42
Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Yeah, we need a new GM but what about the coach?

Welcome, Nation, to another edition of the award-winning Monday Mailbag! Here we are on yet another Monday and the Oilers are hanging on to their playoff lives by the skin of their teeth. Once again, the mailbag is here to help you kill off a few minutes of company time with 3000 words of pure wisdom. How’s that for an early gift? As always, this feature depends on you so please send me your questions by email or Twitter for next week and I’ll try to sneak you in. Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful week and please enjoy the free learning opportunity.

Mar 29, 2018; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Andrej Sekera (2) skates against the Vancouver Canucks during the first period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

1) Mike asks – Do you think the Oilers need to do anything with the defensive group in the offseason, why or why not? (Please be realistic about what they can and cannot do, no more of this, ‘they need to trade for a top pairing right shot power-play quarterback,’ because a) they do not need that player to be successful and b) that is not happening with the Oilers’ trade chips)

Robin Brownlee:

Yes. They need to trade for a top-pairing, right-shot, power-play quarterback.

Jason Gregor:

They will likely need to move one of Sekera or Russell to free up some cap space. I would kick tires on Rasmus Ristolainen. The Sabres might be willing to part with him. Teams have given up on young Dmen often in the past. I don’t think they need a top pair RD who has to be on the PP. Their PP is good. They need to upgrade their blueline’s ability to move the puck quickly. Maybe that will be Joel Persson in a third pairing role. I like Larsson more as a second pair defender than a first, and that’s why I would call Buffalo and see about Ristolainen.

Cam Lewis:

There’s definitely room for upgrades. The team still lacks a true puck-moving, offensive weapon who can play on the power play. Evan Bouchard can be that player but expecting him to jump into the role in 2019-20 is ambitious.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think they should definitely look, but I do believe their priority will be to upgrade their forward group. If they believe that even just two of Caleb Jones, Evan Bouchard, Ethan Bear, or Joel Persson will be regular NHLers in the next season or two, then it doesn’t make sense to go out and use your big assets for a defender, when you can get a skilled winger instead. They have their current crop of six defenders all under contract for next season and while part of me believes they will deal one of Sekera, Russell, or Benning for cap relief, another part of me thinks they might just hold onto this group and focus on upgrading the top six.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t think this group of defencemen is good enough on the right side. They’re fine with some combination of Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Andrej Sekera on the left, but the right side simply isn’t good enough. Kris Russell doesn’t cut it for the second pair.

Chris the Intern:

I disagree with you. I think acquiring a top pairing right shot power-play quarterback would make them more successful. I think our own defensive core has played very strong lately, and on good days, I would be happy with what we have. But if the cards fall into place, and whoever our GM is pulls the trigger on a top-named defenseman, I won’t be upset. It will create even more depth on our back-end and make us even stronger.

Baggedmilk:

The Oilers definitely need upgrades on defence. Just because the healthy squad is passable doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Oct 23, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Washington Capitals defensemen Michal Kempny (6) trips Edmonton Oilers forward Tobias Rieder (22) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Taylor asks – If you were to give a take on what you think is wrong with Tobias Rieder what would it be? Is it just a lack of confidence or is he really playing as poorly as his lack of goals suggests?

Robin Brownlee:

Well, if it wasn’t lack of confidence at the start, it certainly is now. You cannot go this long with no sniff and have any confidence at all. His shot rate is way down and his shooting percentage has never been stellar at the best of times. Not a great combination.

Jason Gregor:

No offensive confidence. None. It has built throughout the year. He also needs to go to the scoring area, around the net more. He has been too much on the perimeter in the offensive zone.

Cam Lewis:

You have to think it’s in his head now and he’s lost all of his offensive confidence. He’s still a great skater he does a fair amount of things well. I don’t think he just randomly forgot how to shoot and score.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t think he is an NHL quality player anymore. He skates fast and can kill penalties but he rarely creates a good offensive opportunity and honestly, I barely even notice him out there on most nights. One simple way to look at it: he doesn’t hurt your chances to win a game, but he does absolutely nothing to help.

