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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.

JUST WIN, BABY

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.

WHAT HE SAID

“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.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

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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HOCKEY HELPS THE HOMELESS

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


  • Serious Gord

    Robin you outline the reasons why it may or may not be a bad hire.

    I think it is a bad hire – one that reflects the culture of the organization – a culture that has brought us the worst record in the league for the past 25 years.

    If he succeeds I will admit my error in judgement. It will be an error that is an exception to the correctness of my judgement over the past 15 or so years.

    That noted, I think he comes into an almost impossible predicament.

    Getting this team to cup-winning ability in three seasons given the barrenness Of the roster and farm team, the non-existent or incompetent scouting and analytical staff ( guess he could rely on his “gut analytics”) and the cap hellhole is about as tough a task as any GM has ever faced.

      • Serious Gord

        Not packing it in. I think conditions are so bad that a complete teardown of the org should have been done and that the owner inform fans that the next three years are a rebuild – that the cup will not be in reach until after that point.

        As for who I would pick – I have said that I have no specific favourite – I’m not an expert on who all of the options are. But I do think that there are several options buried in well-managed franchises like Nashville, San Jose etc. who are young, modern in their thinking, hungry and both NOT a part of the NHL establishment nor indebted to it.

        It is that kind of person that this team needs to perform the overhaul…

  • FanBoy

    If Holland can make MacT, Sutter, Howson, Green, Schwartz, Lucic, Russell, Manning disappear this offseason he’s the goat.

    Bring in Burke and have him and KG be AGMs, bring that guys from scouting/player development from Detroit over. Last thing I would note is that we need a guy who’s super good at signing contracts ala Treliving.

  • 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.

  • oilfan4ever

    This is and was a no win situation for Bobby Nicks. He could name Jesus Christ as the new GM and Scotty Bowman and Sam Pollock as asst Gms and the trollers would say that the search was not thorough enough.

    • puckle-head

      Bobby Nicks has lost the right of having the benefit of the doubt. If Holland can turn the team around with a series of smart moves, and not “pray we get a hot goal tender so Connor can drag a mediocre roster to another 2nd round exit,” that will be a win for Bobby.

    • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • Reg Dunlop

    To me, the biggest positive is that stats clowns like Lowetide’s fart sniffers HATE the hiring of another traditional hockey man. Holland gives them something new to cry about so they will stop snivelling about Taylor Hall.

    The biggest negative is just conjecture; Nicholson promised many interviews during his search but it seems that was window dressing if the job was Holland’s all along if he wanted it.

    • HockeyRooster

      How is interviewing a bunch of guys window dressing? Did it ever occur to you that Holland’s interview was the best? Or, maybe the other guys bombed their interviews.
      As Robin noted, there are fans who wouldn’t be happy with any one. They are here only to complain.

      • Reg Dunlop

        If interviewing other candidates, knowing that Holland was the 1st choice, was done to appear that they were leaving no stone unturned… I’d call that window dressing. Are you sure Holland interviewed before he was designated the prime candidate? I’m not.

        As for ‘complaining’, you must be new here because 25 years of futility has left Oiler fans with not much else to do other than 2nd guess every move made.

        • HockeyRooster

          I’m not an insider so I don’t know anything beyond what I read. You’ve made an assumption that Holland was BN’s guy all along and I think it’s a lazy take-just another opportunity to complain.
          I just want to watch a team that makes the playoffs. I want the same for my kids who are such good fans that the Oilers don’t even deserve them.
          I know all about the complaining here and my comments were a shot at your complaints as well as the the rest of the usual whiners, know it alls and pretend insiders.

    • cityofchampions

      I agree whole-heartedly. I get the impression that the OBC and Chia were too influenced by the incessant negativity on social media in Edmonton. I prefer a guy who keeps his mind clear of all that and makes trades based on calm analysis and strategic planning…not making rushed decisions to try and appease a fanbase who (deservedly) doesn’t trust anything management has done in 15 years. I don’t mind people criticizing and being negative on social media, its kind of fun, but a serious GM just can’t pay attention to that noise.

    • FISTO Siltanen

      Exactly.

      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?

    • 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.

    • 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.

        • 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.

  • 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.