The Edmonton Oilers have the talent to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season, general manager Ken Holland said.
"When you've got Connor McDavid and you've got Leon Draisaitl -- and we've got some other players, obviously [Darnell] Nurse and [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins -- I believe the window to try to be in the playoffs is now. We're in the race," Holland said Monday in an interview with Sportsnet 590 The Fan. "When you've got Connor McDavid, the window is now. The time is now."
The Oilers (23-17-5) are third in the Pacific Division after a 6-4 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. They haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2016-17 season, McDavid's second in the NHL, when the Oilers lost to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Second Round. Before that, Edmonton had not made the playoffs since reaching Game 7 of the Cup Final in 2006.
Holland, in his first season as Edmonton's GM, said if the Oilers can make the playoffs anything can happen. He pointed to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche, each the second wild card last season, winning their first-round series. Columbus swept the Presidents' Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round; the Avalanche defeated the Calgary Flames, the top seed in the West, in six games.
"If we can get in, much like Columbus knocked off Tampa and somebody knocked off Calgary -- you've just got to get in, and then it's a brand new season," Holland said.
Holland said McDavid (69 points) and Draisaitl (67), who hold the top two spots in the NHL scoring race, are why he believes the Oilers need to push for a playoff spot this season. He would like to add more depth to the roster but doesn't see that as reason not to try to make it this season.
Video: EDM@VGK: McDavid pots Draisaitl's feed for PPG
"Certainly in the short term, try to make it playoffs in 2019-20," Holland said of his goals. "Over the next two or three years, become deeper, become better so maybe we can have better regular seasons. But I don't know that a better regular season means that you're going to go on a longer playoff run. Maybe it means that you have a little less stress in January and February, but you're always going to have stress. And once you get in the playoffs, it's wide open."
Holland came to Edmonton on May 7 after serving as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings for the previous 22 seasons. As GM of the Red Wings, Holland saw Detroit win the Stanley Cup championship three times (1998, 2002, 2008) and the Presidents' Trophy four times (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008). The Red Wings also won 10 division championships (1991, 2001-04, 2006-09, 2011), five regular-season conference titles (2002, 2004, 2006-08) and reached 100 points in 13 of his last 18 seasons. He was assistant GM when the Red Wings won the Cup in 1997.
McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, who has 441 points (152 goals, 289 assists) in 332 NHL games, has won the Hart Trophy as League MVP in 2016-17 and the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer twice (2016-17, 2017-18). Holland said he stacks up with any of the Hall of Fame players who played for Red Wings during his tenure.
"I managed some great players in Detroit -- [Steve] Yzerman, [Sergei] Fedorov, [Brendan] Shanahan, the Russian Five, [Henrik Zetterberg], [Pavel] Datsyuk and [Nicklas] Lidstrom, (Chris) Chelios. But I've not managed anybody like Connor. And he's 22," Holland said. "…You know, Zetterberg and Datsyuk just became Zetterberg and Datsyuk at 25 and 26. They played in the NHL when they were 21 and 22, but they were just support parts. They grew into being ready to carry the torch and have a team compete for a Stanley Cup.
"When you factor in Connor's age and what he's accomplished -- he's already got on his resumé a Hart Trophy, leading the League in scoring twice -- I haven't managed anybody close to Connor McDavid. I feel very, very fortunate for this challenge and this opportunity."