In the NHL business, just like in any other business you’d care to name, who you know can be every bit as important as what you know. You only need to look at how the Edmonton Oilers have rebuilt their hockey operations department this off-season for the latest example of that.

In a passionate hockey town that has cast a suspicious eye at what cynics called the Old Boys’ Club – a group of former Oilers players involved in various positions within hockey ops – since all the successes of the 1980’s faded, the way forward will be charted by another group of hockey men for whom familiarity is a factor.

That’s not necessarily good or bad – results dictate how the relationships are perceived. They always do. It’s reality, whether you are running a tech company, a furniture store or an NHL team. All things being equal, which is a significant caveat and one seen as a problem with the OBC, it is human nature to draw on relationships. You go with who you know, who you trust, who you have history with. It’s always been that way. Always will be.

The ties might not be as direct as they were when Kevin Lowe was the GM of the Oilers and Craig MacTavish was coaching the team, but they are there nonetheless as new POHO and GM Ken Holland puts together the hockey ops department that will have to clean up the mess left by the Pete Chiarelli regime.


CEO Bob Nicholson, charged with finding a replacement for Chiarelli, circled back to Holland after their initial conversation had been less than promising. Holland, kicked upstairs in Detroit when Steve Yzerman came in as GM, had a job for life with the Red Wings as a senior advisor if he wanted it. It didn’t take very long for Holland to realize that wasn’t enough to sink his teeth into. After Nicholson and Holland, who have known each other for decades, talked again, the search was essentially over.

“I’ve known Ken for a while,” Nicholson said when Holland was unveiled May 7. “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 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.”


Between Tippett’s time in Dallas and Arizona, Holland got a first-hand look at his handiwork behind the bench while he was running the show in Detroit. A Jack Adams Award winner, Tippett had the inside track for the coaching position because Holland valued what Tippett could bring – the ability to communicate and experience.

Dave brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization,” Holland said about Tippett on May 28. “He is a great communicator and has consistently led teams known for their level of compete. I look forward to seeing Dave guide the Oilers this fall and we are all excited to have him on board.”


Playfair, a former Oilers’ first-round draft pick in 1982, was virtually an automatic to join Tippett here after spending six seasons, 2011-17, on his staff with the Arizona Coyotes. To absolutely nobody’s surprise, Playfair was hired as an associate coach on June 20.


Wiseman, who has spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach with the University of Michigan, was added to Tippett’s staff today, joining Playfair and incumbent Glen Gulutzan. Wiseman was Tippett’s video coach in 2002-03 with Dallas and he played for him with the Houston Aeros in 1997-98.


Henderson takes over from Duane Sutter as the Oilers director of pro scouting after spending four seasons on Holland’s pro staff with the Red Wings. Henderson and Holland go back was farther than that – they were teammates with the Binghamton Whalers back in 1982-83.


Wright, another former Oilers’ first-round draft pick (12th overall in 1991), takes over as director of amateur scouting. Wright held the same position with Holland in Detroit for six season after spending two years doing the same job with the Columbus Blue Jackets.


After having such a blast over the past two years, we absolutely knew that we were going to organize another golf tourney for the summer and, after a few months of planning, we’re psyched to finally be able to launch our third annual golf tournament.

  • When – August 29th, 2019 (Thursday). Tee off at 2 p.m.
  • Where – Cougar Creek Golf Resort
  • How much – $1000/team
  • Teams – Groups of Four (4)
  • How – Book your team here

As always, a portion of all proceeds from your ticket purchase will be donated directly to a local charity. This time we’ve partnered up with the Gregor Foundation to make sure that our kids are at their most handsome.

Previously by Robin Brownlee