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The Edmonton Oilers are waking this Sunday up in sole possession of 2nd place in the NHL’s Pacific Division. That, thanks to a 2-1 Edmonton win in Seattle and a 7-2 Buffalo thumping of Vegas.

The Oilers are also just 9 back of the Canucks, and with 4 fewer games played. Although Vancouver has undeniably made themselves better already ahead of the deadline, their recent downswing notwithstanding.

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All this sets a compelling scene for the approach NHL Trading deadline March 8th and the Oilers game against Sidney Crosby’s Penguins tonight.

That and more in this edition of…

9 Things

9. Over his last 14 starts Stuart Skinner is 10-4-0, with a 1.86 GAA and a .929 SV PCT. Whatever issues he was having immediately after the All-Star Game seem to be ancient history.

8. The Oiler are really blessed with two terrific play-by-play men. Jack Michaels was spectacular in the final seconds of the win over Seattle on TV. But over on radio, former goaltender Cam Moon also did an excellent job of reflecting Stuart Skinner’s scintillating close-out performance.

7. Connor McDavid’s assist on Saturday extends his most recent point scoring streak to 10. It is the 15th time in his career McDavid has accomplished that. Only two other men in NHL history have ever hit that same mark: Guy Lafleur (also 15 times) and Wayne Gretzky (31 times). Decent company.

6. The Oilers are just not getting the calls. Edmonton has the 3rd worst Power Play differential in the league, 26 more short-handed situations than man advantages. My glasses are not so rosy that I cannot see that the Oilers need better discipline. But how does a team with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and one of the best offences in the league end up in this spot?

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5. Big D-man Mattias Ekholm has been a tower of power for the Oilers. He is +50 since joining the Edmonton Oilers. And the club (ala Bob Stauffer) is 53-20-4 over that stretch. Last year’s deadline acquisition by Ken Holland was not just a win. It as an upper deck home run. Can Holland possibly top that, this deadline? Aspirational. More on that in a minute…

4. Leon Draisaitl scored his 30th goal of the season on Saturday. He has now done so in 6 consecutive seasons. That also ties him with Wayne Gretzky at 696 regular season game played in Oilers colors. That is 10th all-time for the franchise. Is Leon already one of the 10 greatest Edmonton Oilers of All-Time? All day, yes. But is he Top 5? He probably needs a Stanley Cup ring before he attains that lofty spot in Oilers lore.

3. Vincent Desharnais had 6 shot blocks on Saturday, was +2 and was on the ice right at the end to help seal the victory. That final sequence was perhaps his best as an Oiler. I have made no secret the Oilers need to add another D-man at the deadline. And if you can upgrade, sure. But my point on a blueline addition is that you will need depth in the playoffs in case of injury. I am comfortable entering the post-season with Desharnais on the 3rd pairing and PK unit.

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2. The Oilers could be getting more out of Sam Gagner. I do not think Gagner needs to be in every game. He is in many ways the perfect 13F. But even when he is in, Gagner has a history of not just producing offensively. He had turned himself into a good penalty killer. And he has long been a decent faceoff man on his strong side. Over a very demanding March schedule I think a couple of the older forwards like Corey Perry and Derek Ryan could use the occasional night off. In the long run, if all these guys stay fresh it will be a net benefit for the Oilers.

1.Does anyone really and truly think that Ken Holland, with what is likely his final opportunity to add a concluding chapter to his already enviable legacy, will just sit on his hands? No chance. Zero. If he is still truly in charge and I 100% believe that he is, Holland will act. On Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday Elliotte Friedman reported that the Oilers were looking at making three additions: Two forwards and a Defenceman. Not a simple equation, that, as the Oilers are up against the cap. It almost certainly means that roster players and salary have to go out for the same to come in. Many of us might have liked Holland to already have acted on at least one of those items on the shopping list by now. But one of the Hallmarks of the Holland era in Edmonton, and in fact that trait that has dominated his time as a General Manager…is patience. And I do not expect that to change.

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Edmonton offered a superior return for Chris Tanev (a #1) but Dallas ultimately won the stakes. I have no doubt he would have helped this club, but Tanev is not the player he once was and has battled injury. May be a blessing in disguise. The Tanev example illustrates that where the Oilers end up depends at least as much on what other teams do as it does on Ken’s actions.

USA Today’s ranks 8 other NHL teams as buyers ahead of Edmonton. It is unrealistic to expect three moves that all make an enormous impact. The deadline is largely about adding depth. I think if Ken Holland can really move the needle with one of those three additions…that is the highwater mark.

Pittsburg also lost last night in Calgary, and after a hard-fought battle they will have to slug it out on back-to-back nights with Edmonton. The Penguins sit 10 back of the final wild card spot in the East.

Tonight’s result could have the effect of convincing Kyle Dubas that he needs to sell and Ken Holland what exactly he needs to buy.

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

Recently, at The Cult…

McCURDY: Skinner and the Oilers squeak past Seattle

STAPLES: The Oilers at the trade deadline

LEAVINS: Oilers chase away the Blues

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