Ken Holland and Edmonton Oilers getting a wee bit of love from unexpected places

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Ken Holland and the Edmonton Oilers getting a wee bit of love from unexpected places.

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It’s not every day that the likes of ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski and anyone immersed in hockey analytic has a positive word to say about Holland, but that’s what we’re getting for the Edmonton GM’s work.

Most recently in ESPN, Wyshynski, who is known for his critiques of the Oilers, gave Holland a B+ for his work in the free agency period, praising the Zach Hyman signing and the acquisitions of Warren Foegele and Derek Ryan: “The Oilers’ offseason had some moves that are going to make this team potentially better in the short term and other moves that were, for lack of a better description, very Oilers.”

Wyshynski said the Oilers signing of Cody Ceci was a “decent fix” for Adam Larsson leaving. “Bringing back Barrie at $4.5 million AAV was a strong move.”

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The ESPN writer concluded: “They were flirting with an A-minus here if they didn’t run back Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen as their average-at-best goaltending duo, and hand Darnell Nurse a $9.25 million AAV on an eight-year term with significant trade protection, which was a very ‘won’t be my problem’ contract from GM Ken Holland. Speaking of that: Trading Caleb Jones for what’s left of Keith so the Blackhawks can then acquire Seth Jones, hand him a contract that resets the market and jacks up Nurse’s price tag? Very Oilers.”

Here is Wyshynski’s take on all 32 teams.

The Oilers have also received praise from the analytics teams at Sportlogiq, who wrote at Sportsnet: “The Oilers’ top-nine is much better with the additions of Hyman and Foegele, and Ryan is a good defensive forward who makes their bottom-six better. The defence is… different. A right side of Barrie, Ceci and Evan Bouchard might frighten some Oilers fans but time will tell if Ken Holland made the right moves.”

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Sportslogiq also gave the Oilers a B+.

The final bit of praise comes from Jackie Spiegel at The Sporting News, who has the Oilers ranked sixth out of 32 NHL teams in her power rankings.

“There has always been something missing up front in Edmonton, but the Oilers may have finally gotten the missing piece in Zach Hyman. The winger not only is a net-front presence and someone who will go into the corner, but he also can serve on special teams with the best of them. He has played with the likes of Mitchell Marner and Auston Matthews and will be a fantastic complement to Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Oil Country. While some of the other moves were a bit more questionable — is 39-year-old Mike Smith really the answer in goal? — Hyman and the addition of Derek Ryan, who adds depth down the middle and to the penalty kill, were home runs.”

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My take

1. Who knows what happens five or six years out, but it’s pleasing to think of Hyman, Foegele, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Darnell Nurse, Tyson Barrie and Derek Ryan teaming up with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl next year. The Oilers forward group hasn’t looked this good since the early 1990s. It’s no surprise then that some outside NHL commentators have noticed the strength of this forward group.

2. As for Edmonton’s defence, much depends on Nurse’s continued improvement, Evan Bouchard’s repaid development and Keith and Ceci stepping up and getting the job done defensively against tough competition. That’s all a lot to hope for, but as I’ve noted, if the likes of Keith, Ceci and Tyson Barrie fail to get it done, the Oilers have a solid Plan B in young players like Bouchard, Philip Broberg and Dmitri Samorukov.

3. The real question for Edmonton? Goalie. Can Mike Smith have another great year? Can Holland find a goalie to help him out if Mikko Koskinen and Alex Stalock fail to do so? If the Oil can get it done in net, Spiegel’s sixth overall power ranking will hold up well.

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