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What to expect from Ken Holland

With the Oilers bringing in Ken Holland to replace Peter Chiarelli, I thought it would be a good idea to find out a little bit more about him from someone that has watched him work. With that in mind, I reached out to Nick Seguin, Wingsnation‘s editor, to find out what we should expect from the man that just took on one of the NHL’s most daunting to-do lists.

Baggedmilk: As a Wings fan, how do you feel about Holland’s departure?

Nick Seguin: With the recent appointment of Steve Yzerman as General Manager, it’s clear that the times are a changin’ in Detroit. In that regard, Holland’s departure is one of the best things that can happen for the Red Wings. Yzerman is a sharp, intelligent, and gutsy manager who should benefit from having his philosophy and vision not being questioned or interrupted by the old guard.

BM: Is this good news for the Wings or are you upset to see him go?

NS: The fresh start will only be fresh if Yzerman can operate independently of the management team who has gotten the Wings to this point. That being said, Holland has enjoyed many successes as the general manager of the Red Wings, including three Stanley Cups, four President’s Trophies and 18 straight playoff appearances. He was at the helm for a lot of the good parts of the Red Wings recent successes and for that, I feel no hard feelings towards him.

BM: What would you say are his best and worst moves with the wings from recent memory?

NS: This answer requires some context. Up until 2016-17, Holland was tasked with keeping the playoff streak alive. So he made a lot of moves to not begin a rebuild or take a run at the Cup, just to get into the first round. Since their last playoff berth in 2015-16, though, Holland has had the green light for a rebuild and almost every move he’s made since then has been a good one. The very best has hands down been the trade deadline deal in 2018 that sent a newly-extended Tomas Tatar to the Vegas Golden Knights for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round draft pick. That 1st round pick turned into Joe Veleno who, taken 30th overall, is looking like one of the biggest steals of the 2018 draft. As for his worst moves, it’s definitely the contracts he hands out. For one, he loves giving out no-trade clauses, but the worst part is the term he gives. Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening are all examples of bottom-6 players who were signed to unnecessarily long deals. Abdelkader’s is widely considered as one of the worst contracts in the league. This stems from Holland’s philosophy on loyalty. If you work hard and show the organization you care, then you will be rewarded no matter how much skill you have.

BM: What is Holland’s openness to new ways of thinking and analytics? Does he embrace new ideas or is he stuck in the 90s?

NS: I wouldn’t say Holland is stuck in the ’90s since he was one of the few GMs who had continued success after the transition to the salary cap era. He’s mostly been tight-lipped about how he evaluates players, but he is on record saying he puts a lot of stock in the eye test. It explains a lot about the type of players he’s gone after in free agency. That being said, Holland operates “brain trust”-style, meaning he gives his team a lot of autonomy to do their jobs and get it right. So if Holland surrounds himself with smart people, I see no reason why he wouldn’t embrace their new or old ideas. That comes with a lot of trust, though, and for Holland, trust is built through experience and (*sigh*) loyalty.

BM: How does Ken communicate with the fans? How transparent is he with his plans, vision, etc?

NS: The Red Wings have always been a tight-lipped organization and Holland was at the centre of that. He’ll do a few interviews with trusted reporters throughout the year. He generally does one big one at the start and at the end of the season. He speaks mostly vaguely about the direction the roster is headed and his philosophies. In short, he talks a lot without saying much. So don’t expect him to lay out his plans in next Saturday’s edition of the Edmonton Journal. He works quietly and doesn’t pay much attention to what’s being reported. I expect that’s one of the things he’ll introduce to Edmonton, especially with how public their struggles have been.

BM: Why should Oilers fans be excited about this hire?

NS: Holland is an incredibly experienced general manager whose had a lot of success in the NHL. He’s very well liked around the league, which means he can get shit done with other GMs. Like I said above, once Holland was given free-reign to go full-rebuild in Detroit, he’s made a lot of really good moves. The trades have all been wins and the bad contracts have stopped. He’s also had some great success in the last few drafts, thanks to his Director of Amateur Scouting, Tyler Wright (who is rumoured to be joining him in Edmonton). I think that if Ken Holland actually gets to operate independently, Oilers fans should be excited about this hire.

BM: In your opinion, did the Oilers make a good move here?

NS: I think that the Oilers made the best choice among the options they had laid out in front of them. Holland is tough, he’s smart, and he’s aggressive. He enables those around him to do their best work. The key is going to be for those above him to not butt in, veto his decisions, or start blabbering to the media. I know that he gets a lot of flak for the Wings current cap situation, but in reality they are on the other side of their cap crunch and things are opening up. Again: once he was given the freedom to build a new team, he made sure to set them up for future success. He’s a tough S.O.B. and for that, I think he can find success in Edmonton.

