Ken Holland opened this Red Wings off-season by insinuating there would be change. Henrik Zetterberg soon echoed those statements. If your general manager and captain speak of change, you assume it's coming, but when one of the first signings of the off-season is extending Drew Miller, you take pause.
Holland is coming off a draft that has been hailed by most as a success, opening up cap space by trading Pavel Datsyuk's contract to Arizona without having to move any tangible assets.
Now armed with an extra $7.5 million to play with, Holland declared to the hockey world he was entering the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes. Which is good, I suppose, because adding a generational talent in Stamkos would create some buzz around the organization that hasn't existed since Holland went all in on a one year contract for Marian Hossa some 8 years ago. It's making a serious attempt to add a perennial Rocket Richard Trophy contender--someone who you can bank on for 40 to 50 goals. At face value it's difficult to argue with.
Holland actually executing a frugal trade at the draft? That's some good--take that to the Coinstar machine and GET PAID--change.
Holland pushing all the chips in to go after a superstar? Um, seems like a change because it's been a few years, but actually no, not a philosophical change. This is actually a very Ken Holland/Mike Ilitch thing to do.
Re-signing Drew Miller? NOT CHANGE. So the opposite of change, being that Miller embodies exactly what this team needs to change, it's stale as the bread sitting on top of my refrigerator.
Holland has made a bed of his laurels and uses players like Miller and Luke Glendening as his pillows. It's clear, Holland and Jeff Blashill both believe in the 1998 ideal of needing a "checking line" to complete a roster. That you have to play defensively even when tied or behind. Holland and Blashill also (seem) to fall prey to the "eye test" which often leads you to believe a player like Miller puts forth more effort than say Gustav Nyquist, because instead of being in control, he's constantly chasing, constantly covering for little mistakes and often over matched. WIIM's Prashanth Iyer and WIIM editor JJFromKansas' thorough breakdown of penalty killing deployment has shown that Miller has under performed shorthanded--more so a "penalty killing specialist" is nearly impossible to define. Iyer also pointed out in a series of exasperated tweets that the Wings PK has slowed down through out the season even in years Miller has been healthy. Further damning, Miller's even-strength possession stats for his injury shortened 2015-16 season have shown him to be one of the worst forwards in hockey (38%CF).
If analytical breakdowns bore you, take a minute to look at this cool website that shows even his traditional stats have failed to hold weight the past couple seasons.
When I heard of "change", I was hoping a player like Miller would respectfully part ways with the Red Wings in favor of more youth, speed and skill in the bottom six and penalty kill. The Wings have more than enough young talent in their organization seemingly stuck to fill a void left by a player who measures out to be sub-replacement level. It would be a philosophical change away from the grinder, away from loyalty equaling merit.
With the unrestricted free-agent signing period beginning Friday, there is still much to be determined before reaching a final judgement on Holland's off-season. Having one of your first signings of the summer be Drew Miller was a static, if not regressive start.