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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s the deal with Evan Bouchard?

Happy Easter, everybody, and welcome to the Mailbag. As always, I’ve taken the questions you’ve sent me over the past week, emailed them to our writers, and copied and pasted their words of wisdom right here on the ol’ Internet for your education and enjoyment. Today, we’re looking at Connor McDavid making space for himself, Evan Bouchard, playoffs, 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) Clay asks – I’ve noticed that Connor McDavid is starting to speak his mind on the ice more when it comes to the officiating and he’s also making his own space with the odd stick or crosscheck. My question for everyone is whether they like seeing this in his game or if you’d prefer that he not worry about it?

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Jason Gregor:

I have no problem with him creating more space by standing up for himself. No one else can do it. It isn’t impacting his game negatively. He is still heads and shoulders ahead of the rest of the NHL in scoring.

Robin Brownlee:

What we’re seeing comes with maturity and experience. Many great players have made room for themselves by letting opponents know they can’t be hooked and held and cheap-shotted with nothing coming back the other way. Pavel Bure did it, so did Peter Forsberg and Mario Lemieux, to name just three. Mario had more than 90 PIMs three times, including a 100 PIM season. No negatives in a player being competitive in this way.

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Cam Lewis:

It’s the reality of him becoming a veteran in the league. I think he’s learned by now what he can and can’t get away with and he wants to fight back a bit more. It’s a good thing.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I like it! He’s obviously a really competitive player and I think early in his career, he was worried about turning too many refs into enemies but now he clearly just cares about winning hockey games. The physical side of his game has really come out this season and don’t see how it could be seen as a negative thing.

Baggedmilk:

I love that he’s starting to taking things into his own hands. If the refs aren’t going to call the book then he’ll have to make his own room.

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Feb 11, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens goalie Jake Allen (34) stops Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) during the first period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

2) Ashley asks – Evan Bouchard hasn’t played all that much to this point and it’s confusing why the Oilers don’t send him to Bakersfield so he can play. Would that not be a better option at this stage in his career?

Jason Gregor:

They are protecting themselves due to an injury to an RD. When it was a two-week quarantine it made sense not to send him down. Now that it is only one week, I can see it being more of an option. That said, I don’t think it really will impact his long-term career if he doesn’t play in the AHL. It isn’t ideal, but looking at Dobson in NYI who only played 34 games last year, being a healthy scratch for just over half the season didn’t hurt his progress this year. Will playing another 18 AHL really alter his career that much? Probably not. This will be a big learning experience for Bouchard. It is adversity that he has never faced before and it might benefit him mentally down the road.

Robin Brownlee:

Under normal circumstances, yes, but these aren’t normal circumstances. It’s not ideal, but the Oilers want him here for depth if it’s needed and they avoid problems with COVID protocols and seven-day quarantine if they need him in the line-up immediately because of injuries.

Cam Lewis:

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If he goes down to Bakersfield he would have to do a two-week quarantine. They have to either keep him up or send him down with the expectation he isn’t coming back, really. I don’t love that he’s hardly playing up here and I feel he should be in the lineup more but I can see what they’re doing.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Yeah, it might be. They’re in a tough spot because he’s obviously their fourth-best right-shot defenseman and they’re one injury away from him becoming an everyday NHL defenseman. In a normal year, they would have sent him down and let him play. But with quarantine rules in place, I do think it makes more sense for him to be up with the NHL club. Don’t forget, he already played over 20 games in Europe, so he’s gotten some games in at a lower level already this season.

Baggedmilk:

I think he should be in Bakersfield at this point, but I also understand that a seven-day quarantine really throws a wrench in the mix if they need him to play. To me, though, Tippett has to find a way to mix him in every now and then or else this is going to be a wasted year of development for him.

Mar 18, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Adam Larssen (6) tries to keep Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor (81) away from a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place.

3) Oilers fan in Van asks – Assuming the Oilers are a playoff team, which team do you think they match up against the best and worst? Why?

Jason Gregor:

Best would be Montreal because I think they will be worn down when they get to playoffs because of their schedule. Worst…Toronto based on how they have played Edmonton. They have been quite successful in slowing down McDavid and Draisaitl. But the playoffs are a different beast, so any of the four teams could win. I think the two opening series in the North will be very competitive, regardless of who plays who.

Robin Brownlee:

The series I’d most like to see is vs Toronto, but that’s also the series the Oilers have the least chance in. Toronto has enough firepower to win wide-open games and have been sound enough defensively to blanket McDavid and Draisaitl at times. I like the Oilers’ chances against Winnipeg more than I do against Montreal, so it’s the Jets.

Cam Lewis: 

Montreal would be ideal because they aren’t that good but I don’t see the Oilers finishing first or the Habs finishing third. I feel like it’s going to be Winnipeg, which is a match-up the Oilers can most certainly win. Toronto, as we’ve seen all year, will be very difficult.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think the best matchup is the Montreal Canadiens. Yes, their goaltending is concerning and I know that they’ve shut down McDavid and Draisaitl pretty well so far this season but I think they have the worst forward group out of the playoff teams in this division and I think the Oilers could expose their blueline in a seven-game series. The worst matchup is the Jets. They have a deep forward group and a Vezina calibre goaltender. If they get a defenseman at the deadline, look out.

Baggedmilk:

I say that they make the dance and see what happens. I don’t care about regular season records because they don’t mean anything when the postseason starts, and I honestly believe the Oilers could win a series against anyone in this division if they play at their best.

Mar 6, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk (19) and Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal (18) fight during the first period at Rogers Place.

4) Matt asks – How important is an ‘identity to a team, both good or bad? For example, it seems like the Flames have adopted a WWE Heel mentality where trolling your opponent (taking the puck away from a guy’s first win, Tkachuk injuring Jack Campbell, Tkachuk flopping last night on a Kyle Connor breakaway instead of chasing him down and then having a tantrum when he doesn’t get a call) has taken over their game plan? Buffalo is checking out on an irate fan base with a bunch of games left to play, just to name a couple.

Jason Gregor:

Identity is a factor, but often it connects to your skill set. Having skill at key positions is the most important, and then becoming a consistent team is what helps teams become consistently competitive.

Robin Brownlee:

Identity is a distant second-best to simply winning. That’s the basis of the identity that matters most. That most often equates to paying attention to details, executing and being willing to work harder and smarter than the other team. Those are traits of all successful teams, assuming they aren’t devoid of at least a competitive level of talent.

Cam Lewis:

It mostly boils down to skill and execution. Having a group of players who are quality and who play roles that they’re built for will be successful.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

That’s an interesting question. I think having a rally cry or something like that is important to a team but I will say this: none of that ‘side’ stuff matters if you aren’t winning.

Baggedmilk:

The Flames are really bad. That’s their identity.

5) Brent asks – Simple question: what is the absolute best Easter chocolate/candy?

Jason Gregor:

Great question. I love the solid chocolate Easter bunnies for chocolate. And my favourite Easter candy is the hard shell marshmallow eggs.

Robin Brownlee:

Has to be the biggest solid chocolate bunny you can find. None of this hollow bunny shell stuff — one bite and it crumbles. Go for the solid chunk, preferably a 1/2 pound or more.

Cam Lewis:

I had some oreo mini eggs today and they were amazing.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Is anyone really going to answer this with anything other than mini-eggs? If I needed to give a secondary answer, I really like the ‘Caramilk’ branded easter eggs. So much caramel. So good.

Baggedmilk:

Mini Eggs are the GOAT, but I also love me a giant chocolate bunny. Unlike Brownlee, though, I’d prefer to have multiple hollow bunnies than one giant, solid bunny.

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