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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Are the NHL playoffs already at risk?

The start of a new week means the mailbag is back to answer the questions you’ve always wanted to know about the NHL and life in general. Our panel of experts bloggers dove into the depths of their experience to give you every last juicy nugget of wisdom that their brains could muster and all for the low low price of nothing at all. 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.

1) Travis asks – This past week was the 14 year anniversary of the Oilers Stanley Cup run from 2006 and my question for everyone is which series win (Detroit, Anaheim, San Jose) was the most impressive to you and why?

Jason Gregor:

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Detroit. The Red Wings were dominant all season. They won 58 games and had 124 points, 11 more than every team and 29 more points than Edmonton. If you don’t win the first series, you can’t win the next two.

Robin Brownlee:

Detroit. The Red Wings were the best team in the league with 124 points, 11 better than second-overall Ottawa and 29 points better than the Oilers. Winning this series not only got rid of the biggest obstacle to advancing, it gave the Oilers reason to believe they had a chance to do something. The rest, we know.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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It has to be Detroit, right? That team dominated the regular season and for the Oilers to beat them in six games was nothing short of incredible. That should be everyone’s pick!

Nation Dan:

It has to be beating the Detroit Red Wings in round one. The Red Wings had 124 points that year, the Oilers? 95. It was a fall of a goliath and it was the beginning of showing off the multi-faceted playing styles that those Oilers possessed thanks in large part to the versatile core that had so many players that stepped up and played their role to perfection. They played a defensive style of game against the Wings that was masterful.

Baggedmilk:

Since everyone else is saying Detroit — that’s the right answer, I should add — I’m going to take a different angle and go with the conference finals win over Anaheim. At that point in the playoffs, the Oilers were absolutely rolling and the fact that they made their way through to the Cup finals in only five games was very impressive to me.

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

2) James asks – Let’s pretend that the NHL is going to be able to resume play in August, what roster decision do think will be the most interesting to watch? Is it goaltending? How Tippett draws up his top six? What does everyone think?

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Jason Gregor:

Goaltending and who starts on LW with McDavid.

Robin Brownlee:

Goaltending. Pick the wrong guy and you’re done. Tippett knows Smith really well. Is he the right guy?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Goaltending. That can make or break any given game and the way Tippett handles his goaltenders will go a long way in deciding if the Oilers advance past the Blackhawks.

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Nation Dan:

It’s going to be a whole lot of things to keep an eye on for sure. The defence for me is going to be interesting in deployment with two rookies (Bear and Jones) looking to be slotted in. But for me, it’s always going to be the goaltenders as the biggest thing to watch. I don’t know what is going to be done but I feel comfortable that other than a disastrous December, Tippet and his staff have really had their fingers collectively on the pulse of the hot hand for the most part.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to go with who plays with Connor McDavid. Personally, I’m hoping that Tippett will keep Nuge-Draisaitl-Yamamoto together since they had so much chemistry together and it’s going to be interesting to see which two guys end up with Connor.

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Dec 8, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel (9) and Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) chase a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Marc in GP asks – What did everyone think of the purge that the Buffalo Sabres organization did this past week? As an Oilers fan, I can’t help but feel for that fanbase as we’ve seen many of the same issues here in Edmonton.

Jason Gregor:

Firing 22 members at once is unheard of. Why did they fire Ryan Jankowski, head amateur scout, for instance when he only had two drafts. None of his picks look terrible thus far and he is highly regarded. I understand firing the GM, but this looks like the Sabres are trying to save money, as much as anything right now. Edmonton made many horrible decisions over the years, but they never had a purge quite like this.

Robin Brownlee:

Owners Terry and Kim Pegula need to get their noses out of hockey ops and let the people they hire do their jobs. Dismissing 22 people in one fell swoop? That’s ridiculous.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I definitely feel for the fans. They’re in the same boat that Oilers fans were in before Connor McDavid came along. We got lucky with a lottery and they didn’t. They’re a lost organization with incredibly hands-on owners. Something has to change there in the next few years or they may be in danger of losing their superstar.

