DETROIT -- Owner Christopher Ilitch believes Ken Holland will build the Detroit Red Wings back up to where they are once again regularly contending for the Stanley Cup.
That is why Ilitch officially announced that Holland had signed a two-year extension to remain the team's general manager before Saturday's final home game of the season against the New York Islanders.
"Ken has been an integral part of creating the sustained success of our franchise over the past two decades, including scouting, drafting many of the players who helped bring four Stanley Cup championships to Detroit," Ilitch said. "Both our owner, Marian Ilitch, and I are pleased to have Ken under contract and leading the continued transformation of our roster."
Although the Wings have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, a fact that pleases no one, Ilitch says they understand it is going to be a process and it will require some patience.
Until last summer's NHL Entry Draft when the Wings took center Michael Rasmussen with the ninth pick in the first round, they had not had a top-10 pick since selecting Martin Lapointe with the 10th overall pick in 1991.
"Ken's been an integral part of the four Stanley Cup championships for the Detroit Red Wings over the past couple of decades, four Presidents Trophies, 25 consecutive appearances in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs," Ilitch said. "He started out as a scout. Many of the players that he scouted, the Martin Lapointes, the Slava Kozlovs, a lot of these players went on to be very productive players contributing to the Red Wings' success. As he moved through our system and became our director of amateur scouting, he oversaw drafts that produced players like Nick Lidstrom, Vladimir Konstantinov, Chris Osgood, I could go on and on. Incredible players who ultimately were responsible for bringing the Cup back to Detroit four times over those years. So Ken is a scout and a tremendous evaluator of talent at his core and if you look back on our history, really that's what made the Detroit Red Wings the great champions that they were for those years."
The Ilitch family also has a long history with Holland, who is finishing his 35th season in the organization, 21st as general manager.
When Holland first started with the Wings as a western Canada scout and then amateur scouting director, the team was not the league's standard of excellence that it became.
"Ken Holland has had the experience of seeing a Detroit Red Wing team in the 1980s build from the ground all the way up to the Stanley Cup champion and it was done, obviously led by Hall of Fame general manager Jimmy Devellano, who was an incredible mentor for Ken, but he was a big part of that through his scouting, as a scout and as the director of amateur scouting," Ilitch said. "Having seen that and experienced that, that's the blueprint for our future and Ken knows that. "Our team owner, Marian Ilitch, myself and Ken, we are completely aligned on the strategy to build the Detroit Red Wings into Stanley Cup champions. It's going to be a process, we're all going to need patience but he has the skill and the experience to lead us through that process again."
Holland said his work on rebuilding the team actually began a couple of years ago and will continue with the 11 current picks they hold in this year's draft, seven in the first three rounds.
"I'd like to think you can see the makings of where we're going, the importance of some of the young players up front," Holland said. "Certainly we got to overhaul the defense going forward. Again, I think we started that a couple years ago. We took a first-round pick with Dennis Cholowski, he's playing really good out west; a second-round pick in (Filip) Hronek; we used another second-round pick in another year for (Gustav) Lindstrom. So we've got four picks in the top 31, 36-37 picks this year. So we're going to continue to add some young players going forward. But obviously we have to rebuild the team. It's going to take some time."
While it is difficult to see progress in two straight seasons with losing records, Ilitch has seen growth in many of the Wings' young players and in some of their prospects.
"I'm very optimistic," Ilitch said. "I told the players I think the long-term future of this team is very bright. As Ken mentioned, we've got some young players who are showing very promising strides forward and have taken steps and developed this year. There's a number of other prospects in our system who are doing wonderfully and look like they're potentially ready to make the next step. That's all positive. I think I focus on the big picture and what the strategy is, and I think Ken Holland, he's got the experience, he's got a great strategy. He's executing it aggressively, and I feel at the team level and throughout the course of the season, we're seeing steps forward that are a part of that strategy and a part of that plan.
"So from an ownership perspective, and I speak for Marian Ilitch as well, we're very pleased with the progress. Around these parts, we're used to be being in the playoffs, we're used to competing for Stanley Cups, and believe me, that's where we all want to be. That's a lot of fun. To get back there, it's a process. We've done it before and we're going to do it again.
"We think Ken is the right guy to lead that for our organization, so we're thrilled to have him back."