The NHL trade deadline has passed and for the first time in a very long time Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings played the role of sellers. The Wings were fairly successful, depending on who you ask, in trading away some assets to acquire something that the team has desperately needed for several seasons, draft picks.
It is no secret that the Red Wings find themselves the victims of their own impressively sustained success. After a quarter of a century’s worth of qualifying for the NHL’s post-season Detroit hasn’t accumulated many high-end draft picks that have allowed them to rebuild as effectively as some of the NHL’s perennial basement-teams during the same time frame.
And when you combine the lack of high draft picks, the lack of drawing interest from big-name free agents, the salary cap, losing Mike Babcock, Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk, it’s not hard to figure out why the Red Wings have finally fallen from being a contending hockey club this year.
So has Ken Holland and the rest of the Detroit Red Wings organization swallowed the big and bitter pill of having to rebuild Detroit’s historic franchise? The answer would appear to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
Holland gave a very telling interview on 97.1 The Ticket in which he both acknowledged the need to rebuild but also believed in still trying to make the Red Wings competitive over the summer.
“It’s a draft-pick league and every year it seems for the last seven, eight, nine years, we’re missing a pick here, a pick there because we’re trying to add (players via trade), we’re trying to win. I think that’s what the Red Wings, with myself as GM, have tried to stand for. We’re trying to win — but at some point in time, you pay the price.”
Holland went on to add;
“Going into this trade deadline, I wanted draft picks and now we’ve got 11 draft picks in this draft, we’ve got nine for next year, and we’ve got some young people coming through the system.”
It’s not hard to argue against that philosophy. Even in a categorized ‘weak’ draft-class this year, Detroit needs draft picks, it’s where the future resides. After Wednesday’s trade deadline the Red Wings now hold 11 draft picks, the most they’ve had since 2002.
What is both concerning and interesting is that in the very same interview Holland, who will be heading into the final year of his GM contract next season, doesn’t appear to be looking too far down the road in terms of a full and proper rebuild.
“I’m trying to put a team on the ice that’s competitive every year, that gives our fans a reason to believe that when they go to the rink we’re competing for a playoff spot,” he said. “Do you want to go into a seven-, eight-, nine-year rebuild? These rebuilds don’t take two or three years. Once you go down that path, be prepared for eight, 10, 15 years.”
While I appreciate the competitive spirt along with the desire to win, I also don’t believe an eight to fifteen-year scorching of the earth is totally necessary. Is it possible that the Red Wings could make a few roster moves and regain their swagger next season? Sure. Is it also possible that Ken Holland has dug himself too deep of a hole that he needs to dig his way out of? Many would say ‘yes’.
The list of problems/issues/bad contracts that Holland and the Red Wings need to address is numerous. The 2016-17 NHL season has been and should be an eye-opening experience for the powers that be in Hockeytown. Both sadly and frustratingly, the current state of the NHL may be passing Ken Holland by.
With one more season left under his belt and whether he stays or goes afterwards, can Ken Holland embrace his mess and make the necessary moves to set the Detroit Red Wings up for future success? Only time will tell.