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.

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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?

  • 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?

  • TruthHurts98

    So everyone is in a tizzy over Holland? Let me get this straight: He put the Wings in cap hell with horrible contracts to Ablekader and a few others. They used to be a winning team but sunk as he continued to make outdated moves and not adapt to the new faster NHL. Sounds like the GM we just saw destroy this franchise while the Good Ole Boys and the head stooge Burger Bob had no competent answers. So sure, let’s hire P.C. 2.0 and continue DOD 2.0. Connor will be demanding out soon enough if they go this route.

    • Boba The Fett

      He gave bad contracts to vets that he was loyal to for over 10 years and that helped win their last cup.
      As for adapting to the speed, as far as I know Larkin, Athanasiou, Bertuzzi and Mantha are all above average skaters that Holland drafted.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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

  • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  • jesse says yep

    Can we stop with the “old guy past his prime” talk. His skating is not losing a step and hasn’t lost it’s zip…. He is a manager, not a player, and in management experience counts for almost everything. And as an experienced manager he probably knows more about the things you think he knows nothing about, than all of us combined.

    • billsbills

      He knew enough to give no trade clauses to over a third of a mediocre team and how to spend every penny of cap money plus.

      He knew enough to get himself fired and replaced with someone younger.

      • jesse says yep

        It would be a good excercise for you to go through contracts signed by UFAs over the past 5 or so years and notice how many DON’T have a NMC/NTC. It’s kind of a non starter in contract negotiations.
        As for being replaced, isnt the old saying for GMs and coaches, ” they are only hired to be fired”?

          • billsbills

            This has been in the cards since the day Yzerman said he was leaving Tampa Bay. He was fired with Loyalty. Given a title instead of severance. If anyone should know anything about that, it’s the Oilers.

      • Boba The Fett

        He also got screwed by Datsyul leaving while under contract, Lidstrom retiring with 1 year left and Zetterberg having potentially career ending back issues with 2 years left. Also Franzen having career ending head injuries did not help the cap situation. But yes blame everything on Holland.

        Mantha, Larkin, And Bertuzzi are all on good contracts which shows me that he is good negotiating with younger players and seeing as we have an abundance of them coming up I see it as a positive.

  • 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 .

  • 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.

  • Gary Chalmers

    Short answer…No! Long answer…Hell No! Stay away from Holland, hes old school like Chia was, it would be taking a step laterally if he was hired. Look for some new blood, dont list recycle the leagues leftovers, if this doesnt work, Nicholson has to go because he should be gone already!

  • 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

  • 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.