Monday Mailbag – What is the biggest challenge for Kris Knoblauch?

Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
7 months ago
Happy Monday, dearest 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 what’s to come for Coach Garlic, whether goaltending help is coming, potential trade targets, 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 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
1) Clay asks – Outside of the obvious hole in the standings, what do you see as the biggest challenge for coach Knoblauch?
Jason Gregor: Convincing the players to reduce chances off the rush, be harder in front of their net and reduce the “easy” goals against.
Robin Brownlee: With the deficit they’ve dug to start the season, the biggest challenge is not giving away any points like they did against TB. No margin for error with this start. That means attention to detail every single game. That’s difficult to do.
Tyler Yaremchuk: After watching that Tampa Bay game, it’s going to be finding a way for this team to start clicking at the same time. If the offense shows up, the goaltending doesn’t. If the depth scores, the stars don’t. If they’re good at 5v5, then their special teams stink. He needs to keep this teams belief level high while they wait to get on an eventual heater. Also, he needs to get some key players to start looking like they care a little bit more.
Liam Horrobin: The players available to him. Many players on this roster aren’t good enough for the position they’re playing in. Ken Holland didn’t do a good enough job over the summer addressing areas of need in the bottom six and between the pipes. Knoblauch looks to be a good coach that can get the best out of his guys but how much can you get from an Adam Erne or Sam Gagner.
Baggedmilk: Figuring out how to hold onto leads. I find that the boys get really loose when they’re up by a goal, and I’ll be interested to see what Coach Garlic has to say about keeping themselves calm.
Oct 17, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cody Glass (8) of the Nashville Predators faces off against Ryan McLeod (71) of the Edmonton Oilers during their game at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alan Poizner-USA TODAY Sports.
2) Oilers fan in Van asks – The Oilers have seven forwards (BM note: Five after James Hamblin got his 1st, and Derek Ryan got two in Tampa) that have played at least five games without scoring a goal. Who has to pick it up the most and what are you seeing in their game that just isn’t working?
Jason Gregor: With Ryan and Hamblin scoring it is down to Ryan McLeod, Adam Erne and Connor Brown as far as forwards on the roster. I’d say both Brown and McLeod are equal in needing to step up. McLeod needs to shoot more, and hit the net more often. He has 37 shot attempts and only 20 on goal. He’s actually had more shots from high danger areas this year, but I’d still like to see him get to the blue paint more and hit the net more when he’s in a good spot. Brown only has 14 shots on goal in 10 games. Not good enough. He has to be around the paint more.
Robin Brownlee: Connor Brown has to get going or the moaning and groaning about him will be deafening. Ryan MCLeod is a close second.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Ryan McLeod. He needs to start driving the puck to the middle of the ice and quit being so shy of playing physically. He absolutely has to pick it up soon. He plays a very key role for this team and having the play die on his stick as much as it has just can’t keep happening.
Liam Horrobin: Ryan McLeod needs to pick it up more than anyone. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t shoot good shots and doesn’t trust his feet enough. For me, he’s not a 3rd line centre right now and the team is better off playing him on the wing. The problem then becomes who are you playing at 3C?
Baggedmilk: I’d rather not sound like a broken record, but one of them has to be Ryan McLeod. He just got a big lift this past summer, and we need him to find a way to contribute. The other is Connor Brown. You know why.
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) makes a save on New York Islanders forward Pierre Engvall (18) during the second period at Rogers Place.
3) @ibrbxx asks – Will Edmonton just play Skinner until he can’t even stand up, or will they find a goalie by December?
Jason Gregor: He’s in a groove and I could see him playing three of the next four games, none of which are back to back. Pickard will play once this week. Edmonton has 66 games remaining. If he starts 70%, which is 46, then he will start 58 games this season. Essentially they need a backup to start three of every 10 games starting Monday. I know they have called teams, and will continue to. They could wait and claim Matt Tomkins from TB off waivers when Vasilevskiy returns next week. Alex Lyon is a waiver option for DET once Husso returns. One could argue they’d might as well just play Pickard instead of claiming one of those two. Binnington rumours make little sense to me. There aren’t many realistic options. I’d give Olivier Rodrigue consecutive starts in the AHL and if he keeps playing well, then recall him when and swap out Pickard who hasn’t played in a while.
Robin Brownlee: I can hear Glenn Hall laughing out at that question — he played 502 consecutive games — but it’s worth asking. I don’t see a need to make a panic move given the schedule. There’s days off between every game between now and December.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I suspect at some point they find out if they can trust Calvin Pickard but if they can’t, then they should be trying to scoop up another team’s third goalie.
Liam Horrobin: By all accounts, they’re on the hunt for another goaltender. As for Skinner, they will mix Cal Pickard in at least once on this road trip.
Baggedmilk: Sounds like they’re looking for goaltenders, so we’ll see what that means in due time. Based on Sunday’s practice, we may actually see Calvin Pickard tonight against the Panthers but we’ll have to wait and see.
Apr 25, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Nick Bjugstad (72) during the second period against the Los Angeles Kings in game five of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place.
4) @DookRemy asks – Is there another guy in the league the Oilers can go after that is similar to Nick Bjugstad? I’m talking about a cheap depth piece on a crap team.
Jason Gregor: You are talking about a centre, and I agree. The obvious choice for me is Sean Monahan. He has a $1.985m cap hit and has scored 6-7-13 and is 58.9% in the faceoff dot. He will be highly sought after, but is the best option by far in my eyes at a price point under $2m.  Pierre-Edouard Bellmare is a 4th line C, decent in faceoff with loads of experience. Would cost much less to pry out of Seattle closer to the deadline.
Robin Brownlee: Bjugstad makes $2.1 million, so I wouldn’t call that cheap. What about Bjugstad are you looking to replicate in another player? He’s big but not physical. He’s good but not great on face-offs. He’s off to a good start offensively this season. Pretty broad range of players might be considered “similar” to Bjugstad.
Tyler Yaremchuk: It’s too early for that. Not enough teams are out of it and willing to sell off quality players right now.
Liam Horrobin: There might not be a Nick Bjugstad type out there right now but a couple of names that come close would be Sean Monahan and Thomas Novak.
Baggedmilk: I don’t think we’re getting a depth trade any time soon. If anything, if the Oilers can’t find a way to turn things around, they’ll be selling and not buying.
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his goal with center Leon Draisaitl (29) during the third period against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place.
5) Mark asks – The Oilers had a lot of three and four days off between games since the season started. Could that have contributed to the losses? Now that the Oilers’ schedule moves to pretty much every other night, does it help them get into a groove?
Jason Gregor: I’d argue more time between games early should have allowed them to work on the things they were doing wrong in practice. I didn’t feel they took advantage of that actually. The Oilers were getting killed off the rush, but when they had days off after the Heritage Classic they didn’t do one drill focused on that. I don’t think time off was the issue. Focus and commitment has been the bigger problem from my seat.
Robin Brownlee: The Oilers have only had more than two days off between games once, and that was leading up to a 4-3 loss to Dallas.So, no, too many days off have not contributed to losses.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I don’t think so. Sure, they need to find a groove but I’m not going to sit here and say they’d be doing better if they had a more compressed schedule early in the season.
Liam Horrobin: Could be something but the counter is that this team needs to be prepared for anything. Championship teams find a way and the Oilers haven’t find a way on many occasions this season.
Baggedmilk: I would love to blame the schedule, but I don’t think it’s that. A lot of teams have gaps between games and still find a way to pick up wins.


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