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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Is there an advantage for Hub City teams?

Welcome, my friends, to a fresh 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.

May 27, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman (right) and deputy commissioner Bill Daly (left) at a press conference before game one of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Blake asks – Did last week’s announcement about the NHL and PA agreeing on the 24-team format get you more excited about hockey’s return, or is there still too much work left to do before you really start thinking about it?

Jason Gregor:

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I’m more of a glass full type of person so I look at it as a big positive. It is trending in the right direction. The good news is that since Edmonton opened up phase one we haven’t seen any increase in cases. Similar to BC. Combine that with the NHL’s extensive testing and cleanliness protocols makes me think the NHL will return this summer.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m happy the plan is very slowly taking shape, but the devil is always in the details and there is much to do before we can count on the puck dropping. COVID-19 concerns aside, the current state of the U.S. — riots in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd — concern me. That situation is going to boil for some time and I can’t imagine hockey being a priority in cities that are hub candidates with rioting in the streets right now.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Both. It got me really excited because the players and the league cleared a big hurdle, but at the same time, I recognize how much work there still is to do. They need to ensure the players will be safe and they might need to find a way to let the players see their families during the playoffs. Still lots of work to do, but I am very optimistic after seeing the 24-team format get voted through.

Zach Laing:

It’s got me pretty fired up. I’m excited about hockey being back, but I’m not a huge fan of the format. That’s a post for another day, though. At the end of the day, I’m still well aware that we’re quite aways away from really having hockey back.

Nation Dan:

It’s all just building blocks to finally getting back to work for me. I am still expecting it won’t be until August before we get some actual games, and that’s kind of where I have been for about a month now.

Baggedmilk:

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I definitely got more excited about the possibility of summer hockey, but I also recognize that there’s plenty of work to do before we’re anywhere close to seeing that happen. Fingers crossed.

Mar 13, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Rogers Place sits empty as the NHL suspends games because of the COVID-19 outbreak at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Derrick asks – If Edmonton gets to be a hub city, there has been some talk about the Oilers have to play elsewhere as a means of lowering the advantage. Do you believe that’s fair or necessary? Do you have any solutions that would alleviate those concerns?

Jason Gregor:

Completely unnecessary. I see a very minimal advantage to being the host. The fans are the biggest aspect of home-ice advantage and without them I see the advantage, for any host city, being next to nothing.

Robin Brownlee:

I think Edmonton deserves to be a hub city because of the job we’ve done with the COVID-19 pandemic and the facilities we have, but I really don’t care if the Oilers play here or not. I’m not looking for an advantage for them. I’m looking for the games to be played in the safest conditions.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I do think it would be a slight advantage to be able to use your own locker room and facilities but not enough of an advantage for the NHL to be going out of its way to make sure the Oilers aren’t playing at Rogers Place. The players likely won’t be sleeping in their own beds, they’ll still be in the same hotels as the other teams so I don’t have a major issue with it and I don’t believe the league should either.

Zach Laing:

If Edmonton is chosen as a hub city, they should be able to play there. It’s silly to send them to another city. Is there really going to be any kind of home-ice advantage? There are no fans in the arena which is a big part of that advantage.

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Nation Dan:

I see what they are saying. Goalies have part of the arena they are in to fixate their sightlines on to know where they are. Players feel like it’s their barn. That all being said, I think it’s just silly to worry about those details when there are so many other bigger things to sort out. If you have everything else locked in place, then worry about perceived advantages (and there are some disadvantages like the quarantined staff being Oilers fans and more eager to “pester” them)

Baggedmilk:

The easy answer is to make the players stay in hotels just like everyone else and then that advantage goes away. Seems easy enough to me. Without any fans in the building, the biggest advantage would be staying at one’s personal residence and if that’s no longer an option then I believe the advantage would be reduced as well.

Mar 5, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers right wing Kailer Yamamoto (56) scores a goal against Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford (50) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Clare asks – What does everyone expect from these play-in series? I personally think the hockey will be sloppy and full of mistakes, akin to what we’d see in the preseason. Would you agree? Why or why not?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see it being like the pre-season since many of those games involve non-NHL players. There is way more on the line in these games. The intensity will be much higher. Teams will have three weeks of practice to get ready. I’m sure we will see some rust and the odd missed play, but that will likely mean more scoring chances and more goals, which is more exciting.

Robin Brownlee:

It’ll take some time to get up to speed, but I doubt it will be sloppy or on a pre-season level. Playing for the Stanley Cup ups the intensity several notches so, while it might take a while to get the execution down pat, the motivation will be there.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think there could be some sloppy games but that will create some very exciting hockey. Think of the World Juniors, the more mistakes, the better! It creates high scoring games and increases the possibility for big comebacks. I don’t think ‘sloppy hockey’ is a negative thing at all.

Zach Laing:

I think we’re going to see some bad hockey and I wonder if it may be worse than pre-season. These guys have all had lots of time off and aren’t able to do their usual off-season training. It’s going to be messy.

