As most of us are aware, the Red Wings are now out of the Playoffs. With that comes the end-of-season meetings and press conferences. While I don't think any of us expected Ken to shoot sunshine and rainbows out of his backside for an hour for his presser, some of the things he said were probably just as disturbing as if we'd seen that. And after a few days of digesting the comments, they still don't sit any better with me.
For anyone interested, there's a good cut of the press conference here on YouTube.
"If you expect Cups, you're in the wrong league".
First, I want to get this out of the way. Kenny is right, there's almost no realistic way to expect us to win the Cup every season unless you're playing Dynasty Mode in NHL-2Kwhatever. But, with that said, why shouldn't we expect the Cup every year? Or at the very least, to be in contention for it?
For 25 seasons, this team has made it into the post-season. We've won 4 Stanley Cups and played in a total of 6 Stanley Cup Finals. That's almost a 25% rate for being in the Finals, a pretty amazing feat when you only have a roughly 6.5% chance to make the finals at the start of the season. The expectation of excellence has been built into this franchise for a generation, and Holland has been one of the main architects of that. Maybe he's a victim of his own success, but that's life as an NHL General Manager. When you've bred success for this long it becomes the standard, the minimum to be reached, instead of something to be celebrated.
Do you think Chicago or Pittsburgh are telling their fans they can't expect Cups? Los Angeles? Washington? Granted, these teams all tanked to get where they are and Kenny keeps mentioning how he refuses to do that. But why should refusing to tank and all that comes with that change fan expectations, regardless of what's realistic? This is Hockeytown. Of course we expect the Stanley Cup.
"There's 30 teams competing for the Cup".
No there aren't. There's maybe 5 teams that know they won't sniff a Wild-Card spot (the Edmonton, Toronto, and Buffalo type rebuilding teams), 15 that can fight for a Wild-Card or 3rd Seed spot, 6 that should make legitimate playoff runs, and probably 4 teams that will be favorites for the Finals.
This one bugs me because it presents a "Bettman-idealized" landscape where one, pretty clearly, still doesn't exist. It's easier for Holland to sell his job and the end of season results when he says "we were one of thirty because parity" than if he said "we were in the lower-middle of the pack and can't classify ourselves as an elite top-10 squad".
"We have to find a way to marginally get better" and "It's a 2% league and we have to find a way to get 2% better"
Winning 2% more games doesn't make this Wings team look like an unbeatable roster. Scoring 2% more goals, or decreasing goals against by 2%, doesn't make the Wings a powerhouse opponent. Nobody has nightmares about 102% of a Detroit team that was only better than 50% of the NHL. We need bigger changes than just 2%, and Kenny should be able to acknowledge that.
"I think less can be more exciting"
While the question prompting this was in regards to fan expectations, Holland follows it up by talking about how reporters used to be bored until the second round of the playoffs and only then did they find it exciting. What. The. Actual. F***. You have ZERO responsibility to reporters and writers, Holland, and EVERY responsibility to put a product on the ice that FANS will support. As stated above, the fan expectation is to WIN. I don't know of any fans who get excited for "well Chicago is in town and I sure hope we can play them close and have a good game and maybe we lose and maybe we win but it'll be more fun than a guaranteed win!"
Fans don't buy tickets to see close losses unless your franchise is in the crapper. When we buy tickets, when we go to games, when we buy GameCenter to watch the Wings from out of town, we want to see wins. Big wins. Close wins. Shut-out wins. Overtime wins. Come from behind wins. And if Kenny can't put this team in a position to get more wins, instead of trying to sell us the idea that we should be more hyped up about a crappier product, then maybe it's time to start seriously looking for his replacement.
"Some of these guys were signed 2 or 3 years ago, and how do I know where they're gonna be in 2019?"
Isn't... Isn't this your JOB? I mean, in terms of "looking into a crystal ball" then no, of course Ken Holland isn't going to be able to predict where guys are at several years down the road. But he and his staff should have pretty good ideas on how to develop and protect guys and shape them into the players they'll need to be. And if they can't make those predictions within a reasonable area of accuracy then maybe they shouldn't sign these guys to 5+ year contracts. This felt like a total cop-out on being accountable for the cap and contract trouble we currently are in.
And if Kenny won't be held accountable for how contracts turn out, maybe we should just put a Magic 8-Ball in the front office instead. Hey Holland, should we get Mrazek's extension done before the Draft? "Signs point to Yes". Awesome, did you have a dollar value and term in mind? "Ask again later". DAMMIT THATS WHAT YOU SAID LAST WEEK!
Overall, I can't say the entire press conference was an unmitigated disaster or an unprecedented success. Holland had some points where he clearly had the right answers, and some points where he failed to satisfy. But in this city, for the past 25 years, failing has not been acceptable.