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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Looking at the Defence

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 season expectations, Josh Archibald’s future with the team, going back to an 82-game 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.

May 19, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Kailer Yamamoto (56) and Winnipeg Jets defensemen Josh Morrissey (44) follow a loose puck during the second period in game one of the first round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) @ScottEmpson asks – After years of ineptness, making the playoffs was the goal; anything beyond that was a bonus. What is now the most realistic goal for this team – One playoff series win? Two?

Jason Gregor:

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Has to be to win one round. Of course you want more, but winning multiple series is difficult, but this group has to win at least one this season or it will be a massive disappointment.

Robin Brownlee:

First step is winning a first-round series but the bar should be higher. Why not get to the Western Conference final?

Baggedmilk:

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The Oilers have to get to the playoffs and they have to find a way to win a round. As weird as it sounds, getting to the postseason isn’t the goal anymore and we have to raise the bar a little bit, meaning that they need to get into the second round at the very least.

2) Blake asks – Ken Holland spoke about his defensive group as a more experienced lot with the additions of Keith and Ceci but I wonder if experience was actually the issue? How do you compare this year’s defensive group to last and did Ken Holland do enough to bolster the blue line?

Jason Gregor:

I might be in minority, but I think the overall makeup of the blueline is better. The PK could take a hit though. Losing Bear and Larsson on the PK is a tough blow.

Robin Brownlee:

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Experience is always an issue. Winning experience, the kind Keith brings, is even more important. Imagine trying to play Jones, Bear, and Bouchard at the same time. Lots of promise there, but not a good fit to be in the same group of six.

Baggedmilk:

I think experience certainly matters in all walks of life — you wouldn’t want to be the guinea pig for a haircut would you — so I think those at-bats will help to an extent but I just don’t know how much. For me, the defence is still a major question mark and I will be endless fascinated to watch this group try and figure it out.

Apr 21, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Josh Archibald (15) tries to screen Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen (34) during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3) Yves asks – What is your best guess on how the Josh Archibald situation plays out? Will he be with the Oilers all season?

Jason Gregor:

Good question. It will be very difficult for him to get in a flow because of the number of games he will miss. I know some players aren’t happy about it. It is not ideal. I won’t be surprised if we see very little of him, unless he changes his mind and gets vaccinated.

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Robin Brownlee:

He’s finished here. It’s not a matter of if but when.

Baggedmilk:

That’s a good question and I have no idea what to expect for Archibald’s future with the franchise. If he can only play in 50ish games this year, I wonder if the team would be better served to replace him with a guy that can be with the group every day?

Mar 8, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Ottawa Senators forward Tim Stuetzle (18) and Edmonton Oilers forward Kyle Turris (8) battle for position during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Tristan asks – If Josh Archibald misses 30 games or more as Ken Holland estimated, who do you think is the most likely bet to grab the fourth RW spot in his absence?

Jason Gregor:

Kyle Turris would be front runner right now…I think Sceviour will get a contract, but today I’d bet on Turris starting the season in that spot. Who finishes there is a much tougher answer.

Robin Brownlee:

Depends when they decide the situation isn’t worth going through. Is that early or later in the season? LW is deep enough that maybe they move somebody like Benson, Perlini or Turris over there.

Baggedmilk:

I wonder if Kyle Turris is eyeing that spot as his place to get back in the lineup? I don’t know if the guy can do it — he looked rough last season, to say the least — but he would be my guess since Dave Tippett is the kind of coach that loves his vets.

5) Clay asks – The NHL is getting back to a normal schedule this year, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities that you see as opposed to the all-Canadian division we played through last year?

Jason Gregor:

The opportunity is all teams will be playing 10-14 different teams in a month, instead of three or four, and that will lead to more offensive chances as teams aren’t as focused on an opposing team’s tendencies. The challenge is the same, because Edmonton has three new faces (Bouchard only played 14 games last year, so he is a new face for me) so their D might take some time to get comfortable with each other.

Robin Brownlee:

Don’t count on a normal schedule yet. Old alignments, yes, but this fourth wave of COVID is going to be a factor again.

Baggedmilk:

I think the travel aspect of this season will make things interesting again because a guy like Mike Smith won’t be able to chill in the same city for a few days between starts. Seeing as he’s an old boy like myself, I wonder how throwing in a variable like flying around the continent will affect the way Tippett uses him. As for advantages, the biggest one that comes to mind is the variety for all of us watching. As much as it was fun to beat up on the Senators, it did get kind of boring to watch the same teams over and over again.

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