The Edmonton Oilers are confident they will have a successful season under coach Dave Tippett, general manager Ken Holland said Tuesday.
“We’re going to start winning,” Holland said. “I believe in the coach. I believe in the team. I believe in the leadership of the team. I believe in their determination.
“If we can win a few games, [we’ll] take back some of our swagger and feel good about ourselves and start riding the wave. Right now it’s going down in the wrong direction and we have to turn things around. I think we’ll start here.”
Edmonton (18-14-2) has not won in five games and is 2-9-2 in its last 13 after a 16-5-0 start. His 0.762 point percentage on Dec. 2 was the best in the NHL.
Holland, who was named Oilers general manager ahead of the 2019-20 season, never changed coaches mid-season during a managerial career that began with the Detroit Red Wings in 1997.
“I don’t believe in it, I guess, but I also understand that there are times when it has to be done or it should be done,” he said.
“On December 2, we were first overall in the NHL. We have had five bad weeks. There have been seven coaches here in 10 years.
Since the start of the 2010-11 NHL season, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins, Todd Nelson, Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock have coached the Oilers. Renney (164), Eakins (113) and McLellan (266) are those other than Tippett (161) to have coached over 100 games with them.
Tippett is 90-58-13 with Edmonton and has coached the Oilers to the playoffs each of the past two seasons. Edmonton lost in four games to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2020 Stanley Cup Best of 5 Playoffs and were swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the Stanley Cup Best of 7 First Rounds last season.
This season, the Oilers have outshot their opponents by an average of 3.81 to 2.90, with the best power play in the NHL (35.9%) and the fourth best penalty kill (87.7%) in 21 games until December 2.
Since then, Edmonton has allowed the first goal in 12 of its last 13 games and has been outscored by an average of 3.85-2.38. The power play is 18.8% (21st) and the penalty kill is 68.4% (29th).
The Oilers have allowed the first goal in 24 of 34 games this season, most in the NHL.
The struggles haven’t convinced Holland that the Oilers must mortgage the future to straighten out the present, even with the presence of two of the NHL’s best players, forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draissiel.
Holland said sacrificing prospects or high draft picks for a rental player isn’t the best route to cementing Edmonton’s foundation for success.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Holland said. “I think the answer is in that locker room. Why would I trade a first-round pick or one of our top prospects for someone to give us a little boost and then next year we have a press conference and you ask me about more secondary scoring, or more depth?
McDavid and Draisaitl share the NHL scoring lead with 53 points each, McDavid with 19 goals and 34 assists in 33 games and Draisaitl with 26 goals and 27 assists in 34 games.
“Now I understand Connor’s 25 (years) and Leon’s 26, and would I trade something if it’s a hockey trade and you bring someone in and he’s [here] this year and beyond? This is an other story. But if your question is just to trade an A-level prospect to give a little nudge and a bump so we can have another press conference next week and then this guy goes on and blossoms into another organization somewhere else for five, six, seven, eight, 10 years, and we come back to the market next year because that person leaves, I’m not doing that.”
Edmonton will face the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, its first game since a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 5. Its next four games have been postponed due to attendance restrictions in Canadian cities.
“I don’t know where we are because we’ve been to such extremes in the first 21 games versus the last 13,” Holland said. “But I believe we have a good team. …
“I understand that we’re in professional hockey and we’re judged by wins and losses and we haven’t won enough, but I believe [in] the coaching staff, the team plays hard, they play each other every night. We’re having a little break here and hopefully I’ll talk to [Tippett] and some of the players, make some adjustments, (hopefully) get people out of COVID, get our squad back and see what we can do.”
The Oilers have McDavid, forwards Warren foegele, Tyler benson and Derek ryan, and defenseman Tyson Barrie in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
Holland said he had conversations with general managers, but wasn’t sure a trade would be the way to get the Oilers back on track.
“I’m working on phones, but right now today the solution has to be in this locker room,” Holland said. “We’re better than what we played, I believe that, and I don’t know if I could go out and make big trades to turn things around, but I talk to the teams.”