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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Let’s Talk Line Combos

It’s Monday once again and that means we’ve got a brand new Mailbag to help you get your week started and also to make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers! This week, we’re looking at line combos, first impressions, playing the trap, 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.

Oct 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) carries the puck around Vancouver Canucks defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

1) Steph asks – What would you consider to be a good start for the Oilers over their first 10 games?

Jason Gregor:

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I thought they would start 7-3. They have seven of their first 10 games at home and they play teams they should beat.

Robin Brownlee:

At 2-0 already, I think it’s reasonable to see them go 7-3 in the first 10 games.I think they can be 4-0 before they wrap up back-to-back road games in Vegas on the 22nd.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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If they could rack up 13 points or more that would be a good start. Their schedule isn’t exactly tough so they need to be over .500.

Baggedmilk:

I would say 7-2-1 would be a very good start. If they can get anywhere in that ballpark, I’ll be happy.

Oct 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Zach Hyman (18) and Vancouver Canucks defensemen Quinn Hughes (43) chase a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Dale asks – It’s only been a couple of games but Hyman and Nugent-Hopkins seem to be playing well together. Do you think having them click means we’ll see more of McDavid and Draisaitl, and is that the right decision?

Jason Gregor:

The RNH line played very well in game one, but didn’t do much against Calgary. The McDavid line isn’t dominating, at least possession-wise, yet Edmonton is 2-0. That is a great sign, as I expect that line will start to have some dominating games. I think Tippett will keep the lines the same for a bit, but I think he will try other combos as the season progresses. That is smart. In the playoffs, I’d have 97 and 29 on separate lines.

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Robin Brownlee:

It allows for that option more often if needed. Hyman is driving the play on that line. We still need to see how everybody settles in.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think it will mean that. During the Sherwood Ford GIANT Pre Game Show the other day, a listener suggested playing McDavid and Draisaitl together on home ice when you have last change and splitting them up on the road. I love that idea and kind of hope that’s what Tippett does.

Baggedmilk:

I’d prefer to have McDavid and Draisaitl split up on two separate lines because I think it adds more balance to the team, but it’s clear that Dave Tippett doesn’t care a whole lot about that, so we’ll almost need Nuge and Hyman to find a way to work.

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3) @Hugh_jayness asks – What are your first impressions of the Ceci – Keith pair? Obviously, it’s a very small sample size will they stay together, or are the d pairings going to be fluid depending on the situation?

Jason Gregor:

They have been very solid. They are playing how I expected they would. I disagreed with the premise Keith was done because of a few charts. Chicago’s defensive zone structure is terrible under Jeremy Colliton. You are seeing that again this season. Keith and Ceci have been what you expected. Solid veterans who make the right plays. Ceci has made some really nice outlet passes that led to the Puljujarvi goal, and also sent Yamamoto in on a breakaway. He is a much better puck mover than Larsson and that helps the forwards get the puck in stride more often.

Robin Brownlee:

Ceci was very good against Calgary Saturday and I liked Keith as well. Keith is, and always has been, a smart player. New pairings can take time to settle in, but having two vets like Ceci and Keith can speed up the process. At some point this season Evan Bouchard is going to move up. The question is who he plays with.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think they’re capable of giving this team some solid minutes, but when they make mistakes, they are very noticeable. If they were the Oilers’ third pairing then I would like them, but I’m just not sold on them being a good second pairing for Dave Tippett. I just don’t trust them to not make a big mistake at a key moment of the game.

Baggedmilk:

I thought they looked better against Calgary than they did against Vancouver, but these are still early days so we’ll have to be a little bit patient with them while they work to figure things out. That said, I still think Bouchard replaces Ceci on that pairing sooner than later anyway.

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.

4) @japaequipment asks – Tipp seems to love a third period trap if the Oilers have the lead. Do you feel like the Oilers execute the trap well enough to keep defaulting to it? And do you think the trap takes away from the Oilers’ biggest advantage: the offence/skill of their top two lines?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t believe he did the Trap against Vancouver. And they didn’t against Calgary. The first Vancouver goal went off of RNH’s stick, and the second one Smith admitted he just lost for a second. Neither was a high quality scoring chance. I thought Edmonton was quite aggressive after Calgary made it 3-2 and didn’t really give up much after that.

Robin Brownlee:

Haven’t seen what I consider the trap — five men immediately dropping into the neutral zone — from the Oilers during the first two games. Didn’t think the Oilers played on their heels at all against Calgary, even when it was 3-2.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Being able to play with a lead is something the Oilers have been pretty good at in the Dave Tippett era so I really don’t have a problem with this strategy. If they were playing the trap early in the game, then I’d have a problem with it but letting your skill give you a lead early and then locking it down late in the game is a good way to go about things.

Baggedmilk:

I’d rather see the Oilers throw anchors at drowning opponents rather than sitting back and playing defensive, but I don’t know that it’s going to happen under this current regime.

May 22, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; General overall view of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on Las Vegas Blvd. on the Las Vegas strip. The Vegas Golden Knight will play the Washington Capitals in the Stanley Cup Finals. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

5) @jhoffman_7 – How can fans make a push for a better in-game experience? We have this state-of-the-art facility that is below average in showcasing itself. Vegas knocks it out of the park and it’s not even close.

Jason Gregor:

Write emails to the Oilers. Email your season ticket rep. If you don’t send it to the Oilers directly there is very little chance of change.

Robin Brownlee:

Contact the team. Make your feelings known. What do you like best about the presentation in Vegas?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

A better pre-game routine to get fans hyped up, add more colour to the arena (too much grey, put a ring of honour somewhere), and mix up what fans see between whistles. It’s just the same stuff every game and it can get tiring.

Baggedmilk:

I think OEG needs to bring in some of the aspects of college sports and soccer culture into the building, meaning chants and fan clubs and sections for rowdy opposing fans. I don’t know how many of those items you can do all at once, but the team could certainly put together some chants/graphics for the big screen that everyone would be able to follow along with and learn over time. Even teams like Nashville have more going on with their in-game experience to get the fans engaged, but I don’t know why the Oilers don’t see too interested in that.

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