Detroit Red Wings: The Curious Case of Ken Holland and the Post-Lidstrom Era
Planning for the life after a true legend retires is arguably a tough job.
More than once, Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has had the arduous task of retooling the prospect system along with scouring the free-agent and trade markets after losing Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom to retirement in 2006 and 2012, respectively.
Holland has been able to land the marquee free agents in some cases (Brian Rafalski, Brad Stuart, Marian Hossa), but Holland has also infused a sizable amount of homegrown players who are leading the Red Wings (Darren Helm, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg).
The same GM who has restored the meaning in the team's "Hockeytown" lexicon and instilled a winning attitude that has been rewarded with four Stanley Cups since 1997 has also dealt with a salary cap—along with other owners ready to level the playing field by plucking the stars from the market.
Certainly this is a tough challenge for any general manager in planning for the future with a salary cap.
Yet Holland has been one of the best in creating a game plan since the inclusion of the cap in 2004-05.
During the last eight seasons, the Red Wings have won their 11th Stanley Cup and played their way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008-09, which they lost to the team they beat in 2007-08, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They also reached the Western Conference Final in 2006-07.
The last three years, however, have not met expectations.
Since their cup win in 2008, the Red Wings have lost three members of their defensive corps from that Stanley Cup Championship team. They also saw Hossa take his talents to Chicago after Holland tried the cap-friendly contract approach and failed miserably.
Upon losing Lidstrom, the front office vigorously pursued Zach Parise and Ryan Suter this past summer, only to lose out on the tandem.
Will Ken Holland be GM of the Red Wings five years from today?
The miserable 6-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night to start the 2013 season only creates more doubt in the decisions Holland & Co. have made in recent years.
It might sound a tad ludicrous to say that Ken Holland would be in any sort of hot water with management.
But with a lackluster performance the last three seasons and no substantial improvement made to duplicate a team similar to the 2008 Stanley Cup Championship team, long-time supporters of the revered GM might be calling for a change in the front office.
Or it could be a frenzy caused from the opening-night drubbing in St. Louis and the uncertainty of what lies ahead for the Red Wings.
Either way, the Red Wings are still going to end up in the playoffs for the 22nd consecutive time.
Where the team will go is all up to the players and their passion, desire and will to win it all.
It's also up to the fans to optimistically look toward a new future for the Red Wings.
The days of throwing massive amounts of cash at players and luring them into Detroit is no more. Instead, the team will have a bevy of prospects to retool for another cup run.
So, step away from the panic button for just a little bit, Red Wings fans.
Because while there might be no Lidstrom, there is still a glimmering hope for continued success in Hockeytown.
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