Waiting on Holland

For somebody whose candidacy for the Edmonton Oilers’ vacant GM job was dismissed, downplayed or flat-out scoffed at by many “hockey insiders” just a few days ago, Ken Holland’s name is sure coming up a lot lately.

Today, Mark Spector of Sportsnet, who was all over Holland 10 days before Rod Pedersen stirred things up with his Tweet April 29 that the former Detroit Red Wings’ GM would be Bob Nicholson’s hire, writes the job is Holland’s for the taking if he wants it – even with interim GM Keith Gretzky and Mark Hunter supposedly still in the running. I believe him.

In addition to that, Spector, who first cast his focus on Holland back on April 19 when he was kicked upstairs by the Red Wings to make room for Steve Yzerman, wrote today that Holland has been told he’ll have full autonomy to hire and fire as he sees fit if he’s willing to take the job.

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Spector writes: “The Oilers hunt for a general manager, being conducted by CEO Bob Nicholson, is ready to wrap up. The Oilers and Holland have conducted extensive negotiations, with sources telling Sportsnet that the important issue of complete autonomy to hire and fire at will has been granted by Edmonton. Now it is up to Holland to decide whether or not he will take the job.” The entire Spector item is here.


Back on April 19, Spector wrote: “With Keith Gretzky as his right-hand man here, Nicholson could be sure that there’s a successor to Holland down the road, in a perfect world. It all adds up, except for one part: Would Holland leave an organization that has shown him such great loyalty, for one that has dug a deep a hole as exists in Edmonton? If he had the unfettered power to fix the problems in Edmonton, I bet he would.” The full item is here.

Then, on April 29, Pedersen took a swipe at it on Twitter.

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Spector isn’t saying the hiring of Holland is a done deal, but he is saying Holland has the job if he wants it – complete with the “unfettered power” he referenced. Based on the reaction to an item I wrote April 29 after Pedersen declared Holland would get the job, I know a lot of people out there aren’t thrilled at the prospect.

Holland, GM in Detroit for three Stanley Cups and 10 division titles, is 63 now. He’s old school, not new school. Holland’s last Cup was in 2008. It’s been said Holland’s days as the big boy on the GM block ended when the salary cap era began. All of that is fair comment, although much of it has been overstated.


With Kelly McCrimmon out of the running – he was never really in it because he was promoted to GM in Las Vegas by George McPhee before other teams got a crack at him – who remaining on Nicholson’s shortlist has better credentials than Holland? That’s tough to say because I don’t think anybody outside of the process knows for sure. Would Gretzky be a better hire as GM? What about Hunter? That’s certainly worthy of debate.

If Holland is Nicholson’s choice, as we’re told he is, and if he wants the job, I’d take him ahead of Gretzky or Hunter. I didn’t think it would get this far – I was among those who thought there was no chance he’d end up here — but that doesn’t matter. If that’s where we’re at, I see Holland as the best choice. Now, we wait to see if he wants the job.


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In these final days leading up to the tournament, we’re hoping to sell as many $1,000 pennant sponsorships, and $100 Mega-Raffle tickets as we can. If you own a small business or want a keepsake for the games room at home, pennant sponsorships are perfect – you get a pennant with your company logo signed by our pros. With the Mega-Raffle, just 100 tickets are printed. The winner gets a Theatre Suite for 10 guests, food and a bar tab at an Oilers game next season hosted by Ron and Linda Low. Good times.

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Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • Hemmercules

    I guess anything is better than Pete Chiarelli. Pretty hard to downgrade on what he accomplished. Maybe Holland works out but the current state of the Red Wings doesn’t leave me feeling warm and fuzzy about him. I guess when the choices are a rookie and a 20+ year vet, the vet maybe looks a little more enticing to a team in shambles. The question remains, has the game passed Holland by like other old school types or can he actually fix the team?

    • Torgerson

      If he is smart and has humility (two qualities sorely lacking in Oilers management), he will bring in some bright hockey minds to make up for where he falls short. Cap management and analytics come to mind. We wait.

    • OilerForLife

      I feel the same way. Of the candidates, he is the only one that has bonafide GM experience. Gretzky could be groomed by a GM that isn’t Peter Chiarelli.

