A couple years ago, when golfer Tiger Woods was nearing the end of one of his legendary runs—beating everyone silly and winning everything in sight—he did something I thought was very odd.
He went back to the drawing board and changed his swing.
Woods’ logic was simple: a mindset burnished into his DNA that reasoned if you aren’t continually striving to get better, you are standing still. And if you are standing still, then you run the risk of allowing the field to edge closer to you.
All of which leads me to wonder what is going through Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s mind these days.
As the February 26 trade deadline approaches, the 2007-08 Wings are poised to eclipse a host of league and franchise records. They are 18-2-2 in their past 22 games and 33-8-4 overall. More impressively, their 30 victories at the season’s midpoint is the best in NHL history.
Holland, with a history of never resting on his team’s laurels, has a decision to make. Is there a trade out there to make a well-oiled team hum more efficiently (if that is possible), as it prepares for another legitimate run at Lord Stanley’s Cup?
His answer, without question, is yes!
Let’s be honest, Holland clearly won’t have to struggle with making wholesale changes. And if a deal is looming, he has the benefit of working with a stacked deck. This is a team loaded at each position. A core group led by Western Conference All-Stars including defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, center Pavel Datsyuk and left wing Henrik Zetterberg; a pair of red-hot goalies in Chris Osgood, who leads the league in goals-against (1.82 per game) and Dominik Hasek; and a bench full of team players—from Chris Chelios, who, amazingly, will celebrate his 46 birthday in a few days, to the younger guard paced by Valtteri Filppula (23) and Jiri Hudler (24), among others.
But the grind of the NHL’s post-season demands depth, depth, and more depth—particularly on offense. And while the Wings currently boast the league’s best defense and second-best offense, Holland should look no further then his Canadian neighbor to the east for his prime trade target—Toronto captain Mats Sundin.
The career clock is running out for the 36-year-old Sundin (20 goals, 28 assists), in the middle of a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Maple Leafs, to get a realistic whiff of a Stanley Cup. And Holland just might find a ready trade partner in Toronto GM John Ferguson, Jr. The Leafs, mired with one of the league’s worst records, won’t make the playoffs anytime soon, and the Wings could bundle a trade package of prospects and draft choices that would lessen the sting of losing the face of its franchise for the past 13 seasons.
A package including Wings defensemen Andreas Lilja, and highly-regarded 18-year-old Brendan Smith—the Wings first-round pick in 2007—along with multiple future high draft picks, would be hard for Ferguson to turn down, especially given the Leafs’ stunning lack of legitimate NHL talent.
The only hurdle may be Sundin himself, who is on record as saying he would like to end his career in Toronto. On the other hand, do you think the Wings Swedish nucleus of Lidstrom, Tomas Holstrom and Zetterberg, could soothe his transition to the Motor City?
At any given time, the Wings can play tough and physical, yet wear a team down with its offensive skill and finesse. Holland and Head Coach Mike Babcock have done a wonderful job in blending youthful exuberance with veteran tenacity.
But the trade clock is ticking ... will the Wings continue to get better or stand still?
Now is not the time to sit on a pat hand.