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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – Does Mike Smith get too much leash from the coaches?

Happy Monday, friends! As always, I’ve got a brand new Mailbag set and ready to help you get your week started and make sense of everything that’s going on with our beloved Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re talking about Mike Smith’s struggles, going all-in at the deadline, Ryan McLeod, 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.

Jan 5, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Tavares (91) scores on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during the first period at Scotiabank Arena.

1) Dallas asks – Does Mike Smith’s standing as a veteran give him too much leash with the coaches? He’s obviously not playing great this year but he keeps getting starts.

Robin Brownlee:

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All veterans get the benefit of the doubt — especially if the option is somebody as inexperienced as Stuart Skinner. Smith’s inability to stay healthy has been a problem this season so he keeps getting chances to knock the rust off.

Jason Gregor:

Many coaches will defer to a veteran. Jay Woodcroft had no previous connection to Smith, yet he still gave him a chance to find his game. He didn’t and unless he plays well in multiple starts I’d be surprised if we see him start the majority of games coming up. It is fair to question why he was given so many starts, but he did play well v. NYI and LA and then defeated ANA and that’s likely why he got a few more starts.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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I think that’s certainly part of it. He also has a history of going on runs where he looks very good so I think if you’re Jay Woodcroft, you need to keep giving Smith chances because if you can get him on one of those rolls, he’ll help you win games. You also have to remember that you can’t run Koskinen into the ground. I think his veteran status earned him extra starts under Dave Tippet, but under Woodcroft, I think he’s really playing him simply because he’s on the roster.

Zach Laing:

Yeah, I think so — especially under the previous coaching staff. We haven’t seen a large enough sample size of how Jay Woodcroft will utilize his ‘tenders.

Baggedmilk:

Yes. I don’t understand what the deal is with this dude because it seems like he gets more chances to “get up and running” than anyone else in net, but I also think that goes for most NHL veterans.

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2) Ed asks – There have been a number of contributors on this site that say that Holland needs to go “all in” at the deadline. Should he go “all in”, whatever that might look like? The last time the Oil went all was in 2006. Lowe traded for Spacek (in January), signed Rem Murray, and traded for Roloson, Samsonov, and Tarnstrom at the deadline. They went to the Cup final, then did not make the playoff for a decade.

Robin Brownlee:

The reality is 2006 wasn’t a case of going all-in at the deadline. Lowe got Chris Pronger and Michael Peca a day apart in August and then acquired Dick Tarnstrom and Jaroslav Spacek on January 26. Dwayne Roloson and Sergei Samsonov were the deadline deals in March. Wasn’t a matter of loading up as much as it was patching holes. Roloson came in because Markkanen, Morrison, and Conklin were all sub-.890. Not as many holes on this team. Hyman, Foegele and Kane solid additions already. Maybe need a defenceman at the deadline.

Jason Gregor:

I’m not a big believer in all-in, especially in the cap era where most teams don’t have much cap space. The Oilers already made a big addition by adding Evander Kane, and luckily for them, they didn’t have to give up any assets. I’d trade the 2022 1st round pick for a player who wasn’t a pending UFA. A one-year rental wouldn’t be enough for me to make that deal. Holland needs to add a D-man if he can, but I suspect they promote Stuart Skinner instead of paying big time for a goalie who might not be a clear upgrade over their current tandem.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

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Yes, I think he does need to make serious moves at the deadline. This year’s first should be in play and really any prospect that isn’t a former first-rounder should be in play as well. This team absolutely has to make the playoffs this season. Simple as that. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, in their seventh season together, deserve a supporting cast capable of helping them go on a long playoff run.

Zach Laing:

Whatever they do, it needs to be more than acquiring David Deharnais in 2017. Edmonton has a good team here, but are missing a few key pieces. I’d love to see a big swing on goaltending. The truth is, however, the Oilers options are limited, right? There are few prospects the team could sell, and both the second and third-round pick are clogged up this year in thanks to the Duncan Keith trade.

Baggedmilk:

They didn’t make the playoffs for a decade because the team wasn’t built properly and they expected a bunch of kids that were just learning the NHL to come in and have everything figured out.

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Nov 14, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Ryan McLeod (71) handles the puck as St. Louis Blues left wing Brandon Saad (20) defends during the second period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

3) James in Peterborough asks – I believe Ryan McLeod’s play has improved by leaps and bounds this season. What do you think his ceiling is in terms of the lineup card and points totals over the next few seasons?

Robin Brownlee:

I like him, but I have no idea what he might become long-term. If you can skate and you’re versatile, you can play somewhere.  He’s a third-liner for me.

