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

  • 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…

  • Casey.

    Enough with that gm search business, hopefully we see some fireworks soon. If he wants to get on the fanbase’s good side quickly then bringing 4 or 5 u-haul trucks to the Oilers office this week is the way to go.

  • Boba The Fett

    Quit comparing Holland to Chia, they both have completely different philosophies on hockey. One liked heavy hockey the other has always been about development, skill, depth, character and longevity.
    Yes Chiarelli had a cup but his level of experience is nothing compared to that of Holland. Holland has been involved in Hockey for decades where Chiarelli came out of Harvard Law and then got involved.

    Holland whether he works out or not is in an entirely different league then Chiarelli.

    I think the best parallel would be when Sather went to New York and they had some pretty good seasons under his leadership as well. So lets just see what happens

      • SSB1963

        from Wikipedia
        Peter Chiarelli (born August 5, 1964) is a former Canadian ice hockey executive and former … Chiarelli played for Harvard University between 1983 and 1987, serving as the captain of the team. Professionally he played for the Nottingham …
        Playing career‎: ‎1983–1988
        Position‎: ‎Centre
        Played for‎: ‎Nottingham Panthers
        Height‎: ‎5 ft 10 in (178 cm)

    • Ivan Drago

      But seriously, the Oilers are indeed in a big mess. I get the idea of new thinking GMs like McCrimmon, but I think loads of experience will be needed to right the good ship OBC has built. To me this hiring is going to need a strong supporting cast and that will make or break Holland’s tenure here as GM.

      • Moneyball

        I have no problem at all with this signing. Too much $$$ if it’s 5 million but get it he can turn around he ship its worth it. I liked his Datsyuk salary dump on the coyotes, that was a smart move. He understands the game and will have some early tests ahead. Have to get something for puljujarvi

        • Die Hard Oiler Fan

          I would rather Holland put a team in place that was able to properly develop a talant such as JP……just like he and his team in Detroit were famous for.

          • McHitch

            Its called the Detroit model for a reason.

            Definition: To properly develop prospects within a system.

            Oilers havent developed a prospect outside the first round in over a decade. We have ruined numerous first rounders.

            Im sure we can use someone like Holland around.

        • Rugbypig

          Who is Jujhar Khaira?
          I believe he is an Oiler developed player 63rd overall in 2012
          Please stop spreading lies to support a narrative
          Be better.

        • cityofchampions

          I really couldn’t care less on how much Katz spends on management, if he wants to win he should be hiring professional scouts, analytics guys, player development guys, goalie coaches and a top-notch management team instead of wasting his money on his OBC buddies.

  • Total Points

    If Holland can surround himself with great support staff like Burke, Hunter and get rid of most of the OBC like MacT, Howesen, and hire a great coach things should work out great.

    We will see in the next few weeks if things change or more of the OBC. I think (maybe hope) that he cleans house and changes the culture

    • Randaman

      If you’re expecting to be able to read the contract, you’re out of luck! I understand the lack of trust or belief but Im sure Ken didn’t leave Detroit to be a puppet! I’m choosing to think positive, easier on the brain.

      • Spydyr

        No need to read the contract. We just have to watch and see who is shown the door.

        That will answer the question of is there actual change or more of the same.

    • FISTO Siltanen


      I am still surprised so many (MacT and Howson in particular) stick around. If the team is good there isn’t a single person in this fanbase, or even a rival one, that would consider anything good done here as originating from those two buffoons.

      Don’t they have the self respect to move on? Prove their worth elsewhere. Right now it is just embarassing they think they can make a positive impact on this team.

    • 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 … ?

      • FISTO Siltanen

        How much of criticism “Ken Holland spending so much against the cap” takes in consideration he had $6M+ tied up on a guy who didn’t play due to injury?

  • Hockey Bunker

    Great hire and here’s why. In order to get out of this mess the GM will need
    to convince fellow GMs to take on some bad players and contracts while preserving the best parts. It needs a veteran hand. Look at Lou with the Islanders, got a great coach and even after his best player walked, the team took off. Lou wasn’t good enough for Toronto, LOL. He was too old LOL. Now Toronto is heading into cap hell. LOL
    There is no better hire than Holland. In a word WOW. It’s a major steal

  • 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.

  • Foximus

    While Holland wasn’t my first choice for GM (armchair GM) I can’t argue with Robin’s take. No GM has ever won every draft/signing/trade/contract they are involved in. They don’t lose them all either. Let’s just hope we can all like more of his decisions than the years previous.

  • KootenayDan

    Holland is still relatively young at 63 and has been around long enough to know how not to ruin a hockey club. I look forward to his leadership a personable and smart man who will bring respect back to the organization. I would not expect sweeping changes he will utilize all the tools at his disposal and make sensible decisions. If he is truly the new gm let’s give him a chance before having a tantrum.

      • KootenayDan

        Bob Murray 64 Waddell 62 Nill 62 Tallon 68 Poile 68 Lou 77 Wilson 61 Rutherford 70, plenty of his peers still managers in the NHL so I see no issue with his age.

        • Serious Gord

          Murray Became GM in 2008 when he was 53.

          Waddell got the job above GM in 2014 when he was 54.

          Nill became GM at 56

          Tallon was hired in Florida in 2010 at age 60

          Poile became GM in 1997! At age 47.

          Lamorello is the exception – and unproven at age 75.

          Wilson became GM at 55

          Rutherford became GM at 65 – said it was only temporary- many expect him to exit this summer.

          So other than a few exceptions – Holland’s hiring at this age is very rare.

  • 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.