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Monday Mailbag – Has James Hamblin locked in the 4C job with the Oilers?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
6 months ago
Happy Monday, fair Internet friends, and welcome to a fresh edition of the Mailbag to help get your week started and keep you updated on all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re discussing line combos, why the PK has been better, James Hamblin, and much 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.
Nov 28, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault (81) battle for a loose puck during the second period at Rogers Place.
1) Oilers fan in Van asks – The line of RNH, McDavid, and Hyman has been very good over the last couple of weeks, but the same cannot be said about Draisaitl’s second line. If you were coach Garlic, what would be your ideal top six configuration?
Jason Gregor: They don’t have an ideal one right now as they have only five top-six forwards. Connor Brown isn’t playing or producing like one. I’d have RNH-Draisaitl-Foegele as the second line for now. Foegele has shown he can produce when playing with Draisaitl, albeit it a small sample size. Then you have Kane-McDavid-Hyman on the first.
Robin Brownlee: Not just Draisaitl’s line. The middle six has been a moving target. Evander Kane isn’t himself right now. Connor Brown still can’t get anything done. When healthy, I’d have Kane with Draisaitl and Foegele or up on LW with McDavid and Hyman. Knoblauch skated Kane-McDavid-Hyman and RNH-Draisaitl Foegele on Sunday so I expect we’ll see that to start the road trip.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I honestly think it’s exactly what they’ve been rolling with. That Draisaitl line hasn’t been producing but they’ve been dealing with some pretty tough matchups and Evander Kane isn’t at 100%. That top line is so good that I wouldn’t even think about splitting them up and I’m not really interested in elevating Warren Foegele. I’d keep rolling with this until Dylan Holloway returns, then I’d give him a run with Draisaitl.
Liam Horrobin: With the players the Oilers have, I would play Evander Kane and Dylan Holloway with Leon Draisaitl. However, Ken Holland needs to find a third solution on the trade market, too, just in case someone gets hurt. More depth gives you more answers.
Baggedmilk: When Evander Kane is healthy, he should be up there for sure. As for the other wing? That’s a much more interesting question. I don’t think Connor Brown can handle the gig, but I’m also not sure who can given the offensive struggles of basically everyone else that could play there. Would Dylan Holloway fit? Maybe.
Dec 12, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Chicago Blackhawks forward Connor Bedard (98) tries to get a shot away on Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2) Anna asks – The penalty kill has been so much better recently, but it can’t all be because of improved goaltending, can it? What are you seeing in the PK now that wasn’t there before?
Jason Gregor: Continuity is a major factor. Mark Stuart has run two D pairs and three forward groups regularly, unless one of them is in the penalty box. They can read off each other better, and they are pressuring more, which helps.
Robin Brownlee: All goaltending? No, but it starts there. I’ve really liked what Mattias Janmark has brought to the PK. The other significant factor is that Kris Knoblauch has narrowed down the forwards and D-men who are designated PK guys. Those players have taken ownership.
Tyler Yaremchuk: They’ve been a little bit more aggressive, which is stopping teams from setting up. They’ve been doing a good job of disrupting teams as they enter the zone as well.
Liam Horrobin: Lots of sticks in lanes and the same personnel. Luke Gazdic pointed out on ONE that it’s a smaller group of players now on the PK, which allows them to take more pride. Evidently, its working very well.
Baggedmilk: I think the structure on the PK is better lately, and I also think the guys are much more aggressive in attacking the other team when they have the puck.
Oct 24, 2023; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) passes against the Edmonton Oilers in the second period at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
3) Bailey asks – If you were going to put a percentage on the Oilers getting a new goalie by the end of the season, what would that number be?
Jason Gregor: It has to be 100% or they aren’t going deep. They are in their window to take a serious run, so they need a new one.
Robin Brownlee: It’s 50-50 or close to it. Didn’t like Pickard much in the loss to Florida. It varies.
Tyler Yaremchuk: 90%. There is a slight chance that Calvin Pickard just keeps delivering good starts and there is a chance that Jack Campbell turns back into an NHL goaltender, but Ken Holland will more than likely need to go make a move.
Liam Horrobin: 95% – there’s a small chance it doesn’t happen, but Ken Holland has no choice but to address the situation. I have no idea who it will be, but at some point, there will be a new goaltender in Edmonton.
Baggedmilk: 75%. For me, that number suggests how important it is to find an upgrade, but also acknowledges that it’s not as easy as just hoping for a trade to happen.
Photo Credit: © Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
4) Clay asks – What is everyone’s opinion on James Hamblin? I didn’t know much about him before this season, but he seems to be giving the Oilers a nice boost on the 4th line. Do you think he can stick through the year?
Jason Gregor: He has played well. Gives you everything he has every game. He has done a decent job in the dot for a rookie going 49-51, but I feel they will add a veteran 4th C, ideally a right shot at the deadline.
Robin Brownlee: Handy guy to have around. Yes, I think he can stick.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I really think he can. I love his consistent effort and he’s shown some decent touch with the puck. I think they should upgrade the 4C spot at the deadline, but until then, I’m more than okay with Hamblin. It’s a great story as well.
Liam Horrobin: Yes, I love his attitude of playing defence first and that the offence will come. On top of that, that 4th line with him, Ryan and Gagner, is playing great hockey at the moment.
Baggedmilk: I think so. I call him Zach Hyman lite lite because he’s the kind of player whose engine never stops. If he can find a way to chip in with a few goals from time to time then I think we’d all be thrilled with that.
5) Ed M. asks – First of all kudos to Gregor, Mitchell and Karius for getting sports radio back on the air. Last week, one of the guests (no names but initials SL) stated that anyone can play defence as all you need to do is work hard. Do you agree that anyone can play defence?
Jason Gregor: I assume they meant play in the defensive zone. It is about commitment to doing your job, and it involves hard work, but if they were talking about defencemen then it is much more than hard work. I’d argue it is more difficult to play defence well, than be a winger. You are naturally in a position of weakness because you are often defending the oncoming forward and they have the puck. Teams are always searching for more competent right-shot defenders. Why? Because there aren’t enough to them around the league.
Robin Brownlee: Don’t agree. Work rate matters, but there are minimum levels of skill, talent and physical attributes required to make the NHL. If you’re five-foot-three and 130 pounds, you aren’t getting in no matter how hard you work.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Maybe at lower levels, but the idea that you can be a good NHL defenseman just by trying hard make zero sense. You need to be insanely smart to shut down the smartest and most talented offensive players in the world. Don’t agree with that idea at all. Positioning, gap control, puck ability all matter more than just effort.
Liam Horrobin: Work ethic is a key component, so with that person’s logic, I do believe yes. A big part of defence is adding pressure and making your opponents uncomfortable. Working hard does that. Of course, some will be better than others with the awareness factor, but making an effort goes a long way.
Baggedmilk: I tried pretty hard when I played hockey, and yet, I did not make the NHL. Rats.

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