Christian Pagnani:

Probably a combination of luck and or confidence. He’s not this irrelevant at the NHL level.

Chris the Intern:

I think he’s playing well for somebody with zero goals. He has the most extreme form of snake bite syndrome and in the NHL, when you have no confidence, you’re nothing. I truly feel bad for him cause he seems to be doing everything right out there but nothing’s working for him.

Baggedmilk:

Dude has a demon living inside of him that just won’t come out. At this point, all we can do is head out into the wilderness to find a sacrifice for Xenu and hope that he lifts the curse.

Jan 14, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates a first period goal against the Buffalo Sabres at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Cliff in Calgary asks – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins just set a career high with 58 points and I’m wondering what everyone likes about RNH’s game at this point, and what he still needs to work on? Is he part of the Oilers’ core moving forward?

Robin Brownlee:

There is nothing not to like about RNH. How can he not be part of the core? How many other proven forwards who you can count on for 50-60 points do the Oilers have?

Jason Gregor:

He is better as a C than a winger, but the problem is Draisaitl and McDavid are better centres. They don’t have enough good wingers to have RNH on the third line making $6mill. It is only his first season, and he hasn’t played on the wing a lot, so maybe more time on the wing will allow him to get more comfortable. It is a different game when you are standing still more as a winger as opposed to always moving as a centre. RNH thinks the game very well. He is reliable because you know what you will get. That is hugely important for a coach. I guess he could work on being more comfortable as a winger, but in order to do that he needs to play consistently on the wing.

Cam Lewis:

He’s an interesting one because he only has two more years left on his contract after this one and it’s difficult to say whether the Oilers will be competitive in that window. You have to at least consider moving him for a younger asset, I think. That, again, is a tough one because he’s finally rounding into the two-way pro we all hoped he would become when he was drafted. But, given the team’s roster composition, could they afford a $7 or $8 million contract to RNH in 2021?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He should 100% be a part of this core moving forward. He might notch 70 points this year if he stays on McDavid’s wing, but even when he isn’t with 97, he’s a great second line centre. This was a big year for RNH and I think they should be looking at how they can help him this offseason. If he had a skilled winger with him, I think we could see Nugent-Hopkins set another career high next season. Offence aside, he’s very responsible in his own end and is a player that can be used in any situation whether it’s a tough 5v5 matchup, on the PK, or on the powerplay. He’s versatile. dependable, and dynamic. The Oilers need more guys like that.

Christian Pagnani:

I like seeing him on the top power play and using his shot. I’m unsure of his long-term future in Edmonton. RNH is great, but he only has two years left until free agency. How much is he going to get in two years? Players like James Van Riemsdyk are getting $7 million over five years. I’d think about a contract like that, but I don’t know if RNH is a guy you want to pay market value.

Chris the Intern:

Nuge is and will always remain a part of the Oilers core. He’s been through rebuild #2, #3, AND #4 and hasn’t complained once. He continues to improve and I couldn’t be more proud of him for setting a career high. If anyone on the team deserves success, it’s him, and I hope he can find it here with the Oilers.

Baggedmilk:

Nuge is one of the most polished players the Oilers have and he’s gotten there through eight years of working on his game, and I’m pumped for the dude that his offence is starting to round out to go with his two-way game. Is he part of the core? Yeah, I’d certainly hope so because he’s one of only a handful of forwards that aren’t fighting above their weight class (or league).

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) Lyle K. asks – Much has been said about the Oilers need to find a new GM, but what about a new coach? Are there any free agents or perhaps assistant coaches that deserve a chance that you think would be a good fit for next year?

Robin Brownlee:

The new coach will depend on who the new GM wants, as it should be. I’ve got to admit, though, I’m intrigued by talk that Ralph Krueger might be worth a look. I don’t think it’ll happen, but he’s a smart guy who did a pretty good job here when there was less to work with.