      • Heschultzhescores

        The 3 years missing the playoffs were the last 3 years…and the 2 prior to that were first round exits. Holland has done nothing exciting in a long time. I think we’d be signing another last his prime guy…no thanks. Go with Hunter

      • McHitch

        We could go with a GM who has never held the title before. We could go with one who has decades of winning under his belt.

        Lets see. Hollands shown he can move out contracts like Datsyk.

        He can build a contendor while drafting bottom 16 each and every year.

        He knows how to develop talent (over ripen).

        Seems to me we should thank our lucky stars if he takes this job.

        • Heschultzhescores

          I’m not arguing with that, but most, if not all is success came pre-cap. He’s past his prime, we need a current thinker, who is up to date on where hockey is now and where it’s going soon. Old guys tend to get stuck in the way things were and how it worked before so it should work again. Just not true, the game is evolving quickly, very quickly.

          • “but most, if not all is success came pre-cap”

            Since the start of the salary cap for the 2005-06 season, the Red Wings won a Stanley Cup (2008), lost in the Cup final (2009) and made the playoffs in 11 of 14 seasons. Argue against Holland if you like, but maybe at least check before offering a statement that ridiculous as fact.

          • Serious Gord

            Robin: He said “most”. And those winning teams had significant numbers of players aquired pre-cap. Once those players moved on the wings got a lot worse. That wasn’t a coincidence.

          • Heschultzhescores

            @ Robin Brownlee. The last 3 years they missed the playoffs. The 3 before that they were first round exits. I think that’s a trend, and a recent trend that is worth noting. The Post cap Redwings are a shadow of the Pre-Cap Wings.

          • McHitch

            Lou Lamorello, Glen Sather, Scott Bowman, Ken Holland. These are management legends. Their presence alone can change the culture of an organization.

            These guys know how to build winners. They know how to draft and develop.

            Holland will have no problem building around McDavid and Drai. Even more exciting is that he would bring in his own people.

            The most exciting part. Holland is putting his legacy on the line, he gets full autonomy
            – which no other GM candidate on the market would recieve that.

            This would be an epic hiring.

  • Ratt McNuge

    Daryl Katz, the man signing the cheques, wants someone like Holland who has a few Stanley Cups on his resume because he’s unwilling to take a chance on unknowns like Burke or Hunter. Maybe Holland can fix the team, but I still think this shows the lack of imagination of Nicholson and Katz. I guess we’ll see what happens…

    • Serious Gord

      Katz likes to surround himself with winners. (I bet he actually brags about that). What the org needs is a hunger to become winners. How much hunger is there really in the ranks of management to win?

      • cityofchampions

        I can’t believe I’m coming to the defence of Klowe and Mact. They obviously don’t know how to build a winner, but I have no doubt whatsoever that they want to win. Maybe you weren’t around in the 80s, but nobody battled harder and wanted to win more than Klowe, and MacT was of that mold too. Suggesting that they don’t want to win is going too far. Its a shame that the last 25 years has ruined their reputation. Whether Katz really cares about winning is an open question, but KLow and MacT really want to win and I just couldn’t stand by and let you slag their reputation further than what they’ve already done themselves.

      • cityofchampions

        I can’t believe I’m coming to the defence of Klowe and Mact. They obviously don’t know how to build a winner, but I have no doubt whatsoever that they want to win. Maybe you weren’t around in the 80s, but nobody battled harder and wanted to win more than Klowe, and MacT was of that mold too. Suggesting that they don’t want to win is going too far. Its a shame that the last 25 years has ruined their reputation. Whether Katz really cares about winning is an open question, but KLow and MacT really want to win and I just couldn’t stand by and let you slag their reputation further than what they’ve already done themselves.

