Dylan Holloway’s Wisconsin season is underway, and the Oilers 2020 first round pick delivered a strong performance. He scored a goal, played miles in the middle, had three shots on goal and was effective playing center between Roman Ahcan (undrafted) and Sam Stange (Detroit, 2020). In Holloway’s last 10 games, he has scored 5-4-9 with 31 shots. Oilers fans are notorious for reacting quickly to small samples and this is the ultimate small sample. Don’t get excited. Well, maybe a little excited. Yes. A little excitement is in order.
I’m proud to be writing for The Athletic, and pleased to be part of a great team with Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis. Here is our recent work.
- New Lowetide: Ideal style pairings for the 2020-21 Oilers
- New Jonathan Willis: The Oilers are better with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl apart at 5-on-5
- Lowetide: The Oilers and the Calder Trophy: 5 rookies, 1 strong contender
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The results
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: Goals against
- Lowetide: Oilers’ reasonable expectations for 2020-21: The Goals
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers defensive prospects are impressive overseas, but what comes next?
- Lowetide: Oilers pick up an intriguing addition in free agent Dominik Kahun
- Lowetide: How close is Ryan McLeod to an Oilers roster spot?
- Lowetide: Jay Woodcroft oversees a spike in Oilers prospect development
- Jonathan Willis: Oilers’ organizational depth chart: Where does Edmonton stand today?
- Lowetide: Dmitri Samorukov’s KHL impact and what it means to the Oilers
- Lowetide: Oilers extend Kris Russell, solve expansion issue
- Lowetide: Can Kyle Turris centre an outscoring No. 3 line in Edmonton?
- Lowetide: Tyson Barrie’s skills and how Oilers coach Dave Tippett will deploy him
- Jonathan Willis: Can Oilers unlock James Neal’s scoring potential at five on five?
- Lowetide: Why is Ilya Konovalov no longer starting in the KHL?
- Lowetide: Oilers Top 20 prospects, post-draft edition.
KEN HOLLAND’S PACE
Peter Chiarelli made 31 trades (by my count) in 45 months, or about 8.27 trades per year. Ken Holland has made six trades in 18 months, or 4.00 trades a year. It’s going to take some time to adjust to the pace.
Holland doesn’t make a lot of trades, but does sign free agents from all areas of the planet.
KEN HOLLAND’S TRADES
July 19, 2019. Oilers trade LW Milan Lucic and a 2021 third-round pick to the Calgary Flames for LW James Neal. This trade was lauded at the time, mostly because it was impossible to buyout Lucic, and because it had enormous implications for the coming expansion draft. The deal is less popular now, but for me this remains a fine trade even if they don’t buy out Neal. Holland inherited an albatross and rid himself of it. If the return was a creaking board in the captain’s mess, I’ll take it.
July 26, 2019. Oilers trade the rights to RHD John Marino to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2021 conditional sixth-round pick. This was another tough bit of business, reading Marino’s words since the trade told me there wasn’t a snowflake’s chance in a hot place he was signing here. It’s unfair for sure but that’s the danger in drafting players born in the USA and heading to college. We await the selection. Marino might have been Chiarelli’s best value pick. Fitting he never played here.
February 24, 2020. Oilers trade RHD Joel Persson to the Anaheim Ducks for G Angus Redmond and a 2022 conditional seventh-round pick. The condition is that Persson needs to play 25 games or more in 2020-21.
This trade brought nothing back, I think they just wanted to give Persson another team to audition for during the season. I don’t believe Edmonton will get anything in the way of a pick.
February 24, 2020. Oilers trade RC Kyle Brodziak and a 2020 fourth-round pick (Jan Bednar) to the Detroit Red Wings for RD Mike Green.
Green played about four periods, didn’t come back for the postseason and then retired. That’s a little shy of a fourth-round pick. This deal was not value.
February 24, 2020. Oilers trade a 2021 fifth-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for LW Tyler Ennis.
I think this trade was solid for what it brought deadline through the end of the ‘Hawks series. It probably helped the Oilers in attempts to re-sign Ennis, too. A thumb’s up on this deal.
February 24, 2020. Oilers trade RW Sam Gagner, a 2020 second-round pick (Brock Faber) and a 2021 second-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings for LW Andreas Athanasiou and LW Ryan Kuffner.
