97.1 the Ticket’s Jamie Samuelssen penned a lengthy column this morning, discussing Red Wings GM Ken Holland’s “mission” now that he’s been re-signed as Detroit’s general manager.
Samuelssen suggests that Holland is in fact attempting to maintain the “culture” of the Red Wings, over-reliance upon home-grown veterans included, until Steve Yzerman can eventually leave the Tampa Bay Lightning:
Has it worked? On the ice, the answer is obviously no. But after years of playing the short game – trading draft picks and young prospects for quick fix veterans – Holland is trying the long game. He is actually using the word “rebuild” in everyday sentences after seasons of dismissing them as too costly, too time-consuming and not nearly fruitful enough.
The Red Wings are a talent-poor organization right now, but Holland did flip Tomas Tatar for a first-round draft pick and said after the season that next year’s team would have as many as four or five new faces on it including, yes, promising prospects like Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov and Joe Hicketts.
Holland has been with the Red Wings since 1983 so he knows the good and the bad of the NHL. He also knows how hard it is to win and how nearly impossible it is to win consistently. I don’t believe that his goal is to make it hard on the younger players. I do think that he wants them to know just how hard it is and just how lucky they are to play for the Red Wings.
He does all this knowing that his logical successor, Yzerman, is entering the final year of his contract as the general manager for Tampa Bay, a team favored to win the Stanley Cup this spring. That’s why the two-year contract that Holland signed is notable. It gives him at least one full season to push this thing in the right direction. And either he can continue to see it through, or he can hand it over to Yzerman, who certainly knows a thing or two about the Red Wing Way.
Holland was thought to be one of the best executives in sports a decade ago. Guys like that don’t forget how to do the job. I don’t know what the next few years hold for him and given the current state of the team, it may not include a deep playoff run. So his accolades and accomplishments (ones that will certainly land him in the Hockey Hall of Fame) may be complete.
He wants to win. He knows that’s what the fans want as well. But I also think he is now driven to leave this organization so that the young players coming up know what it means to be a Red Wing. And it still means something to be a Red Wing.
Samuelssen continues, and I’ve remained impressed by the Red Wings players and even the coach’s unshakeable faith in the concept that the Red Wings’ winning culture is something that can’t be abandoned, even when you’re losing more games than you win…
But I have to disagree regarding the concept that the Tampa Bay Lightning’s GM is going to return to bring the franchise out of the wilderness. I just don’t see Yzerman leaving until the Lightning win the Stanley Cup, if he leaves Tampa Bay at all.
We can agree to disagree, of course…but I don’t see Yzerman coming back, not in a year, not two, not five and not ten.