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Photo Credit: Jason Franson/Canadian Press

Who you know

In the NHL business, just like in any other business you’d care to name, who you know can be every bit as important as what you know. You only need to look at how the Edmonton Oilers have rebuilt their hockey operations department this off-season for the latest example of that.

In a passionate hockey town that has cast a suspicious eye at what cynics called the Old Boys’ Club – a group of former Oilers players involved in various positions within hockey ops – since all the successes of the 1980’s faded, the way forward will be charted by another group of hockey men for whom familiarity is a factor.

That’s not necessarily good or bad – results dictate how the relationships are perceived. They always do. It’s reality, whether you are running a tech company, a furniture store or an NHL team. All things being equal, which is a significant caveat and one seen as a problem with the OBC, it is human nature to draw on relationships. You go with who you know, who you trust, who you have history with. It’s always been that way. Always will be.

The ties might not be as direct as they were when Kevin Lowe was the GM of the Oilers and Craig MacTavish was coaching the team, but they are there nonetheless as new POHO and GM Ken Holland puts together the hockey ops department that will have to clean up the mess left by the Pete Chiarelli regime.

KEN HOLLAND

CEO Bob Nicholson, charged with finding a replacement for Chiarelli, circled back to Holland after their initial conversation had been less than promising. Holland, kicked upstairs in Detroit when Steve Yzerman came in as GM, had a job for life with the Red Wings as a senior advisor if he wanted it. It didn’t take very long for Holland to realize that wasn’t enough to sink his teeth into. After Nicholson and Holland, who have known each other for decades, talked again, the search was essentially over.

“I’ve known Ken for a while,” Nicholson said when Holland was unveiled May 7. “When Steve was named GM in Detroit and they gave Ken a great contract to stay with them really for life, I thought this might be tough. I had the first phone call with him, it didn’t last long. The next one lasted three hours. I knew there was something there and there was a good possibility.

I know how he’s respected as a general manager. Two people’s names would always come up, Ken Holland and Lou Lamoriello. They’ve been around for a long time. These are guys that have huge relationships and you need that to try to make hockey deals. It’s tough, but you have to have that relationship and Ken has it.”

DAVE TIPPETT

Between Tippett’s time in Dallas and Arizona, Holland got a first-hand look at his handiwork behind the bench while he was running the show in Detroit. A Jack Adams Award winner, Tippett had the inside track for the coaching position because Holland valued what Tippett could bring – the ability to communicate and experience.

Dave brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization,” Holland said about Tippett on May 28. “He is a great communicator and has consistently led teams known for their level of compete. I look forward to seeing Dave guide the Oilers this fall and we are all excited to have him on board.”

JIM PLAYFAIR

Playfair, a former Oilers’ first-round draft pick in 1982, was virtually an automatic to join Tippett here after spending six seasons, 2011-17, on his staff with the Arizona Coyotes. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Playfair was hired as an associate coach on June 20.

BRIAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, who has spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach with the University of Michigan, was added to Tippett’s staff today, joining Playfair and incumbent Glen Gulutzan. Wiseman was Tippett’s video coach in 2002-03 with Dallas and he played for him with the Houston Aeros in 1997-98.

ARCHIE HENDERSON

Henderson takes over from Duane Sutter as the Oilers director of pro scouting after spending four seasons on Holland’s pro staff with the Red Wings. Henderson and Holland go back was farther than that – they were teammates with the Binghamton Whalers back in 1982-83.

TYLER WRIGHT

Wright, another former Oilers’ first-round draft pick (12th overall in 1991), takes over as director of amateur scouting. Wright held the same position with Holland in Detroit for six season after spending two years doing the same job with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

THIRD ANNUAL OILERSNATION OPEN

After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.

  • When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
  • Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
  • How much – $1000/team
  • Teams – Groups of Four (4)
  • How – Book your team here

As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.

