Is Edmonton Oilers G.M. Ken Holland still in there pitching with his best fastball?: 9 Things

Article content

It seems more than a little incongruous to be writing a hockey article at 10:30 at night after a 36-degree June day here on the West Coast.

But even if the NHL season hadn’t been delayed and shortened by COVID, we’d still be in the heart of the league busy off-season

So, please ignore my ball cap and flip-flops, and instead enjoy this week’s edition of…

9 Things

9. By Canada Day, expect the nation’s COVID vaccination program to hit 77% on 1st shots 12+, 35% with 2nd shots, and then 75% fully vaccinated by August 1st. That would seem to signal full seats at Rogers Place for Game 1 of the 2021-22 season. Cross your fingers.

8. I’ve always been on the list of people who would keep Tyson Barrie. The indirect chatter I hear is that Barrie likes it in Edmonton and feels it’s a fit. While he will almost test free agency (he’s earned that right), for reasonable term and salary he’d return to the Oilers. Would 3-Yrs/$4.5m be “reasonable” for his kind of production?

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

7. Word is Arizona would take prospects and picks & also be willing to retain some salary in order to move Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Would they be willing to keep enough of his $8.25m in order to make the contract realistic in Edmonton? Remember, the maximum a club can retain is 50%. Dave Tippett has lots of experience with Ekman-Larsson. But then he did with Kyle Turris, too.

6. Elliott Friedman from The NHL on Rogers said just this past Friday on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer that there were “some rumblings that it wasn’t going to work out (in Edmonton)” between the club and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But Friedman was quick to point out in his next breath  that the chatter “was denied to me”. I continue to believe that a $30m contract with various term options is in the ballpark of what’s on the table.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

5. The Oilers have lost the rights to their 100th over-all pick from 2019 by not signing him before the June 1st deadline. But from what I can gather, while the club didn’t want to lose Matej Blumel they also didn’t consider him an “A” or maybe even a “B” prospect. As such, they did not feel compelled to use of their 50 contracts on him. Is this a mistake by the club? Time will tell. I’m made to understand the fact that Blemel decided against staying and developing in College was a factor.

4. I have mentioned in this space previously that I could see the Oilers trying to trade for a 3C rather than gamble with what are sure to be inflated prices in Free Agency. Hockey Hall of Fame writer Jim Matheson mentions Nolan Patrick from Philadelphia as one possibility. A right-shot, skilled, with size and still young, Patrick will be looking to rebound from a bad 2020-21. Will the Flyers want to protect the RFA? And would they be looking for a young NHL-ready D-man in return to shore up their blueline? Someone who’d be happy in Philly?

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

3. It would seem that the Oilers still aren’t sure about the status of Oscar Klefbom. This is a major complicating factor in Ken Holland’s off-season. Until he knows whether Klefbom has decided to return to play after surgery, its harder for Ken to make a decision on the afore-mentioned Tyson Barrie who more than replaced Klefbom offensively in 2020-21. If Klebom can’t or won’t return, then does Holland spend money/assets on a LHD to replace him? And does Klefbom get protected in the expansion draft? If it’s yes then another useful and healthier player may end up being exposed to Seattle as a result. At this point, one would have to think that Holland must proceed with the presumption that Klefbom won’t be back…and not protect him.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

2. The great Nolan Ryan was arguably the most dominant pitcher in Major League Baseball history. He won 324 career games and is the game’s all-time strikeout leader at 5,714. But in 1987 as a member of the Houston Astros Ryan suffered the worst Won-Loss season of his career when he went just 8-16. A subsequent contract dispute between the hurler and the Astros ended the relationship. In the end, Houston was just not prepared to commit long-term to a 42-year old pitcher. How much longer could that fastball last, anyway? Well…turns out, lots longer. Ryan had all kinds of juice left. Texas had no problem rolling the dice on him and Ryan rewarded the Rangers in 1989 with a 16-10 season and 301 strikeouts. The next closest to him on that 2nd stat was Minnesota’s Frank Viola at 211, 90K back of “The Ryan Express”.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

1.I see Ken Holland as the hockey executive version of Nolan Ryan. Holland was set to ease into semi-retirement after a few poor seasons in Detroit. Some thought then that Ken had perhaps “lost his fastball”. After winning the Central Division 10 times, the President’s Trophy 4 times, 3 Stanley Cups and more wins in the Stanley Cup Playoff than any other team during his stretch, maybe he was “done”? Detroit instead had its sights set on Steve Yzerman leading the club back to its former glory. Holland spent his last couple years there trading off assets and basically paving the road for Yzerman’s return to The Motor City. He would gracefully step upstairs for the organization that he had done so much to build and win with.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

But something funny happened on the way to the Forum…or was that Joe Lewis Arena? Holland decided the fire still burned within, and he instead accepted an offer from Bob Nicholson to run the Edmonton Oilers for the next 5 years. In his 2 years so far, and with his back to the NHL cap wall, Holland has guided his club into the post-season both seasons. It’s 100% true that the results once in the post-season for the Holland Oilers aren’t there yet. But now in the Summer of 2021, and with at least $23m in cap space…Holland has a chance to prove that the fastball he used to help build a dynasty before is still there. And as an ultra-competitive guy, I can’t help but think that would motivate Ken Holland.

Some of his detractors rankle when Holland waxes on poetic about his Detroit years. “What have you done for me lately”, those fans ask? A lot of people in this town don’t like to lean on the past. The intervening (losing) seasons have soured more than a few on that act. But this is the off-season where Holland can silence those critics and even put a punctuation mark on his Hall of Fame career at the same time.

With a hard, high-heater of an off-season, Holland can turn his 11th ranked but under-achieving Oilers club into a legit Stanley Cup contender. And no one would be able to quibble with that.

Find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins

Recently, at The Cult…

STAPLES: Is Oliver Ekman-Larsson a fit in Edmonton?

McCURDY: Which young guns could crack next year’s lineup?

LEAVINS: The status quo is not good enough for the Edmonton Oilers

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Latest articles

Related articles