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Referendum for a Red Wings dream? Updated w/ KH audio

updated with a remarkable interview Ken Holland gave to WBBL this morning at 8:14 PM: Yes, I know, parallel posts. Promise they won’t last for too long, but for now, there’s a reason that Red Wings GM Ken Holland made the statements that he did about his team’s core supposedly being at or near elite as-is—especially on a night when so many teams have informed the media that they’re letting their UFA’s-to-be to test the market that you’d think the NHL’s initial CBA proposal to the players was three slices of a Hot and Ready Pizza from Little Caesars per ten franchises—as the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek suggests:

In some ways, this summer represents an important referendum on the Red Wings and their cachet with NHL players.

Detroit, in the person of general manager Ken Holland, has done a remarkable job of attracting and retaining talent for an organization that has made the Stanley Cup playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons.

Four years ago, when Marian Hossa hit free agency, he took a one-year contract from the Red Wings, turning down multiyear contracts worth tens of millions more from other teams, because he figured Detroit represented his best chance to win a Stanley Cup.

As Holland says, the Red Wings can’t sell climate, anonymity, or a state-of-the-art facility to players. Their pitch revolves strictly around the hockey-playing experience.

With Nicklas Lidstrom now retired, the Red Wings have the need, the will and the cash (roughly $20-million in available salary-cap space) to land one or both of Parise and Suter. If they succeed, they can remain part of the NHL elite for another half-generation. If they fail, there’s a chance they could drift back to the pack.

Pittsburgh is similarly positioned in the U.S. Rust Belt, but the Penguins have the extra attraction of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, all approaching their primes, to help coax free agents into the fold. Crosby and Parise developed a friendship when they were in their teens. (Crosby played a season for Parise’s father, J.P., at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a U.S. high-school.)

For some players, the chance to win; the chance to play with other great players; or simply the chance to play with old friends or teammates, all become factors in the decision-making process when the cash is going to be limitless anyway.

Continued, and as you’d imagine, during a week where stories become antiquated and no longer reflect current free agent happenings all of ten minutes after they’ve been posted, this one will have some resonance for a good while.

Update: Ken Holland happened to speak to WBBL’s Bakita and Bentley this morning. Here’s the interview:

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perfection's avatar

I totally agree that this off-season clearly puts the Wings’ attractiveness to the test… specifically, it’s “Lidstromless” attractiveness. I mean, Helmer may be the “best third line center in the league”, and not to minimize the importance of that, but that’s probably not what Parise and Suter are really looking at. As strong as they are, Dats and Z are inarguably a generation older than Pittsburgh’s or Chicago’s stars and maybe even two generations older than the Oilers’ kids.

So it comes down to the Program, from Ilitch on down. Does it still have that mystical allure or doesn’t it? This was actually my main concern with Holland being so vocal about offering Schultz a contract and caving into his stipulations, a decision which I know George, you and a lot of people here touted. But to me, that seemed a tad desperate (which, I get it, we’re REALLY desperate), but when he said he wouldn’t even hear what Holland had to say, it very loudly and publicly scuffed the Red Wing veneer. I almost wish Holland had sensed he wouldn’t sign on the Wings and publicly offered him a contract but then said he’s have to “EARN his spot, because that’s how it’s done if you want to be on a team as good as the Wings”. That’s how it’s always been done… till now.

If they strike out on all the big free agents, ESPECIALLY if they don’t resign with their current teams (who should theoretically have an advantage if Suter and Parise are to be taken at their word), not that the Wings will slide out of the playoffs or anything, but they definitely won’t have the same swagger anymore.

It is interesting times to say the least. I think we have a psychological advantage with Suter because not only has he been playing against the Wings a ton throughout his career, but his coach has likely been using them as the benchmark for what his team was trying to achieve. I’m certain the Wings have been revered in the Predators locker room, because they have basically built a team specifically designed to beat us. I think Suter probably idealizes the Wings a bit more than Parise who hasn’t experienced that aura as much and may see the Lidsromless future as a lot bleaker than the rest of us like to admit.

