Whether you’re killing company time or sitting on your couch in your favourite Connor McDavid PJs, the mailbag is back to help you get through a little bit of your Monday. I don’t care whether you’re killing company time or killing time until it’s socially acceptable to crack open a cold one, I’m just happy you’re here and sharing your day with us. In this week’s mailbag, we talk Jesse Puljujarvi, the goalie situation, team depth, and a whole lot more. If you have a question for the mailbag, you can email me or hit me up on Twitter. Until then, I present another edition of the Mailbag.
1) Jim asks – In 129 NHL games Jesse Puljujarvi has 17G, 18A, 35P, and is a -7. JP has been utilized from the first line to the fourth line, has been in and out of the press box as a healthy scratch, and has been in and out of the AHL. Given his draft pedigree, and considering those from his draft year that are outpacing him, concerns about his longevity in the NHL are warranted.
Does he make it in the NHL, and if so, what do you see for term and dollar value for his next contract?
People develop at different times. I find people are freaking out because a few top picks are killing it and he isn’t. Where you get drafted means little to me. There is no guarantee top picks all develop at the same time. Blake Wheeler (#5 pick in 2004) isn’t a bust because he hasn’t been as good as Ovechkin and Malkin. He developed slower, and now in his 30s, he is killing it. There is no clear path for picks.
The Oilers didn’t help Puljujarvi by having him in the NHL early, and right now I don’t think he is helping himself because he would prefer not to be in the AHL. Not being ready to be a big time producer in the NHL is the norm. The exceptions are the few elite players who can do it. He is the norm. Adjusting to smaller ice, different style of play, as well as him being a very large man and not gaining his man strength likely until he is 22 is why people need patience. He might never be an elite scorer in the NHL — many first rounders and top-five picks aren’t — but that doesn’t mean he can’t be an effective player. His next contract is likely one or two years and around $1- $1.3 million. I’ve said the organization needed patience with him and I will stick with that, but the best thing for him today would be to go to the AHL, play a lot, get some PP time and gain confidence and produce. Or play him 15 minutes a night in the NHL. He won’t improve much playing only 10 or 11 minutes.
Yes, he makes it in the NHL. He’s 20. No idea what his next contract looks like, but can’t see it being beyond two years. Will depend largely on what his body of work looks like at the end of the season and on who is the GM when it comes time to talk contract.
I think Puljujarvi is good enough to be an everyday NHLer. He clearly has the skill to do it, it’s now just about finding some consistency and figuring out how to be a little bit quicker with his decision making. I’m not willing to give up on JP quite yet (although I’m not completely against moving him if there’s a good deal out there). For his next deal, I think it’s obvious that it will be a bridge. Does a two year deal with a $2 million cap hit make sense? I might be off base, but it sounds fair to me.
Chris the Intern:
I think he does if he’s developed by the right people. Tyson Jose just got sent down to the AHL and Jost was also in Puljujarvi’s draft year. I know it’s tough to see so many other guys from the same draft class excel and go on to be successful, but Jesse just needs time. With that said, maybe his next contract could be anywhere between $3-4 million?
The Oilers are failing Puljujarvi and there’s no one to blame but them. Imagine doing what the Oilers do with their prospects in any other industry:
Person: “I’ve just been accepted into med-school!”
Oilers: “Congrats! You’re our new head surgeon now.”
Oilers: “Trust us, you’ll figure it out.”
Person: “I don’t know if I’m ready for that…”
Oilers: “Sure you are. You had good grades in high school so why not?”
Oilers: “Here’s all the money you’ll ever need. Thanks!”
2) Kevin asks – With all of the questionable trades we have witnessed on Chiarelli’s watch – I’m, wondering if anyone else within the organization has any kind of say in player movement. Struggling to get my head around the scenario whereby there is a conversation around a table and Chia says “ I say we trade player ____ for player ____” (fill in the blanks, they are numerous) and everyone around the table is in total agreement. Does Peter have a complete and final say without regards to anyone’s opinion??? Certainly seems that way. Cheers
Chiarelli does not have free reign to make all the moves right now. He gets input from others and right now I believe people above him in the organization have a big say in what is happening. Sadly, many in the organization believe JP should be here, so even if Chiarelli is gone I’m not sold they would develop him any better.
Smart managers weigh the opinions of people they trust when making decisions. It’s not often everyone is in total agreement, outside of obvious cases — “should be draft Connor McDavid first overall?” GM has to have the final call. If he doesn’t, you need a new guy doing the job.
It’s definitely not 100% Chiarelli. He has a staff of assistants and pro scouts that he works with. He also has to consider the coaching staff and how they might view any acquisition (the McLellan staff nixed a Manning deal in the past). Since he is the President of Hockey Operations, he pretty much does have the final say, at least that’s what his title suggests. I know that all major moves need to be passed through Darryl Katz and Bob Nicholson, that’s just how organizations work. So it’s not like Chiarelli could wake up tomorrow and trade Jesse Puljujarvi and the first round pick without getting approval from a couple of different levels, but he is the one making calls to other teams.
Chris the Intern:
I think it’s not possible for Nicholson or Katz to still allow Chia to have full say in who gets traded. I mean I know it’s his full-time job and everything, but there’s no way those guys still have trust in Chia to handle this team moving forward.
I have multiple problems with this question. 1) If Peter Chiarelli is in control then he needs to go ASAP because he’s doing a terrible job. 2) If there are other people approving these trash moves then they need to go too. 3) This is the Oilers so everyone will probably get promoted regardless of results.
