At his introductory news conference, he said he had already informed Ken Hitchcock that he will not return as coach of the team.
Holland had spent 36 years with the Red Wings organization, including 22 as GM, and was the architect of three Stanley Cup winning teams.
Two weeks ago, Holland's position with the Red Wings shifted to an advisory role when Detroit welcomed Steve Yzerman as the GM. Yzerman, a former Red Wings great, had previously served as the general manager in Tampa Bay.
According to multiple reports, Holland's deal with the Oilers is for five years, at $5 million per year.
The Oilers have missed the playoffs in 12 of the past 13 seasons, despite picking first overall for three straight years from 2010 to 2012 and again in 2015. There is pressure to win while superstar captain Connor McDavid is still in his prime -- and under contract. McDavid, 22, has a deal that runs through 2025-26 with a $12.5 million cap hit.
Holland will report to Oilers CEO Bob Nicholson. According to owner Daryl Katz, Holland will have "full autonomy" in roster decisions.
"I know fans don't want plans and promises," Katz said. "They want results."
Holland said he does expect to implement "some change" but did not provide a timeline or details. He emphasized long-term sustainability, but added: "I'd like to think we are talking playoffs in '19-'20."
Holland will help choose the team's next coach. The Oilers fired Todd McLellan in November, and used longtime NHL coach Hitchcock for the remainder of the season.
Holland, a British Columbia native, called himself a "Western Canadian boy" and he spent lengths listing his personal and family connections to provinces in Western Canada. Holland called the decision to leave the Red Wings "emotional" but said he still had the passion and enthusiasm to be a general manager, which led to him taking the new job.
"I've got a core to work with," Holland said. "Now I've got to go out and support that core, find a coach, and provide stability, and build a program here that our fan base is excited about."
"My job is to provide stability," Holland said, one of a number of times he used the word "stability."
In Holland's tenure, the Red Wings made the playoffs for 25 seasons, which ended in 2017 as the team entered a rebuild.