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?

Baggedmilk on #theLOCKERROOM: Hockey in Edmonton, re-opening bars, and billet buddies

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.

Long Read: Ethan Bear's Journey To The NHL

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?

    • 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.

      • 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

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 .

  • ed from edmonton

    If wholesale changes for the organization are needed an experienced guy is more likely to have the self confidence and vision to do this than a neophyte. Especially if he comes with “full autonomy”.

    I find it interesting that Ray Shero is said to be “doing good things” in NJ. Ray Shero was named GM of NJ in the summer of 2015 and his team has missed the playoffs 3 out of 4 years. A similar record for PC and he was run out of town but Ray Shero is doing good things.

  • 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.

  • Axe

    Only as POHO with someone more hungry and eager in the GM seat such as a Mark Hunter. My issue with Holland is his success mostly came in the pre cap era and he doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about the job..This could be his last GM gig so if it doesn’t work out with a tire fire of an organization like the Oilers is he gonna really care ?

    • ed from edmonton

      Certainly if Holland takes the job why he would want it is a good question. He could stay in Detroit put his feet up and collect his VP salary. I suggest if he does take the job it will be because he has something to prove.

  • OilerForLife

    I’m a bit torn if Holland should be the GM, but he is the only candidate who has GM experience. He hasn’t accepted the job yet and the Oilers need to keep other options open for now. Gretzky is still here as well and he is extremely valuable to the organization. Holland could mentor Gretzky to help him refine his skills and it would be a great learning experience for him. Holland could be the right guy to overhaul their pro scouting. It was a very difficult for the pro scouting department but Petovic, Manning, Reider, Brodziak were brutal moves. They have to graduate a couple of Condors who are certainly as good or better then fringe players. That would leave some money to sign a player with grater skills.

  • 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.

  • greenbayman

    Anyone happen to see the 2-2 goal in the Bakersfield game last night, it’s a must see and it just so happens that it was against the Ducks affiliate the Gulls.

  • 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

    • 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.

          • 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.

          • 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.

  • 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.

  • Billy Charlebois

    I have no idea if any of these guys will make for a good GM. I think it’s a bit simplistic to say that Holland is not up to the challenges of today’s NHL. How do we know? It seems like any GM, just like a coach, can go from hero to zero in one season. The one thing that I do like about Holland, as opposed to Chiarelli, is that he is comfortable speaking to the media or fans. He seems to lack ego and I think that will play well in this market. Our fans are passionate and want to know what’s going on. Not to be spoken down to, or avoided.

    • cityofchampions

      I think we have to keep an open mind on any hire, until we see how he organizes hockey ops. Chiarelli keeping on every single OBC was a big tell. The OBC have to be cleared out if Holland (or any new GM) wants to show that he is truly in charge.

  • 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.

  • Arfguy

    I had hoped that someone would look to Ron Francis as a potential option as a GM. Despite not making the playoffs for a few years with a really good Carolina Hurricanes team that Francis built through the draft (which I blame squarely on poor goaltending), Carolina is experiencing success now on the success Francis had IMO.

    If Holland were to get the job, I don’t know if he would be enough. Maybe. He made mistakes with Detroit, but he’s had so much success. Maybe he needs a fresh start? I don’t know. My personal preference is still Francis.

  • 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!

  • hagar

    First we have to actually believe that he will have full control over the team.
    It’s hard to believe someone or some people after they spend years blowing smoke up your hoop.
    Not sure why this is suddenly the believable time for some. You look more foolish than the liars constantly falling for things over and over.

    That being said… all we can do is wait and see what happens. I am sure as heck not going to say this time is different just because klowe and his buddies say it is.

  • billsbills

    Detroit didn’t think so. You also forgot to mention all the NTC that Holland handed those overpaid players. Including the entire top 4 on defence.

    I’m not convinced. They need fresh blood and fresh ideas. Not someone who after this will retire comfortably win or lose.

  • Nellzo

    In my perfect scenario it would be Holland as POHO, Hunter as G.M. and Gretzky as assistant and head of amateur scouting, (or some combination therein). Get rid of MacT, Howson and Sutter. Hire another “Dellow” type to rebuild the analytics dept. This lays the foundation for modern and successful organization. Holland, with full autonomy, can cut out the rot and be a sounding board and open door for a less experienced G.M.

    • hagar

      The full autonomy will be the biggest savior of this team far beyond the actual gm.. lots of gms around and up and coming that can find their stride at any given time.
      It is, and always has been, the people still hanging around that have been the problem.

      The team is instantly better no matter who the gm is, if all the old boys get locked out of the meetings.

      • Hockeytalkguy

        @Hagar….Do you remember when MacT said whichever GM wins the McDavid draft lottery is going to look like a genius for years to come. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Every time they open there mouth they spew stupid $hit. Nothing will ever change with these clowns.

  • 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.

  • Beer

    At least it isn’t Dubas. The next GM isn’t /shouldn’t be hired because the player’s like him. Besides the GM’s job isn’t to interact with the player’s on daily bases. If you think the Oilers are a mess, It’s nothing compared to what Detroit was in the 80’s.

    • Beer

      Actually I just had a idea, if I was to become a salesman in the bullet proof glass business, I could make a fortune in Detroit and Chicago. That in itself would be enticing for Holland to come to the Oilers.

  • Goaltender Interference

    I personally don’t think Holland is the right guy but I’d be happy with a magic 8-ball as GM if it meant KLowe and MacT were shown the door.

    On the other hand you could have the best GM in the world hired but if the OBC was still lurking in the wings it wouldn’t do a bit of good. If the toilet can a still plugged up and back flowing, the office will stink whoever occupies it.

  • Gordie Wayne

    Sarcasm Alert: Let’s wait around for Holland to decide if he wants to be the GM of the Oilers. He put his current team in the same situation the Oilers are in now, yet Bobby Burgers is willing to wait around for him, all while not giving him an interview and hiring him based on the fact he won cups over a decade ago in a non-salary cap world. Sounds like a great idea!! Bobby Burgers should sign him to a 10 year contract at 10 million a year too.

    • McHitch

      Half the hockey fans in Alberta could fix this roster within 2 years.

      You have McDavid, Draisaitl, Nuge and
      Klefbom, Nurse, Larrson, Bouchard, Jones.

      You have draft picks, and former first rounders(JP, Yamo) as trade bait. You have an owner who is willing to spend to cap every year and a state of the art arena.

      This team is an easy fix. Dump some salary, bring in a reliable backup and a couple decent wingers. Fixed.

      I dont think it will take the winningest GM in NHL history to turn this around, but we are lucky to get him. Holland is a legend. Excited to see what he does if this is true.