If you’ve been following along with the debate about whether or not the Red Wings need to rebuild and especially on our coverage with what Ken Holland has been saying in regards to his aversion to such a plan, then you already know that Ken Holland says rebuilds take 8-10 years. Here he is saying it on January 18th in a piece where he essentially talked about not wanting to commit to selling after the Wings had run off three straight wins over Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Boston. He also said it in last year’s end-of-season presser.
That’s why it’s interesting to see Bob Wojnowski’s article go up last night on the heels of a 4-0 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs: Wings are major fix-up project for Holland. It’s not like the rest of the hockey world hasn’t taken notice of the Wings’ dire position in the standings and pointed out that promise from just ten days ago has faded. What’s interesting is that Ken Holland’s rock-solid rebuild timeline has now changed.
And Holland, GM since 1997, is in an uncomfortable position, trying to weigh the franchise’s competitive instincts against simple logic. Launch a major sell-off at the trade deadline March 1? OK sure, but good luck. Holland isn’t trading picks or prospects, and contending teams are looking for veteran players with decent contracts. On the Wings, that might be Thomas Vanek, Brendan Smith, Mike Green and not much else, and they’re unlikely to draw a bounty in return.
“I’m fighting it, for myself, for the ownership and for the fans,” Holland said Wednesday. “If you rebuild — and maybe it’ll happen anyhow — it might be 5-6 years. I don’t think people realize what it takes, how much pain it entails.”
Putting aside the fact that Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar absolutely belong on the list of tradeable assets, look at that rebuild timeline. What happened to 8-10 years? Why are we suddenly a full entry level contract quicker to be able to rebuild?
Put simply, the only thing that’s changed in the reality of a rebuild is the Red Wings’ GM’s realistic chances of having to sell fans on the idea. The 8-10 year rebuild plan was used largely as a joke because of how bold a lie it’s been while Holland was peddling it to put off selling. Now that the reality is one of Holland honestly having to give a real effort to such a plan, his job as a salesman to the fans hasn’t changed. If Holland knows he has to bring on the pain of risking constructive losing to end the pain of pointless losing, it’s in his best interests to sell it as well as he can. Honestly, I’m a little shocked he didn’t sell it as a 3-4 year plan instead.
I’d recommend giving the rest of Wojo’s article a read as well. It’s a good read about sharing the blame, admitting to mistakes, and also a realistic warning that successfully rebuilding should be viewed as every bit the risk of the failed reload has turned out to be.
Mostly, my takeaway is that Ken Holland’s sudden change of heart about what he’s willing to tell the press in regards to how long rebuilds take should be a very strong hint towards what direction the front office is leaning right now. Perhaps several years overdue by this point, but many fans have been ready for this admission for a while.