Ken Holland balanced going all-in and maintaining team chemistry for Oilers

Even in what will like be his final trade deadline in Edmonton, GM Ken Holland still reportedly towed a fine line when it came to improving the Oilers.

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

As the saying goes, perception is reality, which is the best way to explain how polarising opinion is regarding Ken Holland. This has been the case in general, since he took over as Oilers general manager and president of hockey operations in May 2019.

There are those who view favourably, what Holland has done during his time in Edmonton. That after a run of just one playoff appearance in 13 years, the Oilers have qualified all four seasons he has been in charge and are well on course to make it again in 2023-24.

Then these are those caught in the middle, describing the 68-year-old's accomplishments as decent enough, but could still be better. And then there are those, who are fiercely critical of what he's achieved, or more to the point what he hasn't achieved.

This latter group consists of critics who argue it's inexcusable Holland has not built a roster which has won at least one Stanley Cup. More specifically, as much as hockey is arguably the ultimate team game, that it's unforgivable not to reach the Holy Grail when you have the best player in the game, and another who at times has been called the second-best player out there on the ice.

The Vernon, British Columbia native arrived in Edmonton with a sterling reputation, due to winning three Stanley Cups as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings. His accomplishments resulted in induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, as a builder.

Regardless, Holland still has plenty of critics in Edmonton and beyond, with his inability to (so far) help the Oilers win their first Stanley Cup since 1990. They ask how well-deserved his reputation should really be, if he can't get it done with the Oilers?

So what about this trade deadline?

Which brings us to the most recent -- and more than likely last -- trade deadline of Holland's tenure in Edmonton. Again, opinion is mixed on how well he did.

There are plenty, including Oil On Whyte's Edward Eng, who grade the moves very positively, as having strengthened the overall roster. Others describe the additions of Adam Henrique, Sam Carrick and Troy Stecher as solid, but could have been improved upon.

Then there are those who believe Holland effectively choked, that he didn't go all-in as he had previously indicated he would. For example, Zach Laing of Oilers Nation wrote that he contradicted himself, resulting in an underwhelming trade deadline.

A big part of the reason for those in the latter group viewing Holland's trades unfavourably, is influenced by the moves other contenders made in the Western Conference. That teams such as the Colorado Avalance, Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets did a better job of upgrading their teams.

However, the team which caused most frustration for some Oilers fans and critics in general, were the moves made by the Vegas Golden Knights. Year after year, general manager Kelly McCrimmon seemingly works his magic, and he did it yet again this season with the additions of Tomas Hertl, Noah Hanifin and Anthony Mantha.

Oilers second-best to the Golden Knights again?

It doesn't help that the Golden Knights play in the same division as the Oilers. And more importantly, that they knocked them out of the playoffs in the second round last season, on the way to their first Stanley Cup triumph in franchise history, in just their sixth season to boot.

For those in the latter category, they should perhaps at least consider comments made by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman. Speaking on Monday's edition of the 32 Thoughts podcast with Jeff Marek, it apparently came down to maintaining the chemistry of the current team.

In this respect, Friedman indicated Holland was considering swinging for the fences with certain trade targets. However, he was concerned about compromising the rapport, trust and confidence the Oilers have built up as this progressed, particularly since Kris Knoblauch came in as coach and dramatically turned around the fortunes of the team.

Player input

To perhaps further reassure -- or frustrate -- those who were unhappy with what Holland did or didn't do, it also turns out he spoke to some of the players to get their feedback. Cody Ceci was a player repeatedly linked with being moved to help facilitate a trade, but apparently players on the Oilers roster did not want the popular blue-liner to leave.

We are in the camp that it's a positive to consider the opinion of the players on your roster, especially when it includes the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Mattias Ekholm. All are leaders in their own way and extremely talented players who have a good pulse of what's right for the team.

In this respect, it was noted that Henrique, Carrick and Stecher were all players who would help improve the roster but also had the right personalities to compliment the players already on the Oilers. Again, you imagine the likes of McDavid, Draisaitl and Ekholm were at least advised of who the front office was looking to bring in.

Next. Calvin Pickard playing himself into a new deal with Oilers. Calvin Pickard playing himself into a new deal with Oilers. dark

Now, all we can do is wait to see if Holland's balanced approach to the trade deadline was the right decision. The answer will come simply enough, by virtue of if the Oilers win the Stanley Cup at the end of this season and send him out on top.

Recent Posts