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Would you look at that? Another week is in the books and that means we’re seven days closer to the start of a new season, and for that I’m grateful. In this week’s mailbag, you asked the panel for thoughts on the defence, Ken Holland’s work so far, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ wedding, and a whole lot more. If you have a question for next week, and I’m always looking for some, you can always email me or hit me up on Twitter. From there I will slot you in as quickly as possible. Until then, enjoy the free learning.

1) Vetinari asks – Our defence has struggled for years, and Klefbom, Larsson, Russell, Nurse and Benning have all been with us for at least the past three seasons — is it time to change this group up and out of them, who would be your core to build around based on salary, free agent status and money?

Jason Gregor:

It is a valid question. Benning has played 205 games, Nurse 279 and Klefbom 316. Many hockey scouts, manager and coaches believe most D-men don’t really figure things out until around they play 300 games. Larsson (498) and Russell (791) likely aren’t improving much more at this point, but the first three still should find more consistency.

The one thing the team should alter is to play Russell on the left side. He is better there than on RD. All the analytics prove it. So play him in the third pair LD, and figure out the right side. Just playing him in a better position for him to succeed will help. I’d also look at playing Nurse/Larsson (like they did in 2018) together in the toughest minutes and play Klefbom with either Benning or Persson.

Robin Brownlee:

Why would anybody with any sense consider getting rid of Klefbom, Larsson and Nurse just as they are entering their prime years? Russell is a different matter because of age, but you need somebody proven enough to replace him. The Oilers obviously have some young guys on the way, but they aren’t proven yet and you don’t make a move until they’ve shown they’re ready to play. Not there yet.

Cam Lewis:

The blueline, when fully healthy, really hasn’t struggled at all. In 2016-17, it was a strength of the team. Adam Larsson and Oscar Klefbom were a legit top pair, Andrej Sekera and Kris Russell did a lot of heavy lifting, and Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse were sheltered nicely on the third pair. When things go downhill is when Klefbom and Sekera are out and  Benning or Russell have to take on bigger roles than they can handle and Nurse and Larsson have to gobble up all of the big minutes. I don’t mind the blueline at all, to be honest.

Chris the Former Intern:

To be honest, I wouldn’t be sad if any one of them got traded, granted we don’t get fleeced on the deal. If I had to choose though, Klefbom and Nurse would be our core, maybe Larsson too.

Baggedmilk:

I’m concerned about the defence tbh. I don’t really know why the team had to buyout Sekera quite yet and basically force a young guy onto the roster, but I’m going to go ahead and hope for the best because what else can I do?

2) Douglas asks – If you were to grade Ken Holland’s performance so far what would his mark be? Why?

Jason Gregor:

This is only based on paper as no games have been played. But I’d say a B. He shed Lucic contract and got a better player and it only cost him $500,000 in extra cap hit. He didn’t overspend on term in free agency. Overpaying on dollars and term for UFAs rarely works. He inherited a tough situation with the roster and cap space, and so far I think he has done a solid job.

Robin Brownlee:

A. While many were moaning that Holland hadn’t done enough in the off-season, which was fair game in terms of substantial moves, he was working the Lucic-Neal deal. Getting rid of the Lucic contract is something many thought couldn’t be done, and he got a player capable of scoring 20 goals in return.

Cam Lewis:

I would say a B or a B+. The team isn’t much better than it was last year but it certainly isn’t in worse shape long term. A reality we have to accept is that cleaning up Peter Chiarelli’s mess is a massive endeavour and it’ll take time to start building towards contention. Holland went the bargain bin route to add some depth and avoided handing out a bad free-agent contract. He also managed to dump Milan Lucic, which I honestly thought would be impossible.

Chris the Former Intern:

A-  Just when you think he’s not going to make a big acquisition, he trades Lucic 1-for-1. Other than that, he’s loading up competition in our bottom six, and found another goalie to compete with Koskinen.

Baggedmilk:

I was a lot more concerned before he pulled off the ridiculously good Lucic for Neal swap last week. I NEVER would have expected him to be able to get that done, but then he blew all of our collective minds through our skulls on Friday afternoon.