THE WRAP…

My approach with Ken Holland, despite my reservations about how things have gone in Detroit lately, is to wait and see how the offseason goes. There’s no doubt that Holland walked into a high-pressure situation in Edmonton and how he navigates these next few months will give us a better idea of what to expect from his tenure. Actually, if I’m being honest, reading Nick’s answers about what Holland does well made me feel a lot better about what could come next. If you believe that some of the contracts Holland shelled out were a product of pressure to keep the Wings’ playoff run alive then you can start to understand how that happened, but I’ll be watching to see how he answers for those deals when he faces the media here in Edmonton.

At the end of the day, I understand why Oilers fans are skeptical about this hiring based on how things have gone in Detroit over the last few years, but I think that we also have to hope that Holland has learned from his mistakes and can apply those lessons here in Edmonton. If he can do that, then the Oilers will have picked up a guy that’s been everywhere and done everything, which hopefully paves the way for getting us out of the situation we’re in. Now, I know many of us said that same thing when Peter Chiarelli came aboard, something I’ll readily admit to, but we have to try to not compare the two guys and assume that this next chapter will play out the same before the new guy even gets here. From where I blog, I’ll readily admit that I have my guard up about this hiring, but I’m also willing to keep an open mind to see how things play out.

What do you guys think?



  • Serious Gord

    Loyalty is very much adouble-edged sword. Careers have been both made and ruined by too much of it.

    I have heard it described as an old man’s disease – that it gets worse with age.

    Who will Holland be loyal too? His co-workers in Detroit? Certain members of the OBC? The old way of doing things?

    We shall find out quite quickly I think before the start of next season?

  • bcoil

    The problem is and has been for all the years that Katz has owned the team is the constant second quessing and backstabbing by the OBC .There has to come a time (if this team this to be successful) when Katz has to tell them that they ( the OBC ) may have been great hockey players but they know dick about running a team or evaluating talent and they should not reach out to him any more or he is going to retire them from their cushy jobs.

  • CMG30

    I guess we’re in wait and see mode. For better or worse this organization has made their bet. I can’t say that I’m personally thrilled but this is where we dind ourselves…

  • Hemmercules

    “Holland operates “brain trust”-style, meaning he gives his team a lot of autonomy to do their jobs and get it right. So if Holland surrounds himself with smart people, I see no reason why he wouldn’t embrace their new or old ideas. That comes with a lot of trust, though, and for Holland, trust is built through experience and (*sigh*) loyalty.”

    This both worries and excites me. Reading that makes me think he will be cleaning house for his own people, but the OBC may force him to keep certain individuals. I hope the rumour about total autonomy was true. Good thing about it is he has no loyalty built with anyone below him coming in Edmonton.

    Good article. I almost hate that I’m starting to feel pretty good about this hire. Chia was a real eye opener but Holland has a much better track record.

    • BobbyCanuck

      Surely the autonomy aspect is built into his employment contract…as soon as OBC interferes, he will record the matter, take it to Katz, and say I quit, and you owe me the balance of the contract that you broke. Win Win for Holland

  • bcoil

    The problem with the OBC that keeps second guessing an back stabbing the decisions of the previous management and coaching staff is that although they where great hockey players ( skating shooting a puck ) they know nothing about managing a multi million dollar organization with hundreds of staff. Nor do they know how to evaluate talent .Now how do we get Katz to understand that .He does in his other business so why does he not do it with the oilers.

  • OilerForLife

    We as Oilers fans need to wait and see how this works out. None of the other candidates had NHL GM experience, and I agree this is best option out there. Can’t we all just wait and see and move forward with some trepidation. I’m sick and tired with all the OBC talk. Can we just table it for now, OBC (old boring chat).

  • Derian Hatcher

    Good read. Thanks BM. For me, it comes down to this; For more than a decade, through the plethora of management and coaching changes, the multitude of press conferences and “plans”, having to listen to the smartest guys in the room a million times, the Oilers management have been Lucy and the fans have been Charlie Brown. The football has been pulled away one too many times. I suspect that many of us are staying on the sidelines until we see that Holland will place the football on the tee, laces out, and hold it there.

  • Ass Eatn Szn 69

    So apparently Holland turned down the job 3 times, than finally they threw enough money at him to convince him to come. Dear God what is wrong with this organization.

  • billsbills

    I was critical of the NTC/NMC that Holland handed out. Then someone said about as many as Yzerman has in Tampa. So I went and took a peak. Tampa actually has 10 NTC/NMC. A couple are about to end on defence for guys in their mid 30s. But Alex Killorn is 29 and has a NTC for 4 more years at 4.45, Tyler Johnson is 28 with a NTC for 5 more years at 5.0
    Ondrej Palat is 28 with 3 more at 5.3, Ryan Callahan is a UFA next year with a NTC and Stamkos at 29 is 5 more years at 8.5 with a NTC. They have 7 players to sign including Braydon Point and $5 million in Cap space.

    Everyone seems to say that Yzerman is a very astute GM. Who apparently handcuffed himself with NTC and put Tampa in cap hell before bailing on them.

    Awesome, maybe Edmonton got the best out of Detroit.

