Any Detroit Red Wings fan watching the Edmonton Oilers game Sunday night felt that feeling before. The same fan knows it all too well because the glaring holes were not patched appropriately by the man running the team.
That person of course being Ken Holland.
Trending on social media was a photo of Holland following the game winning goal, staring a hole in the ice and wondering how it happened with two superstars on the team. It’s simple: Holland is a creature of habit.
When Steve Yzerman was brought aboard, it was a much needed reboot to the organization. Holland’s time to impact the team as he used to was long past. Holland is more of an on-the- cusp-of-contending GM, a guy who can give up picks and prospects to get his money guys to put the team over the top.
From 2007-2009, the Red Wings were perennial conference finalists, and Holland’s foundation was strong enough that he could add pieces here and there. But once the Cap reality set in, it was as if it broke his brain.
Red Wings suffered long term as a Result
He couldn’t find the underrated journeyman player anymore like Mikael Samuelsson or Dan Cleary. He overvalued his vets. He overpaid for his guys (Justin Abdelkader and many others) and his trades surrendered picks and prospects for guys who were past their prime. Worst of all, the draft magic was gone as other teams copied the Red Wings pattern of mining diamonds from late rounds.
If there was no move Holland fancied, he “liked his team” while Wings fans howled that he was wasting the final great years of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Once Nick Lidstrom retired, Detroit started to fall apart.
Holland has approached things similarly in Edmonton. Yzerman fleeced him in deals last year for Andreas Athanasiou and Mike Green and Holland responded by being overly careful this trade deadline. The results are similar.
Edmonton, as of this writing, is a game away from being swept. I don’t think Holland is out of time by any means and I still think he has a chance to turn Edmonton into a Cup Contender if he has learned from his mistakes of the past. But that remains to be seen.
It took him years to realize Detroit wasn’t the team it once was.
Yzerman was a Breath of Fresh Air
The most glaring lesson here is one Wings fans knew for a long time: Yzerman is the only one who could stomach the team bottoming before building it back into the contender it once was. He’ll make the tough decisions, which he’s shown already twice dealing away Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha. He bought out Abdelkader, and bucked all the analysis and pundits with his selection of Morirz Seider.
How smart does that look now?
Yzerman takes the chances Holland won’t and he analyzes the game in a more modern way. He doesn’t hit on everything, but he’s at least taking calculated risks showing fans the biggest source of progress was the change up top. The rest will follow, especially as Yzerman brings in his own players.
If Holland were still in Detroit, we’d all still be staring blankly—without any sort of playoff hockey for years to come. For Edmonton’s sake, here’s hoping he figures it out.