Elliotte Friedman appeared on Sportsnet 590 in Toronto on Friday morning to talk about an array of topics around the NHL, including Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. In Friedman’s opinion, general manager Ken Holland has two years to show the superstar that things are heading in the right direction.
I think the answer is no, he’s not patient. But he’s also willing to be convinced. I think they’ve got two years to show him they’re going in the right direction. This year and next year.
It’s important to remember that this is conjecture from Friedman. He’s stating that this is his opinion about how things will shake out and this isn’t anything he’s been told from either McDavid’s camp or the Oilers organization. That said, Friedman is a trustworthy and reliable reporter. He’s very well connected and he isn’t the type to blow smoke just to get a rise out of people or to get his name out there. There’s likely merit to what’s he’s putting out there.
After the Oilers won the McDavid lottery, the organization completely flipped key parts of their operation around. They pushed Craig MacTavish out of his role as general manager and hired Peter Chiarelli to fill his role, and they hired a veteran coach in Todd McLellan. It’s been widely speculated that adding Chiarelli and McLellan, two experienced individuals who had a fair amount of success in the NHL, was done in part to make McDavid comfortable with the future of the organization that drafted him.
The team made the playoffs in McDavid’s second year in the league and he quickly inked an eight-year deal to remain with the club, showing his long-term commitment and trust in the direction things were headed. As we know, things went south after that, as the Oilers missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Though there’s been plenty of noise from sources outside the city about McDavid’s patience with the Oilers, he’s never made any indication whatsoever that he wants to move on from the organization. McDavid is an elite competitor and he surely wants to finish what he started here.
Still, given what Friedman is speculating, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for McDavid to go to Daryl Katz and Bob Nicholson and quietly demand things get back on track quickly. McDavid is in the prime of his career and he doesn’t want to spend it peddling around in mediocrity. I would venture a guess that he had a say in the hiring of Ken Holland, a veteran general manager who has seen a lot of success in the past.
The Oilers seem to be in good shape with Holland at the helm. While many of us were skeptical of Holland due to the Detroit Red Wings tailspin into mediocrity over the past few years, a deeper dive into the situation paints a more clear picture.
Owner Mike Ilitch pushed hard for Holland to continue the Wings’ legendary playoff streak even if it wasn’t the right move for the long-term health of the club. Holland made moves to keep that streak alive and it ultimately resulted in the Wings drowning with a bunch of old, overpaid players and a weak prospect cupboard. But, after Ilitch passed away, the Wings started looking more towards the future, and Holland began to leave a nice foundation for a rebuild. Detroit has had 32 picks over the past three drafts and are starting to build a strong farm system again.
We’ve already seen the calming influence of Holland in his first few months with the Oilers. Rather than diving head-first into free agency and overpaying for marginal upgrades, Holland added a wealth of cheap depth this off-season. While it may not be enough to help the Oilers into the playoffs this year, it’s finally allowing the organization to let prospects slowly develop in the farm system.
In the past, we’d have seen Tyler Benson and Evan Bouchard thrust into key roles well before they were ready. With Holland, both players will instead get key developmental minutes on a good, deep AHL roster. This transition to nurturing prospects is critical to the long-term success of the organization.
Circling back to Friedman’s comments, I really have no idea whether or not they’re accurate. I trust Friedman, think he’s well-connected, and don’t believe he says things to cause controversy. Regardless, I feel confident with Holland running the Oilers.
If Friedman is right and McDavid did give Holland two years, I’m comfortable that he can turn the ship around in that amount of time. If Friedman is wrong, then, well, none of this matters and we can just look forward to what seems to be a bright future.