Red Wings Ombudsman Part 3: The Crossroads

Ross Kinnaird

As the Red Wings' Summer of 2012 Part 2 continues on with only the hope remaining that the retread signings made by Ken Holland so far are at least positioning the team for a move that will make the team remarkably better (instead of making them remarkably the same team as the one which was only a mid-tier cup contender at best), we're just about getting into the calm, reflective period that follows the knee-jerk reactions to things like the Dan Cleary re-signing.

Upon reflection, I have only this to say: I hate the playoff streak right now and I'd actually be ok if it ended this season.

That's not to say that I want the playoff streak to end. I'm rooting this season the same I root every season; I want the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup. At the very least I want to believe that the Red Wings are getting closer to winning the Cup than they have been in the last five seasons (where they've failed to reach the conference finals each time). But that's the thing: I was happy that the Wings extended the streak this past season. I celebrated it as a nice accomplishment and had that to fall back on when the first round went disastrously.

I'm not in a position to do that again. I won't be for another six years.

Honestly, I still love that the 23-season streak is a thing. I want them to catch and pass Boston, who holds the record of 29 straight postseason appearances from 1967-1995. I just want that to happen as a side effect of the team competing for the Cup every year and lately, it's felt like the streak has been the goal instead.

The fact is that simply cannot be the goal for this team. The Calgary Flames were able to hang around the bubble of mediocrity for a fair amount of time before they could admit that it was time to commit to a new direction. Doing so that late cost them several years in the process, as by the time they would agree to trade their most-valuable assets, those assets had dropped considerably in value. Detroit is already on that cusp. A full-fledged rebuild does mean that absolutely nobody is untouchable and, more likely, everybody is for sale. The reality of such a sale is that the Wings' very best players are losing trade value each season.

Just like I'm not rooting against making the playoffs, I'm not committing to a full-fledged rebuild for this team either. I'm just pointing out that the cost of choosing against such a path is that it makes the path longer if the current plan fails. Hell, if the current plan is to simply coast by on making the playoffs every year while being first-round fodder for better teams, then the entire worry about the rebuild point is moot, because it's not a path which ever calls for one.

It's also not a path which ever calls for greatness, which is why it's not the path I want the Wings on right now or ever.

In all honesty, there's another reason I'd rather the Wings simply miss the playoffs rather than hobble in to get their shit handed to them by a better team. Bottom line is that it's the end of excuses for the fans and it's the end of excuses for Ken Holland.

Yes, Ken Holland has been with the team through four Stanley Cup parades (he was the GM for 3 of those). Yes, Ken Holland is the GM who transitioned the team once before, being essentially the only GM in the league which has made a perennial playoff performer into a Stanley Cup champion while also turning over the core of his roster in the Salary Cap era (although the core turnover began before the 2004 lockout, they were still able to complete the reload under a brand new set of limitations).

Ken Holland has a very large book of accomplishments to fall back on in his legacy as an NHL GM. The problem is that the only thing which he has positively added to that legacy in these last five seasons has been the extension of the consecutive playoff streak. There's a lot of promise in the team's future still, but there have also been such a large number of moves which have done little but spin the tires on the team and on that promise.

Let's put it this way: If Holland is trying to build a cup contender, his legacy doesn't protect against how much farther his moves have driven the club from that goal in the last five years. If Holland is trying to maintain a perennial playoff team (which I think is a stupid goal), then missing the playoffs is a sign of complete failure.

Either way, playing simply to make the playoffs is not an acceptable goal for fans of this organization, and if that is the goal, then by-and-large, the fans want new leadership which has a different set of priorities for the team.

I don't want Ken Holland to fail. I want to trust in his abilities as a GM again. Right now I don't, and I don't find it convincing to be reminded of accolades which were last valid nearly half a decade ago. The latest moves in re-signing Kyle Quincey and Dan Cleary are bringing little else but criticisms from every objective source outside of the organization (and for the record, the Detroit diggers should absolutely NOT be considered objective sources outside the organization).

It's been a long time since the Wings have had to give much of a shit about the rest of the world's opinion, but the only thing which quiets that kind of howling is to win; they simply haven't done that enough recently.

Run for the Cup or run out of excuses. That's the call for this year. The streak means nothing.

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