Skip to content

Oilers not bringing back Holland leaves them without GM ahead of draft, free agency

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have a lot to do, and no general manager to help them do it. The Oilers confirmed Thursday that Ken Holland will not be returning as GM after his five-year contract ran out.
Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland speaks at a press conference in Edmonton on Tuesday May 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have a lot to do, and no general manager to help them do it.

The Oilers confirmed Thursday that Ken Holland will not be returning as GM after his five-year contract ran out. Oilers chief executive officer of hockey operations Jeff Jackson says that had been the plan for the whole season, and that Thursday's announcement was "not a surprise."

But with the Oilers advancing to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final — Edmonton's season finally ended with a 2-1 loss to Florida on Monday — Jackson finds the team "pushed to the end" with the NHL draft and free agency approaching and without a general manager.

"We knew that we were going to get handcuffed if we went far in the playoffs, because you can't be having discussions about other general managers and asking for permission from other teams while we're playing," Jackson said in a video conference Thursday.

Jackson said he and Holland agreed to keep their discussion of the GM position private to ensure it didn't become a distraction for the players.

"But now we move on," Jackson said. "We've got a lot of work to do.

"Our success this year put us in a spot where we don't have a lot of time to do things and the league's been operating while we were playing. We have our own unrestricted free agents to sign. We've got the draft. We've got free agency. I have to find a new general manager."

And there is the future of star forward Leon Draisaitl, who is eligible to become a restricted free agent after next season.

Jackson said extension talks with Draisaitl won't start before a new GM is in place, but he said he doesn't feel a sense of urgency to get pen to paper with the 28-year-old German centre.

"He's got another year on his contract," Jackson said. "He likes playing in Edmonton. He likes the team, he likes the coaches."

Jackson said he will act as the de facto GM until a replacement for Holland is found, but he is confident the Oilers will get through the upcoming crunch time with the front-office talent available.'

"We have a very capable group," he said.

Jackson, who said he has "no intention" of being the Oilers permanent GM, said he has started reaching out to potential candidates to fill the role, but it's a difficult time.

"People that I want to talk to are integral parts of other organizations, so I'm anticipating that I'm going to have to be a bit patient with that and get through these next few days.

"But I'm OK with that. I think that I want to do this the right way. I want to get the right person."

Jackson praised the job Holland did in Edmonton but said they didn't discuss the possibility of an extension.

"We had a great relationship, we were very collaborative. We spent a ton of time together, all the moves we made were things that were discussed with each other.

"I think it was just sort of understood that that's what he wanted. He's made the comment to me: 'You know, you probably want to have your own guy and it's probably time.' But that didn't change the way we operated this year."

Before joining Edmonton, the 68-year-old from Vernon, B.C., spent 22 seasons as GM of the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit won Stanley Cups in 1998, 2002 and 2008 under Holland.

Building around Draisaitl and superstar captain Connor McDavid, the Oilers finished the season looking like the potential champions many expected to see when Holland, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category in 2020, took over from interim GM Keith Gretzky on May 7, 2019.

But Edmonton's rise to the top came in fits and starts, with Holland coming under fire over much of his tenure for building a top-heavy roster and failing to solve the team's goaltending woes.

The Oilers lost in the qualifying round of the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, then were swept by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2020-21 post-season.

Edmonton appeared to turn a corner when it advanced to the 2022 Western Conference final before being swept by Colorado but regressed the following season by losing in the second round to eventual Stanley Cup champion Vegas.

Faith in Holland's ability to build a winner in Edmonton was shaken to its core earlier this season when the Oilers stumbled out of the gate with a 3-9-1 record.

However, after Jay Woodcroft was replaced as head coach by Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers transformed into one of the league's best teams, punctuated by a 16-game winning streak that was one shy of the NHL record.

And by the time the Oilers headed into Game 7 of this year's Cup final, the team was getting solid goaltending from Stuart Skinner and contributions throughout the lineup, addressing two of the biggest criticisms levied against Holland.

"I think the proof was in the pudding that, right to the very end, he did a great job," Jackson said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2024.

The Canadian Press

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks