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.
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.
When the Oilers circled back with an offer this week, Ken Holland called friends in the game to get their thoughts. One of them warned him about the poisonous atmosphere around the team. “You’ll get killed on social media,” he warned. “I’m not on social media,” Holland replied.
— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) May 5, 2019
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.
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.
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.