Detroit Red Wings: Grading Each of GM Ken Holland's Moves This Summer
With the Detroit Red Wings offseason lacking the punch that many felt Red Wings GM Ken Holland needed to bring this team back into Stanley Cup contention (failing to sign Ryan Suter/Zach Parise among others), the Red Wings don't appear to be in any better position than last season.
But on second glance, the depth signings that Ken Holland has made have kept the Red Wings in the playoff picture.
While the Red Wings are no longer perennial President's Trophy candidates (after the retirement of long-time captain Nick Lidstrom, as well as Hudler's and Stuart's departures), the Los Angeles Kings are a clear example of the fact that the Red Wings don't need to win the President's Trophy to make waves in the playoffs.
While Holland has been put down for failing to acquire a top-tier free agent this offseason, he does deserve credit for procuring players that he has needed to sign to keep this team in the playoff race.
Here are the grades for each move that Holland has made this offseason.
1. Re-Signing Darren Helm
When Detroit re-signed Darren Helm, there was likely a big collective sigh of relief from everyone affiliated with the Red Wings organization.
Fans, players and management heaved that big sigh of relief because we know that Helm possesses something that the Red Wings lacked in their first-round playoff loss to Nashville.
That something is hustle.
Helm's motor is usually going full speed and he will barrel into players and knock them down on the forecheck while finding ways to kill penalties, take the puck back and protect it in the offensive zone.
That presence was missed in the first-round playoff loss to Nashville because the Red Wings looked flat and couldn't generate any offense against Pekka Rinne. Detroit also lacked a forecheck and Darren Helm (as the team's best forechecker) was the main reason for this lack of pressure on the forecheck.
A four-year contract at $2.125 million per year (per CapGeek.com) is reasonable enough for what Helm brings to the table.
My grade: A-
Only thing that could have been better about this one is the contract length. Helm is a vital part of this team as he showed with his absence this year. A longer deal would have been better for the young center.
2. Sending Assistant Head Coach Jeff Blashill to Be Head Coach in Grand Rapids
Jeff Blashill did a pretty good job at Western Michigan University and actually brought them back to the NCAA tournament in 2010-11. The problem came when he was promoted straight to the NHL as an assistant coach.
I raised my eyebrows when I saw that promotion from NCAA head coach to NHL assistant coach, so his appointment as the head coach of the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins allows him to pace himself at a more appropriate level than in the NHL.
The former CCHA coach of the year has quite a resume and will bolster the Griffins at the head coaching spot.
According to Ken Holland (via redwings.nhl.com) Blashill is "a talented coach that has a proven track record of working well with young players."
Look for the Red Wings farm system to get a big boost by putting Blashill as the bench boss.
3. Signing Jordin Tootoo
Jordin Tootoo signed with the Detroit Red Wings on July 1, for a cap hit of $1.9 million per season (per CapGeek.com) for the next three seasons.
The guy had 30 points last season with the sometimes anemic Nashville Predators offense.
Throw in the fact that Tootoo can really hit when he wants to and I think Ken Holland might have gotten a steal in getting Tootoo for a cap hit of $1.9 million for the next three seasons.
Tootoo is a gamer and though he makes some interesting decisions, Ken Holland was wise to pick him up in free agency. Detroit's fourth line could really use some grit.
4. Signing Mikael Samuelsson
When the Red Wings allowed Samuelsson to walk in free agency in the summer of 2009, it wasn't a big deal until Samuelsson turned around and put up 30 goals with the Vancouver Canucks the next season.
But with 28 points in 48 games last season, can Samuelsson find the magic that he has had in previous seasons?
CapGeek.com lists Samuelsson's deal at $3 million a season for the next two years. This is an awfully risky contract because Samuelsson is now over 35 and his production could start to decline as opposed to help the Red Wings out at the right-wing position on the second line.
Detroit obviously missed having enough right-handed shooters in the lineup last season as they could not quite figure out their power play.
Samuelsson (if he plays well enough) could become that "go to" player on the half boards for the one-timer on either the first or second power play unit.
But for Samuelsson, the question is: Is the desire to win still there night in and night out for an entire season?
5. Signing Jonas Gustavsson
This move could backfire on Ken Holland.
Signing Jonas Gustavsson to a two-year deal worth $1.5 million per season is an interesting move by Ken Holland.
Instead of getting a proven and reliable backup goaltender, Detroit ends up with Gustavsson, a goalie who has never had a GAA of lower than 2.87 or a save percentage higher than .902.
Gustavsson when he is on his game seems unstoppable, but after watching Ty Conklin blow starts on such regular occasions last year, the Red Wings are in serious need of a goaltender who can slow the game down and keep pucks out of the net.
There's nothing "flashy" about this signing. The only good thing is the dollar amount, a small price to pay for a backup goaltender.
Gustavsson isn't going to have to shine as a Red Wing, but he must recognize that he will be expected to win a certain number of games that he starts, and cannot rely completely on Detroit's offense to pick him up when he stumbles.
6. Signing Tom Renney to Be an Assistant Coach for Detroit
Replacing Jeff Blashill took some time, and Ken Holland got this one right by hiring Tom Renney as an assistant coach.
Renney has been around the block as a coach, making the playoffs three times with the New York Rangers.
The past two seasons have not been kind to Renney as the coach of the Edmonton Oilers. Renney was given the monumental task of trying to right the ship in Edmonton. The Oilers did not qualify for the playoffs, but as David Staples from the Edmonton Journal points out, Renney "earned" a new contract. It was just Detroit that gave him the contract.
Giving Mike Babcock another proven NHL coach to work with will be excellent for the Red Wings and Babcock marveled at Renney in the National Post saying that he “would consider him a players' coach with great experience from the Olympic Games to the world championships, from the New York Rangers to the Edmonton Oilers.”
Although Renney has never won a Stanley Cup as a coach, he has won in international play, meaning he knows how to get what he wants out of his team. In this case, it is a much more experienced Detroit Red Wings squad. Combining Renney and Babcock seems like a dynamic duo to me.
Despite Renney's 11-13 playoff record as a coach, it is still better than having the inexperienced Jeff Blashill serving on the Red Wings' staff for next season.
7. Re-Signing Kyle Quincey
Kyle Quincey will really have to prove himself this season.
After being traded at the trade deadline in a three-way trade for Detroit's first-round pick, Quincey put up just two goals and an assist during the rest of the regular season and has much to prove after signing a new two-year $7.55 million deal.
The price for Quincey was a bit steep, but seeing as how Detroit needed that sixth defenseman after not getting Ryan Suter via free agency, Quincey was almost able to name his price.
Ken Holland can't fool his die-hard fans, there's nothing exceptional about Kyle Quincey. Top-four or not, there's a reason he wasn't selected until the fourth round of his draft year. Quincey has much to prove this year, and he will be under the microscope to start the season.