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Letters To Coach Tippett

It’s only been four games, but already strange things are afoot at the Circle-K

Montreal Canadiens v Edmonton Oilers
If he’s healthy, Ethan Bear should be in the lineup every night
Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

Hey Coach, hope you’re well.

We’re only four games into the 2021 season and it’s been kind of a rocky start. Don’t get me wrong, I know you’ve been dealing with the wackiness that’s the taxi squad, your number two goaltender going on LTIR and the puck just isn’t going in the net right now. Your plate is full. As much as I can only try to understand the amount of issues that are already on your plate, there are a few things I’ve got to know.

  • What’s going on with the top two lines?

Look, I get it. Every team gets into a funk from time to time. Sometimes you ride high on a ten game win streak, other times you open the season with one win in your first four games of a shortened schedule. The Canadiens came to town recently and beat the Oilers in two straight by a combined score of 8-2. In those two games, only Connor McDavid registered a single point (a secondary assist) and it came on a goal from Slater Koekkoek when the Oilers were down 5-0. Both the McDavid line and the Draisaitl line ate well during the second game of the season against Vancouver. The other three? A total of four points total between the two lines. Could we reunite the line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto for old time’s sake?

  • What’s the deal with scratching both Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones on Monday night’s 3-1 loss to the Canadiens?

Another head-scratcher. Bear got caught napping on Montréal’s fifth goal during the Saturday game and was rewarded with a healthy scratch on Monday night. Caleb Jones got the same treatment, and I get that you want to send a message. Playing time is one of the best ways to get a player’s attention, but it’s obvious to this fan’s eye that the club isn’t any better when Kris Russell is on the second pair. Again, I know you’ve got to send a message to your players, but how much does the club have a chance to win when your top two pairs are Nurse / Koekkoek and Russell / Barrie?

  • Is there any relief for the power play?

Right now, the power play is bad. How bad? Try 2-for-18 bad. Try 0-for-7 bad in Monday’s 3-1 loss. Maybe the lack of preseason games, or a ten-day training camp is hindering last year’s league leading unit. Maybe the unit needs to be shaken up. Maybe Alex Chiasson isn’t the guy you want on the unit.

  • Is the plan really to play Mikko Koskinen every game between now and the end of the month?

This one’s a little bit out of your hands, I get that. All hell broke loose after Anton Forsberg got claimed by Carolina and then Mike Smith ended up on LTIR. This leaves you with Stuart Skinner and Dylan Wells as your two backups for now. The club claimed Troy Grosenick from the Kings a few days ago, but quarantine rules say that he’s still nearly a couple of weeks from being able to play in a game. He’s looking for things to watch on Netflix right now, he’s dying to get out there. Jeff Deslauriers is available if you pick up the phone too, and he’s local.

I can’t imagine the club starting either of Skinner or Dylan Wells at this point, as the club is allowing a league worst 36.3 shots per game over their first four. Koskinen has been so-so up to now, the temperature is going to really turn up if he turns in a clunker tomorrow night in Toronto.

The Oilers are in Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs on Wednesday, and I know you’re on top of these things. Best of luck, we’re all pulling for a 6-2 win.