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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How would the Oilers fare in an all-Canadian division?

Welcome, dear citizens, to a brand new edition of the Monday Mailbag where we answer all of your Oilers related questions and give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever you’ve got going on today. This week, we look at the Oilers’ goaltending situation, fanless hockey, Connor McDavid’s extended offseason, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got one, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.

1) @chrispudsey asks – What do you think Holland has for a long term solution in goal for the Oilers? Is Konovalov the long play here? Anyone else a legit contender to be “the guy” in the system or will it come from outside?

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Jason Gregor:

Almost impossible to answer. Predicting goalies is not my forte, but with Konovalov, Skinner or Rodrigue in the mix, one should become an NHL and if he becomes a bonafide #1 they will be in a great spot. They don’t have to rush any of them as Koskinen is a serviceable goalie for the next two seasons.

Robin Brownlee:

Well, Koskinen is just keeping the crease warm for somebody, but I’m not sure a 22-year-old playing in the KHL is the next guy. He might be, but will he be ready as soon as Koskinen’s deal is done after 2021-22? Don’t know enough about him to have a strong feeling about him. I don’t see anybody within the organization now who has clear No. 1 written all over him.

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Cam Lewis:

As disappointing as signing Mike Smith was, it’s only a one-year deal, so Holland will have the ability to make a big splash next off-season. Freddy Andersen and Tuukka Rask are set to become free agents and there’ll be some other goalies who become available through trade.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would imagine that they view Konovalov as a potential long-term solution, and I’m sure the organization isn’t ready to close the books on Stuart Skinner either. I said leading up to the draft that they don’t have an ‘A’ level goaltending prospect in their system but I wouldn’t be totally stunned if Konovalov eventually gets there. It’s far from a lock though.

Baggedmilk:

I would have the most hope that Konovalov can make something happen in the future, but I honestly have no idea. Goalies are voodoo at the best of time and I’d bet that this is a question we won’t have an answer to any time soon.

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July 28, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA; A general view of game action during the second period of the exhibition game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames prior to the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on July 28, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta. Mandatory Credit: Dave Sandford/NHLI via USA TODAY Sports

2) James asks – Now that the NHL has a fanless playoff under their belts, what do you think they could do for the upcoming season to improve the viewing experience?

Jason Gregor:

On TV? I’d move cameras closer to the ice surface with on fans in the building. Closer cameras will be able to showcase the speed of the game more.

Robin Brownlee:

I expect they’ll tweak technical stuff like camera angles, number of cameras and audio capability to upgrade. I thought they did a pretty good job, all things considered, with the play-ins and playoffs. Just a matter of refinement.

Cam Lewis:

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Get the cameras closer to the ice, ideally. One thing the NBA did that was really cool was have camera angles that made it feel like you were courtside. I don’t want to be looking at the empty seats while I’m watching hockey games. It’s depressing.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I actually didn’t mind the viewing experience during the playoffs. I thought the pumped in crowd noise worked well and the big screens in the arena made it seem like there was a bit of an atmosphere in the rink. Honestly, I would take that over a mainly empty arena with like 2000 fans in it.  I don’t have any ways that they could improve it because I didn’t have any problems with the way it was done in the summer.

Baggedmilk:

I actually liked the way the NHL looked during the playoffs so I don’t have too many suggestions here other than to hope that they can find a way to mix in some fans in addition to the screens etc, provided that they’re safely able to do so.

Jan 29, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian (44) and Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk (19) fight during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Rene asks – I saw a tweet from Pierre LeBrun that suggested the NHL may go with baseball-style series for next season and I love the idea of the Oilers playing a three-game set against the Flames. What does everyone think of the idea and are there any alternative solutions that you would recommend?

Jason Gregor:

I’m all for anything that increases the emotion and animosity of the regular season. I believe if they played three games in a row against any team it would increase the dislike. I’d love to see it. I’ve said for years if the NHL was interested in more intensity, less travel, more sleep and being more green, they would have a four-game road trip, but play two teams twice.

Robin Brownlee:

I like the baseball model. A lot of what the season will look like will depend on when the season starts, number of games they decide to play and, of course, the state of COVID-19.

Cam Lewis:

It’s great. It’ll add tension to the games and further build rivalries. Having all of those Oilers and Flames games within a few weeks earlier this year (it feels like so much longer ago than that) was really fun.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I love that idea. I think it’s a good way to make scheduling easy and I think it will result in some really interesting series’. Imagine being six points back of a team in the standings and then sweeping them in a three-game set! The drama would be great.

Baggedmilk:

I love it! LOVE IT! Just think of how much fun it would be to have a weekend set against the Flames? Now, think of how intense it would be to have a three-game series against the Flames in the midst of a playoff chase? Magic.

Jan 28, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the fastest skater event in the 2017 NHL All Star Game skills competition at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

4) Randeep asks – Chances are that Connor McDavid has never had this many extended breaks in his hockey career as he’s had in 2020 and I’m wondering if the writers believe that will help or hurt his overall game next season?

Jason Gregor:

It allows him more time to train and have a real off-season, which he didn’t have last year when rehabbing. I think he will benefit from it as it allowed him more time to work on things he wanted to. I expect him to return even more dangerous.

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Robin Brownlee:

I don’t think it’ll make a significant difference either way. He’s had more than enough time to rest and heal. As for any rust, I don’t think so. He’ll be ready to go whenever things get started. If anything, his mental make-up suggests he’ll come out flying.

Cam Lewis:

I have no idea honestly. I thought the younger Oilers would have a huge advantage over Chicago because of the time off but that clearly wasn’t the case. Who knows. Everyone is different. Athletes, like most people, are creatures of habit and having this whole year go sideways has probably been very jarring.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think it will help him. He should be 100% and this time off will give him a chance to work on his game.  I don’t see how you could view this as a bad thing.

Baggedmilk:

I imagine that this extra time has allowed him to grow several additional PCLs and that he will be 23% faster somehow. I bet all of this extra training time will be what’s needed to trigger mega-McDavid.

CALGARY, ALBERTA – JANUARY 11: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Calgary Flames skates away after a fight against Zack Kassian #44 of the Edmonton Oilers at Scotiabank Saddledome on January 11, 2020 in Calgary, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHL via Getty Images)

5) Sara asks – How do you think the Oilers would fare in an all-Canadian division? Naturally, I think we would all like to believe that they’d come out on top, but where do you see them realistically placing?

Jason Gregor:

They will be a playoff team unless they suffer significant injuries. They took big strides in the regular season last year, mainly in the second half, and after a disappointing performance in the qualifying round against Chicago, I know the players are upset about it. They will finish top-two in the Canadian division.

Robin Brownlee:

Points percentage from last season:
EDM .585
TOR .579
VAN .565
CGY .564
WPG .563
MTL . 500
OTT .437
Factor in changes to each of the teams and playing only each other compared to what opposition they got their points from last season and it’s a flat out shot-in-the-dark guess. So, top three.
Cam Lewis:
I would guess second, with Toronto being the top team. Edmonton and Calgary are pretty close. Vancouver got worse this off-season while Montreal and Winnipeg got a bit better. It’ll be really tight. Anything can happen. Ottawa is the only bad team and they aren’t that bad anymore.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I could honestly see them winning the division but it’s going to be very tight. I could realistically see three teams winning the all-Canadian division if I’m being honest and all seven teams will be competitive (yes, I think Ottawa will be a lot better than most people believe). The Oilers could win it or they could come fifth, both are very possible.

Baggedmilk:

I could actually see them winning an all-Canadian division if they can get themselves rolling early, but to be safe, I’ll say that they’re a top-three team for sure.

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