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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Who steps up on the Oilers’ penalty kill?

Happy Monday, fair citizens, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag where I’ve taken all of your Oilers-related questions, fired them off to our writers, and compiled their answers to give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever you’ve got going on in your life today. This week, we’re looking at goaltending splits, the penalty kill, role players, 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.

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) in action during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

1) @SamBam29_ asks – Will We see a similar split in goaltending like last year, or will rational thinking prevail and have Koskinen play more games?

Robin Brownlee:

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It was basically a 50-50 split last season — Smith played in one more game and played 40 more minutes — but the majority of the work will go to Koskinen this season. To what degree, we don’t know, but I imagine it’ll swing a fair bit. Notwithstanding injury and assuming a 48,-game schedule at this point, I’d expect something in the range of 34-14 for Koskinen.

Jason Gregor:

Depends a bit on the schedule, as we could see three games in four days in one city. If a 48-game season I could see Koskinen start 28-30 games, unless Smith is playing very well. Smith won a lot of games in the 2nd half of the season, and while his Sv% was off the charts wins matter most to teams. Koskinen’s numbers were quite good last year, and I expect he will start more games than Smith this season.

Cam Lewis:

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It’s difficult to answer until we know what the schedule is going to look like. We’ll probably see a bunch of games jammed into a smallish frame of time in order for the league to get back on a normal calendar for 2021-22. If that’s the case, there will be lots of back-to-back games, so we’ll see something close to a 50/50 split again.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would like to see Koskinen play more games but if the NHL schedules a lot of back-to-backs so that teams can spend less time on the road, then Dave Tippett will be forced to use Mike Smith more, regardless of how he’s playing.

Nation Dan:

I don’t know if it’s fair to say it’s rational thinking. I understand that Smithers and the coach have a connection based on trust. I do think there will be a push internally to play Koskinen more, but honestly, I think this season’s schedule is going to have a lot of tight game/schedule blocks where you are going to be leaning on your backup to play a bunch too.

Baggedmilk:

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I’d bet on another 50-50 split with the goaltenders. The schedule, whenever that comes out, is going to be compressed and I’m guessing there will be more back-to-backs than normal, meaning both goalies will be to contribute.

Oct 22, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom (77) passes during the third period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

2) Anthony asks – With Oscar Klefbom out for the year and Riley Sheahan unlikely to return, who do you think will need to take the biggest step forward in order to maintain a strong, effective penalty kill?

Robin Brownlee:

The PK was so good in large part because of Koskinen and Smith, so there needs to be improvement across the board. That means more from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Josh Archibald and Jujhar Khaira up front and Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear on the back end. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle Turris gets a look too, even though he hasn’t done a lot of PK work to this point in his career.

Jason Gregor:

Oilers played the system very well and allowed Koskinen and Smith to know where shots were coming from. Even when Adam Larsson was out for 22 games the PK did not dip. On the backend the main four will be Nurse-Bear, Russell-Larsson. Up front Jujhar Khaira had the best GA/60 of any NHL forward who played at least 100 min on the PK. I sense he starts with Archibald. Then RNH and Yamamoto could be the 2nd unit to start. Players like Zack Kassian and Jesse Puljujarvi will need to get in the rotation otherwise it will be difficult to stay in the game as neither will be on the first unit PP. If Khaira doesn’t play well at 5×5, then Gaetan Haas will replace him there and on the PK.

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Cam Lewis:

Maybe more Gaetan Haas or Joakim Nygard? Both guys are quick and forecheck well. I’m not sure if Kyle Turris, who will be a huge upgrade on Sheahan offensively, will be anywhere near as effective on the penalty kill.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I would say Kyle Turris. The Oilers can’t just have Jujhar Khaira out there for the entire two minutes and I don’t want them having to rely on one of their skilled players to kill penalties. You can use them once in a while, but I would rather have those players playing more on the powerplay and at even-strength when they can produce offence. If Turris can become a reliable PK option, that will go a long way in the Oilers having a top ten penalty kill.

Nation Dan:

It’s between Juhjar Khaira and Kyle Turris for me. Turris has been called on to be the offensive guy for years now and with Edmonton, he doesn’t need to be that guy. We need him to play a more defensive minded role, kind of like Gagner was asked to do with Columbus.

Baggedmilk:

Up front, I’m going to guess that Leon Draisaitl will get more PK time than he did last season. On defence, I’d suspect that Darnell Nurse is the guy that’s likely to take up more minutes now that Klefbom is out.

The Oilers’ Fernando Pisani put a short-handed goal past Cam Ward in overtime to keep the Hurricanes from winning the Stanley Cup in Raleigh. The Hurricanes lead the series, 3-2. Game 6 is Saturday in Edmonton.

