Off the Top of My Head: Ken Holland’s Future with the Oilers

Photo credit:https://twitter.com/EdmontonOilers
Robin Brownlee
9 months ago
With his comments about green bananas and a party machine at his year-end media availability, 67-year-old Edmonton Oilers GM Ken Holland was probably more relatable to Oilers’ fans last week than he had been at any time during the first four seasons of his five-year contract in our town.
Green bananas? At his age and at this point in his career, Holland doesn’t have the luxury of waiting much longer to win another Stanley Cup. As for Oilers fans, especially those young enough they weren’t around for the last date with the engraver in 1990 — let alone the previous four — they’d just as soon see the current edition of the Oilers get on with hoisting the silverware in their lifetime.
As for the party machine bit, those old enough to remember will tell you Edmonton was party central during the dynasty days of the 1980s parades on Jasper Ave. As GM of the Detroit Red Wings, Holland was in the middle of the same kind of good times, winning Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. It sounds like Holland feels he has one more Cup bash in him and he wants to have it here. Fans in this town would be down for a party like that. 
The bottom line is Oilers fans are being asked yet again for more patience after watching their team lose to Colorado in the Western Conference final last season before being bounced in six games by the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round this year. Yes, it’s a big ask, but it’s one that Conner McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, the rest of the team’s core and coach Jay Woodcroft just told us they’re up for. They say they want to win here. 


May 14, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) reacts with teammates after being defeated by the Vegas Golden Knights of the third period in game six of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
When McDavid says, “It’s Stanley Cup or bust for this group. With where everyone is at in their career, that’s the expectation,” he’s telling me what I need to know. Yes, we’re deeper into the contracts of McDavid and Draisaitl without a Stanley Cup to show for it than fans want to be, but when they look us in eyes and say they plan to stick around, I’m taking it at face value. Surely, we’re past the point of giving any sway to the annual “Connor’s going to want out” trolling from other NHL markets.
With McDavid and Draisaitl willing to get back in the ring for another swing, Mattias Ekholm sounding all-in, Evan Bouchard having taken some big steps alongside the towering Swede and Evander Kane looking to bounce back from injury, Holland has a line-up that requires tweaks rather than sweeping changes. The urgency the old GM speaks with bodes well.
“When I came here, I signed a five-year contract,” Holland said. “My belief in my own abilities and my experiences was to try to come and make a difference in a positive way. Some people might decide it’s been a negative way, but I wake up every day and look in the mirror like everybody else and I judge myself. I’m as hard on myself as anybody.
“I’ve gone through four years. I’ve got a year to go. I’ve got nine grandchildren, four children and I’ve still got a ton of energy and a ton of passion. The last time that I was the general manager of a Stanley Cup championship team was 2008. That’s a player’s lifetime. I think that’s going to be 16 years ago. I would love to do that one more time.”  


For all the speculation Holland might step aside as GM here and bring in somebody as his replacement — with lots of buzz Steve Staios might be the guy — my guess is it’s unlikely that happens this off-season. That said, I like the idea of promoting Staios from within hockey-ops into the role of an assistant GM and letting him learn the ropes under Holland for a season.
Staios has paid his dues since retiring as a player in 2012. He spent three years in player development with the Toronto Maple Leafs and then put together an impressive run as GM with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL before signing on with the Oilers as a special assistant to Holland in hockey operations last October. My sense is it’s a year early to bring in Staios as GM, but making that move for 2024-25 works on a lot of levels.


  • Analytics darling Kyle Dubas, 37, likely won’t be out of work very long when he decides to get back into the mix after parting ways with the Maple Leafs Friday. His teams in Toronto had a 221-109-42 record in regular season and went 16-21 in post-season with him as GM. Dubas is perceived by many as a sharp young manager, albeit one one with very little post-season success. I don’t see him as a fit here with Holland wanting another year as GM and Staios and Keith Gretzky waiting in the wings.
  • Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan and the agent for Dubas had been working toward a contract extension but that talks went sideways after Dubas held a media conference to talk about his future with the Maple Leafs and later put forth new salary demands. Sounds a bit sketchy to me.

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