Two years into his tenure as general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, Ken Holland has lived through two playoff disappointments. However, he’s not defining the last two seasons solely on those results.
“I think we’ve made tremendous strides as I’ve watched our team over the last two years. We check. We work,” Holland said.
The Oilers biggest shortcoming remain clear: they have little in the way of offence after big guns Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
“Up front, you’re always looking to get a little more depth scoring. Part of that is just internal growth,” said Holland, who believes youngsters like Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod are on the way to being good support players.
He also feels the up-and-coming Oilers will be well-served to follow the examples being set by McDavid, Draisaitl, and Darnell Nurse.
“It’s not a decent template. It is the template,” Holland said. “During my long time in Detroit, our best players were the most committed athletes off the ice.
“That’s what Connor, Leon, and Darnell do.”
But the fact remains that much of the Oilers success revolves around a small group of players. Holland admits he’d like to add some “greybeards” to help McDavid and company shoulder the leadership load.
“We have some wonderful players just coming into the prime of their careers. I can’t support them with a whole bunch of 20- and 21-year-olds,” Holland explained. “You also need those veteran players that have been there before. They’ve been in those situations, they have experience.”
Holland has several players heading into free agency on his roster. Most notable is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has been an Oiler for ten seasons. His seven-year, $42 million contract is coming to an end.
Holland feels both sides will have to make sacrifices to reach a new deal.
“Those are the best deals, when both sides don’t like the deal but can live with the deal,” said Holland.
“I’m hoping we can find a solution keep Nuge here, keep him part of the group and have some cap space left to go out and try to bring in another player or two.”
Holland added that he wants to re-sign goaltender Mike Smith. He expects to meet with Smith in the next couple of weeks.