I’m definitely uneasy about this whole thing. This is quite the crapshoot.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 06/29/12 at 09:35 PM ET


if wings strike it in FA were in trouble

Posted by jmf from Detroit on 06/29/12 at 09:44 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

I’m definitely uneasy about this whole thing. This is quite the crapshoot.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 06/29/12 at 08:35 PM ET

Strange feeling, ain’t it?  Something most long-timers haven’t felt in a good 20-25 years.  The Bowman and Devellano pacifiers are long gone and Kenny has been walking on his own for a few years now.

He’s had plenty of time to prepare for the moment when Lidstrom left town and a little over a year to react to his other all-star defenseman’s retirement, can he deliver anything at that level on his own or is he going to field an inferior defensive squad while hoping that his coaching staff can get this team to make the playoffs while franchise cornerstones Datsuyk and Zetterberg head into the next phase of their respective careers?

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 06/29/12 at 11:06 PM ET


Sometimes Holland just baffles me.

From day to day we get quotes from him that sound almost defeated, like he’s making excuses on Friday because he knows he’s not going to make anyone happy on Sunday but other times, like in this interview, while he’s clearly nervous about what’s going to go down on Sunday, he does seem genuinely excited and up to the challenge.

His job is, of course, tougher than Babcock’s at this time of year because Babcock can just tell anyone within earshot what he thinks the team needs or what he wants the team to have because he’s trying to win the Cup this year whereas Holland has to try to win this year while not mortgaging the future while keeping the fans happy while putting asses in the seats while keeping an eye on Grand Rapids while trying to keep his job.

Maybe Holland just comes off as defeatist and full of excuses in print while on the radio he comes off completely different.

Posted by Garth on 06/29/12 at 11:59 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’m going to put this as nicely as I can: when KH was on the radio, he was probably suffering from the, “It’s in another language, who the hell will read this?” syndrome that European players tend to exhibit when letting things slip that they shouldn’t while speaking to local newspapers in their local languages.

It sounds like KH was waking up and was to glib for his own good, but assumed that it was WBBL at 6 in the morning or something like that, no one would ever hear him speak so optimistically.

His job is to be the good cop, to insist that Detroit is as bad-ass awesome as can be all on its own, and that the program will only get that much better with new talent added to an already awesome mix. He’s trying to play from a position of strength, and that, “Meh, if we don’t get ‘em, we’ll still be pretty dang good” stuff is definitely for the MSM, said while wide awake.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/30/12 at 12:17 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

I don’t necessarily think this is the best year for UFAs.  Next year’s potential crop seems way more promising to me.  I kind of hope we don’t sell ourselves short this summer when there’s good free agents to be had next.

Say what you will about Suter and Parise, they’re not worth $8M long term deals in my book.  I just don’t see it adding up.

I’d be willing to prepare for a year of suckage in exchange for better free agents next year.  Weber?  Corey Parry? 

I vote rentals this year in Selanne, Doan, and a middling defenseman if we can’t get Suter, and then go big next year.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/30/12 at 12:20 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

(sorry, sp’s)

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/30/12 at 12:21 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

...and for what it’s worth, I want Semin on the team.

Had to make sure I spelled that right.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/30/12 at 12:23 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

The problem with that theory is that the vast majority of next year’s UFA’s will re-sign with their teams instead of going to market, and on top of that, the next CBA will almost certainly be incredibly restrictive upon the ways that teams can dole out “lifetime” contracts to make them more cap-friendly. The Wings may be damned if they do, but they’re much more likely to be damned if they don’t.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/30/12 at 12:29 AM ET


Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/29/12 at 11:20 PM ET

I’m curious why you assume Weber will be available.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/29/12 at 11:17 PM ET

I don’t think it’s bad, what he said on the radio.  It’s nice to hear him not giving the BS stock answers.  I get that he has to play good cop, but anyone who’s paying attention knows that his good cop routine is old, in that he’s been saying the same shit for the past few years and there is absolutely nobody who’s going to be fooled by it.  Anyone can look at two things, the amount of caps space the Wings have and the loss of two of their top four defensemen this off-season (and yes, three of the top four over the past two years) and they’ll know that Detroit needs at least one high-end defenseman.  No amount of “i like our team” is going to change that.  And for whatever it’s worth, we all know he’s not going to stand pat and have Ryan Sproul round out their defense corps simply allowing the possibility that the consecutive-years-making-the-playoffs could end.

