Ken Holland has been the Detroit Red Wings' GM since the summer of 1997, and prior to that he was an assistant GM with the team.
As GM, Holland has guided the Red Wings to three Stanley Cup championships, four President’s Trophies, 10 Division titles and kept a playoff streak alive that dates back to 1991—the longest active streak in North American professional sports.
That is a set of accomplishments which most GM’s can only dream of achieving. Yet, some Red Wings fans and analysts are ready to criticize Holland for his work this offseason. Does he not deserve the benefit of the doubt at this point?
Arrivals and Departures
Nicklas Lidstrom retired after spending his entire NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings. No one can blame Lidstrom for retiring or Red Wings management for failing to convince him to stay. Lidstrom is one of the best defenseman ever and, fortunately, he will remain with the organization as a scout.
Fellow blueliner Brad Stuart will suit up for the San Jose Sharks next season, after Detroit traded his negotiating rights. Give Holland credit for getting something (Andrew Murray) in return for Stuart, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Holland has yet to add a star player, but he has given the Red Wings more depth without sacrificing significant cap space.
As the Red Wings' new backup goaltender, Jonas Gustavsson will provide relief for Jimmy Howard. With his role set and the Toronto media a distant memory, perhaps less pressure will lead to better performances from Gustavsson.
Forward Mikael Samuelsson returns to the team he spent four seasons with from 2006 to 2009. At age 35, Samuelsson should still provide offense after registering 31 points in 54 games with the Canucks and Panthers last season.
After spending the first six seasons of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators, Jordin Tootoo signed a three-year $5.7 million contract with the Red Wings. Tootoo will provide a much needed physical presence on offense.
Players They Failed to Add
The Detroit Red Wings missed out on a number of big-name players this offseason, including Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Rick Nash, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Holland reportedly met with Ryan Suter and offered him a 13-year $90 million contract. Detroit offered Zach Parise a contract as well, however, they both decided to sign with the Minnesota Wild. It’s hard to compete with identical contracts worth over $7.5 million per year, not to mention the fact that Parise is from Minnesota and Suter is from Wisconsin.
According to Ansar Khan of MLive, the Red Wings made a "hell of an offer" to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Rick Nash. Again, Holland did his part. If Columbus GM Scott Howson wasn’t willing to trade Nash to a Central division rival, there is nothing Holland could do.
After all, we may never know what players or draft picks Holland put on the table. It could have been just as good an offer as what the New York Rangers sent to Columbus in exchange for Nash.
Give It Time
Remember, it’s still only July, there is no reason for fans to panic with the regular season still months away. With over $13 million in cap space, it's possible Holland could sign Shane Doan and a veteran defenseman in the coming days. Michal Rozsival, Pavel Kubina, Jaroslav Spacek, Carlo Colaiacovo and Scott Hannan are still available, among others.
Not to mention the players that could become available via trade during the season. Star players like Bobby Ryan, Jarome Iginla or Keith Yandle, for example.
Ken Holland has built a strong reputation for himself as one of the NHL’s best GMs, and Red Wings fans may be starting to expect too much from him. It’s hard to replace a legend like Nicklas Lidstrom just months after his retirement.
Given Detroit's success drafting players in the later rounds, perhaps a talented blueliner is already in Detroit’s system. Or maybe their future star on defense is an established NHL player who Holland will acquire via trade in the coming months.
Either way, it is going to take time to get Detroit's blue line back to where it once was.
The Red Wings may fail to make a big splash this summer, but should they be in contention for a Central division title and land a big-name player come February, this offseason will become an afterthought.
On the other hand, should Detroit struggle and fail to add to their roster by the deadline, the criticism may quickly become the shared stance of many Red Wings' fans.