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Monday Mailbag – Off-season Grades for Ken Holland

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
1 year ago
I hope everyone is having an excellent long weekend, and I don’t know if there could ever be a better way than spending a few minutes on your day off than with a bra new Mailbag! This week, we’re looking at Ken Holland’s offseason work, Tyson Barrie’s three-year deal, goaltending, and more. If you’ve got 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) Rob asks – Of the free agency moves Ken Holland has done this summer, which is your personal favourite, and which one has you scratching your head?
Jason Gregor:
Not an exciting answer, but none are my favourite and none came across as horrible for me. I see why each move was made, and some come with more risk (Hyman and RNH long term, and Keith if his numbers past two years reflect him more than teammates), but losing Larsson was the toughest blow.
Robin Brownlee:
The Hyman signing is the best and most significant free agency move. No head-scratchers for me, although on the trade front I don’t like to see a developing defenceman like Ethan Bear moved out. Have to give to get and Warren Foegele might be a sleeper acquisition and something the line-up needs.
Baggedmilk:
The Duncan Keith trade still baffles me a little bit, especially after we saw all of these cap-type trades happening where teams gave up deals they no longer wanted for less than Holland gave up. My favourite is the Zach Hyman contract because I think he’s going to really help this group move forward, and while we’ll definitely argue about the price and term, those are conversations we can have another time.
Cam Lewis:
I don’t love the Cody Ceci move, I think it was a bit steep for a guy who likely profiles ideally as a third-pairing defender, but I also recognize the curveball Holland was dealt with Adam Larsson opting to move on, so I’m not overly critical. The best? Gotta be Zach Hyman, who will be a nice impact player to add to the team’s top six. The forward group is quite a bit better now than last year.
Feb 15, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) is replaced by goaltender Mikko Koskinen (19) during the second period against the Winnipeg Jets at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2) Oilers fan in Van asks – Can the Oilers really take another step forward with the same goaltending tandem of Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen?
Jason Gregor:
Great question. I don’t think Smith falls off a cliff, but expecting him to be .923sv% is unrealistic. If the Oilers play better team defence it will make the goalie’s job easier.
Robin Brownlee:
I think so. Not ideal, but the forwards look better and if Keith and Ceci hold up on the back end, the team is better overall. They just need to get the same overall level of goaltending to move up. Would have preferred an upgrade in the crease.
Baggedmilk:
This duo being back for round three is what concerns me the most about the team as we head into 2021-22. I totally understand bringing Smith back after the year he just put up, but I’m not so sure I feel comfortable with Mikko riding shotgun as the backup or 1A or whatever you want to call him.
Cam Lewis:
I’m worried about Smith going back to the full, 82-game calendar, but I also think Koskinen will be better next year than he was last. It’s been good enough to get them into the playoffs in back-to-back years, so it should be again, especially in a mediocre division. After that, it’s all about getting hot at the right time.
Feb 8, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Tyson Barrie (22) skates with the puck in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre.
3) Sara asks – Tyson Barrie led the NHL in scoring by a defenceman last season and yet a big part of the fanbase seems to be unhappy with him re-signing. How does everyone rate the three-year extension?
Jason Gregor:
I understand why they did it. I’m perplexed by how many downplay actual production. His cap hit for his point production is quite good. He isn’t paid like an elite two-way D-man, so I don’t really understand the frustration. They didn’t go too long, and short term is always better in free agency. I think the deal is fine. Barrie and Bouchard has more upside than Bear/Bouchard in my view.
Robin Brownlee:
It’s a bargain. You get the NHL’s leading scorer for defencemen for an AAV that’s not in the top-60. Every time I see people trotting out the most unflattering numbers they can find for Barrie, I think of those who searched high and low for numbers that convinced them Martin Marincin could be a first-pairing guy. Remember that? Flaws and all, it’s a great deal.
Baggedmilk:
I was also a little bit surprised by how many folks were really upset about the term and money. The guy got a marginal raise after leading the league in points by a defenceman and the term isn’t even that outrageous. Personally, I thought Barrie was going to be a one and done player around here, but the fact that he wanted to re-sign despite being able to go anywhere he wanted should be viewed as a positive. I mean, don’t we always talk about free agents not wanting to sign in Edmonton?
