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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Should Puljujarvi be welcomed back?

Welcome, Nation, to another edition of the free college replacement known as the Monday Mailbag! Obviously, we’re all waiting for hockey to come back but we still wanted to put together your questions and try to come up with whatever answers we can As always, this feature depends on you so please send me your questions by email or Twitter for next week and I’ll try to sneak you in. Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful week and please enjoy the free learning opportunity.

1) Blake asks – Should the NHL pump crowd noise into arenas for the playoffs as opposed to the cavernous silence that would with playing without fans?

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Jason Gregor:

I would have some sort of ambient noise, but not constantly. Just at appropriate times.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m not a big fan of it. Music during breaks in play is fine, but the atmosphere created by a rink full of fans isn’t just about the noise, it’s about the sight of the fans yelling and standing and cheering. I don’t think that can be replicated with empty seats and canned crowd noise.

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Cam Lewis:

They would certainly need to add something in order to block out all of the, well, not-so-family-friendly language used by players on the ice. We don’t want another “Rag It” situation.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Absolutely. It will make the game sound more natural for people watching from home. Also, from a PR standpoint, it will drown out the foul language that players use. I know a lot of people reading this will say “but I want to hear that” and I get that, but still, the league wouldn’t like a whole bunch of that being broadcasted.

Nation Dan:

It’s going to be a slow build to what they end up with. I think it starts quiet, then we see the move towards some of the ideas that (I hope) they have been working on this whole time.

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Baggedmilk:

I think it’s going to be weird but that we’ll all get over it pretty quickly. In the first period, we’ll all be tweeting about how odd it is to have a silent arena, but by the third we’ll be tweeting about how bad the refs are. We will adjust.

2) Trey asks – Jesse Puljujarvi recently told a Finnish reporter “never say never” when he was asked about coming back to the Oilers. Do you think it would be a good idea for Puljujarvi to come back to Edmonton or do you believe that ship has sailed?

Jason Gregor:

I see no reason why not. Dave Tippett wasn’t the coach when Puljujarvi was upset about his playing time or how he was handled. Same with GM Ken Holland. Most players understand it is a business, and one conversation between Puljujarvi and captain Connor McDavid is likely enough to bury the past and move on. Puljujarvi would come to camp, whenever that is next season, and if he plays well Tippett will play him. Tippett has a long track record of giving players, who play well an opportunity. And if Puljujarvi comes back and shows he can play in the NHL, he could still quietly ask for a trade, and his value would be higher and likely easier for Holland to get the return he wants. Or he might just remain an Oilers. I see very little downside in him coming back.

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Robin Brownlee:

I think he should. If he can improve his value and still wants to be traded, it’s a win-win for both sides. Despite having a very good season in Finland, there isn’t a line-up of NHL teams bidding for his services. My guess is Jesse and agent Markus Lehto are starting to understand that. He doesn’t hold a lot of cards right now.

Cam Lewis:

Everything has changed for the Oilers since Puljujarvi was last here. There’s a new general manager and a new head coach, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t give playing here another go. He’s also another year older and more mature. At the very least, him suggesting he has an interest in returning will give Ken Holland some leverage in executing a trade. Holland was never going to let Puljujarvi go for nothing, and if the player does want a fresh start, he plays a role in helping a trade happen.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Both. I think it would be a good idea for him to come back but even with his recent comments, I still think that ship has sailed. Maybe I’ll be wrong, but I still can’t see him playing another game in an Oilers jersey.

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Nation Dan:

It’s a great idea and it’s the main way for the player to reclaim his own future. I do think the ship has sailed.. but that’s also coming from a jaded Oilers fan who has watched our team’s patience run out on far too many Dubnyks and Shultzs in the past.

Baggedmilk:

I think that’s a conversation Ken Holland will have with the leadership group to see what they think, provided that Puljujarvi actually wants to come back. If everyone in the room is good with it and Jesse wants to give it another go, then I think it would be beneficial for both sides to try and give the guy a mulligan on the first few seasons.

Mar 5, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) defends against Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the first period at United Center.

3) Clare asks – Would like to know who everyone believes Dave Tippett will start in net for the play-in series against Chicago? Do you believe he’ll pick one guy or do a plateaued system as he’s done all season long?

Jason Gregor:

It will come down to who looks good in camp and the exhibition games. I think Smith has a slight advantage heading into camp, but that could change quickly. I suspect we will see both goalies at some point in the playoffs/qualifying round.

Robin Brownlee:

The goaltenders are close enough that I think he’ll have to read off what he sees when the teams get back on the ice, They’ve been off long enough that it’s like starting a new season. Who is most ready right out of the blocks? I don’t know.

