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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How concerned are you about McDavid’s comments?

Can you believe it’s been already been a week since the last mailbag? I guess time flies when you’re banging your head against the wall, trying to figure out how the regular season finished with the Oilers outside of the playoffs again. Fortunately, we’re back with another edition of the Mailbag to try and make sense of it all. As always, you’ve submitted your questions and I’ve sent them off to our panel of mental warlords for their thoughts and ideas. If you have a question for the Mailbag, you can always hit me up through email or on Twitter. Until then, enjoy the free learning opportunity.

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

1) Terrence asks – Do you believe that Mikko Koskinen can improve on his deficiencies or is what we see what we get based on his age?

Jason Gregor:

I have seen many players improve later in their careers. I don’t think Koskinen will be a top-10 goalie, but I’d like to think he can alter his stance, like Markstrom did this season, and make small improvements. If he can be a .915 goalie then he will be a reliable netminder.

Robin Brownlee:

I think he can improve his glove hand somewhat, but that’s going to take changes to his positioning, stance and staying square to the puck. These aspects can be tweaked, but I wouldn’t expect a major overhaul. What he has to do is narrow the difference between his best games and his worst games. Consistency. That’s the challenge.

Cam Lewis:

I wouldn’t bank on a massive improvement. That said, I’m not going to pretend to be some kind of goalie expert given the fact they’re so wildly unpredictable and so many of them randomly get good into their 30s. It could happen as he spends more time with better North American coaches than he had in Russia, but, again, it’s something I would hope for rather than expect.

Chris the Intern:

Yeah, I do. I’ll never forget the way he was playing when he went 6-0 in Rogers Place and had the second-best GAA of the league. Sure it was only for like 10 games, but he’s proved he has the ability to play well, he’s just gotta find the confidence.

Baggedmilk:

Let me answer your question with one of my own: Do players normally improve a whole lot in their 30s?

2) Jeff asks – On a scale of 1-10, how concerned are you with McDavid’s post-game comments from this past week when it was very clear how frustrated he is with how things are going?

Jason Gregor:

A one. Of course he is frustrated. If the Captain of the team wasn’t frustrated that would concern me much more. In two years, if the Oilers are still struggling, and he said it then it would rank an eight out of ten.

Robin Brownlee:

Not concerned at all, McDavid reiterated his desire to stay in Edmonton and be part of the solution when he met with reporters Sunday. Of course he’s frustrated. Winners don’t accept the kind of failure we’ve seen around here for years.

Cam Lewis:

I don’t think this is really anything new. We all know he’s frustrated and if he wasn’t then, well, that would be much more worrying than anything.

Chris the Intern:

I don’t think Connor’s going anywhere. He wants to bring a cup back to this city and be the hero. Ask me again at the end of next season, and maybe my views will be different. For now, I’m not concerned.

Baggedmilk:

I’m not overly concerned about it but the people in management should be. I’m not one of the people that think Connor is going to ask for a trade, but I can definitely see his comments costing some people their jobs.

Nov 20, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) tries to stop the puck against San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier (28) during the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

3) Jonathan asks – Is it me, or do we have bad goalie coaches? Seems like a long time since we were able to draft and develop one, and that was Dubnyk, who got better with another organization. When we’re reading detailed articles about how Koskinen can’t square up to the puck, and that other team’s goalie coaches can see it and pick it out, it seems like our own coach let the team and Koskinen down. Further, if we had a good one, wouldn’t Chiarelli have been informed about Koskinen’s strengths/weaknesses and not signed him to a long term deal? Lastly, is goaltending as important as it used to be? SV%’s are down and the top teams are those that score a lot (vs defend a lot), it seems anyways.

Jason Gregor:

Schwartz sees it and they are working on it, but as Kevin Woodley said it isn’t a quick fix, and unlikely something that happens during the season. Outside of Dubnyk, the Oilers haven’t drafted a goalie who looked like he could play. Maybe that changes with Skinner, Wells or Rodrique, but a goalie coach can’t make a C goalie an A goalie. I find it difficult to know if Schwartz is good or not to be honest. Talbot had solid few seasons, was coach suddenly problem when he struggled? Hard to know for sure.

Robin Brownlee:

Might it be worth changing goaltender coaches? Sure. The team has been a perennial loser. You have to look at it. In the end, though, coaches can’t play the game for him and Koskinen has moments when he looks like a Vezina candidate and other games where he’s awful Why does it come and go like that? I don’t have the answer.

