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Ken Holland’s low expectations = proper expectation management?

SI's Stu Hackel suggests that Red Wings GM Ken Holland's purposefully low-set expectations for his team's 2013 season serve as nothing less than a sterling example of how every team's management and ownership should realistically address their team's personnel issues, using the "Cuppy Cuppy Cuppy" turned every-spring "Woe is us!" phenomenon that is Ted Leonsis as a counter-example...

[O]n January 16, a few days before this short season began, Holland told a gathering of the Detroit Sportscasters Association, "There's the possibility that we might not make the playoffs this year."

His words seemed shocking because Detroit's last failure to reach the postseason occurred in 1990, but they weren't mean to be subterfuge. The fact was that the Red Wings had lost a pair of stalwarts -- the great defenseman, captain, and future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom, and one of their heart and soul guys in big winger Tomas Holmstrom -- to retirement. Veteran blueliner Brad Stuart had departed via free agency. A group of young players and new faces was coming in. How was this going to work?

There was much uncertainty and Holland spoke wisely. No sense in creating heightened expectations for a club that had such big holes to fill. Had he promised the fans that his offseason moves and promotions of youngsters from AHL Grand Rapids were guaranteed to get the Wings into the postseason and the team stumbled, the boos filling Joe Louis Arena would have been audible throughout the NHL -- hardly creating a great environment for the players, especially the new ones.

And I'll grant you that most Wings fans would now suggest that the team has indeed exceeded expectations by making the playoffs and beating the Ducks, but after you read the rest of Hackel's article, I'd really like to know whether you think that Hackel's right, or whether Holland's sometimes brutal honesty regarding his take on (usually) standing pat and seeing what his team can do is the right way to go about addressing his management style over the long haul, or whether it just annoys the hell out of you on short-term bases.

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Comments

SYF's avatar

There were far too many unknowns to make promises, so Holland didn’t promise anything.

It would be overly simplistic to say that well-managed expectations are why Detroit is in Round 2 and the Capitals are not. Stanley Cup playoff success is much more complicated than that. But, handling those expectations well does matter. As has so often been the case, every team can learn something from how the Red Wings went about their business this season.

Nice way to finish the article.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 05/20/13 at 03:48 PM ET

Primis's avatar

I think Holland got kinda’ lucky.  If DET flips the switch a game or two too late, they’re not even in the playoffs.

I also still think Holland could and should have done more at the deadline.  Imagine how DET might be playing if Smith didn’t HAVE to be paired with older-yet-just-as-flaky Quincey?

Posted by Primis on 05/20/13 at 03:52 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

I think that it is important for Holland to be up front (to some degree) with the fans about expectations and his plans (although plans can always change).  regardless of whether or not Holland’s decisions are correct, at least don’t blow smoke up our asses.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/20/13 at 03:55 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

  Imagine how DET might be playing if Smith didn’t HAVE to be paired with older-yet-just-as-flaky Quincey?

you think QUINCEY is the problem on that pairing?  LOL

but I agree with your basic point…imagine how they could be doing if they had picked up a solid puck moving defenseman with any combination of White, Tootoo, and a draft pick…

and in Butterfly Effect fashion, I bet if Holland had made such a move, DeKeyser doesn’t break his thumb.  of course, in Butterfly Effect fashion, if Holland had made such a move, the Joe might have burned down with the team in it…so you never really know.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/20/13 at 03:57 PM ET

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Lovely, so now that Babcock has pulled a run out of his rear with no assistance from Holland, Holland steps away from his beloved mirror to drop a story seed on the topic of his own brilliant expectation management.

I felt all year long that if he was half as successful managing his roster as he was rounding up the lap dog beat writers (and apparently national writers) to push his desired message to the fans, we’d be well on our way to another cup worthy roster.

I appreciate Holland’s honesty as it has given us a clear view of his arrogant and borderline negligent delusional view of his lack of movement.

The unfortunate irony is that Babs’ incredible overachievement is going to do nothing but serve to continue Holland’s underachievement.

