Krupp, No Doubt, Is GM Holland’s “Bad Goal”

Kenny Holland is an old goalie. And every goalie has those goals “agaynst” that they, as the announcers like to say, would like to have back.

Holland, the Red Wings GM, made a free agent signing last summer that is looking worse by the day.

Stephen Weiss, the center signed from the purgatory aka playing for the Florida Panthers, is on the injured list with a sports hernia. But prior to that, Weiss’s production had been paltry. In 26 games as a Red Wing, Weiss had just two goals and two assists.

It is still too early to say that Weiss’s signing was one Holland would like to have back, but it’s not looking good right now.

But there is one acquisition that falls under Holland’s desire to have a mulligan.

I interviewed Holland in 2006 and I put it to him in plain terms.

“Since you’re a goalie,” I said, “what is a move that you would like to have back? The ‘bad goal’ of moves, so to speak.”

He wouldn’t reveal it by name, but he did say this.

“Oh, I would like to have one back, for sure,” he said.

“A coaching hire? A trade?” I prodded.

“No,” he said. “But there is one mulligan I’d like to have.”

Since that boils it down to free agents, and we’re talking prior to 2006, I think it’s good money to bet that the mulligan Holland is referring to, is the signing of D Uwe Krupp in 1998. Signing D Derian Hatcher in 2003 was bad, too—but that was mainly bad luck, as Hatcher suffered a serious knee injury early in his contract, where he had been healthy for most of his career prior to that.

Remember Krupp? How about dog sledding?

Krupp was a giant on the blue line—a 6’6″ behemoth from Germany who had just passed his 33rd birthday when Holland signed him to a multi-year contract from the hated Colorado Avalanche. It was kind of like Johnny Damon switching from the Red Sox to the Yankees in terms of eye-raising moves around the NHL.

Krupp was famous for scoring the OT goal in 1996 that won the Avs the Stanley Cup when they swept Florida in the Finals. But Krupp was much more than that. He was a punishing defenseman who also had some skills with the puck. He had a heavy shot and worked a lot on the Avs’ power play.

But Krupp was far from durable. His history was that he missed a lot of games to injury. In fact, in that 1996 season, Krupp played in just six regular season games before dressing for all 22 playoff games.

But Krupp managed to dress in 78 games in the season before Holland came calling with a boatload of Mike Ilitch’s pizza dough.

Krupp was discovered by Buffalo GM Scotty Bowman, who found the defenseman playing for Germany’s national team.

Krupp became a Red Wing in July 1998 and it went all downhill from there—literally and figuratively.

Uwe Krupp

Krupp played just 22 games before his back started to flare up. The Red Wings shut him down.

But during the shutdown, it was revealed that Krupp had spent some time dogsledding, which the Red Wings rightfully felt was not the best treatment for a bad back.

The Red Wings tried to void Krupp’s contract. He took them to court. The two sides settled.

So it was a shocker when, in September 2001, Krupp showed up for training camp—a 36-year-old who hadn’t played in the NHL in almost three years.

Bowman, in his last year as coach, took Krupp—his one-time prize find—back. But Krupp played in just two regular season games, toward the end of the year, as the star-studded Red Wings had eyes on another Cup.

Bowman dressed Krupp in Games 1 and 2 of the first round against Vancouver, in Detroit. The Red Wings lost both games and Krupp was one of the goats, amassing a minus-5 in the two contests.

Bowman shook up the lineup before the series shifted to Vancouver. Krupp never dressed again, as the Red Wings recovered to oust the Canucks and proceed to yet another Cup.

When the Red Wings needed a defenseman to replace the suspended Jiri Fischer for Game 5 of the Finals against Carolina, Bowman turned to trade deadline acquisition Jiri Slegr instead of Krupp. Slegr played well, and the Red Wings won the Cup that night.

Krupp managed one more contract—a deal with Atlanta in the summer of 2002—but he played in just four more NHL games before retiring, his back trouble reappearing.

So the Red Wings got 24 regular season games and two playoff games out of Krupp, plus a contentious legal battle, for their trouble.

I think it’s safe to say that the Uwe Krupp signing is Ken Holland’s “bad goal” of moves.

Let’s hope the Stephen Weiss deal doesn’t challenge it.


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