Over to you, Ken

With the naming of Ken Holland as the new general manager of the Edmonton Oilers imminent, the debate about whether he’s the right man to lead the team back into respectability and contention has been raging mightily on social media for the past 48 hours or so. That’s no surprise in a hockey town like Edmonton.

On one side, a significant segment of Oilers’ fans doesn’t like the idea of hiring Holland — I’d argue there’s a sub-segment in there who would moan no matter who is hired. At 63, they say Holland is too old. They say he hasn’t won anything lately. They say he was at his best before the salary cap era. He’s Bob Nicholson’s pal. On and on. Fair enough.

On the other hand, a smaller camp (as best I can tell) believes that Holland is exactly the kind of experienced GM the Oilers need to turn things around. On his watch in 22 seasons as GM, the Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs 19 times – 11 times in 14 seasons since the salary cap came in — and won three Stanley Cups, one of those in the salary cap era (2008). On balance, on the body of his work, Holland is a winner. No question.

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The bottom line, as keyboard warriors on both sides of the wait-and-see middle go at each other under the veil of anonymity on social media and websites like this, is nobody will be proven right when the announcement comes. The only thing that will settle the debate is winning and losing. We won’t know how that plays out until we see what the Oilers do under Holland, who is reportedly getting a five-year deal at $5 million per season. Everything until we see actual results is just noise.

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With all the slanging going on — like Twitter is somehow actually life or death — I thought Gord Miller of TSN won the day today with a tweet he put out regarding Holland that provided some much-needed context to everybody getting ahead of themselves. A touch of old school as it applies to an old school hockey man.

Simply put, if Holland takes Peter Chiarelli’s old chair and starts making changes from top to bottom, it’ll be because he sees a need to make those changes – there’s a compelling case to be made for that — not because all the armchair GM’s out there say it’s what must be done. Same thing if he chooses to tweak rather than tear things down to the studs. Either way, Holland’s not taking this job to have somebody else pulling the strings.

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What can we expect from the new boss? Well, for those who have never spent time picking Holland’s brain at rinks around the NHL, Jimmy Devellano, who hired Holland 36 years ago and turned the GM’s reigns over to him for the 1997-98 season after winning the Stanley Cup, offered his take on Holland to Michael Traikos of the Toronto Sun Friday.


“Drafting, scouting, tenure, experience, he’s faced everything,” said Devellano. “This is a 36-year-old run with the Red Wings, having played goal for them, having been their Western Canada scout, having been their head scout and my right-hand man for many years. There’s isn’t much that he hasn’t seen. He’s seen what works and what doesn’t work. You just can’t beat that.

“What’s his defining work? For 22 years, Ken Holland steered the team into the playoffs. I got it started and we made it for three years. He took over and got it to 25. That’s in a salary cap world and while drafting 20 or higher. That’s his defining work. You just can’t beat that . . . if you ask Ken what makes him a good GM, he’d say ‘real good players.’ But then they retired and everyone thought he was a bad GM. But I think he’s the best.”


Agree with the hire or not, it doesn’t matter. Holland isn’t going to drastically change the philosophy or the approach that’s going to land him in the HHOF when his career is done. Not because of three lean seasons in Detroit before he got kicked upstairs last month for new GM Steve Yzerman, and not because fans around here expect (and deserve) a drastic turnaround.

Without all the free armchair advice he’s missing on Twitter, Holland will do things his way. Circumstances and his assessment of the organization and the personnel in it will dictate what moves he makes and the timeline in which he makes them. That won’t make everybody happy after all the futility and failure we’ve seen around here, but that’s the way it’s going to go. As it should.

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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

    • Is it April yet?

      You know what? Nobody really cares who you put in there. Nobody wants to be “…part of the process moving forward.” We can’t even say enough’s enough. That came and went half a decade ago. Do your jobs and we’ll keep paying your salaries because (insert cliche) we care about the crest on the jersey. We couldn’t give a toss about words like culture or process.

