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Monday Mailbag – Is Kris Knoblauch blending the Oilers lines too much?

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
baggedmilk
1 month ago
Happy Monday, Internet friends, and welcome to another brand new Mailbag to help get your week started and keep you updated on all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re discussing prospects on the trade block, Stuart Skinner, Evander Kane, and 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.
Apr 8, 2023; San Jose, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Philip Broberg (86) chases after the puck during the second period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
1) Ed M. asks – It has been reported that the Oil will not trade Broberg for a rental. If Broberg is off the table, the Oilers don’t have any real high-end prospects to offer as trade chips. (Some may question how high-end Broberg is). Does this change your thoughts on what the Oil might do at the deadline?
Jason Gregor:
Not really. I didn’t expect them to move him for a pure rental. They’d much rather move their 1st round pick since it won’t help them for many years.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I don’t think so. Bourgeault might have a little bit of value to a rebuilding team and the Oilers have each of their next two first-round picks. They have enough to add a couple of solid pieces if they want to.
Liam Horrobin:
Not really. I think when the trade deadline comes around we all think you’ve got to trade every asset you have for a good player. Last season, the New York Rangers got Vladimir Tarasenko and Niko Mikkola for a first round pick, Sammy Blais and Hunter Skinner, who is a former 4th round pick. You have to make your assets valuable so not trading Philip Broberg for a rental is a great idea. I also believe many teams prefer picks over prospects.
Zach Laing:
No matter how good they are, trading Philip Broberg for a pure rental would be egregious if the Oilers didn’t win the cup, but moving him for a player like, say, Pavel Buchnevich, and that’s a move that would make sense.
Baggedmilk:
I could see them packaging the first with Bourgault or something like that to try and make a move. Bourgault hasn’t been as productive as we’d hope from him, but he’s still a first round pick and that could carry some cache for a while.
Jan 20, 2024; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) guards his net against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome.
2) Clay asks – Are you at all concerned about the mini-slump Stuart Skinner is having since the bye week? I’m sending this question in on Friday morning after the Bruins game, which was Stu’s fifth straight game below .900 save%. (BM Note: Six straight now)
Jason Gregor:
I see him in similar boat to many on the team. The Oilers haven’t played many complete game in February. The only one I remember was Dallas. The key for Skinner and the team is they need to get out of the funk quickly. It has been 10 games and that is long enough.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Yeah, he’s definitely slipping but he was also one of the best goalies in the NHL for a two-month run. He’s a bit of a hot and cold goalie but it’s important to remember that he’s still young. Even Jake Oettinger of the Stars has gone through a four game stretch and multiple three game stretches where his save percentage has been under .900 and he’s considered one of the best young goalies in the league. I’m not super worried.
Liam Horrobin:
Well, things did not get better for Mr Skinner on Saturday night. I am concerned but I am more worried about the team playing in front of him. They’ve been very bad and Skinner can only do so much. Maybe bringing in another goaltender to help Skinner isn’t such a bad idea but they need to address the bottom six first.
Zach Laing:
He, like many others, is in a bit of a slump. As I’ve expressed this season, my concern is managing his load heading into the playoffs. His game slipped in the playoffs last year, and I wonder how much of it was workload-related. The Oilers need a goaltender who can eat some of his games because he’s on pace for 62 games played in the regular season this year, which would be a dozen more than he played last year.
Baggedmilk:
I’m not super concerned but it is definitely something to watch. Stu was on fire for almost two months, so I don’t think it’s fair to dumb on his for a tough patch when we were all singing his praises when he was hot.
Apr 12, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Evander Kane (91) talks with the Minnesota Wild bench in the first period at Xcel Energy Center.
3) Yves asks – What do you make of Evander Kane’s season? He has 20 goals, which is great, but he often looks disengaged for long periods of time. Kane has always been streaky since signing here, but it seems like his play this year is more polarizing than it’s ever been.