Nation Dan:

I don’t think it’s going to be as “bad” as preseason because well these are NHL lineups. Not a mish-mash of the AHL and PTOs you see in the preseason. Will it be slower paced? Sure, but these guys haven’t really been relaxing as much because relaxing for them means going out golfing and on vacations.

Baggedmilk:

I think it’ll be sloppy as well since these guys won’t have played for months, but I also don’t care because that will be part of the intrigue. We’re going to see upsets, we’re going to see mistakes, but most importantly, we’re going to see the National Hockey League get back on the ice.

Local Input~ Edmonton Oilers’ Todd Marchant (26) scores the fourth and winning goal for his team as Dallas Stars’ goalkeeper Andy Moog tries to block the puck, April 29. Edmonton defeated Dallas 4-3 and advances to the second round of the playoffs. SPORT NHL

4) Rick asks – Living in Dallas since the mid-nineties means I watched the Oil play Dallas in the playoffs six times in 7 years (97 thru 03), only winning once…ouch! I have a lot of bad memories about those series. What if anything do y’all remember?

Jason Gregor:

A lot… From Buchberger’s OT winner, Joseph’s unreal safe, Marchant OT winner, the Grumpy Old Men line, Modano and Zubov shredding the Oilers and more…but what I remember most was after 1997 the Stars dominated… Oilers got swept twice, won one game once and two in each of the last two meetings. But you knew going in the Oilers were unlikely to win.

Robin Brownlee:

Too many to list them all because I covered every series. In no particular order:
– crappy ice and sauna-like conditions at Reunion Arena
– we were there so often over the years we were on a first-name basis with people working in the rink and in the hotel
– Glen Sather fist-pumping in the press box when Todd Marchant scored the OT winner in 1997
– The exhaustion of all the players when Dallas swept the Oilers in 1999 on Joe Nieuwendyk’s goal in triple-OT
– Dallas needing three OT wins to beat the Oilers 4-1 in 2000. It was a helluva lot closer than that
– Watching Mike Modano strut his stuff. Always a magnificent skater, Modano would have his jersey rippling in his wake as he flew up the ice. In playoffs against the Oilers from 1997-2003, Modano scored four game-winning goals
– Dallas Alley and The Bone

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t really remember much. I was born in 1997 so I was too young.

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Zach Laing:

I was between the ages of two and eight in those years, so my biggest concern was learning how to spell. I didn’t even know what hockey was.

Nation Dan:

That’s a tough thing to have had to do. All of Oilersnation salutes you for being behind enemy lines and sticking with the plucky Oilers through all those years. What sticks out the most for me other than the obvious Marchant and Cujo plays… is a Ken Hitchcock quote after the Stars beat us in 2001 playoffs, it was something along the lines of “that’s a really great team in Edmonton and I don’t want to have to face them again.”. It left me beaming with pride for the boys… of course, Hitchcock would be fired that next season and we would lose to the Stars one more time before all was said and done, but it sticks out.

Baggedmilk:

The day Todd Marchant scored the OT winner against Dallas in Game 7 is one of the best days of my life. That afternoon, my brother and I just picked up our N64 and had spent the evening playing Mario Kart 64 until the puck dropped. It was magical.

5) Clay asks – If you could give one Edmonton Oiler a reset on their career so that they could start over, who would it be?

Jason Gregor:

Great question. There are many candidates… I’ll go Nail Yakupov. I always will wonder what would have happened if they let him develop in the AHL.

Robin Brownlee:

Ryan Smyth. I loved watching Ryan compete and in my re-set, he would never have been traded away. Smyth should have spent his entire career here.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Jesse Puljujarvi is probably the only correct answer, right? You could make a case for wanting a ‘re-do’ of Connor McDavid’s career because it would mean we get MORE Connor, which is a positive.

Zach Laing:

Wow, this is a great question. I would have to say Nail Yakupov, or maybe even Jesse Puljujarvi. I know that’s two, but both players never got the ability to develop the way that they needed to. In the case of Yakupov, he was still a solid player for the Oilers scoring half a point per game over 252 games and four seasons. He lacked the defensive game and it was something that the Oilers never really tried to develop in him. In the case of Puljujarvi, Edmonton should’ve sent him back to Finland for another year or two post-draft.

Nation Dan:

Honestly? It’s Connor McDavid. The man has seen a collarbone injury, a super flu bug, an almost completely destroyed leg.. and still is considered the best player in the world right now. He deserves a better GM than he started with, less turmoil in the coaching position, and less bad luck which is a weird thing to say about such a talented player.

Baggedmilk:

I probably would have gone with Yak or Puljujarvi, but since most of the guys have included them, I wanted to try and do something different. With that in mind, my vote would go to Justin Schultz. He came into town with so much hype and was forced into a spot he wasn’t ready for, which completely derailed the end of his time here. Had the Oilers given him some time to develop on the third pairing rather than gagging him with 25+ minutes per night then maybe his tenure would have gone differently?

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