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Is Ken Holland enough of a change for the Oilers?

The Edmonton Oilers fired Peter Chiarelli in late January. A replacement might finally be near.

Kelly McCrimmon was the top candidate and he was promoted to the general manager’s position in Vegas this week. With McCrimmon out, the focus shifts to former Leafs assistant general manager Mark Hunter, current interim GM Keith Gretzky, Montreal Canadiens scout Sean Burke, and former Detroit GM Ken Holland.

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reported the job is Holland’s if he wants it. Holland would receive complete autonomy to hire and fire whoever he wants, although Bob Nicholson would like K. Gretzky to stay on. Is Holland the right man to turn the Oilers around? Edmonton appears to all in on Holland as their next GM.

The Detroit Red Wings are in good hands with Steve Yzerman now, but, similar to whoever arrives in Edmonton, he has to deal with significant cap challenges. Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, and Darren Helm are a trio of overpaid forwards with term on their contracts. Abdelkader has four years remaining.

On defence, the situation is much better. Jonathan Ericsson and Trevor Daley only have one year remaining, otherwise Yzerman will have the flexibility to make this roster his own. Jonathan Bernier has two more seasons at $3-million on the cap.

There’s no Milan Lucic on Detroit, although Abdelkader isn’t too far off. Yzerman has an easier cap position to navigate than Holland, or whoever, would in Edmonton.

Should the Oilers trust Holland to navigate them out of cap jail when the Red Wings didn’t? Obviously, you have to make room for an Yzerman when they become available. The Oilers weren’t getting Yzerman, but shouldn’t they be seeking more of an Yzerman than a Holland?

Holland’s recent record with Detroit is mixed. Sure, maybe his hand was forced by an ownership group determined to extend their playoff streak as long as possible. That does not excuse long-term contracts handed out to mediocre players. Holland had a magnificent run with Detroit, but the Oilers need the best person to win them a Stanley Cup going forward, not in 2010.

Does Holland significantly shift how the Oilers operate and evaluate players? The concern with Chiarelli was his poor cap management and indifference to overpaying to get his guy, whether that’s Adam Larsson or Rich Peverley. Chiarelli repeated the same mistakes in Edmonton: overvaluing size and toughness and spending too much on players that aren’t stars. Can Holland adapt? Chiarelli couldn’t.

Nine current GMs were former NHL GMs: Bob Murray, David Poile, Dale Tallon, Doug Armstrong, Jim Rutherford, Ray Shero, Lou Lamoriello, Chuck Fletcher, Steve Yzerman.

Rutherford is only the second GM to win a Stanley Cup with two different teams, although Poile and Armstrong have had success with their second teams. Shero’s done some good things with New Jersey. It’s too early to judge Lamoriello, Fletcher, and Yzerman with their new teams.

Holland comes with extensive experience, compared to Hunter or Gretzky, but it’s difficult for GMs to have success with two different organizations. The Oilers tried that with Chiarelli, and it backfired miserably. Nicholson might be going back to that well again with Holland.

The Oilers need a significant change in management. Is Holland another established guy with success closer to 2010 than 2019? Or can he adapt and build another winner like Rutherford did in Pittsburgh?



  • Wesley41

    I don’t care who gets the job.Holland or Hunter etc….,what matters is what happens after the contract is signed.If certain individuals in management and pro scouting are still employed the name,age,old school,new school of the GM won’t mean a damn thing.Like someone already said in the comments it should be a given to have full autonomy,not a negotiation tactic for one candidate and not the others.Whoever gets the job will have a learning curve,whether it is Hunter (first time NHL gm)or Holland learning from the last few years of his time in Detroit.

    • fasteddy

      It’s laughable that Sean Burke is allegedly in the running….it doesn’t seem like he fits into the category of stat guy that has angles or experienced guy that has a track record; just guy that’s been tight with Hockey Canada. Same old

  • Serious Gord

    Holland is 63. Are his best years in hockey management ahead or behind him?

    Holland isn’t a true old boy. But he is a decades long associate – and presumably friend – of both Katz and Nicholson and the Old boys. He is hockey establishment through and through.

    He has an impressive CV. But it is moldy- the successes are not recent – and qualified – as has been elaborated on elsewhere on this site there were significant advantages that the wings had back in the day.

    To me these add up to a “no” for me.

  • cityofchampions

    I don’t care what they pay management or their staff, with Katz’s money being able to pay for good management and scouts and analytics should be one of our advantages. Unfortunately we keep paying stupid people to do stupid things, and keep throwing away our cash advantage. I would be happy to bring in Holland as the POHO with Keith Gretzky or Mark Hunter as the GM. I don’t think Holland will be satisfied with being POHO though, he still wants to be the GM.

  • Ben918

    I don’t think you can assume Holland will fail because he has experience as a GM in the NHL. It is a misleading stat as GMs don’t change teams often as they often get the role near the end of their careers and many go on to the PHO position or something of that sort. Experience or not, I think Holland is the wrong guy because he has proven he can’t get the job done on a Detroit team that might be the most similar team to the Oilers in the NHL. A city that is not held in the highest value with players and a team whose second best selling feature is that they WERE a dynasty once. Hunter is obviously the way to go. You don’t have to like the Maple Leafs to know how hard it is to build success in the fish bowl media environment of Toronto. They were brutal in the playoffs this year but they did develop some great young talent and add big name players via free agency; which are two of the three things the Oilers need from the next GM. The third is dumping bad contracts but that is less about the GM and more about the market. Hunter was always one of the top GMs on the market and whoever gets him will be lucky, not Steve Yzerman lucky but maybe better off than Vegas is.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    If the Oilers hire Holland, I’m done. EVERY hockey person ON THE FRIGGIN PLANET (from Steve Dangle down to us fans) knows EXACTLY what this organization has to do in order to not only move forward but also ice a competitive club. Hiring Holland verifies that these braindead idiots couldn’t run a lemonade stand. Holland is Chiarelli 2.0. An old fart who thinks that HIS methods and HIS teams are still good enough to play in this leagues NHL. With Yzerman in Detroit and Holland here, who’s gonna be better quicker? My money’s on Detroit.

  • Datsyukian

    At least Holland won’t be afraid to show the Old Boys the door. All the newbies like Hunter, McCrimmon and Burke would likely be too afraid to even approach someone like Wayne Gretzky or Kevin Lowe to fire them. They would probably be intimidated by their fame and past achievements. Holland wouldn’t have that problem at his age and with his experience.

  • Ra-bet

    So far the interview process has looked like…
    let’s tell the whole world all the candidates we are interested in. But single out the one we are all in on. Then when he says no, we’ll pick our next guy and say we are “all in” on this guy. Giving him the farm and everything. Then, if he says no, we’ll pick our next guy to say we’re all in on and hopefully he doesn’t see how weak this is and say no too.
    Like, has Bob never heard of “Committing last” .. have a standard or two!