  • Torgerson

    I don’t love the choice as he is old-school. The Oilers have (at least) two aspects they repeatedly fail on: cap management and analytics. It is hard to see how Holland will improve on that as his track record is suspect. Ideally he would be a POHO with no prior baggage or connections to the organization who can clean house and bring in other bright minds who are connected to the trends driving success in today’s NHL. At the very least, maybe Holland can improve the Oilers’ terrible pro scouting and evaluation record.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      I have said before I think Holland is past his prime as a GM, Don’t get me wrong Holland did a lot of good things in Detroit in the past, the last while though with Holland at the helm Detorit hasnt fared very well. I dont see Holland working out here and I am not happy with the idea Holland may be GM

      If Holland is hired this is just going to signal no real changes and the OBC will still reign in the backround and wanna bet KG is still going to be heir apparent, the rumors that the Oilers wanted KG as GM but were worried about what the fans thought f it, and they should be worried, the fans have been more than faithful but our patience is wearing thin and rightly so, you can only be dissapointed for so long before you want to change things for the better, but I dont see the Oilers listening to the fans, more another person at the helm the OBC can have act as a puppet GM while the OBC keeps running the show in the backround.

      Does anyone believe Holland will clean house? I sure dont. Does anyone believe that KLowe, MacT Howson, Green Messier ( paul not mark ) are going anywhere? I dont. You will see some lower end mgmt and some other names no one ever heard of get sacrificed, but none of the people from the OBC will go anywhere, maybe a title shuffle, but still in the back wielding power and influence.

      I really wonder if the reason that they had to go to Holland was because Hunter wanted autonomy and the Oilers werent willing to have any of the OBC in a position of peril. Honestly, this is another backwards step by the Oilers with no intention on making the real changes that needed to happen t get the Oilers on and off the ice into a better position for the future. How disappointing!

  • BobbyCanuck

    Chai pet broke Bruins Salary Cap
    Holland broke Detroit

    I don’t know where I am going with this, but I can imagine McDavid asking for a trade later this month

    Keep up the good work OBC

      • FutureGM

        Rules changed Brownlee. Someone can dominate under one set rules and flounder under others. Bad cap management, poor player evaluation, bad drafting and rushing players that look decent once they are moved. Mrazek, Howard bad on its own. Pretty much Chia 2.0, no?

      • All Ice

        While credit should be due for his earlier work and no organization can stay on top forever, comparisons to chia are going to come with the amount of NTC contracts he’s handed to older players recently. I would hope that if he comes in as GM it’s for a couple years while mentoring a couple younger guys to compete for the job when he becomes POHO. Ie. Gretzky and Wright. Thoughts?

        • jesse says yep

          An experienced guy like Holland just might be the perfect guy to point the Oil the in a new direction in the short term. Good connections around the league and a chance to prove he has learned from any mistakes he has made in the cap era.

      • Vanoil

        Come on Robin, even you know that was all pre-cap. Detroit hasn’t exactly been the model franchise since. Now that all the old-guard players are gone, they are just as bad as all the other rebuilding clubs this side of the play-offs. The reason they can’t get ahead has a direct correlation to the cap-problems he created there. Ask the simple question — why doesn’t Detroit want him anymore????? Even Detroit knows it has to evolve to a new-guard GM. This is lost on the Nicholson & the OBC. Mark Hunter would be a better mentor for Kretz than Holland, even you must acknowledge that.

        • All Ice

          Why would you have a guy who’s never been an NHL gm mentor a guy who’s never been an NHL gm? Detroit knew Steve wanted to come there that’s why he was moved out. If the Oil had a chance at him I would expect them to move whomever they needed to get him in as well

          • Jeff Petry

            Its not that Detroit didn’t want him. They just really wanted Steve Yzerman. I’m sure just about every NHL team would fire their current GM to get Yzerman

        • “Even you know that was all pre-cap.”

          You’re not alone in offering utter nonsense as fact. So, you get the same answer:

          Since the start of the salary cap for the 2005-06 season, the Red Wings won a Stanley Cup (2008), lost in the Cup final (2009) and made the playoffs in 11 of 14 seasons. That doesn’t look like “all pre-cap” to me. You?

      • Serious Gord

        I noted elsewhere that holland had a lot of help with that record. The biggest being the only team with a real European scouting crew for several years – many great even hall of fame players were aquired because no one else was even looking.

        Second with that roster strength (arguably some of the greatest rosters in hockey history) he had a very deep-pocketed owner who was also willing – to spend what was necessary to keep them together.

        Imagine what a genius sather would have looked like if he had had that kind of dough back in the day?

