4 More Years: What Ken Holland’s Extension Means for Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland signed a four-year extension on Thursday that will keep him as the club’s GM through the 2017-18 season.

Holland said this to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James after inking the extension:

I’ve been here a long time and very proud, very happy to be a Red Wing. I work for, I believe, the best owners in the NHL — passionate, committed. It’s nice to know that ownership has confidence in me to continue to lead going forward.

Holland has won three Stanley Cups as general manager of the Red Wings (1998, 2002, 2008) and one when he was an assistant GM in 1997. According to St. James, Holland has won more regular season games (746) and postseason games (115) than any other NHL team since taking over in July 1997.

What This Means for the Red Wings

While Holland’s accolades certainly are impressive, the world of sport revolves around the saying of “What have you done for me lately?” Unfortunately, Holland hasn’t done much for the team since 2008. Sure, he got them to a Stanley Cup final in 2009. But since that loss, it has been five consecutive first- or second-round exits.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, the question on everyone’s mind was “Will the Red Wings win a Stanley Cup?” Nowadays, the question is “Will the Red Wings make the playoffs and keep the streak alive?”

The culture has changed quite a bit. Fans are happy simply making it into the playoffs rather than making a deep run. That’s not how you build a successful franchise. A playoff streak is fun to brag about, but it doesn’t help you win championships if you’re just good enough to squeak in.

One of the biggest complaints for Red Wings fans was Holland’s inability to attract free agents this offseason. He swung and missed on Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle, Anton Stralman, Christian Ehrhoff and many others. Re-signing him says “We are perfectly content with not being able to attract free agents to Detroit.”

They have a great crop of prospects in Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, but prospects take time to develop. And even they aren’t happy about being stuck in the minors longer than normal.

Adam Almqvist left the AHL for the KHL this offseason, Mitch Callahan has tweeted his displeasure about being stuck in Grand Rapids, as seen in the tweet below.

Detroit still has Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, but they are getting closer to 40 than 30 and haven’t been the most consistent as far as staying healthy.

That window of opportunity for Datsyuk and Zetterberg to remain competitive is closing, and the way Holland keeps over-ripening his prospects in Grand Rapids means the Red Wings might not win another Stanley Cup with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and the current group of prospects.

What’s Next?

Coach Mike Babcock also is on the last year of his deal, but according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen, Babcock’s decision to re-sign was based on Holland’s decision.

If Holland can get Babcock to come back, there’s still some hope the Red Wings can win a Stanley Cup under the Holland regime. Despite my negativity, I still have faith in Holland, but it is waning. He may not make the best personnel decisions, but you can’t deny he is one of the best in finding hidden talent in drafts.

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, I trusted Holland could put out a competitive team year after year. Now, Holland has to prove to me he can put out a competitive team.

Letting Cleary walk next year would be a good start, but he’s going to have to start making some better front-office decisions and not base them on loyalty in order to sway me back.