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Custance on Ken Holland’s ‘rebuild on the fly’

The Athletic's Craig Custance kicks off his Red Wings coverage with an examination of Ken Holland's attempt to rebuild the Red Wings "on the fly":

Holland has been busy shaping what the next era looks like, even if there’s no guarantee he’s part of it beyond this season. He understands there are some fans who feel he should not. After decades running one of the most successful organizations in all of sports, he’s entering the final year of his contract. At this point, it’s not his call what his job looks like after this season.

Maybe he gets an extension to keep going in his current position as Red Wings general manager. Maybe a new voice is brought in, with Holland’s years of work rewarded with a move upstairs that would provide a paycheck but not the day-to-day decision-making he still seems to love. Or perhaps the contract expires after the coming season and the two sides part ways, with a mutual understanding that it might be best for everyone involved.

That’s all still to be decided.

How these next few weeks play out may factor in to that decision, a pressure Holland really hasn’t faced in his years running the Red Wings. That pressure heightened on Sunday when it was announced that the Red Wings protected 33-year-old goalie Jimmy Howard over 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek in the middle of a rebuild. (It's a decision we'll examine later this week.)

Custance continues, and his article is worth your time...

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


TreKronor's avatar

Very well written and put together.  Nice to see a holistic viewpoint.

Posted by TreKronor on 06/19/17 at 12:38 PM ET

Primis's avatar

“There are real players in the second, third and fourth rounds,” Holland said. “We’ve hit on those players. We’ve got to hit on them again. We went a little dry.”

This concerns me.  The odds are against DET hitting much in these rounds.  Scouting has progressed too far.  Yes you pluck guys out of those rounds, but it’s not anywhere near what it used to be.  I don’t think DET’s scouting got worse so much as everyone else caught up.

Essentially what Kenny is saying is “Man I really hope we hit it with some of those 2nd - 4th rounders” and that’s a terrible “plan”.  Hoping is not a plan.

Posted by Primis on 06/19/17 at 12:57 PM ET


I do think players get overlooked due to size or maybe they don’t wow you offensively and then play no defense. But I’ve seen players like that turn out to be great. Kucherov and gaudreau fit those descriptions. Lots of d men aren’t picked up if they are poor defensively and they’re not subban or karlsson on offense yet they turn into great d men. Take roman Josi for example or in fact subban. Hronek could really be a diamond in the the rough. I think you give scouts too much credit. I think plenty of guys fall through the cracks because unfortunately too many scouts can’t identify difference makers and just look for intangibles to give other players a certain edge

Posted by Hold this L on 06/19/17 at 01:20 PM ET

MikeMac's avatar

Nice article.  Seemed honest and balanced not only in the assessment of the Wings’ current state of affairs, but how the next two or three seasons will prove “re-build on the fly” works, or if the team has to be blown apart.

Posted by MikeMac on 06/19/17 at 02:52 PM ET


We’ve noted the paucity of picks focused on defensemen which Custance cites.

None in one year and only one - in the 5th round - in another.

Not sure what was going on there.

Even if you think Smith might become a star that position is just too important
and the Wings knew their best defensemen were on the way out or aging.
We keep hearing that you can only find the better defensemen by drafting them
and yet for 2-3 years in a row we virtually stopped. That’s a position you stockpile even
if you think you’re pretty set, which we were not.

Not sure I understand how the rebuild on the fly idea is even relevant.
When you finish second to last in your conference and have little legit
reason to expect it was an aberration, what’s happening might not be
a complete tear-down or tank, but too much altitude has been lost
to claim you’re still competitive.

Posted by Lefty30 on 06/19/17 at 07:27 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Very well written and put together.  Nice to see a holistic viewpoint.

It was to the point, and shows you need some luck to compete. With Battman’s parity the Red Wings may be able to compete for a playoff spot, with good health, and good drafting. tongue wink

Posted by bigfrog on 06/19/17 at 09:49 PM ET


Competing is not the same as being a contender…..my fear is that Holland has become too complacent and to content to merely make the playoffs.

The outcome of that complacency is that they will remain marginal at best and only end up losing some of the better players via free agency…... or remain up against a hard cap with nothing to show for it.

Posted by NewfieWing on 06/19/17 at 11:56 PM ET


If 2017-18 is really the year Holland’s job as a GM is on the line, what measuring stick does one us to determine success worthy of a contract extension?

For me it is going to have to include the following:

- no more obviously bad contracts. Signing Larkin to an reasonable extension is fine. Signing Vanek to a 5 year deal at $5M/year is not.

- making sure there is space on the roster for at least 2 more young players to get increased playing time. I suspect those players to be Bertuzzi and Nosek but someone else could emerge.

- Blashill needs to be on a VERY short leash. A start that looks like the middle 80% of last season should get him canned by Thanksgiving

- If Mrazek isn’t claimed and he remains on the roster opening day, let him know that he CAN still be a part of the future but he’s going to have to EARN it. If Mrazek can’t find consistency or can’t accept his role, trade him.

- More focus must be placed on the future than the present. Don’t destroy a player’s strengths just to marginally increase his weaknesses. Veterans should be held to same accountability as young players.

- Last year’s deadline deals were a good start. Look for more opportunities to improve the future.

I could probably come up with more but you’ll notice I left out wins. That’s because I really don’t think the this team’s progress can be measured in wins. It should be more about how they play night in and night out. There has to be consistent effort.

Good luck doing all that Kenny. It would a huge departure from past seasons.

Posted by evileye on 06/20/17 at 10:46 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.