I don't buy the "making the team worse" argument, nor the cap argument. First of all, especially last year, when all was said and done, we still had $4.5 million in cap space. But even in years before last, guys that likely would've been moved to make a trade happen would have balanced out most of the cap issues. And while I don't think you could say that making a trade that ships out talent for talent would make the team better immediately, I don't think it'd make them so much worse either. It probably would have been even then, with a stronger defense but somewhat weaker offense. But it'd make the blow of losing your top three defensemen over the course of one year much easier to swallow. Again, I'm not talking about just replacing Lidstrom, but also Rafalski and Stuart. Holland didn't even find a way to bring in a Stuart-level guy. I don't wholly disagree with some of what you're saying, and I'm not trying to suggest that perfection is the only option, but I absolutely am saying that if Holland was a truly great cap-era GM, I don't think he would've had the number and the magnitude of gaffs that he's had since really running up against the cap crunch. And don't take it from me, take it from him! He blatantly admitted that he was shocked and unprepared for what happened in the off-season in the summer of 2009. It's been much of the same drill each off-season since then, only getting worse in some ways as the seasons go by.
And to be clear, I'm fine with having a year or two or even more of struggle to get things right. If we have to field a weaker team in order to sign better guys for awhile as we sort out this transition and evolve, so be it. What bothers me most about Holland's approach is that he's seemed content to change as little as possible because the team with the core of Dats, Z and Lidstrom was generally going to be good enough to at least make the playoffs. But now Lidstrom's gone, and while the core is still strong, it hardly makes the team infallible. If heaven forbid we do lose Datsyuk in 15 months, and three months later we start the season having not addressed yet another hole in any meaningful way, will it still be excusable?
Pittsburgh landed Iginla tonight. Doesn't guarantee them anything, but we weren't even on Iginla's list according to most. No matter what you think of the deal or the other teams or how it might play out, that we weren't even a real part of the conversation is very telling of the status of our team. And again, I'd be fine with that status if it actually felt like we were building to something. But it doesn't, at all. We're just getting old and tired. As opposed to paying dues, we're just eeking by.
You're very obviously nowhere close to "fine" with struggling.
Being a weaker team is typically how you land those better players. Getting superstars to build around typically requires being very bad for a time. It's not that Holland is content or doesn't want to change anything. It's that you can't spin straw into gold. He could spin some straw into some different straw, and maybe that would make you happy as it would at least be something to talk about, but it wouldn't make any real difference.
Yes, when Rafalski retired we got some cap space, after having none for two years. In hindsight, Holland might have given up a pick for a chance to talk to Wisniewski or Ehrhoff. Would either really make us any better? Make the future any brighter? Knowing he wouldn't get Suter, he probably goes harder after other options. Would Wideman or Carle really make that much difference?
To build, you need something to build on. The struggles we're having now and will likely have in the near future is how we'll find that foundation.
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