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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How do the Oilers stack up against the rest of the Pacific Division?

July is halfway in the books, the weekend has wrapped, and now it’s time to waste company time talking about the Oilers again. That’s why the mailbag is the perfect item to soak up some of that sweet, sweet hockey knowledge or argue with us in the comments section. If you’d like to get in on this segment and ask a question, you can email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. I need questions for next week so please send them to me. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Clay asks – Do you think Ken Holland will realistically be able to add a player to the team’s top six? Looking at the roster as it stands today, I personally don’t see much improvement yet. Obviously, there is still plenty of summer left but it’s still concerning that the only plays made so far have been to add a few bottom six players and to buy out the team’s 4th best defenceman.

Jason Gregor:

A proven top-six? Unlikely, but someone who can be a complementary top-six player for a year or half season is possible.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t see Holland creating cap space as he has and then doing nothing with it like Pete Chiarelli did in dumping Jordan Eberle. But he’s going to need a trading partner to add a proven top-six forward. Realistic? Sure. Likely? Not as sure.

Chris the former Intern:

Honestly, I think he can. This is probably me just drinking the kool-aid, but I’d like to think that the good relationships he had with other GM’s could allow him to make a trade that would help out our top six.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t know, man, but I’m certainly hoping he does add someone that can play in the top-six. Actually, I wrote about this yesterday based on some “fun” line combos Dusty threw together last week.

2) @trax123 asks – Out of the existing roster, which player has the highest odds of overperforming expectations?

Conversely, which of our existing roster players has the highest odds of underperforming expectations?

Jason Gregor:

Matt Benning. It seems many have low expectations, and I thought he played very well in the second half. He is very good in a structured system and most likely he will start in the third pair with Kris Russell.

I don’t see many, other than the top-three forwards, who have overly high expectations placed on them. But If I have to pick one I will say Joakim Nygard. I’ve seen that his NHLe projects to 19 goals. If he reaches that Oilersnation should be thrilled.

Robin Brownlee:

Under-performing? Leon Draisaitl, but only because he set the bar extremely high last season. I don’t think anybody would complain about 40 goals and, say, 90 points, but that would be a slight drop-off.

As for over-performing, how about Milan Lucic? Could expectations be any lower?

Chris the former Intern:

Highest odds of underperforming? Milan Lucic, again. Highest odds of overperforming? Mike Smith.

Baggedmilk:

I’d say Adam Larsson will be better this year because he had a really tough 2018-19 season. Here’s what else I’m expecting: Leon Draisaitl will hit 40 goals and some turds out there will complain about it because he got to 50 last year. Is that a drop off? Sure, technically.

3) Stephen asks – With the roster as it is today, how would you put together your first two lines?

Jason Gregor:

The six I put down today will likely be different than what I’d say in September as I expect some others to be added.

Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian
Nygard-RNH-Chiasson

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t particularly like separating Draisaitl and McDavid, but I don’t see a choice given the lack of options on the wings. I shudder to think of having to depend on this combination, but it looks like:

Granlund-McDavid-Kassian
Draisaitl-RNH-Chiasson

Chris the former Intern:

Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Chiasson – Nuge – Puljujarvi

Baggedmilk:

I don’t like it, but this is what I’ve got.

Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian
Granlund-RNH-Chiasson

4) Tristan asks – If Jesse Puljujarvi doesn’t see the opportunity ahead of him with a new coach, GM, and shallow depth chart on the right side, do you think it could be a problem with where he fits in the dressing room? Obviously, I’m purely guessing here but couldn’t that be an explanation for what’s going on?

Jason Gregor:

I’m not big on speculating if guys get along or not, especially considering the absolute garbage theories I’ve read over the years. Some are still obtuse enough to think Draisaitl and Nurse actually got into a fight. It is ridiculous. There are many reasons why he might not feel comfortable, but I won’t speculate on if there is some sort of issue in the room. I’ve never heard it, and I’ve never seen it from interactions with players. He might not be in the inner circle, but I’ve seen many players who weren’t, but were still happy in the room and also well liked.

Robin Brownlee:

It could be, but I’m not behind those closed doors so that’s only speculation. If Jesse doesn’t see the opportunity for a fresh start with all the changes you mentioned, it’s got to be something else. I’d put how he fits — or doesn’t fit — with this group of players high on the list of possibilities.

Chris the former Intern:

I want to say no, but I’m very annoyed that this is happening so maybe there’s something that we don’t know that is going on in there. The situation is definitely getting out of hand thanks to his agent’s frequent media appearances.

