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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Will the real Edmonton Oilers please stand up?

Happy Monday, fair Internet, and welcome to a brand new Mailbag where I’ve taken your questions about our beloved Edmonton Oilers, emailed them to our writers, and copied and pasted their answers right here on this very website for your education and enjoyment. This week, we’re looking at the lack of bottom-six scoring, line combinations, Puljujarvi at the expansion draft 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.

Jan 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Vancouver Canucks defensemen Alex Edler (23) battle for a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) @chriskerrage asks – If Puljujarvi keeps playing the way he is, and assuming he’s enjoying his second stint in Edmonton and would stay long term, how does this change the Oilers ‘protected list’ for the Kraken draft?

Robin Brownlee:

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Sorry, but I can’t possibly look that far ahead with any accuracy. Things change quickly — just look at the rumors about a Puljujarvi-Bennett swap circulating right now. What does the roster look like months from now? We know each team (except Vegas) will lose one player. Will the Oilers opt to protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender? How many players with NMC’s will the Oilers have to protect at the time? Way too many variables, other than Puljujarvi’s status, to consider this far ahead of the draft.

Jason Gregor:

Him being protected will depend more on how Caleb Jones plays and the health of Oscar Klefbom, or if the Oilers re-sign Tyson Barrie. Oilers might lean towards protecting four D-men. But Puljujarvi has no goals, at this point there is nothing that says he needs to be protected. I’d protect a 4th D over him all day, every day. He had one great game against Winnipeg, and works hard, but he hasn’t made many plays with the puck. His play will need to improve to ensure he is protected. If Edmonton chooses to protect 7-3-1, then there is a good chance he is one of the seven forwards protected.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Puljujarvi’s performance could very well single-handedly force Ken Holland to go from protecting eight skaters to protecting seven forwards and three defensemen. If Puljujarvi can prove that he’s capable of producing in the top-six, they would be foolish to let him to go to Seattle when you consider the fact that he’ll make just over $1 million next season. His play certainly dictates their expansion plans.

Baggedmilk:

At this point, the expansion draft feels like a 1000 years away, but if Puljujarvi’s play merits protection then Holland will have to leave someone else like Caleb Jones on the table for Seattle to take. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.

Sep 28, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Josh Archibald (15) against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Tiff asks – Are you surprised by the lack of depth scoring we’ve seen so far from the bottom six? I had thought the players Holland brought in would be an offensive upgrade but we haven’t seen that yet.

Robin Brownlee:

Yes, I am surprised at the lack of production, although there have been some signs of life since Kassian was moved down to play with Turris. Still not producing enough and are giving up too much.

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Jason Gregor:

It has started to come. Kassian, Neal and Archibald have scored in the past two games. I thought it might happen earlier, but similar to last season we are starting to see it. Also Kahun has goals in consecutive games.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I have been surprised and I’m not writing them off just yet. They need Kassian and Turris to keep clicking along and they need players like Josh Archibald and James Neal to show more. If those four players find their games, the bottom six will start to score.

Baggedmilk:

I thought they would have scored more by now too, but the good news is that some of these guys Archibald, Kahun, and Kassian have all started to chip in this past week. Here’s hoping there’s more to come.

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Feb 27, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) warms up before playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena. The Maple Leafs beat the Oilers 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

3) Stephen asks – Is there a solution that you can see as for how Dave Tippett can fix his bottom-six because they are getting carved in goal differential and it is a massive problem?

Robin Brownlee:

As mentioned above, I like Kassian with Turris as a start. I still believe Turris has more to give. Beyond that, I would like a longer look at Nygard on LW with Archibald on RW. Nygard’s speed and Archibald’s aggressiveness on the puck is a match. Like Haas at 4C.

Jason Gregor:

I think Gaetan Haas is going to push Kyle Turris as a the third line C. He is quicker and better defensively. After a really rough start the new 4th line combos haven’t been crushed the past four games.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

As frustrating as it might be for fans to hear this, I think Tippett just has to keep doing what he’s doing and be a little patient. Keep trying new combinations on the fourth line and hope that eventually, you find one that works. The third line has played a couple of good games recently but the fourth line still needs to be much better. The other option is to start dressing seven defensemen and just play McDavid with the fourth line wingers.

Baggedmilk:

I like how Kassian is playing now that he’s been moved to the third line, but I think they need a better fit on left-wing than James Neal. Ennis maybe? I also like the speed Nygard brings into the lineup and the way he draws penalties, so I’d also like to see him get in a little bit more as well. Basically, I’m just spewing out sentences even though I have no concrete solutions.

Jan 16, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Matt Murray (30) makes a save in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

4) Brian asks – Is it fair to label the Oilers as a playoff contender or not when they still haven’t played against everyone in the division? Some of the teams ahead of them also have a couple of wins from Ottawa on their records while the Oilers won’t play them for the first time until Sunday?

Robin Brownlee:

Fair? The results are the results. The Oilers have played Toronto four times and Montreal and Vancouver twice each. Tough sked so far, This early in the season, every team in the North is a playoff contender outside of Ottawa. It’s going to be a scramble in the top-six all season, as most people predicted.

Jason Gregor:

Why not? I had them as a playoff team at the start of the season, and while they didn’t start well they are 5-6 and with three of their next four against Ottawa, with a game in Calgary in between, after three days off Edmonton could be in a very good position on February 10th. It will be competitive, but I see no reason not to have them as a playoff contender.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I know a lot of people are panicking because it’s a 56 game season, but it is still too early to label this team as anything. Wait until they’ve played everyone and wait until the season is 25% over before you start jumping to conclusions.

Baggedmilk:

Meh. To be the best, you have to beat the best.

5) Darren asks – As I submit this question on Friday morning, the Oilers are sitting in third-last place in the NHL for points%. What is going on? Is it the players? The coaching? Bad luck?

Robin Brownlee:

It’s the players and the coaches. It always is. The shortcomings — defensive lapses, overall team defence and the bottom six forwards not being good enough so far — we’ve discussed at length. Answering this Sunday morning, so with the win over Toronto Saturday and two wins over the Senators, things could look a lot different in a hurry. There is time to address the shortcomings.

Jason Gregor:

They gifted teams goals far too often. The PP had a slow start, but it back to normal and that will make a big difference. But mainly if they stop allowing “easy” goals they will start winning more.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It’s a little bit of everything. As my friend Rick said on Oilersnation Radio, it’s death by a thousand cuts and personally, I think once they find a way to eliminate one or two of the multiple small mistakes they’re making every game, the wins will start to come. Nobody likes being patient, but I think there are some good signs with this team. It just needs to come together.

Baggedmilk:

Some guys are having slow starts, some guys may not be as strong as we hoped, and we desperately miss Oscar Klefbom. It’s like a mosaic of small things right now.

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