Ken Holland looks ahead in Edmonton but with a glimpse back
"They had a tough year," Ken Holland, pictured with coach Dave Tippett said of the Oilers. "That's why (Tippett) and I are there.”
Ken Holland was back in his old neighborhood recently.
With the World Junior Summer Showcase being held at Plymouth’s USA Hockey Arena, Holland, now the general manager of the Edmonton Oilers, was back in his old stomping grounds – literally.
While he was the Red Wings’ GM for 22 years, Holland lived about 10 minutes from the arena. Scouting the National Team Development Program since it has been based there was probably a shorter trip for Holland than picking up a loaf of bread and a quart of milk.
This trip to USA Hockey Arena was, obviously, considerably longer. But Holland, 63, is adjusting. He is planning to sell his suburban-Detroit home by the end of the month
"Certainly it's a little bit different, but every day that goes by, I'm more and more comfortable," Holland told NHL.com. "I was so fortunate to work for the same team for a long time, but it was time, and I'm excited about the new opportunity."
Of course, Holland saw some familiar faces on his business trip to his former home.
He ran into Steve Yzerman, for whom Holland stepped aside into a senior vice president position in order to allow his longtime protégé to become Detroit’s GM, and Kris Draper, who assisted Holland and is now the Wings’ director of amateur scouting.
Naturally, he was more focused on the task of scouting some of the top draft-eligible prospects from Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland on behalf of the Oilers.
In Detroit, Holland stepped into and continued to foster a front office that put an emphasis on frank, no-holds-barred communication and a passion for hockey throughout the organization. According to many comments about how the Edmonton franchise has been run over the past 15 years or so, those qualities are exactly what the Oilers need.
That approach allowed Holland to thrive, despite dealing with such difficult personalities as Scotty Bowman and Mike Babcock as coaches.
Perhaps with those experiences in mind, Holland hired veteran NHL bench boss Dave Tippett – who has the reputation of being tough, but far easier to work with than the above pair – as Edmonton’s head coach.
"When I went through the process, I felt that it was important to put somebody behind the bench that had been there and had been in different situations," Holland said. "Everybody I talked to talked about (Tippett's) ability to build relationships.
"He's a people person. But he knows what he likes and he knows what he wants, and I like all that. I look forward to working with him. Hopefully we can build a relationship and do it for a lot of years."
Their shared goal is to bring success to a franchise that has continued to struggle since its heyday of the mid-1980s to early-1990s, despite the current presence of star forwards Connor McDavid (41-75-116 in 2018-19) and Leon Draisaitl (50 goals and 105 points last season).
"They had a tough year," Holland said of the Oilers, who finished 14th in the Western Conference last season. "That's why (Tippett) and I are there. So obviously some … spots are locked down, but there's lots of unknowns. We're just trying to create competition."