Previously by Robin Brownlee



  • Dallas Eakins Hair

    I doubt anyone is surprised Holland has tapped some of those that have worked with him, or for him or that he has associations with somehow for jobs within the org, Most GM’s will usually try and bring those they know, trust and can do the task they would be assigned to.

    The Oilers have need change within the organisation for a looooong time, so now that we are getting it, I am more than happy, Istill believ there are a few more people that need to be shown the door, but this is a good start. The fact Holland is looking for scouts for Europe is a good thing, the Oilers not filling the role I thought was asinine. Scouting is a necessary beast and to not have a full compliment of eye and ear just is giving the competition the edge, because you are one less team looking at this or that guy that other teams may be looking at.

    Oilers hired a new video coach today, so glad to see there is some progress being made and of course someone Holland knows. I am a lot more optimistic about Holland as GM then I was, the move to help find some scoring for the bottom six, the dumping of Lucic contract with one that may or may not have t be bought out from one that was buyout proof was a steal, there are some moves I didnt like, but so far the positives out weigh the negatives by a long shot

    • BringtheFire 2.0

      Hey Dallas! so, I’m not trying to start anything, just a question: why do you refer to us as; “Value Village”? I’m curious because it really sounds like I should be insulted, I just don’t know why. Also, since I’m trying to talk hockey on my posts…

      I don’t like Holland. Not because he’s your GM, but because he was the a prominent proponent of three on three hockey. As a hockey executive, however, I think he’s a fantastic fit for the Oil. But, moving Looch isn’t the miracle you all make it out to be. You just needed a savvy GM to get it done, and that has been something that’s been lacking in Edmonton.

      As for me, I don’t know what to think of the trade. Tre isn’t stupid, so for him to take on that contract…you have to admit, there has to be something seriously wrong with Neal for the Flames to have given up on him so quickly. I’m not saying it’s not going to work in Edmonton, or that you guys lost the trade, but…something has to be up with that guy. The circumstantial evidence is just to great.

      Yeah, so if you could hook me up with the meaning of; “Value Village,” that’d be great. Looking forward to the BOA this year.

      Great hair.

  • Serious Gord

    One old boys club for another:

    Nicholson 66
    Holland 64 in four months
    Tippett 58 in two days
    Playfair 55
    Wiseman 48
    Henderson 62
    Tyler Wright 46

    The oldest group in the league? Maybe. Certainly not even remotely close to being the youngest. I think that in every case they are older than the guy they replaced.

    And I await the announcement that the team has added another five people to their analytics staff and greatly expanded the scouting department to get with the times.

    Hiring a few (2, maybe 3) people you know to help provided they are also highly qualified but 5? That’s a recipe for underperformance.

    Finally I still have yet to read an EDM journo note that the wings ownership had been trying for three years to move Holland out of being GM (from Yzerman wiki entry “…The Detroit News in 2016 that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch attempted to promote Holland to make room for Yzerman to become the team’s general manager, but Holland declined the promotion.”

    Sure lots of people respect Holland’s work. But his last – extremely generous- employer hasn’t considered him up to the task for more than three years.

    • sweetweb

      Lets see the ages of the leadership of the Stanley Cup Champions St. Louis Blues:
      Tom Stillman – Chairman and Governor: 67 Years Old
      Doug Armstrong – GM: 54 Years Old
      Dave Taylor – Vice President, Hockey Operations: 63 Years Old
      Al MacInnis – Senior Advisor to the General Manager: 56 Years Old
      Larry Pleau – Senior Advisor of Amateur Scouting: 72 Years Old
      Craig Berube – Coach: 53 Years Old

      Why do you keep lying? Most NHL front office are pretty old.

      • Serious Gord

        Let’s compare apples to apples shall we?

        The blues peers are on average much younger. And even more relevantly they were hired at far younger ages:

        Zimmerman – President 59 – hired at age 54

        Armstrong – GM 54 been there for nine years – hired at age 45

        Berube – Coach 53

        MacDonald – pro scout 53 – hired to position at age 41

        Mike van ryn – asst coach 40 hired at age 37

        Steve ott asst coach age 36 hired at age 34

        Bill Armstrong- amateur scouting – age 53 hired at age 42.

