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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Let’s talk about Sam Gagner

It’s that wonderful time again, dear friends. A December chill is in the air, the boys are right in the mix, and we’re nearing the back half of the NHL season with the playoffs in our sights. As always, the mailbag is back and we’re answering the questions you have leading into the end of 2019 beyond. As always, our panel of experts bloggers dove into the depths of their experience to give you every pearl of wisdom their brains could muster and all for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. As always, this feature depends on you guys so I need you to submit your questions. If you have something you’d like to know you can always email me, or DM me on Twitter. With that out of the way, it’s time to learn something. Enjoy.

Nov 8, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson (39) celebrates a third period goal against tNew Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider (35) at Rogers Place.

1) Samuel asks – I want to know the nation’s opinions on two Oilers so far this year: Chiasson and Klefbom. Personally I think Chiasson should be scratched when Nuge comes back and that Gags should stay on that second line. As for Klefbom, I think he has quietly been having a Norris type of season.

Robin Brownlee:

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Chiasson and Gagner can play up and down the line-up. Both are versatile. I don’t see it was one or the other. Both are fits in the bottom six. Klefbom has been mostly very good this season, but he’s not in the Norris conversation. Offensive production tends to play a big part in voting and Oscar is well down the list in those terms.

Jason Gregor:

I wouldn’t scratch Chiasson. If you want to play him in the bottom six I can see that. As for Klefbom, he has been quite good all season, but I don’t see it in the Norris conversation. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been good, just not in the Norris conversation. I might be biased due to John Carlsson having such a ridiculous season that I don’t see any other D-men in the Norris convo right now.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Two very opposite opinions. Chaisson has not been good and while I don’t think he should be healthy scratched, I do agree that he shouldn’t have a spot in the top six. He doesn’t skate well and he lets a lot of plays die on his stick. He’s simply not good enough. As for Klefbom, he was their best defenseman for the first two months of the season but he’s hit a bit of a rough patch lately.  He’s making bad pinches and it’s resulting in goals against. I think Klefbom can bounce back and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s their best defenseman for the remainder of the season. As for Chiasson, I’m not very optimistic.

Baggedmilk:

I think people look at last season and think that Alex Chiasson is going to be a consistent 22-goal man, and that’s just not likely to happen. That said, that doesn’t mean that he won’t and isn’t be a useful piece in a much larger puzzle, so to have him as a healthy scratch doesn’t make sense to me considering he is one of the few depth players that’s actually chipping in offensively. As for Klefbom, the dude is a stud. Full stop.

Dec 1, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Sam Gagner (89) congratulates goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) for the win after the third period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

2) Tom it Toronto asks – I’ve liked the way Sam Gagner has filled in for RNH during this injury and I’m wondering what everyone thinks of his game and whether or not he’s playing well enough to stick when guys start getting healthy?

Robin Brownlee:

Like I said in response to the first question, Sam can plug into the third or fourth lines at centre or on the wing. He’s more versatile and proven than some of the other options.

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Jason Gregor:

He has been good. He is a good utility player. He can fill in at centre if you need him, but ultimately I think he is best suited to play the wing. He also has the skills to help out on the powerplay. However, he likely comes out when RNH and Kassian return.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think he’s played well enough to stick in the lineup and I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a longer look on the wing. He’s not fast but he skates well enough to keep up. He makes smart plays with the puck and has decent offensive instincts which are not something that you can say about a lot of other Oilers forwards. I think he’d look good next to Gaetan Haas and Joakim Nygard. It would be an interesting combination of speed and skill.

Baggedmilk:

I like having Gagner in the lineup too, but the problem is with how Dave Tippett puts together his line combos. If Gagner can’t play in a top-six or offensive role, he’s not going to fit in with the PK boys or checking lines that the coach wants in his bottom six.

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3) Sandy asks – What does Caleb Jones need to do to stick in the NHL? Could you see him potentially being used as a trade chip if he’s unable to carve out a role for himself?

Robin Brownlee:

It’s far too early to know whether Jones can or can’t carve out a role for himself. He’s played less than 30 NHL games. Why send him away now when we don’t know what he will be? We need to see more of him. As far was what he has to do, if he can develop some of the poise and consistency we’re seeing from Ethan Bear, he’ll be on his way. That comes with playing time and experience, be it in the minors or here.

Jason Gregor:

He needs to be more consistent with his decisions with the puck. He skates well and can defend decently well an NHL level, but his decisions with the puck will earn him more icetime. It is more an issue of Edmonton have three solid veteran LD ahead of him on the depth chart.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Part of the problem is that he’s a leftie and the team already has Nurse, Klefbom, and Russell on that side. He looks alright on the right side, but when everyone is healthy, there really isn’t room for him on that side either. Considering that they also have Philip Broberg, Evan Bouchard, and Dmitri Samorukov still in the pipeline, I could see them dangling Jones as a trade chip. It’s not a knock on him as a player, I think he will be an NHLer, but he might have some value right now and the Oilers have some depth on the blueline. Jones and a draft pick might get you a decent forward.

Baggedmilk:

I don’t like the idea of trading Caleb Jones but there will come a time when Holland starts moving out assets as a means of landing bigger pieces, and with the left side of the defensive depth chart as stocked as it is, that could make him the odd man out.

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Oct 27, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) replaces goaltender Mike Smith (41) after Smith let in 3 second period goals by the Florida Panthers at Rogers Place.

4) Clay asks – I find that Dave Tippett is far more willing to be publicly critical of Mikko Koskinen than he has about Mike Smith. Do you think there’s any favouritism in how he handles his goalies or is that just me making things up?

Robin Brownlee:

No. None. Tippett is as straight a shooter as you’ll ever find in the coaching ranks. He calls it as he sees it. Your perception is way off.

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see that. He has praised Koskinen. When he stood on his head against the Sharks and they lost he went out of his way to say how the team wasted a great effort by Koskinen. I don’t see any favourtism. They have each started 15 games and they’ve each been pulled once. Koskinen also is the only one to start three games in a row.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think he’s more comfortable with Mike Smith and you can’t really blame him. When it comes to Tippett’s post-game comments, I have noticed that he’ll cut Smith more slack than Koskinen and while there might be a little bit of favouritism until it starts really affecting the way that playing time is being divided, I won’t be concerned about it.

Baggedmilk:

I’ve noticed that a little bit too, but I don’t really think there’s anything behind. For all we know, this could be the way to get these guys going individually?

5) Trent asks – My wife’s family will be spending Christmas with us this year and we always argue about what meal will be served and how it is prepared. What’s the key to surviving the holidays with your in-laws?

Robin Brownlee:

Set the bar higher than “surviving.” I’ve never experienced the stress some people relate to Christmas and other holidays. If you are fortunate enough to have family that wants to spend time with you at Christmas, welcome them. Enjoy them. Are you really arguing over what meal to serve? How many options are there?

Jason Gregor:

I’m lucky my in-laws are great. Very low-key. Plus I like all food, except gross onions, so I never argue about food as it is all great. If you are hosting, I’d make the rules it is your house and if someone complains about food they can host next year. Usually the option to do more work quiets down the complainers. Also, have a bottle of chilled Jägermeister on hand that you can take a swig out of now and again if things get rough.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Making sure everyone drinks? Although I suppose that could make things worse. Maybe limiting the amount of time you spend with everyone? Find a game to play? I don’t know. I don’t have in-laws so this is not a problem I have experienced.

Baggedmilk:

Rum. The answer is always rum. Seriously, though, just agree as often as you can and stay the hell out of the way.

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