It occurs to me that “Past Ken Holland” could help us out on a current issue causing furrowed brows on this blog. Lately, there’s been a long conversation in regard to Darnell Nurse, as in when to trade him, or if the Oilers should trade him. To a lesser extent, that question is being asked about Adam Larsson, Matt Benning and the rest of the blue this spring. Why? Too many bona fide defensemen. Who knew that would ever be a problem? What does “Past Ken Holland” say about it? Will that match current Ken Holland?
The Athletic Edmonton features a fabulous cluster of stories (some linked below, some on the site). Great perspective from a ridiculous group of writers and analysts. Proud to be part of the group. INSANE OFFER IS HERE!
- New Lowetide: Does Oilers’ signing of Joakim Nygard signal a measured approach to summer 2019?
- Lowetide: Dave Tippett’s roster deployment in Arizona and what it might mean for the Oilers
- Jonathan Willis: Why Ken Holland’s worst years in Detroit tell us the most about how he’ll fare in Edmonton
- Jonathan Willis: Three offseason scenarios and how each one would affect the Oilers salary cap
- Lowetide: Examining the Oilers’ goaltending options in free agency.
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s Oilers could go the high octane procurement route but will need a driver
- Lowetide: How much can Connor Brown help the Oilers?
- Lowetide: Dmitri Samorukov is off to the Memorial Cup and is the Oilers’ fastest rising prospect
- Jonathan Willis: Craig MacTavish leaves the Oilers, signalling the first major front office change under Ken Holland
- Lowetide: What kind of coach should Ken Holland hire for the Oilers?
- Jonathan Willis: Every Oilers AHL prospect, rated by how close they are to the NHL
- Jonathan Willis: A resurgent Andrej Sekera gives the Oilers much-needed defensive options
- Lowetide: Is Joe Gambardella destined to become the Oilers’ next Fernando Pisani?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Protector, supporter, confidant: Connor McDavid’s mom, Kelly, is his off-ice rock through good times and bad
- Lowetide: An offseason plan for Ken Holland to remodel the Oilers roster.
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Ken Holland steadfast that buck stops with him as new Oilers GM.
- Lowetide: How will Ken Holland proceed in Year 1 as Oilers general manager?
- Jonathan Willis: What does the arrival of Ken Holland mean for the Oilers coaching search?
- Daniel Nugent-Bowman: Prioritizing the roster issues that await Ken Holland in Edmonton.
- Lowetide: Ken Holland’s procurement list for his rumored move to Edmonton will include front-office personnel
- Jonathan Willis: A Milan Lucic trade is at the top of the to-do list for the Oilers’ next GM.
The year Ken Holland took over as manager of the Detroit Red Wings, it was a bizarre scene. The Detroit Red Wings had just won the Stanley Cup, but about one month before Holland took over tragedy struck (here). Along with the human tragedy, Holland was forced to tweak the roster of the defending SC champions. What did he do?
He rotated Anders Eriksson into the NHL lineup, age 23. Eriksson had a couple of previous cups of coffee, he was about where Caleb Jones and Ethan Bear are today. Holland (and the coaching staff) also relied a little more on Aaron Ward and Jamie Pushor, but the heavy lifting remained with Nick Lidstrom, Viacheslav Fetisov and Larry Murphy (with Bob Rouse also in photo). Why? Who in hell else are you going to ask?
Applying that kind of logic to the current Oilers, what kind of change might we expect over the summer? I think it’s possible, even likely, we see very little change on defense. There is no pressure point beyond moving cap dollars around to add a big name forward, and that may not be out there.
Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse are the center cluster of the group, with veterans Kris Russell and Andrej Sekera also part of the group that can do some of the hard work.
The one thing has has to factor in: Graduating a group of young defensemen is best accomplished one at a time. Caleb Jones in October, Evan Bouchard in January, William Lagesson next October? That’s probably something the coach can manage.
In his entire Red Wings career, Holland graduated rookie defenseman by sundial: Eriksson (1997); Jiri Fischer (1999); Maxim Kuznetsov (2001); Dmitri Bykov and Jesse Wallin (2002); Brett Ledba and Niklas Kronwall (2005); Derek Meech (2007); Jakub Kindl (2010); Brendan Smith and Brian Lashoff (2012); Danny DeKeyser (2013); Xavier Ouellett (2014); Alexey Marchenko (2015); Nick Jensen and Ryan Sproul (2016); Filip Hronek and Dennis Cholowski (2018). There are five examples of two men arriving in the same year, over 22 seasons, and in most cases it’s a substantial defender with a marginal defender as the second option. The number of seasons where two rookie defensemen played 35 or more games each? Two, 2016-17 and 2018-19.
Using Holland’s own past, I think Caleb Jones as a regular in 2018-19 is probably Ken Holland’s play here. If the team needs money for forwards, you might see Russell or Sekera dealt but that isn’t a certainty.
How to make room? Again using Holland’s previous transactions, Matt Benning is the likely asset out. Dealing Darnell Nurse is unlikely. In fact, he is likely viewed (along with Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson) as a foundation piece. We can fight and argue and argue and fight, but if you look at Holland’s trade history, he’s upgrading when dealing blue:
1 Dealt Anders Eriksson and two first round selections for Chris Chelios, who was late 30’s at the time. He would play for almost a decade in Detroit, effectively.
2 Dealt Yan Golubovsky for Igor Larionov. Another example of a young blue being sent out for an aged man but it worked and worked well for three more years.
3 Dealt Aaron Ward for the draft pick that turned into Jiri Hudler. Worked for both teams, and is one of the few examples of Holland dealing away a useful blue.
4 Dealt Maxim Kuznetsov, Sean Avery, a first and a second round pick for Matthieu Schneider, who was money for the next three seasons.
5 Dealt Sebastian Piche and a first round pick for Kyle Quincey, who the Red Wings had developed but sent away too soon. He was effective.
6 Traded Brad Stuart for Andy Murray and a draft pick. Stuart would play for three more seasons.
7 Traded Brendan Smith for a second and third round pick
8 Traded Nick Jensen and a fifth round pick for Madison Bowey and a second round pick.
I think Nick Jensen, Aaron Ward, Kyle Quincey and Anders Eriksson are the three names who had significant tread on their tires when sent away. Taken as a whole, I’ll argue Holland received exceptional value across the entire canvas of his time in Detroit.