This trade doesn’t look good now and is going to look worse in the future. I think it’s fair to suggest that this trade is a fail and even without the knowledge of what happened after (Holland walked him after giving up those second rounders) the deal. For me, there are two parts to this trade: The pre-Covid deal, and it was too much to pay, and walking the player and using the money elsewhere. That’s something that was clearly dictated by the new order of things after the flat cap arrived. So, I’m calling it a very poor trade without factoring in what happened with the money. That’s a separate conversation.
THE CURRENT TRADE RECORD
Good trades: Acquiring Ennis.
Reasonable trades: Acquiring Neal.
Forced trades with no blame: Marino trade.
Trades that don’t move the needle either way: Persson.
Less than true value trade: Acquiring Green.
A bad trade: Acquiring Athanasiou.
I do believe the Athanasiou trade was poor. It might have worked out better, and maybe in a non-Covid world he’s signed for next season at $3.1 million or similar. While being critical of Holland for the deal, I think it’s also fair to give him credit for spending the money wisely on Tyler Ennis and Dominik Kahun. Holland’s job isn’t to answer to Lowetide for his sins, his job is to make the team better. His pivot away from Athanasiou and toward less expensive and superior replacements was guided by a change in the weather. Holland acted appropriately even if the outcome framed him in a less than complimentary light. I give him credit for it. It shows maturity. It doesn’t mean we give the general manager a pass on the AA trade and honestly the trade market hasn’t been a strength for him since arriving in Edmonton.
Kahun goes right to the top of the list for Holland in free agency and we have to asterisk due to the cap situation. That said, the club did in fact get a strong fit for value dollars and that should be acknowledged. The Tyson Barrie signing isn’t getting a lot of attention here, but that was a quality addition, too. Tyler Ennis, Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard, Josh Archibald all signed under Holland and I think some credit is due for that work.
It isn’t a perfect record, Holland signed Zack Kassian to a four-year deal ($3.2 AAV) at the end of January. Kassian won’t cover that contract and wouldn’t have covered it in the old cap world (pre-Covid). The deal was signed mere weeks before the shutdown and a Kassian deal now would be for far less. I don’t blame Holland, that would have required Nostradamus level foresight.
I think the Mike Smith signing is the post-Covid addition that merits criticism. Holland has great faith in elder statesmen and it’s a fairly easy fix if it doesn’t work out. Then again, fixing it might require a mid-season trade and the general manager has been fairly spendy in this area since arrival.
I do not believe the hockey fan who reads articles and opinions online is well served by the current verbal as it pertains to evaluation of general managers. Some of the brightest hockey minds are fans, but true insight gets clouded by rage and self promotion.
Put another way, if you believe you can be a general manager, then do what Dellow and others did and get in the game. If you’re making public comments that always end with “these dummies are brain dead” then it’s difficult for me to take you seriously.
General managers take their jobs seriously. General managers make mistakes, and those mistakes are in the Hockey Guide and Record Book for all time. So, if decades of results prove that even excellent general managers make mistakes, then it seems to me that we should be able to include that reality in the conversation.
Ken Holland’s best move since arriving in Edmonton has been adding Dave Tippett. His second best move has been in elevating players like Ethan Bear, Kailer Yamamoto and Caleb Jones when ready, an important feature that has been missing for many years in Edmonton. That kind of ‘prospect whisperer’ touch may soon apply to Jesse Puljujarvi, a young man who felt and acted like an outsider until the GM had the ‘Dad’ talk with him. These are valuable things.
Holland has done well in free agency. Most of his stopgap additions in year 1 delivered enough to return, and we may see spikes from names like Nygard and Haas in the coming year. Kahun and Barrie represent the possibility of exceptional value contracts via NHL free agency, a rare item indeed.
Holland hasn’t done well in the trade market. I think the flood of traded picks will come back to haunt him in the coming years unless he can sign college, CHL and Euro free agents of some quality.
I gave Holland a B- after the 2019-20 season and many of you were mad as hell, thinking it should have been an A. I will tell you that I’m leaning toward A for his work in this offseason. I’ll wait until the end of the 2020-21 season to give another report card on Holland.