Thursday, June 7, 2007

WOA - Goaltending: Overview and Hasek & Osgood

I probably should have done goaltending first because likely the Wings will commit to a certain number in net and then that will have a trickle-down effect with what they will do at the blueline and with forwards. Oh well. To refresh, given the Wings' likely signings of Chelios, Hudler, and Meech, their cap space stands at ~11.44M. I've also put together a picture in which the Wings retain every single player on the roster except Calder and Lang, with Kopecky and Grigorenko (both under contract) replacing them. This plan puts the Wings right at the cap of 48M, including 2M in deadline/injury money.

The latter involves, of course, bringing back Hasek, specifically at 1.5M with a bunch of playoff bonuses to be paid in 08-09. Why bring back Hasek? What are you stupid?

Dominik Hasek

I don't really fell like retreading the obvious; the Wings' best-case scenario at G involves bringing Hasek back. Miah at ATRW kicked off his blog with two great posts: On why we should bring back Dom, and on why the WCF loss wasn't his fault. I'll summarize my thoughts on Dom: Hasek is a crazy ass motherfucker, and this is a very, very good thing. I disagree with Drew Sharp and his ilk; while I would not be opposed to going after JSG if Dom does retire, if he wants to come back, he is the safest(!) route.

I suggest 1.5M, then maybe another 1.5M in bonuses, for a max salary of 3M. That's still a steal, but far from a hometown discount: the risk of Dom's age and injury history are still present, despite his relatively healthy season. Even if he does stay healthy, he may lose an edge athletically speaking. Even if Chris Chelios remains a superior defenseman at 45, and even if Steve Yzerman was the best player on the team in his final game, some folks do quit because of a drop in productivity and effectiveness, not injury or loss of desire. There's no reason to think that Hasek will never degrade in terms of quality.

Now, this having been said, the Wings can and should leave enough at the deadline to protect against either injury or a decrease in quality, but they can only do so if they protect themselves in Hasek's contract language: that means a bonus heavy deal, light on guaranteed money.

Now, deciding to bring back Hasek and signing him to a deal are the relatively easy parts: will he actually come back? Who the fuck knows. He's crazy. Fortunately we'll hear within a week.

Chris Osgood

Ozzie I believe is underrated by many. If Dom retires, a possible avenue is an Osgood/Howard tandem, with the former most likely taking on the top competition. I like such a move because it gives Osgood, a Stanley Cup winner, the opportunity to earn a playoff nod. If he can't get it done, look for someone at the deadline. But I think Osgood can absolutely do it.

The biggest roadblock to that happening, however, is Osgood's inability to stay healthy. I haven't heard anyone say it, but Osgood is making a name for himself as an injury prone goaltender. Take a look at his last two seasons, both with Detroit (from TSN):

14-Feb-07: Missed 8 games (broken finger).
28-Jan-07: Broken finger, day-to-day.
26-Jan-07: Missed 2 games (flu).
19-Jan-07: Flu, day-to-day.
18-Dec-06: Missed 15 games (hand injury).
14-Nov-06: Hand injury, day-to-day.
01-May-06: Missed Game 4, 5 and 6 of Round One against the Edmonton Oilers (groin).
27-Apr-06: Groin, day-to-day.

18-Oct-05: Missed 7 games (groin) and assigned to Grand Rapids (AHL) for conditioning purposes.
05-Oct-05: Groin, day-to-day.

The 7 games in October '05 led to Manny Legace stealing the starting job in a situation where the Wings thought they would have a Roloson/Fernandez type tandem. The groin injury in the '06 playoffs potentially cost the Wings the series and who knows? The Cup? Osgood might have parlayed that into a starting gig this year. And the 25 total games he missed this year weren't a boatload of laughs for the Wings either - they led to more starts for Hasek (eep!) and any starts for Joey MacDonald (ugh).

I believe that due to his injury-proneness (that and the Wings' desire to keep Jimmy Howard in GR another year) the Wings are unlikely to call upon The Oz to lead the Wings. This having been said however, there is no better insurance policy for the Wings. Consider the scenarios:

1. Hasek returns. Osgood ideally plays 35 games, helps keep Dom healthy, and is not a bad worst-case scenario at all if Hasek goes downhill or gets hurt.

2. The Howard age begins. Osgood plays 45 games and mentors the young goalie. Probably the playoff starter in such a scenario.

3. The Wings get Toskala, Fernandez, Garon, Bryzgalov. Osgood plays 35-45 games, depending on performance. Gives the Wings two options at any given time, and two options for the playoffs. Allows the Wings the luxury of being able to switch goalies in the playoffs.

4. The Wings get Giguere. Osgood is overkill, and likely gone after the 07-08 season. Still, if the old hip flares up, there's the Ozzinator.

Osgood gives the Wings ultimate flexibility. I believe he can be a starter and can win the playoffs, but he is content (or willing, anyway) to be a backup. And he's the perfect guy to mentor the likes of Jimmy Howard.

Tomorrow: The Kids
Saturday: The FAs