Ken Holland on Wings’ ‘old’ defense, free agency, more

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland speaks during the season-ending press conference on Tuesday.

Detroit – There’s plenty of work ahead for the Detroit Red Wings as they embark on the summer and months of rebuilding before next season.

General manager Ken Holland, who was given a two-year contract extension Saturday from ownership, said this season wasn’t good enough.

“Very disappointing season,” said Holland on Tuesday, about a season that saw the Red Wings miss the playoffs by 24 points and finish fifth from the bottom in the NHL’s overall standings.

Holland talked for 45 minutes with the media on locker cleanout day, with the emphasis on the Red Wings’ young prospects, the Entry Draft, and what the organization needs to do to stem a two-year streak of not making the playoffs, after qualifying for the postseason for 25 consecutive years.

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“The theme going forward is the future,” Holland said. “It’s rebuild, it’s young kids, but young kids put in the lineup when they are ready to play at this level but not before.

“When you look at our roster, we have players who have a year or two on their contracts. It’s an opportunity for some of our young players who aren’t quite ready to take the necessary time, but there is opportunity on our team going forward.”

In other topics:

* Holland doesn’t expect to be aggressive in unrestricted free agency, although he would be interested in players who are important in short-term deals.

* He expects to have four or five players on the roster next season who weren’t with the Red Wings this season, the majority of those players being recent draft picks of the organization.

* Holland identified the defense as one unit that needs improvement. He said the defense is “old” and the organization hasn’t done a good enough job of drafting defensemen who have been impactful.

* As for restricted free-agent forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou, Holland said each deal is unique, and he’ll look for an agreement that benefits the player and the team.

* For those fans who were upset and frustrated by the news Holland is returning for two more years, he said he understands the frustration and pain of the fans’ after missing the playoffs the last two years.

* The Red Wings will wait and see where they draft, and how Mike Green’s rehabilitation from neck surgery evolves, before deciding whether to bring back the unrestricted free-agent defenseman.

* Holland is open to adding another person in the front office, noting the talent drain in recent years with the exodus of Jim Nill, Steve Yzerman, Scotty Bowman and Jimmy Devellano. (Devellano is still in the organization but not in a player personnel role.)

* Holland believes playoff contention could be a year or two away, as the organization accumulates young players and identifies pieces who can help the rebuild effort.

* Holland said he or scouting director Tyler Wright, along with former player and current scout Dan Cleary, will represent the Red Wings at the April 28 draft lottery in Toronto.