Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland is considered the best at what he does, which is maintaining a consistent contender in the Western Conference with legitimate designs on winning a Stanley Cup each season. Along with Coach Mike Babcock, Detroit's recognized as having the "gold standard" for management.
Yet the Red Wings' offseason has seen better talent depart than has been added the roster.
Nicklas Lidstrom retired. Brad Stuart left for the San Jose Sharks. Jiri Hudler signed a 4-year deal with the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, the Red Wings inked Maple Leafs backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson, Nashville pot-stirrer Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson, for a second tour of duty after playing with Florida last season.
The real frustration for the Red Wings: They have $13 million in cap space, and were unable to land a premium upgrade to the defense. Ryan Suter of the Predators flirted with Detroit, who courted him heavily, only to sign with conference rival Minnesota.
Nashville captain Shea Weber, meanwhile, spoke with Detroit but Holland was never given the option to sign him to an offer sheet, as he did with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Predators didn't engage in trade talks with Detroit, seeking to move Weber to the Eastern Conference.
In some ways, it's inconceivable a team like the Red Wings would be on the outside looking in on these free-agent blockbusters. Which is why Holland is being criticized for Detroit's lack of reloading this summer, as the power shifts in the Western Conference.
Matt from Ultimate Hockey Source on Holland "losing his moxie" as GM:
Despite the Red Wings signings of Jordin Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson, and Mikael Samuelsson, Holland has once again disappointed fans with the lack of a big move. In years past, it was Holland stealing great players and assembling the perfect teams, but this has failed to happen recently. His last ditch effort of making a move for restricted free agent Shea Weber has even been stomped on by the Flyers. Even if the Wings manage to sign Shane Doan, or perhaps trade for Bobby Ryan, their defensive unit as it is will not be enough to carry them to the Stanley Cup next year.
If Holland can't regain his moxie and make a high impact trade and the Wings fail to make the playoffs, you can bet that people will begin to call for a replacement.
George Malik offers this dose of reality on the Wins perusing Alex Semin and Doan:
I hate to use the line because it even annoys me at this point, but as the Wings continue to aggressively pursue every option to improve their team, they've still got to sell their "program" to players instead of tossing $6 or $7 million at a player simply because someone else is bidding for said player.
It makes me cringe to say that, mind you, but it's the truth.
Because of that spend-thrift ideal, Chuck Pleiness of the Advisor & Source (MI) wondered last week if the Wings had "lost their luster" as a destination for free agents:
"Once you make those types of decisions you're out of the game for a decade," Holland said. "We're not going to have major announcements every year, the league doesn't work like that. I'm confident that at some point in time, and it might be next year, that the history, the tradition, the commitment of our ownership and the passion of the Red Wing fans is going to all add up to us bringing a player of significance here."
… "We're going to try and do some things," Holland said. "We have some cap space so we'll see. But it has to be the right fit whether it's a trade or someone wants to come here. We're working the phones so we'll see.
"At the same time we're in a cap world," Holland continued. "We're moving some younger people in. If we're not moving younger people in we're going backwards. Brendan Smith has to play. Gustav Nyquist has to have an opportunity. Jimmy Howard is 27. We signed Jonas Gustavsson and he's 28. Darren Helm is 25. Those players have to be a part of where we're going."
Seeing where Doan and Semin end up is essential to determining whether Holland's in a rut or simply hasn't landed his big fish yet. He's been hindered by some forced beyond his control: Ryan Suterwanted to play with Zach Parise in Minnesota; Nashville wouldn't let Weber slip to a division rival; and the same could be the case for Rick Nash and the Columbus Blue Jackets.
But perhaps the greatest question: What does he do to fill the holes on the blue line? Keith Yandle, if available, would be a great start.