Allow me to start this article by stating, like most of you, our intelligent and fanatical readers here at Winging It In Motown, that I do not, and have not agreed with 100 percent of the decisions that Ken Holland has made in his 19 year tenure as General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings. I wish that I could proudly say that I am a Ken Holland guy, and that I stand 100 percent behind my GM, but unfortunately the world of professional sports does not afford all fan-bases that luxury. With that being said, and at the risk of sparking a good old fashioned Internet debate, I will try and defend Uncle Kenny's 2016 NHL Free Agency moves thus far.
Let's be honest, both morale and expectations were not very high on the morning of July 1st for most Red Wings fans. Between Steven Stamkos announcing that he would be re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Detroit Red Wings previous failed free agency attempts/signings over the last several off-seasons, and reports surfacing that Ken Holland and company were interested in Matt Martin, Wing-Nuts had every reason to be concerned. As the old saying goes, "Expect the best, prepare for the worst."
And it's unfortunate that we as Red Wings fans found ourselves in the situation of preparing for the worst, especially after Ken Holland was able to briefly renew our faith in him after working some draft day magic by shipping Pavel Datsyuk's cap-hit to Arizona. It's almost easy to forget that Holland was able to strategically move Datsyuk's contract (something he didn't think was going to possible) which allowed the Red Wings to become serious contenders in the hunt for Steven Stamkos.
Whether you believed that Stamkos would actually come to Detroit or not, it was a nice feeling to think that it was at least a possibility that the Red Wings had created the scenario for it to actually happen. But on the eve of free agency, as we all had to sit and watch as Stamkos decided to stay in Tampa, we all headed to our bomb shelters, logged onto Twitter, and prepared for the worst.
But was it all doom and gloom per usual for the Detroit Red Wings on opening day of free agency? It really depends on which fan you ask. The re-signing of Darren Helm could be argued in both term and price, most seem to be against it, but when it comes to newly acquired free-agents, that's where the real debate and griping starts.
Putting aside the term of contract, Frans Nielsen was a solid Plan B for the Red Wings. Along with the Wings, several teams missed out on their Plan A (Stamkos), but unlike the Red Wings, many other teams didn't get their Plan B option after Stammer. Along with his skill, Nielsen brings something to Hockeytown that hasn't been seen much over the last few off-seasons, a desire to play in Detroit:
"I felt Detroit was too excited to turn down. With the mix of young and old it was exciting and a place I wanted to go to."
After signing Nielsen, the additions of Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott both bring their respective low-risk and possible high-reward scenarios. Vanek could bring both a much-needed and fresh scoring touch to Detroit, while Ott can possibly add a bit of grit and physicality that has been severely lacking in Detroit for many years. Both Ott and Vanek aren't the marquee names that they once were, but they both come at a decent price and term for the Red Wings.
A lot of people had a problem with the Ott signing, but I remind those people that it could've been a lot worse. The Red Wings are essentially paying Ott $800,000 to do what Toronto payed Matt Martin $10M to do, and Ott's money can be buried in the AHL if need be. Can you imagine the outrage if Holland signed Martin to any sort of multi-million deal in Detroit? Our friend Kyle summed up the Ott deal perfectly on Twitter:
It's $800K. Let's just have fun with it and laugh. Who cares.
— Kyle M. (@KyleWIIM) July 1, 2016,
We all know that the Red Wings need help on the blue-line, so adding three forwards through free-agency doesn't sit well with most fans, but I think it's a safe bet that Holland will be attempting to trade for a defenceman before the start of the 2016-17 NHL Season. If Ken Holland does indeed trade for a blue-liner, it will likely involve a roster-player and/or prospect. This possible trade scenario could make or break Holland in the minds of most Detroit fans, but as we've seen, the asking price for top-tier players is very high in today's market.
It's both easy and unfair to compare what Ken Holland is doing with the Red Wings to what Steve Yzerman is doing down in Tampa. Sure, Yzerman could've been Detroit's GM had Holland decided to move offices, but that's neither here nor there. Yzerman has acquired extraordinary pieces/players that comes with enduring years of struggle and not so great finishes while the Red Wings on the other hand have maintained just enough of a level of success that has not granted them such opportunities. Perhaps that will change, or maybe needs to change, only time will tell.
Perhaps I'm too much of an optimist, or maybe I'm suffering from a bad case of denial. I don't think that Ken Holland's moves on July 1st were completely brilliant, nor do I think that they were completely terrible either. All I know is that things could've been worse. The Red Wings could've missed out completely. We will all find out how it will all play out in roughly 100 days.