Again, to be clear, bear in mind that I haven't once said that Holland failed because he didn't sign an elite defenseman. Sure, I think he should've tried to bring another higher level guy before Lidstrom left, and I say that knowing full well that it'd cost us a lot and it'd likely have compromised some of our offensive depth. I think if Holland had played the situation better, he would've been shopping for the high-end defenseman he wanted before Lidstrom retired, not after when our backs are against the wall and we have to deal with the loss of Stuart too. But whatever; it didn't happen and realistically that is a tougher thing to pull off. If it was just that, I wouldn't be upset, but as I said, what blows my mind is that he hasn't even brought in a guy that could fill a Stuart-sized hole.
Elite defenseman don't grow on trees, I get that, and it's ideal to not overpay for higher end guys if you can. But there are a lot more quality d-men out there that could fill in the hole Stuart left, and when you really think about just that hole being filled in the context of our current defense, it's not hard to see how much a guy like that would help, perhaps even dramatically. Even if we had to overpay a bit for an above-average mid-level defenseman, I think it would be well worth it, and again, it's something that Holland absolutely should've been able to have done at some point over the last three years.
But you know, even that wouldn't bother me quite so much if not for the fact that he seems to have forgotten that we lost three top four defensemen, and instead has spent more time signing old, typically washed up, mid-level scrubs that oftentimes have done nothing to help this team and have only burnt through cap space. And most would agree that they would've been overpaid had they even played, but when you consider that many didn't even play, my mind just goes numb when I turn to look at what he's done for the defense in the same span of time.
Bottom line, I'm really a lot less concerned with bringing in big names than most. It's always nice when you can find a high end guy who makes your team better, but it's foolish to think you're going to pull those deals off too often in the cap era. But if you can't find a way to plug holes with solid, dependable mid-level guys at least, you wind up in the sort of mess we've been in for awhile now.
You mention that he's the reason that we can roll teams that can be competitive with the Grand Rapids kids, but that clearly wasn't part of his plans in either of the last two years. We've stumbled into the playoffs the last couple of years largely based off the steam from GR call ups, but the team that Holland put together that was supposed to do the job either couldn't stay healthy or the players were so bad that they couldn't even beat a minor leaguer out for an NHL job on an injury-plagued team. Meanwhile, again, we're wasting valuable cap space on these guys Ken Holland signed to fill out the team, but we still don't want to overpay anyone who could actually contribute and fill a hole.
I don't know how involved Ken Holland is in our scouting program, but even so, it seems like the point your making illustrates that Holland doesn't have a good handle on the players he has. If these kids are good enough to beat out the guys he's signing and help the team make the playoffs, why are we wasting time and money signing guys that won't play when we could get these kids up and growing in the NHL, and at much cheaper prices than the mid-level scrubs they're winning spots from? I'll give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our scouting and drafting program, and it's why I've said that it'd be ideal to keep him in the organization if possible if we go in another direction at GM. But as said, I still think you have to stop and question our strategy with the kids and thus also with how we pursue outside talent via trade or free agency when you look at how the last couple of years have gone specifically. Maybe it's time to start thinking about building teams with AHLers that are ripe as opposed to waiting for them to be overripe, and use the extra cap space saved from using younger guys to be more aggressive in signing the mid-level talent that you know can make your team better and maintain a spot in the lineup.
But lastly, about the kids, I'm very optimistic, but I'm trying to be realistic too. Yes, we have half a room of kids with potential to build dams, but realistically speaking, if we're lucky, half of them will pan out to be solid NHLers, and only half of them will go full blown Ville Leino. It might sound negative or pessimistic, but realistically, it's pretty much inevitable. And as much as I'd like to be optimistic enough to believe Nyquist and Tatar could eventually fill the shoes of Z and Dats...and to be utterly and completely clear, I really like these guys, a lot, seriously, a lot...but if I'm being brutally honest with myself, I'd be shocked if they reached the levels of Z and Dats. They're real good players with a lot of potential and I hope they have long careers as Red Wings, but it's still way too early to expect them to become elite guys. It's possible, but I don't think either has the innate, almost supernatural talent of Dats, which truly was blatantly evident immediately, and Z is just an all around warrior of a player that few compare to. I'm not going to hold either player to the standards of Dats and Z at this point because it's simply not fair to them at all, and it's bound to lead to being unnecessarily disappointed in them. Furthermore, both Nyquist and Tatar completely disappeared in the playoffs, so clearly, they still have some learning to do and some important things to prove before we really get an idea of the level of players they'll be over the course of their careers. I'm not saying we should be worried, I'm just saying we should stay grounded and reasonable.
Long story short though, I like our kids, I really do, but we don't have any that you can be sure that you'll be able to build a team around, and we generally don't draft high enough to get the kind of players that are really worth taking those bigger bets on. If Holland wants to float in-between rebuilding mode and a tweaking mode, we need to do a better job of bringing in proven NHL talent that is at least good enough to crack the lineup on the regular and contribute to this team. Again, I'm not saying we need to sign or trade for superstars. Not at all. Obviously it's great to get those guys when you can, but at this point, we haven't even been able to successfully bring in outside mid-level talent! That's ultimately what does kill me about some of the Holland bashers, because they piss and moan about missing out on the big names when the real story and concern lies more in Holland's inability to recruit role players that can crack the lineup. And that's the worst part of this.
We still have a great core in Dats and Z. Kronwall is better suited to be a number two guys and loses some of his effectiveness in certain areas of his game having to be the number one guy, but even so, he's still a hell of defenseman. Jimmy at his worst is still capable of getting the job done if he gets a little bit better defense in front of him, and at his best, he's brilliant. If we'd do a better job of integrating our kids in a little sooner, trimming some of the washed-up veteran fat, and sucking it up and overpay if you have to a bit to bring in another solid top four defenseman, we'd be a lot closer to contender status. I've been saying it for years because I believe it fully: any team with Dats and Z in the lineup is a team capable of making the playoffs. I don't think we're nearly as far from being a contender as some think, but between the numerous bonehead moves Holland's made for forwards and his utter and complete lack of ability to bring in a proven NHL defenseman that solidifies our top four, the team just continues to slip deeper into a funk, and all the while the core guys are getting older and less-effective. It's just a real shame to me.
- marcaractac likes this