Jason Gregor:

To be honest I haven’t thought much about it. I do believe they will have a new HC next season. Joel Quenneville will be first on every team’s list. He’d be ideal. Other than him I wouldn’t look at a previous NHL head coach. I’d go with a younger coach who has had success in junior and the AHL. Rocky Thompson is an excellent head coach. His first year in the AHL he had 42 wins and that was with a split team (Vegas and St.Louis prospects), and this year Chicago is very competitive. He is an outstanding communicator and a very bright coach. He might not be ready just yet, but I have no doubt he will be an NHL head coach very soon.

Cam Lewis:

Ideally, you can bring in a veteran like Joel Quenneville, but given the fact he’s going to be such a  coveted UFA this summer, he might not be a realistic option. I think the one that makes the most sense is Flyers assistant coach Kris Knoblauch, who coached Connor McDavid in the OHL. The team clearly isn’t responding to Ken Hitchcock’s hard style, so they need to go with more of a new-age communicator.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I really like the idea of bringing in Kris Knoblauch. He coached McDavid in Erie and has some NHL bench experience under his belt too. A young, up and coming mind is what the Oilers should be looking at and I think he fits that mould perfectly. He’s also spent time in the city as a player with the Edmonton Ice (WHL) and University of Alberta Golden Bears, which leads me to believe he would be all for taking this job and leaving the bench in Philly. Obviously, names like Quenville, Boucher, and Vigneault will be floated as well, but I’d like to see them hire someone with a fresh perspective.

Christian Pagnani:

You have to let the new general manager pick his own guy, so there might be a connection to the new general manager. The general manager comes first and there are some interesting names like Sheldon Keefe and Kris Knoblauch, or veteran guys like Joel Quenneville or Bruce Boudreau might be available.

Chris the Intern:

Honestly, the only coach that I would like out of all available is Joel Quenneville. I really have no idea if he’d even be interested in coming to Edmonton, but he’d be my pick if he is interested. It’s going to be a battle if we’re wanting to sign him.

Baggedmilk:

Coach Q, come on down! Maybe? Anybody? Bah. I have no idea. That said, I do look forward to whoever is next to be thrown on the pile.

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

5) Trent asks – The Oilers have been playing well over their last stretch of games and I’m wondering what’s changed. Is it Koskinen? Is it the fact that they finally have a healthy defensive crew? Something else?

Robin Brownlee:

Koskinen has been very good and I’d list him as the main reason, but you can’t ignore how good Leon Draisaitl has been either. The team, overall, has been more resilient — even in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Toronto when they got outplayed most of the way.

Jason Gregor:

Combination of many things. Their goals against are down. They have played better team defence and yes Koskinen has played quite well. It also helps that some of their secondary scorers are chipping in, specifically Zack Kassian.

Cam Lewis:

Andrej Sekera’s presence is huge and Oscar Klefbom is back to playing near 100 percent. Those two are the biggest driving factors behind Edmonton’s good play. Well, that and the easy schedule they’ve had.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Don’t discount the presence of Andrej Sekera. I was nervous about him coming back considering his age, the amount of time he’s been out for, and the type of injuries he’s sustained but he’s come in and looked like vintage Andrej Sekera. He’s given them a more dependable third pairing and it appears as though he’s really helped Matt Benning bring his game back to a respectable level. That’s been massive and the spike in Koskinen’s numbers isn’t surprising considering he now always has at least one reliable NHL defender on the ice.

Christian Pagnani:

They’re getting some saves and three of their wins came against Buffalo, Ottawa, and Vancouver. Sekera helps but there’s still major work to be done. A few wins against bad teams doesn’t change that.