Posted by deanwerner on 05/20/13 at 04:03 PM ET

ChristineRWBNB's avatar

I understand frustration from fans used to having the roster packed with stars and proven talent, used to making the playoffs without question, used to being regarded as one of the most difficult opponents of hockey. But I don’t understand the frustration with Holland’s lack of moves in the last summer and at the last deadline. Okay, maybe I do understand but I don’t agree. The talent that we didn’t get either wasn’t a good fit for our system, or wasn’t worth the asking price. Yes, that left us with a tough row to hoe this year, but it also left us with a team that’s tied in the 2nd round of the playoffs against what every hockey commentator in the universe thinks is the best team in the league and the odds on favorite to win the cup. And it’s left us with a bunch of up and coming talent that makes me drool when I think of what the team will look like 3 years from now. What it didn’t do was ask us to sacrifice players like Nyquist, Tatar, or Andersson (who have the potential to be long term assets) for an easier season this year.

I’ve always said that Kenny isn’t looking at making the current or the next season “the dominating cup run season.” He’s looking at making the next four, five, or six seasons ones in which we have as good a chance as anyone else to win it. I like that strategy, because I want to contend every year and not have to worry year to year if we’ll have what it takes.

But that’s just me.

Posted by ChristineRWBNB on 05/20/13 at 04:19 PM ET

Avatar

Thanks for the reply Christine.

I have a hard time putting together a strategy when reviewing Kenny’s moves (or more appropriately) lack of moves over the last five years.

Babcock has done a brilliant…Hall of Fame worthy job of turning a team with 4 bottom pairing defensemen, no pure power play quarterbacks and an anemic power play 2 front line into a legit semi-final challenger. 

But that accomplishment should not take away an honest look at what Kenny has failed to do for Babs nor consider what Babs would do with some plugs for those gaping roster holes.

With Zetterberg and Datsyuk on the downswing of their careers and Bertuzzi and Samuellson about done, what exactly is this “plan” for competition for this year (where we squeeked into the playoffs) and beyond?  Pray Mike continues to coach circles around the league?

Please put together the strategy for me…

Losses since 2008:

Marian Hossa
Nicklas Lidstrom
Brian Rafalski
Jiri Hudler
Mikael Samuelsson
Tomas Holmstrom
Tomas Kopecky
Kris Draper
Bret Lebda
Brad Stuart
Adres Lilja
Kirk Maltby
Ville Leino
Derek Meech
Aaron Downey
Chris Osgood
Darren McCarty
Chris Chelios
Ty Conklin

Gains since 2008:

Damien Brunner
Jakub Kindl
Cory Emmerton
Drew Miller
Joakim Andersson
Jordin TooToo
Patrick Eaves
Brendan Smith
Tomas Tatar
Gustav Nyquist
Brian Lashoff
Ian White
Todd Bertuzzi
Kyle Quincey
Carlo Colaiacovo
Danny DeKeyser
Mikael Samuelsson
Brad May
Jason Williams
Ruslan Salei
Mattias Ritola
Mike Modano
Jan Mursak

 

 

 

Posted by deanwerner on 05/20/13 at 04:28 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Posted by ChristineRWBNB on 05/20/13 at 04:19 PM ET

The way you write in your blog should be in our Live Blogs, Christine…and regularly.  Try to join us tonight?

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 05/20/13 at 04:31 PM ET

Primis's avatar

you think QUINCEY is the problem on that pairing?  LOL

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 05/20/13 at 03:57 PM ET

Yes, I do.  Quincey is supposed to be the “steadying” guy on that pairing.  I don’t think Smith trusts him (understandably, possibly even rightly) and often tries to do too much himself.  So he holds onto the puck instead of chipping it back over to Kyle, or he forces a pass up-ice.

Posted by Primis on 05/20/13 at 04:37 PM ET

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The problem is that the people who lambaste Holland tend to do so from a position of coincidental ignorance.

Yes, obviously, the Wings have gotten worse over the past 4 years from their peak of play in 2007-8, or 2008-9.  Where the anti-Holland folks go off the rails usually occurs here and it usually occurs in two events:

1) They think that since the team has regressed that Holland hasn’t done his job.  They coincidentally ignore the reality that not only has nobody kept a team so good so long post-cap, nobody did it pre-cap in the modern NHL either.

2) They don’t analyze the reality in point 1 and start to muse at the underpinnings that support it.  In a capped league this is what you get.  Detroit was ‘better’ in large part in 08 and 09 because they had money to play with under the cap ceiling due to some great rookie/entry/RFA deals.

Add in to that the reality where pretty much every team that is currently good (besides Detroit) is so because they sucked for a long time, stockpiled early picks, and did well with them.  Detroit hasn’t had a pick inside the top 15 since 1991.