Cam Lewis:

I don’t think it’s fair to expect a goalie coach to be a miracle worker. It’s like in baseball when everyone always wants to fire the hitting coach. Koskinen is what he is. A big guy who takes up a lot of the net but lacks in some high-skill areas of the game. I think his struggles later into the year might be a mix of burnout and the team letting him down in front of him.

Chris the Intern:

To answer your last question, YES goaltending is still important and it will always be. To answer your first question, I don’t know. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Dustin Schwartz and what he does. He obviously doesn’t have a great track record with our recent stretch of goalies, but I am curious how much of that relies on the goaltending coach.

Baggedmilk:

Same goalie coach that Talbot had when the Oilers went on their playoff run a couple of years ago. Seems to me, he was fine then. To me, Koskinen is more of a pro-scout issue than a goalie coach issue.

4) Allen T. asks – When a new GM is hired, what do you see as the first order of business on his to-do list?

Jason Gregor:

Hire his management team. I expect the Oilers will clean much of the management before he comes in. At least they should. It shouldn’t be his responsibility. He has nothing to do with the last decade.

Robin Brownlee:

Naming his head coach. I’d say firing the hockey-ops people who have been part of all the failure around here, but Bob Nicholson should do that before the new guy comes in (even though I doubt he will).

Cam Lewis:

Find good pro and amateur scouts. Put together an edvanced analytics department.

Chris the Intern:

It has to be the coach first. Whatever it is, I hope he addresses the fans and is up front with us about his plan moving forward. My guess is he takes a close look at our contract situation and whether or not we need to start buying out guys. I think the positional area they need to be most focussed with is their bottom six forwards.

Baggedmilk:

I imagine finding a new coach would be near the top. I’d guess that he’d want to get in early to avoid missing out on a quality candidate.

5) @samakehurst91 asks – Pretend, you were recently interviewed for the position of GM of Edmonton Oilers? What’s your pitch? Who do you hire as your new coach, how do you address cap space, dead cap contracts, forward depth, Goaltending, and what’s your plan moving forward?

Jason Gregor:

Time to change the defence. Insanity to keep the same group and expect different results. Let me bring in my pro scouts and director of Player Personnel. I will want to talk to every player before making moves. I convince Jesse Puljujarvi to train in Edmonton and work with a skills coach. Nothing can do about current dead cap space, but I won’t add more. I tell Lucic to get a skills coach. I will sign two UFA forward vets on short-term, value contracts. Benson and Marody will compete for jobs. Same with Jones and Bear. I will deal one of Sekera or Russell, and look for a bigger deal to acquire a right shot, puck moving defender. Get a solid backup. I will not be trading the first round pick for a proven player, because I likely have to add in another prospect and organizational depth isn’t deep enough to give up two good, young assets.

Robin Brownlee:

That sounds like 10 paragraphs, so I’m glad I wasn’t interviewed. I’d bring Ken Hitchcock back because I respect his work and know him better than any other coach at the pro level of the game.  I fire the pro scouts because they’ve been terrible. I talk to the core players — McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH — to get their honest takes about where the team is and where they see it going and I actually listen to what they have to say. I make working with Mikko Koskinen a priority and I make sure I secure an experienced back-up as a fall-back plan if he struggles. The defence needs at least one more puck-mover and the forward group needs a winger who can score at least a little. I sign Alex Chiasson and try to find another veteran who can deliver like he did at a decent price.

Cam Lewis:

The key is patience. There’s enough here right now for the team to make the playoffs with some minor tweaks. The key, though, is putting together a strong, new-age front office, coaching, and developmental staff that can ensure the organization can find new advantages in different market inefficiencies. You can’t work your way out of a cap bind in one summer and you’ll make it even worse if you look for quick fixes. It might be frustrating, but you need to take it slow.

Chris the Intern:

This question stresses me out as I wouldn’t know the first thing about being a General Manager. I think buyouts are our only option as Lucic and Koskinen probably wouldn’t have any trade takers. Any guy would have to take the summer to get to know the organization by meeting with everyone, asking lots of questions, and having lenghty discussions with upper management.

Baggedmilk:

For the coach, I’d see if Joel Quenneville would want to be the guy. For the cap issues, I’m adding sweeteners to some deals to move money out. Would you trade a guy like Puljujarvi if it meant also getting rid of Milan Lucic? Maybe.

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  • Oilerz4life

    No Koskinen will not improve and the first order of business for the new gm should be to get rid of him by any means possible (maybe tie him to a rocket and fire him into the sun).

    • McHitch

      My Pitch.

      I trade Lucic, Sekera and Russel.