          • HockeyRooster

            Your schtick is so old around here. You’re going to ask about an alternate universe where you get to remove a hall of fame player from a team and then ask about the outcome? WTF is that. Just go away already.
            The fans here are mad. You are a troll. There is a big difference.

          • Serious Gord

            Lamorello lasted as long with the devils wan brodeur did. Had he not had the greatest goalie of his era (and arguably ever) he would not have the rep he has today. Like Lou, Holland’s rep is exaggerated by many because of external circumstances. This also applies to the jets of old who had teams every bit as good as the old boys except they didn’t have Fuhr.

          • camdog

            It’s a reference to contacts circumventing the spirit of the salary cap like the 12 year deal to Zetterberg. Once the loop holes were fixed and Holland didn’t have extra salary to play with he’s been as bad at cap management as PC.

          • McHitch

            Holland was stuck with aging vets that he was loyal to and signed long term. So his team struggled when guys like Franzen, Hossa, Kronwall, Datsyk and Zetterberg started to fade.

            Is that really that hard to understand?

        • I think Holland was loyal in letting some future Hall of famers play their entire careers in Detroit. Didn’t trade for picks. Whoever it is let’s support them until they give us a reason not to.

  • ed from edmonton

    So BN has given KH his best pitch including “complete autonomy” and its KH’s job if he wants it. It would be very embarrassing to the Oil if he doesn’t take it.

    But what is one to make of all the rumours about the GM over the last number of weeks. It seems that there were at least two a day. This guy is in or this guy is out. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall during the interviews/negotiations. Pure speculation but I wonder if the conversation went something like:

    BN – We need the new GM to fit with our culture and work with our guys like Kevin, Craig, Scot Duane and the rest.
    Candidate: But what if I don’t see eye to eye with these guys.
    BN. Culture is important
    Candidate: Thanks for your time.

  • FutureGM

    Hiring Holland as POHO to replace Nicholson, who admitted himself he crapped the bed by not interviewing for the last GM position, and then hiring Burke or Hunter to be AGM along with Keith Gretzky would be a massive win for the organization. Have a guy for now and two guys to groom.
    Hiring Holland, a GM who has recently struggled with drafting and the cap, as GM with Keith, the guy in the organization that made BRUTAL-not-bad signings the past two years, waiting in the wings to replace him would be a massive failure. The exact failure we have see this organization do repeatedly.
    Please be the former…my money is on the latter

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Holland’s the best choice of the candidates remaining. And if he has autonomy and can let loose the dogs-of-firing, then I suspect Oiler fans of all stripes are going to be OK with that.

    Or, put it this way, this one will be. This team didn’t need a GM in training. It doesn’t need the Next Big Thing (Maybe). This team needs someone who can win trades and recognize NHL talent. An established guy.

    Holland’s that guy.

  • bishop

    This has Hockey Canada OBC written all over it. Unless Holland can draft a Norris, Hart winner (Lidstrom) and find gems like Pavel and Holmstrum’s.

    In the past 10 years he hasn’t done much with the Wings.

    Someone prove me wrong.

  • KPUZ

    Holland is well respected by every GM in the NHL. He was rebuilding in Detroit. How many times as GM during his tenure did he qualify his team for the playoffs and how many cups? In no way will Holland tarnish his NHL legacy by listening to the “poisonous” OBC currently in control.

    • bishop

      Respected, yes…well deserved…yes. Fans need to realize this is another Hockey Canada hire. 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Katz had hIs jet flying all over to get Sid and many others. #thecyclecontinues.

      • KPUZ

        I would love to fire BN and hire Holland for POHO and have another GM with experience, like Hunter or Hextall, and keep KG just where he is and possibly groom him for a future GM if he earns it. This will not happen but dare to dream.

        If I choose one of them it is Holland because of his successful history. This team cannot afford to bet on a rookie inexperienced GM as too much is riding on this choice.

  • Odanada

    Holland is old school and that might be ok as long as he embraces newer tools like analytics. He has not had a lot of success in the Cap era and that is an area of huge concern.
    The most positive thing I can see is that he would be leaving a superbly plush gig in Detroit and in doing so, he is showing a desire to embrace a big challenge – meaning he’s a fighter.
    Would KLowe leave his plush gig here? Pffft! No, and no one else would hire him, either.
    Is KH up to putting out this tire fire? That’s a good question.