And, oh yeah, before we start giving Babcock all the credit for the Wings current play (and he deserves a lot of it, no question), it’s relevant to note that, uh, Holland hired that guy.  I think we call that a ‘win’ on the GM ledger, hiring a great coach.

If there’s another organization whose last 20 years you’d rather have than the Red Wings, I’d be fascinated to hear of it.  Yeah, the indefinite future is going to be pretty much random and there won’t be any margin for error and most teams in most playoff series are going to be just about dead even.

Oh well.  That’s not Holland’s fault.  That’s Bettman’s fault.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 05/20/13 at 04:57 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Lovely, so now that Babcock has pulled a run out of his rear with no assistance from Holland, Holland steps away from his beloved mirror to drop a story seed on the topic of his own brilliant expectation management.

Posted by deanwerner on 05/20/13 at 04:03 PM ET

Disagree.

Holland has been running interference for Babcock since the fall. Holland purposely lowered expectations, and no doubt he did so in part to keep the jackals away from Babcock, should the Wings had not made the playoffs.

Holland is on record as saying he ‘likes this team’; he was also on record as saying the Wings might not make the playoffs. That goes a long way in sheltering Babcock from undue criticism, should the Wings have missed the post-season.

A big part of the reason coaches like it in Detroit, and why people like Jim Nill stayed around long after he could have become a head GM elsewhere, is because Holland is a stand-up guy who doesn’t throw others under the bus, or look for scapegoats.

 

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 05/20/13 at 05:02 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I dunno.  Nill gest credit for MUCH of the drafting, and his gut.

I kinda feel like Kenny Holland is the Christ Osgood of GM’s but without the criticism.  He won 2, arguably 3 cups with Jimmy D’s team.  He had a core of HOF’ers JD drafted.  Hakan scouted out D and Z.  Like someone else said, it’s the players who got them where they are, not the GMing of KH.  Sure, he’s a good GM, had a couple good shifts.  Manages not to sink the ship.  But he’s always been GM of a good team.  Didn’t come in, to rebuild.  Easy to be a “Genius” GM when the Captains of your teams are Yzerman and Lidstrom.

I’ll judge him on the amount of help we get in the summer.  He still kept a lot of dead-weight that could’ve turned into draft picks, which he mentions REPEATEDLY are so important.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 05/20/13 at 05:03 PM ET

Avatar

Yes, that left us with a tough row to hoe this year, but it also left us with a team that’s tied in the 2nd round of the playoffs against what every hockey commentator in the universe thinks is the best team in the league and the odds on favorite to win the cup. And it’s left us with a bunch of up and coming talent that makes me drool when I think of what the team will look like 3 years from now. What it didn’t do was ask us to sacrifice players like Nyquist, Tatar, or Andersson (who have the potential to be long term assets) for an easier season this year.

I’ve always said that Kenny isn’t looking at making the current or the next season “the dominating cup run season.” He’s looking at making the next four, five, or six seasons ones in which we have as good a chance as anyone else to win it. I like that strategy, because I want to contend every year and not have to worry year to year if we’ll have what it takes.

But that’s just me.

Another Holland circle jerk, yah!  Holland got lucky, he had every intention on letting Nyquist, Andersson, Lashoff and every other kid who has produced this year rot in Grand Rapids so that his re-tread signings get the ice time.  If it was not due to injuries, I doubt this team even makes the playoffs.  Seriously, the kids that played with the Wings this year brought that youthful energy and hunger that has been missing on a stale roster.  Mike Babcock deserves coach of the year, because his GM keeps giving him dog food and expects him to make Filet Mignon from it.  I am not saying that ken Holland is a bad GM, I just think he is the most over rated GM in the NHL.  I personally think the Wings have the best ownership in all of sports, an owner who spends to the max and never seeks the media limelight that other owners crave.  So essentially Holland has the best coach, best owner and best support staff in all of the NHL, and get’s paid very handsomely for it while at the same time getting none of the blowback or tough questions from a lapdog press who just act as stenographers for his every uttering and call him a genius for not doing anything.  Meanwhile his coach gets very little in the way of accolades from anyone, and harsh criticism from the fanbase.  Sounds to me like Kenny Holland has the best job in sports.

