A move that has been in the works for several days is now official. Former Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland has been named President and General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers. He takes over for interim General Manager, Keith Gretzky whose role has yet to be determined moving forward.
Holland became available after 22 years with the Red Wings as Detroit hired Steve Yzerman as the new general manager. After initially pulling his name from the list of candidates for the Oilers job, he has reportedly signed on for $25 million over the next five years.
“Culture is about the people that you bring in, that care about the logo. I’ve got to change the culture, stability, bring in the right people…”
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) May 7, 2019
Upon entering the league during the 1979-80 season, the Edmonton Oilers made the playoffs in 19 of their first 24 seasons. During that time, they reached the Stanley Cup Finals five times, winning four. Names like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Jari Kurri resonate with not just Oilers fans but fans of the sport of hockey as they are some of the best to ever play the game.
However, those days ended long ago. Over the past 15 seasons, the Oilers have made the playoffs just twice, despite having a bevy of top selections in the draft. In the 2005-06 season, the first after the year-long lockout, they managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, only to lose to the Carolina Hurricanes. They didn’t make it back to the postseason until the 2016-17 season. That year they were bounced in the second round. They haven’t been back since.
Holland will have plenty of work to do in order to turn around the fate of this franchise. At his introductory press conference on Tuesday, he made it known that one decision has already been made and that is that Ken Hitchcock and the coaching staff will not return for the 2019-20 season. However, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger, there is a chance Hitchcock remains in an advisory role.
In addition to the coaching search, Holland will have plenty of roster issues to tackle between now and next Fall. Having perhaps the best player on the planet in Connor McDavid is a nice start as well as emerging second-line center, Leon Draisaitl. Both of whom crack 100 points this season and are locked up through the 2024-25 season.
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However, in order to compete, you need more than one or two superstar-type players. And, after those two, there is a somewhat significant dropoff in production. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was third on the team in 2018-19 with 69 points making the Oilers top three point-getters all centerman. That is usually a good thing except they lack complimentary talent on the wings.
Holland will need to make decisions on players such as Milan Lucic and goaltender Mikko Koskinen. The former having an unmovable contract that is not commensurate with his production and the latter being a signing made on the last day of former general manager Peter Chiarelli’s employment. Both of whom, ideally, will have new homes by the start of next year.
Needless to say, this will not be an easy task for the man that guided the Red Wings to four Stanley Cup Championships since 1997.