Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp writes that Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland could be feeling the heat for building a “so-so” team. Though Sharp isn’t a beat writer for the team, he sounds off on a topic that has been trending in Detroit. The general manager set the bar low this season, telling the media that fans should have lower expectations due to the competitiveness of the league.
But a lot of fans–and analysts–aren’t buying it, feeling that Holland is to blame for the mess Detroit is in. National outlets like NBC are even picking up on it.
Holland was questioned by many for re-signing Darren Helm to a lucrative deal while adding Steve Ott and re-signing Drew Miller to one-year deals. Then, Holland placed Martin Frk and Teemu Pulkkinen on waivers, and both were claimed, by Carolina and Minnesota respectively.
The waiving of both players caused a ripple through fan blogs, encouraging Winging It In Motown’s Prashanth Iyer to pen a long article (following Frk’s departure) about Holland’s offering of entry-level contracts and the lack of those players ever playing for the Red Wings. Iyer also said this about Holland’s work, but it was the most recent column by The Malik Report’s George Malik that may have raised eyebrows. Malik, will lean toward portraying the Red Wings’ brass in a positive light, but today he taps into the frustrations being felt by the fanbase. Add in this quote from head coach Jeff Blashill and though it didn’t come from Holland, it felt like a team mandate to many. From the Free Press’ Helene St. James:
Mantha scored the game-winning goal but “I didn’t think him or AA were good enough, to be honest with you,” Blashill said. “They’ve got to be better than that. These are big games for those guys and you’ve got to be better.
“I told the young guys in camp to slap me in the face and tell me you’re better than other options. It can’t be a period, it’s got to be 60 minutes. But with that said, I thought they picked it up in the third.”
Though Andreas Athanasiou was named to the roster today, Anthony Mantha was sent down to Grand Rapids. It was another in a series of moves that puzzled analysts and enraged fans, especially since the Red Wings are desperate for goal scoring.
Holland has had a tremendous run as the Red Wings general manager, winning three Stanley Cups (1998, 2002, 2008) and presiding over a terrific run of success with the team. But the more recent realities have been a team on the decline, and when choosing veterans not known for scoring goals over younger players drafted to purportedly score goals, that tends to reflect poorly on upper management’s thinking. Further, a look at the salary cap situation now, and into the future does not bode well for the Wings, with many players on the wrong side of 30 promised large sums of money for long durations. Add in the masterful work of former Red Wing and front office apprentice Steve Yzerman in Tampa and it creates a perfect storm of criticism.
As a mainstay of the Detroit front office, it’s understandable that ownership would give him the benefit of the doubt for now. But should this team, after significant criticism, struggle out of the gate and throughout the season, the quiet drumbeat for accountability will only grow steadier–and louder.