The Detroit Red Wings are stuck in their worst season in nearly three decades and are all but mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Wednesday was the NHL's trade deadline, and unfortunately, became yet another chapter in the ever-faltering novel authored by Wings general manager Ken Holland.
When the dust settled, the Red Wings had sold off several pieces of their team, but the returns they received were puzzling. Holland's dealing of Thomas Vanek to the Panthers for nothing more than a third-round draft pick and an oft-waived defenseman in Dylan McIlrath needs to be his last official move as general manager.
Well, maybe the second-to-last official move. He needs to resign.
With each passing year since the NHL's salary cap was implemented, one thing has become abundantly clear – the game has passed him by. Without an open checkbook to play with and without the council of one of the greatest hockey minds in history (Scotty Bowman), Holland has been exposed. Bowman is now an advisor for the Chicago Blackhawks, where his son Stan serves as GM. Since the elder Bowman moved to the Windy City, they've raised three additional Stanley Cup banners to the United Center rafters.
One of Holland's biggest mistakes has been to over-value young players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan, who have yet to take the next step in development that had been expected from them. He's completely mismanaged the team's assets, handing out long-term deals to players like Justin Abdelkader, who just scored only his first goal in over 20 games. Abdelkader on the year has just five goals and 14 points in 43 games played.
Let's not also forget Johan Franzen, whom Holland chose to sign instead of Marian Hossa. The latter has three Stanley Cup rings with Chicago since 2010, while the former is under contract for roughly $4M per year through approximately 2058 (2020, to be exact) and no longer playing due to concussion issues.
The team is also saddled with long-term and high-salary deals of Frans Nielsen, Henrik Zetterberg, Jimmy Howard, and Danny DeKeyser. They may have qualified for the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons, but the past few seasons, they've served as nothing but fodder for stronger opponents in the first round.
Ken Holland's inability to look towards the future, commit to a full-scale rebuild, and milquetoast “Well, we did the best we could,” shtick following the trade deadline does nothing but draw the further ire of Detroit hockey fans.
Of course, their patience was stretched to the breaking point when Holland explained his bizarre philosophies of “less can be more exciting” and “if you expect Cups, you're in the wrong league” during a press conference following yet another first-round playoff exit. Fans are still scratching their heads as to how the GM of the Red Wings was allowed to say that mediocrity and complacency are perfectly acceptable.
Holland also stated that the team intends to compete next season. If the Red Wings aren't in a position to challenge for the Stanley Cup, what exactly are they competing for?
This is Detroit. This isn't Columbus, Ottawa, St. Louis or San Jose. It's Cup or bust around here. Or, at least, it once was.
Detroit had the opportunity to shake things up by naming legendary former captain Steve Yzerman their general manager while Holland would be promoted to a higher front office position. Holland declined, and Yzerman was soon named GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he's earned rave reviews while turning his new team into a perennial powerhouse (sans this season, ironically) in the East. Additionally, former assistant general manager Jim Nill is now the head honcho for the Dallas Stars, and led them to one of the best records in the NHL last season.
Red Wings fans everywhere are pining for the Yzerman to return home, but he's still under contract with the Lightning for a few more years, and there's been no indication that he intends to move back north any time soon.
The Red Wings had one of the greatest runs of any professional sports franchise, but it's time to commit to a rebuild to get back to their former glory. Ken Holland isn't the man to be running things, and his recent track record leaves absolutely no doubt that it's time for a new voice in the front office.
Otherwise, Hockeytown will be suffering a serious shortage of Stanley for a long time.