Whether or not Ken Holland should go all-in ahead of this month’s trade deadline has been of the biggest stories surrounding the Oilers this season.
While Holland has stated that making the playoffs was ultimately the team’s goal this season, it’s pretty obvious that the big picture and long-term health of the organization is his top priority. With the Oilers sitting on the bubble of making the playoffs and in his first season at the helm, Holland is stuck at with having to juggle his short- and long-term priorities.
The argument in favour of going all-in is making the playoffs. It’s that simple. You play the game to win. The team wants to win and the fans want to watch a winner. The argument against going all-in is the risk associated with investing in a bubble team. The team isn’t a sure thing to make the playoffs and giving away draft picks and prospects only to fall short would be a nightmare situation.
In theory, Connor McDavid’s injury makes it a lot easier to justify the latter. It was announced today that the team’s captain will miss two-to-three weeks with a quad injury. The team is saying that they don’t expect it to linger on any longer than that, but given the way his injury was handled over the summer, we really don’t know what the case is.
Regardless, as it stands with what we know now, McDavid being out two-to-three weeks means he’s probably going to miss somewhere between eight and thirteen games. With the Western Conference being as tight as it is right now, offering virtually zero room for error, this certainly makes Edmonton’s playoff odds lower than they were yesterday.
But missing McDavid for that stretch of games doesn’t mean the Oilers are going to miss the playoffs. It’s an obstacle — massive one, that’s for sure — but still, just an obstacle. The team has proved through the first two-thirds of the season that they’re worth investing in. This obstacle doesn’t change that. If anything, it probably makes it even more necessary.
Would Holland put a first-round pick on the table in a trade right now?
“What if we miss the playoffs?”
What if the pick was conditional on the Oilers making the playoffs?
“If it’s out there.”
— Daniel Nugent-Bowman (@DNBsports) February 11, 2020
If the Oilers were to go into a cold streak with McDavid on the Injured Reserve and Holland stood pat at the trade deadline, it would send a horrible message to the team. It would suggest that an injury to one player was enough to change the plan from going in on the team for a playoff run to not because the rest of the team wasn’t good enough.
What message would that send to Leon Draisaitl, who’s currently leading the league in points? What message would it send to Oscar Klefbom, who’s having his steadiest season since 2016-17? What message would it send to Ethan Bear and Kailer Yamamoto, who’ve come up from the minors and made a massive impact on the team this season? Not a good one, that’s for sure.
The team has done great work to this point in order to be in the position they’re in. Despite having low expectations heading into the season, a lot has gone right for the Oilers this year and they’re in a good spot to make the playoffs. The injury to McDavid is a massive hurdle, but all teams face obstacles at some point during the season.
Holland should still be somewhat conservative ahead of the deadline, as throwing away the first-round pick and prospects like Evan Bouchard and Tyler Benson for rentals would be ill-advised at any stage, but the goal should still be to make the playoffs. The team has earned this investment. McDavid’s injury doesn’t change that.
PRAY FOR PLAYOFFS
The boys are in the mix and we’re looking ahead to April. Please, Hockey Gords, make it so. Competitive games in January! Exclusively at NationGear.ca.