The Detroit Red Wings are officially out of playoff contention contention for the second year in a row, the first time that has happened in over three decades.
Meanwhile, the contract of long-tenured general manager Ken Holland is up at the end of this season. While Red Wings ownership has been mum regarding his future with the team, it’s clear that fans are frustrated with the moves he’s made in recent years and feel that a new direction and new figure to lead the rebuild is necessary for a return to glory.
Holland himself said on Friday that he hasn’t spoken with ownership regarding his future, but that he’s comfortable with his career status.
“From my perspective, I’m not too concerned,” he said. “I’m very comfortable where I’m at in my career.”
Holland’s resume is nothing to scoff at. Since officially taking over as general manager following the team’s 1997 Stanley Cup victory, he has overseen another three Stanley Cup championships, a fourth Finals appearance, several President’s Trophies, divisional titles, and team milestones.
However, his recent moves have drawn the ire of a fan base that isn’t accustomed to losing. Multiple long-term contracts given out to players who in turn haven’t lived up to those expectations have put the team in a salary cap bind, which wasn’t a problem when Holland was free to spend Mike Ilitch’s money in the pre-cap world.
The team’s young core of players, including Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, and up and coming Evgeny Svechnikov (top 2015 draft selection) and Michael Rasmussen (top 2017 draft selection)
However, their biggest concern is the blueline. They haven’t had a bonafide number one defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom hung up his skates in 2012. Niklas Kronwall is on his last legs, Jonathan Ericsson has disappointed following a promising start to his career, Danny DeKeyser has suffered from injuries and inconsistency. Trevor Daley brings a good veteran presence, but isn’t a top-pairing player, nor is Nick Jensen. Meanwhile, Mike Green is set to be an unrestricted free-agent this summer.
They have a few good defenseman in their prospect pool, including Filip Hronek, Vili Saarijarvi, and Dennis Cholowski. However, none of them are projected to be top-tier blueliners.
“We haven’t done a good enough job drafting and developing defensemen,” Holland said. “They’re coming. I think we got some people out there.”
Holland knows that the fans are frustrated, though he himself has shied away from officially using the term “rebuild”.
“I understand the process. I understand how long it takes,” Holland said. “It takes patience, it takes a plan, it takes commitment. This is not new territory for me. I’ve lived it.”
Meanwhile, Holland is focused on getting the young up and coming players on the team and contributing. However long that takes – or if he will even be the one to oversee a return to the winning tradition he oversaw for two plus decades now – remains to be seen.
“We got a lot of picks, we got young people on our team, got more coming,” Holland said. “I’m expecting two or three more younger players on the roster next year, maybe not at the start, but hopefully at the start. We’re trying to get these players to Detroit as quickly as possible but get them here when they’re ready.”
“Ultimately, the plan is the Detroit Red Wings are going to be an elite team, but it’s going to take time.”