DETROIT - If you're the average Red Wings fan, I bet you're really upset the team re-signed Kyle Quincey.
You're upset that the organization couldn't land one of the "big name" defensemen (An overpriced Matt Niskanen? An aging Dan Boyle? A questionable, overpriced Christian Ehrhoff?) on the first day of the free agency period. It most definitely riles you to know some of them turned down more money in Detroit to go play elsewhere.
Judging from personal conversations, fan blogs and social media, a large percentage of Red Wings Nation is calling for GM Ken Holland's job. They're also saying coach Mike Babcock isn't helping the cause with his tough, stubborn approach to the game and dressing room.
"Players just don't want to come here and play for this guy. He's not a player's coach," said one fan.
That fan isn't alone in his rage.
Yet, his sentiment is preposterous, really.
Mike Babcock happens to be one of the best coaches -- if not the best -- in the league, and he's proven it at every level. The league knows it. Players know it. He's the reason the 22-year playoff streak was extended to 23, whether that matters to you or not.
If we can agree free agents aren't waiting in line to come to Detroit, then we must focus on the truth, not some absurd theories about player-coach relationships, or that guys don't want to play at the archaic Joe Louis Arena. Yeah, people have said that. As if the players have to wait in line for the bathroom.
The truth is the Red Wings aren't a great free agency destination right now for veterans looking to win a Stanley Cup this season, or even next. They aren't one of the most powerful teams in the league.
There's no arguing about that fact, but it's not because the "system has failed" or the "coach is a jerk." Moreover, it's definitely not because Holland wants some insurance on defense so he signed Quincey, one of the more serviceable guys available.
The truth is they're a young team on the rise still looking for an identity. They're looking to mesh.
The Red Wings have huge promise and big expectations for young players such as Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Petr Mrazek, Teemu Pulkkinen, Xavier Ouellet, Anthony Mantha, Danny DeKeyser, and dare I mention Brendan Smith?
For fans, this should be a team to get excited about. For free agents looking to win now, not so much. Guys signing big contracts are looking for the best place to win today. Being part of a transitional/retooling/rebuilding (whatever you want to call this) period is generally not a selling factor.
That's not a knock on the organization, it's not a knock on the coach, and it's not a knock on the GM. It's just how stuff happens now in the salary-capped NHL. Franchises can't just buy a contending roster overnight. Winning teams must be nurtured through the farm system.
Look at the Los Angeles Kings. That team has been built from the ground up, starting around the 2005-06 season. They put a system in place. They got a bunch of their own players -- their own draft picks -- to commit to the team's program.
Dustin Brown was drafted by LA in 2003. Anze Kopitar in 2005. Tanner Pearson in 2012. Just check out the Kings roster. They're in no way winning Stanley Cups through free agency.
I'm asking Red Wings fans to have some foresight. Don't fall for the overhyped free agents. Don't get upset when a few above-average defensemen say, "Nah, thanks, but not for me right now." Believe what you see on the ice, which is young, talented players coming up quickly and in numbers.
After 23 straight playoff seasons and a Stanley Cup in 2008, Holland, along with the scouting and development staff must be doing a couple things right.
Besides, this free agency period is far from over. Be patient and let this team develop.
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