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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – What’s working for Jay Woodcroft?

Greetings from the Internet, dearest citizens, and welcome to a brand new edition of the Mailbag to help you get your week started and make sense of all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re talking Woodcroft vs. the Pacific Division, the 11-7 configuration, playoff surprises, 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.

Feb 14, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft stands behind the bench during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

1) James in Peterborough asks – It’s been reinforced this season that coaching matters to the Oilers’ success. How would you assess Woodcroft against the other main Pacific rivals in the playoffs, namely Sutter and likely, McLellan?

Jason Gregor:

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Sutter and McLellan have more NHL head coaching success, but Woodcroft has been preparing for this moment for years. I think he will be fine. A coach is only as good as his players, and the Oilers have more depth than we’ve seen in many years. It will be interesting to see how Woodcroft manages his bench and if he looks for more specific matchups in the playoffs compared to what he’s done in the regular season. He’s shown he isn’t afraid to move players on and off lines for a shift or two in games and I expect that to continue.

Robin Brownlee:

Darryl can be a little more overbearing than McLellan and especially Woodcroft in his delivery, but he’s more understanding of what it takes to communicate with players today than he sometimes lets on. Woodcroft has a much longer fuse than the other two. Darryl and Todd will go off from time to time. Haven’t seen that (from afar) with Woodcroft.

Baggedmilk:

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Woodcroft > everybody. That’s the analysis. I mean, this is a hard one for me to answer because I don’t know enough about how the other coaches handle their business, but what I can say for sure is that Woodcroft has a winning record against everyone else in the Pacific apart from Calgary.

Apr 1, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates an overtime winning goal with center Leon Draisaitl (29) against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

2) Blake asks – How important are the scoring awards for players like McDavid and Draisaitl, meaning would you let them play out the regular season as a means of chasing the Art Ross as an example, or would you rest them over these last few games to be fresh for the playoffs?

Jason Gregor:

I’m not a big believer in resting them, unless they have an injury. I could play them in the two final games, but I’d limit their minutes. They can still get touches and feel sharp playing 15 minutes. They are still young, so playing against San Jose and Vancouver shouldn’t be a burden. McDavid has said in the past he’d prefer to play down the stretch, so if he does, then Woodcroft can just limit his minutes.

Robin Brownlee:

Depends what they want. McDavid isn’t going to play through pain/fatigue/injury to chase any award. Same for Draisaitl. Just ask them where they’re at.

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Baggedmilk:

I can’t see them sitting out entirely tbh. I could see both Connor and Leon being in the lineup every night but maybe having their minutes reduced as we saw last year.

Feb 14, 2022; San Jose, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft stands behind the bench before the third period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

3) Claire asks – Jay Woodcroft has been using the 11-7 configuration quite often in his tenure behind the bench and I’d like to know what everyone thinks about having the extra defenceman in the lineup?

Jason Gregor:

He has used 12-6 more a bit more than 11-7. With 11-7 it gives Dave Manson a chance to play guys in more specific roles. The way Kris Russell has played since returning from injury, I’d argue he adds more to the team than Brassard or Shore right now, so I’d stick with 11-7 when the team is healthy.

Robin Brownlee:

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I look at Woodcroft’s record and say “11-7 looks fine to me.” That’s what I think.

Baggedmilk:

I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do, but I really appreciate the way the 11-7 spreads out the minutes on defence. I also like having the ability to roll McDavid or Draisaitl through for some extra shifts with the fourth line forwards.

Apr 16, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by forward Evander Kane (91) during the third period against the Vegas Golden Knights at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Trent asks – Since many of the playoff spots are locked in or very close to being locked in, which team getting in or missing out is the biggest surprise to you?

Jason Gregor:

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Islanders missing was the biggest surprise. They made back-to-back Conference Finals, and most of us expected them to be a playoff team again.

Robin Brownlee:

Vegas has been all over the place. I thought they’d finish atop the division with Edmonton. Calgary has been far better than I thought they were.

Baggedmilk:

Vegas. I thought they’d be battling for the top of the division but now I’m hopeful that they’ll miss out entirely.

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Apr 22, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

5) Tim asks – Using only a movie title to describe this rollercoaster of an Oilers season, what would it be and why?

Jason Gregor:

The Missing Picture.

Why? Because I think the Oilers are better than they are portrayed, and because the coaching change clearly came at the right time for the team.

Robin Brownlee:

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As Good as it Gets. At least in the stretch going into playoffs.

Baggedmilk:

Love Rollercoaster. Chili Peppers.

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