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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What are the Oilers doing well and what can they improve?

Can you believe it’s been already been a week since the last mailbag? I guess time flies when you’re watching one of the best starts in recent memory, amirite? Once again, we’re back with another edition of the Mailbag to try and make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved hockey team. As always, you’ve submitted your questions and I’ve sent them off to our panel of mental giants 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.

Mar 31, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett watches his team take on the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Coyotes 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1) Dave asks – There has been lots of talk about the Oilers’ success is due to playing more structured and staying within the structure even while trailing. I would assume that every coach before Tippett would have preached the same message. What is Tippett and the coaching staff doing differently to achieve the early season success?

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Robin Brownlee:

The success we’ve seen so far can be directly tied to better special teams, goaltending and hot starts by McDavid, Draisaitl, Neal and Klefbom. As for structure, Tippett isn’t letting it slip. If that happens, he reinforces it — win or lose.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think he has the bottom six playing a style of hockey that is simply allowing them to survive. Outside of the top two lines, they don’t have any forward that really pushes the play, but they don’t have one line that is absolutely detrimental to the team. I believe that is by design. It’s also hard to ignore the impact that Tippett and his staff have had on the special teams because that’s been a big reason why they’ve been winning games.

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Baggedmilk:

The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that the Oilers seem to be more structured in their own zone. They’re not scrambling and running around as they had in the past and it’s limiting a bunch of the shots against to the outside of the ice. Gotta like that.

2) Sara asks – Simple question: What are the Oilers doing well right now and what do they still need to improve upon?

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Robin Brownlee:

Same as above: special teams and goaltending. They need to get off to better starts and not chase games, even though it hasn’t burned them yet.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The top line is looking great, the special teams are on fire, the goaltending is holding up, and the right-side of their blueline has been passable (mainly because of Ethan Bear). However, they need to get their bottom-six going a little bit more. They need more scoring depth.

Baggedmilk:

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Their special teams are on fire right now. On the flip side, the bottom-six production is still not there, though, there’s time for that to turn around.

Sep 28, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson (6) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Trent asks – If Adam Larsson were to come back tomorrow how would you want to see the pairings shake out? Who would be your odd man out based on today?

Robin Brownlee:

Nurse with Larsson, Klefbom and Bear, Russell back to the left side with Benning. Manning out.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would put Larsson with Klefbom. We know that those two are comfortable with each other and we also have seen how well Ethan Bear works with Darnell Nurse. I think that’s a pretty simply solution to things.

Baggedmilk:

Probably Joel Persson/whoever is playing with Klefbom. Right now, Bear and Nurse have a nice thing going and I’d like to see Larsson back with Klef to create another strong pair where Klefbom isn’t necessarily forced to carry the load.

Sep 28, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) guards his net during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

4) Dean asks – Mikko Koskinen has played well so far this season and I’m wondering if everyone else sees the same thing. Are there any differences in his game that you believe are leading to this early success?

Robin Brownlee:

Most of Koskinen’s troubles came in the back half of the season when he was pushed into too many games and wore down. Fatigue was the enemy and he got sloppy because of it. Tippett seems acutely aware of that and has been sticking with a rotation of two on, two off with Smith. I expect we’ll see that until it stops working.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He isn’t allowing his glove hand to get completely picked apart and to me (granted I’m far from a goaltending expert) he looks pretty calm between the pipes. There have been times where he looks shaky and needs to make a sprawling saves but for the most part, I think he has looked confident and I’m hoping that Dave Tippett gives him the next few starts so we can see if he can get on a roll.

Baggedmilk:

To me, his rebound control is much better this year. He’s not kicking pucks into the slot as we often saw at the end of the last season, rather he’s putting them into the corner and out of danger. I really hope that continues.

5) Stephen asks – It seems like we hear a @Taylor Hall to Edmonton story every couple of months and I’m wondering if you think there’s a legitimate chance it could happen or if this is pure speculation that the media knows will grab attention?

Robin Brownlee:

Sure, it could happen. The GM and coaching staff have changed since Hall was traded. He liked it here. While it ended badly, time heals ill-feelings that come about at times like that. If the Oilers are contending and the Devils are going nowhere, I could see it — if they can make the money work. That’s the big hurdle. Hall will have his pick of places to go as a UFA this off-season.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think there’s a chance but I’m not sure if ‘legitimate chance’ is the best way to phrase it. For it to happen, the Oilers would have to be in the playoff race come February and look like they’re one piece away from being Cup contenders, they would have to be comfortable giving up two really good future assets in a trade, find a way to make the money work, and be prepared to pay him north of $10 million this summer. There’s a lot that has to happen, and it certainly could, but I’m not sure if I’m willing to say there is a ‘legitimate chance.’

Baggedmilk:

*insert Dumb and Dumber, “so you’re telling me there’s a chance* gif here*

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