        • Just facts

          The average age of the GMs of the last 10 cup winners was 53 and that’s including Bowman 3 times who had some help from another Bowman in his late 70’s. If you exclude Bowman the average is 58, with a range of 47 to 68.. The Gm’s of the last four were all above 50, with 3 of the four 60 or over. The only Stanley Cup GM other than Bowman in the last 10 under 50 was….Chiarelli. So beyond being ageist, you’re theory is just wrong.

          • Serious Gord

            You take out bowman and your average age goes up (from 53 to 57)?

            I have gone through this on another a while back – in the history of the Stanley cup only (if memory serves) – only two won it at age older than holland is now. And more relevant is the age at which they were hired and then won a cup. Only mr. Bowman was older.

            Being ageist is a fact. Not many talented hockey player in the NHL playing right now. (A lot of people equate ageism with racism and that’s idiotic)

            Countless books of management research, plays (including a couple of Shakespeare) movies etc have been written about the decline in abilities as one ages – especially in day to day leadership roles.

            One of THE great challenges in all businesses is succession from one generation to the next. I deal with and advise on it literally every week. I have many clients and associates – some in very large, well-known enterprises that struggle with leaders who can’t let go – can’t move on to the next stage on their career. To borrow the phrase – they have lost the edge on their fastball. When that happens – and rarely does a leader leave at the right time and almost never do they leave early, it usually gets a bit unpleasant as the successors try to move them out. Sometimes really unpleasant.

            I find it remarkable how short the memories are of most of the fans and media. And they – rather than do the research just give visceral reactions against arguments and data the reject their happy narrative.

          • Serious Gord

            That point has been made long ago – they were hired for the wrong reasons AKA OBC.

            The double whammy this time is a new group of old boys – granted with better cvs that are somewhat more relevant to the job they were hired for – is replacing some of the OBC AND they are actually old.

    • Dallas Eakins Hair

      Gord FN could use your solid support, the way you Lamers fans are spending all your time here whining about Neal and The Oilers you should go to FN and rah rah there, I am sure with all the setback they have suffered they would love to hear your undying love for everything Lamers and your hate for the Oilers… might take their mind off the rebuild

      • Stallions #35

        I think as much as everyone wants an “edit” button…you need to consider a “hide post” button so we can filter out those FULL-TIME negative nancies. I understand there can be some complaining at times but for someone to just come on here to spew negativity on a fan site… life must not be going so well.

    • CMG30

      You’ve made a leap in logic there Gord. You can’t equate the Wings trying to aquire Yzerman with Holland no longer being up to the job.

      A simpler explanation is that the Wings knew that Holland was in the tail end of his career and they knew that they wanted Yzerman to be the GM that succeeded him. Trouble is that the windows of Yzerman being available and Holland vacating the position were not aligned so management did what they could to try and bring in Stevie Y. Holland’s preformance need not have anything to do with it. The Wings just didn’t know when they would get another shot.

      • Right you are. This common sense — and accurate — take on the situation in Detroit will never fly with somebody who obsesses about finding the most negative take possible and latching on to it time after time after time after time. Downplay and dismiss anything remotely positive while accentuating and droning on and on about anything remotely negative. It’s his thing. You can look it up.

        • Serious Gord

          And robin I have been right far more often than I have been wrong for over a decade.

          The fans and media of this team need to get some realistic glasses on or they are going to be eating their words yet again three of four years from now.

          • I get it, Gord. Nobody except you has even a fleeting grasp of reality. Do you actually think that spewing non-stop negativity when the team is in the crapper as it has been pretty much since 2006 means you have insight others don’t? It doesn’t.

