After taking a quick trip south of the border, in which Washington’s Brian MacLellan claimed victory over Anaheim’s Bob Murray, it’s time for a return to north with another all-Canadian matchup in the GM Bracket Battle. Today, it’s a contest between Ken Holland and Kevin Cheveldayoff:
12 – Edmonton Oilers: Ken Holland
Evaluating Ken Holland’s tenure in Edmonton is a little bit difficult, given the significant mess that was left to him by his predecessor. Even so, aside from going back to the Mike Smith well, Holland’s offseason in Edmonton this year was full of really smart, cost-effective moves. Bringing in Kyle Turris, re-signing Tyler Ennis, landing Tyson Barrie, and getting Jesse Puljujarvi back to Edmonton all helps to push the Oilers in the right direction. It was an especially impressive haul considering the cap challenges Holland was facing.
Time will obviously reveal whether Holland has what it takes to turn the Oilers into a contender, but the early returns are much more positive than the latter years of his tenure in Detroit might have suggested. The Red Wings struggled to build much of anything after Nicklas Lidstrom’s departure, with Holland leaving Steve Yzerman to essentially start from scratch. With the Oilers, Holland has a golden opportunity to show that he can still do the job at a high level in the salary cap era. And, regardless of where things go from here, the Oilers can sleep easy knowing that their GM delivered a very solid 2020 offseason.
21 – Winnipeg Jets: Kevin Cheveldayoff
If slow and steady wins races, the Winnipeg Jets under Kevin Cheveldayoff should be Stanley Cup champions any year now. Since landing the Jets job in 2011, Cheveldayoff has gone about his business in an incredibly meticulous and methodical manner. That patience has paid off with a return to the postseason in Winnipeg, including a run to the Conference Finals in 2017-18.
A major reason for that success is the consistently good performance of Mark Scheifele. While many were skeptical about Cheveldayoff’s first selection as a Jet at the time, the dividends have been significant since then. When the pressure was on to get the pick absolutely right, Cheveldayoff ignored the noise, went “off the board,” and landed a phenomenal player. That’s good management.
Of course, drafting and developing good players isn’t the only part of the job. One of the major criticisms of Cheveldayoff during his tenure has been his apparent unwillingness to pull the trigger on player-for-player deals. It’s worth considering whether the Jets may have had more playoff success while their roster was at its strongest if another deal or two had been made. The question now is whether Cheveldayoff can take his Jets, who now appear to be on a downward trend, and turn the ship around.