Oilers’ Holland talks Puljujarvi, player roles ahead of training camp

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland comments on handling Connor McDavid who’s attempting to return to the lineup from injury.

EDMONTON — It’s been four months since Ken Holland took on what will be the most difficult task of his managerial career. On Thursday, they’ll open the doors on Edmonton Oilers training camp — otherwise known as, "Let’s see if these guys can right the ship."

Managers have come and managers have gone in Edmonton, but the results have been mostly the same. None, however, have possessed the acumen that Holland brings to the table, after 22 years at the helm of the perennially successful Detroit Red Wings. Add veteran head coach Dave Tippett, and it’s awfully hard to think that — between them — there is a problem left in the game they have not already faced, and likely solved.

On the eve of Day 1 of the new regime in Edmonton, the media cornered Holland after a round of golf at the Edmonton Country Club. He had just watched his Oilers Rookies manage one goal in a largely disappointing 120-plus minutes against the Flames, a cold slap for an organization that has been telling itself that the farm system is finally heading in the right direction.

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Let’s dig in then, shall we? Here’s the new Oilers boss. He is not the same as the old boss.

On the Oilers Rookies

"Some players played pretty well, others didn’t play as well as we’d hoped or expected… Things are going to get cranked up over the next four to six weeks. Every week gets cranked up. You try to see which players can keep going. As you go along, some young players start to get to the point where it’s a bit much at that point in their career. It’s a learning experience."

On his ideal set of Bottom 6 forwards

"We need some penalty killing. Then we want to get some secondary scoring. You’d like to have some size, and maybe spend some time in the offensive zone. Those guys are all going to play four, five, six (pre-season) games. We’re trying to see who will make the team, but (also) who compliments each other. To form line combinations, and obviously, who’s going to play more minutes and what role they’re going to have on the team? That’s what we’re going to try and figure out here."

On his star players being used to kill penalties

"For the most part, no (he does not recommend it). But there are some times, you get to a big game, sometimes yes. (He admits to using Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit).

"It depends on the game. It depends on if we can find some people who can really do a great job penalty killing, then those best players will get out for the last 20 or 30 seconds leading into a five-on-five shift. But you would like people in different roles. I think it makes good chemistry on a team."

Will McDavid play pre-season games?

"One at most. Or very likely zero. If he’s ready for opening night he’s ready. If he’s not, he’s not."

On the state of any Jesse Puljujarvi trade

"I believe there are teams out there that are interested. Obviously, I didn’t get anything I (liked) in getting a deal done. You get into late August, and everything kind of goes quiet. We’ll see. I’m not going to force something. If it’s there I’ll explore it. If it’s not, I am prepared to sit."

On rookie defenceman Evan Bouchard’s chances of sticking with Edmonton

"He’s not fighting for (one of) seven spots. He’s fighting for (one of) six spots. My philosophy is, I’ll say to a coach, ‘You’re playing tomorrow. Tell me who’s in the lineup.’ If a young player is not in the lineup, he’s going to the American League. If he’s in the lineup, we have a further conversation about where he fits.

"I’d rather make the call during the season to call the player up, than to make the call during the season to send the player down. It’s easier on their mind to be working their way up than down. The young players have to take the job from a veteran."

Senior Writer Ryan Dixon and NHL Editor Rory Boylen always give it 110%, but never rely on clichés when it comes to podcasting. Instead, they use a mix of facts, fun and a varied group of hockey voices to cover Canada’s most beloved game.

On not being in a prospect tournament this year

"I enjoyed the two games with Calgary… but three or four (tournament) games you would prefer to evaluate them, as opposed to just two. It’s something we’ll look into here over the next couple of months."

Any PTO possibilities?

"Right now, no."

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