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Photo Credit: Tom Kostiuk

Monday Mailbag – How comfortable are you with the Oilers’ defence?

Happy Monday, Nation, and welcome to a long weekend edition of the Mailbag to help you get your week started and break down what’s going on with the Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re looking at the defensive group, Darnell Nurse living up to his contract, Mikko Koskinen, and a whole lot 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 26, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) skates during the first period against the Calgary Flames in game five of the second round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

1) Taylor asks – How comfortable are you going into next season with the defensive group as it’s currently constructed?

Jason Gregor:

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In an ideal world, they’d add a veteran with some size and physicality (For those who can’t grasp the concept that size and physicality don’t mean lack of skill). Edmonton doesn’t have any D-men in their 2nd and 3rd pairs (Kulak, Bouchard, Barrie, Broberg) who are 200 pounds. That will need to be addressed before the trade deadline, or one of Neimelainen or Desharnais has a breakout year.

But the blueline is good enough to start the season.

Robin Brownlee:

It’ll be interesting to see how Bouchard takes the next step without Keith to smooth things out. Will depend on what, if anything, happens with Barrie. Can Markus Niemelainen step in and add a physical edge?

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

On a scale of 1-10… I would say a 5. It will be good enough to get the job done in the regular season, but I do think they need to add one more veteran piece for it to really be a strength. I would also say that they need to add a piece who is a strong defender and that’s where they could look to move a piece like Tyson Barrie for someone who is a little more reliable in their own end.

Baggedmilk:

I’d say about 6/10 right now. It’s a passable group, but I’d absolutely like to see an upgrade or two in there somehow.

Jun 2, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) reacts to missing a shot on the Colorado Avalanche in the second period of game two of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

2) Kevin asks – We haven’t even played a single game yet but there are already people complaining about Darnell Nurse’s new contract. What does Nurse have to do to ensure the team gets at least a reasonable value out of his yearly $9.25m salary?

Jason Gregor:

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Play like he did when Manson arrived as the defensive coach. Nurse was very good, along with Cody Ceci, from February until his injury.

Robin Brownlee:

Some people are going to complain no matter what. That’s what they do. He’s never going to live up to that contract. Do what he does, be what he is. That’s what got him there. He needs to play to his strengths, not the dollars on his contract.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

It will be incredibly tough for Nurse to live up to his new $9.25 million price tag. He would need to be a legit top-pairing option who’s impactful at both ends of the ice. He’s going to be the seventh highest-paid defenseman in the league next year so to truly live up to the contract, he’ll have to play like a top-ten defenseman and I’m just not sure if he’s capable of that. I think he’ll be miles better than he was in the playoffs but I’m not sure if he’s going to be a top-ten defenseman next season.

Baggedmilk:

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Yeah, that’s gonna be a tough one for Nurse. All I can really say is that I hope Dave Manson can continue to work his magic on the guy so that he looks more like the player that earned this contract in the wonky all-Canadian Division in the first place.

Jan 1, 2022; Elmont, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) during the second period against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

3) Oilers fan in Van asks – By no means is it new news that Mikko Koskinen will be playing in Europe next year, but I’d love to hear everyone’s breakdown of his time here. How would you sum up Mikko’s four years between the pipes in Edmonton?

Jason Gregor:

He was never going to live up to his contract. He was a decent goalie when he wasn’t asked to play too much. He allowed a goal on the first few shots of a game far too often. Overall he was fine as an NHL goalie. He was a solid backup.

Robin Brownlee:

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Inconsistent.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

He was a solid backup goaltender who got saddled with a bad contract. If he made $2m for his time here in Edmonton and was never forced into being a starting goaltender, people would look back on his time here much more fondly.

Baggedmilk:

I’ll remember Mikko Koskinen as a solid backup goalie that could give you strong performances provided that you didn’t overwork the guy. While there’s no doubt he was overpaid by Peter Chiarelli when it was completely unnecessary to do so, I don’t blame him for signing that contract for one minute — I would have done it too.

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May 4, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by forward Ryan McLeod (71) during the second period against Los Angeles Kings in game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

4) Fazel asks – In Ken Holland’s season ending press conference, he spoke about young players needing to take another step forward this coming season. My question for everyone is which young player do you think has the most pressure to perform from where they were at a year ago?

Jason Gregor:

I don’t think any young player has a lot of pressure on a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. No one is looking at a young player to be a leader this season. If Evan Bouchard, Kailer Yamamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi come close to producing what they did last season they will be fine. Ryan McLeod has lots of room to grow, but won’t be expected to produce much and Dylan Holloway and Philip Broberg are rookies. Just getting comfortable in the NHL will be their goal. Edmonton is expected to be a Cup contender, and all their young players should be looked at to be complementary players, not drivers or difference makers.

Robin Brownlee:

I have considerable expectations for Bouchard, and that’s before the possible trade of Barrie that some would like to see.

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Tyler Yaremchuk:

I might say Evan Bouchard. He’ll be trusted to be a steady second-pairing defenseman and could even have to play with Philip Broberg. Bouchard will have to eat more minutes than he did last season and could have to mentor a rookie defenseman.

Baggedmilk:

Just to be different, I’m going to say Ryan McLeod. I absolutely love the kid and can’t wait to see what kind of progress he makes in his second full NHL season.

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5) Calvin asks – There’s no hockey to talk about so I would like to know everyone’s favourite part about summer in Edmonton?

Jason Gregor:

All of it. Weather has been great, the long days allow for lots of opportunities to do things outdoors. I love enjoying how much daylight we have. It is the best.

Robin Brownlee:

There’s lots of hockey to talk about. World Juniors. Hockey Canada fiasco is major and ongoing news. What’s happening with Kailer Yamamoto? The pending trade of Jesse Puljujarvi. I enjoy the hot days we’ve been getting in recent weeks and working in the yard.

Tyler Yaremchuk:

I love being down in the river valley for a good baseball game. The views, the beer, the sun. It’s unbeatable!

Baggedmilk:

There’s a lot to love about summer in Edmonton. The long days are great, the weather has been fantastic, and there are plenty of events/festivals/reasons to get outside.

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