(Photo credit: Doug Kerr)
Since 1997 Ken Holland has guided the Detroit Red Wings through success after success. Holland has gained a reputation as one of the best general managers in NHL history. Under his leadership as GM, the Red Wings have won the Central Division ten times, the regular-season Conference title five times, the Presidents' Trophy four times, and the Stanley Cup three times, and won more regular-season games (789) and postseason games (118) than any other NHL team.
But now he and his team are in possibly the worst spot of any current NHL side. Their cap situation, to be brutal stinks. The team is the second oldest in the NHL and their pipeline is seriously lacking for a team who is years away from contending.
So how do the Wings solve this problem? Tank! Tank! Tank!
While it is never good to advocate a team purposely losing - this is professional sports and every team should try to win - Detroit is in a position where they need to be bad to build up their prospect line and get some top prospects.
Detroit need to look at Winnipeg as their model to follow. Since the Jets moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011, they have drafted these players: Mark Scheifele, Adam Lowry, Connor Hellebuyck, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Nicolas Petan, Eric Comrie, Andrew Copp, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Jack Roslovic, Patrik Laine and Logan Stanley.
Just look at the quality of players - the team undertook a long rebuild that has put them in the position to be good for the next ten years.
While the Jets did not ‘tank’ per se - they were bad and knew they would be bad so embraced it and made sure that their poor ice performances gave them a chance of getting better in the future.
Detroit has failed to embrace the idea of a rebuild which has stifled their team. In 2016 the team gave Frans Nielsen a six-year contract that will not expire until he is in his late 30s - it pays over $5 million a year - this contract optimizes exactly what has been wrong with the Wings recruitment policy.
The current roster
Currently, the team has Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou and Evgeny Svechnikov playing on their roster and all four players have the potential to be building blocks for the side.
Unfortunately for the Wings they have thrown dollars at older players which could stop their chances of resigning all four young guys.
The team has around $35 million invested in guys over 30 next season and they have given large contracts to average NHL players in their late 20s. The team has Henrik Zetterberg under contract until 2021, Frans Nielsen until 2022, Justin Abdelkader until 2023, Darren Helm until 2021, Luke Glendening until 2021, Danny DeKeyser until 2022, Jonathan Erikson until 2020 and Trevor Daley until 2020.
It boggles the mind that the Wings have given out such bad contracts that will hamper the team's ability to function for the next four years.
So how do you fix this problem? Well, the Wings can buy out some of these players - but that would mean the team are burdened with their cap hits for even longer. They could try to trade a few of these players - but that will be hard given the awfulness of their contracts and their lack of on-ice abilities.
The other option is to trade away these contracts with picks to other teams - but then that means losing valuable lottery tickets that will leave the prospect pool dry.
The final option is to keep them, play them and hope that this helps to build a deep pipeline of players over the next few years. This is the most sensible and realistic option of the three.
Four years of pain could lead to ten years of glory
The streak was amazing for Detroit and Ken Holland deserves credit for keeping the Wings as contenders for such a long time. If the Red Wings want to start their next streak, then they will need to endure pain - and lots of it.
The main thing for Detroit is that this four years of pain is inevitable because of their awful contract situation. It still feels as though the club are clinging onto playoff bubble status when really they need to tear down the roster and start again.
If Holland remains at the club, then he needs to embrace the rebuild or the team will continue to sit in the murky waters of the bottom ten of the NHL - hurting their chances of landing a higher draft pick.