Chris the Intern:

It’s 100% Andrej Sekera. And a ton of Koskinen. Sekera’s return creates a balance with the rest of our defencemen, and forwards. He has an excellent ability to move the puck up the ice so guys like Zack Kassian and Alex Chiasson can find some success around the net. It’s amazing how one skilled player can calm down an entire lineup, but Andrej Sekera is doing just that.

Baggedmilk:

Koskinen has been playing very well since Talbot got moved to Philly and, just as importantly, the Oilers have a healthy defensive group for the first time all year. I mean, they’re still not playing Petrovic, a guy Chiarelli traded two assets to acquire, but that’s a story for another day.

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.

  • Gravis82

    Sekera is only 32. I am not sure why we keep having concerns about his age. He will be in fine form barring injury for at least 2 more years, perhaps 4.

  • bcoil

    Oh sure guys Coach Quinnville just what this team needs is another hard ass coach .They haven’t responded to the last three “my way or the highway” coaches so lets bring in a another one …..sheesh!! We need a new age coach for these young men . Now-a-days these kids play “for” their coaches not “because” of them

  • Datsyukian

    @Chris the Intern – what’s with the statement “Lucic is and will always remain a part of the Oilers core” in the section about RNH? Are you checking the readers’ attention to detail LOL?

  • camdog

    The RnH comments make it easy for incompetent GM’s to trade anybody in this organisation for peanuts. Contrary to the narrative on here, you can afford 3 good forwards with a salary cap that will be going up 5-7 million dollars with the Seattle team jumping up the salary cap once again.

    • Oily Reign

      Exactly, RNH’s percentage of our salary cap is the relevant figure. His salary, right now, is a bargain for what he brings. Hopefully his next contract is $7.5m or less in 2 years, because I would consider that a bargain as well. Our good players are not at fault for all the bad contracts we currently have. His isn’t one of them.

    • jesse says yep

      You are really giving far too much credit to the weight that online comments have when it comes to making decisions. Do you really think that any GM/Owner/Coach/……… whatever is checking comment boards before making decisions? Or after receiving 400 tweets about moving a player they go out and look for a taker?
      Social media plays ZERO role in the outcome of team decisions, it’s nice to think that maybe a person has the power to have some control over the team but thankfully that is not the case

      • camdog

        We in Edmonton are conditioned very early in our Oiler lives to believe you can’t keep good players in Edmonton. It’s easy for GM’s to move out good players in Edmonton. The Oilers and MSM have been making negative comments for years on players. It’s not a coincidence that said players are traded soon after. The bloggers are just continuing on the tradition of the MSM of finding reasons to trade good players, for not so good players.

    • Rock11

      Despite not believing anything I’m about to say I will make the case for trading RNH. It could be worth doing if you receive a legitimate first line winger who is under contractual control at a cap number lower than RNH’s and because C are more valuable than W you also get a pick or prospect in the deal.
      That way you have 97 and 29 run their own lines and have talent on the wings to make it work. You take some of the cap savings and add to the wings or find a more traditional 3C(PK, D, and 10-15 goals).
      Still for the love of Gord don’t trade Nuge.

  • nijames

    Why would a coach like Quenneville come to this dog and pony show. Ralph Krueger would be excellent but don’t forget he is the guy McIdiot fired over Skype cause he fell in love with McIdiot Jr.
    Only way coach Q would come here is if they emptied out the OBC offices and had competent people running the organization

  • TKB2677

    Would I love a top pairing, right shooting, PP running, puck moving, plays a ton, decent skating, decent defending dman? You bet I would. Could you get that guy? I don’t know if you can because if a team has that guy, why on earth would you give him up. If they would, at what cost. The Oilers don’t have a ton on the NHL roster they can afford to give up nor are they just loaded on the farm. I more see them adding a guy who’s maybe not a top pairing guy but maybe more of a second pairing guy. Maybe he skates well, moves the puck well, is a right shot, can be on your PP, has offense in his game but his defending is OK, not great. If all of a sudden, your top 4 is:

    Klef- Larsson
    Nurse – New right shot guy.

