Tell a mathematician that two is an odd number and you’ll be greeted with a look of disdain.
Mention two to a Detroit Red Wings fan today, and it’s also likely that you will be stared down by a look of disdain.
Two years is the length of the contract extension the Wings gave to general manager Ken Holland, and yes, in this case, two is a very odd number.
Does anyone really think the mess that is the current state of the Red Wings will rectify itself in two short years?
This contract doesn’t seem to be a vote of confidence for Holland as much as it appears to be one last lifeline of opportunity before he is voted off the island.
Naturally, Wings governor Chris Ilitch didn’t see it that way at all.
“When Ken and I were talking, two years is what we settled on and what we are both comfortable with,” Ilitch explained. “There’s really no magic to it. Like I said, we’ve known Ken and he has known our family and our organization for so long, length is nothing we’re really too concerned about.
“We just sort of settled on two years and felt comfortable with that, and that’s why we extended Ken for two years.”
It’s no secret that Wings co-owner Marian Ilitch, Chris’ mother, is a big Ken Holland fan, although her son may not share her fondness for Holland’s work. The two men didn’t exactly look like close pals as they shared a podium during Saturday’s announcement.
Ilitch spoke the progress he felt the team is making, of Holland’s past work as a scout and his role in the success of building the core of the team that won four Stanley Cups from 1997-2008 as a reason why he is confident Holland is the man to engineer the current rebuild. He noted the acquisition of an NHL-high 11 picks in the June entry draft as another feather in Holland’s cap, as was the determination and compete level that they team showed even when it became apparent that their goal of a playoff spot was pure folly. The latter factor almost certainly means that Jeff Blashill will be back next season as coach of the Wings, though the team won’t make that official until Tuesday’s scheduled locker clean out day.
“Those are tell tales that we are moving forward on our plan in an aggressive and successful fashion,” Ilitch said.
The bottom line is unless defense prospects Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek suddenly turn into Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom over the summer, the Wings won’t be a playoff team in 2018-19. While there’s encouraging signs for the future at the forward position in the likes of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, the cupboard of instant help on the back end is relatively bare beyond diminutive Joe Hicketts.
Holland didn’t argue that notion.
“I’d like to think you can see the makings of where we’re going, the importance of some of the young players up front,” Holland said. “Certainly we’ve got to overhaul the defense going forward.”
Like it or not, he’s been granted a two-year window to make it so, but you get the feeling that if the Wings aren’t showing significant signs of walking toward the light of success as the end of that window nears, that’s when Holland will be left to walk the plank.
No Down Time
The Wings have opted not to assign left-winger Bertuzzi to Grand Rapids for the AHL Calder Cup playoffs.
They want Bertuzzi to bulk up for next season and believe his future interests will be better served by immediately launching into an offseason strength-training program.
Bertuzzi understood the call from the team.
“You want to go try and win again but you want to stay healthy and have a good summer,” Bertuzzi said. “There’s pros and cons both ways.
“It would be awesome to win back to back (Calder Cups). It’s been a long year. I had an injury the last two summers, so I think that’s a big factor, too, that I haven’t been healthy for the summers for training.”
Goalie Jared Coreau cleared NHL waivers and was assigned to Grand Rapids on Sunday.
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