Oilers’ Ken Holland: ‘The hope is that we’re going to find a way to finish the season.’
Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was proud of the way his team was playing before the NHL season was paused on March 12 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Holland thought the Oilers played at a higher level in 2020 and they met his goal of being in playoff contention with the calendar turned to March. Edmonton entered the pause in second place in the Pacific Division.
“I think everybody was excited. If you can play your way into the playoffs, we positioned ourselves that we controlled our own fate,” Holland said. “We believed that we were going to play our way into the players and then when you get into the playoffs, you never know.”
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Holland was also asked about the Milan Lucic-James Neal trade. Edmonton would send its 2020 third-round pick to Calgary if Neal scores 21 goals this season. At the pause, Neal stood at 19 goals. If the season doesn’t resume, Holland believes Edmonton would get its pick back as the trade provisions didn’t include prorated numbers.
Holland is optimistic that the season can be resumed and finished, but there’s still a level of uncertainty.
“We’re in a place that I don’t think anybody knows, but certainly there’s people all around the world trying to figure out ways to get the pandemic under control,” Holland said. “We’re all in this together. The whole world’s in this together. We’re going to win the battle. It’s just a matter of how soon and when.”
The first-year Oilers general manager was asked about the possibility of playing neutral site games as North Dakota gets floated as a possible location to host games.
“I think all the players would love the opportunity to finish the season, and it’s not perfect,” he said. “Obviously, everyone’s going to do the best they can do, so if we’ve got to play hockey in July and August, we’ll play hockey in July and August.
“Once we get up and running, everybody will be excited about the opportunity to try to make some noise in the playoffs and go on a playoff run. The hope is that we’re going to find a way to finish the season.”
Holland isn’t concerned about players having trouble getting back to Edmonton if the season resumes, despite some players choosing to return to their native countries.
“I’ve got to think that if we’re getting to the point of talking about playing games that there are more flights and you’re going to be able to start to move around the country,” he said.
Despite the current unknown regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Holland is hopeful hockey can return.
“I’m optimistic that there’s enough time out there that we’re going to find a solution to get sports back and businesses back as we slowly start to get our world back,” Holland said. “I think that what everybody’s hoping for and certainly that’s what I’m hoping for.”
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