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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Is Koskinen the answer?

With another round of practice retirement in the books, we’re all back at work looking for ways to kill time until we can all go home again. As always, the Mailbag is here to not only help you get to quitting time a little bit faster but to also teach you a little something. Free, time-wasting learning? Gotta like that. As always, I need questions and if there’s something you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Have a good week, everyone.

1) Clay asks – I’d like to know everyone’s thoughts about the Oilers not doing anything at the trade deadline, including their decision to hang on to expiring contracts like Chiasson, Rieder, and Petrovic?

Jason Gregor:

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There was no market for Rieder and Petrovic, and from what I hear maybe only a late round pick for Chiasson. They wanted to keep him rather than recall another player from Bakersfield. I believe they will try and re-sign Chiasson to a value contract.

Robin Brownlee:

Their decision, as you put it, is impacted by interest or lack of same from other teams. If they give players away, they get roasted for doing that. If they don’t make a move, people wonder why. I’d have actively shopped Rieder and Petrovic, but, really, how much interest would you expect in them? I’m fine with keeping Chiasson because he’s an NHL player and I’d like to think they can re-sign him for a reasonable price and he can play in the top nine.

Cam Lewis:

I’m sure, at the very least, they explored selling off all their rentals. The reality is the fifth- or fourth-round pick isn’t worth anything and they felt they were better off internally buying in order to chase their faint playoff odds. Even finishing, say, five points out is better than giving up, at this stage.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I can see some positives in keeping Alex Chiasson. You can use these final few games to get a better read on him and make a better decision on him this offseason. It was clearly a buyers market based on what guys like Wayne Simmonds went for so I’m not entirely shocked that the Oilers couldn’t unload Rieder and Petrovic. At the same time, I believe they could have gotten a 6th or 7th rounder for one of those two guys. I’m sure they did their due diligence on other moves, but I recognize that it’s tough to make a big move when you have an interim GM running things.

Chris the Intern:

I’m indifferent to it. I was secretly hoping Keith Gretzky would blow things up and try to acquire some huge assets for a playoff push. This wasn’t really feasible in our position, but I think Gretzky’s patience to not pull the trigger on guys like Chiasson for a draft pick shows his faith in those players and the team.

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Baggedmilk:

I know that there wasn’t much interest in some of these guys but it would have been nice to collect any kind of asset for a player like Petrovic. In the long term, do sixth-round picks matter that much? No, but those kind of picks get thrown into larger trades all the time so it would have just been adding extra bullets to the gun.

2) Gregg asks – With a new GM and coach coming in for the Oilers during the summer, is there a team that you would like to see Nicholson and co model the team around? To put it another way, which team is doing things properly that you would like to see the Oilers follow in their footsteps?

Jason Gregor:

There are many. Edmonton needs a complete overhaul of their organizational philosophy. Katz needs to give Nicholson the power to tell all potential candidates they will be able to follow through on their own vision and hire their own people. It can’t be only hiring a GM and retaining the rest of management. Even when Chiarelli was hired he kept on the vast majority of the management team. He added a few scouts, but didn’t add Keith Gretzky until the second year. The new GM has to come with a team of people, like a Director of Players Personnel, Head Pro Scout etc. If not, I don’t see much changing.

There is no one specific way to go about things. Tampa was great under Yzerman. Nashville under David Poile has always believed in the road to Nashville goes through their farm team. And not for 20 games. Commit to developing players, and have the confidence to stick to a plan. Winnipeg was very patient and that worked for them. Toronto gave Shanahan the power and money to clean house and make changes. Edmonton must hire a GM who has a plan that will work for this group, and what they have. Every situation is slightly different, so I don’t think you can just say copy what “This team” did.

Robin Brownlee:

There isn’t one model, but you can take little bits from perennially successful teams like Tampa Bay and San Jose, to name just two. The best teams don’t miss in the high end of the draft (first round), find gems in later rounds and take time to develop prospects once they’re in the system. All “models” are variations of those basic steps.

Cam Lewis:

I said after the Oilers got pounded by the Leafs that they’re the team Edmonton could be if Peter Chiarelli hadn’t shoved his fist into this organization. Say what you want about Toronto not having won a playoff series yet, but that team is loaded with talent, as we saw when they turned on the jets for about eight minutes and easily skated away with the game. Brendan Shanahan has a wealth of different voices, some old school, some new school, some into the cap, some into analytics, that gives that organization a lot of good perspective top to bottom. If there’s a team that’s done it right, it’s them.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The Leafs. I know lots of Oilers fans won’t like to hear that, but you have to admire how they built their current team. From the hiring of Brendan Shannahan and the implementing of the “Shanna-Plan” to the hiring of Lou Lamoriello and eventual promotion of Kyle Dubas. They had a plan, they stuck to it, and it worked. I also love that they focused on young players that brought lots of skill and speed. They have their veterans like Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey, but the core of their team is young and fast. They used a great mix of old school hockey minds and analytics as well. It was a near perfect rebuild in my opinion.

Chris the Intern:

There are many teams around the NHL that are doing it right and I feel extremely unlucky that Chiarelli screwed this up for us. The new GM obviously has their work cut out for them, but as long as their not making trades like high draft picks for Griffin Rienhart, I think we’ll be okay.

