Rumblings about Dave Gagner as next Oilers GM

A prominent NHL journalist is suggesting there is a good chance Dave Gagner will replace Ken Holland as the next general manager for the Oilers.

With a resume which includes three Stanley Cups as a general manager and being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder, Ken Holland’s legacy will stand the test of time. However, he’s still failed to meet expectations during his time with the Oilers.

Yes the Oilers have made the playoffs in each of his four full seasons in Edmonton, but the reality is this should be the bare minimum when you have the best hockey player in the world. Overall, Holland’s reign has been compromised by no stability at the head coach position and never quite getting the right balance with the roster.

It’s an open secret that this will be the final season for the 68-year-old in Edmonton as GM. Which brings us to the ever present question of who his replacement will be for the Oilers?

As you’d expect, there’s been several potential candidates floated around. However, there’s one name in particular, which has caught the attention of Canadian hockey journalist Steve Simmons.

Now we appreciate the Toronto Sun sports columnist is a polarising figure, known for his outspoken views. However, it doesn’t change the reality that he does know the game of hockey and has plenty of contacts around the NHL.

In this respect, Simmons has shared his thoughts on who could be the next Oilers GM. In his latest Simmons Says weekly article, he wrote:

GM Ken Holland will be gone at the end of the season — his call — and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave Gagner, whose son plays for the Oilers and is another former McDavid associate and a close Jackson friend, is brought in to be Oilers GM.

Now we’ll argue how much of this is in Holland’s control about leaving. For example, the signs seem to point towards CEO Jeff Jackson having an input on the decision to bring in Kris Knoblauch as the new Oilers coach following the premature firing of Jay Woodcroft.

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Regardless, as Simmons mentions, Dave Gagner is a close friend of Jackson. The Oilers CEO of Hockey Operations also has a lot of respect for the former winger, who was selected 28th overall in the 1983 draft by the Leafs.

Jackson took part in an interview prior to this season with the highly respected 32 Thoughts Podcast, which is hosted by Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman. One of the main takeaways from the interview came courtesy of The Oil Rig‘s Gregory Babinski:

Jackson was always keen to mention the relationship he has with Dave Gagner, father of Sam Gagner, who is a coach well known for his work in developing younger players, having even spent time as the Director of Player Development for the Vancouver Canucks in recent years.

Certainly Gagner has an excellent reputation around the NHL, dating back to his time playing. During his 15-year career, he had 719 points in 946 regular season games, along with another 48 in 57 playoff appearances.

Post-playing career, the Chatham Ontario native founded Custom Ice Inc. The company builds both permanent and portable ice skating rinks.

Gagner also previously spent time as an assistant coach for the OHL’s London Knights. He later became Director of Player Development for the Canucks, before taking up a position with the Orr Hockey Group player agency.

Certainly you can appreciate why the 58-year-old — who also represented Canada at the 1984 Olympics — is a candidate to be the next Oilers GM. Aside from his ability to work with young talent, he has worked hard to acquire new skills since he retired from playing in 1999.

Whether this results in Gagner actually getting the gig remains to be seen, with other qualified candidates out there. Friendship or not, Jackson’s main priority is to pick the best option for GM, as part of the Oilers’ quest to be a genuine Stanley Cup contender for years to come.