EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers have officially named Ken Holland as their new general manager and president of hockey operations.
The Oilers introduced Holland at a press conference Tuesday at Rogers Place, confirming earlier media reports that Holland was set to take over the struggling team from interim GM Keith Gretzky.
"There’s lots of great pieces in place here," Holland said.
"I’d like to think we’re talking playoffs in ’19-20 when you look at some of the young players on this team," he added.
Holland’s "No. 1 priority" will be finding a new head coach. Holland announced that Ken Hitchcock will not be back behind the Oilers bench next season.
Hitchcock took over on an interim basis after the Oilers fired head coach Todd McLellan in November.
Edmonton has made the playoffs just once since advancing to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, and the Oilers hope Holland is the GM who can finally build a contender around superstar captain Connor McDavid.
"We’ve got a core up front, we need to find out how to surround them properly," Holland said of his new club.
Holland certainly has the pedigree to improve the Oilers’ playoff fortunes. Starting as a scout for the Red Wings, he worked his way up to assistant general manager and was promoted to GM in 1997.
The Red Wings made 25 straight playoff appearances and captured four Stanley Cups with Holland in the front office, including 22 post-season appearances and three championships as GM.
After years of success, the Red Wings have missed the playoffs the last three seasons. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs the three campaigns before that.
The Red Wings promoted Holland to senior vice president in April after hiring Steve Yzerman as general manager.
A trip to the world under-18 hockey championship last month with Yzerman and the Red Wings’ staff made Holland realize he still had the appetite for a move hands-on position, something he will get with Edmonton.
"I realized that I had the passion, the energy, the enthusiasm (and) the desire to continue to be a general manager in the National Hockey League," he said.
The Oilers fired general manager Peter Chiarelli in January as the team struggled to stay in the Western Conference playoff race despite having a team led by McDavid, arguably the best player in the world, and all-star forward Leon Draisaitl.
Chiarelli was in his fourth season with the club, leading the team to a single playoff appearance in 2016-17. The Oilers advanced to the second round before losing to Anaheim in seven games.
The Oilers hope the combination of Holland and his new head coach, which will be the team’s eighth since 2009, will give the team the stability it expected to get with Chiarelli and McLellan running the show.
"We have not delivered in the promise we made to our fans in recent years," team owner Daryl Katz said. "You know it, I know it, we all know it."