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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s with all the body language experts?

Welcome, friends, to a long weekend edition of the ON Mailbag! It’s that time when you have all the things you’ve always wanted to know about the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers, and about life in general. In fact, I like to think of us as a much cheaper alternative to a college education. As always, the mailbag depends on your questions so I need you to send me anything you want to know. If you have an Oilers or life question that needs answering you can always email me, or DM me on Twitter. Enjoy.

1) Scott asks – I’m curious about the Jesse Puljujarvi situation, with him deciding to play in Finland won’t that pressure be more than he would receive here?

If he goes there and can’t produce results either, is his NHL career basically done? I would think a clean slate here would allow him to fit where he needs to be.

Jason Gregor:

I never thought of it that way. Interesting question. I’m not sure pressure is his concern. I think him getting a chance to play a lot will be best for him and his future. That league is hard to score in, so it might take him a few games to get comfortable, but producing there is easier than in the NHL and I suspect he will start to put up decent numbers. Yes, if he does very little then, yes, his NHL future would be in jeopardy, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t produce at least solid numbers.

Robin Brownlee:

If he can’t produce in his home country in a league that is second rate compared to the NHL, then he can’t produce. Pressure? This is the path he insisted on, is it not? And, yes, his NHL career will be done if he can’t gain some traction and confidence in Europe.

Cam Lewis:

Playing poorly in Finland would be really, really bad for Puljujarvi’s future and Ken Holland’s ability to get anything worthwhile in a trade. That said, I doubt he plays poorly there because it’s an environment in which he’s comfortable and that seemed to be a key issue here. On the flip side, lightning up Finland would increase his value and it’s probably more likely than him thriving here. I’m glad Holland is waiting to get a worthwhile return. Given that Alex Nylander, a former top pick winger on his way to bust status, managed to net the Sabres a good young defenceman, Puljujarvi should net the Oilers something.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would imagine that if he goes to Finland and doesn’t produce at a high-level, it could really hurt his chances to return to the NHL and be an everyday player, but it wouldn’t end his career. He’s still so young that even if he stayed in Finland for three or four years, at some point down the road, I bet he could get another look in the NHL. I thought a clean slate here with a new head coach and GM would change his mind, but clearly there are more issues with the organization than just who’s coaching.

Christian Pagnani:

I could see that, but I think the familiarity of his hometown and lower level competition eliminates the more pressure angle. If he doesn’t produce, that’s not good. But Valeri Nichushkin didn’t light it up in the KHL and still came back to Dallas and got another contract with Colorado. Puljujarvi’s an ever higher draft pick so I’m sure he’ll get multiple chances even if he doesn’t score a ton in Finland. I get people being confused at him not wanting to return to the Oilers, even with a new coach or management, but I respect his desire for a fresh start elsewhere. They mishandled him badly, and while it’s not entirely on them, I can’t blame him for wanting another shot in a new organization.

Baggedmilk:

I think being back in a place where he’s comfortable will actually help his confidence, but I’m not sure how much that’ll translate to success in the NHL. Honestly, I hope for the best for Jesse because I’ve always pulled for him and think this situation is a complete turd sandwich, but I just don’t know how much playing in a league a few tiers below the NHL is going to help his career. I hope he finds success wherever he ends up.

2) Blake asks – If you were to guess, would you bet that Jesse Puljujarvi would be back in the NHL before the December 1st deadline or do you think he will spend the season in Finland? Does it matter?

Jason Gregor:

I think he will. I’d be surprised it is in Edmonton though. And yes I’d say it matters a lot to him, and to the others in regards to what Ken Holland receives in return.

Robin Brownlee:

That will be based on his results or lack of same, so it’s difficult to make an educated guess now. I don’t think it does matter. Sooner or later he’s going to have to prove he can play in the NHL by actually playing in the NHL. He seems ill-equipped to do that now. Maybe that changes down road.