            That’s something that’s been easy to be right about more often than not. There have been so many legitimate concerns about how things have been done, and by whom, for years that one doesn’t need to look far for a negative slant. Plenty of people — writers here and fans — have pointed out that ineptitude and failure. The difference is, you seem to revel and wallow in the negative. Even the most jaded and rightfully pissed off critic will occasionally recognize not everything is gloom and doom, but not you. Every day is dark.

            Being bitter and angry is what you do. It’s who you are. It’s your reality.

          • toprightcorner

            Now you sound exactly like a member of the OBC club you arrogant a$$. People that have to publically announce that they are usually right are actually wrong most of the time.

          • BobbyCanuck

            Serious, you need to lighten up, maybe this will help, a song we have all heard, but with a slight difference

            Sunny day
            Sweepin’ the clouds away
            On my way to where the air is sweet

            Can you tell me how to get,
            How to get to Positive Street?

            Come and play
            Everything’s A-OK
            Friendly neighbors there
            That’s where we meet

            Can you tell me how to get
            How to get to Positive Street?

            It’s a magic carpet ride
            Every door will open wide
            To happy people like you–
            Happy people like
            What a beautiful

            Sunny Day
            Sweepin’ the clouds away
            On my way to where the air is sweet

            Can you tell me how to get,
            How to get to Positive Street

          • Serious Gord

            Robin I await your next post where you actually rebut my evidence rather than attack the presenter. You are better than that. Aren’t you?

            And spare me the straw man attack “nobody except…” “non-stop negativity…” you are a better writer than that.

            The point I have consistently made – that no one has rebutted is the the old way of doing things remains in place compounded by the IMO almost always fatal error of hiring old boys who are actually OLD. Cite the case anywhere where that is a winning strategy.

            That that means we are more likely to see a negative outcome (yet again) isn’t my fault. Nor is it my fault that the fans and media choose not just ignore it but attack those who point it out.

            That’s not bitter nor angry. It just the facts.

          • Deported to Ottawa

            Wow, a self aggrandizing fortune teller.

            How awesome that you’ve lent your infinite wisdom to us for no other reason than to point out our collective limitations.

            The only problem is you base your conclusions on ASSumptions not facts.

      • Serious Gord

        Let’s rephrase the logic then:

        But first I need to correct something:

        The story of the wings wanting to kick holland upstairs was made public in 2016. The event actually happened in 2010. At that point Yzerman left for Tampa.

        So back to the logic:

        The wings for nine years thought Yzerman to be the better option for GM than Holland.

        Holland blocked the first attempt and one can surmise wasn’t happy the second time.

        So had wings ownership had had its way holland would have been retired as GM at the age of 54 and they would have had Yzerman as GM starting at age 45.

        • Corbs

          You don’t even make sense. The wings didn’t have to “try” to do anything. If they wanted him gone they could have fired him. You aren’t just constantly negative, you’re also constantly wrong.

        • Dallas Eakins Hair

          LOL Gord, you keep trying to sell this the sky is falling here, The thing is none of us are under the impression Holland was going to be able to fix the mess Chia left, nor any of the issues that us fans think are wrong with the Oilers in the Mgmt end of things in a year or even two. Hell I have said before Holland wasnt my choice for GM, but with that said I have been impressed with what Holland has done thus far, it’s got me warming up to the idea of him as GM. ON fans dont care if you think you won or lost the Neal or Lucic trade, a lot of us like Looch, we just didnt like that he hit the cliff and Chia signed him to a contract that was buyout proof and was an albatross to deal with, the fact that Holland was able to suck -er- deal Lucic to the Lamers for Neal and some other considerations is a win in our books because the Oilers have options available to them if Neal doesnt work out that we didnt have with Lucic… it’s that simple.

          Its obvious much like the Other regular Lamers trolls whose names pop up here regularly, your just here to spout rhetoric and try to convince yourself that Brad’s big signing of Talbot in free agency is some kind of win, and Looch means a stanley parade, but hey dare to dream.

