2024 Stanley Cup Final - Media Day

Oilers General Manager & President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland and Head Coach Kris Knoblauch sat down with the media on Friday afternoon in Florida before the start of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday at Amerant Bank Arena.

The executive and coach discussed a variety of topics, including Edmonton's lineup, the growth of the club's leaders Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the task of trying to end Canada's 31-year Cup drought, and more.

Read the full transcript of the media availability or watch the full press conference in its entirety below.

Ken & Kris speak during Stanley Cup Final Media Day

Knoblauch on the potential for Warren Foegele to return to the lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final:

“Whether he comes in Game 1 or whatever, we'll see him sometime in the lineup. I think what he provides us is a little bit of offence – scoring 20 goals this season and 40-plus points – but also, he’s just another guy who adds more speed to our team. We took him out of the lineup, which wasn't easy for us to do after the year he had, but it's nice to have the opportunity to put him back in.”

Knoblauch on Philip Broberg practicing on the right side and his potential to play there in the Cup Final:

“Throughout his career, he’s spent a lot of time on his off side. This year, he’s been more on the left side than the right, but we feel that the way he's been playing and the skills that he has, he's very adaptable to move on to his off side.”

Holland on Stuart Skinner’s play as the Oilers’ starter this season after the decision to waive Jack Campbell to the AHL:

“We had just lost in Vancouver six-to-something. I think we were 2-7-1. I felt that we needed to do something. It almost would’ve been impossible to make a trade. You're 10 games into the season and you need to do something to jolt the team. I made the decision to call both goalies in. [Goaltending Coach Dustin Schwartz] and I were in Vancouver and told Jack he was going on waivers, and if he cleared, he was going to the minors. I called Stu in and told him it was his opportunity to grab the reins. We believed in him. He had won 29 games last year, was a finalist for the Calder Trophy, he was 24 years of age and it was his time.

"Then, we lost Thursday night in San Jose and made the decision on Friday to hire Kris Knoblauch. I think we won in Seattle on Saturday and Kris came in, but certainly, Kris was a big reason why we got the season turned around. And also, Stu Skinner's play. We weren't playing very well. I think Stu was an .855 save percentage. Jack Campbell was .870 at the time. I knew both goalies were better. I knew we could play better team defence, but I felt that the team needed a jolt. I certainly believed in Stu Skinner, and I think he's one of the top young netminders in the game. He grabbed the reins and took it from there.

Knoblauch’s response on Stuart Skinner:

“Yeah. Since I've been here, I've been very impressed with him and there haven't been very many poor performances. I think he's been very solid, and anytime he has had a poor performance, he's always responded and played really well for me. I know during my time in Edmonton, there's been a lot of talk about goaltending and what we have. From my point of view, Stu and Picks have been a great tandem for us throughout the season.”

Stuart chats with the media at Stanley Cup Final Media Day

Knoblauch on his previous experience interviewing with current Panthers’ Head Coach Paul Maurice for a job in Winnipeg:

“We met in a hotel and talked for however long an interview is. But other than that, we haven't really stayed in touch very much. I reached out to him I think it was 2017 when I was taking a job with the Philadelphia Flyers. Other than that, I don't know if we've talked besides that. Before I met him, I had heard a lot of positive things about him. I knew somebody who’d worked with him, not with Winnipeg Jets and not as a coach, but I just knew him very well and he spoke very highly of him. So when I met him, everything that he had told me about him I felt was true. Very genuine and a very nice person. I reached out to him and he followed up and said that he'd help if I had any questions or something like that. But other than that, we haven't spoken very much.

Holland on if there was added pressure trying to get the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final with Connor McDavid on their roster:

“Yeah, for sure. But I’ve also been at this for a long time. I think I said at another press conference, but you just don't come in and wave magic wands. You’ve got to build. Certainly, Peter Chiarelli and his people did a great job in drafting Stu Skinner, Bouchard, McLeod, Vinnie Desharnais, and there's one or two others. They needed some time to become NHL players, so you're trying to put players in to get competitive; all the while behind the scenes you’re trying to believe that players are going to develop into bigger roles. So I think that's what we do. Great job by Peter Chiarelli, and then as we've gone along, some things have turned out, some things haven't turned out.

"But certainly, I knew we had a core. I knew we had Connor, I knew we had Leon. I was 3000 miles away. I knew they were great young players. I didn't know a lot about them as people, but I learned very quickly that they had a lot of determination, a lot of pride and a lot of push. They were team players, they were motivated and that's a massive start. And then along the way, there's been some [adversity]. That Chicago series was the first year we were there, and it's a summer series. In the playoffs, we lose three games to one. They got Duncan Keith and Toews. They've got veteran people. The next year we played Winnipeg, and we got swept. But three of the games were 0-0, 1-1, 2-2 and we were playing what I believed was playoff hockey.