3) Gregg asks – I’ve seen some folks on social media suggesting that the Oilers should trade Darnell Nurse for a scoring forward based on the likelihood that his next contract will be expensive. What is everyone’s opinion on this kind of move and does it make sense given where the defence is at right now?

Jason Gregor:

It seems like an odd suggestion, considering any proven scoring forward is going to cost about the same anyways. I’m bullish on Nurse. He took a big stride in his offensive play last season and I expect that to continue. His skating, ability to transport the puck and his toughness are reasons I wouldn’t deal him at this time. Many will say the Oilers have young D coming, but how many of them are ready to play 20 minutes a night. You trade Nurse for a forward and then the team is looking for another top-four LD.

Robin Brownlee:

If Nurse performs, pay him. You can do that if you stop overpaying for marginal players and wasting money elsewhere. It makes no sense to trade Nurse at this point.

Cam Lewis:

It’s not so much about getting rid of Nurse as it is about asset management. Given the fact Jacob Trouba signed for eight million annually, it’s hard to imagine Nurse getting anything other than $7 million per year on his next deal. The Oilers have some good young blueliners coming up and badly need forwards. Selling from a point of strength and avoiding what could be a problematic contract with Nurse makes some sense.

Chris the Former Intern:

I think we’ve got enough defensive prospects to be able to trade Nurse for a top six forward. However due to the recent Lucic trade, I would hold off moving Nurse and give our top six a try as it is.

Baggedmilk:

I can get why some folks would want to move him based on what he’s likely to be paid, but I doubt that it will happen. I can’t see Holland moving a homegrown d-man with potential for even further upside. I mean, the Oilers have been hoping for this to happen for years now.

4) David asks – In his regular season and playoff career, McDavid has skated off the ice with 135 wins and 165 losses (including all shootout and OT wins and losses). To give him and us both hope, can you predict at what season and game number he moves to a situation where he’s won more games than he’s lost?

Jason Gregor:

If you look at simply for W-L then I expect you will be waiting awhile.  Likely it will be at least three good seasons before McDavid is in a situation where he has won more regular season games than he has lost. That is best case scenario. The Oilers could make the playoffs next season and still only be plus four like Vegas and Dallas were last season. Colorado was actually -6 (38-44) and made the playoffs. I wouldn’t look at how long before he is even in regular season wins and losses.

Mario Lemieux’s Penguins won 196 of 480 games in his first six seasons. The Pens were 196-235 with 49 ties. He won the Cup in years seven and eight. Even after winning the Cup in consecutive seasons Lemieux was -24 in W-L having a record of 276-300 with 64 ties.

Joe Sakic was much worse. In his first seven seasons with Quebec they were 186-287 and 63 ties. He won the Cup the next year with Colorado and they had 12 more wins than loses. So he will was still -89 in wins/loss but had a Cup victory. I wouldn’t worry much about being even in wins. If the Oilers are even or only +1 and make the playoffs that is all he will care about.

Robin Brownlee:

Season and game number? No. How do we know what the Oilers will look like next season for sure, let alone two, three or four years down the road? Considering the Oilers have won 40-or-more games just three times since the start of the 2005-06 season (47, 41 and 41), it’s highly unlikely he’ll break even during the life of this contract.

Cam Lewis:

I would guess it’ll take until 2021-22.

Chris the Former Intern:

Game 5 of the 2020-21 season.

Baggedmilk:

Uhhh this is too much math for me so I’m going to go ahead and say that it’ll happen this season.

5) Clare asks – Considering Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got married this past week, what advice would you give him as he starts on his new journey as a married man?

Jason Gregor:

Regular foot or back rubs and buy flowers for no reason.

Robin Brownlee:

Toilet seat down.

Cam Lewis:

Take on her last name so your kids can have a triple hyphenated last name.

Chris the Former Intern:

Make sure to have a good balance of photos of your wife on your Instagram, in addition to any other pics you want to post.

Baggedmilk:

Just remember to say, “you were right” and move on with your life.

MAILBAG PRESENTED BY DAYTONA HOMES

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