By: Jeff Riger
Wings GM Ken Holland has taken some heat recently for some of his decisions involving the team. From allowing guys like Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi to stick around too long to not bringing up “the kids” soon enough, fans have given it to Holland more than usual.
But the amount of time Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are missing is not his fault.
Wednesday afternoon the team made it official that they traded for 14 year veteran David Legwand. Legwand is from Michigan but has played his entire career with the Nashville Predators. As usual, Wings GM Ken Holland met with the media to explain the deal and some bigger news was announced.
Holland said Datsyuk would be shut down for the next 3 weeks in hope of getting the star’s knee right, before the playoffs start. Datsyuk has been dealing with the injury for quite some time now and it’s very apparent that he’s not the same player he was. Datsyuk even met with Holland and head coach Mike Babcock to voice his frustration over the weekend.
Because of the injury and the uncertainty to Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss, Holland felt like he needed to go get a veteran center to help Detroit try to extend their consecutive playoff streak to 23 years.
With Henrik Zetterberg being out for the remainder of the regular season and the latest news of Datsyuk, one reporter asked Holland if the Olympics were to blame for the long term absences of both his stars.
“When we put Z (Zetterberg) on LTI (long term injured reserve) in December he went and got some pictures and they could see that fragment floating around (in his back)” Holland said. “They were hoping we could get through the season and we could deal with it in the off season. Unfortunately it caused havoc. So if it didn’t cause havoc in Sochi (Russia) than it would have caused havoc in Detroit, Columbus, New Jersey, Nashville or Tampa or wherever we were playing.”
Zetterberg was able to play for a string of games before the Olympics, but after Holland’s words, you have to wonder if 3 weeks off would have helped delay his inevitable back problems?
Holland didn’t see it that way saying “Z played for us for a month, he played the first game at the Olympics, he felt great, I was at the game, the Czech’s played the Swedes and the next day he can’t get out of bed. I don’t think that had anything to do with the Olympics, it was something that we were concerned about in December and it reared its ugly head.”
I’m neither a doctor, nor a trainer but it seems like if the Wings knew about Zetterberg’s issue in December, they simply should not have let the captain play in Russia. With as good of a season as Zetterberg was having and the mounting injuries that the Wings have experienced, risking him seems irresponsible. Of course we know it’s not that easy.
Datsyuk was no different…
Datsyuk was able to come back for 2 games before the Olympic break but missed a month of hockey before that. Unlike Zetterberg, Holland admitted that Datsyuk probably should not have gone to Russia.
“Obviously the Pav (Datsyuk) one in hindsight with him, it’s easy now to say it would have been best if he didn’t play in the Olympics but it’s easy for me to say” Holland said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, he’s named captain of the Russian team, you know they’ve been looking forward to the Olympics since 2010 winning gold, it’s easy to say to somebody, don’t go!”
But Holland didn’t say that explaining “for me to tell Pavel Datsyuk that I don’t think you should be playing and representing your country in the Olympics, something that as a little boy (he’s dreamed of) and you’ll be the captain. I had a conversation with him and told him that I was feeling but I think that’s a decision that they have to make and I respect the decision.”
Wings fans don’t seem to.
With Datsyuk and Zetterberg missing, the Wings stand very little chance to make a run in the playoffs should they even get in. Now knowing all the particulars of both players injuries, fans everywhere are angered that they went to Russia. And who could blame them?
But it’s not Holland’s fault.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk knew the extent of their injuries before heading over to the Olympic villages. They knew more than any that one check or move could jeopardize them playing in the remainder of the NHL season. They should have made the decision not to go. Its apparent how much both wanted to play for their respected countries but their responsibility to Detroit should have been more important.
Zetterberg being the captain of Sweden and Datsyuk wearing the C for Russia were once in lifetime opportunities that needed to be turned down. They get paid to play here, they should have stayed here. It’s that simple.
The NHL is also to blame for allowing their players to play in the Olympics in the first place. I really enjoy the best of the best playing for their countries and obviously the players do as well but in this case it could have cost the Wings that all important playoff streak.
What could Holland have done? He had conversations with both to express his feelings but in the end it wasn’t his decision. Zetterberg and Datsyuk had the right to play; unfortunately Holland didn’t have the right to stop them.
So don’t blame the GM for the loss of Zetterberg and Datsyuk, it’s not his fault.
Of course if you want to blame him for giving up too much to acquire Legwand; I would be happy to agree with that.