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Editor’s Rant: Does Ken Holland have a plan for the Red Wings?

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Editor’s note: I’m venting, so if I come off as doom & gloom, please keep that in mind. My concern for this organization has hit a new level, and I am choosing you all as my echo chamber.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Ken Holland has done remarkable things with the Detroit Red Wings over the past two decades. What he’s done is something most general managers in the NHL, or any level can only dream about achieving. That’s all well and good, yeah? Of course, I mean, I’ve watched my favorite sports team win the ultimate prize four times. We’ve been spoiled here in Detroit, but times have changed. A once storied franchise of the upmost excellence is teeter-tottering on being quasi-contenders, or barrel-rolling down a path of destruction. Okay, maybe “path of destruction” is a touch dramatic, but I’m a fan, so naturally I like to blow things out of proportion.

Before the offseason commenced, after the Red Wings were bounced from yet another disappointing and lackluster playoff appearance, Ken Holland said that big changes were inevitable with personnel. The team started off promising, making some really favorable moves with the coaching — They moved Pat Ferschweiler to a different assignment, then hired Doug Houda and John Torchetti. The bad news started to roll in when franchise veteran center Pavel Datsyuk made the decision to return to Russia, forfeiting his final year, and hamstringing the club with a bill for $7.5 million hanging around. The impact of losing Pavel Datsyuk is bigger than most realize right now, but I have an awful feeling that we will see that later on in 2016.

Onto the 2016 NHL Draft, where Red Wings fans were struck with a ridiculous and abrupt jolt of positivity when Ken Holland managed to move Pavel Datsyuk’s contract along with the 16th overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes for 20th and 53rd overall, along with Joe Vitale (a player who will be on LTIR due to concussion-like symptoms.) While they missed out on a promising defensive prospect in Jakob Chychrun, the race for Steven Stamkos was on. After multiple rumors and speculation that Detroit was one of the front-runners in the Stamkos sweepstakes, the all-star sniper re-signed an eight-year extension with his current club, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The worst part? Despite being considered the front-runners, Detroit didn’t even get to speak with Stamkos’ camp. Nope, not even an invitation to the ball. That, my friends, is when shit hit the proverbial fan.

Without breaking down each and every single signing made this summer, I am going to group them all together, stay with me here...

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Drew Miller — One year, $1.025 million
  • Darren Helm — Five years, $19.25 million
  • Frans Nielsen — Six years, $31.5 million
  • Thomas Vanek — One year, $2.6 million
  • Steve Ott — One year, $800,000
  • Luke Glendening (had one year left on contract) — Five years, $7.2 million

The culture of plugging holes in a leaky hull with veteran free agents remains to live on — Hardly a change, which is what we were led to believe was on the horizon. Re-signing Darren Helm was unnecessary. While I think he’s still a useful bottom-six player, the deal they gave him is awful. If it were up to me, I would not have signed him. The same goes for Drew Miller, a one-dimensional player who provides so little

Restricted Free Agents

  • Alexey Marchenko — Two years, $2.375 million
  • Riley Sheahan — Two years, $4.15 million
  • Teemu Pulkkinen — One year, $812,500
  • Danny DeKeyser — Six years, $30 million
  • Petr Mrazek — Two years, $8 million

Ken Holland usually does a bang-up job with his restricted free agents, I’ll give him that. Outisde of DeKeyser’s contract, he did just that. While I think DeKeyser is a fine player who is entering his prime, I find his contract hard to digest. At best, I think DeKeyser is a 2nd-pairing defenseman. He’s not a 1D, and calling him a 2D would be a stretch. His offensive numbers don’t justify the means, and his ability with shot suppression do not either. DeKeyser has been somewhat of an antagonistic topic among Red Wings fans this summer, but whichever way you want to cut it, I think this is was a risky move by Holland:

Prashanth Iyer

As you can see, DeKeyser is very much a middling defenseman. I don’t see his ceiling as a top-pair guy, and Ken Holland is paying him as such. For a GM who waxed-poetic about significant changes, and aggressiveness with roster, Holland has certainly retained a similar “limp-to-the-playoffs-on-bloody-nubs” type of build to this team. I like Nielsen a lot, I think he’ll be good for a couple of years. Vanek is a fine signing considering it is a one-year deal, and he has potential to score 20-or-more goals. Ott is just whatever, I don’t get it so I won’t even try, but I digress... Nothing has changed from what Holland has done over the past several years.

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The moral of the story is that I just don’t know what the master plan for this team is. We were told there would be significant moves, and it looked promising when Holland flipped Datsyuk’s contract, but since then it has fallen flat on it’s face with nothing to show but a handful of questionable transactions. The team’s laundry list of bad contracts continues to grow, and Holland has created a logjam across the depth chart. The team has no room to utilize their entry-level contract players like Anthony Mantha, or Tyler Bertuzzi, two players who could serve as very useful depth in bottom or even top-six roles. The defense is still very ‘meh,’ after showing that it is one of the worst in the league. I’m concerned for this team — What’s it going to look like now that Pavel Datsyuk is gone?

The team is so close to rebuild that it’s unsettling. I foresee things getting real ugly for the team in the next two seasons, and I’m not convinced that Holland is ready to take a step back and build from the ground up. Nope, not with a brand new arena on the horizon.

What’s the plan here, Kenny? Do you even have one? I want to believe in you... I want to believe in this team, but I’m running on empty here.