Battle of the GMs: Wings slump under Yzerman; Oilers start fast for Holland
Ken Holland, left, and Steve Yzerman are all smiles when the former Detroit superstar was introduced as the Wings’ new GM. So far it’s Holland who’s had the most success with his new team.
When the Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers face off at Rogers Place a little after 9 p.m. on Friday, it will be a comparison of how two general managers with big reputations – and more than a passing familiarity with each other – are doing with their new teams early in the 2019-20 season.
Of course, we’re talking about Steve Yzerman, who has taken over Detroit’s rebuild, and Ken Holland, who handed over the Red Wings to his former superstar player.
While Yzerman made sweeping changes in the scouting and conditioning/physical therapy departments, the team’s on-ice performance – as expected – has not changed much from the end of last season.
After surprisingly winning their first two games and getting to a 3-1-0 mark, the Wings have fallen to 3-4-0 going into their game at Calgary tonight. That’s due to a poor offensive production except for the top line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, and the team’s overall inconsistency.
Meanwhile, Holland, who became the Oilers’ GM after 22 years in Detroit, is enjoying a successful maiden season. His team, which has missed the playoffs in 12 of the past 13 seasons, are 6-1-0 going into tonight’s game.
Edmonton is led by Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – which is not a surprise – and former Plymouth Whaler James Neal, which certainly is a surprise.
McDavid (5-12-17) and Draisaitl (6-9-15) are 1-2 in the NHL scoring race, while Neal leads the league with eight goals.
So far, it appears that Holland got the best by far of the off-season trade of underachieving veteran forwards that sent Milan Lucic to the Calgary Flames for Neal.
The 32-year-old had topped 20 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons before signing a lucrative free agent contract with the Flames in the summer of 2018. He then slumped to seven goals in 63 games last season.
“No chance that we thought he’d get off to the start he’s off to,” Holland told thehockeynews.com. “But … he has a four-goal game (Oct. 8, against the New York Islanders), and his confidence takes a big boost up. And when you get an athlete who’s feeling good about himself, you get a chance to fire on all cylinders.”
The Oilers have also improved their penalty kill, thanks partially to another name familiar to Red Wings fans, Riley Sheahan. Holland signed the former Detroit center to a one-year free agent contract in early September. Sheahan has significantly contributed to the league’s fifth-best penalty kill so far this season after the Oilers were 30th in that department in 2018-19.
But Holland knows that he will have to get more offense from forwards other than McDavid, Draisaitl and Neal, who have 79.1 percent of the team’s 24 goals.
“It’s going to come back to a more realistic number,” Holland said. “You’re going to need some other numbers to come up to offset that so you can continue to win.”