Cam Lewis:
Barrie seems to gel nicely with Edmonton’s top players and he was paid a pretty reasonable contract as a complementary player. I thought he would have been able to earn a bigger deal in free agency given his production. Hard to complain here.
4) Clay asks – This was supposed to be the Summer of Ken but I don’t know that the team is much better outside of having deeper depth up front. How would you rate Holland’s third offseason with the Edmonton Oilers so far?
Jason Gregor:
All depends on the results. Losing Larsson forced them to change direction somewhat, although had them signed him I could still see them signing Barrie and moving Bear for Foegele. Can’t blame the GM when a player simply wants a change. As I wrote I think Edmonton has greatly improved their forwards, the D has some questions, while goaltending is the same. I don’t think Smith’s age is that much of a factor, more than expecting a .923sv% is unrealistic. If Smith can slide in around .915 they should be fine. I think the trade deadline will be a factor. Edmonton must win at least one round in the playoffs this year.
Robin Brownlee:
Depth up front, the bottom six getting caved in all the time, was a major flaw, so how is addressing that only a minor improvement? It’s significant. Like I said above, if Keith and Ceci hold up, I see the team being better even with the same goaltending tandem. Holland doesn’t have the option of operating in armchair GM mode. I like what he’s done to this point.
Baggedmilk:
I think the forward group is undoubtedly better than it was a year ago, but I don’t know that the same can be said for the defensive group. I mean, losing Adam Larsson was a kick to the shin that none of us expected and it means that there will be a lot of pressure on Barrie, Ceci, and Bouchard to try and fill the void.
Cam Lewis:
It’s really hard to say. I think the forward group is pretty clearly better but the question is how much did they step backwards on the blueline.
Losing Larsson is huge. He was excellent last year and logged some insanely hard minutes. The question is whether Duncan Keith can thrive playing fewer minutes and whether Cody Ceci can be more like the guy he was in Pittsburgh than he was in Toronto and Ottawa. I also think Evan Bouchard is an interesting X factor. If he can break into the league and be a top-four defender and Ceci slides down a peg, that would be huge.
5) Dave O. asks – A lot has been made about Holland and his “it’s got to be a fair deal” line. When I look at more recent former players like Sakic, Guerin, and Yzerman, who have spent their whole lives competing hard against their friends and trying to win, do you think the league will finally move to a situation where you get GMs who are competing with each other the way they expect their players to do?
Jason Gregor:
Not every trade is the same. No GM wins every trade. I don’t believe CHI was in as much of disadvantage as some think, and giving up a 3rd rounder and a Dman who wasn’t going to play here isn’t much. The cap hit is the concern, no question.
But Sakic had to give up a 1st, a conditional third and Timmins for one year of Kuemper. I think that is a lot, considering COL had many UFA goalie options they could have signed, and even if they weren’t as good as Kuemper, Sakic would have still had Timmins and the 1st to use for trade bait later.
I try not to over analyze one phrase and think that is reflects the norm.
Robin Brownlee:
That’s been the case for a long time. Nothing new. To make a trade, you need a trading partner who has what you want and is interested in someone you have. Looking for a clear, decisive win the day a trade is made is folly. Trades often take years to play themselves out. GM’s who make sucker offers to their peers — trying to come out way ahead — often find that their phones stop ringing and calls stop getting answered. Having talked to Guerin about how he wants to operate, I think he’s got a really good chance to be a solid GM. Yzerman and Sakic are both sharp as well. The traits that make somebody a really good player don’t always translate to them being really good managers. We’ve seen that countless times. 
Baggedmilk:
It honestly annoys me a little bit when I hear Ken Holland talking about fair deals. I don’t want fair deals. I want my GM to go out and rob people. Is that too much to ask?
Cam Lewis:
Probably not. The NHL is a fairly rigid league in terms of its culture and in order to work your way up the system and be successful, you ultimately have to adhere to it. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to a situation in which we frequently see teams making offer sheets on other players, for example, because, like with players, execs seem to also have these Unwritten Rules they follow. GMs, coaches, players, top to bottom, are actually fairly similar.

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