      Lucic I retain 2 mil in cap space, trade him for picks and prospects to a team willing to do the same. Ex. I trade Lucic (2 mil retained and a 2nd to the Senators for Zach Smith(waiver cleared). Sens than retain 1.5 mil and ship him to a team like the Flyers for another pick. Flyers get Lucic who has a 2.5 mil cap hit but makes only 1 mil in real salary. This is allowed in the CBA.

      I than try to package picks to remove Russell and Sekera from the lineup. This may be tough. I may need to package players like Yamo or JP depending on the return.

      I than use the new found cap space(14 mil) on a quality backup, a scoring winger and a puck moving dmen.

      We keep rhe top 7 pick, we lose out on this draft but its worth while to free ourselves of the Lucic negativity that surround the team and start filling the holes.

  • Serious Gord

    1. Maybe able to make a 10% change. It would be interesting to see how many goalies his age significantly IMPROVE in following years. I suspect it is a very small number.

    2. that he’s going to leave i the next 12 months? 0. That he has essentially put the org on notice to get its poop together or he’s going to looking for an exit if the team misses the playoffs badly again next year? 6

    3. Need a goalie development system. And that means more than one person. and it wouldn’t include the current GC.

    4. A new coach obviously. BUT if he wanted to send a signal and cause a giant boost to fan and team morale he will enter the oil offices 20 minutes after a press release has been sent out where ALL of the FOK and FOGs in the orgs have tendered their resignations and all have left the premises.

    5. that he wants to do #4 above.

    and he wants to have double the scouting and coaching budget to create the best analytical, cap management, amateur and pro-scouting team in the biz with an average of 40 or less. such spending should yield results that generate several multiples on increased business of all types.

    and get the head of arena management fired and replace him with a fan experience and care management team so that the mood in the arena is improved dramatically. with intangible benefits to the team’s at home performance.

  • madjam

    Queenville signed by Florida already . Oilers coach is Hitchcock and GM is Gretzky for next season , already in place and chosen by Nicholson and group . Doubt anything better will be left after Nicholson’s lolly gagging thru process to find anything better to go with . Besides Connor wants more of a constant in coaching and management than they had this year .

  • Oilers_1978

    Baggedmilk:
    Same goalie coach that Talbot had when the Oilers went on their playoff run a couple of years ago.

    that was his 2nd year..and may still had some wisdom left from his old goalie coach…he was completely ruined by the third year by our perennial goalie killer coach..

  • TKB2677

    My level of concern for what McDavid said is a 1. He should be frustrated and pissed off. EVERY PLAYER in that room should feel the same. If there was more guys as pissed off as McDavid, maybe they would be better. If Lucic was as pissed off, frustrated and gave a crap as much as McDavid, maybe he would train properly like most other NHLers are currently training, he wouldn’t score only 6 goals and make 1 mill per goal.

    • Torgerson

      The talent level isn’t good enough to compete; it doesn’t matter how pissed off or frustrated the players get. They have too many holes in their lineup. Everyone knows this but Bobby Nicks, judging by his comments after he fired Chiarelli.

      • TKB2677

        I don’t disagree that the Oilers need more depth but it’s not all a lack of talent that is the reason the Oilers were where they were. Effort wasn’t there for a good chunk of this team. The reason I say that. Arizona was 7 pts better than the Oilers and they had no one with 20 goals and their top scoring player had 47 pts.

        Are you telling me that Arizona has a more talented roster than the Oilers? No chance.

  • Oiler Al

    Most of the Wino club think that 2+2=7. Furthermore, they think they know it all, have all the answers and don’t need someone else to give them advise,not analytical personnel for sure.The lustre from the 5 cups and 6 rings
    as been dulled..it was then, this now move on and up!

  • Moneyball

    Keep Hitch, get a new GM and get Keith Gretzky to oversee the pro scouting to see if he can make improvements there.
    Sign and trade puljujarvi for whatever you can get or get him in Bakersfield for at least a year if he is willing.
    Sign chaisson and Kassian 2 years deals.
    Sign gagner to league min
    Trade the #1 pick if you can get a good backup goalie or a decent forward now.

    • Torgerson

      I don’t think you can tell a new GM he has to keep Hitch. He should be able to make his own personnel moves. KG should stay with amateur scouting: he has done a good job with the drafts. I wouldn’t trade the #1 pick for a backup goalie: that’s way too steep. Maybe for a proven scorer under 26 years old.

    • Total Points

      Pul needs to clear wavers to go to Baker, Kassian has 1 year left on contract, Gagner is signed for next year (maybe more). Number 1 pick for a good backup ????

