Kenny Holland was berated and battered in a way I've never seen before this summer after failing to land Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, and unsuccessfully trying to attract any kind of attention from a stud free agent. Fans were hoping for a big splash after being ousted in the first round by the Nashville Predators and losing Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement.
The names that were slowly added to the roster of the Detroit Red Wings weren't exactly the stars people were used to seeing.
Mikael Samuelsson? Didn't the Wings let him walk once before as he cashed in on a solid Stanley Cup run and ring?
Carlo Colaiacovo? The poster boy for talented but very, very fragile? If he's even on the ice at the same time as a Niklas Kronwall body check he'll probably get injured just by seeing it.
Jordin Tootoo? Sean Avery reincarnate (minus being an idiot in interviews) and pest extraordinaire? There isn't a guy like this down on the farm somewhere?
Jonas Gustavsson? Didn't he snub Detroit once already, choosing instead to go play for the Toronto Maple Leafs? And wasn't he then supplanted by some momentarily Christ-like figure named James Reimer?
Yes, the tension slowly built throughout the offseason, and once the dust settled, few fans were happy with the outcome (or lack of outcomes) of free agency. Yet again, Holland showed why he is the best in the business.
Could he have signed a few players to franchise-crippling deals like the Minnesota Wild? Sure. But this is a GM who has built one of the sturdiest sports teams in existence by managing with his brain, and not with his gut.
He makes his offers, maybe fields a counter or two, but if you aren't willing to pick up what is on the table then it's best of luck to ya. That seems to have been Holland's standard operating procedure since the salary cap was implemented. While it's been aggravating to see from the outside at times, Holland again suddenly appears to be a genius.
According to Yahoo! Sports, the new salary cap of $64.3 million is actually a few million higher than where Detroit's current payroll sits. There's not exactly enough to play with, however, as the Wings, like just about every other team in the league, will need to make tough personal choices under the new cap.
Jimmy Howard is slated for a raise, and his deal expires at the end of 2012-13. Ditto for Valtteri Filppula. Then there will be several youngsters to re-sign, including Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist and Jakub Kindl.
These choices won't be easy, but Detroit is starting off on the right foot by already being cap compliant heading into the new CBA. Thanks entirely to the man with more hockey IQ in his pinky than Gary Bettman has in his entire body, Kenny Holland.