The Red Wings hit a new low Saturday night at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens. They haven’t let a team score ten goals against in a single game since the St. Louis Blues on March 30, 2011 in a 10-3 loss. That was a different time, though. It was only their second consecutive loss and the team was already playoff-bound where they swept the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round. This year, it extended their losing streak to seven games, making it the second time this season they’ve lost six or more consecutively.
The fanbase is reaching a boiling point.
“Fire Blashill!” they’ve yelled.
“Fire Holland!” they’ve screamed.
Amidst all of the emotion, one thing has become abundantly clear: this is a mediocre team that is too good for last place, but not good enough to be a playoff a team. This leaves them at a crossroads where they need to decide which path to take. It’s either push forward, weathering the storm of teams that are far better than them from a talent perspective and eking just enough wins out to make it to the first round of the playoffs. Or strip it all down and rebuild from the ground.
Right now, the latter option seems to be the path they’re taking whether they want to or not, but management has always been hesitant to buy in to a full-on rebuild. Last year, their first as sellers at the trade deadline, the Wings unloaded Tomas Jurco, Brendan Smith Tomas Vanek, and Steve Ott in return for picks in the upcoming drafts. It was the first sign that management had accepted their fate and needed to re-work the roster. Then, this summer, they signed Trevor Daley and Luke Witkowski as free agents to help them make a playoff push.
“I want the fans to see a playoff game in Little Caesars Arena this year,” Holland said to Craig Custance in his debut article for The Athletic in June, “We’re trying to have meaningful games.”
Clearly, the tank was not on.
After this recent skid of losses, though, maybe management would change their mind. Holland made a move on Monday that none were expecting. He traded Scott Wilson, who had come to Detroit in the Riley Sheahan trade earlier this season, to the Buffalo Sabres for a fifth round pick. Could this be the first move in the inevitable tank that’s going to have to take place to get this team back to being contenders? Has Ken Holland finally bitten the bullet and started planning for the long-term?
I hate to break it to you, but no. For one, there isn’t really a “long-term” for Holland right now. In the final year of his contract, it is not yet known whether management is going to extend the storied general manager or remove him from the driver’s seat. Certainly, that there’s been no contract extension so far is telling that there are at least questions about Holland’s future as GM. He will need to post a successful season if he wants to stick around.
So what does success look like for a man who is fighting for his job? In Detroit, it looks like a playoff berth in the inaugural season at Little Caesars Arena.
Further to this, Holland has made no indication since the embarrassing loss that it’s time to strip it down. “Seven straight losses, I get it, but it’s really been the last five periods we haven’t competed. Prior to that we dug in, we battled hard,” Holland told Ansar Khan of the MLive. “The answer for the most part has to be in the locker room.”
And Scott Wilson wasn’t in that locker room. Having been a healthy scratch for the last two games, Wilson was wasting away in the press box. With Martin Frk back in the lineup and Luke Witkowski set to come back from his ten game suspension, Wilson’s services were needed less and less. Might as well move him and get a pick out of it.
It does not mean the tank is on. Fans will have to endure this team’s mediocrity for at least one more season, which just happens to be a very deep and defensive draft. Who knows, maybe they’ll strike gold in the first round this year? One thing is for sure, it will be less than six years before they suffer another loss like the one on Saturday. The real question now is how they respond. In 2011, they won their next two games after allowing ten goals against the Blues. It’s a different team in 2017 and winning two games in a row is feeling like a big feat.
It’s time for a rebuild, it’s just not happening yet.