Monday Mailbag – Are the Oilers depth players producing enough?

1 month ago
Happy Monday, friends! Welcome to a brand new Monday Mailbag. This week, we’re discussing the Oilers’ depth players, the penalty kill, Edmonton’s d-pairings, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk , and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
May 8, 2024; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse (25) and goalie Stuart Skinner (74) watch as Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (9) redirects a shot past Skinner during the third period in game one of the second round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Arena.
1) Cory asks — Are we concerned about the soft goals Skinner has been giving up in the playoffs? It seems like there’s one every other game, and they’ve already cost the Oil a few games.
Jason Gregor:
He needs to play better. Without question. It is a big concern, and Knoblauch will have to decide if he goes back to him in game four or gives Pickard the start in Game 4.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
On a scale of 1-10, I’m at about a four with Skinner heading into Game 3. He’s shown a really strong ability to bounce back well so far this season and we’ve seen examples of it during the playoffs too. When he’s on his game he’s a top-ten goalie in the league, and we saw that for long stretches this season. If they can get anything close to that version of Skinner for the rest of the series, they’ll handle the Canucks without any problems.
I swear to Gord that I’m a Stu-guy, but it’s pretty hard to defend him after the series he’s having. Through three starts, his high point has been a .842 save% and that’s not even an international flight away from being good enough.
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Kris Knoblauch looks on against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2) Oilers fan in Van asks — What improvements are you seeing on the penalty kill that has given the Oilers so much success to this point?
Jason Gregor:
They are much more aggressive. Vancouver did figure it out a bit in Game 3, as they kept going to the forward in the high slot on a pass from D-man.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
When it was really bad earlier in the season it felt like they were missing on a lot of clearing opportunities. They’ve cleaned that up and don’t give up nearly as many high-danger chances. Behind any strong penalty kill is a good goalie and Skinner .952 save percentage when shorthanded is very damn good but it’s also worth pointing out that of the 34 goalies who have appeared in a playoff game so far this season, only one has a lower expected GAA on the PK. The Oilers have done a great job limiting chances.
They’re actually getting the puck out when they have the chance. There were so many times early in the year when they coughed up the puck at their own blue line, and they’ve really improved on finding holes and firing it down. Also, Skinner has been much better and the goalie always needs to be your best PK guy.
Mar 16, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Warren Foegele (37) during the third period against the Colorado Avalanche at Rogers Place.
3) Justin asks — Are the Oilers depth players producing enough? I know they’re not going to score all of the time, but doesn’t there have to be more than zero?
Jason Gregor:
They have one game with a goal 5×5. Not remotely good enough. I’d play Henrique and Holloway in top-nine, move Perry to 4th line and have him, Janmark and Carrick be the fourth line for Game 4.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Yes. They need more offence from players like Warren Foegele, Corey Perry, and Ryan McLeod. In their Game 2 win, all of their offence came their big guns. While it’s totally fine to have your best players win you games, if the Oilers want to go on a long run, they’ll need some nights when their depth pieces contribute.
We need more from Warren Foegele, Corey Perry, Ryan McLeod, and more goals specifically from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The first three guys haven’t really gotten much going at all whereas RNH is getting his apples but hasn’t put the puck in the net since Game 1 against the Kings. All of these guys need to be better at bearing down on their opportunities.
Jan 27, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Vincent Desharnais (73) and goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) celebrate the Oilers 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators. It is the Oilers 16th straight win at Rogers Place.
4) Jace asks — Should Kris Knoblauch consider putting Desharnais with Nurse on the second pairing or even Brett Kulak on his off wing? Nurse and Ceci have been hard on the heart and scoreboard so why constantly leave them together?
Jason Gregor:
I’d be surprised if he does that.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I would bring Troy Stetcher into the lineup for Cody Ceci, but I don’t think Knoblauch will get to that point. Pushing up Desharnais might be a smart move but I also think they should just start playing Kulak and Desharnais more than Ceci and Nurse, which they did in game two.
I would consider all kinds of changes to the bottom two pairings, but it doesn’t look like Knobby is ready to play those cards yet. I’m not over pumped on the way the Nurse/Ceci pairing has fared so far, but it really doesn’t matter what I think when the coach keeps rolling them back out there.
Mar 26, 2024; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Edmonton Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch discusses a call with referee Jon McIsaac (2) in the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Canada Life Centre.
5) Ed M. asks – It seems that whenever a goal is scored, the play is reviewed more closely than the Zapruder film, and a player or two is blamed for causing the goal. Usually by some armchair expert who has decided it his life’s mission to run a player out of the NHL.
Hockey is played at a frenetic pace in the NHL Split section reactions (NHL hockey is too fast for decisions) happen all the time. Once in a while, a goal is scored. Has this analysis gone too far? Is it taking away from the enjoyment of the game? Are we incapable of acknowledging great players on other teams who can also make great plays?
Jason Gregor:
Don’t read social media would be my recommendation. If it annoys you that much, then it is always best to avoid it, as that is likely where you are seeing the Zapruder-like reviews.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I really like the last part of the question. Oilers fans absolutely carved Stuart Skinner for giving up the third goal of game two and I get it, the shot came from basically the goal line. But while that was happening, I was also thinking that if Leon Draisaitl had done that to Arthurs Silovs, we wouldn’t be calling it a weak goal, we’d be calling it a snipe. It goes both ways and it’s just the way things go with sports fans but I don’t think the extra analysis ruins people’s enjoyment of the games. It comes from a place of passion.
I think we sometimes get caught up on single plays and highlights as opposed to an entire body of work. Good or bad, picking out single moments from an entire 60-minute hockey game can skew what we’re thinking, but I can’t see that changing any time soon.


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