Buying Time

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
1 year ago
It doesn’t take a vast intellect to understand well thought out decisions are seldom made in panic mode with your hair on fire. That includes the cold-sweat the Edmonton Oilers and general manager Ken Holland were experiencing until the Oilers snapped a 0-5-2 tailspin with a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
In what was their first win since Dec. 18, the Oilers finally got a chance to exhale during a stretch that had seen them win just three times in 16 games dating back to Dec. 1. Today, after overcoming a 2-0 deficit and beating the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in overtime last night, the Oilers have two wins in a row and sit at 20-16-2.
That doesn’t mean the deficiencies that contributed to the futility of December have somehow disappeared and that Holland doesn’t have work to do in terms of improving his personnel. But, with two wins in the books and games against Montreal and Ottawa after a tough matchup against Nashville, the Oilers have a chance to claw back some ground in the Pacific Division and buy Holland time.
Working the speed dial from a position of desperation will land a GM a boat anchor of a deal more often than not. If the Oilers can right themselves and get to or near the March 21 trade deadline in reasonable shape, Holland has a better chance of making a good trade than he did 10 days ago when fans were in full-blown “just-do-something” mode.


Jan 25, 2022; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) and forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) celebrate McDavid’s game winning goal against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. Oilers won 3-2 in Overtime.
@Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, out since Dec. 31, returned against the Canucks. @Zach Hyman is expected back from COVID protocol. Now, if @Mike Smith’s bad thumb will cooperate and he can get back into the crease, the Oilers will be as healthy as they’ve been since their hot start ended and their streak of futility began.
The Oilers dominated a Vancouver team short because of COVID in possession time and shots. With the Canucks up 2-0 and Spencer Martin refusing to yield until Ryan McLeod and Leon Draisaitl got the Oilers even and Connor McDavid won it in OT, this game was closer on the scoreboard than it was on the ice. A perfect effort? No, not close, but this was the kind of game that can get away. The Oilers weren’t having that.
“I thought we were strong the whole game,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We were down two and I felt like we were playing well. So, we had to stick with it in the third. McLeod got a big goal for us to get going and our power play really dominated for a couple of minutes and finished one. It was exciting. We had lots of chances to win it and I was glad to see the final one go in.”
Draisaitl, who scored the 2-1 goal, had 11 shots and played 26:15, was a factor on virtually every shift. The Oilers limited the Canucks to 27 shots. Mikko Koskinen hung in. McDavid was a force in OT. The Oilers will have to be just as good or better against the Predators Thursday to get anything done, but the free-fall is over for now as Holland works the phones. 
“You start building up again,” Tippett said. “When you’re not winning, especially when we felt like there was some games we were losing we were playing all right, to find ways to win gets contagious throughout our group. You build that confidence back. Hopefully, we can go on a good run the other way.”
“That’s not a recipe for success but we can’t find a way to seem to score the first goal,” McDavid said of playing from behind yet again. “So, if you can’t score the first goal, you’ve got to be able to come back in games. We did that two nights in a row and we’ll focus on a good start on Thursday.”


As for Holland’s timetable, we know he’s interested in @Evander Kane. Holland talked to his agent and, according to Darren Dreger, he and Tippett met with Kane this week. All involved are waiting on a ruling from the NHL on an alleged protocol breach by Kane. That’s expected to come today or tomorrow. Bringing in Kane is not a move I’d make, but this is Holland’s team and I don’t get a vote.
I don’t expect these two wins will change how Holland assesses the need to bring in Kane – there were reports Jan. 13 a deal is already done – but not having the roof falling in via a double-digit losing streak makes for a better opportunity to make a reasoned move before the trade deadline with Nashville, Montreal and Ottawa on deck. Now, what to do with it? 

Previously by Robin Brownlee

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