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The Athletic: one NHL executive suggests that Detroit ‘strip it down to the floorboards’

The Athletic's Frank Provenzano asked a former NHL executive how he would rebuild the Detroit Red Wings, and the executive is not a believer in Ken Holland's "Rebuild on the Fly" plan:

From my standpoint, the lower-risk rebuild-on-the-fly strategy makes sense for a franchise in a non-traditional hockey market where a full-on tank will devastate the organization’s revenues and where simply making the playoffs will resonate with the fan base. That is not Hockeytown as we have come to know it.

If I were running the Red Wings (which admittedly I am not), I would opt for the higher risk-higher return strategy of stripping the team down and doing a total rebuild through the draft lottery. This is never a fun discussion in the executive suite (particularly with a new building opening for the 2017-18 season) but I would argue that the timing of the opening of the Little Caesars Arena will serve to soften the economic blow of stripping the roster down competitively.

The Red Wings simply don’t have the young horses you need to build around in order to compete at the elite level in the modern NHL, and I think they need to have a table at the front of the draft floor for a few years in order to acquire them. Moreover, they have a fan base with a high hockey IQ that will both understand and support the rationale behind a full-blown rebuild. Playing an extra few home games in April will simply not cut it in a sophisticated hockey market that both understands what it takes and expects to win championships.

The Detroit Red Wings did not manufacture one of the longest periods of competitive excellence by being risk-averse. Now is not the time to start.

Provenzano continues...

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Comments

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This guy gets it, why can’t Holland?

Posted by Pasha1277 on 06/19/17 at 12:12 PM ET

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Hey maybe this worked for Chicago and Pittsburgh and appears to be working for Toronto and Edmonton…but we also know it failed in Colorado and maybe Buffalo too.

So since this MIGHT not work, it’s better to follow a strategy that has NEVER really worked.

Signed, a GM with a job to a GM that is unemployed

Posted by fatsavage on 06/19/17 at 12:13 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

The Athletic’s Frank Provenzano asked a former NHL executive

Funny…wonder why he’s not an NHL exec anymore

Posted by TreKronor on 06/19/17 at 01:26 PM ET

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Hey maybe this worked for Chicago and Pittsburgh and appears to be working for Toronto and Edmonton…

Three of these four teams hit the jackpot on generational talents. The problem with the lottery now is that the first three picks are in the lottery system. When Chicago, Pitt and Edmonton won it, the worst the 30th place team could finish was 2nd.
You can’t blow your entire paycheck on the lottery and expect it to hit. You’re an idiot if you do. We could tank the next four years and still do no better than the fourth overall pick. Why does that make sense to anybody?

Posted by weswolverine on 06/19/17 at 01:38 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

If it was just the players that needed to be gutted, we probably wouldnt be in this mess in the first place. The entire organization needs to be retooled. You could give an endless supply of 1st rounders to Wright and Holland and never come out of it with a competitive team.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 06/19/17 at 01:45 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Philly
Arizona
Buffalo
NJ
Carolina

Tanked tanked tanked.  Continue to tank with no foreseable upside.  You could add a couple other fringe teams to that list even.

Many many teams tanked for 10-20 years before drafting just the right person to change the franchise.  Edmonton tried to draft that “right person” about 7 times, and FINALLY were given McDavid.

It’s just such a crap shoot.  To say one way is right, or even more-right, is simply an admirable opinion at best.

Posted by TreKronor on 06/19/17 at 01:46 PM ET

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A. Carolina didn’t tank they just sucked.
B. That team is coming up ala Nashville with a very strong D.

Posted by Iamhaljordan on 06/19/17 at 01:50 PM ET

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I would rather tear it down and have a legit shot at the #1 pick for 3 to 5 years.  Just making the playoffs or just missing the playoffs gets us where we are today, I’ve had enough of that plan.  In my opinion, Holland and his staff are the folks to turn this ship around.

Posted by Steve1306 on 06/19/17 at 01:52 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

A. Carolina didn’t tank they just sucked.

You can tank without meaning to.  They’ve been doing that for quite a while, eh?

Posted by TreKronor on 06/19/17 at 01:53 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

What often goes unmentioned is that the model of suck it to success is not a small little 1 or 2 years in the basement, most of these teams sucked for 4 years + Chicago and Edmonton for example were dead for almost a decade.  This fanbase, despite being Hey Hey Hockeytown,  can’t stomach that, there’s still enough bandwagon fans holding on, stretch this to another 2-3 years, Ilitch will be giving away cars again.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 06/19/17 at 01:59 PM ET

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Philly
Arizona
Buffalo
NJ
Carolina

Tanked tanked tanked. 

