BOCA RATON, Fla. – Ken Holland appeared to be in an exceptional mood when he walked out of Day 2 of the NHL general managers' meetings Tuesday afternoon, and it had nothing to do with the balmy weather in South Florida.
The conversation he was about to have was centered around the Edmonton's unplanned “problem”: Having two legitimate Hart Trophy candidates on the same team, with former Hart winner Connor McDavid and NHL scoring leader Leon Draisaitl probably the two frontrunners for the league’s MVP award.
Clearly, it’s a nice problem to have.
“I’m glad I don’t have to vote,” Holland said.
Entering Tuesday, Draisaitl has 107 points, well ahead of his nearest challenger for the points title — that being McDavid, who has 94. A year ago, they became the first Edmonton teammates to have simultaneous 100-point seasons since Jari Kurri and Jimmy Carson in 1989-90. This year, assuming McDavid gets there as he should, they’ll be the first Oilers to reach 100 points in consecutive seasons since Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier in 1986-87 and 1987-88.
That’s some serious company for Draisaitl and McDavid to be keeping.
“They're both great players and, you know, they're both having great seasons on an every night basis,” Holland said. “They're obviously the two guys that are going to impact our team the most because they have a large factor in us providing offense.”
The Oilers — currently a playoff team, though one that can hardly afford a late-season swoon — might also play themselves into the role of being Canada’s next great hope of bringing the Stanley Cup back north of the border.
No one needs to explain to any Canadian team in the NHL about the nation’s title drought or how the team that ends that drought would be revered. There hasn’t been a Stanley Cup final game played in Canada since 2011. No Canadian team has won the Cup since Montreal in 1993. The non-traditional hockey states of Florida and California have more Cup-winning teams over the last 32 years than the nation where the game is like a religion.
Holland took over in Edmonton last May. He indicated this year’s success might be a bit ahead of his intended schedule.
“I said at the opening press conference, my hope was when the calendar turned to March 1st that we could be legitimately in the race,” Holland said. “You know, that was a sort of short-term goal. ... So we’ve put ourselves in a position where we control our own fate. But we've got to win some games.”
TORNADO IN MIND
After more than 20 people were killed early Tuesday in tornadoes that hit the Nashville area early Tuesday, and Predators general manager David Poile said the team would do what it can to help those affected.
The Predators’ arena was not affected by the tornadoes. The team will play at home on Thursday, and was planning to raise awareness to the call for help on the broadcast of its game in Minnesota on Tuesday night.
“We will do all we can to help our community,” Poile said.
General managers were briefed on player safety issues Tuesday, with more discussion about offsides — the skate-in-the-air debate — and reviews and were provided with an update on puck and player tracking technology.
Many games have already been played with the new puck that will be fully deployed in this year’s postseason and league wide next season, and NHL officials have not gotten any negative feedback. Most arenas already have the technology installed, and it will be available when the playoffs begin next month.
Pucks that go into the stands next season will still be able to be kept by fans; the league will simply deactivate the tracking electronics once the puck leaves play. But, mindful of the additional cost, the league plans to do a better job keeping track of leftover pucks after games end.
More meetings are scheduled for early Wednesday, followed by remarks from Commissioner Gary Bettman in the late morning to end the three-day event.