3) Brady asks – For me, one of the most interesting stories of the season has been the inability for Koskinen and Talbot grab control of the crease, and I’m wondering how you see this situation shaking out between now and the trade deadline. Since both guys are on expiring contracts, do you think the Oilers will move one of them? If so, who goes?
If Oilers are in the mix they might trade Talbot, but they’d need to get a backup in return. Koskinen can’t play all the games and they don’t have a backup in the system they are confident could win a few games down the stretch. But I don’t see them trading Talbot just for the sake of it. If he is playing decent then keeping him make sense as they want to make the playoffs.
I’m not convinced one of them has to be traded although it could certainly happen. If I had to choose, I’d keep Talbot because his track record is considerably longer and his numbers are better. Not willing to bet the future on Koskinen after just 30 career NHL games.
As long as they’re within a sniff of the playoffs I don’t think the Oilers will move either of them. I think they see Koskinen as a long-term piece and if they move Talbot, they simply won’t get anything other than draft picks for him. The only teams that would be willing to pay for Talbot are likely teams that are in the playoff hunt and want to shore up their goaltending. Those teams won’t offer anything that helps the Oilers this year, so I can’t see them making a move unless the opportunity for a pure hockey trade arises, but that’s unlikely.
Chris the Intern:
This is going to be a big conversation leading up to the trade deadline. I have an awful feeling in my gut that we’re going to trade Talbot for a bag of pucks and put all of our trust in Koskinen moving forward. If we choose Koskinen over Talbot, I’ll get over it, but I don’t trust Chia to trade any of those players. I do have trust that both these goalies are skilled enough to man our crease, and I wouldn’t mind seeing Chia sign both of them next year.
Frankly, I don’t think either of them has really earned the starter’s role this year, though Koskinen certainly has done a better job when given the chance. If the Oilers are going to be competitive then they’ll need their goaltenders, whoever they may be, to be a lot better. They’ll also need a defensive group that doesn’t look like they should be relegated to the AHL.
4) Jan asks – I don’t know why some feel as though the Oilers are only a trade away from contending. To me, it doesn’t make sense to spend assets needed to make a big splash just to sneak into the postseason. Do you think the Oilers are taking the right approach with their “full court press” to improve?
I don’t put much stock into “full court” press. Teams should always be looking to improve their team, not just now that the pressure is on to make the playoffs. They might be one trade away from contending to make the playoffs, but they are not one trade away from contending for the Cup, which should be the long-term goal. They will need to make multiple moves for that to happen, and I’m not confident Chiarelli is the guy to do it.
Depends what those assets are. If the Oilers are close to a playoff spot, don’t make a move to improve and miss the post-season, people will complain. If they do make a move and miss the playoffs, people will complain even louder. The Oilers might be one trade from contending for a playoff spot, but they’re not close to being a Cup contender and that’s what the goal has to be. Set the bar higher.
From a business perspective, I can see why they would want to push for the playoffs this season. The owner has clearly put pressure on management to get into the postseason because he wants another run of playoff revenue. Combine that with the fact that the POHO will lose his job if they don’t make the playoffs and it’s not hard to see why they would want to upgrade the roster and try push for a playoff appearance. I agree though, they are more than one trade away from being a legit Stanley Cup contender, but one good trade could make them a playoff team.
Chris the Intern:
If anyone else was our GM, I wouldn’t mind seeing a full court press and what it could do to our team. For all we know, this team desperately needs one, except we cannot trust Peter Chiarelli doing it for us.
The problem is that the GM probably thinks he can trade his way out of trouble despite the results showing that it’s just not the case. Personally, I would have gotten rid of him a year ago, but now they’re going to let him do his thing at the deadline and that is terrifying. This organization is getting what they deserve for allowing the terrible management to continue on.
5) Jesse M asks – Everyone always focuses on superstars and “depth” when talking about team’s ability to win. In your opinion which teams aren’t stacked but instead are money balling the NHL and finding the most success due to their coaching, line combinations and systems?
You do need elite players and depth to win, so I’m not sure there is a team that is winning without either. If I had to pick a team that is doing more than people expected it would the New York Islanders. Barry Trotz brought in more accountability, but they also are getting solid goaltending. Their GA is down significantly from last year, but their defensive structure wasn’t very good under Doug Weight. They lost John Tavares, but this morning they are first in the Metro and 5th overall. They also lead the NHL with eight players with 10+ goals. Depth does matter.
I’m not sure everyone focuses on superstars AND depth. What’s a superstar? If you have enough top-end guys, four or five like Calgary has, you can win if your depth is only OK. If you’ve only got one or two but the team behind them is very balanced, you can win. Vegas is getting huge bang for the buck through its first two seasons and might be the best example of what you’re talking about. Calgary and Tampa Bay, to name just two teams, are spending less than the Oilers.
It might not be “money balling” because they do spend a lot, but the way the Jets and Lightning built their teams is the model everyone should be following. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of expensive free agents, instead, build through the draft, keep all your assets together and then when you’ve established a strong young core, you can use some leftover pieces to fill holes and put your team over the top. That’s the NHL version of “money ball.”
There are teams like the Islanders, Hurricanes, and Avalanche who are all bottom five in payroll but still in the playoff race. They’ve spent smartly for the most part.
Chris the Intern:
The Calgary Flames come front of mind for that one. If you look at their roster I wouldn’t call them a really deep team, but all engines are firing. Yes they have a few all-stars and they’re performing really well, but their defence and bottom six are performing great too and I hate every second of it.
Let me answer this question like this… Yesteday, the Oilers played the Hurricanes, right? The Hurricanes suck but still have 14 players with 10+ points on their roster. The Oilers have nine. Figure it out.
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