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THN’s Larkin reflects on a conversation with Ken Holland

The Hockey News's Matt Larkin was asked what he would do if he were the Red Wings' general manager, and as part of his answer, Larkin reflected upon a conversation he had with Ken Holland in the summer of 2016:

I asked, “What if the 25-year playoff streak is a curse? It forces you to hang around this No. 8, No. 9 seed playoff bubble. You make moves to stay competitive but can’t get over the top, and your team isn’t bad enough to finish last, either.”

He had many thoughts on that idea. Here’s just some of what he said (his answer was way longer. The guy loves to talk hockey, like I said):

“The philosophical question you’re asking me is, ‘Do we head in a direction where we make a determination that it’s all about five years from now? Or do we continue to try to be a playoff team?’ And when you’re got Mrazek, and you’ve got Larkin, and you’ve got Sheahan, Abdelkader, and you’ve got Tatar, and Nyquist, and you’ve got DeKeyser, and you’ve got Frans Nielsen, and you’ve got Glendening and Miller on a checking line…we either got to have those people and we’re trying to win the division, we’re trying to qualify for the playoffs…or don’t sign Frans Nielsen. Don’t sign Thomas Vanek. Don’t bring in Steve Ott. And just go with a bunch of kids. And let the chips fall where they may, if you’re going to do a massive rebuild. And when I say massive rebuild – get a core of players that you think can carry your team for a decade – you’ve got to miss the playoffs five, six, seven years in a row. That’s what Pittsburgh did. That’s what Florida did. That’s what Chicago did. You can just go team after team. You don’t miss one year, and all of a sudden, ‘Boy, we’re back.’

“I like to think I’m proud of the job that we do. When Yzerman retired in 2006, many people thought that the ceiling was going to collapse. And then we kind of kept it going, and when Nick Lidstrom left in 2010, they thought the ceiling was gonna collapse. And now Datsyuk is gone, and they’re waiting for the ceiling to collapse. And at some point in time, they’re probably going to be right. In the meantime, at the deadline last year, it’s the reason why I didn’t trade away any assets for futures.

“So right now we’ve won one playoff series in five years. We’ve sort of eked in. It just gets tighter and tighter every year. Certainly somebody from afar could say, well, the program, sooner or later it’s got to fall apart. But I’d like to think we’ve built a culture and a structure that’s gonna allow us to be competitive. Does that mean I’m telling you we’re going to make the playoffs this year? No. We might miss the playoffs. But I’d like to think that Athanasiou is coming and Mantha’s coming and we like Tyler Bertuzzi, I think he’s a real prospect. Larkin’s just turned 20, and Mrazek’s 24. Tatar is 25. Nyquist is 26 and DeKeyser’s 26. Sheahan’s 24. What we haven’t been able to do is get that superstar, those players that carry franchises like Zetterberg and Datsyuk and Lidstrom and Yzerman. Ten, 15 years ago, we did find a sixth and seventh round Zetterberg and Datsyuk. But that’s not a philosophy I go by, ‘Let’s try and wait around until we find a superstar in the seventh round.’ That can’t be your managerial or organizational philosophy.”

Larkin continues, and as he suggests, the Red Wings' problems are summed up in the general manager's statements.

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Comments

Avatar

Certainly somebody from afar could say, well, the program, sooner or later it’s got to fall apart.

hmmm….does Kh hang around here?

But I’d like to think we’ve built a culture and a structure that’s gonna allow us to be competitive.

oh man. there’s that “culture” word. It’s a lot like process…....the intangible things that lead to winning.

Does that mean I’m telling you we’re going to make the playoffs this year? No.

I’m sure someone here will make that leap.

But that’s not a philosophy I go by, ‘Let’s try and wait around until we find a superstar in the seventh round.’ That can’t be your managerial or organizational philosophy.

buhhhhttttt….Nashville!

We fans seem to want our cake and to eat it too. We pine for all the winning because for most of us, that’s all we know about Red Wing’s hockey. We also think tanking is the best way to getting good again….and by good we don’t mean we line Mike Illich’s pockets with money, but rather, we win SCups. Ken, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 12/15/17 at 05:39 PM ET

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I look at this season as a protracted audition for the players.  Let’s see who has the character and ability to lead us to a Cup.  Make no mistake, it takes both to get there.

I am not sure AA or Mantha have the character, and I question Larkin’s ability to be an elite center.  Everyone else on the roster is baggage because they will be too old once these young players become competitive.

The most concerning issue is the prospects.  Very mediocre.  Cholowski may be the best of the group, and I don’t see him becoming a factor until mid-twenties.

Not encouraging.

Posted by NEWing on 12/15/17 at 06:03 PM ET

Figaro's avatar

Wow, I didn’t realize the NHL’s drug-testing policy was so…non-existent.

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 12/15/17 at 06:04 PM ET

Avatar

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 12/15/17 at 05:39 PM ET

I like how you put Seattle there to throw us off, but I see through your ruse, Mister Holland.

Posted by CharDeeMacDennis on 12/15/17 at 06:11 PM ET

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but I see through your ruse, Mister Holland.

Posted by CharDeeMacDennis on 12/15/17 at 06:11 PM ET

I’m really HinHD to some.

Posted by howeandhowe from Seattle on 12/15/17 at 06:56 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

”....you’ve got to miss the playoffs five, six, seven years in a row….”

Yes, and if this strategy had been employed going back to say 2014, and you hadn’t made moves for Legwand, Erik Cole and coupled that with more recent bad signings like Daley & Nielsen, you might be halfway through the “rebuild”. Instead you coupled the above moves with several long term high dollar contracts (Dekeyser,Helm,Abby).....

However, hindsight is 20/20 .... I guess ...
confused

Posted by Down River Dan on 12/15/17 at 06:58 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

So in other words, Holland can’t give his players a straight answer either.

Posted by Hootinani from the parade following Babs out of town on 12/15/17 at 07:51 PM ET

ilovehomers's avatar

The ceiling has collapsed, you dolt.

Posted by ilovehomers on 12/15/17 at 08:29 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.