"The answer would be, yes," Holland said when asked if the Oilers need the duo's defensive leadership more than their offensive influence, according to Sportsnet's Mark Spector.
"They are getting better," Holland said. "But in this playoff series (against the Blackhawks), we were playing against battle-tested players (who) had won three Stanley Cups."
McDavid led all skaters in the qualifying round with five goals and nine points, while Draisaitl contributed six points in the series. However, the No. 12-seeded Blackhawks still upset the Oilers in four games.
Edmonton allowed three-plus goals in each contest and 16 during the series. Holland acknowledged the Oilers' defensive improvement this season, but he knows there are still steps ahead to become an elite team.
“We went from 25th to 17th (in goals against), but we need to make more strides,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to defend. You can’t just outscore your opponents. I don’t think that’s totally a reflection on the defencemen. It’s a reflection on the whole team, and their commitment to keeping the puck out of the net.”
With the series loss to Chicago, Edmonton failed to secure a spot in the round of 16 for the third consecutive campaign.