By Jeff Moss
February 26, 2015
Before you read this article about Detroit’s professional ice hockey team let me start off with this caveat ….
Unless you were born in 2003 and your earliest Red Wings memories are of Maxime Talbot scoring a pair of goals in Game 7 for the Penguins and Sidney Crosby parading the Stanley Cup around the JLA ice, you are owed absolutely nothing from this franchise.
The Wings have won four Cups since Bill Clinton’s second inaugural and we are indebted to the organization until his daughter, Chelsea, takes office sometime around 2035.
While we are entitled to a Super Bowl plus REPARATIONS(!!!!) from the Lions and a World Series from this dick-tease decade of Tigers baseball, our hockey franchise is on a free-roll for the next two decades.
But just because the Red Wings as a unit are exempt from delivering a championship it doesn’t mean the front office is beyond reproach when it comes to putting their best possible team on the ice.
Just because intelligent Wings fans don’t want to come off like spoiled, entitled Boston fans (personified best by poster boy “sufferer” Bill Simmons) doesn’t mean that GM Kenny Holland is above criticism.
Look, the Wings are having an excellent season. They are in the mix (sort of) for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference; they are guaranteed ANOTHER playoff berth; and they have the second fewest regulation losses in the entire league.
But I have not talked to one knowledgeable fan of this franchise who believes they are going to add to gaudy totals of this era of Red Wing hockey and win “one for the thumb” this spring. Not if Brendan Smith and Jonathan Ericsson are expected to play a combined 38 minutes per game.
If this team is going anywhere in the playoffs they are going to need another Top 4 defenseman, which presents a problem on a couple of fronts …..
The pool of available top-tier defensemen on the market is shrinking by the minute. Tyler Myers was dealt to Winnipeg a couple of weeks ago (probably a good thing for us); Andrej Sekera was shipped to L.A. from Carolina; and Nashville re-acquired Cody Franson from the Leafs (one of the blueliners I would not have minded seeing the Wings acquire).
[Not that either Mike Valenti or Terry Foster knew that Franson was dealt last week. I was told by DSR hockey insider Topher Ryan that the pair spent five minutes discussing the possibility of the Wings trading for Franson on their 97.1 show today.
As usual, solid NHL coverage from Valenti & Foster. Talked about C. Franson for 5min not knowing he was traded. Producer then chimes in…”
— Topher Ryan (@cwing10) February 26, 2015
Hahahaha. Valenti then asked if Olli Jokinen’s was pronounced “Oh-Lee” or “Ah-Lee.” Right, because we are not sure if Jokinen is Finnish or Chaldean. This fucking town.]
The man who would be responsible for pulling off this delicate acquisition is the same general manager who:
a) Hasn’t made a blockbuster trade in recent memory. In fact, the last time Holland shook up the hockey world with a deal, Windows on the World was still taking dinner reservations (Slava Kozlov for Dominik Hasek).
b) Traded away one of the Top 50 prospects in the world and a second-round pick for the corpse of David Legwand just last year. And while Calle Jarnkrok has developed into a solid third-line center on the BEST team in the NHL during his rookie year, Legwand was actually an impediment (an insane -9 in 21 forgettable games) to the Wings making the postseason in 2014.
c) Thought Kyle Quincey was worthy of a first-round pick at the deadline a few years ago but clearly didn’t believe Franson (a potential rental) was worth the same price this season. Even though the 2015 Wings are a bigger threat to make a sustained postseason run than that 2012 team was.
So here is the conundrum. Holland has stated on the record that the only move he would make would a monumental one. Do you really trust his judgement at this point?
We are talking about the man who relegated Tomas Tatar to the AHL for 289 games. At one point, both Crash Davis and Mike Hessman felt sorry for the poor kid. Hell, Holland watched Tatar score 16 goals during the 2012 AHL playoffs and never thought to bring the kid up to the big club for the ONLY PLAYOFFS THAT MATTER.
You might remember that Detroit lost a seven-game series in OVERTIME (Ya know, by one goal!!!!) that year to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
The same dude who chose Johan Franzen over Marian Hossa; Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson instead of Jiri Hudler; Stephen Weiss over Valtteri Filppula.
Re-signed Dan Cleary and blocked Gustav Nyquist’s path to Detroit. The man who, when he was facing the barrel of a shotgun, FINALLY decided to turn the team over to the likes of Nyquist, Tatar, Tomas Jurco and Riley Sheahan. While declaring that kids weren’t the answer at all …
And that it was a Men’s League ….
At this point Holland is like Bill Murray’s character in the film “The Man Who Knew Too Little.” No matter how many bad trades or free-agent signings the chief exec makes, the scouting department (led by Håkan Andersson) keeps bailing him out.
It really is amazing that Mike Ilitch could own two teams and have a pair of GMs who have such dichotomous strengths and weaknesses. Holland can’t make a trade or sign an impactful FA to save his life (unless that FA begs to come play here like Hossa) while Dave Dombrowski’s drafting and player development is an abomination.
If you could morph Holland and Dombrowski into one executive you’d have the perfect front-office man. Unfortunately, ya can’t, which means the Olympia Entertainment sports teams have split personalities and continue to confound.
I mean, could you imagine if the Tigers were currently in the Red Wings’ predicament? The fanbase would be BEGGING for Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Ryan Sproul and Andreas Athanasiou to ALL be dealt away for immediate reinforcements in an effort to win now!!!!
Instead, we’re collectively terrified that Holland will trade some of the above assets away and not receive a difference-maker in return.
Well, frightening as it is to wish for Holland to make a deal, I am rooting for it. This team needs another D-Man who can play 25 minutes a night, anchor the power play and get the offense moving with a crisp first pass out of the defensive zone.
An acquisition that will slot nearly all of the existing defensemen down a peg and maybe get Smith out of the rotation entirely.
And while I am not sure if that blueliner is Keith Yandle or friend of the DSR Jack Johnson (who would be in heaven if he were traded to Detroit and Holland knows it) or someone else, IT NEEDS TO GET DONE by Monday at 3pm.
And I am sorry, if getting a Top 2 defenseman costs the team Mantha, I am fine with that.
Look, it might come back to bite the Wings in the ass down the road, but it’s not exactly like the guy is setting the AHL on fire (10 goals in 43 games) and with Athanasiou, Pulkkinen, Jurco, Sheahan, Tatar, Nyquist, Larkin, etc., it’s not like the franchise has a dearth of young forwards.
They need a minute-chomping d-man who has an offensive presence and they need one now because Datsyuk and Zetterberg are not getting any younger.
Pull the trigger, Kenny. I am fully aware that a bullet might enter through one side of my head, travel through my brain and exit out the other end if ya do.
But I will still be able to pop this in and remember the good old days …..