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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Let’s talk about reffing

Welcome, my friends, to a fresh edition of the mailbag where our writers take a moment out of their weekend getaways to share a little bit of wisdom with you about all things Edmonton Oilers. As we do every week, we’re back with another round of questions and answers to help you get through your day. Looking ahead, I need you guys for this feature so email me your questions to [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Now sit back, relax, and pretend to look busy for as long as possible. Have a good week, everybody.

Nov 24, 2019; Glendale, AZ, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

1) Nathan asks – Dave Tippett’s post-game press conferences are a lot of fun to watch because I find that he’s honest in his assessment but doesn’t go overboard when criticizing his players. When you think back to past Oilers coaches, who has been the best at giving the media and fans something to talk about but never necessarily throwing his players under the bus?

Jason Gregor:

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I’ve rarely heard a coach throw a player under the bus. Saying they played poorly isn’t that in my eyes. Tippett, McLellan, MacT were all quite good. Pat Quinn’s pressers were the funniest though. He’d come up with hilarious lines. “We sucked the hind banana,” is one of my favourites. His best coaching days were behind him when he was in Edmonton, but he had the best post-game presser lines. MacTavish also had a few pretty good ones.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d go with Craig MacTavish. Usually honest, often insightful. Close second to Ron Low. Always said what he thought.

Baggedmilk:

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MacT was the best when he was pissed off. The guy is smart, clever, and could drop an analogy that could make us all laugh at the same time. Remember when he talked about listening to Brian Burke is like trying to drink from a firehose? Classic.

2) Kevin asks – What is everyone’s take on why the Oilers sometimes play down to their competition as we saw against LA, Detroit, and Minnesota? Is this a product of still learning how to win?

Jason Gregor:

They won’t win every game. I’m not sure it is playing down, or just a bad game. They just got spanked by Colorado. Good teams lose to bad teams all the time. The gap between good and bad in today’s NHL isn’t that big, and the Oilers aren’t a dominant team yet, so they will have some stinkers still, but they won’t only be against weaker teams.

Robin Brownlee:

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I think that term gets overused, but, yes, that’s essentially it. Wild swings in consistency are often a sign of a younger team or a new group that hasn’t matter the way to play every game regardless of the opposition.

Baggedmilk:

I think it’s part of the learning curve to becoming a great time. I don’t just think this is the Oilers either btw, but I wonder if sometimes teams get guilty of looking at the next game rather than focusing on the task at hand, especially when that team is at the bottom of the standings.

3) Mike asks – I watched Leon Draisaitl play in Prince Albert when I lived there. He was good, maybe even great. But not nearly at the level he is now. How much of this is the McDavid factor, and how much of the is just Draisaitl maturing. He is excelling beyond anything he has ever done before. On a side note, Draisaitl was seen as a lazy player in PA – something we now affirm as him ’slowing the play down.’

Jason Gregor:

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I’ve always loathed that term “lazy player,” mainly because it suggests players who look like they are working hard, but accomplish nothing is what skilled players like Draisaitl should do. Anyway, as for Draisaitl’s improved play: He is a very driven person. He left home at 16 and moved across the world to chase his dream. He did mention a conversation with Todd McLellan that changed him. McLellan said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You don’t have to be second best. Challenge Connor.” He took it to heart and we are seeing the results.

Robin Brownlee:

McDavid is a big factor, but that’s not to say Draisaitl is riding his coattails. He’s creating his own plays and often dictating what happens. When a tandem is this good together, both players are making it happen. He’s not just the finisher or the set-up guy. He’s both.

Baggedmilk:

Leon Draisaitl would be a top line player on any NHL team regardless of whether or not McDavid was beside him. The guy is a warlord, he’s taking the NHL by storm, and I think we’d all be well served by slowing down and enjoying the moment a little bit more.

4) J. Park asks – So the officiating for the Avs v. Oilers game was exceedingly frustrating to watch. I’m an Oilers fan, I get it, but it seemed quite biased to me, especially Larsson’s elbowing major and game misconduct. Then I realized that it was Steve Kozari officiating the game. Does the NHL keep watch over how certain officials officiate against certain teams? Does anyone do any officiating analytics to watch for bias? Will the Oilers file an official complaint and I know the NHL doesn’t tell the public how they discipline officials, but if something was wrong, would they tell the Oilers? Or do you feel that there was no bias at all? Seems to me like he still has a grudge.

Jason Gregor:

I wrote why Larsson got that penalty. The NHL is very sensitive to any direct contact to the face/head. I can’t speak for Kozari to say if he has a grudge or not. He wouldn’t be the first official accused of having a grudge towards a team, but that doesn’t mean there is one. I think the NHL, overall, allows too much obstruction against star players, and McDavid takes a lot of hooks and holds that should be called, but aren’t. It is a long-standing asinine stance by the NHL. They essentially punish the best players, by making them fight through more stick work. It’s ridiculous, but the league has yet to wise up and realize if they just called the penalties eventually players would adapt, or they’d be out of the league, because their coaches wouldn’t keep playing someone who takes too many penalties.

Robin Brownlee:

Larsson’s major and game misconduct was a bad call. Of course, there’s always the topic of how many calls aren’t made involving McDavid. There is some substance to that. The thing is, fans of a team always shade things toward the team they cheer for. They want more calls for their team and fewer calls against. That’s reality. Wikipedia? How reliable is that? I don’t think Steve Kozari is holding a grudge against the Oilers. I just think he’s bad at his job.

Baggedmilk:

Kozari has had a problem with the Oilers since Connor told him to check upstairs and, in my opinion, it’s pretty evident. He’d never admit it and neither would the league, but actions speak louder than words. Maybe it’s just me.

Oct 18, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Ethan Bear (74) celebrates his second period goal against the Detroit Red Wings at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) @AmanVasi asks – Taking into account the emergence of Ethan Bear, signing any big-name free agent (Hall) might be difficult in terms of protecting the right players for the expansion draft. (Signing any free agent will be tough with the cap, especially when projecting Nurse’s next contract). It’s good that Bouchard will be ineligible for it (I think?), but it looks like we will still have a surplus of D that we will be forced to expose.

How do you think the Oilers will navigate the Expansion draft? Do you think we will go with 8 skaters/1G, instead of 7F/3D/1G? Is it still too early to tell?

Jason Gregor:

The Oilers will likely protect four forwards and four D-men. Bouchard won’t need to be protected, but Klefbom, Nurse, Bear and Jones will have to be. As for forwards, McDavid and Draisaitl are obvious. Then there will be Kassian, Yamamoto, Khaira or a veteran that they sign. Keep in mind Larsson and RNH are projected to be UFAs in the summer of 2021. Holland could leave them exposed and have a handshake deal that a new contract awaits after the expansion draft. It would be risky for Seattle to draft one of them, only to see them walk as a free agent within a few weeks.

But it is too early to try and accurately predict who will be protected as a lot will change in 18 months. I expect Holland to make some trades or sign a UFA before the expansion draft and that will alter who they protect.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s Dec. 2. Way too early to know what’s in store. The roster could change significantly between now and the deadline based on where the Oilers are in the playoff picture and what tweaks, if any, are made.

Baggedmilk:

Sign Bear to a seven-year extension you cowards!

THE BLACKOUT COLLECTION

We’ve upgraded every aspect of this year’s gear and we cannot wait for you guys to check it out! The 2019 Blackout collection is now available only at NationGear.ca.