  • Prairiechicken

    Trying not to be a negative Nelly … but having a hard time getting over the fact that we just hired the GM behind arguably the only rebuild worse than ours the past 5 years.
    Prove me wrong! Please.

    • Shaun Doe

      Wasn’t it Yzermans first season with Tampa when those guys found part of the lightning draft notes in a hotel lobby? Chances are the whole league might know Detroits plan already

  • We’re lucky we got KH…. Nobody else wanted the job except KG. Thankfully the fluff we fed the media made sure you guys thought I was actually talking to people… And remember if KH gets $25m, just imagine how much I make…

  • Ra-bet

    I was critical at first….
    But I came to a realization, that nobody ever built a statue of a critic!!
    Let’s be encouraging and be a place where the man would actually be excited to come. Give the guy a shot to right the ship and get rid of the toxic relationships that need to. go.

  • Vanoil

    “Full Autonomy” … Chiarelli had full autonomy and traded Hall for Lucic cap Hell. Holland had full autonomy in Detroit for the past 10 years and they are in cap hell now. [So much so that after 22 years he was politely asked to vacate his spot for someone who knew what he was doing.] Not many ways to spin this story… Sorry McD, this is what the organization repays your loyalty with.

  • Goaltender Interference

    I’m more than willing to give Holland the benefit of the doubt. But unless the clowns in the Executive suite are shown the door it’s a fair bet that nothing is going to change.

    Short of an immediate press conference where Holland shows video footage of security escorting Nicholson, Lowe and MacTavish out of Rogers Place the Oilers will remain in trouble.

  • Ben918

    I can usually find a dozen reasons to be upset with the management in Edmonton. I mean Bob and Katz are still terrible but they could have done worse than Holland. An experienced GM is what we need to undo the damage Chiarelli left us with. Someone who knows other GMs and Agents already. Has that relationship in place so they can get the inside track. A large part of the job is networking and it is always a gamble when you go with a new GM. I am not saying I like the signing, I think Hunter was the better candidate. I think there is no real way to know until the offseason is done. We have holes to fill and contracts to dump. A new GM needs to find a way to get this done and we will see if we have the right guy before the preseason starts.

  • Datsyukian

    Nobody is perfect out there. Yzerman has built a pretender of a team in Tampa, which became the laughing stock of this year’s playoffs (and I’m sure will be kicked out in Round 1 next year as well). Dubas built another team of pretenders, and the list goes on. Who is without fault? So chill out and give the man a chance.

  • Mcjesus97

    As much as the obc is terrible for this organization I really think they don’t have much say of what goes on past couple years. So if they leave or not I don’t think it changes anything. But holland should def get rid of some of the scouts if I’m not mistaken our head scout has been here for a while should be fired anyone know what his name is? That being said I think this is a great hire hopefully Lucic is gone we add a couple wingers one of them preferably being a stud right winger that can score goals (not Eberle) we still need that stud R dman and a great back up goalie. Wow that’s a lot of work Ken has got to do

  • Darcy yaceyko

    Cmon, really? Did you think they would actually interview? They released a list of names they were interested in. They just go with their gut. Picking Holland was an obvious choice for them. He had the pedigree they were looking for. Cant imagine Bobby conducting an interview. The only question he could come up with would be is, “what would u like on your burger? And do you want fries with that” I mean really. What did you all expect??

  • Oscar

    OK, you’re Bobby Burger for the purpose of this exercise … you are tasked with finding the next G.M. of a team that has been terrible for longer than anybody can remember and is right up against the cap …

    Would your choice for the next G.M. have these qualifications … ?

    A) Finished below the hapless Oilers for the last three seasons … can’t say THAT about many teams, hey …

    B) Actually spent more money against the cap than the hapless Oilers … can’t say THAT about many teams, hey …

    Seriously, does any of this make any semblance of sense to anybody … ?