The Detroit Red Wings are in the midst of a long rebuild and it looks like ownership is going to let Ken Holland be the architect. However, there are many questioning if he’s the right man for the job.
The Ilitch family has not made a formal announcement, but it’s expected that Holland will be asked to oversee the reconstruction of the Red Wings’ roster.
Ken Holland at a Crossroad
Holland has been the general manager since 1997 and oversaw the team’s 25-year playoff streak. He put together three Stanley Cup champions and four Presidents Trophies. The Red Wings were a fixture in the playoffs in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to Holland’s shrewd moves.
However, Detroit has only won one playoff series since 2011 and a lot of it falls at the feet of Holland. Critics have plenty of ammunition for wanting change due to bad contracts, lack of player for player deals and missing on high draft picks.
There is promise with a strong core of young players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov. Last year’s top pick Michael Rasmussen also appears to be close to cracking the main roster.
Holland has accumulated 11 draft picks for the 2018 draft, which can help them fill holes or move up and get roster-ready players. He even got two each in the first, second and third rounds. Detroit can earn a third pick in the third round if the Philadelphia Flyers make the postseason.
Most of the aforementioned younger players are due for a raise and it could be a problem despite the salary ceiling going up. Turning over the roster will be difficult because of all of the long-term contracts that Holland handed out. Deals with Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Henrik Zetterberg are going to make the rebuild painful.
One of the big decisions Holland will have to make is whether he’ll retain head coach Jeff Blashill. The Wings were dreadful in March, but Blashill does have some things going in his favor. The Detroit coach knows most of the current roster due to coaching them with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. The team also continues to work hard for Blashill despite the bad record.
However, it’s a results-oriented business and Blashill has led the team to the golf course and not the playoffs. His contract is for one more year, so it’s likely Holland won’t fire Blashill. Another big black mark against Holland was not trading Mike Green at the trade deadline. Green was injured, so he couldn’t have been moved. However, there was plenty of time for him to be moved for something.
Holland has plenty of experience with the franchise and found success in building a sustained winner. There is a chance he can reclaim some of that magic from the past. Detroit is still an attractive place to play because it’s still called Hockeytown.
However, there are plenty of candidates that might be scooped up at the end of the season. Candidates like Julien BriseBois, Kyle Dubas, Paul Fenton, Tom Fitzgerald, Mike Futa, and Laurence Gilman are out there. Those choices are likely to become general managers for other teams in the off-season.
Holland did admit that “We’re not good enough quite right now.” He said that he’s trying to find pieces of a team that will have an impact in three, four years. However, Red Wings fans might want a new set of eyes to oversee this drastic rebuild instead of Ken Holland.