The Detroit Red Wings Are Older And Less Relevant Under Ken Holland

The Detroit Red Wings battle Tampa Bay. Photograph: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Red Wings battle Tampa Bay. Photograph: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Red Wings under Ken Holland are now a slower, older, less relevant version of themselves, and even Holland knows they are not contenders.

The Detroit Red Wings were a top free agent destination, a perennial playoff team, and a consistent Stanley Cup contender in their heyday. They closely resembled that version of themselves as recently as 2009 – their last trip to a Stanley Cup final.

In more recent years they have maintained their perennial playoff status. Unfortunately, with that exception aside, the Wings are now merely a shadow of their former selves. With each passing season and off-season, Ken Holland is making the Wings less relevant.

The list of Holland’s past missteps is long, but with the regular season upcoming, let’s focus on this past offseason.

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What did Holland do to improve the team, and how well did he do his job?

Going into this offseason the Wings desperately needed to upgrade their defense. They also could have added at least one additional scoring forward, and improve overall team grit and speed.

How and what did Holland do?

He did not find a top-tier defenseman. Holland explored the trade market for the likes of Kevin Shattenkirk, Jacob Trouba, and others, but the price was too steep. Instead they re-signed Danny DeKeyser to a six year deal worth $30 million.

The Wings are thin on defensive talent. Re-signing Dekeyser was necessary, but it didn’t solve the Wings problem of lack of talent along the blue-line. It merely kept the Wings from being worse off.

What other moves did Holland make? He re-signed goalie Petr Mrazek and young defenseman Alexei Marchenko, forwards Drew Miller, Luke Glendening, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Darren Helm, and signed forwards Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott as well.

In classic Holland style, Detroit over-valued many of their own free agents, especially Helm and Glendening. They proceeded to add Vanek, a 32 year old sniper who has been sniping less and less in recent years, Ott, a 34 year old brawler who offers little else at this point in his career, and Nielsen, who should be a good well-rounded addition, though a six year contract for a 32-year old is overkill.

And what didn’t Holland do?

He didn’t leave the Wings much roster room to get better through youth. With a gluttony of veteran forwards already signed, there’s less and less chance for prospects like Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha to carve out a regular role with the team.

Prospects Martin Frk and Tyler Bertuzzi could have made opportunities for themselves as well, but with Vanek and Miller signed, their chance to contribute has narrowed significantly.

But that’s yet another Holland/Detroit Red Wings signature. The Wings often over-ripen prospects overseas or in the minor leagues, until they’re out of options, have very little trade value, and eventually get waived by the Wings and claimed by someone else.

Defensive prospects Xavier Oullett, Ryan Sproul, and Nick Jensen might be serviceable, even good defensemen. But with all three of them out of options will have to make decisions on them soon.

Holland also didn’t find/sign any European gems or top college free agents.

So to review….  the Red Wings offseason looked like this: they over-valued their own role players, they signed players past their prime from other teams, they left no room to improve through youth, and they failed to improve the defense.

A few weeks ago Holland admitted the Detroit Red Wings are not a Stanley Cup contender. While winning the Stanley Cup every year is impossible, contending for one should at least be a goal.

Next: Options to Step in if Caldwell Fired During Season

But if this past off-season is any indication, it appears Holland is marching to beat of his own drummer. And many Red Wings fans are not in sync with him.