Baggedmilk:

Who knows what’s going on in the room. Maybe? That’s the best I can do with this one. Unless he or his agent come out and say it, and I guess that’s possible given how his agent loves talking to the press, then anything other than a guess is pointless.

5) Will K. asks – Looking at the other Pacific Division teams, how would you compare what the Oilers have done to what their opponents have done? At this point, I’d pick them to finish fifth out of the eight Pacific Division teams.

Jason Gregor:

Today I have them battling for fourth with Arizona. If they can add one or two forwards they could push for a WC spot.

Robin Brownlee:

Fourth is the best I see as of right now, but only if Arizona drops off a bit and I’m not sure how likely that is with the addition of Phil Kessel. Based on the rosters today, I see Anaheim, LA and Vancouver finishing behind Edmonton with Arizona the only other possibility.

Chris the former Intern:

There’s definitely been some improvement in other Pacific teams, but I think we’ve improved too. If we can get some production out of our bottom six then I think we have a chance to finish top four in the division.

Baggedmilk:

I see them looking at fourth place in the Pacific and I am not happy about it.

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  • ed from edmonton

    Top end teams in the Pacific are both likely to regress a bit this year as Calgary will need to dump a quality player to get into cap compliance and the Sharks have lost Pavelski and others when they chose to resign Karlson. The Knights might be better as they will have Stone for a full year. The Canucks should improve will their FA signing and if Peterson can be healthier. Yotes are moving in the tight direction. Oil and King are tredding water.

    • Jimmy_Gatz

      The Jets need cap space to sign Laine AND Connor. Maybe they could be tempted to make a bet on Puljajarvi (putting him near to Laine) and get rid of Ehlers and his contract, so Puljajarvi and a 2nd for struggling Ehlers…? Therefore the Oilers need to trade Russell for a 4th to …. ?!? Not likely. But nice.

    • Moneyball

      The oilers needed to pick up a top 6 forward in free agency. There is no defensive depth left to trade. The oilers really
      Only have piljujarvi to trade and henis worth more off the ice than one the team.

  • Todd the electron rod

    “Some are still obtuse enough to think Draisaitl and Nurse actually got into a fight.”
    So it was a solid check with no head contact which resulted in a black eye and concussion? Recall the NHL had no comment on any concussion protocol on the play…

  • Serious Gord

    1. How much cap room does KH have if the bonuses come into play? (And why offer bonuses if it affects how much cap a team has available?)

    Probably will sign/aquire someone but no one of great consequence.

    2. Robin is correct and likely both will happen.

    3. Not going to belabour the fact that trading RNH for a couple young wingers solves much of the problem.

    4. Possible – certainly lots of ‘smoke’ about it. Regardless Puljujarvi is a distraction that isn’t helping a team with questionable cohesion as it is.

    5. The gap between 4th and 7th won’t be more than a few points. I think 5th but with a very low level of confidence.

    • TKB2677

      I agree with you on Nuge. As much as I like him, I am not one of the fans that thinks he walks on water. He had a career year, his value will never be higher but most of his points were with McDavid and Leon. Take him away, put him on his own line and he doesn’t produce much. If you have to put him with ELITE players (he did play with Hall for a long time) just so he can produce at a decent level, that’s a problem.

      If you could take Nuge, coming off a career year, given the fact he is a center, given the fact he has 2 more years and his 6 mill which isn’t horrible and turn him into 2 top 9 wingers for the price of Nuge. A lot of your depth problems are solved. You could elevate those 2 top 9 wingers, put them with our ELITE centers in Leon and McDavid and they probably score at top 6 levels. Calgary did it with Lindholm last year who never scored more than mid teens in goals and mid 40’s in points.

      Then you use the cap space you have with the Sekera buy out, go get yourself say a Brassard to be your 3rd line center who if an injury happens, can play up for a short time. All of a sudden, your forward ranks are a lot better and all you did was trade off 1 player with tons of value who is really just a mid 50’s pt player.

      • billsbills

        If one 6 million dollar first/second line player turns into 2- 3 million dollar players, you now have two more 3rd line players and one less top six player. Continue stripping the talent from this team. PC would be proud.

      • Serious Gord

        I do not know. That is not to say that it isn’t possible – i think it quite likely that there is a team with winger depth to do it and who need a quality 2 line centre.

  • Hockeytalkguy

    Whatever happened to Draisaitl is done, it’s going to be coming up 2 years now in the fall. What I did find quite amazing when the black eye occurred, was there wasn’t one single media guy, locally or nationally who asked Draisaitl how he got the black eye. He missed some games because of it. You would think there would have been some questions asked. So yes Mr. Gregor, some people are skeptical. Using the word ridiculous, as you have done, is quite frankly…….ridiculous.