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/13 at 05:13 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

From what I’ve seen this post season, some of the best game saving defensive plays have been accomplished by Kyle Quincey. I really don’t get the hate here.  cool hmm

Posted by Bradley97 on 05/20/13 at 05:14 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Bradley97, I agree.  At times when we first got him, it was like he was too good to hustle or didn’t want to look like he was trying too hard, like he was better than his slotting.  He’s got over that and started playing an honest game.  Makes mistakes like every other human being but he covers for them extremely well and bails out his partner at times too.  Plays good in front of the net and in the corners.  No hate for Qball from this guy, right now.  He’s towing the line.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 05/20/13 at 05:17 PM ET

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From what I’ve seen this post season, some of the best game saving defensive plays have been accomplished by Kyle Quincey. I really don’t get the hate here.

who’s hating?  I think he’s over rated and he’s gotten lucky.  Mike Babcock has taken more arrows from fans this year, even while taking this roster to the second round of the playoffs while the GM gets all the accolades.  Jim Nill is the one who has run the draft for the last umpteen years, but Holland gets all the credit.  The one thing Holland is responsible for, you know, trades etc?  He’s done nothing.  So I don’t see it as hate I just see it as an observation.  This roster overachieved and it had NOTHING to do with the GM and everything to do with the coach, yet the GM gets all the credit

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/13 at 05:20 PM ET

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oops, I responded to the wrong post.  tongue rolleye

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/13 at 05:21 PM ET

babymachine's avatar

I kinda feel like Kenny Holland is the Christ Osgood of GM’s but without the criticism.

So your reasoning is everyone else around Kenny has been great, so he’s just been riding coattails this whole time?

How do you explain his status as one of the most respected GMs in the NHL? People do talk, so if your theory about Kenny being “Genius” is true, wouldn’t the word have gotten out that he’s a fraud? Where’s the expose on CBC hotstove to give weight to this ridiculous notion? lol

While I agree that Kenny inherited a great roster when he became GM, he has helped maintain it ever since, including surrounding himself with talented individuals. In my eyes, he’s been one of the best, if not the best GM since then.

Posted by babymachine from Portland, Oregon by way of Macomb, Michigan on 05/20/13 at 05:30 PM ET

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I said he was overrated!  extremely over rated.  That doesn’t mean he’s an idiot, or Jay Feaster, it just means that for some reason he never takes heat like Mike Babcock does.  Babcock is the biggest reason this team has been successful, look at this roster and tell me they deserve to be where they are right now.

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/13 at 05:34 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

oops, I responded to the wrong post.  tongue rolleye

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/13 at 05:21 PM ET

You had me scratching my head there for a second.  tongue laugh

As for the Holland debate, I think he was finally forced to call up the kids and Babcock figured out which ones gave the team the best chance for success like a good coach does. Holland should have been slowly feeding these kids into the big league for the past few seasons, but he’s not wired that way, and that’s his big flaw. Still, he realized last summer he was going to have to go with a young blue line, and he made a decision to go young on the back end and stick with vets on the front end instead of doing everything at once. Injuries changed that plan thankfully, and we now have a young, vibrant blue line, and one heck of a kid line that is responsible for two overtime goals for and one against last series. I’d say things have worked out this season, and whether Holland will admit it or not, plan B should have been plan A all along in the cap world. I think he gets it now.

Posted by Bradley97 on 05/20/13 at 05:38 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

No BM, because he hasn’t let it fall in disarray.  I think it’s easier to GM when you have Steve Yzerman in the prime of his career Captaining Lidstrom, Federov, Shannahan (who JD traded for when Bowman requested some extra missing pieces after our dismantling by the Devils in 96).  I’m saying I don’t think he could take over Florida and take them to the conference finals in 3 years.

And I specifically addressed your concern of “everyone says it so it must be true”

By your logic, Chris Osgood is NOT a HOF’er.

He’s respected because he won with the team he was given and managed not to lose with them or run it into the ground.  That’s not the same as building winning teams.  I can claim I’m a master mechanic because my car never breaks and I can change the breaks.  The real test is how I put it back together when the wheels have fallen off, like Jimmy D did in the 80’s.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 05/20/13 at 05:41 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

He’s respected because he won with the team he was given and managed not to lose with them or run it into the ground.  That’s not the same as building winning teams.  I can claim I’m a master mechanic because my car never breaks and I can change the breaks.  The real test is how I put it back together when the wheels have fallen off, like Jimmy D did in the 80’s.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 05/20/13 at 05:41 PM ET

Actually, by your definition this current rebuild is Holland’s baptism right now. Whatever happens in the next few seasons, the difference between the Wings once again becoming elite or remaining on the bubble is all on Holland. The current team leaders are his picks. The kids coming up are his picks. With the retirement of Lidstrom and Holmstrom there is nobody left from the old guard. Everyone here is a Holland move. This is his team now. This is where Holland proves his metal, because he’s no longer maintaining and reloading JD’s team, he’s building his own. In the cap world of now, however long a GM has to pull that off is the time Holland is looking at to prove he is the GM he has been praised to be. Now we will see what he’s really made of.

