Vernon native Ken Holland has a pretty good thing going in Edmonton, something the Canucks can’t counter. An entity called ‘McJesus’ by some, a superstar named Conor McDavid.
“He’s unreal,” Holland told VHN in Penticton. “It’s not only his talent, it’s his will, his determination, his preparation, he’s a consummate pro, and he sets the tone. I’m excited to see him this week”
Let’s face it, it begins and ends there. Kick in his German buddy Leon Draisaitl, who can play with or without number-97, and you kind of have a faster, more modern version of ‘Sid and Geno’. They make it a dynamic forward group regardless of the help. Vancouver native Evander Kane will generally reside as the power forward on McDavid’s right with Zach Hyman providing a solid all-around game on his left.
The problem for Holland since taking over in 2019 has been in his own end and between the pipes. Netminder Mike Smith is done playing, officially on long-term injured reserve for one more season, Mikko Koskinen went home to Europe, and the Oilers sport a new tandem led by recent former Maple Leaf Jack Campbell.
“Soupy” better have his you-know-what together come spring, or it’s going to be another postseason of falling short in Edmonton.
Have we mentioned it’s all about goaltending?
“We’ve got new goaltending with Jack and Stu Skinner,” Holland mentioned. “Stu’s done a nice job for four years in Bakersfield (AHL) turning himself into a really, really good goalie at the American League level, got 15, 16 games last year (in Edmonton) and played good in those stints. Jack became the number-one last year in Toronto and we’re hoping he can kind of grow on that, build on that. I’m excited to see those two guys have a really big impact on our team.”
The D-corps in Edmonton seems a bit mysterious in that they tend to get running around. They paid a boatload of money ($9.25-million per) to top pair lefty Darnell Nurse, who at age-27 seems to still be finding his way into a leadership role. The Oilers have depth issues similar to the Canucks, with a solid competition going on for the bottom pair.
They’ve offered veteran NHL righty Jason Demers, age-34, a professional try-out (PTO) to attend training camp, just for good measure.
“Jason knew (head coach) Jay Woodcroft from their days in San Jose,” Holland explained. “He understands he’s gonna have to really come in and take a job. It’s a bit of an insurance policy, gives him an opportunity, and there’s a relationship with Jay who said he’d like to give an older player an opportunity.”
The Canucks open their regular season on the road in Edmonton on October 12th. Last season Vancouver dropped the opener there in a shoot-out 3-2.
The chase begins.
((More on VHN’s conversation regarding the PTO Holland offered to former Canucks forward Jake Virtanen shortly))