Disappointment, failure, rejected, forgotten..etc. These are the words many Detroit Red Wings fans have used to express their displeasure of losing out on key acquisitions in this year's Free Agency. We can point the fingers at General Manager Ken Holland, the 35 year old Joe Louis Arena, the city's popularity or Head Coach Mike Babcock's coaching style. But one thing is for sure, there is still hope.
After the team was eliminated by the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Ken Holland addressed the media on how the Red Wings will be aggressive during the offseason. First, Holland provided pink slips to David Legwand, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson. As many fans anticipated, the youth movement was in full force and the Red Wings were ready to shape the character of the team. Holland explored trade possibilities with Phoenix, Buffalo, Washington and Winnipeg for a Right-Handed defenseman, however teams sought Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Gustav Nyquist and 2013 First round pick, Anthony Mantha.
With limited trade partners, Detroit went into the draft having an undersized roster. General Manager Ken Holland, Scouting Director Tyler Wright and Senior Vice President Jimmy Devellano knew they needed size up front after being manhandled by the Boston Bruins in the playoffs. Detroit first selected local star, Center Dylan Larkin who Wright says "Oozes with character", later the wings drafted Dominic Turgeon, Christoffer Ehn, Julius Vahatalo, Axel Holmstrom, Alexander Kadeykin and Goaltender Chase Perry. What do all these prospects have in common? Size and Speed. Detroit was clearly confident in their previous draft picks by not selecting a defenseman.
Free Agency approached and Ken Holland was ready to hand out contracts. Holland knew the team needed a right-handed defenseman and targeted veterans like Dan Boyle, Stephane Robidas, Anton Stralman, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. Holland was instantly rejected and found himself coming up short after day one of free agency. Forced to pick up a defenseman, Holland re-signed Kyle Quincey to a two-year deal. Fans began to blame Ken Holland for missing out on key free agents and failing to land a key defenseman in a trade. So where does this team go from here? Will the wings not make the playoffs? Should they rebuild? The answer, THERE IS NO NEED TO PANIC.
Detroit is fortunate to have a stellar minor league system consisted of elite blue-chip prospects that are ready to emerge in the National Hockey League. As a city that craves a "Win-now approach", the red wings future is bright. Hockeyfuture.com Ranked the Red Wings the 3rd Best Farm System. On defense, the 2013 CHL Defenseman of the year Ryan Sproul is making headlines for the Grand Rapid Griffins and could potential make the Red Wings 2014-2015 roster. Xavier Ouelett has already dipped his feet in the NHL and could also be added as full-time member of the Red Wings this season. Alexey Marchenko had a successful rookie season for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season and coaches have already praised his maturity presence on the ice. On offense, players like Mitch Callahan, Teemu Pulkkinen and Landon Ferraro have already played on the Red Wings roster and could potentially make the team. Long-shots like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou carry speed, size and play making ability that the wings desperately need with aging veterans like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk slowly deteriorating.
Sure we can be disappointed for the wings coming up short in free agency or not landing a blockbuster trade, however, Ken Holland should not be blamed for where the team is at. Like most fans should, he sees the potential of our farm system and the young-guns like Tatar, Jurco and Nyquist who shall be untouchable and can deliver for many years to come. You can't trade a bucket of pucks for a key player, instead with the new CBA and a limited talent pool, you can only develop your investments and hope for the best. The Detroit Red Wings main concern this offseason should be offering an extension to Head Coach Mike Babcock. Babcock is a well respected coach who took Team Canada to two Gold medals. If the players did not respect him then he would not be representing the best hockey nation in the world. Not to mention his influence towards the young players who had stepped up last season and clinched a playoff berth.
As a fan, I am excited to see how our prospects shape this organization. In the past, the city of Detroit was spoiled of landing Elite players at trade deadlines and free agency. Pipe dream is over, and as a fan base we need to accept the fact that management is doing everything in their power to build a Stanley Cup contending team. The Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers did not build their successful teams overnight, it took years to model themselves after the former Red Wings winning teams.