Edmonton - May 8, 2019 - Ken Holland was hired as general manager and president of hockey operations of the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.
The longtime GM of the Detroit Red Wings replaces Peter Chiarelli. After Chiarelli was fired Jan. 23, assistant GM Keith Gretzky handled most of the general manager's functions.
"Being a Western Canadian, this is a great fit for me," said Holland, who is from Vernon, British Columbia. "My wife is really excited. We have a daughter that lives in Calgary, she had has family in Calgary and in Medicine Hat. For me professionally, you have great young players, you have a hockey market and there is great opportunity and potential.
"The fans in Detroit are restless, they've missed the playoffs three years in a row and when you miss the playoffs too many years in a row, fans get restless and I understand that. I felt that this was a great opportunity for me personally and I have great respect for the history of the Edmonton Oilers and the passion of this fan base."
Holland was named GM and executive vice president of the Red Wings on July 18, 1997, after spending seven years as their director of amateur scouting and three as assistant GM. He was promoted to senior vice president April 19, when Steve Yzerman was named general manager.
"I would say that the day of the press conference with Steve Yzerman, I got a lot of incredible texts from players, former players and lots of staff telling me what I had meant to them," Holland said. "Certainly that's what I was scared I was going to miss, working with people on an everyday basis and trying to impact their lives, not only the players, but your staff, in a positive way.
"I made so many great relationships in Detroit in the 36 years I was the there, the last 22 years as manager. It's tough, I'm 63 years old and I've been a Red Wing for 36 years. As Steve became the general manager ... I realized that the pull to leave and lead another team was greater than the pull to stay and just be a senior vice president."
Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson, who has a long relationship "going back to our B.C. days," said once the Red Wings hired Yzerman as their GM, he saw an opportunity to bring Holland to Edmonton.
"I've known Ken for a while," Nicholson said, "and when Steve was named [GM in Detroit] and they gave Ken a great contract to stay with them really for life, I thought this might be tough. I had the first phone call with him, it didn't last long, the next one lasted three hours. I knew there was something there and there was a good possibility.
"I don't want to smile too much here, but this is like knocking it out of the park. Knocking it out of the park for our organization and for our fans. ... I know how he's respected as a general manager ... Two people's names would always come up, Ken Holland and Lou Lamoriello. They've been around for a long time. These are guys that have huge relationships and you need that to try to make hockey deals. It's tough, but you have to have that relationship and Ken has it."
During Holland's time as Red Wings GM, Detroit won the Stanley Cup three times (1998, 2002, 2008), made the Final in 2009, and the Presidents' Trophy four times. 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. The 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cup championships came with Yzerman as captain.
Detroit has missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past three seasons after qualifying for 25 consecutive seasons, from 1990-91 through 2015-16. The Red Wings haven't advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2013.
"When Ken decided it was in the best long-term interest of the Red Wings for Steve Yzerman to serve in the role of general manager, we knew there was a strong possibility other franchises would inquire about him," Red Wings governor, president and CEO Christopher Ilitch said. " It is a testament to how well-respected and admired Ken is around the National Hockey League. Ken is a first-class person and a top-notch hockey man. We're ecstatic about the future of the Red Wings with Steve in charge, and on behalf of Marian Ilitch and the entire Red Wings family, we would like to thank Ken for 36 wonderful seasons and wish him, his wife Cindi, and the rest of the Holland family all the best going forward."
The Oilers have made the playoffs once (in 2016-17) since advancing to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2006. Despite having two of the top four scorers in the NHL (centers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl), the Oilers were 35-38-9 this season, finishing 11 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. Edmonton scored 229 goals, 20th in the NHL.
Holland said the presence of having McDavid and Draisatl was a big factor in his decision; when asked if they made Edmonton more enticing as a destination, he did not hesitate.
"Very enticing," Holland said. "If you want to win the Stanley Cup you have to be strong down the middle. Certainly we had that in Detroit with Yzerman and [Sergei] Fedorov, [Henrik] Zetterberg and [Pavel] Datsyuk. When you look at other teams that have have it, and certainly we have the best young centerman in the world and he's ... 22, so that was significant in my thought process."
One of Holland's first orders of business will be to hire a coach; Ken Hitchock, who replaced Todd McLellan as Oilers coach on Nov. 20, 2018, will not return. McLellan was named coach of the Los Angeles Kings on April 16.
"It's a challenge in that's it's such an important decision," Holland said, "I have to find a coach that I think is going to be the right fit for the team, at the same time a coach you want to work with on an everyday basis.
"I worked with Mike Babcock for 10 years (with the Red Wings) and we worked in the trenches together every day and we had a lot of disappointment. But we won the Stanley Cup together and we went to the final in '04, '07, '08, '09, we went to the Final in back-to-back years and those successes make all those failures or disappointments worth it. So I have to find a coach that I think is a great coach and someone that we're going to hunker in together and try to build something special."
Holland said he will not be influenced by local memories of the Oilers pinnacle of five Stanley Cup championships between 1984 and 1990.
"I haven't been around for the glory days," he said. "I'm aware of the glory days and of the history of this franchise, but certainly we need to make new memories, we need to create new memories going forward. You can only live in the past for so long.
"I'm coming from the outside; I don't have any relationships with those people. ... I don't know why they've made the playoffs once in 13 years, but it is what it is and it's my job to figure all that out and try to build an organization where we start to get better and we become elite."
NHL.com correspondent Derek Van Diest contributed to this report