He was a perceived genius during the magical championship era. Everyone loved him, he couldn’t miss.
But now Ken Holland is catching the wrath of fans.
There’s been a host of decisions under Holland’s watch that translated the Wings from a championship contender to fourth-best in the Central Division.
Here’s a few of them.
Choosing to sign Johan Franzen over Marian Hossa
Franzen was given a $43.5 million-extension over 11 years in April of 2009, which pretty much cemented Hossa’s fate to go elsewhere.
At the time, it was perceived as the correct move. Franzen was a playoff hero who broke Gordie’s Howe record for most goals in one series – nine in a four-game mutilation of Colorado in 2008. Howe’s record had stood since before the Korean War.
Franzen had 18 points in the 2008 run to the Cup, then scored 34 goals in the 2009 regular season when he signed the extension. It was the second consecutive year he surpassed 27 goals, and given his playoff successes, it appeared the Wings were locking up a franchise player. Franzen followed with 23 points in the 2009 run to Game 7 of the Cup Finals, then 18 in 12 games of the 2010 postseason. Ever since, he’s been a dud: Four points in his past 13 playoff games.
The infuriating aspect of Franzen is he can produce in stretches, but then disappears. Plus, he’s injury prone. There’s too many to list in such a short space called “the internet.” But get used to it, because he’s signed through the 2019-20 season and nobody is going to eat his contract. Hossa, meanwhile, has scored 24 goals or more in three straight seasons in Chicago and has 21 points in 32 playoff games.
Signing Ian White to a two-year deal worth $5.75 million in July 2011
He’s cousins with Barnum & Bailey. He’s a circus on ice! Remember the three-blind mice goal in Game 4 of last April’s Nashville series? That was White, who decided to be the third man chasing Martin Erat and left a gaping net for Kevin Klein. On Feb. 15, White’s stick broke against Anaheim, creating a slip-and-slide Ian White show in front of the crease that surely led to a goal. Then he decided to pass the puck into a pile of bodies near the benches, which led to another Anaheim goal.
Let’s face it: White belongs in the AHL.
Why did Holland think this guy was worth $2.875 million per year after being ditched by Toronto, Calgary, Carolina, and San Jose?
Signing Dan Cleary to a 5-year, $14-million extension in March of 2008
In his eighth NHL season, Cleary came to Detroit in 2005-06, finally proving his worth as a grinder. He was nearing the end of his second consecutive 20-goal season in March of 2008, then Holland opened the checkbook.
“He’s 29 and we really think he’s coming into his prime,” Holland told the Associated Press after the signing.
Talk about a misjudgment.
A three-year deal would have been good, not a five-year deal at an annual salary cap hit of $2.8 million, as Holland chose. Today’s version of Cleary is just a sad sight. He’s endured too many injuries and lugs through the ice, yet Wings coach Mike Babcock dumbfoundedly places him on the power play. Thankfully this is the last year of Cleary’s deal. But maybe Holland will bring him back, eh?
Signed Mike Modano to a 1-year contract in August of 2010
Why? That’s the lingering thought. Why do it? He was clearly past his prime, ditched by the Dallas Stars, 40-years old, over the hill … yet the Wings wanted him as a third-line center. Twenty games into his Red Wings tenure, Modano was sidelined by a severed tendon in his right wrist. The slap-happy Wings fan will tell you “injuries happen.” The realistic Wings fan will tell you “injuries happen to a 40-year old more frequently than a 27-year old.”
Signed Henrik Zetterberg to a 12-year deal in January of 2009
First things first: We all love Hank. He’s the captain, and it’s impossible to dislike the hardest-working Red Wing, who is an animal in the corners, protects the puck better than most, and can make any teammate better, even a wee piss-pot like Jiri Hudler, who had a career year in 2011-12 and became rich with Calgary, all because of Henrik freaking Zetterberg.
But, a 12-year deal is too long.
Zetterberg has already slowed considerably. Go onto YouTube and watch his foot-chopping speed in the 2008 playoffs and compare it to today. He lost a few steps. That was evident on Feb. 9 when he was caught him from behind near the Edmonton crease. It’s hard to fathom that Zetterberg is signed through the 2020-21 season. That’s a long time for a player who has already started a descent. He’s tailed off considerably since his 43-goal, 2008 season.