Jason Gregor:

I see him as a third line player who helps on the PK and can chip in at 5×5.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I think he’s a versatile third-line centre who can kill penalties, produce some offence, and fill in up in the top six once in a while. The Oilers need a guy like him and I’m really hoping they can get him signed to a nice deal this summer.

Zach Laing:

A forty-point second-line winger? A thirty-point third-line centre? I think it’s somewhere in the middle. He’s showing he can be a versatile player up and down the lineup, and let’s not forget this kid has produced at every step of the way. Based off his NHL equivalency for the 2020-21 season where he scored 14 goals and 28 points in 28 AHL games, he projects as a 40 point player in the NHL. Nonetheless, this kid isn’t going anywhere.

Baggedmilk:

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I don’t know what his offensive ceiling might be but I love the way he plays. The kid has wheels, decent offensive instincts, the ability to kill penalties, and I only think he’s going to get better from here. I am firmly on team McLeod.

Oct 27, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) replaces goaltender Mike Smith (41) after Smith let in 3 second period goals by the Florida Panthers at Rogers Place.

4) Yves asks – Do you think it’s realistic that the Oilers are able to trade for a goalie between now and the trade deadline? We’re running out of time and can’t be giving away games due to goaltending.

Robin Brownlee:

It’s possible but I don’t know if it’s probable. Who falls out of contention that has a goaltender they’re willing to trade?

Jason Gregor:

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I don’t see many viable options. So I will say they don’t acquire a goalie.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

Yes, I think it’s realistic. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect that they’re going to get an impact, stud number one goalie but I think they should be able to get a solid veteran with the ability to give them consistent play down the stretch. I like Holtby and Forsberg.

Zach Laing:

Oh, it absolutely is realistic. But will Ken Holland be able to find a deal he likes? He could’ve had Jonas Korpisalo for a second and a third, or Martin Jones for something better than a late-round pick. We’ll see what happens.

Baggedmilk:

I think a trade will get done, but the question is for how much? The Oilers don’t have a lot of space or assets available to swing these deals and I wonder what the actual move is going to look like and if it will be a legitimate upgrade or not.

5) Oilers fan in Van asks – Instead of looking at what may happen at the deadline, I’m curious what has been the best deadline move the Oilers made that you can remember?

Robin Brownlee:

The trade to bring in Roloson in 2006 provided great results. One win short for a team that barely made the playoffs. Great story.

Jason Gregor:

Dwayne Roloson worked out well and he was excellent in the playoffs. But the best was Reijo Ruotsalainen. Glen Sather signed him as a free agent for the final 16 regular season games in 1987 and then he played all 21 in the playoffs when the won the Stanley Cup. And again at the deadline in 1990, Sather acquired him from New Jersey for D-man Jeff Sharples. Ruotsalainen produced 13 points in 22 games as the Oilers won their 5th Stanley Cup. He was a main contributor to two Cup winners.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I mean, the Dwayne Roloson deal is the correct answer here. I still remember coming home from school and seeing it on the ticker while watching The Score. It was truly a franchise-changing move.

Zach Laing:

The Oilers have made a few significant moves. The best I can remember is clearly the Roloson one. Here are a few other honourable mentions from my lifetime, but this gave me an idea to do a bigger article on Oilers deadline moves, so keep an eye out for that in the next week or two.

  • March 4, 2009: Edmonton Oilers acquire Patrick O’Sullivan and a 2009 second-round draft pick from the Carolina Hurricanes for Erik Cole and a 2009 fifth-round draft pick.
  • March 9, 2006: Oilers acquire Sergei Samsonov from the Boston Bruins for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny, and a 2006 2nd round pick (Milan Lucic).
  • March 11, 2003: Oilers acquire Radek Dvorak and Cory Cross from the New York Rangers in exchange for Anson Carter and Ales Pisa.
  • March 11, 2003: Oilers acquire Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres from the New York Islanders for Janne Niinimaa and a conditional second round pick in 2003.
  • March 19, 2002: Oilers acquire forward Mike York and a 4th round pick from the New York Rangers for Tom Poti and Rem Murray.
  • March 23, 1999: Oilers acquire Jason Smith from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 4th round pick in 1999 and a 2nd round pick in 2000.
  • March 18, 1997: Oilers acquire Barrie Moore and Craig Millar from the Buffalo Sabres for Miroslav Satan.

Baggedmilk:

Jarrod Smithson ftw! I don’t think it was the best deadline trade, but I remember checking the Internet from school when I was younger and seeing that the team brought in Mike York, and that’s one that always sticks out for me.

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