The Detroit Red Wings have secured one piece of their future. Will the second domino fall soon?
First, GM Ken Holland. There was the occasional whisper of him leaving Detroit for a new challenge, but the odds were always slim. He’s fuelled the Red Wings’ seemingly endless success for decades, including the last 17 years as GM. The franchise is synonymous with finding diamonds in the rough, including current stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, and Holland has always been the mastermind behind that brilliant drafting.
Worry not, Wings fans. Your GM is back. Holland has signed a four-year extension, keeping him in Hockeytown through 2017-18. Owner Mike Illitch’s statement mentioned stability as “key to success of any organization,” and that Holland is crucial for maintaining that stability. It makes sense with a new arena all the way and this team in serious transition.
On the surface, 23 straight playoff berths say it’s business as usual in Detroit, but we know that’s not the case. This team barely squeezed into the playoffs last season, and Datsyuk and Zetterberg seem destined to battle health problems for the rest of their careers. Jimmy Howard’s goaltending hasn’t met the expectation set by the six-year, $31.75-million deal he commenced last season. With the team’s future success in flux, it’s good news for the Wings to have Holland manning the ship.
More good news: the youth movement is in full-swing, and Detroit seems more wiling than ever to give youngsters chances to play. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar look like the latest late-round draft steals, poised to become building blocks for years to come at forward. Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan, who were higher-regarded prospects than Nyquist and Tatar when drafted, made the team last year as well. Anthony Mantha, who scored a goal a game in junior last season, could be the exception to Detroit’s unwritten rule of making every drafted prospect wait three to four years before making the NHL. That’s what happens when Detroit gets a top-20 pick after none from 2006-2012. The Wings’ blueline is solid if unspectacular, with clever college signings like Danny DeKeyser complementing solid vets like Niklas Kronwall. Maybe now that Holland has a contract, he can work on upgrading the defense corps further with an acquisition like, say, Mike Green.