Detroit Red Wings: Should Ken Holland be worried for his job?


After the stunning and abrupt Ilitch “whack” of former Detroit Tigers President Dave Dombrowski, should Detroit Red Wings General Manger Ken Holland be worried for his job?

This seems absolutely ludicrous, considering Holland has presided over 17 consecutive years of playoff appearances, 3 Stanley Cups, outstanding drafts that have the Red Wings slated fourth in all of hockey in terms of farm teams, and a continued pattern of success despite the Salary Cap. Holland has also enjoyed a good relationship with the Ilitches. But so did Dombrowski.

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Dombrowski, inevitably, was a victim of his own success. After resurrecting the Tigers from the ashes of ineptitude, he could never capture the elusive World Series title Ilitch craved. Stories coming out today say that Dombrowski had to convince Ilitch to sell at the deadline to make the team better. With the season being a failure, it looks like that may have been Dombrowski’s undoing.

More disconcerting for everyone following these teams is how it was done. With Dombrowski’s friend and assistant GM Al Avila being offered a job three days before Dombrowski was let go. It sounds like something out of Goodfellas, The Godfather, or Boardwalk Empire. 

So with all of this happening with the Tigers, should the General Manger of Ilitch’s ice empire be looking over his shoulder? To be fair, Dombrowski always had a significant advantage over his division peers so it can’t be grounds for comparison with Holland. But there’s still cause for concern. Here are a couple.

The Wings Haven’t Made it Out of the Second Round in 6 years

It’s different than the Tigers in the sense that they’re limited on payroll with a salary cap and the league is now built on parity. But this is the Red Wings. A game from winning back to back Cups in 2009, they haven’t come remotely close since. If Ilitch pulled the trigger on Dombrowski after four consecutive division titles, three ALCS appearances and 2 AL pennants, how much patience does he have if there’s another one and done in the playoffs? Or a failure to improve upon it? That is of course if the Wings make the playoffs, which brings us to reason two:

The Wings Have The Longest Playoff Streak In All of Sports

The demise of the Red Wings has been predicted for a long time. First it was they were too old. Now it’s they’re too young. No matter what they do, there’s always a new article on why they will miss the playoffs.  There have been some scares, but they’ve prevailed. But what if they don’t?

As the Ilitch patriarch ages, Chris Ilitch is more involved in day-to-day operations and his loyalty may not run as deep as say, Mike’s. A playoff-less run would not only affect the bottom line, but also hurt the prestige of an organization rebuilding on the fly. Despite the difficulties of the new NHL, the expectation in Detroit is to make the playoffs and challenge for the Cup year in and year out. Though they were bounced in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup runner up, the Wings still looked better than last season’s snoozer against Boston.

If say the Red Wings went from deadline buyers to sellers, could it put Holland on a hot seat? Again, it seems ridiculous to even think about. But who thought Dave Dombrowski would be broomed in the fashion he was?

Perhaps the most unsettling thing for any front office executive in an Ilitch empire is how this went down. Despite a long resume of success, loyalty may no longer be the staying power it once was.

Next: #6 Moment of Wings Season: Nyquist confuses Ottawa for 28 seconds

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