By: Terry Foster
The first thing Sean Graham wants everybody to know is that he loves the Red Wings. Red Wing jerseys hang up in his Northville home and he often has all three of his television sets brewing at the same time showing hockey games.
However, Graham, 27, and some of his buddies want change. That is why they included an online petition to fire Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland on their website FireKenHolland.com. Their drive to replace the Red Wings general manager is off to a slow start with only 18 people having signed it.
But they are hopeful that the Ilitch family takes notice and replaces Holland with a new voice and new direction before the team moves into its new arena next season.
Their theme is to “make Hockeytown great again.”
“I love this team. I love the Red Wings,” said Graham. “It’s just time to get Ken Holland out.”
During a dismal sports season during which the Lions have shown the most hope for the future Holland appears to be general manager on the hottest seat with Detroit sports fans. That may not be the case with the Ilitch family who continue to support a man who helped bring four Stanley Cups to the city. But in the latest case of “what have you done for me lately” fans are disillusioned with Holland and some of the contracts which are an albatross to the organization and prevent the team from playing younger players more to build for the future.
“I have been a lifelong Detroit Red Wings fan and I’ve had the misfortune of watching Holland run this once dynasty into the ground,” wrote Mitch Orzel of Westland after signing the petition.
The top target is 37-year-old Johan Franzen who currently sits on the team’s long term injury list with concussion like symptoms. He has played just two games last season and hasn’t scored more than 16 goals since 2012. The Wings made a decision to sign Franzen to an 11-year, $43.5 million contract that expires in 2020 rather than Marian Hossa who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and has 91 goals the past four seasons compared to 37 for Franzen.
The Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years and are tied with Buffalo for second fewest points in the Eastern Conference. But those are not the sole reasons Graham and his buddies began the petition. They don’t like the “bad” contracts Holland has signed and believe there is not a game plan to become a championship contender. And even if there was, Holland is not the man to execute it.
Holland is Hockey town royalty. He’s helped build four Stanley Cup winning teams, but the Red Wings have not been to the Cup Finals since losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in 2009. They are now young and lack talent and are among the worst teams in the NHL.
No team can roll forever and the question is whether Holland can regain his magic without Jim Nill, and Scotty Bowman in the back offices of Joe Louis Arena helping him? Holland has one year remaining on his contract and the Wings owe him at least that one season.
Beyond that there are some that want to see a fresh voice lead the way.
Two quotes seem to haunt Holland. He once said “Less can be more exciting.” And “if you’re expecting Stanley Cups you are in the wrong league.”
The last time I checked the NHL is the only league that allows you to hoist the Cup. You cannot win one in the NFL, NBA or even in the Canadian Football League. There are also expectations to at least contend for titles here.
Watching the Red Wings, once a free flowing team, has become cumbersome and difficult.
“It is brutal,” Graham said. “We watch every game and everybody is on their phone not watching. There is nothing you can do about it.”
Graham wants to see the Wings clean house. After hiring a new general manager he’d like to see Jeff Blashill replaced as head coach.
“It is like he doesn’t have an offensive plan,” Graham said. “His expectations were high when he came in but he hasn’t lived up to them.”