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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Are any Bakersfield Condors ready for primetime?

Welcome, welcome, welcome to another edition of the Monday mailbag. Once again, it’s that special time of the week where I’ve taken the questions you’ve sent me and fired them over to our writers to get all the answers and wisdom that you’ve always been looking for. This week, we look at the power play, Mark Hunter, playoff surprises, and much more. And I know I say this every week, but this segment is entirely dependent on you guys to make it work, so send me your questions. You can email me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk.com.

Dec 27, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Callum asks – Is the fact that our #1 power play unit is on the ice over three times as much as the #2 unit worrying when it comes to growth and development? How can the bottom 9 garner confidence for continued success if all the cherry time is consumed by five players?

Cam Lewis:

Meh. It means the team is top-heavy, which is the reality when you have Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Even if there was enough talent to put out a good-on-paper second unit I’m sure the McLeon line would see most of the power play time.

Jason Gregor:

That was a clear sign of the lack of offensive depth. Get a few more players who can play on the PP and you will see that gap (TOI) shrink.

Christian Pagnani:

Nope. The first unit has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on it. The NHL isn’t a development league. The bottom nine should get some time but it’s about winning and playing your first unit as much as possible gives you the best chance to win.

Robin Brownlee:

Fair question, but winning trumps everything else. There’s not enough scoring outside the top three forwards on this team to have any kind of balance between the first and second PP units and still be effective at this point.

The Nation Dan:

I would hope the Oilers aren’t using their 2PP as a development place. I think the thing you’re hoping for here Callum is some consistency. This offseason has now been the second in a row where players have asked for more of it. I hope the new head coach will give the players some more of it and you will see a 2nd unit that has some time to gel.

Chris the Intern:

There are many problems why we cannot play our second power-play unit. Yes there’s an experience aspect to it, but also it just shows how horrible the depth of this team is. Nothing against the players, all my hate goes towards management.

Baggedmilk:

Personally, I would have preferred if the second unit never hit the ice based on who was playing on it. Nothing against Colby Cave, I actually like what he brought to the fourth line, but if he’s centring your second power play unit then you’re in a bad spot.

2) Scott asks – I was wondering if you think the Oilers have considered a Mark Hunter (GM), Dale Hunter (coach) scenario. I know I’ve heard Mark being a candidate for GM, but is Dale looking to get back to an NHL coaching job? Lots of former hard-nosed players seem to be having current coaching success (Berube, Tocchet, Brind’Amour). Could he be a good fit with the Oilers?

Cam Lewis:

I haven’t heard Dale Hunter’s name mentioned since his one-year run as coach of the Washington Capitals. I would find it hard to imagine both Hunter brothers leaving the London Knights to take on a gig in the NHL.

Jason Gregor:

Sure, Dale could be a candidate as a HC, but who the GM is will impact who they hire. The coach and GM have to have the same philosophy, and hopefully the GM recognizes the Oilers need to improve the skill and hockey sense of players. I’d be surprised Dale is a candidate as he has three major roles in London as HC, President and Owner.

Christian Pagnani:

I know there’s a bit of talk about Mark Hunter, but I’m unsure. I don’t think him leaving after being passed up for promotion for Dubas is a big deal, but their drafting is a bit overrated during his tenure, if that was a major part of his work which is what has been said. It’s hard to separate who did what in terms of assistant general manager. There’s a lot to like about Toronto’s rise so I’m intrigued that he got a second interview.

Robin Brownlee:

Have not heard Dale Hunter’s name from anybody. Dale has his hands full in London of the OHL — co-owner, president and coach — and I can’t see him stepping away from that at this point.

The Nation Dan:

I can’t see it at this point personally. Even with the slightly disappointing exit this year for his London Knights, he has seen them to the playoffs every year since 2003-04. There is nothing he can seemingly do wrong there.

Chris the Intern:

Tough to say, I don’t know too much about Dale Hunter as a coach, but at this point I can’t trust that Nicholson has looked at ANY coaching scenario.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t know if they need to hire both brothers. Dale has his own thing going on in London, but I would definitely have time for Mark Hunter as a GM option. He’s got a strong drafting and development record, which is exactly what this franchise needs to help bolster their depth chart.

3) Cindy asks – Outside of Tampa and Pittsburgh getting swept, which playoff series has been the most surprising to you and why?

Cam Lewis:

I’m oddly not all that shocked about Tampa Bay. It’s obviously shocking, don’t get me wrong, but it makes sense given the fact they hadn’t played a meaningful game in months and Columbus, having added a lot at the deadline, was much better than their record indicated. It was a lot like with the ’06 Oilers. If that Oilers team had Roloson, Spacek, and Samsonov all year, they certainly aren’t the eighth seed. Same goes with Columbus and Duchene.

