Thursday, June 18, 2009

Time to Reload

There are a lot of problems with the NHL and the direction it is heading (toward NBA-style terribleness), too many to list and explain without devoting a good 2-3 of hours that I don't have to writing, editing, and research. As Ish said though, it is still the most exciting and entertaining spectator sport entertainment option available today.

Instead of fixing the NHL, let's take a look at what the Wings have to do (roster wise) to get ready for next year and prepare for the incredibly difficult task of making a third appearance in the Finals round in a row.

No discussion of their needs should take place without taking the cap into account. Fortunately for Wings fans there is some online help with that (fanatical Red Wings fans with some time on their hands and some Java experience are pretty helpful):

A quick look at the chart shows that the Wings have the following players with contracts that are expiring (RFA indicates players who will only be restricted free agents when their contracts expire preventing them from actively negotiating with other teams and necessitating that any team that tries to sign them owes the Wings some draft picks if they succeed):

Hudler (RFA)
Leino (RFA)

Any signings they do make need to fit into the roughly $9.4 M they will have available under the projected salary cap for next year. Looking at this list, I would resign Leino and cut the rest free. Hossa was great during the regular season and an underwhelming distraction during the post-season. I think they can get better value for the roughly $7M he may command on the market. Samuelsson is just too streaky for his price tag. Hudler is a good player, I like him, but he spent the entire playoffs being pushed off the puck. Kopecky made some bad decisions about who and when to fight and could be upgraded by playing Helm more regularly. Chelios should probably retire now. Conklin is OK, but if Howard is ever going to be the goalie of the future, it might be time to let him have the backup job. Downey is fine for his role, but an enforcer type that can be trusted to play playoff games would be a much better choice. McCarty: ditto, retirement looms.

Adding by Subtracting:
Stuart has three years left on his contract. He is a physical "defenseman", likes to jump into the play, and makes incredibly costly defensive mistakes at the worst possible moments. Given how much money/attention other "defensemen" of this type have received lately (Campbell, Phaneuf, and Green come to mind) I have to believe that someone will be willing to trade a last round draft pick (Red Wings gold) and the obligatory bag of pucks to get him (clearing his $3.8M cap hit from the Wings' books and freeing Detroit from the turnover machine). If not, demote him to GR.

Promote from Within:
Howard (replaces Conklin)
Ericsson (replaces Stuart)
Helm (replaces Kopecky)
Leino (replaces Hudler)
Abdelkador (replaces Samuelsson)

The Wings' needs are pretty slim, really. This is what I think they need; I have no idea what of this is available.
1.) More depth at defense. They lost Quincy to waivers last year, which hurt. A tough, defensively sound guy or two would really help. A legit top four defenseman would be even better. They should have the cap space to get one.
2.) A legit enforcer. One who scares people but can also play in important games. Pay a lot to get one, if necessary (probably necessary, they are rare and coveted).
3.) A veteran guy near retirement trying to win his first cup seems to be a necessity.

Questions Going Forward:
1.) Will the famous Red Wings loyalty to former players hurt them this year encouraging them to bring back Hudler, Samuelsson, or Chelios for another year when it is really time to go?
2.) Is Holmstrom still capable of being effective?
3.) Will Lilja's brain ever stop bleeding?
4.) Are the remaining goal tending prospects ready for 3rd string duty?

Brad McCrimmon's first year as the defensive specialty assistant coach was not particularly special. Was it so bad as to deny him a second try? Maybe. See penalty kill, goals-against, team defense, Stanley Cup Finals round play.

Ken Holland, of course, will do something entirely different than I think he should do. Largely, he will be right and I will be wrong. That's why his job is to evaluate talent and manage the roster while my job is to do research, teach classes, and write papers not relating to hockey.

Update (06/19/2009):
The Playoffs beard-themed marketing slogans:
"The beard is back"
"Shave the best for last"
Totally lame. Do better next year. I'm not sure anything will top the brilliant marketing move of unilaterally declaring Detroit to be "Hockeytown" leaving fans in other cities sputtering for years that they deserve to be called that as though it were some award or title that can be won.


ish said...

Chelios won't be back, which is step one, and suggests perhaps less of a sense of loyalty. A lot to go yet, though.

The Really Sarcastic Weasel said...

Loyalty is actually a noble thing in a sports franchise, but it can be excessive. Resigning Hossa and Hudler would be excessive. Not trading/demoting Stuart would be excessive.

The Really Sarcastic Weasel said...

Hossa has been offered a relatively small contract. I'm hoping he passes and they take the Hossa/Samuelson/Hudler money and sign Beauchemin and/or Komisarek should they actually land on the free agent market. Then make Stuart disappear somehow.

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