Even some of the most optimistic Hockeytown observers will tell you this Red Wings off-season has veered right off I75 and has collided directly with on-coming traffic. With the right-of-way is crazed Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher behind the wheel of a Mack Truck bogged down with 200 million dollars of Craig Leipold’s cash. Wings fans sit stunned as all of the big name NHL fish (Nash, Parise, Suter) have chosen to swim upstream, leaving Red Wings brass with their jig in their hands in a pond full of minnows.
But, wait just a second here. At a pre-screening this movie would have been banned by any self-respecting Red Wings focus group. The berserk high rolling truck driver is a role only ever played by Mike Ilitch (with Marian riding shotgun). Replacing Ilitch from his familiar role as NHL kingpin could only be likened to removing Steven Seagal as Chief Casey Ryback in his 1992 role in Under Siege. We can all agree nobody would have ever wanted to see that happen.
Despite all of the talk surrounding the NHL this summer about the battle brewing with the league and its players over the new CBA, the upcoming Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, and Shane Doan’s tiresome should I stay or should I go schtick, the most interesting event this off-season has been witnessing the backlash GM Ken Holland has faced. The bulk of the criticism he has received is uncalled for. As far as Parise and Suter are concerned the Wings did everything in their power to make this thing happen (maybe too much). They even took a plane to go visit Suter on his remote farm in Wisconsin! Seriously? Nothing against Ryan Suter and as Mike Babcock might say in that comedic coaching tone of his, “Ryan’s a real high end player.” Nonetheless, Suter doesn’t even crack my top five defenseman in the league and they took a plane to go beg for his services. They offered these guys hundreds of millions of dollars and in the end they chose to play where their families and friends reside. Now if that doesn’t warm your heart… moving on.
Next, the Wings made what was referred to as a “hell of an offer” for Rick Nash and were again left holding the punch while the Rangers took him out for a spin on the dance floor. Scott Howson is the general consensus for worst GM in the league and even he was smart enough to realize that trading their best player to the team that has spanked the Jackets repeatedly since their inception was just a bad idea. From all reports the Wings offer may have been better than the package they received from the Rangers (no offense Artem Anisimov).
Now I will admit that I have been one to pump Holland’s tires in the past and I do wish he had more pieces in place from within the organization to help insulate the defense when Lidstrom inevitably retired. However, he doesn’t deserve the hate he has been getting this summer. I grew up two hours from Toronto and trust me when I say that I know what bad managerial conduct looks like. The circumstances this summer are ones beyond the Wings and Holland’s control and have undoubtedly worked against them. On the bright side, Detroit has a lot of cap space, they will still make the playoffs next season, the crop of free agents next summer looks enticing, Corey Perry lives in London Ontario a city without an NHL team, and he doesn’t own a farm… so let’s all drink to that!