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After rushing to make coaching change, Oilers sit on hands in trade market

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Photo credit:James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
6 months ago
Ken Holland was a stranger to making in-season coaching moves.
That is until the 2021-22 Oilers had an 8-13-3 stretch between December 1st through February 10th of that season. His hands were forced, and he made a coaching change for the first time in a season.
Dave Tippett was out; Jay Woodcroft was in. The guard changed.
The Oilers responded tremendously, going 26-9-3 down the stretch run of the season, eliminating the LA Kings in six games and the Calgary Flames in five. They were no match, however, for the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche. Holland tweaked at that deadline, picking up Brett Kulak and Derick Brassard, but largely kept the team intact.
He picked up Klim Kostin before the 2022-23 season started, giving Dmitri Samorukov a new home while doing it. By the deadline, he had made an enormous, franchise-altering move, picking up Mattias Ekholm and sending out picks, a prospect and a player beloved in the room, Tyson Barrie. Edmonton would beat the Kings in six, again, before falling to the Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights.
For Holland, these had bucked past trends. Beyond acquiring Andreas Athanasiou in a deal that backfired, he had made the most of his moves in Edmonton outside the regular season. Similarly, that’s how Holland functioned in Detroit.
In contrast, the “need-to-make-a-move” button was hit a lot sooner this season, culminating in the November 12th firing of Woodcroft and the hiring of Kris Knoblauch. This decision wasn’t solely on Holland, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he opposed doing it when it happened, and Jeff Jackson was the one to make the official call. A panic move like that doesn’t necessarily jive with what we’ve seen from Holland.
However, the Oilers might not have a choice but to make another.
As I wrote about in this morning’s The Day After, the team is starting down the barrel of what would likely need to be an improbable comeback. A .664 points percentage, at least, is necessary to make the post-season, and with a murder’s row of opponents coming up through the end of the calendar year.
While Holland said when Woodcroft was fired, “if you wait another ten games and things don’t change, it’s probably too late,” he and the organization have now waited seven games since Jack Campbell was placed on waivers to make a corresponding move. The prices are rumoured to be high, and while some reports of the Oilers’ only way out of it is through a “bad trade,” being able to move Campbell, a first and third-round pick, to the San Jose Sharks for MacKenzie Blackwood, as Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli alluded to the other day, sure doesn’t sound like a bad trade to me.
If that’s the price the Oilers would have to pay to move on from Campbell while bringing in Blackwood, who has saved 2.86 goals above expected, according to Natural Stat Trick, on one of the worst teams in NHL history, it’s egregious that the Oilers haven’t pulled the trigger on the deal.
There’s no denying the Oilers want to be all-in right now. The window to win with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on their current contracts is dwindling, and waiting another ten games might cost the organization its season.
Potential bad trade or not, Edmonton needs to make a move to address this mess, and anything short signals management and ownership don’t have the confidence in turning this ship around because that’s not the message to sell, given the spot the franchise is in.
The clock ticks.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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