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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Last year, the fifth edition of Hockey Helps the Homeless in Edmonton had a record year by raising $200,000 to assist the Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre in helping the homeless and those living in poverty.

With the event fast approaching May 10 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre, we’re hoping citizens of Oilersnation step up to help, as they always do, to make HHTH the biggest success yet. Last year’s response was fantastic, thanks in large part to the 10th anniversary Oilersnation party that raised $5,000 for HHTH, with every penny staying right here in Edmonton.

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.

You can check out the website, purchase pennant sponsorships and Mega-Raffle tickets or donate here.

Previously by Robin Brownlee

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • Oil Can

    Ken Holland has not done anything of relevance for ten years. He sticks with the old has beens for ever, giving out huge long term contracts, to players that are way past there time. Peter Chiarelli all over again. Won some cups way back in the day. But has been rebuilding for ten years. Why is nobody talking to and about Ron Hextall, he was turning the Flyers into a young fast and exciting team, before the Flyers “old boys club” steeped in and wanted the team to be the broad street bullies from the seventies

  • Total Points

    To a certain extent Holland is a member of the OBC’s club. He was involved with Nick, W Gretzky and of course old 6 rings. If memory serves me correct Katz had his jet available to team Canada.

  • Schmidt Head

    At this point, I don’t think it matters a whole lot. There’s a lot to be said for age and experience but it’s not everything. Past performance is the best predictor of future results….. but it’s not a guarantee.

    No coach or GM in history ever accomplished anything…… until they did… so you can’t just arbitrarily write off the new guys.

    If they’re being hired with a mandate to “make the playoffs” next year, whatever the cost, then it doesn’t matter who’s in the chair. They’ve already been set up for failure.

    The new guy has to understand what’s been done wrong so many times before…. and NOT do those things. That includes NOT making some dumb, panicky, Hail Mary move for very limited returns only to hamstring the team for years to come.

    The team is a mess because past management kept doing dumb things. We’re never going to get any better if we keep doing dumb things.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Derzie

    The new GM will have 2 main tasks: Tear it down & Build it Up.
    Holland is the best man for the first task.
    Someone more hungry like Hunter is best for the 2nd task.

    Number one issue is OBC and their stranglehold on failure. Holland is an old boy but the one that is most likely to tear it down in a meaningful way. Wouldn’t be a bad move given how far the team has sunk. Might buy another year of Connor if the tear down is productive. I still think it’s all a big ruse to protect the comfort of the OBC but Kenny might not play ball and may relish demolishing an empire. Would be entertaining.

  • 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.

    • Big Nuggets

      Holland’s recent history was pretty bad. Far too many loyalty contracts to mediocre players. I’m curious to see what kind of trade Holland and Yzerman agree to. Holland might get one more cup for Detroit yet.

  • Boba The Fett

    Jesus people, Holland will not be able to fire Lowe as he is NOT under the purview of hockey ops and if you think a guy with Hollands history and stature is gonna be influenced by Lowe or anyone else not in hockey ops then you arent thinking logically.

    There is no way that Holland leaves the comfy and loyal confines of Detroit to go anywhere unless he is THE MAN in charge. He does not NEED this job and would ot take it if he was just meant to be a puppet.

    Finally for all those people complaining when Nicholson talks to somebody that he is connected to through Hockey Canada give it a rest. Nicholson is probably one of the most connected men in all of hockey, he has connections to most of the people in the NHL through Hockey Canada. If you are wanting someone he isnt somehow connected too then the list will probably be small and unqualified

    • cityofchampions

      Yeah, he was more of an insider than all the “hockey insiders” who dismissed his comment. The guy knew even before McCrimmon was promoted in Vegas that Holland was the Oilers’ guy.

  • 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