      I assume your post was in jest.

  • Koskinen isn’t ever going to be a top-10 goalie. His high price tag that general dissapointment gifted him has set high expectations for him but let’s see things without the dollars for a second, he’s not that work horse goalie who can start 60-70 games but he’s a serviceable stopgap, fill-in option if you need a starting goalie who can win you some games if you have a very good team in front of you. Top-10 calibre goalies don’t just hide in the KHL for the majority of this decade.

  • Oiler Al

    They need to hire a hockey Ops president, who should hire the GM, and the two should decide who the new coach should be. Entire scouting staff to be reviewed and revamped.Sutter and Green the first to go.Keith if he is into analytics, perhaps could be the VP of all scouting .
    The concern is Oilers will get left in the dust at the rate Buger Bob moves, He is “taking his time”, because he has hasnt got a friggin clue about running and building a NHL championship organization.This outfit needs to get way better in judging talent,both on and off the ice! Much has been said about the OBC, but there is only one guy that can change that….. and he continues to hide in Malibu.If his righthand men are BoB and Kevin there is little hope for progressive change.The proof is in the mud slide of a dozen years past.

  • Free Bird

    After 12 of 13 seasons out of the playoffs, it’s no surprise that the questions and answers here are so pessimistic.

    The sky is not falling from McDavid’s comments. Look at the crappy teams that Lemieux, Yzerman and Sakic had to lead for several years before winning their first Cup. The slow build to contention is normal and I’m sure McDavid understands that. Crosby’s early Cup win was more of an anomaly than the norm.

    The sky is not falling on the defence. On paper, the Oilers have the same defence as in 2016-17 when they finished with 106 points and made it to game 7 of round 2. In reality, Sekera and Klefbom have been injured and then in poor form the past two years, but given the team’s current assets, they are better off waiting on these guys to have a full offseason of healthy training and then seeing what they’ve got at training camp. It’s the bottom 9 forwards that need massive upgrades, not only for depth scoring but also on the PK. If the new GM improves the forward group, the defence will get better support and look more like the 2016-17 group.

    The sky is not falling on Koskinen. Yes, it’s an overpay. However, he looked good in his first 15 games when he split time with Talbot. The poor technique could be a function of fatigue. He’s not used to playing as a starter in an NHL schedule and at an NHL tempo of play. A lot of players have this problem in their first 2 years (particularly college players). Sign a 1B like Elliott to keep both goalies fresh and see how next year plays out.

    I agree with Chris though. The highest return on a relatively small investment would be to get some bottom 6 forwards that can kill penalties. The PK was downright awful this year.

  • Just imagine how fast the Oilers rebuild would be if they traded McD for a kings ransom. They could add bad contracts to the deal, get a true #1 goalie, a top line winger, prospects, a very good #1 center and you still have Draisaitl as your #1 center. I’m sure a lot of posters here would rather keep McD and go through a 3/4 year rebuild with McD threatening to leave every year than be a contender next season.

    • gr8haluschak

      Just imagine how much better this place would be without stupid comments like this that lacks any god damn common sense, tell me who is giving up this so called “kings ransom” – NO ONE and if you think so you are stupid.

        • gr8haluschak

          Tell me what did the Oilers get in return – one ok player and picks, sure in the hell not the kings ransom you think you idiot and the oiler sure in the hell cash in on the Gretzky trade. God you are stupid.

          • Your not an Oiler fan but a foolish disciple of McD. You stupidly cheer for McD getting over 100 points or winning awards over the team possibly winning the cup. He would bring a great return but blind McD lovers like you simple mindlessly think he isn’t worth much in a trade. Wow. With fans like you no wonder the Oilers are the laughing stock of the league.

  • Total Points

    Nickolson is so full of crap. He does not know what he is doing. He says he “is preparing himself for the interviews for a head coach”

    It seems like he does not know how to interview for a head coach position. We should be very afraid.

  • Total Points

    Nicholson keeps saying that they he is hiring a coach, nothing is said about a President of Hockey Operations. Sounds like they want the coach to report directly to Nicholson and Lowe.

    Lots of luck to the new GM firing Mactavish, Howeson, etc.

  • Gravis82

    Enough with the concerned about Mcdavid a comments bs articles. No one is concerned. I’d be more concerned if he was not upset. Stop fanning the flames. Do you live in Toronto now? I thought we were Better than click bait around here

  • Kneedroptalbot

    Bob Nicholson is still here. By the time he makes a decision (read foresic audit) Joe Quenville will be off the market.
    Oh wait,…… Good Job Bob.