Ken Holland is leaving the Detroit Red Wings to be the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers. This news comes less than a month after the Red Wings brought in hometown favorite, Steve Yzerman, to run the team.
Ken Holland was promoted to Senior Vice-President for the Detroit Red Wings and Steve Yzerman‘s right-hand man for all of three weeks before taking the GM job in Edmonton. This deal is reportedly worth $5 million per year. He will take over for Keith Gretzky (Wayne’s brother) who had been filling in since Peter Chiarelli was fired earlier this year.
Holland had long been a fixture in Detroit, and he brought a lot of success to the organization over the years. He served as the Red Wings’ assistant GM before taking over the team in the middle of their back-to-back Stanley Cups of 1997 and ‘98. He orchestrated the 2002 and 2008 Stanley Cups as well. Through the years with him at the helm, the Red Wings recorded a successful .562 win percentage. Four Cups and over 900 wins makes up a great career.
On the other hand, not everything about Holland’s tenure has gone well. Fans are quick to blame him for saddling the team with several large contracts and no cap space. For example, Justin Abdelkader, who holds a no-trade clause, is still under contract for four more seasons—at $4.25 million per year. He likes extended agreements, and he loves no-trade clauses. Such contracts grow more frustrating as players show their age. As a result, Yzerman is likely handcuffed to a cash-strapped club for the next year or two.
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Coincidentally or not, two years is also the length of Jeff Blashill’s newly inked contract. This deal was intact before the team brought in Yzerman as GM. There was some speculation as to whether Yzerman was involved in the decision or if that was solely Holland’s call. In any case, Yzerman has publicly stood by the decision to move forward with Blashill as head coach.
What kind of situation is Holland inheriting in Edmonton? Honestly, it is not all that different from Detroit. The Oilers have the potential to be a strong team, but they have not quite shown it. Since losing the Stanley Cup to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, the Oilers had qualified for one single playoffs (in 2017).
One of the most exciting pieces Holland will be able to work with is obviously Connor McDavid (116 points last season). Being a young player coming up with Edmonton, McDavid, of course, draws a real comparison to Wayne Gretzky. Behind McDavid, the Oilers have another strong center in Leon Draisaitl (105 points).
Two superstars alone, though, does not complete a rebuild. Holland still has some work to do to return to the playoffs. Like the Red Wings, the Oilers have little cap space with which to operate. Holland will have to make some clever moves if he wants to improve his new team. It will be interesting to see if Holland entices any Detroit Red Wings to follow him to Edmonton. We have seen how Dave Dombrowski likes to employ former Tigers in Boston; perhaps Ken Holland will use his established connections in Detroit to pursue free agents.
It’s hard not to feel the contrast in this transition period. It is easy to pin team frustrations on Holland’s leadership, just as it is easy to have optimism in Yzerman’s future. Going forward, the Oilers have their guy in Ken Holland, while the Detroit Red Wings have theirs in Steve Yzerman.
It is bittersweet to see Holland go, though. Despite any questionable calls Holland may have made, he is responsible for bringing three Stanley Cups to the city as GM (and another one as an assistant). Most teams would happily exchange minor grievances for four Stanley Cups.