Monday, October 27, 2008

So About That Blog Thing

Yeah yeah, it's been like a million years since I've posted. Lots of reasons.
  • Pretty depressing to see all those talented youngsters get sent to Grand Rapids for another year, or more. Who knows what a year will bring in their development. You've got Jimmy Howard and Daniel Larsson eating into each other's minutes, you've got Jonathon Ericsson and Ville Leino, both legit Calder candidates if they were here, toiling in Western Michigan. All the while, Lilja and Samuelsson remain. I wept.
  • Haven't been able to see many games. Various feeds of varying quality are all I've got at the moment. It remains to be seen if I'll pony up for NHL Center Ice. Actually no, I won't.
  • I know this becoming a mantra around here, but grad school, as it turns out, is a bit of a commitment. On the other hand, did you know 'muzungu' is Lugandan for 'white person'?
But all this having been said, here's my take on the Wings lately.
  • So, uh, what the fuck is up with the defense? I told you we should have traded Lebda and Lilja. I haven't seen enough games to determine if they're the problem, but I'm going to assume they are, because that makes me feel the best.
  • Not sold on the Conkblock. He's been solid at times and all over the place at others. At least one weak goal against St. Louis.
  • Franzenstein down again. WTF. Couple of silver linings though: one, we might get to see Ville Leino alongside Val Filppula. Two, at the rate Franzen and Mars Hossa are scoring, there is no way we will be able to keep them both. None. And, if this cap goes down, as I read was possible on some Snapshots-linked article, it's not a guarantee we keep either. So this may sound awful, but the bright side is that the injury will diminish Mule's numbers. Yeah basically awful.
  • Holmstrom is leading the Wings in goals. Hossa is leading in points. The Wings' best player? The guy in between. 8 assists, +7, working magic as always. He is the proverbial straw that stirs the proverbial drink. I read the ESPN award predictions a while ago and as for the Selke there were a few votes for Hank, a few for other people. None for Dats. Uhh. Easily the most underrated player in the league. I'm thinking about changing this blog to Datsyuk Is God.
That's all for now. Should catch the Kings game and I'll see if I can shirk responsibility long enough to lend you all my thoughts.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ericsson, Leino Still Here

Khan: Ericsson and Leino are both practicing with the team. No reason for that if they aren't making the squad, since there are no pre-season games left. Quincey, Helm, and Downey are not on the ice, perhaps indicators that they will be/have been waived or possibly in Quincey's case, traded. I still find it hard to believe the Wings could get anything more than a last-round draft pick for Quincey, but on the other hand he has that Red Wings pedigree so Holland might be able to get more for him.

Back to Leino and Ericsson - Ville might be practicing just to fill in for Holmstrom, and if Homer's injury keeps him out of action on Thursday Leino is the obvious fill-in. So it may just be a "call-up" and not a sign Leino has made the permanent roster. Ericsson, however, has no business still being on the team if the Wings are sure Lilja and Lebda are the final pair.

Might be I'm just clinging to the hope that the Wings will dump Lilja and go with Ericsson, which, I must repeat, makes so much sense. Might be I'm just procrastinating doing my homework. But whatever, this team's winning the Cup regardless of its 5/6 pair, and homework is only like, 20% of the grade.

Edit: Okay, just saw MacLeod, Helm and Downey have been waived (Downey must clear). Either a) McCarty won the final spot and Leino is here until Homer is healthy, b) Leino won the final spot, McCarty is here until he's healthy sign you can't waive injured players (I doubt it since his injury is very minor I think) or c) the Wings will not carry a 13th forward, and both are still here for the aforementioned reasons.

But since the Wings have made the very tough move of assigning Helm (sorry Helmer...) it makes no sense that they would not also do the same for Ericsson. Yes, I'm very sure now, they're got more than just moving Quincey in the works. That is my ardent hope anyway.

Monday, October 6, 2008

And Now, The Waiting Game.

Okay, so I said I would get back to regular posting, and then went like a week without posting. Whatever. It's still preseason, technically. I think.


