Monday Mailbag – What do you expect from Vincent Desharnais in 2023-24?

Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
9 months ago
Happy Monday, dear Internet friends, and welcome to a fresh edition of the Mailbag to help get your week started and keep you up to date on all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re looking at expectations for Vinny Desharnais, upgrading the penalty kill, Mattias Ekholm, 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.
Photo: Tony Brar
1) Yves asks – How much value do you put on basically the entire Oilers team being on the ice for these early skates? The players are all saying the right things but we know words and wins are not the same thing.
Jason Gregor:
I don’t see wins being an issue. Since Woodcroft arrived EDM has the 2nd most wins in the league. They will win enough games, but the question is will they win a few more by playing sound defensively.
Robin Brownlee:
What’s the downside?
There’s something about the boys showing up early and getting to work that makes me happy. Whether or not that will translate to greater success during the season remains to be seen, but it certainly cannot hurt.
Feb 11, 2023; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Vincent Desharnais (73) skates in the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
2) Gregg asks – Vincent Desharnais was a really nice surprise on the backend early in his call-up but showed his inexperience at times as the season wore on. What do you expect from Vinny this season and do you think he’ll be an everyday player?
Jason Gregor:
You just described 99% of rookies. A few errors at times. I feel Desharnais’ play in the Vegas series is the perfect example of human psychology. He struggled in game one. Many remember that, but forget that in games 2-6 he was very solid. He was the only Oiler skater, who played all five games, not on the ice for a goal against 5×5. He had a 63SF%, a 55xG%. He bounced back after a tough game one and that I was I look for more than a bad game. Bad games will happen, how you respond to them is important.
Where a player was drafted means very little to me three years after their draft. A lot can change. Admittedly, I like the underdogs. The players who many never felt would make it. I also like huge D-men who can skate and that is Desharnais. He spent a lot of time working on his puck handling skills, puck retrievals and puck handling. I’m curious to see how much he has improved in that area. I think he will be a solid defender for Edmonton this season.
Robin Brownlee:
He’s a very driven and focused player. I expect he’ll be a regular in the lineup.
I think he’ll be a regular unless Philip Broberg can prove that he can handle the minutes on his off-side. Frankly, if Broberg doesn’t steal Vinny’s job at some point then we could be having a different conversation.
May 6, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Jonathan Marchessault (81) deflects the puck wide of Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the third period of game two of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
3) Ali asks – The Oil ranked 20th overall on the penalty kill at 77.0% and often allowed teams to get back into games or pull away on the scoreboard. If you had to pick one thing, what would make the biggest impact in terms of improving the results when down a man?
Jason Gregor:
Need more saves. Between 2020-2022 Mike Smith (.902) had the third highest Sv% in the NHL on the PK, and Mikko Koskinen (.881) was 13th. Last season 56 goalies played at least 100 minutes on the PK. Stuart Skinner was 29th (.868) and Campbell was 46th at .831. The skaters can help, of course, but better reads and more stops from the goalies will be the biggest factor in the PK improving.
Robin Brownlee:
I don’t see one trend and don’t consider the PK a weakness that needs one big impact change to make a difference. Three more percentage points moves them up five places past Vegas, Colorado and Tampa Bay.
A few more saves would help. I think bearing down and making sure pucks get over the blue line would help too as there were many goals that came as a result of the Oilers’ inability to clear the zone.
May 3, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm (14) warms up before the start of game one of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
4) David O. asks – Last year, the Oilers started off a little shaky and closed strong. A lot of that turnaround was influenced by Ekholm’s arrival, but there was some definite strength of schedule effects as well. This year their schedule is a little more balanced with an even mix in their first 20 games of playoff vs non playoff teams from last year. What’s a green (everything’s great) – yellow (sort of okay but some concerns) – red light (1440 phone lines are literally on fire) record for their first 20 games?
Jason Gregor:
They play 10 teams who made playoff last year and 10 who didn’t.
Green would be 13-5-2 or better.
Yellow is 11 wins even if a few OTL.
Red is anything less than 10 wins. I would be shocked if they have a red record.
Robin Brownlee:
Green — 14 wins
Yellow — 11 wins
Red — under 10 wins
Green – 14 wins
Yellow – 12 wins
Red – Anything under 10
The margin for error is small.
Dec 16, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner (89) in action during the game between the Oilers and the Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
5) Ed M. asks – What is your prediction for how the bottom six forwards and d-pairings look on opening night? As there are only one or two spots open, assuming no significant injuries, we are basically talking about the 12th forward and 7th defenceman.
Jason Gregor:
I see Holloway, McLeod, and Foegele as third line or in top-nine.
Janmark, Ryan, and Sutter as 10th to 12th forwards.
The interesting one for me is if they will dress seven or six D on opening night. Barring injury the seven D will be Nurse, Ekholm, Bouchard, Ceci, Kulak, Desharnais and Broberg. If they go 12, then whoever has a better camp between Broberg and Desharnais will play. It would only be a guess at this point, so I won’t say who.
Robin Brownlee:
D-pairing are Nurse/Ceci, Ekholm/Bouchard and Kulak/Desharnais
Forwards are Janmark/McLeod/Foegele and Holloway/Sutter/Ryan — could flip Janmark and Holloway here and there. Some people would rather see Gagner at 4C, but I like Sutter as a fit.
Holloway – McLeod – Foegele will be the third line
Janmark – Ryan – Lavoie will be the fourth line with Gagner and Sutter as extra forwards


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