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Oilers and GM Ken Holland part ways after 5 seasons following their trip to the Stanley Cup Final

EDMONTON, Alberta — The Edmonton Oilers announced Thursday that general manager Ken Holland’s contract will not be renewed, calling it a mutual decision between the veteran executive and the NHL club.

Holland spent the past five seasons as the Oilers’ general manager, building a team that advanced to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Florida Panthers. His departure had been expected since Connor McDavid’s longtime agent, Jeff Jackson, took over as CEO of hockey operations last August.

“Over the past five seasons, as general manager, Ken has not only built the Edmonton Oilers into one of the NHL’s best teams, but he has also built a deep foundation for success and a winning culture that will continue well into the future. Jackson said in a statement confirming Holland’s departure from the organization.

“Thanks to Ken’s outstanding work, Edmonton has become a magnet for National Hockey League players.”

The 68-year-old Holland was general manager of the Detroit Red Wings for 22 seasons and won the Cup three times: in 1998, 2002 and 2008.

The Oilers built around McDavid and elite forward Leon Draisaitl and finished the season as the potential champions many expected to see when Holland, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2020 in the builders category, took over from interim GM Keith Gretzky on May 7, 2019.

But Edmonton’s rise to the top came in fits and starts. Holland faced criticism for much of his tenure for assembling a top-heavy squad and failing to solve the team’s goal defense problems.

The Oilers lost in the qualifying round of the playoffs in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, then were swept in the ’21 postseason by the Winnipeg Jets.

Edmonton appeared to have turned a corner when it advanced to the 2022 Western Conference finals before being swept by Colorado, but the team regressed the following season, losing in the second round to eventual champion Vegas.

Confidence in Holland’s ability to build a winning team in Edmonton was shaken earlier this season when the Oilers started with a 3-9-1 record.

After Jay Woodcroft was fired and replaced as coach by Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers grew into one of the league’s best teams, going on a 16-game winning streak, one shy of the league record.

And by the time the Oilers entered Game 7 of this year’s Cup Final, the team could count on solid goaltending from Stuart Skinner and contributions from the entire lineup, addressing two of the biggest criticisms of Holland.

Now the Oilers have a major role to play in hockey operations as they enter the offseason looking to take the final step toward winning their sixth Stanley Cup title and first since 1990.

AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl