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Winged Wheel to Oil King: Is Ken Holland a Savior?

It’s official. Ken Holland is going to be named the GM of the Edmonton Oilers after spending his entire career as the head of the Red Wings. Now that the search is over, did the Oilers make the right decision? I believe they did not.

Sure, Ken Holland has boat loads of experience as a GM in the NHL. But in my opinion, he has lost a step. Over the years, the Red Wings were identified as an organization who built through the draft with astute picks and a strong farm system. This allowed them to make the playoffs 25 years in a row, accumulating four Stanley Cup wins along the way.

However, this success was in the era with no salary cap. Since it was introduced, Holland has not dealt well with handing out contracts.

The Tweet speaks for itself. Holland has tied up a ridiculous amount of money in contracts for players who have provided minimal support to the team. So, sorry Oilers fans, it does not look like the albatross contract that is Milan Lucic’s will be going away any time soon.

Holland likes what he brings to a team as he was interested in signing Lucic back in 2016, so I would not expect him to be going anywhere.

I do not deny that Holland was a great GM for the Red Wings. But his handling of the salary cap has been dismal. He leaves the Red Wings in cap hell, so I would not expect him to fix the situation in Edmonton.

As for the astute drafting, the Red Wings have not had sleeper pick that panned out as an NHLer since 2010 when they drafted Petr Mrazek and Teemu Pulkkinen in the 5th round. This used to be the hallmark of the Red Wings in their hay day when they drafted Henrik Zetterberg in the 7th round in 1999 and Pavel Datsyuk in 6th round in 1998. Both eventually became superstars and core players for several championship teams. I don’t see any sleeper picks in the pipeline right now.

As for his recent drafting, he passed over Quinn Hughes to pick Philip Zadina. Which in my opinion, was the wrong move. The Red Wings are in need of an overhaul on defense. When a game changer like Hughes is available, you pick him. Zadina projects as a scoring winger in the NHL, but defensemen like Hughes don’t come along everyday.

The Oilers are going down the path of an experienced GM again. But judging by Holland’s recent history, he will have a difficult time turning this team around. In my opinion, this is what he has to do:

  1. Hire a coach with a system that allows the skill and speed of the Oilers to thrive
  2. Get McDavid and Draisatl some wingers with the minimal cap space available
  3. Don’t sign any large contracts (like Erik Karlsson, Sergei Bobrovsky etc.)

In the end, time will tell if Holland will become the savior of the Oilers, or just another GM who could not get the McDavid era off the ground.

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