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Monday Mailbag – Where should Connor Brown slot into the Oilers’ lineup?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
2 months ago
Happy Monday, fair 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 Connor Brown’s spot in the lineup, Ryan McLeod as 3C, Ethan Bear, 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.
Oct 4, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor Brown (28) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
1) Clay asks – Connor Brown is getting some significant minutes along Leon Draisaitl but is still unable to do much with the opportunity. Is there anyone else on the current roster or in Bakersfield that you would prefer to see on the right side of that line?
Jason Gregor: I like that Knoblauch sticks with lines. That line has been together for six games. The Oilers are 6-0. I wouldn’t change anything now despite that line only scoring one goal. Kane and Draisaitl were on for one goal together, while Brown was on for one without those two. The other lines have produced and I’d play the odds eventually this line will produce. It would be easy to change it after a loss, if they still haven’t scored. Sam Gagner would seem the best option. Keep the McDavid and McLeod lines intact and swap Gagner and Brown. But that isn’t a long term solution. Brown has had some good looks and Knoblauch is hoping once he gets one, it will energize him like it did McLeod.
Robin Brownlee: No.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I would kind of like the see Dylan Holloway get an extended run once he’s back in the lineup, even though it would require flipping Evander Kane to the right side. I think him and Draisaitl would be a great fit. For now, Brown isn’t dragging the line down or anything, so I think it’s fine.
Liam Horrobin: Nobody in Bakersfield but I think Raphael Lavoie will be a great bottom six scorer eventually. As for Brown, it’s coming. I know patience is what we’ve all been pushing but the chances are there. He just hit the bar a couple of games ago. If this continues, perhaps Holloway can get an opportunity.
Baggedmilk: Maybe Dylan Holloway when he’s healthy? Maybe Raphael Lavoie in a year or so? Too many maybes in both of those sentences tbh.
Dec 6, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan McLeod (71) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2) James in Peterborough asks – Would like to get the panel’s thoughts on Ryan McLeod. I see him as the long-term 3rd-line Centre that good teams all seem to have. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Jason Gregor: He has all the tools to do it. Ideally I’d want him to finish a few more checks and go to the net more. Those are things he can do, and we saw him do it in the playoffs. He will also need to win a few more draws to be the long-term answer.
Robin Brownlee: Right you are. No disagreement here.
Tyler Yaremchuk: If he could find some consistency, then yes I agree. He’s far from a perfect player, but when he’s on, he brings speed and offense to their third line and he’s a good defensive player. I would just like him to not go through long cold spells and I’d like to see him play with a bit more physicality.
Liam Horrobin: There’s no doubt that he’s got talent but he needs to find ways to score more consistently. If you look at all the other top teams in the NHL, there third line centre contributes way more than McLeod does. With that said, he’s been playing much better in his last five games or so which now needs to be the standard. If by the trade deadline he’s still lacking consistency then I would acquire a new 3C and put McLeod on the wing.
Baggedmilk: Ryan McLeod can absolutely be this team’s 3C if he keeps playing the way he has over this most recent stretch. Outside of the lack of goals, the only thing that bothers me about McLeod is that it can take some convincing for him to get to the greasy areas on the ice. That said, I could absolutely see him ending up as a winger as his career goes along.
Dec 6, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Zach Hyman (18), his third goal of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
3) Oilers fan in Van asks – The Oilers are finding ways to win games that they surely would have lost earlier in the year, but they’re still stuck way behind the rest of the pack. Everyone says there’s still plenty of time, but I’m not so sure about that because of the possibility of three-point games. Where do you sit on the Oilers’ playoff chances given what we know so far and how much of the season we have left to go?
Jason Gregor: Without question they will make the playoffs. You have to be realistic of how quickly you can gain ground on that many teams. On November 23rd they were 14th in the West and 10 points behind 2nd Wildcard. They were seven pts back of 9th and 10th with one game in hand.
This Monday morning they are now in 10th place in the west and three points back of the second wildcard (ARI) with one game in hand. They are five back of the first wildcard spot (NSH) with three games in hand. They’ve made steady progress. Oilers are making the playoffs as everyone expected. It is just a matter of how high can they finish.
Robin Brownlee: You aren’t “stuck” if you keep winning. They’ll make the playoffs.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I was asked this question on Oilersnation Radio and I said 88%. So I’ll stick with that as my answer. Although right now, they’re looking like a team that can keep playing a .700 points percentage pace for a while. so my number will probably keep going up for the next few weeks here.
Liam Horrobin: I think the Oilers have a 75% chance of making the playoffs. They have the talent to do so it’s now just about playing at the right standard the rest of the way. Additionally, the teams in the Western Conference playoff race really aren’t that great. We may get to a point in the season where St Louis and Nashville both sell of more pieces which leaves the door open for the Oilers to make a push. Making the top three in the division will be difficult but they still have plenty of games left versus the Golden Knights and Kings.
Baggedmilk: I’m still at 100%. I think they’re going to do it. I think they’re going to find a way to erase that disastrous start, make the playoffs, and ride that resiliency right to the Cup finals.
Mar 3, 2020; Dallas, Texas, USA; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear (74) during the game between the Stars and the Oilers at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
4) JP Turtle asks – Ethan Bear is nearly healthy and a serviceable depth defenseman. Can we trade Kulak for a depth pick, play Broberg in his place, and sign Bear for 1.5 million as our 7th defenseman? It saves the team $1.25 million, and we get a draft pick.
Jason Gregor: Bear will not sign here and Edmonton isn’t looking at him as an option. Smaller D men aren’t what you want in playoffs unless they are elite.
Robin Brownlee: What has Broberg done to convince you it makes any sense to trade away a proven blueliner like Kulak? No thanks.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Kulak is a good third-pairing defenseman and going from him to Broberg would be a downgrade in a year where it’s “Cup or bust”. I’m not interested in doing that. Ethan Bear as a seventh defenseman? Sure. The other part of that idea, no thanks.
Liam Horrobin: No. The idea of moving the cap makes sense but the Oilers don’t have time to experiment and see if Broberg and Bear can figure it out. If you can bring Bear in on a cheap deal then yes take him but it shouldn’t be at the cost of Kulak. If you’re moving on from Kulak then you need to find some equal or better than him.
Baggedmilk: No. No. No. In my eyes, Brett Kulak is objectively the best defencemen of the three you listed so why would we want to trade him?
5) Kev asks – The entire country was watching for Shohei Ohtani on Friday, and I’m wondering if you’ve ever seen anything quite like that in sports before? I can’t think of any other situation that had everyone glued to their phones in such an intense way as we were for Ohtani watch.
Jason Gregor: Lebron James signing was like that for basketball fans. Hockey hasn’t had one of their true superstars become a free agent, but if McDavid was, it would be equally crazy in Canada.
Robin Brownlee: You’re dating yourself with the “glued to their phones” part. I didn’t get caught up in the Ohtani stuff. I’ve anticipated lots of other events more than the outcome of the Ohtani saga. NHL lottery in McDavid’s draft year etc.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I’m currently heartbroken and will not be answering this question.
Liam Horrobin: I’ve never experienced it before. The only other half similar time for me was back in England when Cristiano Ronaldo signed for Real Madrid and left Manchester United. Being from the Manchester area, all the talk everyone day was about Ronaldo’s future. Twitter wasn’t a thing back then but even our teachers at school would give us updates on what was happening.
Baggedmilk: It was wild, man. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen something like it. The entire country was watching that stupid plane after it was reported Shohei was on his way to Toronto, and I’d love to know how much work didn’t get done across the country on Friday.

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