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Welcome, friends, to yet another edition of the Monday Mailbag where we answer all of your Oilers related questions and give you a few minutes of time killing distraction from whatever it is that you’re trying to avoid. Needless to say, there are plenty of things to talk about as the Oilers look to get themselves back on track after the disappointing 2018-19 season. This week, we look at Mike Smith’s puck-moving skills, roster construction, sports cities, and a whole lot more. As always, I need your questions to make this work. If you’ve got one, 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.

1) CaptainCanada94 asks – I think if our defence stays healthy, they are a mediocre 4-6 at best in the NHL. How much will the acquisition of Mike Smith assist our defence and alleviate the pressure of a forecheck? Can he alone be an answer to defensive zone issues? How can he impact young defensemen such as @Evan Bouchard?

Robin Brownlee:

What do you mean by “mediocre 4-6 at best?” As a group? Do you mean they’re all second- or third-pairing guys? A goaltender who can handle and move the puck is a plus. How much of one in this case? I don’t know.

Cam Lewis:

This question is… a whirlwind. I think, if fully healthy, the team’s blueline is actually solid. The big if comes down to @Oscar Klefbom. If he’s healthy, it’s a major game-changer, as we saw last year. In regards to @Mike Smith, I have a hard time imagining that his puck-moving will make that big of a difference. I bet we’ll see him fire a pass to Connor McDavid a couple of times in stride for a breakaway and it’ll be really cool, but it won’t compensate for the blueline’s lack of elite puck movers.

Christian Pagnani:

I agree. I don’t think the defence is good enough, specifically with moving the puck. Maybe Evan Bouchard has a wonderful rookie season, but they have too many of the same types playing big minutes. Mike Smith can take some pressure off with his puck-handling skills, but I don’t think he alone changes much.

Baggedmilk:

Uhhhh… Maybe? I said on a podcast that I think Mike Smith will get 10 assists this year so maybe that would be equivalent to a guy on the third pairing. I’m not sure I really understand the question.

Apr 19, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Smith (41) makes a save against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period in game five of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

2) Clint asks – Comparing the @Edmonton Oilers and @Calgary Flames directly, who has the better overall goaltending tandem?

Robin Brownlee:

I’ll go with the Flames. Talbot and Smith have both been better than they showed last season, but Smith is trying to bounce back at the age of 37, while Talbot is 32. Rittich is .909 in his career and trying to establish himself. Koskinen is .904 and you just don’t know what you’re going to get from him. Too many swings in his performance to trust him, at least at this point.

Cam Lewis:

It’s pretty close. David Rittich did well last year but doesn’t have a track record beyond that. Mikko Koskinen’s track record of being a good goalie in the NHL is, like, 10 games long. I might go with Mike Smith over Cam Talbot? I don’t know. Neither team’s goaltending situation is admirable.

Christian Pagnani:

Flames by a bit. I like the idea of Talbot bouncing back behind Calgary more than Smith behind Edmonton. Rittich is a little bit more proven than Koskinen, too. Neither are particularly good, but one of them should be good enough. I wouldn’t want to bet on either tandem.

Baggedmilk:

I think the Flames do by a bit because I think Rittich is solid, but I would suggest that it’s very close. We’ll see if Smith can steal the job from Koskinen like I predict he will.

3) Ethan asks – Do you guys have any updates on the Oilers building up their Analytics Department? With the NHL implementing Puck and Player Tracking technology next season, does it concern you that the Oilers are so far behind it hiring people to take advantage of this?

Robin Brownlee:

Not sure who the Oilers are talking to in that regard. More concerned with the players being tracked than who is tracking them.

Cam Lewis:

The use of analytics is one thing, but properly implementing them into your overarching and day-to-day strategy is another. I don’t think Edmonton’s front office is overly inclined to use this kind of decision-making, which is unfortunate. They did test the waters back in the MacT general manager era and it didn’t work well for them, so I can’t imagine the organization taking another stab at what would be a fairly big overhaul in the way they make decisions.

Christian Pagnani:

Nope. The hope is the Oilers are building one of the league’s leading groups of analytical persons, but the more realistic scenario is them hiring one or two people to collect data for them. They don’t seem overly concerned they’re lacking any insight into statistics and analytics, but maybe Holland changes that?

Baggedmilk:

If the Oilers aren’t building an analytics department then they’re going to fall behind. They’d be like a guy that shows up to your house with a new KISS 8-track tape and wondering why you don’t have anywhere to play it.

4) Trent asks – As we get into mid-August and NHL rosters look to be more complete, how would you rank the Oilers’ team on a scale of 1-10? Why did you assign this number?

Robin Brownlee:

Don’t like assigning a number. What does ranking the team mean, exactly? One serious defect, like lack of scoring at forward or a penalty kill that is abysmal, for example, can torpedo a roster that is pretty good overall but doesn’t get results because of it. Until the team can play above the .500 mark, it’s no better than 5 out of 10.

Cam Lewis:

Probably a 5/10. The roster is very top-heavy. Having @Connor McDavid, @Leon Draisaitl, and Oscar Klefbom means you can compete if everything else goes right. The issue is it’s hard to imagine everything else going right.

Christian Pagnani:

It’s hard to rank a team with Connor McDavid so low, but I have to go with 5/10. They have a great top line and nothing much after that. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will have to drag two players who are most likely not top-six guys. The defence is mediocre and goaltending is suspect. They have a ways to go.

Baggedmilk:

I’ll give them a solid 6/10. Decent but certainly with room to improve.

5) Stefan asks – I was listening to the Real Life Podcast this past week, and the guys mentioned that they would be heading to Buffalo to watch a football game and it got me wondering where is everyone’s favourite city to watch sports? Personally, I went to a hockey game in Montreal two years ago and it was an incredible experience.

Robin Brownlee:

Hockey — Montreal
MLB — Boston
NBA — Los Angeles
NFL — Chicago
Cam Lewis:

The best hockey atmosphere I’ve been to is Vegas. Going to games in Florida are great too because there’s nobody there and it’s easy to walk around. I haven’t been to enough NBA or NFL games to comment. For baseball, I love Dodger Stadium because of the idyllic vibe. Going to Seattle for a Jays game when Canadians invade the city is great too. It’s like a playoff atmosphere.

Christian Pagnani:

I don’t know.

Baggedmilk:

I’d love to go see a game in Montreal. I’d also like to go to Europe to check out a Premier League game and see what the vibe is like for those games. I have some buddies over in England and they are bananas for soccer and I think that would be cool to be a part of.

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