Happy Monday and welcome to a brand new edition of the Mailbag to help you start your week and break down everything that’s happening with our beloved Edmonton Oilers. This week we’re looking at Evander Kane’s return, trade rumours, high expectations, and a whole lot more. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
Oct 27, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Jujhar Khaira (16) and Edmonton Oilers left wing Evander Kane (91) fight during the second period at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
1) Chander asks – With Evander Kane possibly returning before the all-star break should the Oilers consider sending him down to Bakersfield for a conditioning stint before he returns to the lineup or should they just put him in their lineup as soon as he’s cleared to play?
Robin Brownlee:
Fair question. Every player is different, but with the time he’s had to skate here because we’re not talking about a knee/ankle type injury preventing him from skating, my guess is he could step in and play. Will he?
Jason Gregor:
They won’t send him to Bakersfield, because he counts on the roster when on conditioning stint and it limits their cap flexibility. Plus very few veterans go on conditioning stints. He has been able to skate for over a month, so he will be in good enough shape.
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Cam Lewis:
Probably wouldn’t be the worst idea but I doubt that happens. The team could use his presence and it seems he’s biting at the chance to get back into the lineup. Let’s hope things haven’t moved too quickly and he’s truly 100 percent.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I feel like they can just throw him right into the lineup. He’s talented enough where he can jump into things on the fly. Remember, it was pretty much around this time last season that he hopped into the Oilers lineup and started making an impact immediately so I think it’s fine to let him figure things out in the lineup versus down in Bakersfield.
Baggedmilk:
Wouldn’t be the worst idea but I doubt it happens, ya know?
Jan 27, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne (35) makes a save on Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) during the shoot-out at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
2) Sharry asks – By the eye it appears that Leon is struggling with the defensive part of the game, his mistakes are never followed up with less ice time, while bottom six players are often benched for this type of play. Does this not challenge the cohesion of the team when certain players are never punished?
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Robin Brownlee:
No. No it does not. Leon is second in NHL scoring behind Connor McDavid. Bottom six players do not contribute what Draisaitl does. NHL players are not treated, and should not be treated, the same. When Leon messes up, he knows it. Sit him down? No chance. No way.
Jason Gregor:
No. Draisaitl completes way more passes than he misses and makes more good plays than bad. And coaches are benching players regularly for mistakes. It is a rare to see a guy benched for a mistake. They happen, but not often.
Cam Lewis:
There was once a time in his career in which Leon Draisaitl would have been benched for such things but he’s now an MVP-winning, $8.5 million player, so he gets more leeway than a rookie like Dylan Holloway or a depth guy like Derek Ryan. The players on the team are aware that some NHLers are treated differently because of their talent and sitting Draisaitl would do more harm for the team than good.
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Tyler Yaremchuk:
I think guys understand. This is the NHL, not a house league team, and superstar players don’t often get the same treatment as bottom-six players. Has Draisaitl been making some mistakes? Yup, but you’re not going to take that guy out of the lineup or bench him for a third period when you’re losing because your best chance of winning is with him on the ice. They won’t be benching him.
Baggedmilk:
Some guys get different rules even though there are times when maybe they shouldn’t. I get it, though.
3) Calvin asks – The Oilers are basically tied to every available defencemen these days given that everyone knows it’s an area of need, but do you actually think there’s a move to be made that’s bigger than the usual depth trade we normally get? Ken Holland can’t possibly make it through the deadline with only a 3rd pairing d-man or 3rd line centre, can he?
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Robin Brownlee:
Sure he can. It’s not necessarily ideal, but there is a premium paid to make deals at the deadline. I start with getting Kane back and then look at what else is needed and how pressing that need is. Also, are we talking about a team ready to take another step from what they did last season or a team struggling just to make the playoffs? The Oilers have looked like both at times.
Jason Gregor:
He could if he decides not to overpay. The Kulak trade was a very good trade last year. Look at Colorado’s additions. Mostly depth guys, and a 2nd pair Dman in Manson. Edmonton would like to add a legit top-four LD, but there aren’t many available. I wouldn’t grossly overpay for Chychrun, because he isn’t the final piece of the puzzle.
