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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How many games is too many for Mike Smith?

It’s a long weekend Monday morning and that means we’re back with a brand new Mailbag to not only get your week started but also to make sense of what’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers! This week, we’re looking at potential PTOs, team toughness, what would make for a successful season, and more. If you’ve got got a question you’d like to ask, 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.

Apr 17, 2021; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets center Mason Appleton (22) and Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) watch as Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) blocks a shot in the first period at Bell MTS Place. Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

1) Yves asks – Mike Smith looks like the default starter for the season and I wonder how many games you think he’ll play now that we’re back to an 82-game season? How many is too many?

Jason Gregor:

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I see him playing 49-53 games. Too many would be 60 or more.

Robin Brownlee:

Depends on how he’s playing, spacing of games and who is backing him up. If it’s Koskinen, a 50-32 split looks about right.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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We talked about this on Oilersnation Radio this week and I think the number will be just under 50 games. He’ll start the majority of their games, I’m pretty confident in that, but I do hope the Oilers can mix in either Koskinen or Stalock on a consistent basis to keep the 39-year-old Smith fresh throughout the entire season.

Baggedmilk:

If he plays more than 41 games I’d almost be surprised. Not because I don’t think he has the ability, but our boy isn’t getting any younger and we’re back to having the boys travelling all over the place rather than a mini-series in each city.

2) @dldecler asks – Who is your bet to be the biggest surprise at training camp, both good and bad?

Jason Gregor:

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I think Broberg will surprise those who feel he isn’t that good. I will be watching him and Dmitri Samorukov closely.

Robin Brownlee:

I’d be surprised if Kyle Turris can bounce back in any meaningful way. Would certainly be a positive if he did.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ll say my good surprises list will include Dylan Holloway and Kyle Turris. If the reports about Turris really working hard this offseason to keep his NHL career alive are true, then we could see a different player than we did last season. It’s not likely, but it’s possible that he cracks the opening night roster. As for a bad surprise, someone like Kris Russell or Mikko Koskinen could fall into that category for me.

Baggedmilk:

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I’m going to go with Warren Foegele. A lot of us were pretty bummed out by the Ethan Bear trade, but I think Foegele is the kind of player that will be able to win us all over in a hurry.

May 4, 2021; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Evan Bouchard (75) handles the puck against the Vancouver Canucks in the third period at Rogers Arena. Oilers won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

3) @hockeytalk21 asks – How big of an impact do you expect Evan Bouchard to have and where do you see him in the lineup come January?

Jason Gregor:

Bouchard turns 22 in October. It is interesting to see how many players physically mature between 21 and 22 and he has. He is noticeably bigger and I believe he will be paired with Nurse by January.

Robin Brownlee:

Let’s have the kid get in the rhythm of playing every night before we start looking for a big impact. It would be a positive if he was capable of playing steady second-pairing minutes by January. He could learn a lot playing with Duncan Keith. Look forward to seeing him get power play time.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Come January? I think he’ll be in the lineup right from opening night and I fully expect him to be playing a prominent role right from game one. I know those sound like lofty expectations, but I really do believe he is ready to be an everyday NHL player.

Baggedmilk:

I could absolutely see Bouchard moving up the depth chart in a hurry because I think he’s that good, but I also won’t be putting much pressure on a guy with 21 NHL games on his resume to move up the batting order seamlessly.

Apr 15, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith (2) during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

4) @DCardz35 asks – What does Duncan Keith have to do this year to make the organization happy?

Jason Gregor:

Play solid second pair minutes and be a good leader. In conversations with different people in the Oilers organization, and some outside of it, Keith is very motivated to show he is still a very good NHL player. I think Keith will be much better than the one chart that was floating around the Internet after the trade.

Robin Brownlee:

Just be Duncan Keith in second-pairing minutes. I expect he’ll lead by example rather than be a rah-rah guy and he’ll be a real mentor to somebody like Evan Bouchard just by doing what he does. Keith will perform best with reduced minutes compared to last season — 20-21 minutes instead of 23-plus, as was the case last year.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He needs to be a legitimate top-four defenseman who can handle consistently going up against the other team’s best players. He also has to kill penalties.

Baggedmilk:

That’s a good question. I think a lot of people have ground level expectations for the guy so just being able to stay afloat may actually be enough. That said, I’d like to hope that he’ll be motivated to come in here and show us all that he’s not actually washed up, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

5) @dangersuede asks – If the Oilers’ bottom six only made the team by winning a dance off, who would the bottom six be?

Jason Gregor:

If Kyle Brodziak was still playing he would make it for sure. He had some killer dance moves I’m told. Often the European players have sick dance moves, but right now I don’t see any European players vying for a bottom six job. Kassian, Archibald, McLeod, Ryan, Turris, Shore, Benson, Foegele and Holloway are all Canadian. I’d expect Kassian and Shore to be most comfortable in a Canadian Tuxedo (all jeans), so I’ll say they are in for sure. Foegele spent the past few years in Carolina and took part in the post-win Surge celebrations so he has to have some creativity. Archibald has quick feet on the ice, so I’d slide him in. Turris did a lot of charity work with children in Ottawa, and I remember a video where he showed up at a kid’s fundraiser after a big Ottawa win and was busting a move with the kids so he is the 5th forward. And I’ll go with Derek Ryan. He spent four years at the U of A and then played in Europe for four seasons. He must have learned some dance moves in those eight years.

Robin Brownlee:

No idea what you’re asking here. Sorry.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ll throw Zack Kassian in there right off the bat. Mix in the young guys like Holloway, McLeod, and Benson. Then to round things out, I’d toss in Foegele because he seems like a fun guy and maybe Devin Shore as a surprise pick.

Baggedmilk:

If we’re making a bottom-six based on a dance off then you know Kyle Turris is out there working on his moves. I’d also bet Tyler Benson is learning to do the worm or something unique that will put him ahead of Devin Shore. Ryan McLeod? Always cuttin’ a rug, that guy.

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