Cam Lewis:

I doubt it. I think he spends the year in Europe and a trade is made in the off-season. I could see the Oilers use Puljujarvi to acquire somebody at the trade deadline if they’re pushing for the playoffs, but at that stage, he wouldn’t be able to play until 2020-21. I believe his days as an Oiler are certainly over.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think that even if they find a trade for him this season, whoever acquires him will just tell him to stay in Finland for a year, gain some confidence and be ready for training camp next September. I don’t think another organization would see value in bringing him over in November or December and forcing him to re-adapt to the North American game.

Christian Pagnani:

I didn’t think he’d get traded, but Elliotte Friedman thinks he’ll be moved which is good enough for me. I don’t think it matters that much. I doubt any player/prospect the Oilers get in return won’t be that much of a difference maker. At some point, you just have to cut your losses and move on.

Baggedmilk:

Coin flip for me. I could see him being back soon, and I could also see Ken Holland being patient enough to let him stay there for the season. Point being, who the hell knows?

3) Steph asks – In the past week, there have been two articles written out of Toronto about Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s body language indicating doom and gloom for the Oilers. Are these types of pieces a product of a slow news period in the NHL or do you think they really believe what they’re writing?

Jason Gregor:

I didn’t read either. Don’t see the point. Neither writers are experts in body language, nor am I, but having spoken to Leon and Connor for the past four years neither one is Mr. smiley during scrums. It isn’t their thing. Unlike the writers who penned an article on body language I won’t try to guess if they believe it or not, but my own personal experience…I don’t write something and put my name on it if I don’t believe it.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s lazy. Even when you’re around players every day, writing articles based on “body language” or tone can be tricky. You’re flat-out guessing if you’re reading between the lines based on one or two interviews. McDavid, for example, never sounds like he’s whistling a happy tune during interviews. That’s just the way he is when dealing with reporters. I don’t know if they actually believe what they’re writing or not.

Cam Lewis:

Meh. I don’t feel the need to take the bait on these things. We all know they’re written with some intention of aggravating people, so there isn’t much point in handing out hate clicks. Also, is the crux of the article really wrong? There’s no reason either McDavid or Draisaitl should be happy with what’s going on right now. They’re both motivated to carry this team into the playoffs and don’t want to keep losing. Would we be happier if both players were all smiles and giddy about the team missing the playoffs in back-to-back years?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think that those people actually believe what they’re writing, that’s the sad part. They aren’t doing this just for the clicks like some people believe or because they’re being sarcastic. They actually believe that Connor and Leon don’t want to be here so they want to get that message out there. Cathal Kelly is a joke so his piece wasn’t surprising but the piece from Matt Larkin in The Hockey News was. I really like Matt’s work and was disappointed to see him write a piece that was headlined the way his latest article on Draisaitl was.

Christian Pagnani:

I get the frustration of Oilers fans reading about this, but I really don’t think this is a Toronto vs. Edmonton thing. It’s just a big story. The best young player in the NHL has been on a (mostly) hopeless team for three out of four seasons. I’m surprised it’s not talked about more. There wasn’t a bunch of additions to expect a sudden surge up the standings and the quotes from McDavid and Draisaitl are a bit unenthusiastic. It’s less about their body language and more about two phenomenal talents being wasted on a bad team. That’s bound to attract stories and attention whether fans like it or not.

Baggedmilk:

All I could think of is why these two dudes aren’t working for the FBI considering their high-level body language analysis. With a skill set like that, you’d think they’d be able to provide more value to society than simply writing clickbait articles.

4) Clay asks – I know some people are freaking out that Connor McDavid isn’t participating at the BioSteel camp this week, but wouldn’t it be much worse if he tried to push himself in a meaningless camp rather than maximizing his rehab time? Would it be a big deal if he misses training camp or even the pre-season?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see it being a big deal if he misses three days of training camp. Ideally, he will play one or two preseason games, but I would only play him when he is healthy enough to take contact. No point rushing him. Even if he misses three or four regular season games it would be better than him coming back, getting injured again, and then missing a longer period of time.