Baggedmilk:

Tampa. Toronto. There are a few. The organization will need a massive change in philosophy though if that were to get done.

Feb 12, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (98) looks to make a pass from behind Florida Panthers goaltender James Reimer (34) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Yves asks – How much much of Puljujarvi’s struggles do you think are related to the hip issues we learned about today?

Jason Gregor:

Maybe a bit. From what I understand it is more a pain tolerance factor. Sounds like a bone issue. But this has zero do to with him playing in the NHL too soon. He wasn’t ready to be in the NHL and the Oilers did not put him in the best position to succeed. That is the main reason. He didn’t have this issue in 2017 or 2018 so I don’t see it having much impact on his struggles early. He wasn’t ready and rushing players never works. Never.

Robin Brownlee:

Can’t say, and how could anybody? Most people didn’t see anything in his play that pointed to a physical problem. I didn’t see anything in his skating or his stride that pointed to a physical problem. Was pain a factor? I don’t know. Did worrying about the condition cause Jesse to worry and interfere with his confidence? Again, I don’t know. Difficult to imagine a more significant issue for a hockey player than a hip problem.

Cam Lewis:

I hope so, for his sake. I bet when the Oilers try to trade him at the draft they’re telling teams he was horrible this year because of the injury and not because he’s completely lost at the age of 20.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m sure they are a contributor, but that’s not the entire reason he’s struggled to become an everyday NHL player. It does make me a little more intrigued to see what he can do next season though. If this was hampering his ability to play at the pro level, will we see him take a step forward now that the issue is resolved? The reality is, no one outside the organization probably knows the true extent of the injury and only Jesse probably knows how it affected him. It’s another unfortunate chapter in what’s been an unfortunate few years for the Oilers and Puljujarvi.

Chris the Intern:

I don’t know but I’m hoping all of it. I hate to use it as an excuse for his underwhelming season, but imagine if Jesse came back guns blazing next season scoring 20+ goals? Then we can credit his prior seasons to the injury and all will be great again in the world.

Baggedmilk:

Over the last couple of days, I heard that he had a hard time with things battling along the boards and that he would be in a lot of pain so you’d have to think that it had something to do with it. That said, Jesse needed to play better and the organization needed to put him in a spot to succeed. Both of those ideas need a lot of work before the start of next season.

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

4) Hank asks – What are your thoughts on how Mikko Koskinen is playing that he doesn’t have the Cam Talbot safety net? Has he shown you enough to be comfortable with him as the starter moving forward?

Jason Gregor:

He has been better than he was in Dec-Jan. I think he has had some really good games, but had a stinker against Toronto. In his eight starts since the Talbot trade he has a .923sv%. So if he can play well in seven out of eight moving forward the Oilers should be okay with him. I would sign a veteran backup, because I’m still not sure how many consecutive games Koskinen can play at a decent level. They will need a backup they trust to play 20-25 games next season.

Koskinen will need to become more consistent and that is why I’d play him a lot down the stretch. I don’t see them signing Stolarz so I wouldn’t worry about his RFA/UFA status. I can’t see the Oilers starting next season with Stolarz as the backup, and they have Shane Starrett as their #3. He is 4th in the AHL in sv% and first in GAA. Starrett can start next season in the AHL and if he keeps playing well, he might get a recall during the season. I sign a veteran backup to a one-year deal with the plan if Starrett plays well all of next season then he can be the backup in 2020 when Koskinen has two years under his belt.

Robin Brownlee:

Koskinen has been very good since Talbot was traded. He was stopping pucks at a .923 clip during that stretch going into Buffalo. I’m still not convinced he can be counted on to be a starter, but that’s mainly because is track record is relatively short.

Cam Lewis:

Unsurprisingly, Koskinen has been better since Edmonton has been able to ice their ideal blueline. He was still a massive risk, but his cold stretch in December and January was more a consequence of the garbage-ass blueline Edmonton was trotting out there each night, I figure.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Well, I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Cam Talbot being dealt. I think his recent play is more directly connected to Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, and Kris Russell all being healthy at the same time. It’s the first time we’ve seen Koskinen play with a fully healthy Oilers defence in front of him and the results have been very encouraging. I’m still not 100% sure if he’ll be able to handle playing 60 games next season, which is what they’re paying him to do but if he can keep up his current level of play for the final 17 games of the season, it might change my mind.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah totally. Competition between a 1a and 1b goalie is great, however, there’s something special to a goaltender when the job becomes 100% his. Koskinen’s confidence was due to shoot up, and he’s playing well because of it.

Baggedmilk:

He’s played pretty well over his last stretch of games so I’m hoping he can keep it up. I mean, what other options do we have other than hoping the guy performs well?

5) Brian asks – At this point, the Oilers have less than 20 games remaining. How many points does ON predict it will take to make playoffs?

Jason Gregor:

I think it will take 88 points to get in this year. Maybe even 89. Edmonton would need 26 of their final 34 points available to make it. That is highly unlikely.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s a moving target, but it’s looking like 85-88, which is lower than normal, might get it done this year.