      • jesse says yep

        All after having the rug pulled out from under them. The Redwings were on cruise control before the salary cap and continued for a bit after. Many teams didnt jump on the draft and develope model immeditately after the salary cap was imposed.

  • CafeOilers

    This ADD generation has much to learn. How can anyone remotely question Ken Holland’s success by placing fault/blame during the Red Wings rebuild? That is par for the course after 20 successful yrs of playoff hockey and stanley cup contention. See Kings/Blackhawks etc…drafting at the bottom every yr and trading draft picks in order to keep the championship window going catches up to every team. So i guess D. Lombardi, Bowman, Lamoriello were all hacks too after winning multiple stanley cups? Oiler fans should be grateful, not cynical that a Gm with championship credentials has chosen to lead this ship. All you analytic fans shld take a good look at the young analytic darling gm’s with little hockey sense like Chayka & Dubas who are running their teams into the ground and wasting a golden opportunity they were handed of muliple high end talent and draft picks, Ken Holland had neither for years after drafting low for 2 decades. These are the same analytic boys who regularly bemoan the losses of ahl caliber defenceman Martin Marincin/Brandon Davidson. I am most pleased with the hiring of Ken Holland and confidently predict a Stanley Cup championship for Edmonton in the next 2-3 yrs

  • JuniorSplash

    My question is…why is full autonomy the cherry on top for Holland coming??? Shouldn’t this be offered to any GM coming in as an opening bargaining chip since Bob’s still unable to find the bad water source? This team is incredible…it really is. I hope Holland comes in, and fires every single person in there…and if they deny it, he goes public and blows up the OBC. I know…I’m being a little theatrical, but the irony is hillarious. After an exhaustive search for GM, the 1 man who never interviewed is offered the keys to the kingdom. Is that not hilariously sad in of its own? This team kills me.

    • ed from edmonton

      I agree that the “full autonomy” guarantee speaks volumes. But who said KH has never been interviewed? How would he get the guarantee if he has never talked to BN. Maybe someone is splitting hairs about what is an interview and what is a talk.

      • JuniorSplash

        I’ve been reading everything I can and while it’s mostly hearsay, the source quoting the offer stated he never interviewed, albeit definitely had convo. But that’s far from sitting in a board room a fielding questions and thoughts on a specific goal to entice ownership. If he has interviewed I apologize, but as it stands, no reports say otherwise. Bobby just knows him through Canada and has his whatsapp number.

        • jesse says yep

          What report would there need to be? Just as likely the board room was skype. Not unlike many interviews these days. If that was the case who would know about it to report it?

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Just because they say he will have full autonomy doesnt mean he does. Nice buzz word for the fans though. Wanna bet the OBC will still be around after Holland decides who should stay or go?

  • Cody Black

    I feel that Holland is much more likely to have the confidence to clean house than a newer manager might. It is entirely possible that he comes in and cleans out the front office and things get better.

  • 50 Flex

    How is this any different than the Chiarelli hire? Both were fired from their previous positions (I know Holland wasn’t technically fired, but the organization clearly felt they could do better), both did a horrible job of managing the cap, both are out of touch with analytics.

    • Vanoil

      Absolutely!!! What happened to the wide and extensive search … at the end of the day it was all BS. Bobby Nicks couldn’t see a tire fire if he was standing in one … oh wait….

  • Vanoil

    Great how many more bloated Lucic contracts can we expect now…? This is the one time that SideShow Bob should not have let his personal relationship get in the way of a business decision. You don’t get second chances here. A mistake now would mean four (plus) more years of misery, until the error was uncovered, and then more still until the subsequent mistakes were corrected. If only there was full transparency and Bobby Nick’s would publish each candidates “plan” for moving forward …. I suspect this about “experience” and not “abilities”. I hope I’m wrong; but this is Nicholson making the decision, which (unfortunately), doesn’t leave a lot of hope.

  • ed from edmonton

    I find it interesting that so many on this site seem to say that analytics are the a answer. Where you sleeping during the MacT/Eakins/Fellow regime? Analytics are one tool in the tool box. Who is using the tool is as important than the tool itself.