Kyle Quincey: Just a disaster
Detroit’s 19th selection in the 2012 first round was dealt to Tampa Bay for Quincey. Let’s just say Lightning GM Steve Yzerman got the better end of this one. Quincey was porous in the Nashville series – to put it nicely. Then, for some odd reason, Holland re-signed Quincey for TWO YEARS worth $7.55 million. Two years? For $7.55 million? Apparently Holland missed the Nashville series. We would’ve cut him immediately, and Holland gave him two years. Holland must’ve felt sick on opening night when St. Louis rookie Vladimir Tarasenko made Quincey look silly twice.
Todd Bertuzzi: A four-time Holland failure
- The Wings traded prospect Shawn Matthias to Florida in March of 2007 for a hampered Todd Bertuzzi, who had three goals, four assists and 15 penalty minutes in 16 playoff games. (Matthias, meanwhile, has grown into a 6-foot-4, 220-pound center who plays 16 minutes a night in Florida.) In the offseason, Bertuzzi promptly bailed for Anaheim – the team that just beat the Wings in the 2007 playoffs.
- The Wings brought back Bertuzzi in August of 2009 on a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He had 10 penalty minutes in a five-game exit to San Jose – including two big penalties in Game 2 at San Jose that helped put the Wings in a 2-0 series hole. (Yes, he had five points in Game 4 vs. the Sharks, but … who cares. The Wings were down 3-0 in the series. It’s practically irrelevant. Perform in Games 1, 2 and 3, when it matters!)
- The Wings signed Bertuzzi to a two-year, $3.875 million extension in June of 2010. In the 2011 playoffs, he had two goals, four assists and 15 penalty minutes in 11 playoff games. Then in the 2012 playoff series loss to Nashville, he was a minus-5 with a team-leading 9 penalty minutes and zero points.
- Despite all this, Holland signed him to another two-year deal last February. Bertuzzi has battled injuries and has played only seven games. He’s currently on injured reserve.
The mere thought about Carlo Colaiacovo
There really is something wrong with the franchise’s ability to find free-agent defensemen. Let’s think about this:
- Uwe Krupp went dog sledding and earned a lengthy suspension.
- Derian Hatcher missed 67 games, played at half-speed in the 2004 playoffs against Calgary, then allowed the puck to squirt through his legs for the season-ending, overtime winner.
- Ian White has the fundamentals of a high-school hockey player.
- Andreas Lilja cost the Wings a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007. His overtime gaffe in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals gave Teemu Selanne a breakaway and stamped the Wings fate.
- Carlo Colaiacovo played two games, then found a spot on injured reserve. And he has a two-year deal worth $5 million. That sounds about right, considering the team’s history.
Inking Niklas Kronwall to a long-term deal
He signed a seven-year deal in October of 2011 at a cap hit of $4.75 million per year. Now he’s playing the worst hockey of his career during the early stages of the 2013 shortened season. We’ve never seen him worse. And we’re stuck with him through 2018-19.
Hopefully this improves, but seriously, what’s wrong with him? Do you see a pattern here? Franzen gets paid – then declines. Zetterberg gets paid – then declines. Kronwall gets paid – then declines.
Waiting too long on Brendan Smith
He should have been playing in 2010-11. Smith was drafted 16 picks higher than P.K. Subban (Montreal) in the 2007 draft, yet Subban made his debut in the 2009-10 season, and here’s Smith, just getting started — and now he’s injured.
Trading for Robert Lang
This one is a perfect example of why the Wings are in their current state: Sacrificing the future. They traded a prospect, first-round draft pick and fourth-round pick to get Robert Lang at the March 2004 trade deadline. At the time, it looked ideal to land Lang, who was leading the league in scoring. But he finished his Red Wings tenure in the 2007 spring with two goals in 18 playoff games, often catching the wrath of Wings fans for being lazy.
Do you wanna know the players they traded for him? The prospect: Forward Tomas Fleischmann, who is 28-years old today. He had 27 goals and 34 assists last year in Florida. This year, he has 10 points in 15 games. The first-round pick: Defenseman Mike Green, who surpassed 70 points in back-to-back seasons, has since slowed because Washington changed their system, but is still considered a franchise defenseman.