The Quotes: Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland speaks to media

Photo credit:twitter.com/edmontonoilers
Zach Laing
1 year ago
And the last of the three transcriptions are here.
Earlier this week, I broke down all the quotes from the player press conferences as well as Jay Woodcroft’s. Now today, I bring you all 4000 words of Ken Holland’s year-end presser.
On the Oilers’ season: “I said to our guys yesterday morning that 32 teams started in September and we were one of four playing in June, so that’s a pretty big step. I’ve been here for three years and when I look at the way we’ve played in the playoffs, the play-in series against Chicago, and then I look at the way we played last year against Winnipeg and the way we looked in the playoffs this year, we’ve made great strides in the way that we’ve played playoff hockey. I believe we had the highest Oilers point total in 35 years with 104 points. Saying all that, that’s the positives. The negatives are we’re having a press conference today because we’re out. I think we got beat by a better team. They’ve been the best team in the west I think over the last two or three years. They won the President’s Trophy last year. I think they were second overall this year. Three games were decided by basically a goal if you take out the empty-netters —games one, three and four — so I think we’ve made lots of progress. We’ve got more work to do. Every offseason is a busy offseason. I, we’ve got lots of difficult decisions to make this offseason, but I think we’re going in the right direction. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. When you’ve got the nucleus and the core that we’ve got, as the manager that’s what I’m trying to do — build around that core of people to eventually take another step. But I think we had lots of positives this year.”
On the Oilers goaltending short-term and long-term: “Obviously Koski’s contract is up. Schmiddy has a year to go on his contract and I know Schmiddy’s played, for the most part, banged up all year. So Stu Skinner is certainly a guy who is in our plans heading into next year. Beyond that, I got to kind of go through the process. I’m going to walk you through. We lost out two nights ago, yesterday we met with the players at one o’clock. I met three or four players yesterday afternoon and I think I have 13 interviews this afternoon. Yesterday I met with all the black aces and there are exit interviews yesterday, today and tomorrow to get everybody’s thoughts. Many of them want to get out of town and then basically starting Monday I’m going to start to go to work on next season. Now, I’ve been thinking about next season, that’s part of my job watching the games in the playoffs, but now next season really begins in the next couple of days.
On the Oilers’ injuries, starting with Draisaitl: “He was playing with a high-ankle sprain. He got hurt in game six in LA when Mikey Anderson bodyslammed him. It was a struggle, but you guys saw him. The odd game after a shift he’d go down and then he’d come back. He was playing in a lot of pain. For me, watching what he went through, obviously, he couldn’t practice, he only could play and he played and had 35, 33, 34 points. It was unbelievable the level he played at with what he was going through. Nuge was playing with an injured shoulder, and you had Nurse with the hip flexor. In the last game, Jesse hurt his shoulder. Come playoff time, they play, but I think Jesse is a four-to-six-week injury. Yamamoto was in concussion protocol, and then beyond that, I went through it this morning with T.D. Forss. There are five, six, seven other guys who were playing banged up. But this time of the year, that’s what NHL players do. They play banged up.
On if Nurse requires surgery: “Right now, TD told me as of 15 minutes ago that he does not think anyone needs surgery. But we’re getting pictures on a few people and we’ll know more in the next few days.”
On areas the team needs to improve ahead of next year: “We’re in a cap world. One of the things you need is an internal push. I said this yesterday in the room — if you’re 24-and-under, we need you to take a bigger piece of the pie. Whether you’ve been on the team or you’re in the American league, we need you to push. We need you to push this off-season. Take a week off here to get your mental health and get yourself all cleaned up, then you’ve got to dig in here in the offseason to come in here in September and push for a bigger piece of the pie, bigger responsibility, bigger role, bigger minutes whether it’s penalty killing, or chipping whether you’re some young player whether it’s Broberg or Holloway trying to push to make the team — Desharnais, Niemelainen, Samorukov, that was my message to all those young players yesterday. Number one — get better. Part of it has got to be internal. It’s a cap world, you can’t just go out and spend a bunch of money and to 100, 110 million dollars. Number one is the young kids. Number two — I think we’ve had some players who’ve had tremendous years. We need them to push hard this offseason to stay at that level.
