By: Will Burchfield
It wasn’t long ago that the Red Wings were perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
Now, says GM Ken Holland, they’re somewhere in the league’s mushy middle.
“I don’t know that there are more than five or six legitimate Stanley Cup contenders; we’re probably not in that group,” Holland recently told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. “After that five or six, there are 20 teams without much difference between them. We’re in that group of 20.
“Certainly there are lots of questions about our team.”
The Red Wings are coming off a season in which they lost as many games as they won (41-30-11), so Holland’s prognosis shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’s hardly throwing in the towel on the upcoming year, but the veteran GM won’t be fooled into thinking his team is something more than it really is.
Just like last season, when the Wings used every sliver of the regular-season calendar to clinch a playoff spot, Holland expects them to be in a tight battle heading down the stretch of the 2016-17 campaign.
“We’re going to be in a race,” he said. “We think we’re going to be in that photo finish with a whole bunch of other teams.”
Holland’s outlook on the upcoming season is a reflection of the Wings’ changing roster. The organization is in a state of flux at the moment, with one core of players – headlined by Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall – on its way out, and another one – led by Dylan Larkin and Tomas Tatar – not quite ready to take over.
Holland is hopeful the second group can develop in the same manner as the first.
“As we sit today, we don’t have a superstar in his prime,” he said. “We have lots of good players. I think we have lots of really good players. How far can they grow? I don’t know. Pavel Datsyuk came over and scored 11 goals and 12 goals in his first two seasons in the NHL. I don’t think we have any Pavel Datsyuks, but it’s an example that people can grow.”
Along with Larkin and Tatar, the Wings will look to the likes of Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyqvist, Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek to help continue the organization’s winning tradition. Detroit has made the playoffs in 25 consecutive seasons.