Robin Brownlee:

The biggest deal is that he plays when he’s ready, not before. Unless we hear different, I’d be surprised if he’s not on the ice when camp begins.

Cam Lewis:

Let him take his time and get back to 100 percent even if it means him not starting the season. It would put the Oilers behind the eight-ball, sure, but 2019-20 doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. McDavid further injuring himself to rush back into a season in which the team has no contention aspirations would be devastating.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

You’re bang on. It’s a story that he’s not participating but it would be an even bigger story if he re-injured his leg and was out half of the regular season. I talked about this last week on Oilersnation Radio (which you should go listen to) and said that if I was the Oilers, the second I know that Connor McDavid is healthy enough to play in games, I would release a statement and say that we’re holding him out of all preseason games and he’ll be ready to go for the season opener. It’s pointless to have him play in any preseason games, even if he’s healthy.

Christian Pagnani:

It’s a little concerning but I won’t be worrying unless he starts missing actual training camp or preseason games. Ideally, you’d like him to be participating and showing the injury is completely behind him, but it’s not a big deal.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t care how much time he misses as long as he comes back at 100%. The worst case scenario would be for him to try to play too early and re-aggravating the injury. Take your time to heal, Connor.

5) Allan asks – Jim Playfair revealed that he’d like to start with Darnell Nurse alongside Adam Larsson as the team’s shutdown pair, but I wonder how you see the rest of the defence shaping up? With limited options, who slots in beside Oscar Klefbom?

Jason Gregor:

Nurse and Larsson had a solid 2018 together so I understand why they will be the shutdown pair. Right now Matt Benning is ahead of Joel Persson, Caleb Jones, Ethan Bear and William Lagesson for the spot beside Klefbom. Preseason will determine who starts there, but I’m guessing it is Benning. I want Russell on the left side on the third pairing.

Robin Brownlee:

Wrote about this last week after listening to the Playfair interview. Possibilities are many beyond expectation that Klefbom, Nurse and Russell will play on the left side and Larsson will play right side with Nurse. My best guess is Benning would be the likeliest choice to play with Klefbom.

Cam Lewis:

Nurse and Larsson haven’t been great together in the past. Neither player is particularly great at moving the puck so they create a bit of an unbalanced pairing. I like Nurse and Matt Benning together and the standard pairing of Klefbom and Larsson. If they do go Nurse and Larsson, though, I would try Kris Russell on his off-side with Klefbom. Russell played his best hockey with a good, calm puck mover in Andrej Sekera.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m not a fan of that move. In my mind, both Nurse and Larsson need a puck mover on their pairing to be successful, sticking those two together doesn’t accomplish that. I would personally start the year with Klefbom-Larson and Nurse-Benning then let the third pair figure itself out. But if they want to try new things, I suppose that’s what the preseason is for.

Christian Pagnani:

A Nurse-Larsson pair is interesting. It leaves Oscar Klefbom with a less ideal partner. You can’t put Kris Russell with Klefbom, so that leaves Matt Benning, Joel Persson, Evan Bouchard, or maybe even Caleb Jones. Those aren’t proven NHL options, but I’m not opposed to throwing Nurse-Larsson to the wolves opening up the other pairs for some more sheltered minutes. Nurse and Larsson weren’t particularly effective last season, though. They had a 48.35 CF%, which is decent, but were outscored 19-10 five-on-five. In 2017-18, Nurse-Larsson had a 50.92 CF% and outscored teams 33-25 five-on-five. Returning to 2017-18 levels would be nice, but leaves Klefbom with some suspect partners.

Baggedmilk:

At this point, I’d guess they’ll still Russell there on his off-wing because Matt Benning seems better suited for the third-pairing than he does in the top four. We shall see, I suppose.

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