In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, Ken Holland addressed the media today and had a few insights to give regarding the team. What was the story with the waiver wire and was the team interested in anyone available from it? Why was Holland frustrated with the questions about Edmonton being a playoff team? What did he mean when he said he tried to hire “pros”?
Update on Sam Gagner: Lead the Young
Sam Gagner has cleared waivers and will go the Bakersfield to start the season. In fact, all but two of the 39 players put on waivers yesterday cleared. Gagner and Brandon Manning will be a part of the organization moving forward, but what role they play and where they slot in the depth chart is still to be determined.
Holland called it a tough decision but one that had to be made. It was interesting decision considering later on in the media scrum, Holland was mentioning the importance in surrounding his stars with smart veterans. Gagner certainly would have qualified here.
Those comments seem to suggest Gagner won’t be down there long. But, Holland said he’s hoping Gagner will arrive in Bakersfield with a great attitude, help the youngsters down there and be a leader. He added that the team he named to start opening night might not be the team that stays in the NHL. “We’re going to be watching,” is the message he relayed to Gagner.
The Oilers Wanted “Pros”
Holland said, “Our guys are excited. I’m excited to see how our guys stack up.” When asked if he had any thought about sending down some young players to develop, Holland responded that he’d already sent down a number of younger players that will be a big part of the Oilers future. Holland said the approach this summer was that the team signed a number of players between the ages of 24-28 and called them “pros”.
These were players Holland knew had experience, were seasoned veterans and were going to be useful in key situations. He named speed and penalty killers and primary areas of concern. Holland said the team will adjust as they go and should have a better feeling 10 or 15 games into the season. That said, the Oilers can’t afford to fall too far behind.
Still, when it came to questions of development, Jason Gregor of TSN quoted Holland as saying, “I’d like the young guys to stay in the AHL until at least Christmas, and even the entire year. I want the young players to play important roles and big minutes down there instead of a smaller role here,” Holland.
That has to be music to many fans ears.
Annoyed by Questions About NHL Playoffs
There was a bit of a sense that Holland was annoyed by the assumption that Edmonton might not be strong enough to make the postseason and that the Oilers fan base has been patient. When asked what he would say to fans, it was pretty clear.
“What I’ve said from day one is, that our goal is to compete for a playoff spot. We’ve got a nucleus of players, we need to surround them better.” While the GM has a long-term plan with a number of one-year contracts on the books, this is not a rebuild season where the team shouldn’t be competitive.
Holland added that his short-term plan was to put some veterans around his stars and to be in a position where big wins matter. He then said, while he’s doing that, he’s thinking longer-term with some of the younger players in the AHL, developmental leagues or overseas.
Looking for a Top-Six Forward and Top-Four Defenseman
Holland said, like most teams, the Oilers were looking for a top-six forward and top-four d-man. Unfortunately, he didn’t think those assets were available.
Holland also noted that the team was auditioning for a third-line center. “We signed Riley Sheahan, you’ve got Cave, you’ve got Haas, we’ll see how that sorts it out.” Essentially, this is the team Holland believed he could put together and clearly, he didn’t think any of the names available on the waiver wire were massive upgrades over what he already had available to the team.