29
Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s going on with the goalies?

Another Monday is upon us and that means it’s time to learn something productive waste some company time! As always, the mailbag is the perfect opportunity to soak up a fix of that sweet, sweet hockey knowledge laid down by our writers and to viciously argue about it with us about it in the comments section. I need questions for next week’s mailbag, and if you have something you’d like to ask, you can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. I always need peeps to chime in so please send them to me. Have a good week, everybody.

Jan 20, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) and Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) talk to each other out on the ice as they took on the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

1) Clayton asks – What do you make of the goaltending situation right now? Talbot has played the majority of the games since the All-Star break when it was Koskinen that signed an extension shortly before and it doesn’t make much sense to me.

Robin Brownlee:

The timing of the Koskinen signing was a head-scratcher. Who plays is a coaching decision. Who gets a contract is a management decision and plays no part in who starts. Hitchcock has said he’ll go with whoever has been playing better. That’s been Talbot. After the loss to San Jose, I expect we’ll see Koskinen get the next start.

Jason Gregor:

The signing of Koskinen made little sense. A three-year deal after only 26 starts was premature, and the timing was odd. Couldn’t they have waited until after the trade deadline, because now every team knows Koskinen is the guy you are going with next year which could lower Talbot’s value.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The organization felt like they had enough information to make the decision that Mikko Koskinen was their goaltender of the future. They think that for the next three seasons, Koskinen will be a better option between the pipes than Cam Talbot. Ken Hitchcock doesn’t really care about the next three years, he cares about getting wins right now and for the time being, Cam Talbot gives them a better chance at getting two points, so he’s getting the starts. At some point, Koskinen will get another crack at things and there’s no doubt he’ll be given every opportunity to win back the crease before the end of the season but for now, it makes sense for Talbot to keep getting starts. A real issue will arise if Cam Talbot somehow finds his near Vezina form from 2016-17 and pulls this team to the playoffs.

Christian Pagnani:

The Koskinen extension was baffling. He hasn’t been good for a decent stretch. Talbot hasn’t been great, but he’s been better than Koskinen so he should play. I was stunned when they signed Koskinen to that contract. There was absolutely no reason to do it. Antti Raanta had a far better track record and season before free agency and the Coyotes signed him to a three-year contract worth $4.25 million per year. Raanta was younger too. The Oilers cap situation isn’t good because they made poor decisions and they need to get it right from now on. The Koskinen singing was more of the same that got them into this mess.

Chris the Intern:

Part of me thinks that they are showing Talbot off to build up his trade value. I feel like that’s the only good reason they have to not play Koskinen right now. OR maybe he has some sort of signing bonus that Hitchcock is helping him get to like minimum games played?

Baggedmilk:

Can I answer your question with another question? Are you surprised that the goaltending situation in Edmonton is odd? Considering the way these last couple of years have gone, I’m certainly not.

Dec 23, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Andrej Sekera (2) skates against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Stephanie asks – With Andrej Sekera potentially coming back soon, where do you see him fitting in? Who would be the ideal partner for him and why?

Robin Brownlee:

He’ll start in the third pairing. It’s Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse is with his old partner, Kris Russell. Sekera has played with Matt Benning in the past, so that might be the best bet as a third pairing. I wouldn’t count on too much from Sekera at this point in his career after the two injuries he’s had.

Jason Gregor:

He will play in the third pair with Matt Benning or Kevin Gravel on the right side. He has only played 36 NHL games since May, 2017 so they shouldn’t be slotting him in any higher.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Sekera was at his best in the 2016-17 season and he played almost exclusively with Kris Russell that season. Last year, in his limited time, he struggled and was mostly playing with Matt Benning. So from Sekera’s perspective, it would probably make sense to put him back on a pairing with Russell, since that’s who he’s most comfortable with. The problem with that being, Russell is currently on a pairing with Darnell Nurse and those two are being trusted with some heavy minutes and tough matchups. I don’t think Hitch can split those two up. It might be best to put Sekera on the third pairing and ease him into things, even if it means he can’t play with his go-to partner.

Christian Pagnani:

If he can play you have to start him on the third pairing. I think Sekera-Benning can be your third pair to finish the season.

Chris the Intern:

I think it depends on how he feels coming out of his conditioning stint in Bakersfield. It would make sense to put him on the third pairing with Benning for a couple games to give him sheltered minutes. BUT if he’s feeling and looking pretty good, I’m guessing he’ll slot in on the second pairing with Nurse, and have Russell slide down to the third pairing.