And anyway, if I’m a Ryan Suter considering going to Detroit I’d rather have a guy go “yes, we have a need and we want you” rather than a guy who’s going to go “ah, whatever, if we can’t get you then Jeff Finger is available”.  When you’re a guy whose game is at Suter’s level you want to go where you’re wanted and needed.  Anyone who pursues him while pretending they don’t need him should be met with an eye-roll.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/12 at 12:37 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

I have never been a fan of “lifetime” contracts.  I think its idiotic to sign any player for more than 5 years.  You just never know what’s going to happen and before you know it you have a Rick DiPietro situation.  I fully support the CBA crackdown on that stuff because I think it makes managers act foolishly.  If you’re going to have a lifetime player, you make them want to stay there regardless the length of the contract; the Wings have a knack for that.

I’ll be sick if I see any top-three UFA signed to a deal longer than 6 years with us.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/30/12 at 12:39 AM ET

Hippy Dave's avatar

@Garth - totally wishful thinking on my behalf.  I just crave for the Brett Hull days again.

Posted by Hippy Dave from Portland by way of Detroit on 06/30/12 at 12:43 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I don’t think Kenny knows how else to operate.

And the Wings could sign Alex Semin for eleventy billion years at a contract that goes down to a penny for ten of those eleventy billion years if he comes here. I’m not picky. Bring the talent here, get ‘er done.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/30/12 at 12:47 AM ET


Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 06/29/12 at 11:47 PM ET

I’m all for them if they’re done smartly.

I think Zetterberg’s was smart, and Crosby’s, but I’m not a huge fan of Franzen’s.  When Zetterberg was given his contract it was because he had proven himself.  Even when his numbers aren’t up to “par” there is no question that he is busting his ass every shift, every game, every time he’s on the ice.  Franzen was given a contract in order to work the cap.  He’s been living on his potential for his entire career and he’s yet to hit it.  He takes shifts and games off.  He plays when he wants to and now he’s got a contract that means he can continue to take shifts off.

Parise or Suter?  If they agree to come to Detroit, I would give then your eleventy billion year contracts.  Semin?  Not so much.  He’s in the Franzen, Mogilny, Hudler model in that he should never be given a long contract.  He should be given a couple years max, but preferably a one-year deal.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/12 at 01:21 AM ET

perfection's avatar

Franzen has put up some of the most unbelievable playoff numbers in NHL history… he can take the whole season off and he’s still worth 3.9 mil for those kind of playoff #‘s. I realize this hasn’t panned out the last season or two, but that is why he got that contract. it’s not about the “night in, night out” performance it’s about “WHEN IT COUNTS”. I’d much rather have a guy who’s ok in the regular season and amazing in the playoffs than the opposite.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 06/30/12 at 04:21 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

and amazing in the playoffs than the opposite.

              Posted by
              from LaLaLand on
              06/30/12 at 03:21 AM ET

Two great postseasons a couple yrs ago does not make an awesome player. He hasn’t been the same since he got his face smooshed against Phoenix, I think. He’s scared in NHL rinks….. still a beast in Europe though. Doesn’t help us here, unfortunately.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 06/30/12 at 10:31 AM ET


I’d much rather have a guy who’s ok in the regular season and amazing in the playoffs than the opposite.

How about if you’re giving a guy a retirement contract maybe he should be both rather than just amazing in the playoffs a few years ago.

And either way, I would much rather have a guy who tries, who gives a shit day-in, day-out than a guy who clearly doesn’t.

Posted by Garth on 06/30/12 at 11:46 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.


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