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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Should Dave Tippett cut back ice time this week?

Happy McCentury Monday, everybody, and welcome to a brand new edition of the Mailbag. As always, I’ve taken the questions that have come in over the past week, relayed them to our writers, and copied and pasted their words of wisdom right here on the ol’ Internet machine for your education and enjoyment. Today, we’re looking at cutting ice time down over these last three games, areas of improvement, defensive pairings, 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 15, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett on his bench during a timeout against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome.

1) Taylor asks – Do you think Dave Tippett should limit his stars’ ice time over the last few games now that the Oilers have a playoff spot tied up?

Robin Brownlee:

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In the cases of McDavid, Draisaitl and Nurse I think he should and I think he will. We’ve seen a bit of that with McDavid and Draisaitl in recent weeks. I’d expect we see a sub-20-minute game or two for the guys up front, and maybe 21-23 minutes for Nurse.

Jason Gregor:

Tippett wants his team playing well, and that means his best players will play. I could see two or three minutes less per game, but that’s about it.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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I don’t think it’s a bad idea to pump the breaks on how much he’s playing his stars late but at the same time I totally understand the players wanting to stay in a bit of a rhythm. So I wouldn’t overplay anyone, but I would keep all the key players in the lineup if they’re 100% healthy.

Baggedmilk:

Now that the Oilers have home-ice advantage and the McCentury has been hit, I wonder if we’ll see Connor and Leon’s minutes come down a little bit. That said, the Oilers have two games against Montreal this week and I’d much prefer they win those games so that we can lock up a dance with the Jets for round one.

Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Caleb Jones (82) in action during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2) Andrew asks – Now that we know the Oilers are going to the playoffs, what area of their game do think still needs a boost if they’re going to make a run of it?

Robin Brownlee:

They can still improve their defensive play 5×5. They’re 19th in goals-against (108) in that category, so lower-middle of the pack.

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Jason Gregor:

Depth scoring needs to get going. Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Dominik Kahun get to play with the two most productive forwards in the NHL. So they need to produce. Bottom six chipping in would help also.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

As weird as this might sound, goaltending is still that spot for me. If Mike Smith can stay at this level, or even be a little bit better, then this Oilers team will be damn near impossible to stop. Get good goaltending, let McDavid and Draisaitl do the scoring, and go on a run.

Baggedmilk:

I’d like to see the Oilers adopt more of a shoot-first mentality over looking for the perfect pass or lane, but that’s probably just me nitpicking at this point. But if I’m going to pick something, I’d probably say that they can keep working on tightening up their breakouts to make sure that everyone is working together rather than having anyone fly the zone early. Oh and turnovers at either blue line — those drive me crazy.

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Nov 23, 2019; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear (74) is pictured during warm ups before a game against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

3) James in Peterborough asks – The Top 4 D looks set heading into the playoffs, with Nurse-Barrie and Larsson-Kulikov. Who would you like to see on that important third pairing? Will the match-up dictate choice?

Robin Brownlee:

It’s going to be Bear with Jones or Russell. At this point I can see it being Jones, which I’m fine with, because Russell has been out. The nice thing about having some depth is if Jones or Bear struggle, Russell is an experienced back-up option.

Jason Gregor:

Unless Russell can play a few games this week, it will and should be Caleb Jones. If he is healthy then I could see him and Jones rotating with Ethan Bear.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think it has to be Jones and Bear. They’re really the best options and with a pure shutdown pairing of Kulikov/Larsson in the lineup, I think it’s important to have one pairing that can move the puck really well and help spark a little bit of offence.

Baggedmilk:

I think it will be Bear for sure but who’s beside him will be another story entirely. I’m not saying that it would be my choice, but I wouldn’t doubt if Tippett gave Russell the nod because of his experience.

4) Stephen asks – What is everyone’s take on how things played out in the game between the Rangers and Capitals after Tom Wilson was not suspended?

Robin Brownlee:

As expected. The NHL should have suspended Wilson — at a minimum for the return game against the Rangers but I’d have preferred for the balance of the regular season. They didn’t, so you get what we got — a bunch of guys dropping the gloves and flailing away to show they were sticking up for their teammates and that they wouldn’t be pushed around. George Parros embarrassed himself with that no-suspension decision.

Jason Gregor:

Wilson hip tossed Panarin. Had they suspended him for a game I still think the Rangers would have stood up for themselves like they did in the rematch. They needed to show they wouldn’t accept teams taking liberties on them. The Rangers press release was a joke, and they deserved the fine. It was one game of 840 on the season and I don’t understand suggestions that it hurt the NHL. It had massive TV viewership. Emotion is still part of the NHL, at least it should be, and when 0.0011% of the games have six fights claiming that is bad seems like a massive overreaction.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If the NHL would have just suspended Tom Wilson for two games, things wouldn’t have gotten as crazy as they did. Sure, it was entertaining, but I believe the NHL can do without massive line brawls. Also, watching the Rangers blow up their front office was just entertaining as the fights.

Baggedmilk:

Honestly, I was shocked that the NHL didn’t suspend Wilson for at least a game or two. When they didn’t, it seemed inevitable that the follow up game between the Rangers and Caps was going to go off the rails and it certainly did. Really weird sequence of events by the NHL DoPS here.

5) Bill asks – Actually, I have no problem with the loser point, it is the difference between a regulation win and an overtime win. I like the juniors system of three points for every game 3-2-1. The objective and reward should be for a regulation win. How many games that are tied with five minutes to go become stall and boring playing for the tie and at least the loser’s point. With three points on the line, the game would be much different. Maybe it just makes too much sense for the NHL brain trust. What do you think?

Robin Brownlee:

Preach. I can go for that.

Jason Gregor:

You could do it, but it wouldn’t change much. It would only create separation from top to bottom teams. For instance in the North Toronto would have 103 points, Edmonton 99, Winnipeg 81, Montreal 75, Calgary 67, Ottawa 63 and Vancouver 51. The same teams would make it in the same spots, just with more separation. I’ve looked at this over the years and the odd time an 8th or 9th seed switches spots, but usually the eight playoff teams in each conference are the same. It would just create more separation from the best and worst teams.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I love that idea. It wouldn’t be confusing or anything like that and would make the standings more accurately reflect who the best teams are. Winning in the first 60 minutes should be more valuable than winning in a shootout. It’s really as simple as that.

Baggedmilk:

I think it would be a good idea to make a regulation win worth more than a shootout win. Either that or bring back ties because these three-point games are weird.

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