For a long time it has been considered almost sacrilege to say anything negative about Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland, but in the wake of what could be deemed the worst offseason ever for the club, it may be time to start looking critically at Mr. Holland.
It has been noted that Holland seems to believe that all free agents want to come to Detroit more than anywhere else and that their desire to pull on a winged-wheel sweater is so great that they will be willing to take a pay cut to do so. Well, this isn’t 2001 and that’s not the case.
Prior to the 2005 NHL lockout Detroit was the place to be for NHL players, comparisons were drawn to the New York Yankees. But when the salary cap was born things changed not only in Detroit, but throughout the league. Players want to go after the money, not necessarily just the glory.
In the current NHL there is a salary floor that makes all teams spend up to a certain point, because of that the amount of players that are being vastly overpaid has greatly increased, to the point that the Red Wings are having trouble competing in the open market.
When the entire hockey world was chasing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, it was thought in Detroit, and by Holland, that the old draw of the Red Wings would result in both players taking pay cuts and signing the dotted line. That wasn’t the case, at all. Parise and Suter both signed deals worth $98 million over 13 years. Detroit was nowhere near that figure, for Parise, Detroit was closer to $50 million and it was only when it looked like they were going to lose out on Suter when Holland bumped their offer from $90 million to $98 million.
It was because the Red Wings wouldn’t spend that they lost out on Parise and Suter, but there was still hope in the form of Alexander Semin and Shane Doan. Well, Holland met once with Semin and deemed that he was either not what they wanted or that he would have too high of a price tag and refused to make an offer on him. Instead Semin signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. The contract pays him $500,000 more than he made in ’11-’12 but for one season it’s a safe gamble, and Holland wouldn’t make it.
So Suter, Parise and Semin were gone, Doan is still an option right? Wrong. If Doan decides to leave Phoenix, he most likely will be heading to the Eastern Conference. Why? Well, Holland has said that the Red Wings would have been comfortable in offering Doan a contract for three years, worth $5 million per season. That is a respectable offer, for 2001. But there are rumors that a team in the East, maybe Buffalo, that is offering Doan a four-year deal worth $30 million. Detroit then bowed out of the race because Holland refuses to spend money to bring this team into the modern NHL.
Now Detroit should not spend simply for the sake of spending, but this is a new NHL, it is not the NHL that Holland apparently still thinks it is. Teams must overpay players in order to land them, when every team needs to spend money even if they won’t be competitive there is bound to be players inking contracts for way more than they are actually worth.
Because of the reluctance of Holland to adapt to the changing league there are no viable options for the Red Wings to pursue on the free agent forward market; none. Every forward who is currently on the market is aging, and not doing it well, and would be a third or fourth liner at best. It has also been said that Holland and the Red Wings won’t pursue a defenseman until after a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
So not only did Holland wait too long to get a forward and is now out of options, he is continuing to wait to get a defenseman. How does that make sense? It makes sense if you look at it through the magical lenses of Holland that takes you back to 1998.
Holland is anticipating the NHL to recede under the new CBA, he wants a smaller salary cap and a limit on contract length. Why? So he can continue to pay players like it’s the mid-nineties. Why pay players market value when you can offer them $8 million less than everyone else.
Don’t expect any more new faces to be coming to Detroit this offseason; Holland won’t open the checkbook to get them here. If he is unwilling to adapt to the new NHL, then it is time to start looking for a new general manager. But that won’t happen any time soon, it would take the death of Mike Illich for Holland to lose his job, and for the sake of athletics in Detroit, let’s hope that’s a long way away.