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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Bringing fans back to Rogers Place

Hello, hello! Welcome, my friends, to another edition of the mailbag where I’ve taken your questions and turned them into a little bit of free learnin’ on a Monday morning. This week, we look at the Oilers’ recent collapses, the way Draisaitl is perceived in the media, bringing fans back to Rogers Place, and a lot more. If you want in on next week’s mailbag, just fire me an email at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk. Until then, I encourage you to sit back, relax, and waste a few minutes of company time. Have a good week, everybody.

1) Sarah asks – In your opinion, are the Oilers regressing or is this just a tough stretch that they’re working through?

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Jason Gregor:

They have stopped doing the little things that win games. Consistency is such a major part of winning in the NHL. Simply plays like Jujhar Khaira not getting deep in the final 20 seconds of a period. Throw in that Mike Smith has really struggled since November 1st and that doesn’t help. I didn’t expect the Oilers to be a 100+ point team, which they were on pace for early. And now they are in a funk, but if they want to be a playoff team the funk needs to be short lived. If he stretches into another five or more games they are in trouble.

Robin Brownlee:

Probably both. They weren’t as good as they looked in the first 10 games of the season and they aren’t as bad as they’ve looked a lot of the time lately. Goaltending has more than fallen off from where it was and that’s probably the biggest factor. Koskinen and Smith don’t have to be in the .920’s like they were early, but they can’t be in the .800’s either, as has been the case with Smith recently.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s a bit of both. Their goaltending has regressed, which was sort of expected, but they’re also fighting against some tough bounces right now. If you look at the season overall, they’re sort of right around where we expected them to be. I believe that there will be more ups and downs this season. It’s just going to be that kind of year.

Baggedmilk:

Right now, the Oilers’ two best players aren’t producing at the herculean levels they were at the beginning of the season, something we should have all expected to happen temporarily, and it shows the lack of scoring depth throughout the lineup. That combined with the fact that Mike Smith has fallen off a cliff and you’ve got a recipe for a bad time.

Dec 6, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and forward Leon Draisaitl (29) discuss a play during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Saul asks – I’d like to ask everyone’s thoughts on why Leon Draisaitl gets such strange attention in terms of his coverage. When he’s hot, Leon Draisaitl is spoken of highly as a power forward and puck distributor, but when he’s cold, people start to criticize his body language. Where does this come from?

Jason Gregor:

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Most players will have supporters and detractors. Emotions are a major factor for many who watch and when things are good everything is great, and when they go poorly the frustration and criticism can become extreme. I think the majority of people see Draisaitl for what he is. A very skilled player, who wears his emotions on his sleeve and when he is frustrated he can’t fake it.

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Robin Brownlee:

He can be demonstrative and that’s where some of it comes from. Nothing wrong with a player showing his emotions within reason. He’s also quite animated when things are going well. Do people who talk about bad body language want him to be happy when he’s not playing well and/or the team is losing? I hope not.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It comes from people reaching for easy narratives. Leon has bad body language and when he gets frustrated, lots of people take it as him whining. When some other players voice their frustration and let it show, they’re considered fierce competitors who hate losing. To me, Leon just shows his frustration in a way that traditional hockey people don’t love. I don’t see it that way. I see a player who hates losing and expects the best from himself and his teammates. When that doesn’t happen, he shows his frustration.

Baggedmilk:

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People are weird. I don’t get it. On Twitter, I’ve had a running joke for two years that I call Leon lazy every time he scores a goal and I do it to make fun of the people that think he made it to the NHL by winning a scratch ticket or something. I don’t know what it is with this city and taking shots at the best players when there are so many other turds that need to be flushed first.

3) Clay asks – Looking at the roster as it’s currently constructed, what should be Ken Holland’s first area to target in terms of a trade? Is it a 3C? Top six winger? Something else? Why?

Jason Gregor:

They have many priorities…but I’d go scoring forward first. Gaetan Haas has looked better, and while he is far from proven, he is showing signs of being an okay third line centre. A winger who could produce would be great, but also hard to acquire.

Robin Brownlee:

If the goaltending doesn’t get out of the ditch, how about starting there? The 3C situation has been discussed to death, so sure, that’s an area of concern.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Either a high-end third-line centre or a legitimate top-six winger would do wonders for this team. They need another source of offence and another line that can drive the play. I don’t care which one Holland gets, but he needs to do something and I don’t want him to wait until the trade deadline.

Baggedmilk:

Oilers need a competent backup goaltender that won’t react like a toddler whenever something doesn’t go his way. That and scoring. Always scoring.

Oct 16, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Ethan Bear (74) celebrates a first period goal against the Philadelphia Flyers at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Brett asks – Ethan Bear has been a pleasant surprise on the back end this season, and I’m hoping everyone could give him a review as we approach the midway point of the season. What does he do well and what could he continue working on?

Jason Gregor:

His decisions with the puck and his ability to make plays under pressure are excellent. He just needs to continue to learn situational defending. Can only really get better on that with more playing time.

Robin Brownlee:

Usually poised and patient with the puck. Positioning is good in most situations. He’ll have rough spots, like in the last couple of games, but he’s tracking very well. He came into the season in way better shape but he might have to work on getting stronger. He’s not a big player. That’ll come.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

He makes smart plays on a consistent basis and he moves the puck up the ice. The best way to play defence is to make sure that the puck isn’t in your zone and Bear is great at making good outlet passes and not coughing up the puck in his own end. As for what he could work on, maybe just his play in his own zone when the puck isn’t on his stick. But honestly, I don’t have any real concerns with his game. He’s a legitimate top-four defenseman as far as I’m concerned.

Baggedmilk:

He’s so great with the puck that it really is a pleasure to watch. As for things he can improve, I’d say his entire game. We’re talking about a rookie that’s been thrown in the fire and it’s going to take a lot more at-bats before he’s truly comfortable in that position. Playing defence in the NHL is hard and Bear’s progression was never going to be a straight line.

5) Yves asks – This past week, Jason Gregor wrote about the empty seats at Rogers Place and whether or not fans would come back. What I’d like to know is what the writers would do to help fill the barn back up if they were in control of OEG promotions, etc? What would be your first idea to bring fans back?

Jason Gregor:

Winning is the best cure, but that is much harder to bring and promotion people have no say in that….So..based on the response I would have a few more affordable items on the menu, I think the atmosphere likely has to come form fans. Many pro teams have fan groups who start cheers, but the team has to allow those to be loud and boisterous.

Robin Brownlee:

Win. All the razzle dazzle after that is secondary.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Bring back half-price game day seats! It might piss of season seat holders but you need to fill the upper bowl. My promotion would be that five hours before puck drop, all remaining upper bowl seats are 50% off. Get some fans in the gate for a little cheaper, leaves them more money for beers, and create a great atmosphere in the upper bowl. I would also really start to advertise the cheaper beers and party atmosphere in Ford Hall. Make that place the spot for pre-gaming!

Baggedmilk:

I went to a game a couple of weeks ago and spent $60 on four beers. Let’s start with concession prices, shall we? I know the Oilers will say they don’t set those prices since it’s handled by a third party but you can absolutely negotiate a rate that doesn’t gouge your customers. I mean, would not treating your fans like an ATM at every single turn really be so hard?

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