It's a very simple notion that I'm pushing. You can't lose Brad Stuart, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Brian Rafalski and "just kinda run with it." Especially when the clock on your two franchise forwards is ticking ever more loudy. Like I said, you don't flat-out replace #5. But you also don't sit on your hands and assume Lidstrom will play into his late forties, which is what Holland seems to have been doing. Have some kind of safety net in place, an actual plan that you've put into motion. Fortification. Compensation. Hole-filling by committee. Don't say, "Well, when Nick retires...we'll just sign the next-best thing. Boom. Problem solved." Don't say, "Look, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Don't be a lazy fool. Prepare like your life depends on it, because Lidstrom is your team.
Think of it this way. Some animals hibernate in the winter. The ones who have their s*** together well in advance are, generally, the ones who fare the best. Winter is a big-ass deal, but that doesn't mean you get a pass for not really doing much to prepare. You don't want to be the bear sitting in the middle of a blizzard saying, "Well, what was I supposed to do? You can't stop winter."
Now, to be fair (and clear), I'm not saying Holland was completely unprepared. I'm saying he was inadequately prepared. That's not the same as saying, "He didn't find a new Lidstrom! Hang him!" It's saying, "Our blue line should be better than it is now."
Holland's main job, or one of his two or three main duties, is to make this team as good as it can possibly be. And I think he dropped the ball there, re: Lidstrom's retirement. He was left to make a rather desperate pitch for an all-star free agent and then, upon striking out there, scramble around like a GM who...well...was inadequately prepared. I mean, he snatched up Carlo Colaiacovo at the last minute, and that was supposed to be a pretty big deal for our blue line. That alone should be pretty telling.
I'm not saying I would've been able to do a better job. But I'm not the genius GM, he is. And, honestly, I think he'd probably admit to being underprepared if someone were to ask him about it. He'd almost certainly say you can't replace Lidstrom, and I think that's a lame truism, but I think he'd admit he really wasn't fully prepared, that Nick's decision had suddenly put him in a really bad spot (because he'd just assumed Nick had another season or two or three or four in him).
It just gets to me that the writing was on the wall (especially with Rafalski's retirement), but no one really seemed to notice it. Hell, I certainly didn't see Nick's "early retirement" coming. But, again, I'm not the GM.
Right now, my hope is that we grab an all-star defenseman this summer through free agency. That's our best bet. But it probably shouldn't have come to that.