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Belated Observations on Hossa's Departure

image source thehockeynews.com

by Ryan Hammond

Ken Holland wishes someone could fix his MP3 player, it keeps playing "You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling."

Holland and the Wings front office have developed a strong reputation for plugging roster holes and finding overlooked talent. The 2009 off-season will present many opportunities for them to prove that mantle, with some uncommonly tall orders. The board is set, the pieces are moving, and Detroit has already lost one.

The Wings saw free agent forward Marian Hossa pack his U-Haul and depart for the division rival Chicago Blackhawks on July 1st, and there aren’t any free agents available to replace his size and offensive output. While it’s true that the Wings won the Stanley Cup a year ago without Hossa, the team’s core players have all likely realized full potential now, and aren’t getting any younger. This means something must be done to augment the roster, and help is unlikely to come from within the organization.

During the Stanley Cup Finals, Holland was quoted by The Hockey News, saying

We know we have some difficult decisions ahead. This is probably the best team that we’re going to be able to put together in the cap world. We’re going to lose some players. We got lucky [last summer]. We signed some guys long-term and they took some big jumps in their careers and they were at the tail end of their contracts, it allowed us to add a star in Marian Hossa. Those days are over.
Holland is no dummy. He knows the business world is based on what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, and that you have to generate constant improvement just to stay where you are. Hossa, meanwhile, will be expected to help the Hawks get a leg up during the regular season, AND exorcise the ghosts of post-seasons past, where his play has often seemed spectral.

The trick for Holland is that he now has to do his job with limited resources and a looming salary cap. The clock has been ticking for over 24 hours now, and each passing second has the potential to make the free agent pool smaller and his job a little harder.

Much like this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, Marian Hossa did not help him. Recovering from his loss is improbable, but recent history has taught us not to count the Wings out until the octopus begins to stink. Every year, hockey’s intelligentsia expects Detroit to come crashing to earth, and every year the team finds a way to extend its shelf life among the league’s elite.

As the Ilitch family has reiterated many times, the team is committed to winning, and winners find a way.