"I saw what Scotty Bowman had done in Detroit in the mid-90s and the importance of learning to check, to compete, and that's what Kris Knoblauch has done a great job with for our team. We're getting more and more comfortable now in low-scoring games and we're comfortable when there's adversity. You think it's 3-2 in Vancouver with four or five minutes to go and the place is going crazy how we were able to kind of hang on and get that win. Then, the other night against Dallas, it's 2-1 and I think that's on the players and being in those moments. I think it's also on the job that Kris has done as coach.

Leon speaks with the media Friday ahead of Game 1 vs. Florida

Holland on being a GM of a passionate Canadian market like Edmonton and trying to end the nation’s 31-year cup drought:

“I've loved every moment. The National Hockey League is a roller-coaster ride. If you think you're just going to be on top and you're going to go sailing along on top, you should get into another business because I'll advise you right off the bat, you're in the wrong business. There's going to be lows and there's going to be highs, and we're in this business for the highs, but you got to have thick skin for the lows.

"If you make ten decisions, you’ve got to make seven or eight good ones. One or two or three aren't going to work out and you hope they're not too bad. I love the passion. I was fortunate to work in two franchises in Detroit and now in Edmonton which have great fanbases. That's why you come to the rink, because what you're doing is important to people, and certainly in Edmonton, what we do on an everyday basis is important to those fans and that city. I know that when you’re 2-9-1, they're not happy. We're not happy either, but that's important. You'd rather be here than somewhere else. They're with you, they're in it, so it's been an incredible run and I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.

Holland on what he knew about McDavid and Draisaitl before coming to Edmonton:

“Driven, competitive, team-driven, sacrifice, commitment – those are all words I’d use and they're intangibles, but certainly I learned those things in Detroit around lots of great players and the leadership. And if you're going anywhere, as we sit here today in the Final, both teams have it. You don't fluke this league. You need skill and you need an engine, and that engine of those group of players has got to drive your team on and off the ice every day. They come to the rink every day and they practice hard, they compete, they sacrifice, and when you're 3,000 miles away and I'm in Detroit, I see the points and I see the assists. I see the highlights. But to be on every day to watch how they practice, how they're competitive, how they're driven, those are things that when you live with people and you're on the bus and you go to practice, those are the things you see and those are the things that I didn't know. They're all-world on the ice and all-world off the ice.

Holland on if McDavid & Draisaitl have similar leadership qualities to Steve Yzerman and Nik Lidstrom:

“I don't want to compare players. I've been really lucky to watch those players, but these are two of the greatest players that I've ever seen.”

Zach catches up with the media on Friday afternoon in Florida

Knoblauch on the similarities between Edmonton & Florida and his excitement to coach the Oilers through the Cup Final:

“Obviously they have their style and we have ours. There are little tweaks that we can make to our game plan, but if we're making too many changes, we're not who we are and we aren't the same team that got us here. And as a coach, you have to be careful how many changes you make to a team because the more changes you make, the more things that are going in their heads and the more analyzing they're doing, it's about the players and them performing and them playing at ease. So if we're changing our systems and what we want to do, focusing so much on Florida, we're handicapping our players. So obviously, there's been a lot of talk about Florida being an aggressive, hard-hitting, tight-checking team. We're prepared for that. Dallas was a different team, but Vancouver, they were just as aggressive. You look at the hits per game throughout the playoffs, they're very similar if not more than those teams that I just mentioned other than Florida. So yes, we're expecting them to finish their checks as much as possible on us down low, but we'll hopefully be able to make some plays and get around that.”

Knoblauch on Brett Kulak raising his game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:

“First of all, throughout the regular season, we've been very impressed with Brett and I think he's played a really good season. He's been on that third pair, but that third pair has been really good and I know most teams would be very happy to have a third pair like we had all year with Vinnie and Brett. But through my time, I said to my coaching staff we like it and we like how they're playing, and they’ve told me numerous times how much better he's even been in the playoffs.He's elevated his game, and I know there have been times in the past with the Oilers where, whether it's injuries, suspensions, or whatever, they had to rely on him a lot more, and he came and played some really solid hockey. In the playoffs, it's a tougher game. There are more hits. There's more on the line. There's some pressure where some players don't handle that pressure as well as others. Brett thrives on it. He likes that. So that's my perspective on Brett.”

Holland on Brett Kulak:

“I remember when we got him at the deadline, our scouting department was pushing hard for him, was sitting on him, and Glen Gulutzan had been with him in Calgary, so he knew him as a person. We traded a second-round pick. You can never have enough defencemen come playoff time, and for me, that year in Game 6 we go into LA in Round 1. Darnell Nurse gets suspended. We're down three games to two. He stepped in and he took Doc's minutes, and we found a way to win Game 6 on the road, get it home and win Game 7 I think 2-0. He can skate, and he's competitive and he's low maintenance. He just comes and plays. He plays left, plays right and whatever you need him to do, he'll do.”