There’s never been a lot of riverboat gambler in Ken Holland.
Holland, the Red Wings’ GM since 1997, has done a lot of things in his 19 years on the job, but making the bold, daring, blockbuster move hasn’t really been one of them.
Holland’s M.O., in the pre-salary cap years, was to open Mike Ilitch’s checkbook every July 1 and hold a press conference a few days later, showing off the newest star to slip on a Red Wings sweater.
Since the cap took effect in 2005, Holland has been the architect of a few signings, but mostly the work has consisted of deadline deals in which the Red Wings give up a prospect and get a veteran in return.
No Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre-type stunners. No multi-team deals involving six players.
Holland has never traded a star for a star. It’s not his style.
This isn’t a complaint, necessarily. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups since 1997.
It’s also not just a Ken Holland thing. Big trades in the NHL—those involving high profile players swapping jerseys—have gone the way of drive-in movie theaters and personal accountability.
But if there was ever a year in which Holland should have explored an outside-the-box way of thinking, it was this year.
But alas, as expected, the NHL trade deadline came and went yesterday with no activity from the bowels of Joe Louis Arena—not even a stinking minor deal.
The easiest thing to do, of course, is stand pat when you’re up against the cap, which the Red Wings mostly were. They shed a little more than $2 million by trading defenseman Jakub Kindl to Florida on Saturday, but that’s not a lot of dough if you want to do something significant to the roster.
Unless you consider something bold.
Last year, the Red Wings went up against the high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, and everyone wondered how a rookie goalie would do against such an explosive lineup.
Petr Mrazek tossed two shutouts in the Lightning series, and the reason the Red Wings lost it in seven games had little to do with goaltending and their suspect defense.
De-TROY-it couldn’t put the puck in the net—plain and simple.
The Lightning didn’t score very much, either, but they managed just enough offense to escape.
The Red Wings this season, once again, are offensively challenged. They’re again prone to scoring droughts. A 19 year-old rookie is their leading goal scorer.
It doesn’t get easier to score in the playoffs, you know.
It’s not the Red Wings’ style, but if ever there was a time to consider trading a top-six forward for a top-six forward, it was this year.
It’s going on eight years since the last Stanley Cup was hoisted in Detroit. With our other teams, eight years is like a blink of an eye. But with the Red Wings, who have a different standard, eight years is cause for restlessness.
I can hear some of you now.
Why make a trade for the sake of making a trade?
Hey, why not?
Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to take the snow globe, shake it up, and see what happens.
Look, when I say top-six forward, I’m really only talking about a few guys.
The Red Wings wouldn’t be expected to trade Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk or Justin Abdelkader. Brad Richards, while valuable, is too old to garner much of a return. And The Kid, Dylan Larkin, is as untouchable as they come.
So I’m looking at you, Gustav Nyquist. And you, Tomas Tatar. And you, Riley Sheahan. I might even cast a glance at Darren Helm.
Yes, I know that’s more than six forwards. But with the Red Wings, top-six is a misnomer, because coach Jeff Blashill juggles lines frequently.
One of the reasons he juggles is because the Red Wings are always sniffing for goals.
It would have been out of character for Holland, but it would have been nice to see a trade designed to do nothing other than shake things up.
What have you got to lose?
If you catch lightning in a bottle and you bring over a guy from another organ-eye-ZAY-shun who gets hot wearing the Winged Wheel and keeps it going in the playoffs, wouldn’t you take that?
Yes, that means giving up an everyday player but that’s why they call it bold and risky.
Again, not the Red Wings’ style.
The concerns on the blue line—the lack of a true stud being one of them—is something to be addressed this summer.
But in the playoffs, you shouldn’t worry about keeping the puck out of your own net as much as pumping them past the other team’s goalie.
The Red Wings have trouble scoring on too many nights, and the playoffs aren’t the time or the place to get relief in that area.
The Red Wings played it safe on deadline day. They’ll tell you that nothing came across Ken Holland’s desk that made sense. They’ll say that they didn’t want to disrupt their core guys.
It would have been fun to see the snow globe given a good shake.
Sometimes you have to be bold.
But the Red Wings haven’t done that in over 20 years, so why would they start now?
Where are hockey’s riverboat gamblers?