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At Random: The Long Game

When news the New Jersey Devils were getting ready to pull the trigger on a trade for pending UFA Taylor Hall reached a pitch in the last couple days with the Edmonton Oilers riding a four-game winless streak at the same time, it’s no surprise a vocal minority wanted GM Ken Holland to get something done.

In the end, Holland wasn’t willing to mortgage the future by parting with a first-round draft choice, among other assets, to bring Hall back to Edmonton as a rental player as part of a playoff push. Hall, a former Hart Trophy winner ended up going to the Arizona Coyotes for a package of picks and so-so prospects. I’m fine with that. What about you?

While there’s no question Hall is a fine player and might be the missing piece to push the Coyotes over the top in the Western Conference — he’ll provide some pop to an offence lacking what he brings — I’m not convinced he was the same sure-fire fit here. Neither was Holland, at least not at the price being asked. The vocal minority sees it otherwise, of course. I can only imagine how they’d have howled had the Oilers lost in Dallas last night instead of winning 2-1.

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Agree with it or not, Holland is looking at the long game, and that’s an approach he’s taken since arriving here. In that regard, I don’t think the Oilers had a hope of re-signing Hall as a UFA this summer even if Holland had coughed up Ray Shero’s ask to get him now. Why wouldn’t Hall shop his services to the highest bidder? How, given the money being made by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and with Darnell Nurse needing a contract, would Holland be able to compete in a bidding war?

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KICKING THE TIRES

Photo By: Jason Franson/Canadian Press

Holland kicked the tires on Hall, as a lot of teams did, but in the end giving Shero what he wanted didn’t make sense. Imagine the shrieking in Oil Country if Holland gave up the first-round pick in a package to get Hall and the Oilers missed the playoffs anyway and then Hall went elsewhere this summer.

“Yes, I did talk to them a few times,” Holland told Jim Matheson of Post Media, offering no further comment on the record. Aside from the first-round pick, there are multiple reports that Shero was interested in Philip Broberg or Evan Bouchard as part of a package to get things done. That’s too a high price to pay for a rental, even one as talented as Hall.

With the angst and consternation over the recent winless streak muted at least for today because of the win in Dallas, Holland still has some work to do, but that work involves tweaking and adding complementary pieces who can fill in some gaps, not over-paying for big ticket items like Hall. Find a third-line centre. Is there a reasonably priced top-six winger out there who can provide at least some of what Hall does?

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I’d be stunned if Holland stands pat between now and the trade deadline. A couple of days ago, after that 4-1 loss to Toronto, you’d have thought the roof had fallen in. Gotta bring back Hall! Just do something! That’s pretty much standard procedure around here, all NHL cities for that matter, because the people buying the tickets have an emotional investment.

That’s life as a fan, but it’s a bad time to make a deal – big or small. Take the emotion out of it, which is what any GM worth his salt does, and resisting the urge to throw everything but the kitchen sink at a Hall deal was the right call by Holland. Short-term gain at the cost of long-term pain isn’t the way to go.

WHILE I’M AT IT

With all the headlines generated in recent weeks by players coming forward with revelations about mistreatment by coaches over the years, watching suspended Chicago Blackhawks’ assistant coach Marc Crawford take responsibility for his past bad actions and take steps to correct them is good news.

Crawford, who has been suspended since Dec. 2 and will be reinstated Jan. 2 now that a full investigation has been done regarding his actions while he coached the Los Angeles Kings, has taken counselling for much of the last decade – it’s not something he started only after allegations of abuse surfaced.

“I got into coaching to help people, and to think that my actions in any way caused harm to even one player fills me with tremendous regret and disappointment in myself,” Crawford said. “I used unacceptable language and conduct toward players in hopes of motivating them, and, sometimes went too far. As I deeply regret this behaviour, I have worked hard over the last decade to improve both myself and my coaching style.” The full item is here.

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Crawford is about as tightly wound as any coach I ever met while writing the hockey beat. If he can re-examine the way he coaches and relates to players and change with the times, a lot of old school types can do the same. After all, this can’t just be about pointing fingers and firing people. It’s about prompting positive change.

Previously by Robin Brownlee