The Detroit Free Press’s Helene St. James engaged in a series of conversations with Red Wings GM Ken Holland, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill regarding the time, work and patience that go into rebuilding teams.
As you might imagine, the Red Wings GM’s words–regarding his own future–are of most importance to the fan base:
Holland, 62, has been the Wings’ general manager since taking over in 1997 for Jim Devellano, who was hired to run the team in 1982 by new owner Mike Ilitch. Holland is in the last year of his contract, and his future is uncertain. The expectation is Holland will meet with current owner Christopher Ilitch soon after the season ends. Maybe Holland is renewed for two or three years, with Kris Draper continuing as an understudy. Maybe Holland joins another organization. Holland wants to keep working, and said he is not concerned about the uncertainty of whether he’ll be staying in Detroit or looking for a new job.
“It’s not odd for me because I’ve been here for a long time,” he said. “The Red Wings have been a big part of my life, my family’s life. It’s like somebody who went to the University of Michigan — you’re a Michigan alumni and you want Michigan to do good even when you leave. Right now, I’m a Red Wing and I want the Red Wings to be successful. The work we are doing right now is going to pay dividends down the road. I can’t tell you how far down the road. It depends on how many of those kids become players and then what other things happen. But this is an important stretch for the team in order to compete for a Stanley Cup down the road.”
Holland is aware of the criticism that he has signed players to constrictive contracts, including Jonathan Ericsson for six years for in 2013, Justin Abdelkader for seven years in 2015 and Danny DeKeyser for six years in 2016. A section of the fan base wants him gone. Holland knows that. But like Nill, Holland keeps the outside chatter at a distance.
“It’s a conscious decision because no one understands,” Holland said. “They don’t know all the information. They’ve only got pieces of the information. They don’t understand what factors into drafting, into developing. You’re going to have some things that don’t go your way, and at the end of the day, we made the playoffs 25 years in a row, we won Stanley Cups.
“I love that Wings’ fans are passionate. I can understand they’re frustrated. When you’ve been as good as we’ve been for as long as we’ve been, it’s no fun building. But the (collective bargaining agreement) has done a fabulous job creating a system that provides competitive balance.”