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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s the deal with the Oilers’ slow starts?

A fresh week means a brand new Mailbag is here to help you get your Monday started and also to make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re talking about the Oilers prospects going back to Bakersfield or not, Mike Smith’s injury, Leon Draisaitl, 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 22, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett looks on in the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

1) Clair asks – Despite their winning record, the Oilers still seem to have a hard time getting a good start. What do you think is going on here? Is it coaching? Is it on the players?

Robin Brownlee:

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You’re right and we saw another slow start against the Los Angeles last night. Oilers keep feeling their way into games. That’s on the players. No coaching staff ever says, “Let’s start out slowly and see what happens . . .” It’s up to the coaching staff to prepare line-ups and game plans, not get their players revved up. Teams might not always be sharp in execution early but they can always come out with some gusto and pace. That’s been lacking way too often.

Jason Gregor:

They feel their way into games too often. In previous two seasons Oilers were ninth in scoring first goal. It wasn’t an issue. To me it is on the players. They play the game.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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I honestly do not know. It doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to blame Dave Tippett either. The players need to be more prepared to come out of the gates hard. Maybe he should start one of the bottom six lines and tell them to go lay two or three big hits in their first shirt or something like that? They need to get better in the first period though. It’s inexcusable.

Baggedmilk:

I wrote about this exact thing on Saturday and I wish I knew what the solution is because it’s a problem that’s gone on for way too long. I don’t know what the deal is with starting slow but it’s driving me crazy.

Nov 27, 2021; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) tries to control a loose puck as Edmonton Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci (5) and Vegas Golden Knights center Brett Howden (21) battle in the net during the third period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

2) DW asks – Now that we’ve passed the 1/4 season mark we should be able to make a few well-informed judgments. I have two closely related Qs on my mind: 1) What do you think of the Keith/Ceci acquisitions (price/term/team impact/etc.)? 2) What do you think of deploying them as a 2nd pairing (is this the best use of the assets)?

Robin Brownlee:

Will be interesting to see how Tippett uses Keith and Ceci when everybody is healthy. I don’t think they need to play together, and there have been times when they haven’t looked good together. Not wasting one second contemplating price and term — the contracts are set. More interested in how they perform. And I’m not sure seeing Keith for 18 games after a late start at camp constitutes enough time to make well-informed judgments about how and where he fits in with a completely new group of players.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’ve been very impressed with Cody Ceci. He’s been better than I expected him to be. As for Keith, he’s been fine and I’m sure his veteran presence is welcome in the room, but it doesn’t change the fact that they gave up too much to get him at his full price tag. I would love to see the Oilers get another LHD before the deadline so Keith can have less of a workload.

Jason Gregor:

Ceci has been excellent, arguably their best, most consistent D-man. Keith is an upgrade on the LD from last year and has been very good passing the puck. They started the most in the D-zone of all the D-men, by a large margin. I think when they return they will start together, while Bouchard is with Nurse and Niemelainin/Russell is paired with Barrie. We likely will see a few other options as well as the season progresses. It would be good to see if other pairings work.

Baggedmilk:

Cody Ceci has been way better than expected for me. The contract may still be a little long but he’s a top-four defencemen in my eyes. Keith is a Hall of Famer but 200 years old and it shows. Not horrible, just fine.

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3) Operator Rich asks – Would you rather the Oil jump on trade bait soon to help build chemistry OR hold off until post-Olympic break to further determine deficiencies?

Robin Brownlee:

What trade bait? Are you thinking of adding somebody in particular?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I’d wait until after the Olympic break to let the trade market develop a little bit more. Right now there aren’t a lot of teams committed to being sellers and that would lead me to believe that prices are high. Holland should wait until more teams fall out of the race before getting into the trade market. Unless Rickard Rakkell is available, obviously.

Jason Gregor:

I’d guess it happens closer to the trade deadline. Cost is likely higher in December than in late Feb, early March.

Baggedmilk:

I’d love to see a trade to bolster the back end but I doubt it will happen. Teams don’t really make bigger moves this early in the year, but that would be my preference if I had a vote.

Dec 21, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) scores a first period goal against the Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) David O. asks – This past week, Pierre Lebrun speculated about Carey Price being available. Assuming all deals begin with the Canadiens retaining half of Price’s salary and that Koskinen will go back the other way, can you construct a reasonable trade that both sides might go for?

Robin Brownlee:

First, that’s a big assumption. Pierre posed a question about whether Price fits into a rebuild at this stage in his career and if the firing of Marc Bergevin might make a move possible during the off-season. Nothing firm. Second, even allowing for that much salary being retained, I can’t imagine why the Oilers would want to bring in a goaltender who turns 35 in August for four more years at $5.25 million a season. Among other things, what does that say to Stuart Skinner? I also can’t see why Price would waive his NMC and uproot his family, his wife and three children, to move to Edmonton. Lots of reasons a Price trade makes no sense here.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I don’t love how much term is left on the deal. He has four more years left on his contract and while he was fantastic during the Canadiens playoff run, let’s not forget that he’s been very average during the last two regular seasons. I’d rather have Holland wait until the offseason and see if there’s a younger or potentially better option out there.

Jason Gregor:

Carey Price is one of the best goalies in the NHL. If you could get him for $5m, which is essentially what you’ve paid Koskinen the past three seasons, you have to look at it. The main question is: How is he feeling? If he feels good, to me it is worth the risk. The final few years of the deal might not be great, but I don’t see him suddenly falling off in the next couple of years. Price at $5m would be worth it for the first three seasons without question.

Baggedmilk:

I would obviously love to have Carey Price between the pipes for the Oilers but I don’t think the math would work even if Montreal retained salary. It would probably have to be a multi-team trade or something to make the cap situation fit and I don’t know that the Oilers are the ones to pull that kind of thing off.

5) Jason Strudwick asks – What is the proper Christmas party etiquette? Can I serve premixed EggNog cocktails or should I create my own blend of EggNog magic?

Robin Brownlee:

What will you serve to people who would rather drink curdled goat’s milk than eggnog? Do they have an option?

Tyler Yaremchuk:

If anyone goes to a party and complains about the free alcohol being served, then they can just go home. Simple as that. Serve what you want Struddy!

Jason Gregor:

Premix is easy. You pick up at Costco. So having that and then buying a bottle of rum and having some “regular” nog would be a great mix. I’d have both available. If your guests don’t like one then more for you for the remainder of the holidays.

Baggedmilk:

Struds, you didn’t make it to the NHL by doing things half-assed so I’d love to see you coming up with your own signature blend.

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