Ted Kulfan's NHL playoff preview: Former Red Wings execs Holland, Nill square off in West final

Ted Kulfan, The Detroit News on

Published in Hockey

DETROIT — Ken Holland and Jim Nill put together rosters that made the Red Wings an NHL dynasty and brought four Stanley Cups to Detroit.

Evidently the two veteran general managers aren't done yet.

Holland's Edmonton Oilers and Nill's Dallas Stars will meet in the Western Conference final beginning Thursday in Dallas. The New York Rangers and Florida Panthers face off in the Eastern Conference final starting Wednesday.

Edmonton reached the Final Four on Monday with a thrilling 3-2 Game 7 victory in Vancouver. Dallas eliminated defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas and powerful Colorado to get out of the Central Division bracket.

Holland and Nill played junior hockey together in Medicine Hat and when Holland became the Wings' assistant GM in 1994, he brought Nill into the amateur scouting department. Holland made Nill the chief scout when Holland became the Wings' GM and eventually gave Nill the assistant GM title, as the two worked together for 19 years.

The pair won Stanley Cup with the Wings in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.


Nill took over as Dallas' GM in 2013 and has constructed one of the most consistent organizations in the NHL.

This will be a special series for the two close friends, but it isn't going to hurt their relationship.

"Are we competitive? Do we want to win, to beat each other in the trenches? Of course," said Nill, when talking about Holland before Holland's 2021 Hall of Fame induction. "But respect is one of the greatest things about our sport. When the game is over, you're still best of friends. Those are the best of times, when you play somebody you respect, and whether one side or the other wins, there are handshakes after and a respect that goes with it.

"Ken and I, because of our friendship, respect that as much as anyone and that will never change."


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