I think what really kills me is how good our last Cup-winning team was. And it wasn't because we'd gotten lucky in the draft or signed 80 all-star UFAs. It was just a really, really well-built team. There was a guiding vision and a strong identity, like frank talked about. We had everything you'd need to beat any team in a best-of-seven series: tons of skill, tons of (*high-quality*) sandpaper, a great goalie tandem, and a brilliant, hungry coach who felt he had something to prove.
How could The Powers That Be (Ken Holland) let things get so far away from that? What happened to just being super-smart and shrewd, as opposed to bloated and complacent? I mean, when Holland says, "You've just gotta make it into the playoffs, then anybody can win it"...does he honestly believe that? And don't point to LA. I hate it when people do that. Yes, they came in as an 8th seed, but that was a damn good team. And, interestingly enough, you know how their Powers That Be made it so damn good? They took an honest, sober look at the team and said, "You know what? We need to make changes." And that's what they did. They seriously addressed their weaknesses, and it paid off in the biggest of ways. They didn't say, "Hey, we're the LA Kings. No one even thought we'd make it this far. We're ahead of schedule. Let's just be happy about that and see where things go from there. Then, if it looks like we need to make changes, we'll make changes, provided we can find a dance partner who's willing to work with us. Because, you know, there's no Hockey Store. Derp." They didn't say that. They were highly objective.
So you say, "OK, fine. You wish Holland had done things differently. What would you have done differently, since you're so smart?"
Firstly, I'm not saying I'm so smart. I'm not saying I'd be a better GM than Ken Holland. We seriously take for granted what it takes to do the job he does. But, at the same time, we're a proud, winning organization...and now we're flopping about like a fish out of water on the deck of a boat. And I've gotta think Mr. I would say that's unacceptable, even if it is somewhat understandable. (No GM is going to be able to ice a legitimate contender every season. Doesn't work that way. We all know this.)
The big thorn in my side, the thing I always find myself coming back to, is Lidstrom's departure. It's crystal clear now that he wasn't just a legendary player for this team and organization - he was this team and organization, at least post-Yzerman. And, as far as I can tell, Holland just flat-out dropped the ball on the Nick-will-be-retiring-any-season-now-and-we're-gonna-have-to-be-more-than-ready front. Like, I get not being able to replace #5. But, holy crap, man, give us a better safety cushion than...um...nothing?! (OK, fine - Carlo Colaiacovo and Kyle Quincey.) And that's saying nothing of Stuart and Rafalski. We lose Stuart, Lidstrom, Rafalski, and...well, look at our friggin' blue line! What the hell happened there?!
But I could go on for days.
I think it all went awry when the Wings were unable to secure Suter and Parise. This team would have a totally different look and feel to it. Once he lost out, he had no Plan B, and he still doesn't.