A few days ago, Mark Spector reported the Edmonton Oilers had offered the position of General Manager to Ken Holland. At the time, Holland was serving as an Executive in Detroit after stepping aside so Steve Yzerman could take the reigns with the Red Wings. Not long later, Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported that Holland had accepted the position offered by Bob Nicholson.
On Tuesday morning, the Edmonton Oilers introduced Holland to the media and Oilers fan base.
The Process of Bringing in Holland
As owner Daryl Katz, Nicholson and Holland addressed the room, Katz started by admitting the Oilers were not happy with what had gone over the past couple of seasons. Nicholson was tasked with finding a new GM that would not only make the Oilers more competitive but move them into “elite status”.
Katz called Holland one of the best managers, not just in hockey, but sports and said he brings with him a culture of winning that the Oilers organization badly needs. He then said that Holland, as their new GM and President of Hockey Operations, had the full confidence of Nicholson and the Oilers organization.
Nicholson took over the conversation and explained that he interviewed a number of people. Admitting he spoke with some great young minds in hockey, the interview process changed as the situation in Detroit unfolded.
Nicholson said that while he was interviewing candidates, Yzerman took over the Red Wings and Nicholson began to believe he could see a future where Holland became available. Once that happened, Nicholson felt Holland was the best candidate for the job.
A Rush Decision?
While the Oilers and Nicholson talked about the process taking from February to May to complete, the decision to hire Holland was a quick one.
Nicholson said that after speaking with Holland on the phone and learning the former Red Wings GM still had a desire to be a manager, there was only one name he recommended to Katz and the deal came together.
There wasn’t a sense that a formal in-person interview ever took place, but Nicholson cited many extensive phone conversations and their well-dated history together as reason enough to make an immediate move. And, like Katz said before passing the mic over, Nicholson reiterated, Holland would have full autonomy in Edmonton to build a team around him that he could work with right away.
Holland’s Goal in Edmonton
Holland was forthright in his responses to many of the media’s questions. He knew he was speaking on behalf of a very frustrated fan base and the new GM and President of the Oilers didn’t shy away from going into detail.
Calling his management style one that is meant to provide stability, it was his decision to inform Ken Hitchcock he would not be returning as head coach.
Holland discussed his relationship with Hitchcock but suggested this was a time that a change was needed and that the person he wants to ultimately hire is someone he needs to dig in with. At best, Hitchcock would have been kept for only one more season. Holland wants a grinder with a long future in Edmonton. Hiring a coach is his first priority.
Holland also spoke of the need for change but that the building blocks were in place. The Oilers had good young pieces he could build around, but that he needed to look at their defense and probably get another goaltender.
Most importantly, he believes in culture and stability. He knows he is going to make bad decisions but the key is in making far more good decisions than bad ones. He feels he left Detroit in a great place with young prospects working their way up over their rebuild, $19-$20 million in salary cap space and collected a group of players who want to be competitive with young guys beginning to take over that franchise.
Holland said he needs to do something similar in Edmonton. He needs to bring in the right people, develop a plan the organization can stick to, build around the young core and find veterans to help while keeping prospects in the minors.
On some of the to-do items, Holland would like to keep Keith Gretzky in the organization but has not spoken to him yet. He is also headed down to Bakersfield right away to check out some of the prospects there.
Why Edmonton? Why Now?
Finally, when asked if he felt he’d finish his career as a Red Wings executive, Holland said yes. But, he also realized at the U-18 Tournament, he still had a desire and the passion to be a manager. When the Oilers opportunity opened up, it didn’t take long to decide it was the right fit.
A Western-Canadian kid, he has a number of relatives in Medicine Hat and Calgary and is excited. He knew one day with Yzerman in control he might get restless and want to manage again. He just didn’t think it would be so quickly.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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