Oilers need to know what they have before making trade deadline decision

Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
Tyler Yaremchuk
4 months ago
The Oilers have been sputtering along since their 16-game winning streak ended, and it once again has people questioning whether or not this team, as currently assembled, is capable of winning a Stanley Cup.
Of course, they’ll make some additions ahead of the deadline, and depending on who they bring in, things could change, but for now, it’s hard to look at this current forward group and see a group capable of going on a long playoff run.
Kris Knoblauch has been going to the blender a lot more as of late than he was during the early stages of his coaching tenure and that’s been surprising to see. 
In the game against the Calgary Flames, for example, Natural Stat Trick says that the Oilers had eight different combinations of lines play at least a minute together at 5v5. That’s a sizeable number, especially when the Flames rolled the same four lines all game.
I’ve never loved when a head coach goes with a full-on blender approach. 
While I recognize that at points in games, a team could use a spark, and the Oilers are also in a unique spot because they like to rotate McDavid and Draisaitl through with different players, I think the constant blender could be hurting certain players.
The Oilers’ extended winning streak gave them a little bit of breathing room when it comes to being a playoff team, and one of the luxuries of that is you can use the weeks leading up to the trade deadline to be a little experimental. For the Oilers, that should have meant finding out what you have in certain players.
The one name I’m thinking about here is Dylan Holloway, who has been bounced all over the lineup. Holloway has played 292 minutes at 5v5 this year, and in that time, he’s been on the ice for at least 20 minutes with 10 different linemates. 
It is worth noting that he has spent most of his time on the ice with Ryan McLeod, so at least there is a little bit of consistency, but it’s barely over 50%, and the winger on the other side is constantly changing.
On top of that, he’s been used as a winger for some stretches and as a centre for a few moments. 
He’s only played more than 15 minutes in a game once this season and, so far, on this homestand, hasn’t topped 9:30 in any of the team’s games.
Holloway clearly has some upside, whether as a centre or a winger and should be a long-term fixture in this forward group. I also think he has a chance to be an impactful player for the Oilers in this year’s playoffs, but constantly throwing him around the lineup and barely playing him isn’t doing him any good.
The Oilers have a handful of games until the playoffs begin, and what I think they should do is stick Holloway in one spot and see if he can get comfortable in that position.
If you think he has a chance to be a top-six winger, staple him next to Leon Draisaitl for four or five games and let them try to figure things out together and build up some chemistry.
If you think he can be a speedy fourth-line centre for you in the playoffs, then put him at centre, commit to giving him 10-12 minutes a night and see if he can get comfortable in that role.
If you think he can be a solid third-line winger for you, then play him exclusively with Corey Perry and Ryan McLeod and see if they can develop something.
Constantly throwing him around the lineup isn’t doing him any good, and it won’t give you any more of an idea about what you actually need to add ahead of the deadline.
It’s also just not a good way to develop a player. Look at what the Dallas Stars did recently with Logan Stankoven, and he got recalled to make his NHL and Head Coach Pete Deboer played him north of 15 minutes. Stankoven got more comfortable as the game went on, registered three shots on goal, and finished with a plus rating.
Dylan Holloway was buzzing against the Calgary Flames and finished with six individual shot attempts at 5v5. Yet he only played 7:36. Go figure.
What if Holloway would have blossomed as a centreman getting 12-14 minutes a night? Maybe the Oilers wouldn’t feel the need to add a player like Luke Kunin because their centre depth would feel more set.
Kris Knoblauch should be trying to see what he has in a player like Holloway ahead of the trade deadline, and instead, they’re letting a quality young forward sit on the bench for way too much of the game. 
He’ll never find an identity at the NHL level if the Oilers never give him a proper chance to get comfortable and learn the game.


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