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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Monday Mailbag - Should Holland trade down at the NHL Draft?

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?

  • Foximus

    Don’t see Holland being the solution. Only Yzerman checked all the boxes for me. Drafting, free agents, trades, cap mgmt. I would prefer Hunter in this situation but it’s anyone’s guess.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Yzerman had a great run in TB but how does he check all the boxes?

      They are creeping towards salary cap hell this summer. The Ryan Callaghan and Ryan McDonough deals might look really bad really soon. It’ll be a miracle if their GM can navigate this summer without seeing some good bodies poached on RFA offer sheets.

      Draft wise:

      They took Brett Connolly; passed on Jeff Skinner – probably get past Bruins in 2011 if they change that pick.

      They took Slater Koekoek instead of Filip Forsberg. Again – probably gets them their second Cup by now.

      They took Jonathan Drouin instead of Seth Jones – probably win back-to-back Cups in ’15 and ’16 if they got it right (Seth Jones was ranked #1 going into that draft).

      And they took Anthony DeAngelo instead of David Pastarnak –

      Our previous GM has some question marks with some of his 1st round picks and he still gets roasted about that. Yzerman – not so much.

      Yzerman is a solid hockey man – I don’t think he has all the answers.

      That said – the management team he put together in TB makes ours look like a failed Church bake sale committee. Toss the booze hound.

      • FISTO Siltanen

        And I’ll add – I’d like to see what this “cap genius” does when he no longer manages in a State with no income tax. I’m pretty sure all those special deals this guy was pulling out of his behind are going to disappear.

      • Rugbypig

        Since you seem to be a hockey talent picking god, why don’t you pick the “best players” for the Oilers for this draft and post them.
        Then in a few years we can look back at your work and decide if you are as smart as you are implying or just another ass with 20/20.

    • WHH

      I am very concerned about this. Is he an old guy past his prime stuck in his ways, or is he capable of adjusting to the new realities of the NHL? With his track record over the last several years I am afraid I feel he is the former.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        I said before Holland has had a great career, but his last years in Detorit were not exactly his best, there is a reason the Wings wanted Yzerman and thats because they Holland had seen better days and they were loving what Stevie Y did in Tampa, everyone knows Stevie Y wanted to be closer to his family in Detorit and why wouldnt he take the GM job in Detroit , its full circle for him

        Yes the Wings werent going to toss Holland into the street, and they still value him but I believe they felt a change of direction was needed and Holland wasnt the man to see that come to fruition. I think Holland is a smart guy, but the Oilers situation is going to be one hell of a mess compared to Detroit.

        The fact that Hollandis old school makes me think he isnt going to boot any of the OBC out of the building, and that concerns me, because the OBC needs to go, they are holding this organisation from moving forward and we need people not connected to the OBC to come in and right the ship and I dont see Holland as that guy. I wanted McCrimmon but I dont blame McPhee for wanting to keep him, so my next pick is Hunter and somehow I dont think the Oilers were willing to give Hunter to give the go ahead to clean house, yes Bob will say that whoever comes in can fire whoever but does anyone really believe that Katz will sacrifice the OBC? I sure dont and Holland is a safe bet to not let that happen and just think Holland far away from his family, how long till he decides he would like to be closer to them and heir apparent KG steps into the job.

        I dont like the Holland move at all, and I would rather not see Holland in the job because I dont think we will see any change off or on the ice and that would be really disappointing

      • Exactly this. Can he adjust like Jim Rutherford did or is he going to stay stubborn and stick with what lost him his job like PC. Experience doesn’t mean a thing if you’re not willing to adjust.

      • Beer

        I love the NHL, but if it continues to turn more and more into a “reality” TV show, which is scripted, I am questioning if I’ll care in five years. There isn’t enough competent people for 31 teams, never mind 32+. It won’t be long before the NHL even qualifies as a pro sports.

  • cityofchampions

    It really depends. If he comes in and gets rid of all OBC influence in hockey ops (no MacT, Howson, Sutter, WG, sutter, etc.) and replaces them with proven hockey people, then he’s the man. If any OBC is kept on in hockey ops besides KG (who has shown some competence) then its a continuation of the same. Obviously he can’t fire OBC in non-hockey ops (like KLowe, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Katz move MacT to non-hockey ops as well), but the influence of the OBC in non-hockey ops will be greatly reduced if none of their friends remain in hockey ops. Every team has OBC hangers-on, the problem with the Oilers is that they’ve had way too much influence in hockey ops. OBCs are meant to be seen, and not heard, in well-run hockey organizations.

  • Wadentheshade

    Lots of negative chatter. Whoever it is let’s just give him some time before we start slamming him. Yzermans team just got swept in the first round after winning the presidents trophy so does that make him a bad GM?!? Dubas has his hands full in TO to get everyone signed and they didn’t get past the first round AGAIN. Is that on Dubas or Babcock? Point being it’s a fine line between success and failure in this business. We all agreed Chai and the OBC wrote the book on how not to do it. Let’s give KH or whoever it is some time before we start the public stoning.

  • madjam

    Sure he will adapt .Detroit literally on the list of abandoned cities. Population in 1950 near 1.9Million, today barely 700,000 and dwindling in many neighbourhoods . I think Holland will find Edmonton a welcome change .

  • McHitch

    The winningest GM in NHL history (.629). Playoffs in 20 of 23. Playoffs in 11 of 14 in the cap era.

    A legend in the hockey world. We would be very lucky to have him.

    The fact he gets full autonomy makes the hiring even better. Holland puts his legacy on the line, im sure he would come in with a calculated plan on how to turn the ship around.