And how many playoff series we won in the last 5-6 years? Are we any better than these 5 teams in the last 5-6 years just because we made the playoffs? An argument could be made most of these awful teams (I am assuming you suggest that) are better than us now and better positioned for the next 5 years.

Posted by VPalmer on 06/19/17 at 02:27 PM ET

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Posted by MurrayChadwick from Hey Hey Hockeyfart on 06/19/17 at 02:59 PM ET

I agree, the clock’s ticking in terms of fan patience.  We’ve been experiencing the pain of being a non-contenders without the gain of high draft picks that generally comes with that.  The Wings should be in year 3 or 4 of a true rebuild.

Posted by Steve1306 on 06/19/17 at 02:29 PM ET

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This fanbase, despite being Hey Hey Hockeytown,  can’t stomach that

Why do you always underestimate Red Wings fans IQ? The author of the article could be correct when saying we have a fan base with a high hockey IQ that will both understand and support the rationale behind a full-blown rebuild.
Do you more fans will be watching next year’s team than let’s say this team:

Mantha - Z- Tatar
AA - Larkin - Svechnikov
Nyquist - Sheahan - Frk
Bert - Nosek - Callahan

DK - Green
Jensen - XO
Kron - Sproul

How much worse is this team vs the team we will be watching next year? Not by a ton. Maybe it will finish 28th and the team we will feature will finish 18th. At least with this team you have a plan and flexibility to move forward and become a contender eventually. You will say, of course, that I do not understand anything how NHL works and you cannot just bury contracts. But I will tell you that the team above is basically what we have except most of albatross contracts that were given out for no good reason in the last 2 years by KH (Abby, Helm, Glen, Nielsen).

Posted by VPalmer on 06/19/17 at 02:36 PM ET

Shanny_Fan's avatar

Stripping the team down just for the sake of stripping the team down is silly, but if you can clear out some of the vets that have value for prospects/picks than by all means go for it as long as you aren’t getting fleeced by trading away legitimate NHLers for 5th and 6th round picks. If stripping the team to floorboards means that the floorboards are the Mantha, Larkin, AA, and Jensen type guys then by all means go for it if you can get respectable returns.

I also agree with you guys that the draft has become more of a crap shoot with the first 3 picks all being lottery picks now. Its more about bullets in the chamber rather than the old tank to get the #1 pick approach.

Posted by Shanny_Fan on 06/19/17 at 02:50 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

And how many playoff series we won in the last 5-6 years? Are we any better than these 5 teams in the last 5-6 years just because we made the playoffs?

Well, we had a very good run against the Hawks and went to game 7.  I still think we should have won that series, and if we had, the franchise is in a completely different place.

But that’s just living in the past at this point.  Are we better than those teams?  Well, yeah.  I’ve tried to watch those teams play, and they are just not fun to watch.  That counts for something too, right?  Or is it only about winning the Cup?

Posted by TreKronor on 06/19/17 at 03:15 PM ET

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I’ve tried to watch those teams play, and they are just not fun to watch

I do not think I missed more than 5 games total in the last 3-4 years and I honestly think we are getting progressively tougher to watch. Combined with poor results and you have a lot of people questioning if KH and Blashill are up to the task. I think you are in the camp that KH deserves more chances to fix it, so we will see.

Posted by VPalmer on 06/19/17 at 03:41 PM ET

TreKronor's avatar

The team was fun to watch when Babs was here, it’s not been fun since Blash started.  Part of that is on the players, but we all know “THE PROCESS” has not been fun hockey to view.

The most fun hockey I watched from this team this season was in the last couple weeks when, I assume, the coaches seemed to sort of take a back seat and not push the players into certain roles because it was all over anyways.

Posted by TreKronor on 06/19/17 at 03:47 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

Why do you always underestimate Red Wings fans IQ?

Posted by VPalmer on 06/19/17 at 03:36 PM ET

Are you sure I underestimate it?  Ownership hung a label of hockeytown on us, whether we like it or not, and IMO, we’re no different, IQ wise, than any other northeastern hockeytown, sometimes a bit worse because of the bandwagoners we picked up over the last 25 years.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 06/19/17 at 04:00 PM ET

Alan's avatar

Hey maybe this worked for Chicago and Pittsburgh and appears to be working for Toronto and Edmonton…but we also know it failed in Colorado and maybe Buffalo too.

