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31 in 31

Inside look at Edmonton Oilers

Holland, Tippett hope retooled roster forges path back to playoffs

by Derek Van Diest / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

31 in 31: Edmonton Oilers

31 in 31: Edmonton Oilers 2019-20 season preview

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen and NHL Network's E.J. Hradek discuss the biggest questions facing the Detroit Red Wings for the 2019-20 season

  • 06:52 •

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Edmonton Oilers.

The Edmonton Oilers hope a new general manager and coach will help them get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after not qualifying in 12 of the past 13 seasons

 

[Oilers 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

Ken Holland was hired as GM on May 7; he held that job with the Detroit Red Wings for 22 seasons and was promoted to senior vice president on April 19, when the Red Wings named Steve Yzerman GM.

Two weeks after Holland joined the Oilers, Edmonton hired Dave Tippett as coach, replacing Ken Hitchcock, who took over from Todd McLellan 21 games into last season. 

Holland, who won the Stanley Cup four times with the Red Wings, said he does not see a quick solution for the Oilers, who last made the playoffs in 2016-17.

"The goal is to build the Edmonton Oilers into a playoff team and a legitimate Cup contender," Holland said. "Certainly there are pieces there, but you have to be deeper. Those teams that go on those long playoff runs, they're deep and you have to have depth in your organization and on your farm team. You can't just be relying on five or six guys over 82 games; as great as they are, they're just not going to make it." 

Edmonton has two cornerstones: centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid, 22, is a two-time NHL scoring champion and Ted Lindsay Award winner and won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP in 2016-17; he was second in the League in scoring last season with 116 points (41 goals, 75 assists), trailing Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov (128 points). Draisaitl, 23, had an NHL career-high 105 points (50 goals, 55 assists) last season. 

Video: Top five plays of 2018-19: Draisaitl

It is the rest of the roster that needed improvement after the Oilers finished 14th in the Western Conference, 11 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs. 

"Certainly I understand the anxiety of the fans and I understand the pressures," Holland said. "I'm coming in here with eyes wide open. But I also know there are no quick fixes, there are no magic wands, and you have to build it and you have to have a plan."

That began with the hiring of Tippett, who coached the Dallas Stars from 2002-09 and the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes from 2009-17.

"I certainly had a clear vision when I hired Tippett," Holland said. "We had a lot of conversations, he wants competitive people, he wants to play with pace. We had a lot of similar philosophies on team building."

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: McDavid

The construction commenced when Edmonton bought out the contract of defenseman Andrej Sekera on June 30 to make room under the NHL salary cap. The Oilers then signed five players on July 1: goalie Mike Smith (one year) and forwards Markus Granlund (one year), Alex Chiasson (two years), Tomas Jurco (one year) and Jujhar Khaira (two years). Edmonton signed forward Josh Archibald to a one-year contract on July 16.

The key signing was Smith, who will compete for playing time with Mikko Koskinen. Smith was 23-16-2 with a 2.73 goals-against average, .898 save percentage and two shutouts in 42 games (40 starts) with the Calgary Flames last season.

Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Koskinen

"I know Mike Smith is motivated," Holland said. "Koskinen had a great first half of the year and I think he played a ton of hockey down the stretch … and he won't have to do that with Mike Smith here."

Edmonton acquired forward James Neal from the Flames in a trade for forward Milan Lucic and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 Draft on July 19.

Video: Rupp discusses Lucic being traded for Neal

Neal, who turns 31 on Sept. 3, had 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 63 games for Calgary last season, the first time in his 11-season NHL career he did not score at least 20 goals.

"I think it's a good trade for both teams, for both players," Tippett said. "I had James as a pretty young player in Dallas, know him pretty well, and he's excited to have a bounce-back year."

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