    • Jason Gregor

      I know what happened. Wasn’t, and isn’t my story to tell. Skeptical about it happening in game is fine, and accurate, but making up bold faces lies is another story. As I said many times, Oilers should have just said what occurred and everyone moves on. Saying nothing made it worse.

      • Hockeytalkguy

        @ Jason Gregor, I appreciate your reply and honesty that you know what happened. I listen to you often and have never heard you say that you knew what went on. As far as reporting it, I totally understand when you say it’s not your story tell. A players personal life is exactly that…personal. All the speculation and rumours could have easily been avoided.

        • Jason Gregor

          Todd, you seem upset. Did you still believe the story? Instead of getting upset, maybe use it as an opportunity to learn. Don’t believe BS rumours. Many people claimed they “saw” the incident. When asked where and when, they responded in silence. People actually believed in 2019, when people film everything, that they got into a scrap in a public place but no one had video of it. Seriously, they believed that occurred. Nothing arrogant about saying I know the true story. It isn’t salacious. It isn’t anything crazy. I made decision long ago not to break any story about a personal off-ice matter. If you think that is arrogant, so be it.

    • Odanada

      If something happened, it will have to wait a decade or so until an autobiography sets it free.
      Leave them their privacy. Maybe it was a drunken incident and just belongs in the past. We’ve all either been on, or seen what happens when a bender bubbles to the surface. Let’s put away the retro microscope and focus on the upcoming year instead. I mean, what else can a fan do?

  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    Might as well be asking the magic 8 ball about the pacfic and lines, because untill cap and the preseason happens everything is up in the air and remember how the teams that everyone figured would go to the cup and win got their butts handed to them and the predictions went sideways for a lot of sports sites.

  • Vanoil

    I love how the blinders affect the objectivity of the answers on the last question — Vancouver finished well ahead of the OIL last year, and have improved their squad significantly with a view to making the play-offs. Arizona was a better team than the OIL last year but for their injury problems and they added a punch up-front. There is no way the OIL are better now (even if McD plays 25+ minutes a night and the OIL only run 2.5 lines, and, Mike Smith stands on his head all season long) than either of those two teams, and then of course there is San Jose, Calgary and Vegas. We are battling LA and Anaheim for the bottom of the barrel this year, I’m afraid. That is an objective, no blinders view.

  • Based on the rosters today, I see Anaheim, LA and Vancouver finishing behind Edmonton with Arizona the only other possibility.

    I’m baffled by how Robin Brownlee can come to this conclusion regarding Vancouver. We added Miller, Ferland, Myer, and Benn, and we got rid of all of our lousy defencemen and goaltenders. We’re adding blue-chip prospects in Hughes and Demko to the roster and get full seasons from Pearson and Leivo. Last year, we lost 231 man-games to our Top 6 (Pettersson [11], Boeser [13], Baertschi [56]), our top pairing defencemen (Tanev [26], Edler [27]) and our veteran core (Sutter [56], Beagle [25], and Roussel [17]) – with the exception of Roussel, all of these guys are healthy for training camp.

    • Hockey Bunker

      And these “experts” have Kassian and Granlund on the top two lines!!!
      Sure they’ve got two great players but wait until they experience Tippett’s coaching. Have fun dumping it in from centre and back checking all night long. He’ll be on McDavid for skating too fast!!! But then the Oilers will win the draft lottery again so there is that!!

    • Kneedroptalbot

      Vancouver is deeper and faster than Edmonton.
      Last season, if you take away the middle ice to limit McDavid and Draisaitl, you beat the Oilers. Looking at the roster this year, I don’t see any significant improvement in secondary scoring for Edmonton.

  • billsbills

    I haven’t seen any significant improvement in any of the Pacific Division Teams. If the Oilers are going to make it in any division it’s this one. What I don’t see is them making a wild card spot competing against Nashville, Winnipeg, Dallas, Colorado or St. Louis. The only hope I see to make the playoffs is if they break in the top 3 in the Pacific.

  • Ko-D

    Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson at Christmas if the Devils season is looking grim. That would fix our top 6 and we can re-sell Hall on Edmonton. Larsson’s Contract is still a value and runs into the future.

  • DJ_44

    This sorta defies logic or intellectual honesty. The panel see the Oil “competing for 4th” in the Pacific, yet the team has not made any real improvements in the roster.

    Two panelist have Granlund, who was objectively the 10th – 13th forward on Vancouver’s roster last year, in the top six.

    Tell us again how the Oil can be projected to finish above the Coyotes or Canucks, two teams that have added substantially to their roster and with any sort of health, will be competing for playoff spots?