Jason Gregor:

Colorado dominating Calgary to the levels they did in games three, four and five. The Flames looked completely overwhelmed.

Christian Pagnani:

I’m surprised Calgary only won a game against Colorado. I thought they’d win, but maybe in six or seven games. Goaltending wasn’t even that big of an issue. They should have done better.

Robin Brownlee:

Probably Calgary getting knocked out in the first round. I liked their team and thought they had a decent chance to get to the conference final.

The Nation Dan:

The entire first round has been wild, Calgary fizzling out, Binnington shutting down last year’s West finalist, to Vegas and their second line. I think the most shocking thing for me has been how hotly contested the Stars and Preds series has been. I really believed the Predators were the better team.

Chris the Intern:

I don’t think any other series has been surprising per se, but I’m absolutely hooked on this Vegas/San Jose series. It’s had absolutely everything in it, and the off-ice beef just adds to it. Definitely wasn’t expecting that much entertainment from it.

Baggedmilk:

I’ve actually been surprised by the Flames/Avs series. I didn’t expect Mike Smith to be the best Flame this spring, and I thought Calgary would win more than a single game.

4) Blake asks – Looking at the success the Condors have had this season, do you believe there are any players down on the farm that could graduate to the NHL next year? If so, who and why?

Cam Lewis: 

Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear make it easier for the Oilers to push out expensive veterans like Matt Benning and Kris Russell on the blueline. Cooper Marody and Tyler Benson could provide cheap offensive depth up front. I think Josh Currie and Joseph Gambardella showed enough to be back on cheap deals next year.

Jason Gregor:

Tyler Benson and Caleb Jones would be the top two. Cooper Marody possibly, but he will need to get a bit quicker, especially in small space, if he wants to be a centre. I could see him being a winger though. I could see others recalled during the season, but those would be my picks to start the season on the roster.

Christian Pagnani:

I could see Cooper Marody, Joseph Gambardella, Josh Currie, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear, and Tyler Benson spend extended periods of time in the NHL next season. Most of those forwards might be fourth liners and fill ins, but Marody and Benson might get some time in a top-nine role. I’m big on Jones being able to play bottom-pair minutes to start next season and don’t think Bear is that far behind him.

Robin Brownlee:

Cooper Marody and Tyler Benson should get at least a look because the Oilers have holes up front and Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones have both had a taste in Edmonton so I’d give them the edge among blueline candidates coming out of the AHL.

The Nation Dan:

Given the way he played this season in Klefbom’s absence, Caleb Jones should earn a long look. Tyler Benson may finally be healthy enough to warrant a full-time position next season. The others I could see getting a chance are Marody, Gambardella and Bear.

Chris the Intern:

Absolutely, Ethan Bear, Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody all have a shot next year. There’s a few more I’m missing, but the takeaway is that training camp is going to be more competitive than ever next year.

Baggedmilk:

I could see Tyler Benson and Cooper Marody getting a sniff next season, though I’d prefer that they have to battle their way into it rather than being given a spot. Looking at the depth on the wings, there’s plenty of runway there for someone to come in and steal a job and I’d expect those guys to get a long leash in the preseason.

5) JP asks – Now the doom and gloom of another lost season is over, what are the Oilernation writers up to for the long summer? Vacation, housework, anything interesting besides hockey?

Cam Lewis:

Base BALL!

Jason Gregor:

We have fittings for Gregor’s Grads in April and early May. Watching playoffs in NHL and WHL, a lot of biking outside and it is calving season at our farm. But my radio show and writing at the Nation doesn’t stop because Oilers are out. Now the focus is off the ice and the draft.

Christian Pagnani:

Working and then back to finish my degree in September.

Robin Brownlee:

Focused on Hockey Helps the Homeless and other spring/summer events with the Mustard Seed. Preparing for a summer in which my son Sam will begin schooling me on the basketball court for fun. He’s not even 13 yet and I have no chance.

The Nation Dan:

My work with hockeyfights.com never stops in the best sense possible. I will be running a bracket over there in the offseason as well as a couple of top-100s. Outside of work, I am in the market to buy a house, would like to head into the mountains for a bit, and planning for next year’s excitement around the Oilers.

Chris the Intern:

Definitely relaxation time. Clear the mind, go on some vacation. For now I’m pretty hooked on the Stanley Cup playoffs, but after that, it’s golf time.

Baggedmilk:

Bloggin’ don’t stop, baby! I fully plan on writing about hockey throughout the summer, but do hope to get away for a week or two. Maybe England to see some buddies I have there? If not, I’ll probably unplug at the lake for a week or two, throwing my phone into a corner without touching it as much as possible.

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