    • He already put his legacy on the line with all those bad signings the last couple of years. It’s never a good way to go out when your own fanbase wants you out and pray for your old assistant to comeback and clean up your mess.

    • McHitch

      Could the Wings have been in the playoffs 20 of 23 years without knowing how to draft and develop?

      Theres a reason its called the Detroit model. Decades of proper acouting and development without ever having a top 16 pick.

      I think we can use someone like that around. Best part about the situation here is that we know its Holland making the moves and not the OBC. Its his legacy.

      • billsbills

        The difference is that the Detroit model was built on a full arsenal of smart people in their positions doing their job. It was also built prior to a salary cap. Paying top end free agents ridiculous money to stick around or come around allowing draft picks to develop. Awesome, those days are gone and so are those people. We are not getting Ken Holland from 2005. We are getting Ken Holland that signed 8 mediocre players to NTCs, we are getting a Ken Holland who overpaid for so many mediocre players that his best player was traded for a second round pick knowing that there was zero chance they could resign him. Did I mention that they retained salary on the deal too?

        Detroit is a mess. A total and complete mess. The Griffin’s suck just like the big club. They never replaced the talent they had for so many years. They hoped and hung on. It didn’t work. You want more HOPE?

  • Total Points

    I would prefer Holland as POHO and Hunter as GM. A combination of new isead with Hunter and sober second thought with Holland.

    This also gets rid of Burger Bob

          • Kool-Aid Man

            …MacT also traded Petry and Dubnyk (not before) throwing them under the bus (classic OBC move) and killing any chance of even getting fair value for them.

            Then he brings in a new guy (Justin Shultz) with great pedigree then proceeded to thrust the weight of the rabid Edmonton fan-base on him and refer to him a future Norris trophy winner.

            He then fires one of the best coaches (by Skype (classic OBC move)) to come around since he himself was coaching, and proceeded to bring in the worst coach (Eakins) in Oiler history.

            Then after firing worst coach ever (not before ruining fragile Yakupov), he then re-joins the coaching staff to babysit a coach whom is better than himself.

            The only thing that MacT partially-competently performed during his tenure as GM was drafting.

            However the ironic aspect of MacT was his incompetence delivered as McDavid.

          • The future never comes

            This is to mcHitch… The same genius who brought in Fayne, Nikitin, Ference, and belov eh? Also, firing a up and coming coach for the arrogant Eakins…. Ditching Dubby and Petry.. yeah a real genius you knob.

          • McHitch

            MacT cleared out 20 mil in cap space while stockpiling draft picks.

            Chia used those picks on Reinhart and Talbot. Chia used the cap space on Lucic, Sekera, Russell and Letestu.

            MacT was a solid coach too, last one in the organization to have any success.

          • FISTO Siltanen

            MacT also chased a soon to be Vezina trophy finalist. Does that $20M in jettisoned cap space include Petry? Could have used someone here like that on a $3.5-4M cap hit. MacT “challenged” him while boxing team in with ridiculous overpay of Schultz.

    • cityofchampions

      Yes, I think that this would be ideal. Unfortunately I don’t see Holland leaving a cushy VP job in Detroit to be in an oversight POHO position. He wants to be GM, perhaps mentoring KG as his eventual successor 5 years down the road.

  • Regardless of who the GM is I think any of the hires should get full autonomy over the hockey side. You don’t go on a several month GM search to just add another guy to the room. I certainly don’t trust Nicholson’s judgement over personnel. Some of the lower chart guys like Bill Scott, Bob Green, and any of the pro scouting should be gone no questions asked. Control over your team shouldn’t be a sales pitch, it should be a given.

    • cityofchampions

      The people to go has to extend up to MacT and Howson or its not full autonomy and won’t have the support of the fanbase. Even KG shouldn’t be guaranteed a job, he should just be hired as Asst GM or Head of amateur scouting if he is the best person available for the job (and he might be). He can’t fire KLowe as he on the non-hockey ops side, but I don’t believe KLowe would have any influence over Holland or over hockey ops if all his friends current in hockey ops are gone.

      • Hockeytalkguy

        @cityof champions…..you are correct there is no way KLowe is removed, but don’t be fooled of him not having any say in hockey ops. He has more say than we all realize. Why is he at the draft table if he didn’t think he knows a thing or two about winning? This organization is rotten to the core, Holland will not remove anyone from the OBC. The dog & pony show will continue….count on it.

  • CMG30

    I have to agree with most of the comments thus far. Holland is the guy for yesterday’s NHL. PC version 2.0. The barnacles in the halls of power pick a guy who thinks like them so he won’t fire them. I guess now all we can do is hope that the old dog can learn new tricks…

    • Boba The Fett

      I do not see Holland as Chia 2.0. Chias model was always heavy hockey, Detroit was never what I would consider a “heavy hockey” team. Players that led Detroit like Fedorov, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Draper, and Franzen were not big bangers but more a mix of skill and character. His biggest fault is he was too loyal to them all in the end with bad contracts near the end of their useful days.

  • Hemi

    I see the negative nellies are out in full force today. Just because he is older does not mean he cannot adjust to what is or isn’t required in today’s NHL. The man has all kinds of experience (good and bad). Perhaps some of the good will be what’s needed in Oil Country. Give the man his due. I am thinking he may be better than we think.

  • Dr.Drai29

    Doesn’t matter who the new GM is it’ll be better than Chia pet Pete. I honestly think Anyone outside the organization will make much needed improvements.