10 months ago
A week ago today I wrote that I’d had enough of @Mikko Koskinen struggling in the Edmonton Oilers’ goal crease after a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers in what’s become a 2-9-2 skid. I said then I wanted to see Stuart Skinner recalled from Bakersfield to work in tandem with Mike Smith.
A lot of you at some point during – many even before — this 13-game toot into the rhubarb by the Oilers, made it abundantly clear you thought coach Dave Tippett was a problem in this freefall to 18-14-2, and so began the “Fire Dave Tippett” chorus on social media and on sites like this one. Different targets, but we are both sort of like those vultures wearing the “Patience my ass, I’m gonna kill something” T-shirts.
So, when the Oilers announced that GM Ken Holland would be doing a media availability this morning, I was hoping I’d get an answer I liked about Skinner and the goaltending situation even though I didn’t see a hope-in-hell that those of you wanting the sack for Tippett would get your wish. Turns out we got skunked in the blue paint and behind the bench.
The one thing you’ve got to know about Holland is history shows he tends to be patient sometimes to a fault – critics might call that dithering – even when in “win now” mode. We got another example of that today. With the Oilers on another COVID-induced break until they play the Ottawa Senators Saturday, Skinner isn’t on his way and Tippett, predictably, isn’t going anywhere.
WHAT HE SAID
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“I think we’ve got to get back to Smitty and Koski,” Holland said of his goaltending. “Saying all that, Stu Skinner is in a good spot. He’s playing every night down there in Bakersfield. I’ve been watching every night, every game on the computer. He’s playing real well. We know what he can do here. I think he’s an NHL goalie in waiting, in the making, however you want to do it. He’s in a good place right now that he’s playing lots. Let’s get going here and see how we get going after this break.”
In response to Jason Gregor on how long he’ll wait on Smith and Koskinen, Tippett said: “As the manager, I think it’s my job to protect people, OK? To make sure they are ready. ‘Play the kids, play the kids, play the kids, play the kids, play the kids, play the kids.’ The when the kids make mistakes, ‘We don’t like the kids, we don’t like the kids, we don’t like the kids, get different kids.’ The kids go elsewhere and they have success you thought they were going to have here.
“I’d rather wait a little bit too long than move too soon. Now, how long can I wait? I’m going to watch. I’m going to evaluate. We have 48 games to go. I understand we’ve got to hit the ground running. I can’t judge one game. You can’t just, if you lose a game, all of a sudden start to make . . . I’ve got to watch some games. I can’t put a number on it. I’ve got to watch some games. I’ve got to see how we play, how everything goes.”
As for Tippett, I’ll keep it short and sweet. For full context on the goaltending and coaching, the full availability is above. “We’ve had a bad five weeks,” Holland said. “There’s been seven coaches here in 10 years. You can’t just keep whipping through coaches . . . I understand we’re in pro hockey and we’re judged on the wins and losses. We haven’t won enough, but I believe the team is playing hard. They’re competing every night.
“We’re going to start to win. I believe in the coach. I believe in the team. I believe in the leadership of the team. I believe in their determination . . . if we can win a couple of games and get our swagger back a little bit and feel good about ourselves and start to ride the wave . . . we’ve got to turn this thing around. I believe we’re going to get going here.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s a leap of faith for fans to go from the stagger we’ve seen to the swagger Holland is talking about, and there’s no quick way to find out which way it’s going to go because of how COVID is forcing so many postponements of games. The game against the Senators Saturday is the Oilers’ only game in the next nine days. They face Florida Jan. 20.
Like it or not, this next step is going to take patience — like that hasn’t been an ask countless times before. We wait.