Cam Lewis:

Mike Smith has a history of playing incredibly well in the playoffs, so I think he gets to start. But the leash won’t be long, so one bad outing could mean it’s Koskinen’s net.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I wouldn’t be surprised if both goalies get chances to play against Chicago. I believe Tippett will just ride the hot hand as he did during the regular season. If a goalie falters at any point in the series, he’ll just go to the other guy.

Nation Dan:

My head says Mikko Koskinen, but the question says what would Tippett do… so the only answer is Mike Smith, right?

Baggedmilk:

I posted a WWYDW(SE) about this very topic yesterday and it was interesting to read the different perspectives not only in the article but on our social channels as well. The fans are split, to say the least. Personally, I think we’ll see both goalies in the playoffs just as Tippett has done all season long.

4) Jeff asks – It seems as though with each passing day we’re getting closer to the NHL actually getting back on the ice. Admittedly, I expected the season to be cancelled outright so I’m happy to see how things have progressed. When you look back over the last three months, how has your opinion or feelings on the NHL’s return changed during that time?

Jason Gregor:

Not really. I expected it to return at some point. Originally I thought mid-July, but having it being pushed back a few weeks isn’t a big deal to me. The vast majority of people associated with hockey; owners, players, fans and media wanted it back to I see it as a huge positive.

Robin Brownlee:

I’m a creature of routine so getting back to playing after so long away feels strange. I’m not saying starting up after what will be almost four months off can’t be done, I just know if it should be done. It’s about money for Gary Bettman and the teams and I get that, but it just seems odd in terms of timeline and I wonder how negatively it’ll impact next season.

Cam Lewis:

I think it’s been very positive to see the league and the Players’ Association work so cooperatively together to get the 2019-20 season completed. It isn’t perfect, but these are completely unprecedented times. I’m glad there’ll be something to follow along with this summer because I’ve certainly missed the routine of having games, but I do still worry about next season. If there’s a spike of COVID cases during the winter, which is entirely possible as it could coincide with flu season, executing any kind of normal 2020-21 season will be a huge challenge.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

They absolutely have. As I said on Oilersnation Radio this week, I’m a bit of a pessimist so I wasn’t holding my breath on the league coming back at all. When they first started making plans to return, I was still skeptical but now that there seem to be some firm dates attached to things and the plan is a little bit more clear, I will admit that I’m starting to get excited about playoff hockey.

Nation Dan:

I have been kind of the same throughout this. It sounded negative to start, but now I am pretty happy because it is closer to being back at work. I have been saying and telling everyone I think it’s going to be August before hockey comes back and right now I am ok with that.

Baggedmilk:

I’m naturally optimistic so I was always hopeful that the NHL was going to come back and finish the season, but this latest round of news has really ramped up my excitement. Even though things are going to be weird when the NHL is able to get back on the ice, that still won’t stop me from enjoying the ride.

5) Trevor – With COVID-19 forcing the NHL to push back its playoffs into the summer, how long do you think it will take before the schedule is back to normal? My guess is that it will take at least three seasons before they’re able to get back to starting the pre-season in September. 

Jason Gregor:

Interesting question Trevor. The delay of next season is such a wildcard. If the USA and Canada makes wearing masks mandatory until a vaccine is found, many experts believe that will severely limit the spread, thus not having to shut things down again once Phase three opens. If that happens, then next season likely begins in December and the league, with no All-star break, and a condensed season could be back to October starts by 2021…but I’m going to say in 2022 the league likely starts regular season sometime in early to mid-October again.

Robin Brownlee:

Good question. I don’t know if it’ll take that long, but even with compressing the schedule — shortening camp/pre-season, cutting down days off, eliminating the all-star break etc — I can see it taking two full seasons.

Cam Lewis:

I would be pretty shocked if we saw the 2020-21 season begin in 2020. It makes some sense on the surface to just do a shorter season to get things back to normal after that, but, as I said above, we don’t know if playing at certain times of the year will actually be feasible for years. Flu seasons could be a total no-go, so maybe the calendar shifts for quite a few years until there’s a vaccine and summer hockey just becomes a thing. Who knows. It’s all so hard to predict. The league just has to be flexible.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think you’re probably right. They’ll need to keep the players happy as they continue to roll out shortened offseasons but I think it will take more than one or two years to get things back to normal.

Nation Dan:

This is a really great question and I wonder if sports will ever really have a normal start time. Probably will but you have to wonder how eager teams will be to re-configure schedules for years to come when they know they can make it work all the time really. I would guess three maybe four years though.

Baggedmilk:

Oh, man… This is a good question and I have absolutely no idea how to answer it. Obviously, the timeline for the 2020-21 season is going to be borked and probably the 2021-22 season as well. Will they be able to get back to normal for 2022-23? Maybe? I’m going to take a swing and guess two seasons will have weird timelines and that we’ll be back to normal for 2022-23.

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