          You seem to be pretty upset that Holland got one over on Brad, you need to get over it, seems to be consuming you, maybe instead of sitting here day after day hour after hour spouting on and on how its all doom and gloom here in Oil Country, you should go to FN and pump the tires there, they could use someone of your undying belief that team Value Village is cup bound.

        • toprightcorner

          You are 100% wrong again and are simply making things up to sound smart. Yzerman left specifically because he felt he was ready to be a GM and knew he had no shot in DET for a long time and didn’t want to wait 10 years to get his shot so he left.

          DET was never nterested in hirng Yzerman for GM until he left Tampa. He had an out in his contract that allowed him to make a lateral move as a GM to another team whenever he wanted. He still took a over a year to actually rejoin DET.

          You are basically saying that Detroit wanted to replace Holland with Yzerman, 2 years after winning a Cup and a year after the Wings lost to PIT in the finals. If you want to make up stories to make it sould like you are smart, maybe do a bit of research so the stories are actually plausible.
          Serious Gords made up theory:
          Illitch – I have a great idea, we just lost in the Finals and won the year before that, so let’s fire the winningest GM in the league and replace him with Stevie-Y who has never been a GM, but since he won a few cups, he should make this team win the next 3 cups”

          • Dallas Eakins Hair

            Exactly right. Once Stevie Y was leaving Tampa, everyone knew he would end up in Detroit, its more than well known Stevie Y wanted to be closer to family in Michigan. Holland was willing to still stay with the wings, until the Oilers called and asked him to be GM, Holland decided to take the job. no real mystery as to what transpired here

    • toprightcorner

      Only you would see OBC and automatically think of age. Some of the most successful teams have the oldest GMs and executives.

      Nill – 59
      Tallon – 66
      Poile – 67
      Rutherford – 68
      Wilson – 59
      Lamarello – 74
      McPhee – 59
      Brian MacLellan- 59

      Assistant GMS – there are 12 over the age of 55, 3 over the age ofof 60. 1 over 74 and 2 over 81. These guys are on teams such as Toronto, Dallas, Montreal, Florida, Nashville, Rangers, Philly, Washington and Vegas, all qualty teams.

      Age has absolutely nothing to do with it, its the brains that count ans the OBC )a group of no more that 5-6, were stupid, yet they thought they were the smartes hockey minds around.

      • Deported to Ottawa

        Don’t forget Gord looks at the ages at hiring. Claiming current age is irrelevant. He then goes on a tangent about his expertise at succession planning when leaders get to old. He’s a walking contradiction.

      • Ken Holland

        Anyone complaining about Holland after the work hes done over the past 2 months has some serious issues(no pun intended).

        Complaining about the age of one of the most legendary GMs in NHL history, it’s not even worth a response. Some people just enjoy being negative.

        I for one am just enjoying the black cloud that was Lucic thats being lifted. I didnt realize how much he contributed to my overall team depression.

        • Off the wall

          Hi Ken, I really enjoyed you trampling on our Flames Nation site yesterday.

          Now it’s my turn.

          However, instead of trashing Oilers Nation, (not my style, that’s more for insecure fans) I’d like to say this.

          We had a few ON visitors who provided some useful and informative posts. I commend them from refraining to make it about winners and losers. They get it.

          We both had players who were traded from their respective teams, due to the fit in their organizational needs.

          I wouldn’t expect you to understand, as you apparently still have a black cloud above your head, only it’s not Lucic.

          It’s in your mirror. Every time you come over to FN and be a Ken Doll, I’m gonna come over here and just stare at you.

          Don’t look at my eyes!!

          • Ken Holland

            This was my post. Maybe you didn’t read it. I thought it was very honest.

            Lucic will protect the smaller skilled players. No one will take liberties.

            I’ve watched every Oiler game over the past 3 seasons. The after whistle slashing and rough stuff was non existent after Lucic was signed. Before that Nuge, McDavid and the other skilled players were always getting hurt.

