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Monday Mailbag – New Year’s Resolutions for the Edmonton Oilers

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baggedmilk
1 month ago
Merry Christmas, Nation, 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’ve got a New Year’s Day edition of the Mailbag for you as we look to keep the good times rolling in 2024. 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.
1) Oilers fan in Van asks – If you had one New Year’s resolution for the Edmonton Oilers, what would it be?
Jason Gregor: To not make a desperate trade that leaves them with more dead cap space in the future.
Robin Brownlee: Not sure anything qualifies as a resolution because it’s been a factor since Kris Knoblauch arrived, but continued emphasis on improved defensive play makes a lot of sense.
Tyler Yaremchuk: To find some consistency. They’re still playing in a lot of games where they look very non-competitive for long stretches. If they can consistently play a full 60 minutes more often, they’ll be one of the best teams in the league in 2024.
Liam Horrobin: To make attending games more affordable for everyone.
Baggedmilk: Strive to find better value in the bottom half of the lineup. We have a lot of salary tied up in certain positions that aren’t giving full value right now, and I’d love to see that change.
Nov 26, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) scores a goal during the first period against Anaheim Ducks goaltender Lucas Dostal (1) at Rogers Place.
2) Gregg asks – I saw that the website was running a top stories countdown, and so I was wondering what everyone’s personal choice is for the biggest Oilers story of 2023?
Jason Gregor: McDavid surpassing 150 points. Many never expected it, and rightfully so, since it hadn’t happened since 1996. At times I think we don’t appreciate greatness as much as we should.
Robin Brownlee: For me, it’s finding out Mike Stelter had cancer so soon after the Stelter family and this entire city lost Ben Stelter. What a cruel turn for this story to take. Mike had been a pillar of strength during Ben’s battle and he was nothing less in facing his own challenges. Whenever we chatted, there was never once any “why us?” from him. Now, the Ben Stelter Fund is up and running and doing a lot of good with more big things to come. Inspiring.
Tyler Yaremchuk: McDavid hitting 150 points. It’s something that hasn’t been done yet this century in the NHL and the fact that an Oiler did it is very cool. We’re so lucky to get to watch him dummy the opposition while wearing the orange and blue.
Liam Horrobin: The Matt Berlin story was my favourite. I knew Matt a little from working with the Sherwood Park Crusaders so seeing him get that moment with the Oilers was incredible.
Baggedmilk: I’m going to say two: Connor McDavid hitting 153 points in 2022-23 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hitting 104 points. On the McDavid side, that was the kind of season that hasn’t been seen in nearly two decades. From start to finish, he was simply incredible and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. As for RNH, I don’t think anyone would have predicted a 100-point season out of him, so to see him hit that benchmark was a lot of fun.
Bakersfield goaltender Olivier Rodrigue (33) skates away from the net to stay loose during a break in play in the third period of their game at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.
3) Devon asks – At what point should the Oilers consider recalling Olivier Rodrigue to replace Calvin Pickard? His numbers at the AHL level are very good, albeit in a somewhat small sample size.
Jason Gregor: It is important to note Pickard’s AHL numbers this year are better than Rodrigue. The risk in recalling Rodrigue is that Pickard would need to clear waivers, and with many teams looking for goaltending right now, he might not clear. Then if Rodrigue struggles now, they have no reliable backup. There is a risk in making this move. Rodrigue has only played 40 AHL games, and if Pickard keeps playing well when he gets in the net, I see no reason to risk it.
Robin Brownlee: I don’t see any dire need to recall him. Pickard can be slotted in here and there behind Skinner. That’s fine as long as he gets the job done when called upon. Rewarding Rodrigue with a call up for playing well in the AHL isn’t as important a factor as handling the situation based on the results — winning — here. That’s the priority now.
Tyler Yaremchuk: If Rodrigue’s numbers stay elite through the first half of January, then I would call him up and give him a look at the NHL level. There really isn’t much downside to doing it.
Liam Horrobin: It’s sounding like at some point in January this could happen. It’ll be exciting to see what Rodrigue is all about but also unfortunate for Pickard who really hasn’t done anything wrong.
Baggedmilk: I don’t know what the rush is to see Rodrigue. I know he’s dialled in at the AHL level, but I also think there’s value in letting him play every night, which is something he wouldn’t see up with the Oilers. Who cares if Calvin Pickard sits a week or two? Would you say the same about Rodrigue when you know damned well that he could be starting most nights with the Condors?
Mar 6, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) takes a shot on goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
4) Shawn asks – Ken Holland pulled off a big trade at last year’s deadline when he acquired Mattias Ekholm from the Nashville Predators. Assuming he can make a similar trade again, what is the biggest area of need on the roster in your mind?
Jason Gregor: If McLeod is going to remain on the wing, then a 3rd line centre. If a legit top-pair right D-man, with term, becomes available then I’d look at that as well. The latter will be more difficult.
Robin Brownlee: That’s a big assumption. That was then, this is now. Barring an injury to a core player, I don’t see a need for taking a big swing like that.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I think adding a right-shot defenseman would be a solid move. They could also benefit from one more high-end top-nine forward. Either a centre of a winger would work. So one of those two areas are where I could see him spending his first round pick to upgrade.
Liam Horrobin: The obvious answer is goaltending but to go outside the box I’ll say a third line centre. It’s fantastic that Ryan McLeod has found his game as a wing on a line with Leon Draisaitl, however, there is now a massive hole on the 3rd line. If the Oilers want to compete come playoff time they need to upgrade there because Derek Ryan can only do the job for so long.
Baggedmilk: Give me a 3rd line centre like Philip Danault. Someone that can shut the other team down while also chipping in with some timely offence. If not that then a RW that can actually play with Leon Draisaitl.
Mar 11, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) celebrates with center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) after scoring a goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
5) Yves asks – Still lots of work to do with less than 50 games to play. What do the Oilers need to do down the stretch to get themselves into the playoffs?
Jason Gregor: They will make it. They are a good team, who had a bad start. Just play to their potential, like they have the past 51 days and they will get in without much concern.
Robin Brownlee: Just more of the same of what they’ve shown since Knoblauch took over — continued commitment to sound defensive hockey. That’s the foundation for the turnaround we’re seeing.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Win 30 to 35 of their final 50 games. Even though they’ve turned it around as of late, they’re far from being in the clear.
Liam Horrobin: They have to find consistency. Losing two games in a row is going to happen, but they can’t allow it to stretch further than that.
Baggedmilk: Just keep winning, baby. This playoff push is going to get tight and all the Oilers can really do about it is keep winning hockey games.

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