    • Yes, we did. People in Edmonton always answer the bell when it comes to helping others. We will better that number this year and we’re hoping to surpass Calgary’s best of $223,000. We’re already at $193,000 with seven days until puck drop.

  • Schmenge

    Holland IS the best available! Full stop! You want him to clean house? He will have full control according to the articles. Let’s see what he can do. He can’t be worse then Chia. Oilers fans: “I ain’t ever satisfied”.

    • hagar

      Never satisfied is a 500 pound dude on his third iced cream cake. We are starving skeletons with nothing to be satisfied about.
      Are you satisfied with the team?

  • Dapper Dan 3099

    I’m kind of torn, a part of me thinks this could be a chia 2.0 with management mentality from 10 years ago… but a part of me also thinks that I’m order to clean up the epic mess chia made, u need an experienced guy with credibility… starting a career as an nhl gm with this cluster f* , may be career suicide….. so I don’t even know what I want anymore

  • D'oh-ilers

    I’m neither for nor against the hiring of Holland, or any of the other candidates. There’s no perfect choice. They all have good and bad qualities. A GM is only as good as the people around him, so I’m more interested in the people he surrounds himself with than I am about the guy at the head of the table. Put the right people in the right roles and let them do their jobs, listen to their advice, and maybe this thing can finally start moving in the right direction.

      • D'oh-ilers

        He was surrounded by a lot of really good hockey people. A lot of that is because Mike Ilitch wasn’t afraid to spend money to upgrade the front office and land the best candidates. Some of them left, and he was able to find good people to replace them. Money was no object.

        One thing everyone forgets is he inherited a team that just won a Stanley Cup, had 7 future hall of famers AND Scotty Bowman as coach. It was an all-star team that Mike Ilitch bought and kept together in the pre-cap era ($77.856m payroll in 2003-04) and was able to retain the majority of those players post-lockout with several questionable back-diving long-term contracts. Pre-cap, Ilitch spent more money than anyone else. They were the Yankees of the NHL.

        The Red Wings have been praised for slowly bringing up prospects, but what AHL player was going to come in and take Lidstrom’s spot in the line-up? You have the luxury of letting players overdevelop in the minors if you already have some of the best players to ever play the game occupying those roles.

        I’m not saying Holland doesn’t deserve credit for his work in Detroit or isn’t the best potential candidate, but the circumstances for how and why the team had such great success for such a long time isn’t as simple as “they drafted and developed well.” Daddy Warbucks and a willingness to bend the rules certainly helped.

          • McHitch

            Holland has had more success than any other GM over the last two decades.

            Playoffs in 20 of 23 years. Playoffs in 11 of 14 years in the salary cap era.

            Could he have accomplished this if the Red Wings did not draft and develop well? Impressive considering the team did not have a top 16 pick for over 20 years!

            His record speaks for itself. Yes he had good players, good thing for him the Oilers have McDavid and Draisaitl to build around.

            Center depth is the hardest thing to acquire in todays NHL. Proven #1 Cs are like unicorns.

          • Serious Gord

            Mchitch: the wings scouting scored about a dozen fantastic prospects from Europe when no one was looking, then hired the best coaches and had a owner who spent more than any other. This he had a ton of help.

            And centres are not the toughest to find – goalies and top flight defensemen are. Centres are the most overpaid position.

            I’d rather have lidstrom and Hasek over mcdavid and Draisaitl.

  • RJ

    If we go back to the Fall for Hall, one step that needed to be taken was to properly develop prospects. “Need to follow the Detroit model” was stated ad nauseam.

    It’s really only been a few months where the Oilers seem to have bought into that. Who better to make sure player development is a key organizational priority than Holland?

    As it relates to trades and cap management, I don’t see Holland making a huge uptick in that regard. But he also has established relationships, so he can probably make that happen.

    I still prefer Hunter over the life of McDavids contract, but this would not be the worst pick.

    • IRONman

      K Gretzky is doing good thus far. Holland can teach him how to be a better Gm. Holland can do the Lou and be here 2 to 3 years. He loves hockey. That’s why he would come. McDavid and Leon Effect can lure him here. Obc has to stop.