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Cam Lewis:
Whether fans like it or not the team will ultimately dictate what Ken Holland will do at the trade deadline. If they build on this three-game streak and climb up the standings, he’ll be more likely to pull the trigger on a big addition involving their first-round pick. If they’re hovering around eighth, maybe not. I would imagine Holland feels comfortable enough in his job security to not make a splash if he isn’t confident in the team, for better or worse.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
Not right now there isn’t. The market just isn’t there. I don’t want to see Holland trade a first-round pick for Joel Edmunson or Vlad Gavrikov. If you’re parting with the first-round pick and another asset you need to aim higher. As we get closer to the deadline, I could see prices falling as more teams identify themselves as sellers.
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Baggedmilk:
I’m worried about what we’re going to get and for how much, especially since everybody knows what the Oilers need.
Jun 6, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers take on the Colorado Avalanche in game four of the Western Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
4) Hank asks – Do you think having high expectations for this season is negatively affecting the Oilers in the same way they did in 2018 when they missed the playoffs?
Robin Brownlee:
No. 2018 has nothing to do with now. How are high expectations a negative? Pro athletes are the most competitive people you’ll ever meet.
Jason Gregor:
I don’t think so at all. They group is confident. They still believe they are a good team, they just need to be more consistent. I don’t see any similarity between this team and the 2018 team to be honest. They were 8 points out of the playoffs on January 15th. The Oilers are in a playoff spot today and have won three in a row and have a very favourable next 10 games. They lacked consistency in the first half, that is valid, but they will be fine. They will make the playoffs, but they do need to become more consistent, like last season, if they want to get to the third round again, and possibly to the Final.
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Cam Lewis:
They didn’t miss the playoffs in 2017-18 because of high expectations, they missed because the team wasn’t very good. This year, they inevitably haven’t matched the same pace they did when they got the coaching bump from Jay Woodcroft, but they’re starting to round out their game as time goes along.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
It better not be. If you want to be a top-tier team in the NHL then you need to be able to handle this kind of stuff and you also have to be ready for the opposition to be throwing their best at you on a nightly basis. The Oilers have clearly struggled with that this season and it’s inexcusable.
Baggedmilk:
I don’t want to even think about it.
Dec 30, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Edmonton Oilers forward Klim Kostin (21) punches Seattle Kraken forward Brandon Tanev (13) during the third period at Climate Pledge Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports
5) Blake asks – As I submit this question, the Oilers are ranked near the bottom of the league in fighting majors. I don’t think that having more fights would necessarily translate to more wins just because they’re fighting, but don’t you see this as an indicator that this team is not fully playing for each other? Top teams like Boston and Tampa Bay seem to fight a lot and I can’t help but wonder if that kind of toughness is a uniting factor in even a small way.
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Robin Brownlee:
Teams don’t have to fight to back each other up. Toughness shows itself in many ways and the Oilers have come up a bit short on that at different times. Play hard. Finish every check. Make life miserable for anybody who takes a cheap shot. It can be done without fighting if your team isn’t built that way.
Jason Gregor:
The teams with most fights in NHL: (Listed with those with most first):
VAN, PHI, NSH, OTT, TB, ANA, MIN, ARI, BOS and MTL.
Three playoff teams and seven non-playoff teams.
Bottom 10 teams in fights (Starting with those with the fewest fights):
DET, CAR, BUF, PIT, TOR, EDM, STL, LA, WPG, VEG.
Seven playoff teams and three non-playoff teams.
I don’t think more fights will mean more success, however, I do believe team toughness is a positive and having more players willing to be uncomfortable (fighting is rarely comfortable) can be a positive if they are doing it to stand up for one another or themselves.
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Cam Lewis:
The four leading teams in fighting majors (Philly, Nashville, Vancouver, and Ottawa) are non-playoff teams, so I doubt that’s the missing ingredient here. It can charge the team up in the right circumstance, sure, but there are also plenty of fights that revolve around an individual just setting a score for themselves.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I think that’s a solid take. I wish this team would show a willingness to stand up for each other a little bit more and I think the lack of fights reflects that. They have gotten better recently though so hopefully that shows they’re starting to play like their playoff lives are on the line.
Baggedmilk:
I like my teams to be a bit spicy so I’m actually pretty happy to see the Oilers jumping in for each other more in the last couple of weeks than they had the entire season before that.
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