As much of a stability force as Mike Ilitch and the ownership of the Detroit Red Wings has been, the front office has been just as significant. The Red Wings’ front office is led by general manager (GM) Ken Holland, who is as good of an executive as there is in the NHL. You could even say that he is the best we’ve ever seen. You may not be entirely correct, but you can make the argument.
Holland is entering his 15th season as GM of the Red Wings, and his 29th year overall with Detroit. Holland gave up his playing days after the 1983-84 season, but didn’t want to leave the sport entirely. Fortunately for Ken, an position opened up as a scout in western Canada. Holland’s wife wasn’t terribly thrilled with the idea, but Ken was able to convince her it was the right decision. The rest, as they say, is history.
Holland had to work his way up the Red Wings’ organization, but it has certainly paid off. He went from a scout, to the head scout, to assistant general manager, and finally to general manager in 1997, a position which he has not relinquished.
Since taking over in 1997, Holland and the Red Wings have won more games than any other franchise in the NHL. He has been at the helm for three Stanley Cups, four President’s Trophies, ten division titles, and five Campbell Trophies as the Western Conference representative in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Holland’s resume has been his ability to do his job with, and without a salary cap. The Red Wings were forced to cut significant amount of salary after the 2004-2005 lockout, and have still maintained a high level of success.
Despite what some seem to be calling a disapointing offseason for the Red Wings, Holland has shown that he will put a quality hockey team in the ice each season. Undeterred by the increase in parity in the NHL, the Red Wings have qualified for the postseason in 21 consecutive seasons.
You would have a tough time convincing me there is a better general manager in all of the NHL (and possibly in all sports), and Red Wings fans are sure lucky to have him.