I think the third falls on me and my staff as we analyze what we can or can’t do as I work the phone leading up (the offseason). If anything’s going to happen, it’s going to be probably the week of the draft in terms of trades. Obviously a week after that is free agency, so we’ll see where we’re at. I’ve met some of the players, but this afternoon and tomorrow I’m basically meeting the team. Yesterday was the black aces — the young players who were here, the America league players — so I’ll have more information in the next couple of days as to what the veterans are thinking.”
On how hard he’ll push to bring back Evander Kane: “Obviously he’s an unrestricted free agent. Am I interested in bringing him back? Yes. I think he had a big impact on our team. Not only his ability to score goals, but he plays with an edge. I thought there was wonderful chemistry between him and Connor. He didn’t play on the first powerplay, he played on the second powerplay, so I thought we were deeper. When he joined our team, he made our team deeper. So can I keep him? Again, his cap number is $2 million and I don’t expect him to play for a $2 million cap number next year. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll have to sit and talk to his agent Dan Millstein. I’ve got decisions to make and I’ve got to go through a process.”
On if he knows if Kane is open to returning: “I do not. I think he’s my last interview today. Next week I’ll call the agents for some of these players we’re talking about, so I do not know.”
On if he expects Jay Woodcroft to return to the bench: “I just told Jay this morning that I’ve got to get through the next couple of days here and then he and I will sit down early next week on Monday or Tuesday. I think he did a fabulous job. When he took over, Dave Manson came up with him and I told the coaches yesterday that I also thought the coaches who were here, they had a loyalty to Dave Tippett. He had hired them and they found really good chemistry amongst the coaching staff that stayed back when Woody came up. I think we were six or seven points out of a playoff spot. We played the last 40 games I think top-five in the league in points to play our way into the playoff spot, so I thought Woody did a fabulous job. The team responded to him and I told him that he and I would meet early next week on Monday or Tuesday and have a discussion. Would I like him back? Yes, I’m interested in him coming back. I want to hear what he’s thinking, but I think he did a great job and was a big part of what we accomplished.
On if he feels close to an all-in moment: “I’m expecting we’re going to be in LTI next year with Klefbom. I don’t know if you know how LTI works. When you go to the trade Deadline, we’re sitting with a very small amount of money to work with. That’s why what we did this year at the trade deadline. Kulak, (the Habs) ate half the money to get to 900, but they also took Lagesson. The reality is we took a $150,000 on to strike that deal with Montreal. Then we ended up doing a deal for Brassard where they cut it in half. We really took on probably 600,000-700,000 thousand dollars of cap space. That’s the reality that I’m looking at next year at the Trade Deadline because I’m not expecting Klef to play. I’m expecting we’ll be in LTI, so to do some big deal at the trade deadline and take on some guy who’s making four or five million dollars, I’ve got to move four or five million out. That’s the reality of being in LTI, so that situation, that ‘all in’ moment you’re talking about is mega difficult.
On if he could trade the Klefbom contract: “But that’s only giving you flexibility at the trade deadline. When the season starts, the cap is $81.5. We can go to $81.5 or snuggle up as high as we can, then we put Klefbom on LTIR. You’re paying a price to try and create some space for the trade deadline.”
On moving out other contracts to clear space: “I’ll explore anything. You look at what Connor and Leon accomplished in the playoffs. Basically two points a game playing almost a 100-point team in LA, a 110-point team in Calgary, and a 120-point team in Colorado. We played three of the top teams in the Western Conference. Kane almost had a point a game and Zach Hyman had 11 goals. It’s a puzzle. You’ve got to piece this puzzle together and I’ve got to find out what some of these people are doing. Then, I will explore making trades that would be in the best interest of the team for the ’22-23 team season. Am I prepared to trade some assets if I think that there’s a deal that can make us better? The answer would be yes.”
On bringing back Brett Kulak on a three or four-year deal: “I met with him yesterday and I told Brett that I wanted to get through the next few days, I’d call his agent next week, and I thought he played real well. He’s local, he grew up here, and would love to have a conversation to see if there’s a fit for him to stay. I’ll talk to his agent Gerry Johannson next week and we’ll see.”
