Kosice - May 23, 2019 - The Edmonton Oilers are looking ahead to a new beginning under new general manager Ken Holland and the arrival of a new coach.
Holland was hired by the Oilers as GM and president of hockey operations May 7. He could name a replacement for Ken Hitchcock as soon as Friday, according to TSN. Hitchcock took over after coach Todd McLellan was fired on Nov. 20, 2018.
"It's good to get a little bit of a fresh start," said Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, who is representing Germany at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. "The coach is going to look at everyone separately and going to evaluate every player on their own. You kind of have to prove yourself again. I think that's exciting for everyone.
"Hopefully we can figure it out sooner than later."
Holland replaced Peter Chiarelli, who was fired Jan. 23.
Defenseman Darnell Nurse is among the Oilers who are excited by the hiring.
"It's an exciting summer," said Nurse, who is representing Canada. "Anytime you get a change as big as the one that we're getting, it's exciting in the sense that we have a GM who has had a lot of success in the League. He built Detroit to be not only a great team for one or two years, but a consistently well-oiled machine. We're very fortunate to have him.
"In the position that we're in and the years that we've gone through, it can be easy to look at our team and internally look down on ourselves, but we're excited about the challenge and the changes. We know we're not far away. We have the pieces to be a really good team for a long time. With that said, we have to, as a team, as guys out on the ice, we have to perform every night."
Holland was named GM and executive vice president of the Red Wings on July 18, 1997. During his tenure, they won the Stanley Cup three times (1998, 2002, 2008), the Presidents' Trophy four times and made the Final in 2009. They won 10 division championships and five regular-season conference titles, and had at least 100 points 13 times, the most in the NHL during that span.
"Just looking at where he's been and what he's done and his name, you obviously know who he is," Draisaitl said. "He's had some very, very good teams, very successful teams. Hopefully we can build the same in Edmonton."
Holland was promoted to senior vice president when Steve Yzerman was hired as GM by the Red Wings on April 19. Detroit has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past three seasons after qualifying for 25 consecutive seasons.
The Oilers have missed the playoffs in 12 of the past 13 seasons, qualifying once (2016-17) since advancing to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final. Despite having two of the top four scorers in the NHL with Connor McDavid (116 points; 41 goals, 75 assists) and Draisaitl (105 points; 50 goals, 55 assists), Edmonton was 35-38-9 this season, 11 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. The Oilers scored 229 goals, 20th in the NHL, and allowed 271, tied for sixth-most with the New Jersey Devils.
Edmonton is the first NHL team since the 1989-90 Pittsburgh Penguins (Mario Lemieux, Paul Coffey) to have two 100-point scorers and not make the postseason.
"You just look at [Holland's] resume, which is very impressive, and that bodes well for us," said Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson, who is playing for Sweden. "We'll see what team we have at the start of the season and go from there.
"In the end, it's up to us as players to get the work done. A GM can't do the work for us on the ice."
The first order of business for Holland will be deciding on a coach, which Nurse said should offer renewed optimism after a trying season.
"You go through a lot," he said. "You go through a coaching change. You go through a GM change. It takes a lot out of anyone on any team. To go through the summer having a new GM…it is definitely refreshing. Everyone is extremely excited.
"The coach is the next piece, but everyone is extremely excited with what's gone on so far."