It sounds like Ken Holland will become the next General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. On the surface, fans should be excited that the organization is bringing in a man who has built a Stanley Cup winner in two different eras. That should be considered a major positive. But still, I’m nervous about the hire and I suspect a lot of Oilers fans are feeling the same.
While Holland is a proven winner, his recent success isn’t very flattering. The Red Wings haven’t made the playoffs in three years, have only won a single playoff round in the last eight seasons, and the team is hampered with a handful of bad contracts that Holland signed.
This hire also feels a little hypocritical of the Oilers. Bob Nicholson told fans that he would do his due diligence and interview multiple candidates. He said he wasn’t just going to give someone the job in the same way that he gave it to Peter Chiarelli. But now, after three months of interviewing candidates, Nicholson has decided to give the job to Ken Holland, who seemingly had to snap his fingers to get the gig. That’s a little worrisome to me.
Of course, those who will want to defend Nicholson could say he gave the other candidates a fair shake and none were better than Holland. That’s also fair.
Despite my reasons to be hesitant and frustrated with this organization, I want to go into this next chapter of Oilers history with some optimism. I’m on record as having been against the idea of hiring Ken Holland but I don’t think it’s fair to immediately say this is a bad hire. Holland has forgotten more about hockey than I’ll ever know, that goes without saying. He’s clearly an established executive with a lot of contacts and relationships around the hockey world. That means something. His history of success and the Red Wings history of developing players can’t be fully ignored either.
The other reason I’m encouraged about this is the fact Mark Spector is reporting that Holland will be given full autonomy to make all hockey decisions. It sounds like he’s more of a President of Hockey Operations than just a simple General Manager. If that was a point that Holland made sure was clear cut in the agreement, then to me, it seems like he’s here to win and not just cash checks with his friend Bob Nicholson.
There’s no doubt that he made some mistakes in his final few years as Red Wings General Manager. He was too loyal to depth players and paid them too much. Will he be able to learn from those mistakes? Given how long he’s been around the league and the sport, I’d like to personally give him the benefit of the doubt.
Will he be able to step in and fix some of the massive mistakes that Peter Chiarelli made? That’s a bigger question and is perhaps a task that is a little unfair to expect him to do in one summer. I don’t think we should expect him to come in and unload Milan Lucic and Kris Russell in the blink of an eye. I don’t think any candidate could have. But I do think it’s fair to expect Holland to step in and make some really positive changes to this roster in his first summer.
That’s one positive to bringing in an experienced GM. There really shouldn’t be a learning curve. He knows how everything works and he understands how to be a GM in the league. There’s value in that.
I’m also intrigued with the staff Holland will assemble and that’s something that will go a long way in how Oilersnation views this hire initially. If a week into his tenure, he gets rid of some long-serving front office executives and announces that Sean Burke or some other young, up and coming hockey mind will be his Assistant General Manager or Head of Pro-Scouting, then I think fans will start to look at this hire with a little bit more positivity.
A truly great hockey executive doesn’t think he’s the smartest guy in the room, he surrounds himself with people smarter than he is. Holland did that in Detroit and I’m hoping he continues to do that in Edmonton. The first few hires that Holland makes can show that he’s ready to adapt and change the way this organization operates. That’s what most fans want.
I know there will be a lot of negativity, and this organization does not deserve the benefit of the doubt, but I think Holland does. This is quite possibly the most important hire in franchise history and while there are plenty of reason for fans to be nervous, I think it’s important to go into this with an open mind. Holland will go down as one of the best General Managers in the history of the NHL, so maybe he is the right man for the job.