Regner: Holland earned extension with Wings
If you were under the impression that somehow the Detroit Red Wings weren't going to extend Ken Holland's contract past next season, you're not paying attention to how the organization operates.
Loyalty has always been the team's trademark when it comes to its hockey personnel. Whether it's players, coaches or front-office employees, if you're good at your job, you'll be rewarded.
The Wings did that for Holland on Thursday, signing the executive vice president and general manager to a new four-year contract, which will keep him with the organization through the 2017-18 season.
"Ken is regarded as one of the premier executives in the National Hockey League and has been instrumental in the success of the Red Wings over the last two decades," Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch said in a statement. "Marian and I are extremely pleased that he will continue to lead our hockey club over the next four years."
Despite some recent mistakes, Holland's track record speaks for itself. His 17-year reign as Wings GM is unprecedented in the annals of Detroit professional sports history and ranks among the very best in all of pro sports.
"I'm proud we've been in the playoffs 23 straight years, proud we faced adversity the last two years and found a way to get in," Holland said on Thursday. "The league is tough, competitive.
"We want to continue to be a playoff team, but we want to make noise in the playoffs. That's what motivates me."
Holland's job has evolved from the days when the wealthy Red Wings could outspend their competitors to address their needs. Today, it's a hard-cap league where the money is the same across the board.
Unrestricted free agents no longer base their decisions on money alone. Several variables are part of the equation now, which has caused Holland to make some knee-jerk decisions that haven't been beneficial to the Wings.
"It's a different job than it was in 1997 (his first season as Wings GM)," Holland said. "We overhauled the team in the early 2000s and made a nice run.
"We're in the process of overhauling the team again, but I believe we can compete for a playoff spot. I'm excited. I'm optimistic."
It's no secret that the Wings wake-up call to the new NHL came when defenseman Ryan Suter declined their long-term, multimillion dollar offer to sign instead with the Minnesota Wild in July 2012.
Feeling that type of rejection sent the Wings scrambling. For years, they had been counting down the days until Suter became an unrestricted free agent, and when it didn't pan out, Detroit wasn't prepared.
Since that time, Holland has had to recast the direction of the Wings, realizing that the key to success is developing the core of your team through the draft.
"No doubt, prior to '05 we had a money advantage, but we made good decisions spending money," Holland said. "We've had no top-10 picks since 1991. We've had to draft, develop.
"I'm proud of what the pro scouts, the amateur scouts and the coaching staffs have done."
Yet, the expectation level in Detroit isn't about making the playoffs. It's about competing for the Stanley Cup, and Holland realizes that the organization needs to do a better job.
"We've only won one playoff round in the last three years," he said. "It's hard to win a playoff round in the league today, but we believe we have some pieces. We want to go on a longer playoff run, want to compete for a Stanley Cup.
"As a manager, it's about trying to build something that lasts for a while."
Holland has earned the opportunity to try and guide the Wings back to where the fans believe they should be -- perennial Stanley Cup contenders. And if he can't get the job done, he'll walk away.
For Holland, loyalty goes both ways.