It worked in Chicago and Pittsburgh. It took how long for it to even give the vague appearance of working in Toronto and Edmonton? The jury is still out on those two.

With that said, I somewhat agree that a strategy of stripping the old and rebuilding is a good way to go, but you also have to work with the tools you’re given. This year, we have the ninth overall pick. Is this kid going to be ‘generational talent’, or a first rounder that’ll be strong but maybe require a year or two in GR?

On top of that, KH is still at the helm. Can we depend on him to actually follow through with a proper rebuild? Something tells me we can’t. He’s not even doing well with the on-the-fly approach, considering how many steps backwards we’ve taken the past few seasons.

So really, this is all nice to think about, but this plan is likely on hold until KH is shown the way out.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 06/19/17 at 04:01 PM ET

MurrayChadwick's avatar

We are getting progressively tougher to watch.
Posted by VPalmer on 06/19/17 at 04:41 PM ET

Its not just Detroit, but coupled with our record and lacks of satisfying wins it seams worse. 

Outside of the high caliber matchups, defensive systems and especially shot blocking is literally squeezing a lot of the entertainment value from hockey. Post season is exciting because of the physicality and intensity that is not matched of course in the regular season.  I don’t know what can be done, but watching players shooting into the bodies of other players is just not fun, ask Pavel.

Posted by MurrayChadwick from Holland Hate Hyperbole Town (HHHT) on 06/19/17 at 04:03 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

If stripping the team to floorboards means that the floorboards are the Mantha, Larkin, AA, and Jensen type guys then by all means go for it if you can get respectable returns.

That’s pretty much where the team is now, but it’s also saddled with cumbersome contracts to older and underacting, overpaid players. So welcome to salary cap hell. I don’t know how or if Ken Holland can work out of this mess. cool mad

Posted by bigfrog on 06/19/17 at 08:03 PM ET

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“This is even more pronounced when you have actually been special. Organizational hubris gets woven into your DNA, and only gets worse when you start filling the front office and coaching ranks with former players from your golden era.

Everyone drinks the Kool-Aid, and there is often no voice in the room to offer a counter-balancing opinion. The real danger here is that you lose perspective of where you actually are in your competitive cycle and then compound this by making poor free agent and/or contract decisions to reinforce your perception of being a destination franchise.”

This is a pretty persuasive to me. And it was kind of him to pretend to talk about Edmonton when he
was also talking about Detroit.

Hey, maybe Holland’s references to Edmonton’s failure to rebuild quickly really are relevant. What always drives me crazy when he or anyone references the teams that have been bad for a while, is they don’t seem to care what it was that made those teams bad for so long. Um, maybe hubris and an echo chamber of friends with few if any outside perspectives are part of what delays a successful rebuild. And the facts state we finished second last in the East “on the fly”.

Part of what made some teams’ rebuilds shorter than others is definitely partly luck and timing and lottery rules, as has been stated by many. But leadership, strategy, tactics all matter. Who gives you the best chance all else being equal, to identify and acquire affordable winning talent. That’s the game. McDavid was a wonderful gift to an Edmonton team that had struggled to draft well with even #1 picks. But Chiarelli and McLellan both made a big impact in their roles.

And Toronto when they finally got serious and brought in real leadership have executed a rebuild
almost by blueprint. They are well on their way to contending.

Posted by Lefty30 on 06/20/17 at 12:23 AM ET

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Murray, how about 2 minute penalty for laying down to block a shot? More goals and less injuries, could be a win-win.

Posted by VPalmer on 06/20/17 at 07:53 AM ET

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It’s pretty hard to tear a team down when you’ve got a bunch of contracts nobody else wants. The better way to tear down is simply stop signing bad contracts so there is always room for young players to step in.

If Kronwall can be even a semblance of his former self, plead with him to let the Wings trade him. Green has to be moved no later that the trade deadline. Unload a goalie if at all possible. Moving a forward is going to be a huge challenge.

Posted by evileye on 06/20/17 at 10:04 AM ET

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most of these teams sucked for 4 years +

I expect the the Red Wings are going to suck for the next 4 years regardless of whether they’re trying to, so may as well accept it & plan to come out stronger on the other side.

Posted by EthrDemon on 06/20/17 at 12:19 PM 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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