What Questions Did Oilers Ask Ken Holland?

If reports are accurate (and there’s no reason they wouldn’t be) the Edmonton Oilers will name former Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland the new GM of the Oilers franchise. An “exhaustive” search told the Oilers the GM with the most experience was their guy. They made a formal offer over the weekend and an announcement is expected Monday or Tuesday.

I’m not going to go as far as some and suggest this is a mistake, but I have made my opinion clear that I believe the Oilers rushed this decision. My belief is that it’s partly because of Kelly McCrimmon no longer being available and partly because of concern Holland might get scooped up by Seattle. Speculation is that the Oilers didn’t conduct a formal interview with Holland but made an offer in the hopes he would make himself available after allegedly pulling himself out of the race.

One Twitter user joked, “Out of the two candidates that I interviewed, Ken Holland (who I didn’t interview) impressed me the most.” There are many fans in Edmonton today echoing this sentiment. Others are willing to give it a chance, even if all of this is eerily similar to what happened when Edmonton hired their last GM.

This may turn out to be a good decision, but if the Oilers rushed this hire, fans can only pray Nicholson did enough research and asked the right questions.

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What Did the Oilers Ask Holland?

We have to assume Nicholson and Holland, at the very least, had multiple conversations even if a formal interview didn’t take place. Fans and media will likely never know, but many will wonder, ‘What was said in those conversations?’

CEO and Vice-Chair, Oilers Entertainment Group, Bob Nicholson
CEO and Vice-Chair, Oilers Entertainment Group, Bob Nicholson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Did Edmonton ask Holland what he’d do with the current nightmare that is the team’s salary cap situation? Did Nicholson ask what went wrong in Detroit after the team spent years as a dynasty, but now has somewhat similar contract issues? Does Holland know who he’d keep or try and trade? Better yet, how he’d go about doing so?

Maybe the Oilers focused on analytics and asked if the Red Wings rely heavily on the study of them. How much did their organization base their decision on numbers? After all, former GM Peter Chiarelli was known to have his own, somewhat made up version of analytics. The Oilers would be wise to ensure Chia and Holland don’t approach the theory of analytics in the same way.

Did Holland have a specific approach to a heavy game versus a speed game? Did he know who he wanted to bring with him from the Red Wings? Does he know who he wants to hire as the new head coach?

Yes, if you’re hiring Holland, you’re confident he’ll make the right choices. But, wouldn’t it be nice to have an idea of what his approach will be and if it’s remotely close (or better yet, far different) than what your own organization has deemed to be the problem(s)?

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Why Was Holland So Uncertain?

There are reports that before Holland said yes to Edmonton, he called those he trusted most and said ‘What should I do?’ He got responses like, ‘the environment is toxic in Edmonton if you go anywhere near social media.’ In short, he was advised that the market is a bit nutty.

Steve Yzerman
Steve Yzerman (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

In some circles, there was a sense Holland felt less-than-confident leaving his friend and newest hire in Detroit, Steve Yzerman. Some have even gone so far as to suggest Holland felt pressure when the financials of the Oilers offer went public and those close to him said he’d be crazy not to take such a lucrative deal at his age. After all, with bonuses, Holland will get close to five million for five years in Edmonton. He was scheduled to make three million for three years in Detroit.

Other reports suggest that none of this is true. That Holland wasn’t worried about perception and that the financials weren’t as big a factor, even if they were attractive.

But, perhaps asking, “Hey Ken, is there anything that gives you pause in taking this position?” would have been a worthy question.

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Holland at the End of the Day

This should turn out to be a great opportunity for Holland and it could be the right choice for Edmonton. An argument can certainly be made they should have gone with the GM who had the most experience. That’s exactly what they did.

At the end of the day, this is the direction the Oilers chose. Fans will have to accept it. One can only hope that in hiring the most experienced candidate Nicholson asked what Holland learned from his wealth of experience and how he would apply it to the Oilers specific situation.

Holland is a decorated GM. There’s no denying his success. He just hasn’t had it in a while. If the Oilers didn’t ask what they needed to, all that experience might, in fact, be the kind of experience the Oilers don’t want. And, the last thing Edmonton needs is to regret another quick decision.

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