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At Random: The Waiting Game

The one thing we haven’t had enough of as we find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the dog days of the NHL off-season is enough articles about what the Edmonton Oilers group of forwards and line combinations might look like next season, so I’m going to write another. Actually, no.

I get it. Given the salary cap limitations POHO and GM Ken Holland has been working with since taking on the task of cleaning up the mess left by Peter Chiarelli, we’ve been left trying to figure out exactly who coach Dave Tippett will be able to throw over the boards when next season begins.

There are examples of that here, here and here, to list just three in the past 24 hours to add to the pile of what’s already been scribbled – some of them complete with depth charts, line combinations and potential free agents targets – and discussed.

The common thread, whether the angle is who’ll play with Connor McDavid, who among a dozen candidates will fill roles in the bottom six or who might emerge from a pile of maybes to be the next Alex Chiasson, is Holland hasn’t yet found a way to add enough talent for the Oilers to be markedly better up front. We can stare at the names until we’re blue in the face, the additions we’ve seen won’t be enough to make a difference. Now what?

GETTING IT TOGETHER

To borrow from Captain Obvious, and even allowing for the possibility a newcomer like Markus Granlund, Josh Archibald or Joakim Nygard might surprise, a kid like Tyler Benson might be ready or Milan Lucic might bounce back (sure), there is way too much hoping for the best and fearing the worst going on. There has to be more. There has to be.

What and who it is, exactly, I don’t know – beyond thumbing through the names of leftovers in the free agent bargain bin and guessing who Holland might want to spend what precious little cap space he has on in an actual hockey trade. In that regard, your guess is as good as mine at a time when most of the “insiders” in the hockey biz have retired to the cottage.

The positive amid all the unknown is that Holland isn’t oblivious to what every fan out there sees and what very writer and blogger has written about. That, of course, should be a given, but after how badly Chiarelli performed filling needs that seemed obvious to just about everybody but him, it’s understandable there’s a fair amount of angst attached to waiting for Holland to pull the trigger.

Holland has already talked about the need to find a proven third-line centre and a forward capable of scoring 20 goals. I don’t see either one of those the signings so far, and neither does he. “I don’t think that we’re done,” Holland told us the day after free agency opened. “I’ve been a manager for 22 years. I know when it’s time to pay and when it’s time not to pay.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I know patience is a tough sell around here, and with good reason, but I’ve got a lot more belief that Holland will orchestrate the additions he needs than I ever had in Chiarelli’s ability to get the job done. Holland has the first step in the process down pat – understanding and identifying what his roster needs. I’ve yet to find myself thinking there’s a huge hole here or there and he doesn’t see it. Pete? Different story.

The second step is finding a way to address those needs, and that’s what we’re waiting on now. I’m no blind-faither when it comes to Holland, even some people might think that’s so. I’ve just seen enough from him over the years to believe that while the insiders are catching their breath at the lake and the rest of us are trying to come up with stories and radio segments out of thin air, Holland is weighing his options and working the phones.

The time to pay is coming. Until then, we wait.

UPDATE: Well, we didn’t have to wait very long for Holland to deliver. We’re now awaiting confirmation and details of a trade that will send Lucic and possibly a conditional draft pick to the Calgary Flames for James Neal. Much more to come.

THIRD ANNUAL OILERSNATION OPEN

After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.

  • When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
  • Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
  • How much – $1000/team
  • Teams – Groups of Four (4)
  • How – Book your team here

As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.

Previously by Robin Brownlee