Baggedmilk:

I’d like to see him playing with Nurse to move Russell down to the third pairing but that’s probably asking too much from a guy that’s barely played over the last two seasons. SO, with that in mind, I’d guess that he’ll land on the third pairing with Gravel or Benning.

Mar 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal assisted by forward Connor McDavid (97), his 100th point of the season at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Blake asks – All three of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are on pace for career highs in points and I’m wondering which performance has been most impressive to you overall?

Robin Brownlee:

Probably Draisaitl. A lot of people, for reasons that escape me, seem fixated on flaws in his game rather than applauding his production. He’s not perfect for sure, but at the end of the season the results are there.

Jason Gregor:

Good question. I think McDavid is the most impressive all the time, so I will exclude him. I will lean towards Draisaitl because he’s added goal scoring to his repertoire. Scoring 40 goals is very hard in today’s NHL and he might get 45.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ve been a big fan of Leon Draisaitl’s ability to score goals this season and of course, how could you not be impressed with Connor McDavid literally every night? But Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been mostly playing with sub-par wingers and while I realize he’s gotten prime powerplay minutes and did play with McDavid at the beginning of the season, he’s continued to produce offence away from 97 and not a lot of Oilers have been able to say that this season. If you gave him a legit top-six winger to play with, I could honestly see RNH getting into the 90-100 point range.

Christian Pagnani:

I’d say RNH. Draisaitl is a fantastic player but when you play with the best player in the league it’s not as impressive. RNH spent time with McDavid too, especially on the power play, but 5-on-5 he has almost no one. He’s still on pace for 77 points.

Chris the Intern:

They’ve all had incredible performances so far this season. I think the guy who is outperforming my expectations is Leon Draisaitl. I knew he was good, but I didn’t think he was 100 point good. I hope he maintains this pace.

Baggedmilk:

Nuge is on pace for a career year while having to centre a mixed bag of spare parts and random wingers. To me, that’s been very impressive.

Dec 13, 2018; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock talks to his players during a time against the Winnipeg Jets in the third period Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

4) Garrett asks – Do you think Ken Hitchcock will be behind the bench again next season? If not, what kind of coach do you think the Oilers need and who would fit that description?

Robin Brownlee:

I’d be surprised if he comes back. He doesn’t need to bang his head against a wall trying to convince a group of players — a group that has won absolutely nothing — that they need to play a certain way only to have them ignore it. We saw some of that frustration after the Oilers got waxed by San Jose Saturday. Two established and proven coaches, Hitchcock and Todd McLellan, haven’t managed to coax this group of players to where it needs to be, so I’d suggest the question should be about what kind of players this team needs, not what type of coach.

Jason Gregor:

No I don’t. He and the players aren’t on the same page. I wouldn’t be stunned if he didn’t last the rest of the year behind the bench. To be honest I haven’t looked deep into a new HC yet. Joel Quenneville is the obvious name, but after him I’d like the Oilers to look at a coach who hasn’t been an NHL head coach before. They need a good communicator, and someone who can connect with the players. I would interview Manny Vivieros. He won in WHL, had a lot of success in Europe. He knows how to connect with players. He has a lot of experience. Do the same with Gulutzan. The advantage of hiring one of those two is there is a good chance they keep Yawney. They don’t need an entire new staff again. Of course if the management doesn’t improvement the roster it will be difficult for any coach to make this team into a Cup contender.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I do not think Ken Hitchcock will be the Oilers Head Coach next season. I could see him staying in the organization and even helping out the next HC, but I would like to see the Oilers go out and get a young, up and coming coach. Someone with a different perspective on things and could be more of a long-term fit than Hitch is. Kris Knoblauch, who’s currently an Assistant Coach in Philadelphia and before that, he was the Head Coach of the Erie Otters and coached Connor McDavid. I think he would be a great option if Hitch does indeed not return behind the bench. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Oilers elevated one of Jay Woodcroft or Glen Gulutzan, but that probably wouldn’t be a very popular move within the fan base.

Christian Pagnani:

Nope. You have to let the new general manager choose his own head coach. I love Hitchcock and he’s a fantastic coach, but the Oilers have to stop pushing personnel on people that should be making the decisions. I think you have to go with a more modern coach that pushes offence. Hitch did some good things in his time here, but he’s not the guy long term.

