Ken Holland reportedly a front runner for vacant Blue Jackets general manager job

Zach Laing
1 month ago
Ken Holland could take his talents to… Columbus?
While Holland is still with the Oilers, looking to close out the 2024 playoffs in a big way, it does mark the final season of a five-year deal that he signed with the team in the spring of 2019.
At the end of the 2022-23 season, Holland was noncommittal about his future with the organization but spoke about his desire to win another Stanley Cup.
Surely, that’s at the forefront of his mind as the Oilers look to advance through the second round, but a pair of reports this week suggested the Columbus Blue Jackets could have interest in the general manager.
On Wednesday’s edition of the 32 Thoughts Podcast, Sportsnet’s Eliotte Friedman spoke about the vacant role in Columbus, hinting that Holland could interest them, even though other rumours have swirled about Marc Bergevin there.
I’m under the impression they are still waiting to talk to people. What’s going to happen in Edmonton after the season? That is, I think, one of the situations that could have an effect on Columbus. Are there any other teams that are going to go out they’re going to want to talk to people from their organizations?
I know there’s a lot of smoke around Bergevin right now, and I do think he’s someone they’ve talked to, but I can always be wrong. My impression on Tuesday is they’re not there yet and they’re still waiting to talk to people.
On Thursday, St. Louis Blues reporter Andy Strickland tweeted that “Ken Holland to #CBJ rumours don’t seem to die down anytime soon” and that “maybe a long run to the Final (sic) would change things, but there are many who feel he’s headed to Columbus to fill their GM vacancy. Mentor Rick Nash to eventually take over?”
Rumours had circled in Edmonton that Steve Staios was once believed to be the front-runner to take over the general manager role from Holland with the Oilers, but he’s long since been hired by the Ottawa Senators in the same position.
Hockey operations CEO Jeff Jackson entered the organization ahead of the 2023-24 season, when the Oilers had been hoping to get off to a hot start to the year. That didn’t happen, and Jackson and Holland decided to fire Jay Woodcroft and replace him with Kris Knoblauch. The move paid dividends, as the Oilers have been the best team in the NHL since Knoblauch took over in mid-November.
At the time of the firing, both Jackson and Holland spoke about it being a joint decision — despite struggles getting their story straight — to make the coaching change.
The hiring of Knoblauch, meanwhile, had Jackson’s fingerprints all over it.
“He has a very good feel for the players, he knows how to take the really star players and empower them, but more importantly, he gives everyone a role and they know what their role is, and there’s accountability at the end of the day,” said Jackson at the time of Knoblauch’s hiring. “That’s the thing that I’ve watched over the years with Kris.
“I was really close to the team when he was in Erie. I had a lot of clients, not just Connor McDavid. I had clients in Hartford. I’ve seen what he can do with teams, so all of that put together, that’s why Kris is sitting here today.”
All this to say that it’s not unreasonable for the Oilers to move on from Holland at season end, whether that was with him retiring after a Hall of Fame career or the team choosing not to re-sign his contract.
Holland has done good work in Edmonton, signing players like Zach Hyman and Evander Kane while extending Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a very team-friendly deal that will keep him an Oiler for life. Couple those with the acquisition of Mattias Ekholm and reworking much of the roster, and since his hiring, the Oilers have accumulated the sixth most regular season wins and ninth most playoff wins in his tenure.
His misses have been notable in Edmonton, too. His draft record has left much to be yearned for, given his first first-round draft pick, Philip Broberg, is a healthy scratch in the playoffs, while his second, Dylan Holloway, is just starting to find his game at the NHL level. No other draftee has sniffed close to a spot in the NHL lineup, though his 2022 first-round selection of Reid Schaefer was able to be packaged up in the deal that brought Ekholm to town. Holland also signed Jack Campbell to his sure-to-be bought-out in the offseason contract while inking Darnell Nurse to a deal worth millions more than he’s truly worth.
No matter what follows, this offseason will be interesting in Edmonton.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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