  • TKB2677

    When it comes to Holland, I am not sure if he is the right guy yet. I need to see him physically do something first before I start making that decision. Firing some of the hockey ops people that have needed to go for a long time would be a massive start. But I what I will say is for those how are critical of Holland because of the Wings recent record, I think they need to think about a few things.
    – The playoff streak. The Wings guy touched on it but I don’t think people realize how much of an impact that would have on a team and it’s future. I have heard Wings media touch on it, I have heard management touch on it, I have heard former players touch on it. That playoff streak meant EVERYTHING to the Wings and most importantly the owner. Yes there is the saying “all you have to do is get in and you have a chance.” Sure, I guess that’s true but let’s be honest, most times the team that makes it into the playoffs on the last day, don’t do squat because the good teams are so superior. So I am sure there were MANY Wings teams who realistically had no chance of winning but were just good enough to maybe squeak in IF they got some luck and made some moves. So they made the moves and spent the asses just to get in. They kept guys they shouldn’t have just to get in. So to keep the streak alive, they made moves just to get in when in reality if they did some just a little bit differently and maybe miss for 1 season, they would be far superior in the long run.
    – Another factor. What does having an aging, failing health owner do to your organization when it comes to making moves. When your owner is in his high 80’s and only has a few years left on this earth, are you as an organization realistically looking to tear the team down so your dying owner gets to what his beloved team SUCK? I doubt it.

  • elliotsmom

    I am also going to keep an open mind about Mr. Holland. Hopefully, he makes some personnel changes with management and surrounds himself with people that will truly benefit the organization. With all of the experience and respect he has earned around the league, it will be important to find and win trades that. He will definitely need to tweak some of his old-school style, and adopt a newer and more modern way of analyzing the players we have, and will be looking at. Getting the right coach(Nelson) is absolutely a priority. Getting rid of some of the boat anchors of contracts, is going to take a miracle. He has lots of work to do, but with the right people around him, he might just be the right guy for the Oilers. I wish him well.

  • 71CUDAMAN

    Holland said he doesn’t like social media which i admire. His focus is the team and everything else is just noise. ALL i personally care about is WINS! He can sign Mickey Mouse to play on the top line or keep the OBC for all i care as long as they WIN and contender for lord Stanley.

  • everton fc

    Flames fan here. In peace! 😉

    I like this signing, but also think Hunter and Keith Gretzky would have been good. But this organization needs an experienced GM. One comment below, should be of concern, though:

    “As for his worst moves, it’s definitely the contracts he hands out. For one, he loves giving out no-trade clauses, but the worst part is the term he gives. Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm and Luke Glendening are all examples of bottom-6 players who were signed to unnecessarily long deals. Abdelkader’s is widely considered as one of the worst contracts in the league. This stems from Holland’s philosophy on loyalty. If you work hard and show the organization you care, then you will be rewarded no matter how much skill you have.”

    Very true.

    Still, I think this is a very good move, for your Oilers. I am excited for you all. Really. Never hated the Oilers. Canucks and Leafs, yes – but never the Jets or the Oilers. As for the Sens, hate the owner. Not the team.

    I think Holland will surround himself w/sound people. If he can get Tyler Wright to come to Edmonton, that’d be a great move, as well.

  • hagar

    Thinking positive thoughts, at least trying, but man some of those answers gave me a bad feeling. He kinda sounds taylormade for the position from the perspective of the powers that be.

  • Lazarus

    Good read. Seguin seems to be trying to play nice with comments like ” the Oilers did the best with the options they had” and “I harbor no ill feelungs against him”, “if those above him stay out of it (not happening)
    No ringing endorsements at all.
    Ken Chiarelli at your service

    • vetinari

      Good g0d, he looks and sounds like a junkie who’s been on a decade long bender… no wonder no one has been monitoring what the GM’s been doing with an owner/leader like Katz.

    • Wesley41

      It never fails after surgery they always have that same plastic surgery looking face so what is the point.Not hockey talk I know but just stick with what you got from birth because rarely do you look better,just my unimportant too cents!

  • Serious Gord

    1. So BN hired one of his closest friends in the game. Was that the trump card in the hiring “process”?

    2. Complete autonomy doesn’t reach beyond the hockey side – so klowe And WG will remain.

    3. Begs the question- if he’s so great why did the wings push him upstairs?

    4. Signed for five years. Is he moving permanently to the city?

  • Glencontrolurstik

    Predator Ridge,… Hockey Canada Headquarters,… Bob Nicholson,… Wayne Gretzky,… Ken Holland’s home town…
    All these things connect… (Google the first two & the last) The OBC is just expanding & moving to the Club House for the off-season.
    I really hope not,… but, put it this way, don’t get our hopes up.

  • Heschultzhescores

    The fact is, we don’t make these decisions, we just have to live with them. Not unlike the wife and home life. That said, sometimes even the wife is right. We can hope that Holland wants to upstage Yzerman and that challenge brings out his best. If his last 3 years didn’t suck, he’d probably still be in Detroit, so maybe that was a good thing. Let’s hope it was a blip and he has some gas left in the tank for the Oil.