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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – First impressions of Caleb Jones

Another Monday is here to ruin your practice retirement and that sucks, there’s no doubt about it, but the first day of the week also means another edition of the Monday Mailbag. Once again, this here mailbag is set to help you kill off a few minutes of your day and maybe, just maybe, help you learn a little something while you’re at it. If you’d like to join in, I need questions for next week and you can always email them to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and waste as much company time as is humanly possible. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Tiff asks – I’ve been impressed with the way Caleb Jones has filled in despite probably being in over his head at this point so my questions are: what are your first impressions of Caleb Jones’ game? What does he do well and what does he still need to work on?

Jason Gregor:

His skating is his best asset. He handles the puck well and moves it accurately. He needs to slow his game down, which will come from experience. Nothing overly negative from him other than needing experience, and when Klefbom returns and Jones gets to play in the third pair he will look even better not having to face the best forwards. He shouldn’t be asked to do that so early in his NHL career.

Robin Brownlee:

Most obvious is his ability to skate and move the puck. As a rookie, he needs to work on everything. Has had some bad luck and has been caught up ice a time or two, but eliminating the latter will come with ice time and experience. Has a lot of potential and good instincts.

Matt Henderson:

He’s a good skater and he can pass the puck. That alone can keep him in the NHL for a long time. I knew about the skating, wasn’t sure of the passing. If he wants to keep improving I think it’s just experience. He’s going to learn what works and what doesn’t in the NHL.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He can move the puck pretty well, skating isn’t a problem, he has good offensive instincts. Like most young defensemen, he struggles to contain high-level NHL players off the rush and he can lose his coverage in his own end pretty easily. In general, I’ve been very impressed with his game. I think there’s a really strong possibility that he’s a full-time NHL next season.

Chris the Intern:

I’m glad you asked this. I’ve been very impressed with his game so far and even more impressed with the way he played on Thursday night against the Panthers. Hitchcock playing him in the last five minutes of the third period says a lot. Jones’ patience impresses me the most, and I think he needs to work on his speed, which is totally understandable. I see him getting blown by a lot during games which probably will come with experience.

Baggedmilk:

Jones has been a really nice surprise for the Oilers so far this season. He has good wheels, can make a solid first pass, and generally looks calm when the walls around him are caving in. That said, he’s still a young guy that’s going to make some mistakes until he gets more at-bats under his belt. Right now, he’s fighting above his weight class and it will help a lot when Klefbom comes back and Jones can slide down the depth chart a little bit.

Oct 13, 2018; New York, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

2) Casey asks – As I submit this question after the win against Florida, the Oilers have only eight players with 10 points or more on their roster and that’s the fewest in the NHL by at least three (Boston and Buffalo are next with 11 players), and I’m wondering if everyone thinks this is bad luck or if the Oilers just aren’t good enough?

Jason Gregor:

Not sure it is bad luck. It’s not like their depth forwards are getting great chances nightly and have been robbed. Too many of them are not performing to even an average level. It is disappointing. No one expected Reider to have no goals. That is awful. He needs to be better and so do most of their depth forwards.

Robin Brownlee:

Not good enough. Way too much reliance on four forwards for offence.

Matt Henderson:

It’s not bad luck. It’s good luck. Who knew Larsson and Khaira would be in double digits by now??? Not this guy. Chiasson with 20+ points already? Oh man. This team is hot garbage outside of a small handful of players and the reason I don’t need to write much anymore is because I’ve already explained why this team sucks so many times that it’s boring to keep saying “Chiarelli eats paste and shouldn’t be allowed to show his face in public.”

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s honestly a little bit of both. They have six players in the 7-9 point range and three of them (Russell, Rattie, Rieder) have been hurt, two of them have shooting percentages under 5% (Lucic, Rieder, Benning), and Puljujarvi spent a few weeks in the AHL. None of those guys are having good seasons, and there’s no doubt that the Oilers don’t have anywhere close to an acceptable level of secondary scoring, but there has been some bad luck when it comes to getting the bounces and injuries. They could have more guys in double digits.

Chris the Intern:

There are a couple guys who are underperforming (Lucic, Reider) but the main problem is that they aren’t good enough. Thanks, Chia!

Baggedmilk:

No, it’s not bad luck it’s that GM doesn’t appear to know what he’s doing in terms of pro-scouting. He’s spent a lot of money on guys that can’t help and that’s squarely on his shoulders.