Jason Gregor:
I’m not sure I’ve seen him very disengaged often. He had one stretch where he didn’t produce much, and that happens to most players who aren’t elite. Kane is who he is. A good player, who will have funks and often looks out most for himself.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
That’s always been the problem with Kane. When he’s engaged and on, he’s one of their most impactful players. When he’s off, he is really off and it reflects mainly in his defensive play. They need him to be more consistently engaged at both ends of the ice. The goals and hits are great, but when they’re paired with a couple of brutal turnovers every few games, it’s a problem.
Liam Horrobin:
I’d love to see more from him, especially on the pesty side of the game. The team needs to pick me up and he can provide that in many ways but he needs to show it sooner rather than later.
Zach Laing:
Evander Kane can score goals and lay the body, but that’s about all he does. According to hockeyviz.com, he provides offence at a five percent rate below league average and defence at a nine percent rate below league average. That pegs him as well below a fourth-liner. Shifts like this one late against Minnesota are a concern. Gregor said it best above in that Kane often looks out for himself more than not, as represented in that clip, and the fact that when he was put on the third line earlier in the season, and in January.
There has to be an honest conversation this offseason about moving on from Kane, NMC, through Feb. 28, 2025, aside because of how much money he soaks up in the middle-six and his play not being commensurate with his $5.125-million salary.
Baggedmilk:
This is funny to me. Is Kane the perfect player? No. But are we getting a guy on a 30-goal pace again? Yes we are. What else do you really expect from him? What am I missing?
Dec 14, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward James Hamblin (57) chases a loose puck against there Tampa Bay Lightning at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
4) James in Peterborough asks – The focus has been on players from outside the organization that the Oilers may add for what many of us hope is a long playoff run. Are there current Condors who you could see making contributions in the playoffs if needed?
Jason Gregor:
I don’t see many, but if Oilers have an injury on LD, then Broberg could play. And Jack Campbell could get some games if Skinner is injured or struggles. Those would be the top two at my list, but the odds are low either plays a lot.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
If Broberg was healthy, I was say him just because they’re one injury away from him having to become a regular. The other name is still Raphael Lavoie. For a team that’s really struggling to get scoring from their bottom-six, why would you not give him four or five games to try find his feet at the NHL level? There’s no downside to playing him over one of Janmark or Brown for a few games.
Liam Horrobin:
Philip Broberg, James Hamblin, Lane Pederson, and Raphael Lavoie would be my picks. With that said, we all know Adam Erne is the first man to get called up.
Zach Laing:
I’ll just leave Bruce Curlock’s Sunday prospect report here for you all to read.
Baggedmilk:
Just to be different, I’ll say James Hamblin. I could absolutely see him getting called up and taking a spot on the fourth line.
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
5) Oilers fan in Van asks – Kris Knoblauch has really been blending the lines up lately, which is the opposite of what he was doing when he first got here. Why do you think he’s changed his mind in that regard when the early consistency seemed to provide positive results?
Jason Gregor:
When you are winning and playing consistently it is easy to keep things status quo. They haven’t played very well with little consistency all month, so I understand why he is looking at different combinations. He is trying to inject some life into his team during games. Corey Perry, for instance, has been quite consistent, so the coach will move him around hoping his energy is infectious to others.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Great question. The one thing that’s stayed consistent is how he handles McDavid and Draisaitl in game and I do like that. He doesn’t go to them for long stretches, but he puts them together in really opportune spots, like after a PK or after the other team ices the puck. I like that. What I don’t like is throwing a young player like Dylan Holloway all over the place. I’d like to see some commitment to letting the young forward get comfortable in one spot. There are pros and cons to the blender is kind of my point.
Liam Horrobin:
I believe he’s trying to find some mojo heading into the deadline. I wish he wouldn’t because they’re losing games more often now; however, I understand the line of thinking. I bet post deadline we see him get to a more consistent lineup.
Zach Laing:
I don’t think things have been as blended as much as we’ve seen with past coaches. What I like is that when he does mix things up in game, he often keeps that lineup together for a game or two beyond it. That’s something past coaches didn’t do, and it gives a chance for players, lines and combinations to get hot.
Baggedmilk:
It is wild how much the blender has come out lately, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re losing. That said, Knoblauch also preached consistency with linemates when he first arrived so I’m curious why that’s seemingly gone out the window.

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