    All of a sudden your defense is decent. Gregor mentioned Ristonlainen. I know in Buffalo, they play him as a top pairing guy. I don’t know defensively he is that guy. But he’s be an upgrade on Russell in that spot.

    When it comes to the Oilers defense, I hope the reasonable play in Sekera open up the change he can be traded. Next season his no move goes to a 15 team list. I have no problem Sekera and I am REALLY happy he is playing so well much to my surprise. If the Oilers do what they need to do and get a right shot that cam play in their top 4, I do not see him playing above Klefbom or Nurse. So all of a sudden you have a 5.5 mill guy in your 3rd pair. Can’t have that.

    • Oily Reign

      I disagree, I think we are loaded on defense with our current prospects. We need a 2 season, temporary fix until 1 or 2, (or more) of those players are ripe.

      • ed from edmonton

        Agree that the area of organizational strength is Dmen. At the moment they have a starting 6 that are okay, although Russel and Sekea are overpriced for where they play. There appears to be a large group of players who should be challenging for NHl work over the next two years including Jones, Bear, Lagesson, Perrson, Bouchard and Smaroukov. For cap management and to open up roster spots its likely that either Russel or Sekera get dumped this summer. Any move in this regard will be primarily a salary dump, don’t expect much of a return.

      • TKB2677

        I agree the Oilers have good depth coming on defense but the problem is, they are loaded on the left side.

        Klef & Nurse, youngish left, top 4 guys. I have them as my first and second pairing left shot guys next season.

        In the system:
        Jones – A good skating, puck moving, some offence LEFT shooting dman. Maybe he makes the team but it shouldn’t be higher than 3rd pair. He can play the right but it’s always better to have a dman on their correct side.
        Lagesson – Big time up and comer. Has a shot at the NHL. Skates OK, moves the puck OK but is more of a hard nosed, defensive dman. Left shot.

        Bear – Puck moving, offensive, right shot guy. I do not know if he is NHL ready. By the sounds of it, he’s been decent on the farm, had some injury problems but Jones and Lagesson have been better. Lagesson has the same amount of points as Bear and Lagesson isn’t supposed to be offensive. I don’t see Bear on the team next year, not ready.

        Bouchard – On paper, he has all the tools to be a future top 4, right shot dman. No way should he make the team out of junior. If he does, no higher than 3rd pairing. I think time on the AHL would be ideal.

        Persson – High hopes for him coming out of Sweden. Right shot guy. Does lots of what the Oilers need. Again, if he made the team, he shouldn’t be higher than 3rd pairing. Probably should start in the AHL.

        So I look at the depth. You are right, they have some depth. I even think they have some guys who are close to being top 4 guys but not for next season. Ideally, you have a right shot #4 on your team (that is not Benning), then those guys can be slotted correctly in the 3rd pairing.

  • ed from edmonton

    The cost of trading for a “top pairing, puck moving, power play running” RHD is incredibly high. How many of these guys are around? Don’t hold your breath on this one.

    PS, the Oil actually had a LH version of this in Erik Gustaffson, but MacT chose not to sign him.

      • Stew

        Look, I don’t want to come across as a troll. Just seems curt. Maybe I’m reading into it too much.

        1) Mike asks – Do you think the Oilers need to do anything with the defensive group in the offseason, why or why not? (Please be realistic about what they can and cannot do, no more of this, ‘they need to trade for a top pairing right shot power-play quarterback,’ because a) they do not need that player to be successful and b) that is not happening with the Oilers’ trade chips)

        Robin Brownlee:

        Yes. They need to trade for a top-pairing, right-shot, power-play quarterback.

      • CaptainCanada94

        The smug answer saying “Yes, they need a top pairing puck moving defencemen,” when the question was specifically asking for realistic options, came across as rude.

        Do you have any insight into how the Oilers acquire this said defencemen or possibly some options for them to consider? Instead your response may as well came from a Troll Flames fan.

