EDMONTON — That old cliché about never getting too high or too low meets its match with Ken Holland, a lifetime hockey man who would get real excited about something — if he hadn’t already seen it 100 times in his career.
Holland was no more flustered over Edmonton’s 3-6 start than he is now about their 17-11 standing at the halfway point of the season.
“I still think it’s going to be a photo finish to make the playoffs in our division,” Holland said on Thursday, addressing the media upon the completion of game No. 28 in this 56-game campaign.
There isn’t an easier GM in the game today to interview. Holland never greets a question as dumb, and seldom gives you an answer that could be classified as “brief.”
He addresses us — and you, the fan — with the same honest banter that greets his scouts at organizational meetings. He just shares more with them, as we would expect.
So, as the Edmonton Oilers begin to look like a team with a solid chance of inhabiting one of the four playoff spots in the North Division, here is the World According to Holland, the one Alberta power broker named Kenny who seems to be making progress.
On Jesse Puljujarvi:
“By about the fifth game, Dave Tippett moved him up with Connor (McDavid), and that game in Winnipeg he was outstanding. Every game he seems to have gotten more confident (and now) he plays a North American game. A north-south game.
“He forechecks, he wins puck battles and he gets pucks in the hands of his linemates. He goes to the blue paint. He’s been a real pleasant surprise for us. And being 23 and just gaining his confidence, it looks like he has a chance to be a real important part of our team going forward.”
On augmenting his roster for the post-season:
“When you get into the playoffs you need size and depth. You either wear somebody down or they’re going to wear you down,” he said. “You’re always looking at the trade deadline for some size, or experience. Guys who have been there before.”
On Evan Bouchard:
“Evan has one year, basically, of American League experience. He’s played in (12) of our 28 games.
“When Evan was in there, he played well. I think he’s ready to go, and likely anxious and ready to get into the lineup. But the one thing we’re trying to accomplish is to win games. We’re balancing winning and developing. Bouch is going to be here all year. I don’t see any need to send him back to Bakersfield — he’s been there and done that.”
On the trade deadline:
He won’t be trading for depth players. The Oilers have lots of that.
“If there is a player out there who we think can go into our lineup and have an impact more than (just) depth, probably that is something I would look at.”
On talks with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins:
No news to report, but Holland sounds like he's wondering — with the cap supposed to be flat for the foreseeable future — what the player is worth: “It’s a different, kind of a new marketplace.”
On Oscar Klefbom:
“He’s going to have surgery in March. There is a date booked, March 20-25, somewhere in that time frame, in Cleveland.”
On if he can make a deadline trade that isn’t dollar in, dollar out:
“Nope,” Holland said, explaining the financial box that LTIR has left the Oilers in. “We are dollar in, dollar out from the first day of the season until the last day of the season.”
On Dylan Holloway, who is finishing his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin:
“In the next few weeks I’ll talk to Dylan, and his agent, and we’ll make the decision on whether he’s going to stay in school for another year or whether he’s going to come out.
“I want his focus to be solely on helping Wisconsin. I have not reached out. I’m open to anything as long as it’s in the best interests of the young player.”