Chris the Intern:

Nah, I think Hitch was brought in on a temporary basis and it will stay like that. Maybe the group needs a more player-friendly coach? It’s really tough tho say because I don’t know what’s happening behind the curtains, but Hitch’s coaching style won’t be good for the group long term.

Baggedmilk:

No, I think he’s done. I think he tried to do the organization a solid by stepping in as an experienced coach but there’s no way he wants to do this again next season. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if he got some kind of office/scouting/consulting job with the team when the year is done. As for who replaces him? With this team, it could be anyone.

Dec 31, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock talks with his players during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. The Jets won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

5) Oiler fan in Van asks – Earlier this week, Ken Hitchcock allowed Glen Gulutzan to run practice while he watched from the stands. Is there anything to that, or is it simply for a fresh perspective?

Robin Brownlee:

Hitchcock had his say at the morning meeting before the team went on the ice. Not a bad idea to have a change of pace for the skate, especially when it’s pretty likely he gave a lot of guys crap in the meeting. Like you said, fresh perspective — and a chance to talk with Keith Gretzky and Scott Howson during the skate.

Jason Gregor:

He did it because there was a lot of tension after the Chicago blowout. A source told me he told the players he was frustrated with them and would take a break from practice. Even the most healthy relationships can benefit from some time a part. It was about having a different voice in practice for a day and giving the team and HC some space from each other.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think Hitch wanted a different perspective on things and also saw it as an opportunity to see how the players would react to hearing from a different voice. My answer is short because I honestly don’t think this is anything worth reading into. It is worth noting that he sat next to Keith Gretzky and Scott Howson during the practice, so maybe the three were comparing notes ahead of the trade deadline.

Christian Pagnani:

I read that Hitch can be tough and demanding, so they wanted to give the players a break.

Chris the Intern:

I think it’s a great coaching move only done by a veteran. The Oilers had just lost six in a row and the last thing they want to do is head back into practice and hear the same old screams from the same old guy. Hitch’s decision to pull himself out was a great move to give the guys a break from him. Otherwise, that specific practice would not be productive at all.

Baggedmilk:

New day, new voice? Might also be nice for Hitch to watch the team from a different vantage point.

MAILBAG BROUGHT TO YOU BY BACKSIDE TOURS

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

  • OilTastic

    Msn this team has some serious problems! ! Coach after coach after coach can’t get this team to win ! Players we sign as UFA’s suck ! A long parade of GM’s we’ve had have sucked ! Upper management was changed and still sucks! Don’t know what’s left to do that can change the on ice product?

  • Rufio Barcoli

    I assume when Gregor writes his answers he envisions his readers are 11 years old.

    1.) Talbot is not going to get resigned. He is a RFA.
    They simply tried playing him to showcase him, in hopes of getting anything worthy for him.
    Koskinen has been a better goalie than Talbot this year. Koskinen had to be resigned before Talbot was traded, it’s that simple. There is nothing confusing and head scratching about it, it really isn’t that hard to understand. Talbot had his chance and blew it, he is not a good as some of these you know who’s would want you to believe-they’re just lying to themselves to lie to you.

    2.) Sekera will be playing with Nurse, seeing as that Russell is on his way out at the trade deadline.

    3.) RNH should be a leader on this team by now, and not a follower.

    4.) Hitchcock won’t be coming back. The new coach will be who ever McDavid agrees upon.

    5.) The players already quit on Hitchcock so he quit on them as well.

    McDavid’s Lucic signing has most of the fans pretty upset. But it’s McDavid’s and Co. treatment and tuning out of the coaches that should have them even more irate.

    • Nanook

      1. no. there was no need to sighn koskinen at that point, make him earn that contract. keep who ever did better at the end of the season, not thro dollars and an unproven commodity.
      2. I would like to see Russell traded, but don’t think it will happen. sekera wont be at game speed and will be a detriment on the second pairing. hes with benning.
      3 and he is a leader.
      4 agreed, hitch wont be back. but will be the new gm picking the coach. even if it is the best player in the league you cant let him make those decisions
      5 sad but true.

      no one is upset at mcdavids contract. look at Mathews and others, id easily pay the extra mill for McDavids talents. He is worth more than he got. compare McDavidsand Mathews stats over the past 2 years, huge gap in almost every category, but only a mill different in aav. easy decision there.