            That being said, I find it hilarious that Flames fans are all of a sudden pretending this guy does anything else. For years fans took digs at the Oilers and this contract. Now all of a sudden hes worth while, just because your GM traded for him in our desperation. Drink some more kool-aid.

          • Dallas Eakins Hair

            LOL You have Lamers trolls that are here regularly that most of us here at ON know them by name, and you came here to troll by not trolling but still taking swipes…whoo the irony

  • Fireball

    I think the big thing here is the on going failures of the past guys ( OBC ) but somehow they managed to stay in the organization long past their expiration dates. Failed GM to Prez .., Failed coach to GM.., so on and so forth. I somehow get the feeling Holland would not have a job in the organization in 5 years if it went as bad as the last 5 years of the so called OBC. Just saying..

  • D

    Man, with all the articles out there that mention Peter Chiarelli and words like “the mess”, “pathetic job”, “failed”, “doomed”, and “disaster” (to name a few), Google Search may prevent Chiarelli from ever getting NHL employment again.

  • CMG30

    So far I have liked what Holland has done. He didn’t go wild in free agency, instead he picked the pockets of the Flames with a move that the Flamers are still trying to justify. The only questionable move so far was our first round pick. But even that was in the range enough that it’s only a minor annoyance. So far so good Holland. Keep it up!

  • Derkus the circus

    Acquiring Neal has nothing to do with stats. Its a zero risk play. Lucic aint scoring more than 5 and neal might not either. Only thing that matters is july 2020 options for Neal vs zero options for lucic.

  • Esa Beukberger

    Sorry, couldn’t read this article. Still pretty gibbled… celebrating the Lucic trade for 4 days 🍻… at least 4 more to go. Thank you Ken… I mean, Sir.

  • Nellzo

    Regardless of what happens next Holland has definitely had an impact on the organization. At the very least he’s treading water with the on ice product. Attempting to fill holes in the lineup on the cheap without handcuffing the team in the future is a smart play. All the while he’s pretty much rebuilding the coaching, scouting and analytics departments from the ground up. Not to mention I doubt that he’s done working the phones. If he can turn Russell into a comparable RH defenseman on a similar or hopefully cheaper contract I’ll consider it a good start for him and a decent summer for the team.

  • Moneyball

    I don’t really care who gets hired as long as the job gets done. The one questionable move I see is Tyler Wright, I’m not sure he is better than what we had in amateur scouting. That being said if Holland and co have the balls to sit puljujarvi for a year they will have really changed the game here in Edmonton. No longer will 3rd line players call the shots, the team concept can start to prevail over a greedy or selfish player, who are gutless on the ice.

    • Torgerson

      I don’t think they can just “sit” Puljujarvi. If the Oilers sent him to the AHL he would have to clear waivers and someone would take him. If he’s on the team he feels entitled to top-six minutes but hasn’t earned it. That’s why it may be best for the Oilers if he goes to Europe for a year (Edmonton would retain his NHL rights). Of course, that’s up to him and his agent. There’s a good David Staples article in the Journal about it.

      • Dallas Eakins Hair

        Pool Party is an RFA the Oilers hold his rights. You are exactly right that to be sent to the AHL. Poolparty would have to clear waivers and I doubt that will happen. The Oilers extended a qualifying offer to PoolParty but we dont know that he has signed it. The only leverage Poolparty has is to not sign the offer, but that just means he doesnt get a paycheck from the Oilers, the Oilers still would retain his rights. Poolparty could go and try and play in Europe but most of the main teams had their rosters set a while ago for the upcoming season, so unless he squeaks on to one, he is going to be stuck in a slightly lesser tiered leagues team for way less money

        Poolparty and his agent have Jesse in a corner with the trade us or we go play in Europe threat, hence why his agent is now saying Jesse doesnt want to play in Europe. Poolparty may not have a choice now and I wouldnt be at all surprised if Poolparty does end up in Europe after all is said and done