“The time is now,” general manager Ken Holland told us last week.
“The time is now,” Connor McDavid echoed a few days later, unprompted.
OK then, so be it.
“Now,” begins Wednesday, when the Edmonton Oilers gather for training camp 2022, a camp that is supposed to precede a season that will launch this team from also-ran to serious contender.
They’ve had their regular season success and their playoff foibles. They’ve muddled through Peter Chiarelli’s cap jail and into a 2021 offseason where Holland was able to sign Zach Hyman, Tyson Barrie, Derek Ryan and Cody Ceci.
They’ll break in Evan Bouchard this season, a high-pedigree defenceman for whom the sky is the limit. And they’ll debut three-time Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith, whose experience may just arrive at the perfect moment for a roster that might just be good enough to put it to some use.
There are warts here, the goaltending top among them. But it’s not difficult to assess that Holland has improved his team year over year, and if he gets some internal growth from a Jesse Puljujarvi, a Kailer Yamamoto, or perhaps a Ryan McLeod, they could be a lot better.
Here’s a look at some questions we’ll ask as training camp opens, and what we’ll be watching for, if it is indeed “the time is now.”