Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Why I Still Love Tulips

The tulip is, of course, the flower of Holland, and as far as I'm concerned, Kenny Holland is still the flower of Detroit sports. Yes, I have faith in Kenny, and that faith is still unshaken, despite the events of the past few days. Even the last few years. I love KH. In Kenny, I trust.

Let me explain-- no, it is too much. Let me sum up.

This free agency period has been a big, fat, puss-filled moose dick of a disappointment. Zach Parise can suck it. I could care less about where he signed (as long as it wasn't Pittsburgh), but I wanted Ryan Suter. I wanted him bad. In this year's market, he was the best chance we had for a top-pairing D-man who could step into Nick Lidstrom's skates and humiliate himself the least by the comparison. But he stiffed us to sign with the non-contending, WTF-was-he-thinking Minnesota Wild. Kenny failed to sign the big names. So, shame on him, right?

Not so fast. The fact that the Wings offered Suter 13y/$90mil  shows that the club wanted him badly, but I'm betting the offer sheet was crumpled and wilted from being clench in Ken Holland's bitter, angry fist, and a little soggy from where it got stuck in his craw. I mean, honestly. Think about it. Kenny had been paying Nick Lidstrom--arguably the greatest defenseman to ever lace up skates--in the neighborhood of $6mil per year, and now just because it's been a bad summer for attrition, he's supposed to be perfectly happy to sign Suter--good, but hardly legendary--to a $7mil per year hit for the hockey equivalent of all of eternity? Ex-squeeze me? I think not.

Yeah, the Wings need some serious help on defense. In the last 2 years, we've lost 3 of our top 4 defensemen. We never really managed to replace Rafalski, and then we lost Lidstrom to retirement and Stuart to his family (and with that in mind, how surprised do any of us have the right to be about losing Parise and Suter to what amounts to their families?), so by all appearances, our D is in tatters. We still have Kronwall, but he's never had to carry this much weight on his shoulders, so who knows it he's capable of stepping up an already solid game to the point where he can establish himself as the top defensive star in a franchise accustomed to nothing less than the best? We have White, who was always better while skating in Nick's shadow, and likely Quincy, Ericsson, Kindl and Smith. Smith currently carries the heavy burden of being looked upon as our up-and-coming savior, the kid who can become a phenom, if only he's ready. Kindl has got to prove he's ready for a permanent, steady role with the big boys, and Ericsson needs to prove he's worth the salary he signed for last summer (still less than most other clubs would have been willing to give him). No matter how you cut it, it's not exactly the most formidable blue line in hockey anymore. It needs work.

But what is there really to work with? It's not like Zdeno Chara, Shea Weber, Chris Pronger, and Erik Karlssen have all been begging to play for Detroit and Holland has been turning them all away. We made offers to a few guys, but they've chosen to go elsewhere, often for reasons of loyalty or family, often for more money than Kenny was willing to pay. Do we fault him for that? A lot of us have chosen to do so. We're angry that since the 2008 cup, we have seemingly exited the playoffs earlier and earlier. Hell, not seemingly; that's exactly what we've done. It sucks, but were we supposed to pay more that $4mil to Garrison, who's had 1 breakout year? Go up to $4mil for Salo, a 38-yo whose numbers are not as good as White (at little more than 1/2 the price of the new TB blueliner)? Pay some other good, but not great, defensive player more than they're worth because that's what everyone else is offering.?

I don't think that's how I want to play this.

I'm with the Wings for the long haul, and so is Kenny Holland. He's not willing to overspend on talent to make the immediate picture look a little rosier, and I don't want him to. I want him planning for the Cup the Wings are going to win in 5 years, not just the one we want this season. Does that mean things will sometimes suck? Yeah, yeah it does. But that's life, and that's hockey for you. Sometimes players will retire, sometimes they'll move to other teams for family, or logistics, or yes, even for money (but you can bet it won't be because the Wings didn't offer a fair deal). He can't always control all that, and to expect him to seems to me to be asking just a bit too much. As fans, we need to learn to deal with some occasional suckitude.

This season might end up sucking, and I'm not going to be any happier about that than anyone else, but I can pay the price if it means that we're not locked into unmanageable eternal contracts with players who may not ever live up to that potential, or that we're not locked up in deals that leave us no room for movement or change or retooling down the line. I can pay for a lot so long as Kenny is sending the bills. I don't believe he's made mistakes by keeping one eye on the road ahead. There's something going on in that big, beautiful brain of his. I may not be able to see it; I may not be able to understand it right now; but I know that in the end, it will be for the good for the Red Wings.

I mean, do you not think Kenny wants to win the cup just as much as we do? Trust me, he wants it. And he'll make sure we get it again, even if he has to drag us backward over a desert of broken glass for a season or two to make it happen.

Yeah, I got your back, Ken. Now go make some magic happen. I can wait.

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