  • Serious Gord

    Assuming the objective is to be competing for a cup before Connor turns 26 IOW 2022-22, the following things are likely to be the case:

    1. At least one of McDavid, Drai, and RNH will not be on that team.

    2. there will be two new goalies

    3. there will be four new defensemen

    4. there will be 6 new forwards

    5. A new POHO

    6. A new GM

    7. A new Coach

    8. some new Assistants (difficult to see a new coach keeping all of them

    9. almost completely new scouting group

    Several teams have most of those pieces in place for the next 3-4 years so it is not like the Oil are on an equal footing.

  • “He’s an interesting one because he only has two more years left on his contract after this one and it’s difficult to say whether the Oilers will be competitive in that window. You have to at least consider moving him for a younger asset, I think.”
    What is this nonsense? Develop a player and move him away for younger asset to develop him and move him away…why do we need to trade good players who clearly can help us win?

    • Serious Gord

      Because we can’t afford to keep them all – especially with so many unmovable contracts. Look a t what Chicago had to do after they won a cup…

      Welcome to the salary cap era.

      The key is to trade them for cheaper younger quality prospects.

      • So we just going to continue to develop players for other clubs then? They also play in salary cap era if you have not noticed. Nuge have two more years on his contract and currently fit under the cap. MacD and Drai will not be able to do it alone as we can clearly see this season. We need better bottom 6 who can chip in more than our current bottom 6.

  • Drinking my Oilers problems away...

    Lol how are we gonna get a top-pairing, right-shot, power-play quarterback? They traded Hall for a #4-5 defenseman on most teams and look how that’s turned out. Chances are the Oilers will target a guy on a another team that they think we’ll have Norris potential and miss cast him as well just like they always do…

    • Serious Gord

      Larrson was a 2 or 4 defenseman – the defensive anchor on a pairing – when the trade was made. Unfortunately the league has changed enormously since then. some team’s managements saw the change coming. the oil’s did not.

  • Ted

    Reider scoring … Honestly can’t remember the last time he even had a good scoring chance! Mostly he is the first in on the forecheck which doesn’t lead to him scoring! He will pot ONE before year’s end!! … And hell no to Q as coach! But let’s fill the GM boots first! No matter who puts those boots on will be sorry (cap hell) unless they are willing to bring on the kids from the Condors. But an injection of talent is required! … Nurse will be 26 next year and hopefully will reach his prime years as that is how long it took Erik Gustaffsson! The guy the Oilers drafted but never gave a chance! … Knowing what you have in the tank is critical for the new GM before refuelling!! … Still mostly painful and hard to take! UGH

      • Serious Gord

        I think it a certainty he will go to FA with a completely open view towards signing for the max he can get on a team that has the best chance of winning a cup. I don’t think the Oil will fit either criteria.

  • FutureGM

    Everyone and their dog should know what each of our LHD can get in return. It is our only pillar of strength (stud C aside) that we can trade from. I don’t want to trade Kbom of Nurse, but if Sekera gets you meh and the former + pick geets you a solid RHD or scoring winger than you roll with Kbom or Nurse 1LHD, Sekera 2LHD, Russell or Jones 3LHD

  • Jason Gregor I’m curious as good as he is why can’t McD make average wingers who play with him better like Crosby has done his his entire career? Why does he need Draisaitl or RNH on his line? Leon is able to drive a line without McD. Why hasn’t his coaches made McD play with other wingers or is keeping him happy and letting him get points more important than team wins? I really would like an intelligent response to these questions and not just childish posts.

  • Total Points

    If Nuge makes it to free agency he will not sign with the Oilers. Some other team will offer him money as a 1st or 2nd line center. In Edmonton he will be a 3rd line center and therefore too expensive, so trade him while he still has term on his existing contract.

    We can then sign a true winger (sniper) for 6M for Conner or Drai