On what it was about Woodcroft that allowed the players to respond so well to him: “First off, I think there were a whole lot of things. I think Jay’s attention to detail. I think when somebody gets fired in the middle of the season, I think coming into this year our players had high expectations of them with the moves we’d made and their age and everything. We played the first 20 games, the first quarter of the season we were first overall before the bottom dropped out. We went 2-11-2 and we went from being first overall to at the halfway point being out of a playoff spot. Jay came in and he took charge. Jay’s got an attention to detail. Dave Tippett did a great job for us. When Tipp came here, the team the year before was 28th overall. I think they’ve been near the bottom of the league in penalty-killing, and under Dave Tippett’s watch the first year in penalty killing, we went to second in penalty-killing. We went from 28th overall to 12th overall. Dave Tippett’s a good coach and did a good job here. I felt that when I made the decision in February that we just needed a change just to try and jolt our team into getting back and getting going, Jay did that. He came in, he took charge, made some tweaks, had an attention to detail, maybe moved some things around, and the players really responded. One of the things they liked about Jay was as the season wore on, he’d have little adjustments, in-game adjustments and the next opponent that were maybe different than Tipp did, and it worked. I think we started to get our confidence back, and obviously, Evander Kane came in. We had been decimated in the 2-11-2 with COVID, four, five six men down every game. Mike Smith came back, he wasn’t here the first half of the year. I think with Jay’s leadership and getting our swagger back, our confidence back, we got back up and running. Certainly, I think Jay coming in, Dave Manson coming in… Sometimes you just need to change the voice a little bit. I think Jay came in, he grabbed the group, took charge, made some tweaks and that’s what was needed to get us going. He did a fabulous job. As the season wore on, I think he coached. He made in-game adjustments, made changes on the fly, switched people up, worked on matchups. He did a great job not only having out team prepared for a game-to-game. Our team responded and again, he was a big part of us getting to the final four.”
On a comparison to the Colorado Avalanche, how close the Oilers are to them: “You look at the score, fans look at the score. The team that has the ‘L’ is lousy the team that has the ‘W’ is good, isn’t that what everybody looks at? I look at Game 5 or Game 4 the other day, we’re down 1-0, then we’re up 3-1, and it goes to overtime. If we score, we’re playing tonight and if we don’t we’re having a press conference. That’s the league. My experience in Detroit is you stick with it. We have to make some tweaks and changes, but you stick with it. When you lose, you’re never a million miles away. I’ve been fortunate to touch the Stanley Cup four times, but the differences in teams are marginal. They’re the best team in the west, they won the President’s Trophy last year, and they’ve been good for two-to-three years now. They’ve been building to be good. Do I think we’re a million miles away? I don’t. I think we’re in the game, but I also think there were teams that were not in the final four, or the final two in the west, that are going to be back next year pushing to get in. Calgary, Vegas, St. Louis, Minnesota… the difference between all the teams is marginal. We’re all going to make some tweaks. We’re all starting from scratch on October 7th, or the 10th — whenever the season starts and you do it all over again. We’re growing, we’re building. We’re making progress. You got to be there banging on the door year after year after year after year and you have to be a playoff team. Colorado is the best in the west but there are going to be other teams that feel like they can play their way in and be one of those two teams in the final to represent the west.
We just lost three games by a goal. We were down 7-3 in game one. We pushed again, 7-6. I thought we had chances in game one. I thought they did a great job and snuffed us out in game two. 2-2 with 10 minutes to go in game three. We hit a post, the puck goes down the ice and they score. You watch game four, that’s the National Hockey League. We’re not winning or losing a game 6-1, 7-1 and we’re thumping them or they’re thumping us. These games are decided by such a small, small margin, that’s why you stick with it. I think we can play with any team in the Western Conference. We were number one overall in the first quarter of the season, and we were top five in regular-season points in the last half of the season. We had the highest point total (in Edmonton) in 35 years. We got to the final four. We beat a 110-team point team in Calgary, but we’re not good enough right now today to win the Stanley Cup but we’re not this far away (stretches arms out). We got to get some push from some of our young people, the manager has to make a couple of tweaks, the coach has to make a couple tweaks. We’re going to come back and try to play our way back into the playoffs to put ourselves in the same position and hopefully, all the experiences of this year, the experiences of the Winnipeg series, the experiences of missing the playoffs, all the experiences will allow us to go further.”
On the Oilers goaltending situation, if the team has a number one goalies: “No, I don’t think we have a number one goalie. We had two 1A’s with Koski and Schmiddy. How do I describe a 1A and 1B? They are guys who can play between 40-and-45 games. A number one goalie can play 55-to-60, and I don’t think many guys play more than 60. What are there in the league, 10 or 12 of those? The reality is I don’t know if any are available. I haven’t worked the phone. I got to sit down with Scmiddy, and I’m not sure what he’s thinking. I haven not met Koski. I’m gathering information, then I got to make some decisions.”