Nation Dan:

Every fall from grace is unique in its own way. What I do know is it’s “nice” to not have the Oilers be the laughing stock of the NHL fanbase. I don’t revel in the failures of the Buffalos and the Sens so much as I just look on and nod knowingly because we have been in those fires before. On a side note, I wonder to myself how close Katz had/has gotten to doing the same thing and wiping the slate almost completely clean. Hopefully, we don’t have to ever truly find out.

Baggedmilk:

I feel for Sabres fans because we’ve been down this road before too. The weird thing is that they were only one win away from being considered for the 24-team playoff tournament and the fact that they were so close made this purge that much more interesting to me. On the other hand, I also realize why people had so much fun laughing at the Oilers for all of those years because it sure is fun when it’s not happening to you.

4) Jayson asks – How do you think the Tampa Bay Lightning closing down their training facilities due to COVID-19 and a star player like Auston Matthews testing positive affects the NHL’s return to play plan for later in the summer? Is this the end?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t see it that way. I think many people relaxed a bit when things re-opened. If players are out and about their chances of getting Covid are the same as everyone. They need to be cautious, as we all do. I don’t think this means hockey is done. The players will be safer in the bubble, with less interaction with other people, than they are now.

Robin Brownlee:

I don’t know if it’s the end, but the NHL has to be very careful about how they move ahead. Eleven players have tested positive since June 8. How many more will test positive and when?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It should serve as a reminder to everyone that this pandemic is very much still alive and the season coming back is not a guarantee. The league needs to be very careful that they have a very tight bubble around their facilities no matter where the hub city is. The virus could spread quickly and could easily take a team out of commission for two weeks. They need a plan for that.

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Nation Dan:

This is a developing story as I write my answers, so take that with a grain of salt if we see a huge increase over the weekend but I really hope we don’t “overreact” and say “welp, we can’t do sports because this is happening.” This is the part of the plan to come back that is the most “exposed” because the players are coming back slowly. Ideally, you speed up the “bubble” that the NHL and NBA have planned for and we get these players out of the general public.

Baggedmilk:

I have no idea what’s going to happen — I’m just being honest. Obviously, I hope that the NHL will be able to move forward with their return to play plan but they’ll need to get their players in isolation as quickly as possible if that’s ever going to happen.

5) Yves asks – I read an article on the site this week about the Connor McDavid rookie card auction and I’m wondering what is everyone’s most valuable piece of memorabilia. If you have nothing necessarily of monetary value, what piece of memorabilia do you have that provides sentimental value?

Jason Gregor:

I have a signed Maurice Richard framed picture. It is authentic and one of only 200 with him posing with the Cup. I’m not a big memorabilia guy, and I have no idea if it is valuable or not, but it is a great photo of the first 50-goal scorer in NHL history.

Robin Brownlee:

I’ve gathered a lot of stuff over the years that has some monetary value, but the Edmonton Trappers’ No. 51 jersey I got from their last-ever game before moving to Texas is probably my favourite item. They were presented to people who’d been around the team a lot over the years. It meant a lot.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

My favourite piece from a sentimental value is the program from game one of the 2017 Playoffs. Getting to go to that game with my Dad after years of watching the team lose is a special memory for me and I like having that program as a reminder. On the monetary side, I have a McDavid Young Guns rookie card that is graded a 9.5/10. It’s beautiful.

Nation Dan:

We had a chance to talk about these on the podcast today (shameless plug) but one I didn’t mention on there is the jersey I got signed when a family friend took it to a locker room tour they were getting and the players just happened to be around at that time too. The jersey was signed by a whole wack of 1997 Oilers, so many so that I don’t know who half the signatures are. It was a neat thing for a young Dan to have a signed jersey and yes, I wore it to school a bunch of times.

Baggedmilk:

I’m not a big memorabilia guy so I don’t have anything that would be worth any monetary value, but I do have some stuff that reminds me of why I’m an Oilers fan. Back in the day, you were able to head downstairs at Rexall Place and stand outside of the Oilers dressing room to wait for autographs. One night when I was about seven years old, my dad took me to a game and then into the basement in the hopes of scoring some autographs and Bill Ranford walked over, spent a few minutes talking to me, and signed my game program. I still have that autograph at my dad’s place and was one of the reasons that I’m an Oilers fan to this day.

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