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The Good, the Bad and the Holland - Preseason edition. Part 1

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Welcome back to another Oiler’s season!

When I started here I began writing reviews of this GM named Peter Chiarelli. He was awful and I called the series of 8 game reviews ‘The good, the bad and the Chia’ to reflect how he may have had more impact on the on ice product than the actual players.

Chia was eventually fired (however, he is now the owner of a new title in St. Louis and still working). Ken Holland was brought in and I wanted to give Ken a chance. I actually couldn’t think of a title at all since I’d been neutral or high on Holland for the first 2 years. I routinely gave him a B or B+ in year end reviews.

I was honestly waiting for THIS offseason to see what he’s got as a lot of Chia contracts were coming off the books and some Holland draftees were working their way in. By and large I feel it is fair to say that THIS is the Oiler’s Ken Holland envisioned.

This summer, I grabbed my family and went on a nice 7 week holiday out West to all my favorite National Parks like Jasper, Revelstoke and Kootenay. I was offline most of it and would occasionally log on somewhere to see what was going on with my beloved Oilers. I started seeing things like Devin Shore for 2 years on a 1 way contract, Mike Smith is back, Cody Ceci for 4 years, Duncan Keith for 2 years at full value and the same goalie tandem as the last 2 playoff series (the one that has combined for 1 win and 7 losses). I also saw we protected Kassian, Keith and Archibald in what had to be the weakest protected list in the entire NHL.

Things I was liking about Holland before this summer included that we are not rushing our picks to the NHL by Halloween. The Old Boys Club got a little weaker every season. The drafting has been excellent in my opinion. We were starting to get a lineup filled with guys we drafted out of the first round. Found roles for all our prospects in Europe. Traded away Lucic for Neal (and bought out Neal this summer). Hired Tippet who got us to back to back playoff berths. Kept JP and signed him for 2 years. Got Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones in the lineup.

That was all better than Chia. However, that is a low bar and now we have Kenny’s team. He mentioned ‘experience’ a lot in his end of year pressers. I was curious what that meant and how that would look?

I should say before I get to the points that I considered our offseason needs like this:

  1. Goaltending (we will NEVER win a cup with Smith and Koskinen as our starters)
  2. D needed at least another legit Top 4 guy
  3. Bottom 6 getting caved at 5 on 5

A concern I didn’t have was our Top 6 and Powerplay. Both of which have been Top 5 for 2 straight seasons. I also had zero concerns about drafting.

The Good

We got Zack Hyman. He should be an absolute fantastic fit in our Top 6 and is a big upgrade on Dominik Kahun (good luck in Switzerland and at the Olympics!).

RNH resigned at a nice cap hit. Keep Nuge Forever!

Yam is signed!

We got Derek Ryan who can also help out a lot and has at least 1 good year in him.

We got Warren Foegele who can also help out a lot and is welcome to the Top 9.

These were all very good additions and helped solidify our Top 6 and our Top 9.

Perlini is looking like a real solid add but I’m not sure where he fits to be honest. He is scoring like a Top 6 player in preseason but he’ll be on the 4th line with the likes of Devin Shore playing 10 minutes a night. Is he physical? Can he defend? Does he like being deployed 200 feet from the goalie? I don’t see this heater going much longer and I don’t see him getting into the Top 6. He may end up a classic case of tweener. A very good Top 6 player who is not effective at a bottom depth role. Also, not good enough to make this Top 6 (which has to be one of the best in the league assuming no injuries).

Resigned Nurse and no contract drama this season. Please note, Nurse does not make that 9 million till NEXT season. He makes under 6 million this season. He is about the 40th highest paid dman in the league (also a Holland contract) this season and, barring injury, there is no way he doesn’t cover that bet. So when he has a bad game (and he will) I better not be reading about the ‘9 million dollar man screwed up’. It’s the 5.6 million dollar man that screwed up this season.

I will be in shock if we do not make the playoffs.

Bakersfield might contend for a Calder Cup as well (Holland’s old farm team, Grand Rapids, was also very good when he was there). The D is ridiculously good for the AHL. Also, ridiculously big!

We are finally playing Evan Bouchard.

JP looks poised to have himself one heck of a year. He’s played close to 200 games and has roughly 30 goals and 30 assists in his career. I hope he can match his career totals in 82 games. I would prefer he actually does that before we anoint him the second coming though.

Skinner and Konovalov might be closer than I thought! I think Skinner is closer to an injury callup and Konovalov is the answer longer term.

The Bad

The good news is I don’t have much bad. The bad news is because it’s all Ugly.

I feel we should’ve drafted Jesper Wallstedt. It’s a quibble for sure and I like Xavier B. However, our goalie pipeline is guys who have never played in the NHL and guys who have either been bad at it or are near 40.

Can someone please explain to me how signing Kris Russel helped us in the expansion draft? Last I checked, we still have Kris Russel and we don’t have Adam Larsson. I’ve waited a year to ask this question.

You know that stat that they show in the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year? You know the one. The one that shows more than half the team was drafted, developed and deployed by the Champions! The one that shows all these great finds in later rounds. The one that shows only a few big ticket UFA’s are on the team. We were getting there. We had a cost controlled Khaira, Bear, Jones and McLeod returning. This goes along with our Top 6 where 5 of the guys were drafted by us (in round 1). Throw in Nurse and Bouchard as 2 more first rounders on the back end. We were finally deploying a team of guys we drafted and developed.

Going into this season I’m not positive we have 1 player not drafted in Round 1 by us? Maybe Benson, maybe McLeod? Maybe? Lavoie looked very far away in preseason.

Benson does not look NHL ready. Nor does McLeod. McLeod has very little physicality to his game. He needs to learn to score more (top 6) or use his body more (bottom 6). He is currently neither.

I’m worried about Yamamoto. He had a brilliant rookie half season. Last year seemed to get worse with every passing month. His preseason has been lacklustre.

Over ripening is as bad as rushing. We will start losing good players on the waiver wire soon.

We no longer have Bear and Jones. I welcome Foegele but losing Bear might end up really hurting us. I was in the ‘protect Bear’ camp personally. I don’t see his career getting worse and I don’t see him playing for a Spengler Cup anytime soon.

I think Tippet has lost the room. He has already publicly criticized Bouchard and Drai in preseason. In a meaningless preseason game against Calgary he was already double teaming McDavid and Drai and playing them over 20 a night. Same guy that wanted to play 3 defenceman for 40 to 60 minutes in a triple overtime playoff elimination game. He doesn’t instill the confidence in the young guys and then he overworks the vets. It works in regular season when the vets include McDavid and Drai but it has its limits. The last time Tippet won a playoff round was 2012 (with Smith). He started great but is fading fast.