Being a Red Wings fan used to mean something much different than it does now. I grew up watching the Red Wings in the Stevie Yzerman era.
I saw some bad teams become good. Jacques Demers made the Red Wings a playoff team and Bryan Murray made them a regular season power house.
A few playoff failures happened and so Scotty Bowman was brought in to get the Red Wings over the hump. After winning 3 Stanley Cups in 6 years Red Wings fans expected more of the same.
Mike Babcock arrived and their success continued with another Cup. But something happened after the Stanley Cup defeat in game 7 versus the Pens in 2009.
The Red Wings began a downward spiral which has continued to present day. Each season has seen the Red Wings become normal again. The immortal Lidstrom left and the mortal Red Wings emerged.
Most teams fans would be envious of a 25 consecutive season playoff streak. But these are the Detroit Red Wings. More is expected. Mediocrity is deemed unacceptable. Now it is reality.
Many questions have been raised by Red Wings fans over the past few years.
Is Ken Holland still the right GM for this team? When will Lidstrom and Rafalski truly be replaced? Do the Red Wings truly care about being a legit Cup contender or is their goal only about qualifying for the playoffs now ? Is Jeff Blashill the right head coach for this team? Who will replace Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall as the leaders of this team?
Since 2009 the Red Wings have treaded water with band-aid solutions. Holland has signed UFA's such as Stephen Weiss, Mike Green, Brad Richards, Jordan Tootoo. He has 're-signed Kyle Quincey. But why doesn't Holland make any trades?
Other GM's have been proactive and we've seen it each summer. Stan Bowman, Jim Rutherford, David Poile, Fred Shero, Bob Murray, Dean Lombardi, Peter Chiarelli and Doug Wilson have each made impact trades over the years to improve their respective teams.
Sometimes trades don't work out as hoped. But in today's cap world, a GM has to at least try.The Red Wings have done an excellent job of drafting and developing players for over a quarter century now. Free agency has not been so kind to them.
Holland has refused to give up any significant player assets to improve his team. Instead of going for the eagle he likes to lay up and settle for par. Is he too comfortable and complacent to do anything impactful this summer?
It sounds like he finally IS at least open to the idea that this team needs to make some major roster changes. Holland says things like "I plan on being more aggressive in pursuing trades" and "we need to get bigger." Well no offense Kenny boy but anyone can say that. Saying it and doing it are two different things.
Red Wings fans have heard all the infamous "Kennyisms" over the years. Things like "I kicked some tires but couldn't find the right fit." Or "we like our team." Or "We didn't think that there was a player available that was any better than the kids we have now." Or "it didn't make sense."
You have to give to get. There are no Mike Milbury's running teams anymore. Many Red Wings fans wonder if Jim Nill or Steve Yzerman should have replaced Holland years ago. Some of the blame must be placed on the players.
But it's the GM who is responsible for the roster he puts on the ice. The bottom line is that this Red Wings team is simply not good enough to compete for a Stanley Cup right now.
One can argue that this team is currently in a 're-tool. This is true. However, what is the plan going forward? Is this team going to magically morph into a Cup contender sooner or later? Perhaps not at all?
Some building blocks are already in place. We see players such as Larkin, Athanasiou, Dekeyser, Mrazek, Mantha as having great potential. But they need help most notably on the blue line. Danny Dekeyser is arguably their only legitimate top 4 defenseman.
All 30 teams in the NHL are looking for those type of players. Kenny has to give up something in order to get something. Who does this mean? Tatar? Nyquist? Mantha? Does Holland sacrifice young minor league depth such as Svechnikov, Holmstrom or Bertuzzi? Is their 1st round draft pick in play?
While the Red Wings are deep in organizational forward depth, there is a clear and pressing need on defense.
While players such as Marchenko, Ouellet, Sproul and Hicketts may be decent defensemen someday, none appear to have the pedigree to be top pairing defensemen. So which players will Holland target?
We hear all the names rumored to be available. Vatanen, Trouba, Shattenkirk, Yandle to name a few. Will Datsyuk's contract be moved? Will Stamkos be a realistic UFA target? Will players such as Lucic, Backes, Brouwer, Okposo, Ladd be considered? Will Jimmy Howard be traded? What about the Swedish pylon named Ericsson? Could he be bought out?
There are many questions for the Red Wings to address this summer. Kenny Holland has a lot of work to do. The draft and July 1st provide a big opportunity for the Red Wings . Will they be aggressive? Or will Status quo Kenny Ho remain?
Red Wings fans need to hope that for once, Ken Holland is facing some actual pressure from the owners, Mike and Marian Illitch, to make substantial changes to improve this hockey team. This team needs a shake up now.
Red Wings fans have been waiting for this for a long time. Lets hope it finally happens. Opening a brand new Little Caesar's Arena in a year is exciting. Having a legitimate Red Wings Stanley Cup contender to play in it is even better.