What a difference a year makes. On July 12, 2021, Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland traded for Hall of Fame defenceman Duncan Keith from the Chicago Blackhawks and retained his full $5.534 million cap hit. Holland subsequently faced some heat for that move.
Fast forward to July 13, 2022, and Holland is being celebrated for signing forward Evander Kane, defenceman Brett Kulak and goaltender Jack Campbell on the opening day of NHL Free Agency. Holland is also being praised for his other offseason moves, including trading forward Zack Kassian and his $3.2 million annual salary to the Arizona Coyotes.
However, the most important move Holland made this offseason was on July 7 when he named Brad Holland assistant general manager, professional scouting for the 2022-23 season. It was a great move for the organization, especially for those who have a deep admiration for analytics. Proud Father, Ken, shared some insight about his son on NHL.com: “(Brad) has got a law degree, and if anybody knows a lawyer, they don’t sit back, they challenge…He was in pro scouting with our team the last three years. I think he’s very tech-savvy, and he’s analytically driven. He’s 40 years old, as I think most people who are in their 30s and 40s, they thirst for more analytical information. On his own merit, I think he’s deserving of a bigger role.”
Holland & Holland Merge Analytics with Old Fashioned Hockey Sense
With Ken and Brad Holland working together along with assistant general manager Keith Gretzky, the Oilers organization will reap the rewards of an analytical approach to team building coupled with the experience that comes from winning Stanley Cup championships.
Ken is known as a compassionate executive who not only cares about his players but also their families. In the three years he’s been at the helm of the Oilers, Holland has been careful to build a positive culture, and when it came to re-signing Kane, Holland told NHL.com, “Everybody in that locker room wanted him back and made that very clear to me. They felt we were a much better team with Evander on our team.”
Meanwhile, Brad Holland feels like a breath of fresh air. As he expressed in an interview with 630 CHED’s Oilers Now host, Bob Stauffer, he feels that teams need to have strong video and analytics in order to succeed.
It has been a positive offseason so far, much better than many believed it could be, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. The Oilers need to re-sign Kailer Yamamoto, Ryan McLeod and Jesse Puljujärvi and might be shopping for another defenceman with grit. They also need to replace Kassian’s toughness.
Oilers Under Hollands’ Guidance are Trending Up
Many Oilers fans are wishing the season started tomorrow. After finishing in the top four and bowing out to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2022 Western Conference Final, the team is hungry for more. With superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in their prime, this is the organization’s window for success. The team that Holland and Holland are building is as deep and talented as the Oilers of the 2005-06 season and possibly as deep as the Oilers of the glory years of the 1980s and early ’90s.
Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames seem to be regressing as Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau left $10 million on the table to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. As sad as it is for the organization, deep down, Oilers fans have to hope the Flames can stay competitive; playing against strong competition only makes a team better.
Hopefully, the team has improved enough this offseason to have a realistic chance at giving the Colorado Avalanche a run for their money in 2022-23. Ken and Brad Holland have done a good job of improving the team so far, now let’s see what happens when they hit the ice. For many Oilers fans, the season can’t start soon enough.