Kukla's Korner

Abel to Yzerman

Farewells and Fairy Tales: Bring The Captain Home

Maybe it's because I've been out of state for so long, close to 30 years.  In that span of time I attended two games at JLA: Game 1 of the Cup Final in '08 (nice trip, Fleury) and Game 2 of the Conference Final in '09 (nice OT winner, Sammy).  Maybe it's because of the way the Holland-constructed team fell flat this year.  Heck, maybe it's because of the number of times I had to read or hear about the "final (insert occasion here) at the Joe".

All I know is that up to Sunday, the idea of The Joe no mo didn't make me misty and sad.

But, as they always do, the Wings did a big event very, very well.

Of course Sheahan scored the first of the last at the Joe and then, naturally, he scored the last of the last, constituting his first and second in the team's 82nd.

It was nice to see Dino with a shovel and Scotty with his tummy and a grin.  The red carpet was cool and the show was reminiscent of better times, playoff times, optimistic times.

It was a nicely-done farewell to a hockey arena.  Not a damn basketball court with ice underneath it (that comes next year).  The Joe was where Bob Seger rocked and the Wings played hockey.

One guy played hockey there better than the rest. One guy led other hockey players in that arena in ways we may never see again.  One guy owned Joe Louis Arena and he was back over the weekend, in a Wing jersey, listening to Wing fans.  If Steve Yzerman, in the arena that resides on Steve Yzerman Drive (which, had they had the chance to do it again the Ilitch's might have chosen "Way" instead of "Drive"),  had never considered a return before Sunday, I'll bet he's thinking about it now.

It was impossible to measure the ovations, each seemingly louder than the last. When Yzerman dropped the ceremonial puck before the game, the "Ste-vie!" chant began, like it was 1997 all over again. While speaking to the crowd afterward, he was serenaded with "Come Home, Ste-vie!"

That's Wojo, yesterday morning.

You think it didn't affect him? Think again.

It sounded like echoes from another time, coming down from the ceiling.

It sounded wonderful. "Yeah, it's pretty nice," Yzerman said. "I'm not gonna lie."

That's Jeff Seidel, also yesterday morning.

Chris Ilitch, it's time to make your mark. It's time to put your stamp on this damn organ-I-zation. The time is ripe, maybe riper than it will ever be.  Tampa missed the playoffs. Two years left on a contract is difficult to overcome, but certainly not impossible.  Hell, we don't even know if Yzerman's got a "buy-out-in-the-event-I'm-offered-my-rightful-job-as-decreed-by-baby-jesus" clause. He just might.

It is hard to stomach. It's saddening to see Steve Yzerman back in the Joe, back in that setting, in that sweater, with those cheers, at that volume, and know that deep inside he wanted this job. He should have this job. He would have this job, except...

When Steve Yzerman left the front office to manage the Lightning, Mike Ilitch said he had approached Holland about moving up in the front office to make room for Yzerman as general manager.

Ilitch said Holland declined.

That's redolence. It's GregG Krupa, almost a year ago, and those are honestly, still, two of the most sickening sentences I've ever read.

Little Caesers Arena opens in the Fall and there is plenty of work to be done.  You have to think Tick Tock Kenny Holland has been the primary architect of the opening, if not the building itself.  If anyone is orchestrating that project, you know it's Holland.  In all honesty, that's the only reason I can see Ilitch keeping him in his job.  However, that job just might be best handled by a team president rather than a GM. Maybe a GM should spend every damn minute thinking about making this team what it used to be, instead of what kind of light show is going to electrify the opening night crowd.  Code it if you'd like.

Chris Ilitch needs to promote Ken Holland.  He needs to recognize that Holland is too smart, too big, too important to be bothered with the dirty jobs like scouting and negotiating, trading and signing and building.  Ken Holland needs to be a President. He deserves it. Promote him, Chris.

Sometimes, when I'm bored or when I'm sad and need to feel warm, I'll make up the occasional quote and giggle at my own childish humor. Truly, many of the things I've written over the years I've laughed harder at that than many of you. It's a thing, a vice.  Anyway, sometimes those things were quotes.  I could have done that in this post, made up a quote for Ken Holland.  But, as is the case so often with Tick Tock, the truth is more idiotic than fiction. I couldn't even make this shit up.  

“The league is really close,” general manager Ken Holland said. “If you can make a couple right moves and have some things happen to your team, you can make a little move and sometimes it doesn’t take a much of a move to get into the thick of things.”

That's Ken Holland's assessment.  Seriously. 

Bring Steve Yzerman home.  It's time.  The luster is still there in Tampa, but missing the playoffs (I think, it's only happened to us once this generation so I'm kind of spitballing) does wicked things to a franchise. Ugly things. Mean things.  People leave quicker and easier. Don't believe me? Check out LA today

Bring Steve Yzerman home and let him work some relentless, gutsy magic on this stale organization.

Promote Holland ASAP. He deserves it. A smart man like that needs a bigger portfolio, a portfolio befitting a senior executive, not a GM.

You got to him Sunday, Wing fans.  The crack was there and you pried it open a bit.  You reminded The Captain where he belongs. Now it's time to act.