    • All Ice

      1. He’s a UFA not an RFA
      2. No way they have Sekera playing second pairing minutes on his off side that quick after basically two years of injury
      3. You’re assumption that RNH isn’t a leader is based on? Seems like the type of calming leadership type that might be needed in a dressing room that seems to have the annual upheaval that Edmonton does
      4. Hitch won’t be but it’ll be the new GMs choice
      5. Way to try to blame it all on one of the most level headed, talented young players in the league. Lucic was your boy Chia’s choice, part of a long line of nails in that coffin

  • Shane

    If anyone thinks this is the coaches fault, they haven’t been paying attention the last 10 years. No new, mysterious, new age coach from Europe, or the junior leagues is gonna help this team. We already tried that flavor of koolaid, in the spring with Vivierios.

  • Svart kaffe

    I wonder if Chiarelli had a handshake agreement with Koskinen to get him to sign in Edmonton? I’m thinking he promised him that kind of contract if he is good enough for the NHL and then Chiarelli realizing he’s on his way out and couldn’t fulfill his promise at the end of the season.

  • Ita just a bunch of over paid kids who tuned out the coaches. I watch the post game comments and they keep getting paid so they don’t care if they dont play good. Maybe its time for the players union to be squashed. The owners should have the power not the union. None of these 8 9 10 11 12 million dollar players are not going to get that cash else where.

    • ed from edmonton

      If a media guy were to be that blunt with a player “on the record” it would be the last time a player ever speaks to them Players don’t like being out on the spot. To get a real answer to such a question from a current player it must be done off the record and anonymously. Off course when one of these types of reports come out, which always makes some people mad because it will challenge their world view, it is trashed as being cowardly as the person will not out and state their name. When former players state what the problem was previously (guys like Hemsky, Laraque, Ferrance) they are also trashed (yes you Jason Gregor) if the truth does not confirm with your world view.

        • ed from edmonton

          The media could be more aggressive with management during the few times a year they talk. Management unlike players can’t avoid an acredited media person who asks a question.

      • Oiler Al

        There is obligation that players must make time for the media. The ones I hate and are a waste of time,
        is a player coming off the ice in between periods and Mickey, sticks a mic in Jokos sweaty face” Joko you are down 7-2 after two, what do you have to do in the third to get back into the game?” Joko: ” we have to stick to our game plan, step up our backcheck and quicker forechecks,crash the net and pressure their D”.
        The real honest answer…” we need a better goalie”.

      • Oiler Al

        There is obligation that players must make time for the media. The ones I hate and are a waste of time,
        is a player coming off the ice in between periods and Mickey, sticks a mic in Jokos sweaty face” Joko you are down 7-2 after two, what do you have to do in the third to get back into the game?” Joko: ” we have to stick to our game plan, step up our backcheck and quicker forechecks,crash the net and pressure their D”.
        The real honest answer…” we need a better goalie”.

  • JimmyV1965

    I’m most surprised by the performance of RNH. He plays very little with McDavid or Drai. How he’s managed to grind out 52 pts playing with fourth liners boggles my mind.

  • Gravis82

    How about someone actually determine if it’s actually the goalie coach ok, instead of just throwing a new person under the bus this month

    Look at how goalies played before the got here, and then after. What changed in terms of mechanics, are those changes an improvement or a detriment?

    It is entirely possible that goalies
    Would have became even worse when they got to Edmonton because out team just sucks and the goalie coach is actually good at minimizing the damage…but really it’s because we are terrible at defence.

    Without this analysis of what changes he caused and an assessment of those changes in relation to what we know about good goaltending…I’m tired of hearing about our goalie coach of all people

    Prove that it’s him before before you slag on him, otherwise it’s just conjecture

  • Odanada

    I personally hope Hitch doesn’t come back. I agree that they need a young thinker who is going to connect with younger players.
    Also, how does Howson even have a job? The Oiler record of player development is worse than the dry heaves.

  • TKO

    if it takes 2-3 years to retool, and that assumes just starting to compete, where does that leave the core, drai and nurse and McD? old and worn out? can the team retool fast enough to capture these guys prime?

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Hitchcock stayed off the ice and let Gulutzen run the practice, Oilers played one of their best games of the season against Minny. After the initial transition period, old school hardnose coaches don’t have long term success in todays NHL. Hiring Hitchcock was a good short term gamble by Chiarelli to save the season and his job.

    • Kneedroptalbot

      I’m really going to miss Mike Reilly, he was a Great player who always played hard (no matter what the score was),
      and even a better person off the field with the fans! All the Best in Vancouver Mike, you will be missed.