On if you need a number one goalie to win: “Yeah, you want one. Do I want a number one goalie that is a stud that can play? Yeah, like I think 32 teams want that. It’s like an NFL quarterback — it’s a unique position and there’s only a small amount of those. Many of those are homegrown. They are drafted, they’re developed. Look at last night’s game, those are homegrown, Shesterkin and Vasilevskiy. We have hopes for Stu Skinner, but he’s 23 and to really expect him to come in and play 50, 55, 60 games is too much to expect and too much responsibility to put on him. I got to go through a process to figure out what to do, where we’re going. To think that we’re going to end up with a guy who can play 60 games and is legit number one who is 27, 28 years of age, the odds of that are pretty slim but I haven’t worked the phone to see what other managers think in terms of who is available, who is not available. Is one available and they’re going to want a massive price? They aren’t giving those guys away. I’m going to try to figure out a way to make our team the best that we can make it heading into September. We’re in the final four and I think Mike Smith and Koski, they dug in for us all year. You don’t make the playoffs in the National Hockey League without good goaltending. I thought Koski and Stu Skinner the first half of the year, then Koski and Mike Smith in the second half. Smith was a battler in getting us to the final four. Schmiddy is 40 years old and he gave us everything he could. I have to meet with him to see what he feels he’s got in his tank. He knows the league and he knows his body, but certainly, I know I have to make some decisions in goal between now and the start of camp.”
On building to match a Colorado or Calgary, or building to their strengths: “Most teams are having massive off-season decisions about their roster. We’re in a salary cap world and the cap has been put in place, one of the reasons for competitive balance. You can’t just get away and be way, way better for a long time. Certainly, Tampa Bay has done that and you tip your hat to them that a team is able to do that in a salary cap world. We’re going to try and make the team the very best that we can, then go to training camp. Obviously, the goal is to be a playoff team, to try to have a good regular season and then you’ve got to go out and do it all over again. Part of getting better is internal, some young people getting better. That’s why there is that fine line… blowing out futures for today, for this year, but if you want to be consistently banging away at being good, you got to have people coming through the system. They join the team, they play cheap, they get better, they get a bigger piece of the pie and you pay them while someone else goes. If you don’t have that push, you go to the open market and you’re going to sit until August the 15th while everybody else takes all the best players off and you’ll look at what’s left. It’s not the sexy thing, we need Broberg to push his way on the team, we need Holloway to push and get on the team and Bouch to take the step. He took a step this year, take another step. We need McLeod to take a step. And Jesse (Puljujarvi), and Yamo, Skinner. That’s part of getting better. You can’t just think I’m going to go out with a big blockbuster move. That’s what we did last year with Zach Hyman. We got fortunate on Evander Kane. The team we just had we can’t keep together because of the salary cap. It’s the cap world. I’m going to try and make the team the best that I can, I know we got a really good nucleus. We have to get a push from some kids. We got to make sure in the offseason we’re pushing these kids in development camp and keeping our arms around where they are at heading into training camp. That’s part of getting better. What moves do I make to get better? I got to figure out the goalie situation. I’ve been pleased with Skinner’s development. The goal is to be good. The goal is to compete with the best teams in the Western Conference, the best teams in the league. I thought we did that for the first quarter of the season, I thought we did that for the last half of the season, I thought we did that for three playoff series. That’s all history, we can go back and miss the playoffs next year because there are teams that missed that want to get in. There’s lots of teams, the margin of error is very, very thin.”
Holland on Puljujarvi: “He had a great start. I think six goals in his first 10 games. I met with Jesse yesterday, and I know Jesse’s disappointed. He had a great start. I think the first 13, 14, 15 games of the year was almost a point per game. Like you said, second half of the year was a real struggle. I told Jesse I would call his agent in the next week to 10 days. He’s a restricted free agent. I want to talk to the coaches, talk to Woody, then make some decisions.
“He played really good the first quarter of the season then it was a struggle for him. I think he lost his confidence, then when he lost his confidence he was in the top six, worked his way down to the bottom-six. What is he? 24 years old? He’s not really young, but he’s relatively young. I got to sort out Jesse.”
On if Puljujarvi is part of the solution: “That’s what I got to sort out. I talked to him yesterday, I don’t want to divulge, but I talked to him for a good half an hour yesterday and I told him I would talk to his agent.”

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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