6 Choices for Oilers on the future of Ken Holland

General Manager Ken Holland and Chairman Bob Nicholson of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
General Manager Ken Holland and Chairman Bob Nicholson of the Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Edmonton Oilers Ken Holland
TORONTO, ONTARIO – NOVEMBER 12: Ken Holland takes part in a press opportunity prior to his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame at the Hockey Hall Of Fame on November 12, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Ken Holland’s contract is expiring at the end of the season. There are several ways for this to go for the Oilers, but how will it end?

It’s no secret that Ken Holland’s contract with the Oilers is up after this season. We’ve heard many scenarios that could play out in terms of what he’s going to do afterwards. Publicly, Holland has remained tight-lipped as he said he doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do, but word is he’s contemplating retirement. He is 68 years old after all, and he has children and grandchildren plus an off-season home in Vernon, BC, so I’m sure he would appreciate more time with his family in his senior years, as do many seniors.

That being said, for anyone who has had success in the NHL, they are a bit of a different breed. This is a sport that most involved in the game are so passionate about, it’s really in their blood and they crave the challenge, whether they are a player, executive, scout, etc. So for these folks while retirement may hold some appeal, they could foresee themselves being miserable in retirement after having walked away from the game of hockey.

I’m not Ken Holland and I don’t know him personally, so which of these types of people he is I can’t be sure, but one thing’s for sure, there’s a variety of places this could go.

Let’s investigate those now.

1) Oilers fire Holland 

IMO this would be an overly harsh way to treat the guy who has guided the Oilers to more success than almost all of his predecessors outside of Kevin Lowe and Glen Sather. Some of the more ignorant honey badger types amongst the Oilers fanbase were calling for Holland’s head during the losing streak and unsurprisingly those voices have been silenced now that the team is winning again.

It’s also important to note that Holland has now been GM of the Oilers for four full seasons, and they have made the playoffs all four seasons. Yes, they haven’t won a cup yet or even gotten to the finals, but they do have series wins to show for it, including an extra sweet one over the Calgary Flames, so there is a track record of success there. Then there are things like the historic power play they had last season that set new NHL records – even Sather never guided the Oilers to that during the dynasty years in the 1980s.

As for this season, that remains to be seen. Even if the Oilers don’t make the playoffs though, most teams would take four out of five seasons in the playoffs and multiple series wins from their GMs.

The Oilers aren’t even that far away from being in the mix either after Friday night’s win over the Wild, as they moved above the Kraken in the Western Conference standings. One more win from the Oilers and one more loss by the Flames and they would leapfrog over their rivals. (The Oilers would have one more win than the Flames, which would be the tiebreaker). At that point, they would potentially only be three points out of a wildcard spot and 10 out of a division spot, with more than 50 games remaining. The Oilers are also the hottest team in the league right now – no other NHL team is on a six-game winning streak. So honestly, I like our odds right now.

And that’s not even getting into Holland’s track record at the helm of the Detroit Red Wings – 20+ consecutive years of playoff appearances and multiple Cups. If you were calling for him to be fired during the losing streak, then you must have the integrity to give him credit when things are going well. At least be consistent in your emotional response.

Holland has a knack for being an NHL GM, and that’s not something you just throw away. That being said, it’s worth noting that since the man who hired him (Bob Nicholson) has faded away from Oilers chairman to an advisor and alternate governor position, the Oilers now have a guy at the top of the executive ladder – Jeff Jackson – who has a GM that is not his hire. That means Holland’s position is less secure than when he was hired, as it’s a well known fact that all NHL hockey operations people like to bring their own people with them.

Yes, not every move Holland’s made has worked out — I’m sure he’d like a mulligan on the Jack Campbell contract at this point — but when he was first hired he publicly said not every move he made would work out. To be fair, I don’t think any GM can claim that, but it’s safe to say his moves have worked out more often than not, which is what he set out to do.