Posted by Bradley97 on 05/20/13 at 05:53 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Actually, by your definition this current rebuild is Holland’s baptism right now.

That’s exactly what I’m saying.  This is the time to step up.  Just like every person on the team had to do, Kenny Holland now has to do.  There’s no Nill, no Bowman, no Yzerman.  It’s well known Nill had control of the draft.  Martin is the capologist.  KH has FA’s and trades there are uniquely his and he’s shat the bed while we’ve been hanging on to 8m in cap space year after year.  Well, all those young guys have arrived and we’re a team back on the bubble, remind me of the early 90’s club actually.  Let’s see if he can get us over the hump.  If we’re doing this good on a year we weren’t supposed to be here, that’s coaching and leadership.  If they were hear because KH picked up Iggy at the deadline that’d be different.  This teams success has rested solely on the shoulders of the players and coach though.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 05/20/13 at 06:04 PM ET

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It’s also a bout managing assets as well, something Holland is loathe to do.  Trading Ian White for some draft picks, getting something for him would have been a way to prove he can manage assets.  Look, Doug Wilson traded away what he knew was dead weight for draft picks and the Sharks finished higher than the Wings.  Being bit more proactive, taking some small risks here and there are ways that will show me Holland is almost as good as the media and fan base believe.

Posted by bababooey on 05/20/13 at 06:19 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

I agree. Now is Holland’s time to sink or shine. What he does over the next few seasons will determine if he’s the GM the Wings need moving forward or if he’s only capable of managing prebuilt teams. Personally, I hope he’s the guy because there are consequences I’d rather not think about if he’s not.

Posted by Bradley97 on 05/20/13 at 06:28 PM ET

Bugsy's avatar

In danger of getting yelled at by both sides, why does it have to be blame/like Holland and do the opposite to Babcock? Why can’t we say that both have done at least reasonably well, and not create an either/or situation? For a team with the longest playoff streak in hockey, to say Holland or Babcock are overrated seems silly to me right now. Does the rest of the league, which I’ve heard this year still say each of them are (among the) top of the league, that dumb or that unknowing of how the Wings compare to the rest of the league?

I’ll say the same thing as I do for the Pistons. The past doesn’t give either Babcock or Holland (particularly this summer) a free pass, but like the Detroit Pistons in basketball (with Joe Dumars running that team), if they’re going to have sustained success for so long, eventually the late draft picks and especially the salary cap are going to catch up with them. I looked at the Dean Werner list of players coming and going. I don’t see that bad of a job, and letting guys like Leino and Lilja go weren’t necessarily bad decisions.

Once more, Ken Holland is far from perfect, and I haven’t agreed with all of his decisions. However, I think he was saying what most of us were thinking that this team might not make the playoffs. I’ve said multiple times the lack of training camp was going to hurt the Wings. I’m not saying he was right in not being active at the trade deadline, but again, for the future in finally letting the “overripe” youth have a chance wasn’t necessarily a bad decision (time will tell). This has been a team which for years has had a reputation for holding onto their older players longer, sometimes to the detriment of the youth. Now that the youth are having their chance, and he’s holding onto the youth, I was willing to be patient this year—again if it ensures the long term success for the rest of the decade.

Sorry for being so long again. Good night.

Posted by Bugsy on 05/20/13 at 08:42 PM ET

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In short, Bugsy, it doesn’t have to be, but the fact of the matter is that Holland gave Babcock a team that was a question mark to make the playoffs if they stayed healthy and even though they didn’t stay healthy, and Holland sat on his hands at the deadline, Babcock not only got them to the playoffs, but to the second round at least.

As you say, a lot of us agreed when he said they might not make the playoffs, and what did he do to improve their chances?

Posted by Garth on 05/20/13 at 09:28 PM ET

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Whenever people talk pro- or con Holland in the cap space era, I always end up asking myself: Would Suter have backed away from his agreement if it had been Yzerman, and not Ken Holland on the other side of that negotiating table?

Posted by ArcticLeo on 05/21/13 at 12:23 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.