Bring him home.

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Comments

dougie's avatar

Wholeheartedly CONCUR, Chief. I would personally approve a Holland promotion up to and including Benevolent Dictator of the World, if it gave me a reason to re-up my NHL Center Ice package next season.

Posted by dougie on 04/11/17 at 07:51 AM ET

topshelf14's avatar

I found it interesting that the entire team, past and present, coaching staff, medical staff were all introduced during the Farewell ceremony but Holland was left up in the balcony. I think he knew he’d be reigned with boos and decided to take a different route.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 04/11/17 at 08:10 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

Maybe a GM should spend every damn minute thinking about making this team what it used to be, instead of what kind of light show is going to electrify the opening night crowd.

And that’s just the thing—if the Joe proves anything, it proves that the light show, sound systems, bells and whistles, or hell, really any of those pesky “amenities” like “usable bathrooms” are only good for filling seats for a relatively short honeymoon period. Ultimately, there has to be success on the ice. You succeed on the ice, and you can fill the Joe (a dump, but OUR dump) without any trouble. You suck on the ice, and nobody gives a shit about your state-of-the-art concourse.

I’m not saying the new barn isn’t something to be excited about. It is. The Joe did its job, and while I hate the public funding scam, the new building is still a good thing for the Wings. But come on, you only get so much goodwill from this, you need a team that actually does things like “pass the puck well” and “shoot the puck into the opposing net.”

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/11/17 at 08:55 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

I think he knew he’d be reigned with boos and decided to take a different route.

I thought the same thing.

Now, about Holland and Blashill… Both their contracts are up at the end of next season. With the team losing Mr. I, Datsyuk, moving to a new building, Kronwall probably LTIRetiring sooner than he probably wanted and Zetterberg in his last legs, we don’t have a lick of stability in the franchise.

Maybe firing KH and Blash isn’t the best thing right now. (And if the plan is to suck for another year, because we’re sure as hell not improving next season, aren’t those guys perfect for the task?)

With KH’s contract ending, he’ll have no choice, Chris Ilitch can say “either you change positions or you’re gone”, a less traumatizing way to end his time as a GM. (And I absolutely despise what he did to Yzerman)

Maybe that was ownership’s plan all along. Tread water until the Joe’s last season, which will certainly draw attention to the team. Continue to suck the first year in the new place, which will also be a draw to attract fans to the arena.

It does seem weird that Holland’s timetable to return to contention was a couple of years after LCA opens.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/11/17 at 09:05 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

Maybe it’s because I’ve been out of state for so long, close to 30 years.  In that span of time I attended two games at JLA.

Same!

I’ll never be able to thank A2Y enough for what you all have done for me. At the Joe last January, an FSD guy taped me talking about my favorite memory at the Joe and I quickly answered H2H and described it as the most special moment in my life (until I remembered my wife was three feet away and I’d be better off complimenting her too).

Two amazingly different experiences, the first a tourist game, walking the press box, meeting the TV guys and eating Holland’s popcorn, along with a hundred of my best friends, watching a blowout which would’ve been bigger had we not decided to sing Happy Birthday to James Motherf*cking Howard.

The other a true fan experience, getting to the game an hour earlier, taking my wife to the glass to watch warmups and freak out when a puck hits the glass; suffering through a 1-4 deficit before almost having a heart attack in 3-on-3 overtime and exploding in joy (and tears) after a shootout win.

In ten to twelve years, I’ll return to Detroit and take my kid to LCA, which will be full of red but also with a lot of blue on the rafters, and it will be a delightful evening, and maybe then I’ll realize why people always said the Joe was a dump.

Until then, and certainly after that, that gray windowless box will be the home for Red Wings, happiness and friendship, and I’ll never forget that, or who was responsible for that.

Thanks, Chief. Thanks, 19.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/11/17 at 09:17 AM ET

DocF's avatar

Thank you, Chief.  This is a cogent and well thought column.  I too would like to see Holland moved to President and Stevie Y. as GM.  It may happen, it may not, but I too think it would be good for fan morale.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 04/11/17 at 09:24 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

How ironic is it that the two best speeches during the final festivities came from the GM of the Lightning and the force behind the GM of the Blackhawks – all while the so-called “best GM in hockey” sulked by himself in a private box in the rafters.

That bastard didn’t even have the decency to sit with Mrs. I (she got stuck with the Garden Gnome instead). Nor did he come down to the ice to honor #40’s 1,000th game. Just pathetic.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 04/11/17 at 09:47 AM ET

Paul's avatar

Regarding Holland, remember a few Toronto writers swear he will land with the Leafs after his contract expires with Detroit and on a side note, his son Brad holds this position with Toronto, Director, Team and Hockey Operations.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 04/11/17 at 09:57 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

a few Toronto writers swear he will land with the Leafs after his contract expires

Can he build a strong team around Stamkos and Tavares?

