b line player. How often has he played beside McDavid this season? That’s the McDavid’s effect. To me is he worth the $8.5M. I don’t think so. He has yet to show me he can drive a line consistently. He is in the same breadth as RNH. Look at RNH’s stats when he played with McDavid. His salary looks ok and I presume it will look better with the cap going up. But for now and last season, when we need cap space, it was an overpayment. Other pundits said it was as well and many were thinking a $7-$7.5M range would have been good. If he was worth the $8.5M we would be able to drive 2 lines. He has yet to show that.

        • Beer_League_Ringer

          “Treated” and “talked about” are very different things. Drai is being treated like the elite player he is. Fans will always talk. Get over it.

  • Serious Gord

    4. Good to see a little bit of a consensus growing that the fok and fog have to go. BM – the first guy you throw overboard – and publically to send the message – is Wayne Gretzky.

    It’s only taken a dozen years for a majority of fans to see what has needed to be done.:.

    And yet does Katz?

    • Dewy90

      Russell contact isn’t our problem. Why hate him when obviously he is a huge play of our d core?? 4m is what you pay for a dman line Russell and to get rid of him hurts our d core. Guess what, then you’ll be screaming for another shut down d man which we will have to pay at least 4m per year. Stop ther Russell hate already!

  • Svart kaffe

    Hitchcock got this roster to win until Klefbom and Russell went down. Until recently it really looked like the team could sneak into the playoffs. I for one don’t miss McLellan.

  • CMG30

    On the ice we need to start in net. We need reliable goaltending every single game. Next, we need scoring wingers. The defence is so thin it’s translucent but when everyone is healthy it is number three on the list.

    Of course in the big picture, what this team really needs is a clean sweep of management all the way to the owners office… both official employees and especially the unofficial ones…

  • Serious Gord

    I and others stated at the start of the season that chia was playing to an inside straight. That everything had to go right for the team to be playoff capable. The team’s lack of supporting talent and depth meant no significant injuries could happen or reversals in performance among key players.

    Well that hope of a straight has been dashed and now chia is left with a bunch of crappy cards.

    The return of injured players likely will help, but the fate of this team’s playoff chances will likely be determined in the next two weeks – either they tread water with a 500 record until the Calvary arrives or they collapse and the rejuvenation is too late to save the season.

    • Gaz

      They need to call the season. Not throw in the towel and tank – that sends the wrong message to every stakeholder (players, fans, rest of league) but they need to end this debacle and fire Chiarelli. He knows he’s done, and I suspect the moves yesterday were the limit of what ownership is now permitting him to do (I personally would’ve taken away his ability to trade anything outside of 5/6/7 round picks, but I’m not a billionaire pharamacy magnate so what do I know).

      We have seen bright GMs formulate a plan and execute on it to revive teams quickly. This team absolutely has the building blocks in place to do this, but it will take an astute GM hire.

      With all due respect to everyone on this and other blogs (including the writers) who know more about hockey than I, just because we can’t see a pathway doesn’t mean a good GM doesn’t see the route to revival. It is absolutely possible, but it takes big, big stones from an owner who hasn’t shown anything outside of the desire to buy friendships with his idols.

  • ed from edmonton

    1. No that’s professional coaching. Did the other 5 or 6 coaches fired so far tis get raw deals? It comes with the job.

    2. I don’t think Lucic has an intensity problem.

    3. Hard to complain about a top 15 scorer. After the likes of Marner, Mathews, Ratannen sign their new deals, his $8.5M will be a bargain contract.

    4. This year D depth was always the time bomb waiting to off and it has.

    5. If Sekera can play at his 16/17 level this fix a lot. But I think this is very unlikely. A defence next year that incudes Jones and Bouchard would be a good start. Other than trading their 1st rounder in 2019 the Oil don’t have enough assets to trade for a top 4 dman, so I’m not expecting a trade of significance.

  • Freddie the fog

    The Oilers need to rid themselves of Lucic. Its gotta b the elephant in the room at this point. Biting the bullet on a buyout should really be enough for Katz to b pissed off enough to fire Chiarelli. Then pick up the phone and call Ron Hextall who did a masterful job getting the Flyers out of Paul Holmgren cap hell. On Hexie’s watch the Flyers drafted well and now have the deepest if not best prospect pool in the league. This should be done BEFORE the trade deadline

  • camdog

    It’s not often the mail bloggers agree on a question. Agreeing that the team needs to terminate the GM, when some of the bloggers are sometimes conservative when it comes to these type of moves is big. If the Oil don’t respond in the next couple games, I think PC walks the plank. It’s closer than we think.

  • Afc Wimbledon

    What the Owner and fans need to do is ask the hard question, can any manager draft/build a cup winning team around McDavid starting from almost scratch and already capped out within the window that McDavid has to carry a team to the cup?, at 22 the team has maybe 6 or 7 years, if you play him the way they have been playing him maybe less frankly.

    If the answer to that is no (which I personally believe is the case given his age, the capped out nature of the team and the fact that rebuilding becomes more difficult with a really good player on the team ironically as you are unlikely to get good draft position (not that the OIlers deserve good drafts at this stage), then the team has to plan how to move McDavid in order to rebuild.