Epic draft adds team-building intrigue

Updated: January 29, 2013, 1:30 PM ET
By Craig Custance

During a typical season, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland gives himself until American Thanksgiving to fully evaluate his team and decide what, if anything, he needs to do to keep his team in the hunt for a Stanley Cup.

That typically gives him and his fellow general managers about 25 games in an 82-game season to know exactly what they have. It's ample time to work out a few kinks but leaves plenty of games to make up ground if need be.

This isn't a typical season. So during a shortened, 48-game season, when is Holland's Thanksgiving evaluation?

"Twenty games," he said during a pregame chat Friday. "Once you get to 20 games, you'll have a read of what you've got, where we fit."

That gives Holland until the end of February to wait out injuries and slow starts to see where things stand. It's also 42 percent into this season compared with 30 percent during a regular season. For the Red Wings, and every other team fighting for playoff position this year, waiting until the end of February to address needs may be too late.

"Even if it is, if you're looking to do something, you can only do something if you have a partner," Holland said. "At the end of the day, it takes 20 games to figure out who you are and what you've got … you've got to set expectations realistically. In the meantime, we have to find ways to win games."

Following this conversation, Holland's Red Wings went out and earned three out of a possible four points this weekend against two Western Conference contenders, which helped move panicking Red Wings fans away from the ledge for the time being. But Detroit's slow start along with the slow start of perennial contenders such as Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Nashville revealed a reality in this shortened season. It's quite likely that a team, a very good team, misses the playoffs. And if injuries get ugly on one of these teams, there may be a trip to the lottery.

Combine the wild-card shortened season with the new NHL lottery system in which any non-playoff team has a shot at the first overall pick, along with the belief that this year's draft is generational in talent and it becomes a perfect storm for a franchise-changing prospect to end up with a traditional powerhouse.