Jan 2, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes right wing Richard Panik (14) carries the puck as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Brandon Manning (26) and goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) defend during the first period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

3) Lance asks – By my eye, the Oilers have far too many left-handed defencemen and I’m curious what the panel thinks will happen when the likes of Klefbom and/or Sekera get healthy? If Brandon Manning can’t crack the lineup now, what chance does he have when players start coming back?

Jason Gregor:

He has no chance. The trade was terrible. I don’t blame the player, I blame GM and scouts for thinking he would help. When Klefbom returns Jones will slide down to the third pair and Gravel to press box. Sekera will we need to see how he looks whenever he returns.

Robin Brownlee:

Having guys who can play trumps which side they shoot from, even if too many lefties isn’t ideal. Let’s see Sekera actually get healthy before we even contemplate his impact on the line-up. If Manning is in your line-up you aren’t good enough.

Matt Henderson:

Brandon Manning is now and has been forever a fringe player whose only claim to fame was being so shitty that the only way he could stop McDavid was to jump on his back and ride him shoulder first into the boards. The only way he plays when others get healthy is if the Oilers trade Russell, Sekera, Gravel, and Jones to St Louis for Parayko.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

When everyone is healthy, there is a 0% chance that Brandon Manning is one of their top six defensemen. That’s a fact. I think they’ll send down Jones and one of Manning/Gravel this season and then this summer I think we could honestly see them try to deal Andrej Sekera. It will be tough because he’s hardly played any hockey over the past two years and he has a big contract, but if they can find someone who wants him, Sekera might be the odd man out. If they can’t move him, then I’m not sure what they do to solve the log-jam on the left side. I think we’ll definitely see some sort of trade, but it probably won’t be until the summer.

Chris the Intern:

Manning is going to get bought out before we know it. There’s no chance he cracks the lineup when Sekera and Klefbom return. What a waste of a good Drake Caggiula.

Baggedmilk:

Manning is a bad hockey player so Hitchcock is, rightfully, not playing him. This is the way it’s going to go for as long as he’s on the roster. More fine work by the GM.

Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, speaks at a season ending press conference.

4) Marc asks – What do you think are the Oilers biggest problems and in what order?

Jason Gregor:

Inability as an organization to recognize how to fill out the depth of a roster. No scoring depth

Robin Brownlee:

I think we’ve been over this, what. about 1,000 times?
– No scoring depth
– Not enough experience and depth on the blueline
– Up and down goaltending

Matt Henderson:

The General Manager is a cancer that needs to be excised. They have like five 3rd pairing defenders. They traded their NHL quality wingers for those aforementioned defenders.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think their biggest need is a top-six scoring winger. Someone who could work with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and give them a threatening second line. It would then push some other players down the lineup and balance things out a little. They’re more than one piece away though. If this team wants to become a contender, they probably need two more scoring wingers, a true #1 goaltender, and a top-four defenseman. Regardless, I think their biggest need is on the wings.

Chris the Intern:

General manager, Defence, Forward depth

Baggedmilk:

The biggest problem is the management team for allowing this Chiarelli-led debacle to continue.

Edmonton Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli speaks at year end Press Conference

5) Geoff asks – If (when) Chiarelli gets fired this offseason, what potential GMs could the Oilers acquire? Is there a leading person that could step into his role already in the Oilers organization and if not, why not?

Jason Gregor:

Keith Gretzky would be the only one in the organization ready to be an NHL GM. I can’t say with certainty how good he’d be at leading and running an entire organization. It is always a bit of a projection when they’ve never had that role at any level.

Robin Brownlee:

Won’t know a full list of candidates until the off-season. I have Keith Gretzky as the most likely internal interim candidate if something is done during this season.

Matt Henderson:

I can’t imagine the Oilers would hire someone good, but how do they not send a blank cheque Yzerman’s way? I dunno, it’s probably going to be Keith Gretzky though. Where’s the bleach?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I haven’t spent enough time going through all the available candidates. Keith Gretzky is an internal option, but the backlash from the fan base that would come from hiring within would not be worth it. Not sure where else they could look, though. Knowing the Oilers, they would hire someone like Dean Lombardi because he’s a “good hockey man”.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, I’m not too informed on the GM situation around the league. I haven’t decided whether it would be a good decision or not to promote Keith Gretzky but I’m not too sure who’s all out there.

Baggedmilk:

I assume Keith Gretzky would get the interim tag if/when Chiarelli goes, but the organization really needs to do things right and do an actual search for the next GM. No more naming a buddy to a bigger role. No more hiring the first guy they talk to. You probably wouldn’t hire the first person that walks in the door to run the till at McDonald’s so why would you do it in the General Manager position for an NHL hockey team?

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