With the NHL Trade Deadline just over 24 hours away, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in the midst of hot-stretch in what has been a season filled with highs and lows. At this point, a playoff spot appears close to a certainty and it has left many wondering if Ken Holland will be looking to make an impact move prior to tomorrow’s deadline. It would be nice but thankfully, no such move will be coming.
After handcuffing himself with what has predictably turned out to be a mismanaged off-season, Holland doesn’t have the wiggle room to make the moves required to put this roster over the top. He can and likely will make some depth moves to help this group along the way but expecting anything more wouldn’t be realistic. With that said, this collection of players could potentially go on a mini-run of sorts.
Since the arrival of Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson, the Oilers have looked like a different team. The combination of player deployment, confidence, good old fashioned luck and the return of injured players, the wins are starting to pile up. The record speaks for itself (12-5-1) and while their special teams remain a struggle, this group’s play at even strength has gone from one extreme to the other.
Add to that the bounces that weren’t going the way of Leon Draisaitl and especially Connor McDavid for the better parts of December and January are suddenly coming and the goals are flowing. It is true, Edmonton is coming off a three-game run against some of the league’s lightweights but this lineup has been filling the net since the coaching change and don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
In those 18 games, the Oilers have outscored opponents to the tune of 70 to 50 and now sit with a goal differential on the season of plus sixteen. The math speaks for itself and it has come against a variety of opponents, with a lengthy road trip that was made even longer with pair of one-and-done matchups on home ice for good measure. There’s been nothing fluky about this but perspective is still required.
Despite their inconsistent play under Dave Tippett and company, a second place finish in the Pacific Division has never been an unrealistic target. As things currently sit, a first round appearance against the Los Angeles Kings or Vegas Knights would be one Edmonton should be able to handle. It wouldn’t be easy but if key players not named Drasiaitl and McDavid deliver, they will likely win such a series.
The problem becomes what would follow. Both the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche could probably be pushed in a playoff series but there is no deal(s) Holland could make that would swing that pendulum into the Oilers favour. His trade history suggests he doesn’t have the ability to make such a move and the possibility of him repeating what we saw during the off-season is probably more likely.
In other words, the safe and most logical move would be for Edmonton to keep their proverbial powder dry. Again, adding a depth defenceman, forward and maybe even a goalie would be fine but that is really it. There is no impact piece out there that will be coming between today and Monday afternoon. Oilers fans need to accept that and understand the importance of why they need to go in said direction.
Is it a wasted opportunity? Yes, it most certainly is and unfortunately the general manager of this club is the reason why they find themselves in the situation they do. Would they be further ahead with a starting goalie that is better than Mikko Koskinen? Of course they would but that’s not a realistic get in season and luckily, the towering Finn has rebounded nicely after tough stretch earlier in the year.
Would a legit upgrade to their backend elevate this roster to another level? You bet it would but the aforementioned decisions made during the off-season have made that a near impossibility. Which brings us to where this group currently is and accepting what they will be come playoff time. They are a talented side that could upset and make a run but almost everything will have to break their way.
Draisaitl and McDavid will always give the Oilers a puncher’s chance in a short series. However, the goal for this group remains to win a Stanley Cup and with some shrewd moves in the coming off-season, it can become a realistic option as early as the 2022-23 campaign. Hampering that possibility on the hope of what might happen over these next few months simply cannot be allowed to happen.