The Edmonton Oilers were poised to make their second playoff appearance in 14 years before the season was suspended in March, and general manager Ken Holland is finding it hard to come to grips with the disappointment.
“From Dec. 31 on we played at a high level and I think everybody was excited,” Holland said, according to TSN.
“We positioned ourselves so that we controlled our own fate, believing that we were going to play our way into the playoffs and when you get to the playoffs, you never know,” he added. “When you look at the recent results of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you can throw the regular season stats out the window and it’s wide open.
“So I think that’s the disappointment of not being able to continue on, but certainly we all understand what’s going on in the world today.”
With the season on pause, Edmonton sits second in the Pacific Division and would hold home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. Over half of the club’s roster – including blue-chippers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – have skated in 15 or fewer playoff games, and Holland understands how crucial a late-season period like this is for his inexperienced team.
“The 11 regular-season games that were coming up were going to be really valuable for our young players, and we were hopeful we could play our way into the playoffs and then again you play another two weeks and you hope to move onto the next series,” he said. “So those are very, very valuable times for all players and for a team.”
Holland, who the Oilers hired last May, also expressed how important a postseason run would be as he evaluates his new roster.
“We’re trying to obviously build a program here and identify players that we want to go forward with and also identify roles for the team,” he noted.
“The young players (Kailer) Yamamoto, Ethan Bear, and Caleb Jones, and I probably missed one or two. Those were the really young players that these games were of the utmost importance in their long-term development,” Holland continued