3) Gregg asks – Edmonton is a city that loves turning role players into fan favourites and I’d like to know who was your favourite glue guy the Oilers have ever had and why?

Robin Brownlee:

Kelly Buchberger, and by a lot. Bucky took on everything asked of him during his career. He was fearless and selfless. He led by example, worked his backside off from his first game in 1987 to his last game in 2004 and stood up for his teammates, even if it meant taking an ass-kicking. Bucky was respected by everybody he played with.

Jason Gregor:

Buchberger was a role player who became a fan favourite due to his tireless work ethic, not to mention his willingness to lose fights to heavyweights. On defence Igor Ulanov was a beauty.

Cam Lewis:

Geogres Laraque is my favourite. Fernando Pisani for the ’06 run, also. We’ve had plenty of great lovable depth guys here.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Georges Laraque is an easy pick for me. He was my first ever favourite Oilers player. I loved him.

Nation Dan:

Sam Gagner was always a player I loved and when you see him doing the things he does in his communities, how could you not love him. The only “mark” against Sam is of course, he wasn’t drafted to be a role player guy but if you are looking for character, I think he’s one of the top glue guys out there. Matt Hendricks would be my more true role player glue guy.

Baggedmilk:

FERNANDO! We’ll always have the spring of ’06, pal.

4) Travis asks – Given the impact COVID-19 has had on the economy and the average Joe’s expendable income, do you think we will see a correction in ticket prices once fans are allowed back in buildings? Or can we continue to expect $10 beers and $100 tickets?

Robin Brownlee:

Good question, but I don’t know. Will dealerships discount the price of cars because of COVID’s impact on the economy? Will vacations get cheaper? I imagine the answers will vary depending on what industry we’re talking about. I’d hope NHL teams would at least put a freeze on ticket prices for a period to help fans, but money for seats and beer at the rink is discretionary income, so it’s difficult to say.

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Jason Gregor:

I don’t see beer prices going down. They are still cheaper in Edmonton than in many other cities. Ticket prices will be determined by supply and demand. Even with the Oilers in a playoff spot last season there was 500-2000 empty seats some games. I could see that trend continuing. However, early on I could see people flocking to games because they just want to be at an event after being unable to attend any large public gathering for over a year. (I don’t see full buildings before March, 2021).

Cam Lewis:

I doubt it. The lower-middle-class has already been priced out of games. Those who could afford to pay hundreds of dollars to watch hockey before the pandemic will mostly still be able to do so after the pandemic.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’m sure the beers will stay the same price (oh, what I wouldn’t do the suck back an expensive Rogers Place beer at an Oilers game right now), but I could see a scenario where the tickets get cheaper. Also: BRING BACK THE GAME DAY TICKET DEAL! It’s an easy way to get the rink more full on a regular basis!

Nation Dan:

I don’t expect the NHL to smarten up any time soon when it comes to concessions and tickets. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if they can’t understand that they’re pricing themselves out of the market now, when will they?

Baggedmilk:

I’d love to see it, but doubt it would happen. Billionaires gonna billionaire.

5) @Alice_Moran asks – If you had to be quarantined with one Oiler for two weeks in a house with no internet, cell service or cable, but one SNES (with only “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time” and “Goof Troop”), one scrabble board and like six puzzles – which Oiler would you choose and why?

Robin Brownlee:

Dave Tippett. He loves playing golf and tinkering with cars, so we’d have a lot to talk about — aside from a hockey career that takes him back to the late-1970s with the PA Raiders. He can talk hockey all day long and I’ll take that while waxing him at Scrabble all day long.

Jason Gregor:

Zack Kassian. He’s had an interesting life. outside of playing board games I’d be intrigued to learn about his struggles with addiction, and how he overcame it. I like speaking with people who overcome hardships and flourish.

Cam Lewis:

Ken Holland. I think his stories would be fantastic. I would love to hear about the inner workings of how the Red Wings smuggled so many Soviets to the United States in the 90s.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It would definitely be one of the younger guys for me. I think Leon Draisaitl has a good, dry sense of humour. So I would pick him. He could teach me how to speak German as well, which would be fun! I would dominate him at Scrabble though. That’s my game!

Nation Dan:

I am going to assume it’s the current Oilers only, and my answer would be Jesse Pulujujari. He seems like a real down to earth guy who would give me a run for a scrabble game and at the end of it, I think we’d be the best of pals.

Baggedmilk:

Me and Nuge are destined to live together as roommates at some point. It’s our destiny.

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