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/11/17 at 10:04 AM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

Holland’s absence on the ice was most telling, and, as OTC pointed out, he was alone in his own private box.
I watched the festivities and was impressed and hopeful by the speech Yzerman gave. He seemed to present a longing of sorts to come back to the “Organ-I-Zation” as only Stevie Y can say it.
If Holland remains for the term of his contract I could probably stomach it, but, Blashill has proven he has to go. He is way out of his league and there are a few coaches out there that might just be a good fit in Detroit.
LA just let Sutter go and he has 2 Cups in 6 years under his belt as well as their GM. I’m am in no way lobbying for Sutter, I’m just saying that getting rid of Blashill can be done

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 04/11/17 at 10:23 AM ET

Primis's avatar

I kinda’ have felt the same way, Chief.  The “Last _____ at the Joe” hasn’t really gotten to me in this whole process.  I’ve mourned the fall of a once-proud franchise, and it’s hard to then also grieve for an arena.

I will say this:  I have two teenage step-daughters who like to go to concerts.  My wife has taken them to biiiig concerts at 3 of the major venues in or around Detroit.  The first was at JLA.  The second at Ford Field, and the third at the Palace.  Those girls have said that the Joe was the most impressive place—so big and so little at the same time.  Ford Field was nice but not as impressive somehow, and the Palace was nice but was a bit “meh”.  The Joe really was different and special, even for non-hockey things.


I still don’t know how I feel about Yzerman. He came to a team that already had Stamkos and Hedman, that core was already in place for him.  The drafts since have been hit and miss a bit it seems (yes he got Kucherov and Palat).  Drouin was a Top 3 pick and I don’t consider that and kind of Win or coup, because he was a Top 3 and an obvious pick.  I’m not sure on the timing on bringing Tyler Johnson in to the org, if Yzerman really can claim much of anything to that one or not.  And his cap management has been spotty.

I don’t think Yzerman is a bad GM.  I just don’t know if I’m sold on him being as good of one as some people claim.  And as such, I don’t know that he’s the answer for DET.  I want a really good GM, not just a name or memories.  In many ways, the DET org already has a serious problem with hanging on to the past too much.

Writing’s been on the wall for Holland though.

My fear is Chris Illitch doesn’t care enough.  You always knew his father cared.  I have yet to see or hear anything to indicate Chris actually cares about either the Wings or the Tigers.  It’s not encouraging.

Posted by Primis on 04/11/17 at 10:34 AM ET

Guilherme's avatar

I don’t think Yzerman is a bad GM.  I just don’t know if I’m sold on him being as good of one as some people claim.

Agreed. Pretty interesting that both the Stars and the Lightning missed the playoffs,while Wings fans claim those two did all the work for Holland.

Posted by Guilherme from Brazsil on 04/11/17 at 10:43 AM ET

duhduhduh's avatar

Here’s an interesting twist.  Not the blurb about Blashill as a wild card candidate for the UM Hockey opening.  Not that I think he would be a fit at UM, but that the rumors exist of his ‘impending release’.  I can dream about a full house, cleaning, can’t I?

Posted by duhduhduh on 04/11/17 at 11:09 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Amen, Chief. Amen.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 04/11/17 at 11:15 AM ET

duhduhduh's avatar

Agreed. Pretty interesting that both the Stars and the Lightning missed the playoffs,while Wings fans claim those two did all the work for Holland.

One does not preclude the other.  They still could have done the heavy lifting for KH, though I just think it was mostly all Scotty.

But, to the failings of TB and Dallas, this year: TB had pretty significant injuries and Dallas goaltending, and maybe leadership, was shit.

Posted by duhduhduh on 04/11/17 at 11:25 AM ET

cigar_nurse's avatar

It would be nice if Stevie has an escape clause to return to Detroit if a vacancy happens.
My nightmare is Chris I turns out to be like Bruce Norris taking over from his father James. We all know what happened. Not good.

Posted by cigar_nurse from On The mend for next season Greenville Pylons on 04/11/17 at 12:24 PM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/11/17 at 11:09 AM ET

Thanks for the link. Impending release. Sounds like a plan.

After all, Dave Lewis was let go after just 2 seasons with 110 and 109 points, and one Presidents Trophy.

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 04/11/17 at 01:02 PM ET

stonehands-78's avatar

after my 3 trips to the Joe between the early 80’s and H2H & H2H2, “Thanks!” to:
- the Emperor & KK
- our Chief & A2Y (and all the Game Day & LB originators ... OKJeff? Kate? ... )
- GJM & TMR
- allllllllllllllllllllllll the 19 (RIP Gramps)
- Herm ... for giving us a reason for H2H
and

the Detroit Red Wings
... the entire organ-I-zation (past & present), especially the players—- the team.

Looking forward to starting our new streak in the new barn next fall - No. 12 in 2018

L.G.R.W.

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 04/11/17 at 01:35 PM ET

Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit's avatar

Posted by stonehands-78 from the beginning ... a WingsFan, on 04/11/17 at 01:35 PM ET

We’ve missed you Stoney. Happy to see you. wink

Lets Go Red Wings!!!!!

Posted by Kate from PA now in SC-made in Detroit on 04/11/17 at 01:41 PM ET

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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com