4 Reasons Oilers Fans Should Apologize to GM Ken Holland

While paraphrasing, I’ve seen reactions from ‘Mike Smith being Mike Smith, when will Holland get fired?’ to “Keith got walked on that play, well done Holland.’ There have been plenty of fans who can’t separate Josh Archibald’s decision to remain unvaccinated from the fact he can help the Edmonton Oilers win hockey games, and I’ve seen this GM run through the wringer by fans and media for choosing to be the only GM to sign a player who was accused of domestic abuse and has a checkered financial past.

But, when it comes to “questionable decisions” made by the GM of the Oilers, Holland has often proven he was right and the fans had it completely wrong.

Mike Smith Has Done His Job as a Starter

Yes, Mike Smith is old. Yes, he has a tendency to overplay the puck and it can create chaos. He often makes fans nervous, his health is constantly a question mark and he’s hit and miss with his ability to be a top-tier goaltender. All that said, Smith has been nothing short of incredible for the Oilers down the stretch.

Mike Smith Edmonton Oilers
Mike Smith, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

He closed the regular season on a heck of a run and he’s been fantastic for the Oilers in these 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Putting aside a bad mistake in Game 1 of the series versus the Flames and Game 1 against Calgary where every Oiler on the ice was less-than-stellar, Smith has done all that has been asked of him and more. He’s finding his stride right now having played far fewer games than most starters and he’s getting hot at the right time.

Related: Oilers Adding Kane was NHL’s Best Mid-Season Acquisition in 2021-22

Holland didn’t have to run it back with Smith this offseason, yet he signed the veteran to an inexpensive two-year deal. The $2.2 million Holland spent on a fiery competitor who was bound to eventually show up in the postseason has paid off and it allowed the Oilers to make other moves. Edmonton will let Mikko Koskinen walk in the summer, run with Smith and Stuart Skinner next season, and say thank you to Smith at the end of next year. It has turned out to be the right decision.

Duncan Keith Has Been What Holland Expected

It’s fair to argue that Holland should have held firm with the Chicago Blackhawks and forced them to retain some salary in the trade that brought Duncan Keith to Edmonton. I’m in that group of fans who believe Holland didn’t do as well as he could have in the deal because he had the Blackhawks over a barrel. At the same time, I’ve always liked the idea of Keith on this team and he’s given the Oilers exactly everything Holland said he would.

Keith has provided solid minutes on the second pair, he’s bringing his experience winning Stanley Cups to this team in their playoff push and he’s filled in well, often stepping up in key moments. There are times he’s the best defenseman on the ice for the Oilers and anyone that doesn’t give Keith credit for what he’s done is too busy not getting past his contract to see what value he does actually bring. Holland knew he’d take some flack for the trade but he didn’t care.

Holland The Only GM to Give Kane a Chance

If you look at what Evander Kane has done, you have to wonder why no other NHL GM was willing to do what Holland did and that was to jump to the front of the line the second Kane became available and let the player and his agent know the their team wanted in. Sure, Kane had a reputation as a troublemaker and lousy teammate. He also had a proven reputation as a legitimate goal scorer.

Evander Kane Edmonton Oilers
Evander Kane, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s hard to argue Kane wasn’t the single-best signing in free agency by any GM this season. Even more, that he was an inexpensive trade deadline deal that the Oilers had to sacrifice nothing to pull off makes Holland the envy of many other GMs around the league who won’t make the same mistake of overlooking Kane in free agency this summer.

There were plenty of fans who called Holland names for giving Kane another shot in the NHL. Not many of those fans are saying anything now.

Josh Archibald Has a Role On This Team

When Josh Archibald decided not to get vaccinated and wound up getting seriously ill, it seemed like the writing was on the wall for this player. The rules stated that a player couldn’t cross the border without having to isolate and that meant, at best Archibald was going to be useful for home games only. As a result, why give him a spot on this team over someone more deserving?

I won’t begin to tell people how to feel about vaccinations. I personally got mine. It’s also fair to debate what Archibald offers this Oilers team game in and game out. Sometimes he’s extremely effective and other times he deserves to be a healthy scratch. That said, when he’s playing his brand of hockey, he’s a difference-maker for the Oilers and their overall forward depth. That Holland didn’t automatically rule him out of the lineup because of his opinions on vaccinations is something other GMs wouldn’t have done. It turned out the rules going across the border changed. Had Holland dumped Archibald, one of the team’s hardest hitters and forecheckers wouldn’t be available to the organization now.