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It is apparent that the Edmonton Oilers have hit another rough patch.

Context is important, though. If you are near the ledge, I would urge you to step away. The result have been underwhelming but not fatal.

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The Oilers remain well within the Pacific Division playoff picture. And while they did indeed have just 1 out of a possible 6 points in their last three games, they played well enough to win against both Boston and Minnesota.

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Still, the record over those three games and the result against Calgary in particular is surely pause for thought: Can Ken Holland afford to wait until the deadline to make this club better in a few key areas?

That and more in this edition of…

9 Things

9. The Oilers have the heaviest travel schedule in the National Hockey League in terms of total miles travelled. Vancouver is 2nd, Vegas 3rd. Travel is easier today than 20 years ago. But in an apples-to-apples comparison, some teams still have it tough.

8. With Leon Draisaitl’s power play marker against the Minnesota Wild on Friday he surpassed the great Mark Messier (283) for the 3rd most in franchise history. It will not surprise you that Wayne Gretzky is 1st (439), and that Connor McDavid is 2nd  at 318.

7. If you wondered why Ken Holland has not yet jumped into the NHL trade market, consider this: Edmonton is right up against the cap. But if the Oilers do nothing between now & the deadline, they will have accrued $2.37m in annual cap space (PuckPedia). That is real currency to have while Holland is shopping.

6. I know there are some people back on the “Oilers need a new starting goaltender” train after the last few. But one or two iffy goals aside, the problem has not been the goalies but the guys in front of them. This defensive effort too much resembles what plagued them earlier in the season. The goalies are just the symptom.

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5. One of the few bright spots for the Oilers on Saturday was the response of Mattias Janmark to the Blake Coleman hit on Connor McDavid. While Janmark has been a good pro I have wondered at times this season whether he was past his Best Before date. But I sure admired his compete on Saturday and his late game goal was a just reward.

4. Ryan McLeod is not a bad faceoff guy and will likely get better as he matures. But dig in a little and you will see what probably concerns the Oilers in the short-term: While Ryan McLeod does boast a 50% FO% over-all, he is just 48% in the D-Zone. Leon Draisaitl is very strong in those situations at 57%, but Derek Ryan only decent at 52%. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is just 46%. If you are reading this and thinking it is an area Holland needs to shore up, I would concur.

3. Dylan Holloway was one of a handful of impactful Oilers on Saturday. His 5v5 CF was 19-1, 95%. So, good for the kid. But what on earth is he doing down on the 4th line with 2 other guys with 5 goals between the two of them? It was apparent Jay Woodcroft did not see a player in Holloway. I hope Kris Knoblauch is not falling into the same trap and leaving this enticing prospect buried in the depth chart. It isn’t like the Oilers do not need another Top-6 forward. What if he is right under their noses?

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2. I do not have all the answers for the Oilers recent spate of poor starts to games. I will not pretend to know more than an NHL coach. I am not on the bench or in the room. So, this is just a guess. But I think a major factor is frustration and how the club is handling (or not handling) those emotions. During the winning streak one of the hallmarks of the club’s play was great patience. When something did go wrong (and hey, that happens to all teams at times) they simply did not skip a beat. Whereas against Minnesota and Calgary that process was replaced with panic. The result was a missed assignment here, a bad penalty there, and after a while those things can and will start to pile up on you. And in times like that, the bounces often start to work against you, too. The old game can be funny that way. I prescribe process and patience. And I know: Easy to say, harder to do. The other thing that loss puts into question is just how much urgency the General manager needs to be operating with…

1.Some folks want Ken Holland to go out and get a goaltender at the NHL Trade Deadline. Others think another Top-6 forward is the answer. I and others believe that a depth center, preferably a right shot who can PK and play with some grit, would fit the bill. More still believe Edmonton needs to upgrade their blueliners heading into the post season. The honest answer to all of those questions may be a combination of 2 or even three of those things. Although given the previously mentioned cap constraints 3 new pieces may be a bridge too far. Unless a major upgrade is possible, I would leave this 6-D-man unit intact. Brett Kulak’s name likely gets mentioned in this conversation primarily due to his $2.7 cap hit. But at 5v5 Kulak has a 59% xGF. That is Top 20 in the NHL among D-men who have played 20+ games. Kulak’s 5v5 CF on Saturday was 20-7, 74%. And he has enjoyed back-to-back rock-solid playoff performances. I think you are likely worse without him.

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Joel Edmundson in Washington is a name that has come up here and there in Oilers chat the last little while. As mentioned, I will always have time for a Mattias Ekholm-like upgrade to the blueline. But given the price tag for doing that relative to the need of the club in other slots, that may not be in the cards. However in the playoffs, depth often comes into play.

I, for one, would be comfortable with the existing configuration in Edmonton. But the Oilers D-men have been remarkably injury-free the past two seasons. Odds are you will need 7, probably 8 D-men for a healthy cup run. And Philip Broberg and his 79 games of NHL experience is currently your only real option.

Joel Edmundson’s 516 games would sure make me more comfortable. Edmundson is not the play he was a couple years ago. But as a 7-8, he would be an excellent fit. He can play comfortably on both sides. And with Montreal already retaining 50% of his $3.5m deal, there is a path to bring him in for as little as 900K.

If Ken Holland could pry both Edmundson and RHS Center Nic Dowd ($1.3m, 1+ years remaining) from the Capitals, that would tick two critical boxes for a would-be cup contender and give the club some renewed confidence.

And if Saturday’s result is any indication, doing that sooner would ideally be better than later.

Now on Threads @kleavins. Also, find me on Twitter @KurtLeavins, Instagram at LeavinsOnHockey, and Mastodon at KurtLeavins@mstdn.social

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