Cam Lewis:

I’m guessing 90. Teams like Dallas and Minnesota will play hard until the finish in order to maintain their positions.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

At the time of me answering this question, the Minnesota Wild hold the final playoff spot and are playing at an 87 point pace. Let’s say the cutoff line is 90 points because whoever gets the spot will need to play better than their current pace. For the Oilers to get there, they would need 27 points in their final 17 games. That’s basically a record of 13-3-1 or something along those lines. They could really use a ten game heater…

Chris the Intern:

Probably high 80s by the way things are going. With teams like Arizona heating up in the West, it’s looking less and less likely the Oilers can pull it off.

Baggedmilk:

They’ll need to win most of them and I just don’t know how likely that is to happen. I’m always hopeful, but certainly not delusional.

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  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    So what you’re saying is that Talbot could’ve been better if he had that healthy d-core in front of him? Kinda like how he was lights out in 16-17 with that healthy d-core ?

    Sorry, I’m still ticked that you guys gave up on him easily and he was traded to make room for 1 guy

    • Oily Reign

      Why are you surprised, they have already gave up on Stolarz and his 1/2 game of play.
      Why do they think it’s in the Oilers best interest to let him walk this summer? He was an highly regarded prospect in Philly’s pipeline that we targeted specifically. We can’t afford a veteran backup. Let Stolarz and Starrett battle for the backup position and let the loser percolate with the Condors. Unless the authors have more information on Stolarz that hasn’t been shared?

  • Beer

    I don’t like the contract that Koskinen signed, but I will say he has improved.

    If your counting on one draft pick to change things around, your have big trouble. IE: Yak, Pul. The organization is the problem.

  • Homer

    I’m down with the new GM firing everyone from below his position down to towel boy. Let’s get started on rebuild 3.0! We have a serious lack of usable assets and are right up against the cap so I’m guessing patience is going to be needed yet again…..

  • Abagofpucks

    If the oilers can play above .500 for the rest of the year i’ll be happy at this point. As far as a gm is concerned i believe Mark Hunter would be a good fit.

  • gordo

    best management decision is to fire no diligence nicholson; katz needs to find a guy to run hockey; maybe 2 years of yzerman to get on track, and build an infrastructure

  • Rufio Barcoli

    How is Toronto an example Edmonton should follow?
    Do Gregor’s interns think before they write.
    Maples Leaves will have a heck of time trying to bring most of today’s team back next season, but yet somehow they should be duplicated and admired.
    Get real.

    • Lowe enuf

      Toronto has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent. They will be up against the cap for sure but will be able to trade some high dollar players for great young players. they are set to be competitive for years to come unlike our team.

  • This team is a tire fire and needs to be rebuilt from the top to the bottom, yet so many blind homers refuse to see whats in front of their eyes. It will take 3/4 years and if McD doesn’t want to be patient trade him for the kings ransom he would bring that would speed up the rebuild.

  • WHH

    I’m not sure Toronto is the model. Their blue line is suspect and they are a soft team. I don’t see them getting by Boston. Apparently, Mark Hunter had a lot to do with their talent recruitment. I’m not sure they kept the right guy in the GM position. Nylander overpay. Cap crunch this summer? Let’s talk Toronto when they actually achieve something in the playoffs.

  • CaptainCanada94

    Lets hope Brownlee is right and it takes 87-88 points to make playoffs… 11-6 or 12-5 record for 22 or 24 points is plausible/granted unlikely.

    At the very least, it makes these next two weeks very interesting (6 games):

    Buf- 50/50- Ride the high from CBJ & no let down. WIN
    Van- Play well+ high energy game/ divisional opponent with same playoff outlook. 2 points needed. Dont come out flat and you get a WIN.
    Tor–> At Home- Quick opportunity to redeem that dreadful loss last week. Try and eek out 1 point. OTL
    NYR–> Play well = 2 points = WIN
    NJ–> Depleted team. Play well= WIN
    ARI—> After this game here, we will know without a doubt where we stand. Arizona is a team we cannot afford to lose to in this race. At this point, it might be an opportunity to tie them in standings. Must win…

    5-0-1 stretch isn’t that crazy. The following week is much more difficult…

  • Derkus the circus

    I have no issue with them trading Talbot. He just wasnt consistent enough anymore…but there was no need to overpay Koskinen. Having said that theyre stuck with him now so play the heck out of him for the remainder of the year to see what he can handle.

  • The Leaves? How can Toronto be the model for an NHL organization when they haven’t really proven anything other than being high in the standings so far? Boston could still very well knock them out in the 1st round.

    Tampa Bay is the best example where Nashville, Winnipeg, and San Jose are good examples.

    If only the last two GMs were patient: Petry, Schultz, Hall, and Eberle — you know, skilled defense and wingers, would still be here–and all developed WITHIN the organization. Oh, and Brossoit, who’s been a good backup goalie in Winnipeg. Sure could use him right now.

    Chiarelli didn’t need the team to get bigger/tougher (i.e. trade Hall to pay for Lucic). He could have still got Maroon and Kassian. Nurse and Khaira were already here.