Oilers Ken Holland Has Oil Country Thinking Stanley Cup

You can agree or disagree with the decisions Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland has made over the years, but you can never question his commitment to the team. It’s been a positive offseason for Holland, and as main training camp gets ready to open for the Oilers’ 2022-23 season, you have to have a lot of optimism and dreams of contending for a Stanley Cup if you’re an Oilers fan.

Ken Holland Edmonton Oilers
Ken Holland, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done, because the Oilers are dangerously close to the salary cap, and still have key players such as Ryan McLeod to sign. And with the current situation with the cap, the Oilers are most likely to start the season with a 21-man roster, which is a real risk. With all that in mind, the positives including the signing of goaltender Jack Campbell and forward Evander Kane in the offseason have boosted the optimism in the Alberta Capital to a level not seen in many years.

Does Holland Trade or Keep Jesse Puljujarvi? That is the Question

The sports talk shows in Edmonton and Oilers’ Twitter have been busy debating Holland’s handling of the much-loved Jesse Puljujarvi. “The Bison King” is a fan favourite and shows up well in analytic debates, however, he hasn’t seemed to fulfill the promise he showed when he was chosen MVP of the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship. The Oilers selected the 6-foot-4 forward fourth overall in the 2016 NHL Draft after the Columbus Blue Jackets passed on him in favour of forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. Many that year thought the Oilers had their eye on Matthew Tkachuk, including Tkachuk himself, for the fourth overall spot.

Edmonton Oilers Celebrate
Jesse Puljujarvi #13 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a goal against the Vancouver Canucks with teammates Darnell Nurse #25, Connor McDavid #97, Leon Draisaitl #29 and Tyson Barrie #22 (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Holland has his work cut out for him when it comes to Puljujarvi. Can the big forward gain the confidence to become the player everyone projected him to be, or will he be available for a trade and help the Oilers lower their salary cap by $3 million? It seems that going into camp Holland is willing to give it one more chance with Puljujarvi, and most fans in Oil Country are keeping their fingers crossed that the big forward will deliver this year. This is definitely one of the most interesting storylines the Oilers and Holland are facing going into the 2022-23 NHL season.

Holland’s Hard Work and Patience May Pay Off This Season

Holland believes in letting prospects gain confidence in the minors, especially with the Oilers’ main farm team, the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League (AHL). This approach has signaled a welcome change for the Oilers, as previous management teams had rushed prospects into the NHL before they were ready. This season there will be healthy competition at training camp to see if prospects such as Dylan Holloway, Markus Niemeläinen, Xavier Bourgault, and Carter Savoie can stay up with the big club in 2022-23.

Related: Oilers’ 4 Untouchable Prospects for 2022-23

It may be a given that defenceman Philip Broberg will stay with the Oilers right out of camp, as the eighth overall pick in the 2019 Entry Draft appears ready for his first full season in the NHL.

Philip Broberg Edmonton Oilers
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Holland has created a lot of competition in training camp for prospects and veterans, and for the first time in years may have some trade chips available to fill the right holes on or before this season’s trade deadline. The only part of the roster that seems secure at this point would be the goaltending led by the newly signed Campbell and young standout Stuart Skinner. Depending on how the season goes for the Oilers leading up to the trade deadline, players such as Tyson Barrie, Warren Foegele, and the aforementioned Puljujarvi could be moved, not only to free up cap space but to also bring in the right players to help the Oilers load up for a Stanley Cup run should they be in that likely position later on in the season.

Will This Be Holland’s and the Oilers’ Year?

Optimism is riding high for the Oilers and their fans heading into the 2022-23 NHL season. Holland has added new assistant general manager Brad Holland to his brain trust which also consists of assistant GM Keith Gretzky. Coaches Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson have been re-signed, and superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are now in their prime. You also can’t forget that Holland brought in free agents Zach Hyman and Kane and turned his group of forwards into one of the best in the NHL.

On defence, Holland gave Darnell Nurse a hefty raise, and neatly signed Brett Kulak and free agent Ryan Murray in the offseason, giving the Oilers a better core of defensemen than they’ve had in years. Realistically their defence may rank in the middle of the pack as far as NHL teams go, but they may have enough to take this team all the way and win the Stanley Cup this season. That would be music to the ears of Oilers fans, and possibly seal Holland’s legacy as one of the top hockey people in the game.