Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland is approaching this trade deadline like it’s his last.
It may well be.
Apart from any portentous overtones, Holland knows that he may be out in the Motor City as the team transitions. He’s got a year to go on his contract, but there’s a fog of ambiguity over the Red Wings and he wants to ensure that the club has something resembling a foundation going forward.
“Obviously there’s lots of rumors, and there’s things swirling out there,” said Holland. “We’ll see what the summer brings. I love the job. I still believe I’ve got lots of energy. And I guess I would say to you, as I go forward, you never want to stay…”
The gist is that Holland doesn’t want to “overstay” his welcome, as he clarified. And in a sense, he’s always had that sword of Damocles dangling over his head. There’s always been something about Detroit.
“I used to crack jokes that when [Nicklas] Lidstrom was gone, I was going out the door with Lidstrom,” “It was a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but it was also about how important Lidstrom was to the team. He left in 2012. It’s 2019 here and I’m still here. I’ve overseen a rebuild.”
Holland’s run with the Wings dates back to 1985, when the club hired him as a scout for western Canada. He’s the second-longest tenured executive in the front office of the Red Wings, next to Jimmy Devellano of course.
Holland became general manager in 1997, when Detroit was a Cup-winning franchise. He was on top of the world instantly and the Red Wings did it again three more times in his tenure, including the subsequent year in 1998. They made the playoffs for a quarter-century, but lately this team has fallen on hard times. Or hard times have fallen on this team.
Either way, we could be looking at the end of an era. As Holland considers the ride so far and the Red Wings consider how exactly they’re going to return to the post-season, things have a way of changing.
Even the most storied franchises change. Even legacies end.
Despite all the late fortune, the Red Wings have the most NHL wins and points out of any team since Holland became general manager.
As Detroit points to the future, whatever that means, the sense of change is physical. Now, it’s all about youth. Holland has six players that can become UFAs come July 1, including Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Gustav Nyquist, and Thomas Vanek. All are up for grabs.
With the Red Wings heading for yet another season on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned, nothing is sacred. Not anymore. And Holland, who has pondered the efficiency and timing of a rebuild for ages now, knows that his job is far from secure.
The good news? An indefinite future can’t change the past.
“I’m not really giving you an answer on my career as to when it’s time to leave,” said Holland. “But I guess what I am saying is, I’m going to make the decisions that I think are in the best interests of the Detroit Red Wings, because it’s been a magical, magical run.”
(Photo credit: NHL)