7
Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Lessons from Dave Tippett’s first two seasons as head coach

It’s a Monday morning yet again and that means we’re back with a brand new Mailbag to not only get your week started but to help you make sense of everything that’s happening with our beloved Edmonton Oilers! This week, we’re looking at rebound seasons, Dave Tippett’s tenure as head coach, team needs, 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.

Mar 15, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

1) Kyle asks – The Oilers had some players put up very good years in 2021 but others like Nuge, Yamamoto, and Kassian will need to rebound this coming season. Which player needs to rebound the most to have the greatest impact on the team?

Jason Gregor:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

RNH plays the most minutes and I expect he will be more productive this season. But I’d say all three need to be better to ensure McDavid and Draisaitl don’t have to carry 80% of the offence.

Robin Brownlee:

They all matter, but RNH returning to top form improves the Oilers most because he plays more than the others and in more important situations.

Cam Lewis:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

I would guess RNH. His shooting percentage at even-strength was way down while his underlying numbers were among the best of his career. RNH was generating offence but not finishing at the same clip as usual, which generally points to a bounceback. Yamamoto could also be a good bet to rebound as his issues last season might have largely been due to a wrist injury. Kassian is such an enigma, he hasn’t really been very good since signing that contract extension.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I will say it’s definitely one of Kailer Yamamoto or Zack Kassian. If one of them takes a step forward and becomes a near 20-goal guy for this team then their forward group will only get that much more dangerous. It really doesn’t matter which one takes the step either, they just need one more productive right-winger to play behind Jesse Puljujarvi to really round out the top six.

Baggedmilk:

I’m going to say Nugent-Hopkins because he plays the most minutes out of any of these rebound options, making him the most important player of that group. If RNH can bounce back with another season as we’d seen from before this last one then I think we’ll be in much better shape.

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.

2) Blake asks – We’re heading into Dave Tippett’s third season as the Oilers head coach. What has he done well over the first couple of years, and what would you like to see him change or improve on?

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Jason Gregor:

A coach is only as good as the talent he has. He has the most forward depth and I expect he will use that to his advantage. For instance, last year when Yamamoto had one goal in his last 25 games, Tippett didn’t have any realistic top-six option to replace him. This year he will be able to use ice time as more of a motivator. I’d like to see him use timeouts more often.

Robin Brownlee:

I like his handling of Jesse Puljujarvi last season. Looking forward to seeing how he handles Evan Bouchard. Difficult to criticize special teams performance under Tippett and this staff.

Cam Lewis:

The special teams have been excellent. The Oilers always should have had an amazing power-play, but they didn’t for a few years. Now it’s a key part of the team’s success. I think Tippett also does a very good job of getting the most out of depth players as he puts them in situations to succeed. I wish he would give some young players a longer leash, though. It’s been odd seeing guys like Evan Bouchard and Caleb Jones watch so often from the pressbox.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The biggest improvement has come in the special teams department. The Oilers have one of the most productive powerplays the NHL has ever seen, which is a product of all the skill they have and also how Tippett utilizes them, and their penalty kill has been solid as well. If there’s one thing I’d like to change it’s the fact that he constantly favours veteran players and can seemingly be very hard on young guys. The Bear/Jones situation last year was a good example of that.

Baggedmilk:

I think Tippett has done a good job of providing structure on the special teams, something that was sorely lacking over the years but has certainly improved of late. On the down side, I think he goes back to the well too often in terms of leaning on veteran players even if there could be better options available.

Feb 8, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) celebrates after scoring the game winning goal against the Nashville Predators in the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Trent asks – Who is the second-best player in the NHL? Draisaitl or MacKinnon? Someone else? I see a lot of people out there saying MacKinnon but based on the numbers it seems clear cut the Oilers have the two best players in the league.

Jason Gregor:

I’d argue Andrei Vasilevskiy is in the conversation. He is unreal. Draisaitl and MacKinnon are both elite, but play a different style. I think Draisaitl is a better finisher, while MacKinnon is better off the rush.

Robin Brownlee:

Take your pick. Really, what’s the difference? Ferrari or Lamborghini? Both great. Comes down to preference.

Cam Lewis:

Nathan MacKinnon would be my choice. The top-five would involve McDavid, MacKinnon, Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, and likely still Sidney Crosby.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’d go with MacKinnon. The way he can control the pace of the game is McDavid-esque and he’s been wildly productive over the last couple of seasons. It’s close between him and Draisaitl, but I’d have to go with MacKinnon.

Baggedmilk:

As a 1000% biased Oilers blogger, I will say that Leon Draisaitl is without question the second best player in the National Hockey League.

Feb 15, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) is replaced by goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) @AndrewBennett97 asks – What issue/need do you feel the Oilers management team did not address this off-season, that will impact the team the most?

Jason Gregor:

Good question. I think the team is better overall, however, the concern with goaltending (in the playoffs more than regular season) is the concern. That being said, fixing it wasn’t easy due to Koskinen’s contract. It will be easier to address at the trade deadline.

Robin Brownlee:

Goaltending remains a question. Happy with the rest.

Cam Lewis:

Goaltending. This duo has been good enough to get Edmonton into the playoffs in back-to-back years but it isn’t one I have much faith in. I suspect Smith will be worse this year than last as the season is the normal length and I suspect Koskinen will bounce back as his struggles likely had a lot to do with playing every single game for the first month of 2021. This might be something that gets addressed in season.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Goaltending. The fact that they couldn’t go find an upgrade on Mikko Koskinen could really hurt them this season. Of course, there’s always a chance that the move works out but my point is that they took a huge risk by running back the same duo that they’ve had the last two seasons.

Baggedmilk:

The goaltending is still a major question mark for me as we’re coming back with the same duo for a third straight season provided that Alex Stalock doesn’t steal a job somehow. I guess we’ll see how things play out but I probably wouldn’t have believed you if you said we’d have both Smith and Koskinen back after the playoffs wrapped up.

5) Chandler asks – In your opinion, which offer sheet made the better beef and why? Dustin Penner or Jesperi Kotkaniemi?

Jason Gregor:

I’ve yet to see any talk about a barn fight between Dundon/Waddell and Bergevin, so I’d say Penner for sure.

Robin Brownlee:

The ill will between Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke that came from the Penner offer sheet makes this a no-brainer. They went from being very good friends to almost coming to blows. The bad feelings were very real.

Cam Lewis:

The Penner situation was hilarious because of Brian Burke’s reaction. The most recent one might be a little more memorable because it came in the Twitter era and we got to see the Hurricanes tease the Habs while the whole thing was happening. Both were fun and I wish we’d see more offer sheets.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

The Penner beef. I loved what went down between the Canes and Habs, but you can’t beat the real, raw hatred that Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe had for each other.

Baggedmilk:

Penner offer sheet and it’s not close. Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke wanted to fight each other in a barn and it was some of the funniest press this league has ever had.

OODLE NOODLE IS OPEN FOR TAKE-OUT AND DELIVERY

During this time of pandemic, Oodle Noodle will be donating a portion of all takeout and curbside delivery sales will be donated to local charities on a weekly basis. To order pick up, call into the store directly or order at the till. If you’re staying in and practicing your social distancing, no-contact delivery is available at www.oodlenoodle.ca.