After years and years of hopeless management, the Edmonton Oilers finally have someone trustworthy in charge.

During the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, I remember being afraid that the Oilers’ general manager (GM) at the time, Peter Chiarelli, would stumble up to the podium and take someone other than Connor McDavid. 

And for good reason—past GMs of the Oilers have made some mind-boggling decisions over the years

Here’s a brief list:

  • Ryan Smyth, the heart and soul of the Oilers, to the New York Islanders for players that never filled the standing-in-front-of-the-net void that No. 94 left.
  • Wayne Gretzky (this trade also included Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski) to the Los Angeles Kings for a decent return, but when you compare the players that came to Edmonton to Gretzky, it just makes no sense.
  • Paul Coffey (as well as Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp), a future Hall of Famer, for Craig Simpson (the trade also included Dave Hannan, Chris Joseph, and Moe Mantha).

More recent trades? When Chiarelli traded Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, and Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome. It’s safe to say that the Oilers don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to dealing players. 

Related: Ken Holland Credits Peter Chiarelli for the Edmonton Oilers’ Current Roster

But thankfully, we can trust that Holland will be smart with his moves at the trade deadline (and thereafter). His offseason decisions with the Oilers prove it.

Holland’s Smart Offseason Decisions and Additions

Some may have found Holland’s summer additions underwhelming—with the exception of the Milan Lucic for James Neal trade—but 53 games into the 2019-20 season, it’s easy to see that Holland’s offseason decisions have helped the Oilers to remain in the playoff hunt since October. 

Edmonton Oilers James Neal
Edmonton Oilers forward James Neal (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

During the summer, Holland added depth to the Oilers’ bottom six. The GM added Tomas Jurco, Markus Granlund, Gaëtan Haas, Riley Sheahan, Joakim Nygård, and Josh Archibald. While both Granlund and Jurco eventually dropped off, Haas, Sheahan, and Archibald have impressed. Nygård shows flashes of brilliance, but he hasn’t found a distinguished role in the Oilers’ lineup—just yet. Although, we may have to wait a while to see him since the speedy forward recently suffered a broken hand injury!

These additions have given young players like Kailer Yamamoto and Tyler Benson a chance to develop in the American Hockey League (AHL) before moving up to the NHL, which is exactly what Holland wanted. At the start of the season, Holland discussed his plan on what he was going to do with the young players in the organization: 

“If a young player isn’t in the lineup, he’s going to the American League. If he is in the lineup, then we have a further conversation about where he fits. I’d rather make the call during the season to call the player up than to make the call during the season to send the player down. I think it’s easier for their mind and mentality to be working their way up than down. Young players have to take a job from a veteran.”

Holland has stuck to his word! 

Twelve games ago, Yamamoto played his first NHL game of the season. And ever since, the 5-foot-8 right-winger has excelled on the second line. His unexpected success—10 points so far—has finally allowed head coach Dave Tippett to split up McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. And guess what? The Oilers are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games because of it (among other factors, of course). 

Kailer Yamamoto Oilers
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers, Oct. 21, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reports show that 21-year-old Benson will make his NHL debut against the San Jose Sharks tonight. Holland wasn’t kidding when he said that he wanted to wait to call up young players rather than have to send them down. His stance proved to work with Yamamoto. Let’s see if it will work with Benson. 

I doubt past GMs of the Oilers would have had the patience to keep Yamamoto or Benson in the AHL for so long, which brings me to my next point. 

Unlike Past Oilers GMs, Holland Has Patience

Holland has the uncanny ability to know what the Oilers need, unlike past GMs of the Oilers who forced players into the NHL too soon or traded away a player too early in their career, like when Kevin Lowe sent Joffrey Lupul to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 after only one season with the Oilers. 

The Oilers’ current GM won’t be making any dumb moves, and two situations from this season help to exemplify why:

1. Holland didn’t want to trade first-round draft picks for Taylor Hall. It’s clear that he’s focused on developing the future of this franchise. He’s not going to rush anything. The GM wants the Oilers to be a playoff team for years and years to come. 

2. His stance on the Jesse Puljujarvi situation has proved that he’s willing to relax and use the 21-year-old to the Oilers’ advantage at either the trade deadline or in the summer—if needed. Holland recently spoke to Pierre Lebrun and commented on the right winger’s situation:

“He’s a 21-year-old player who was the fourth-overall pick, do you want to trade him in a rental deal and get someone on the short term and they’re gone and that asset is gone?”

Bob Nicholson, Ken Holland, Daryl Katz
Bob Nicholson CEO and Vice-Chair of Oilers Entertainment Group Hockey Operations Staff, new GM Ken Holland and Owner Daryl Katz pose for a photo after announcing the hiring of Ken Holland, in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday May 7, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

It’s good to see that Holland’s spending time thinking about what’s best for both the future and the current position of the team. He’s not going to rush into making a rash decision by throwing away the future for a short-term deal. And even if he does, I trust it will be a smart move, one that will secure a playoff position (and possibly a playoff run). 

In May, NHL Staff Writer, Tim Campbell talked to Holland about the Oilers. He asked the GM “why he’s so adamant about stability and patience?” To which Holland said:

“The answer to your question is that I’ve lived it, I’ve experienced it and I understand the business because I’ve lived it as a player in the minors, as a scout spending 150-200 nights a year on the road for a decade evaluating players, then as a general manager and making decisions.”

Holland’s offseason signings paired with his decision to keep young players in the AHL until it is absolutely necessary to call them up, as well as his undeniable patience should have Oilers’ fans at ease when the upcoming deadline approaches. It’s nice finally feel like the franchise has a GM that actually thinks decisions through for once.