Going All-In

Well, the pitchforks are out in some circles after Ken Holland stayed relatively quiet at the NHL trade deadline. To an extent, I understand why the Oilers didn’t push their chips into the middle. I also understand that it can be frustrating to watch a team with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl not go all in every single chance they get. However, Ken Holland is here to build a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup year after year. Not just for one or two years. I believe taking his foot off the gas at this year’s deadline is just a part of that process.

I firmly believe that Ken Holland will be one of the most active and aggressive GM’s in the NHL this offseason.

I do like the move to bring in Dmitry Kulikov. A fourth-round pick is a fair price to pay for a player who is clearly an upgrade on what you have right now. Even if that pick becomes a third, it will be hard to complain about it because that means the Oilers won a playoff round. Still, I am a little bit surprised that we only saw one trade.

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I was still expecting Holland to bring in a forward, specifically a depth centreman, and considering that neither Luke Glendening nor Derek Ryan was moved, I’m surprised he didn’t find a way to get a deal done for one of those two.

The Oilers weren’t the only Canadian team that stayed quiet at the deadline. Their likely first-round opponent, the Winnipeg Jets, also didn’t get up to very much on Monday. The team had a clear need for a top-four defenseman and they didn’t get that piece. They did pick up Jordie Benn, which is fine, but he’s far from the impact addition that their blueline needed. Looking at these two rosters, and considering how their season series has gone, I have no reason to think that the Oilers can’t beat the Jets in a seven-game series.

Do I wish that Holland would have made a big push for a piece like Rickard Rakell? Absolutely. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Do I think that he made a massive mistake on Monday? No, I don’t.

There are people who didn’t like the Oilers GM’s comment about how you can’t go all in every single season. The detractors are saying that if you aren’t always willing to go all-in with McDavid and Draisaitl on your roster, then what are you doing?

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Well, what I think Holland is doing is trying to make sure the Oilers have a steady stream of young talent coming through the pipeline. Good teams need players who can contribute on their ELC’s and the best way to get those players is to draft them in the first two rounds. If the Oilers would have gone all-in every single season since Connor McDavid was here, then they wouldn’t have high-end prospects like Dylan Holloway, Philip Broberg, and Evan Bouchard. Those are important pieces.

Remember when Peter Chiarelli went all in and traded two draft picks for Griffin Reinhart? If you want to push your chips into the middle, you better be damn sure it’s going to work out. I just think Ken Holland looked at this year’s market and didn’t see a slam dunk move, even if we as outsiders think the trade for Taylor Hall may have been that kind of move.

For us as fans, it’s frustrating because it feels like it’s year 15 of saying “well, next season is our time” but it’s important to remember that this is only year two of Ken Holland being in charge and for the second straight season, the Oilers will be heading to the playoffs.

The goal is to win Stanley Cups with Connor McDavid on the roster. Multiple. Not just one. Ken Holland stayed quiet at this year’s deadline with the goal of building a team that can continually compete and contend for championships. That was his plan from the day he was hired.

Maybe I’m being too positive in siding with the organization and maybe you think I’m being too optimistic so let me end things off by saying this: this is the last time Ken Holland can pull the “look towards the future” card. 

This summer he will have money to spend, assets to use, and holes in this roster that need to be filled. In year three, there is no more pointing back to the past regime and blaming them for why your hands are tied. There’s no more saying that he needs time to build. 

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I agree that this week was not the time to go all in. But going forward, there is no more wasting time. The Oilers absolutely need to enter their Cup contender window and next year, they need to be ready to go all in.