In the recurring segment, "Blueline Clusterfuck", I like to talk about the logjam (that's polite-talk for "clusterfuck") the Wings are currently experiencing on defense. Familiarize yourself with the situation by perusing the ever excellent Bruce MacLeod's take. Chris Chelios did his best to ease the problem by going and getting his leg broken, buying the Wings' about a month's time on making a roster decision. Always a team player, that Cheli.

Now if you've been reading Ansar Khan you might think the whole situation is totally resolved. After all, Khan and MacLeod both reported Babcock's praise of Lilja a little while ago, and more recently Khan quotes Babcock, saying Lilja and Lebda are set as the 5-6 pair. However, a few things are important to understand. First of all, Babcock is a lying liar, especially when speaking to Ansar Khan. This is well-known.

Second of all, Jonathon Ericsson is still, at the moment, on the team despite the Wings' preseason schedule being over. The Wings have no more games to evaluate him, and if Lilja and Lebda are set as the 5-6 pair, Ericsson's demotion to Grand Rapids is a no-brainer since the Wings will categorically refuse to put him on the roster in a non-playing role. It's very possible the Wings are trying to work out a deal to trade Kyle Quincey, but trading Quincey doesn't effect Ericsson. The only reason Ericsson could still be on the roster is if the Wings are trying to trade a top six defenseman. Cough. Lilja. Cough.

Trading Lilja makes the most sense given literally any metric. From a player development standpoint. From a financial standpoint (he costs the most). From a, uh, putting the best team on the ice standpoint. You're really gonna tell me Lilja's better than Ericsson? More experienced, yes. Worse in ever other category, however. Here's my conspiracy theory: Babcock is trying to play up Lilja's value to prepare for a trade. Yes he's more experienced, but Babcock is not one to reward experience over skill (see: Brett Lebda, 2006). Sure, Kenny Holland will ride a horse until it is dead in the ground (see: Kirk Maltby) but if Babcock wants Ericsson, Holland will jettison Lilja. I mean, he even admitted the possibility immediately after signing the guy, which is, you know, not usually the time when you discuss a guy's possible trade from the team.

I'm guessing Lilja goes, possibly Lebda too although that may be a pipe-dream for me. Given Kyle Quincey's uninspiring performance the Wings are probably more likely to waive him at this point (I think chances are decent he would make through) or trade him (they would probably get basically nothing in return), leaving no need to trade Lebda, certainly not before Chris Chelios returns, anyway.

The Race For, Uh, Probably Nothing is a little segment where we talk about the forward competition. So, uh, how about that fucking Ville Leino? I really thought I was kidding myself when I projected him on the third line over the summer, figured he was Grand Rapids bound. But holy shit. Holland has said he will not trade a forward but maybe that was before he really realized how good Leino is (and how excellent Helm has been playing). Maybe Babcock can convince him. Is there yet hope for Samuelsson being traded? Pleeeeease God let it happen.

The Wings have until 3 pm EST Wednesday to get under the cap and under the 23 man roster limit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

And, We're Back

The preseason is upon us, and in fact has been for a while now. Given the rather intense roster-drama surrounding every position, you might think I would have made my return earlier, but things were... hectic, let's say. Anyway, I plan to be posting daily for the rest of the preseason despite not having any access to the games themselves! Let's hear it for second-hand analysis!

Throughout the preseason I'll be focusing on four major issues, each one meriting its own sensationally-titled recurring segment. They are:

RACE FOR THE CREASE 2008: The competition for backup goaltender has gone from practically sewed up to basically in the bag for Ty Conklin. Does that make sense? I was pretty offended before training camp to hear most people presuming Conklin would win the job with little difficulty, and predicted Jimmy Howard would storm the position. As it turns out, Conklin seems to be winning the job with little difficulty. Well. Shuddup.

HOSSAWATCH08: Marian Hossa is obviously the Wings' most exciting new commodity and will merit much attention. The real fun won't start until the regular season when he, Homer, and Pavs are hitting on all cylinders and actually have something to play for. Until then the preseason is mostly all about kids fighting for jobs.

THE BLUELINE CLUSTERFUCK: 5 dudes, 3 slots. Roster slots. Er, what I'm trying to say is, it's an intense competition. Lids, Raffy, Kronner, Stu, and the immortal Chris Chelios have 5 of 8 jobs locked up, leaving as many as two starting gigs and at least one enviable "season-long benchwarming" role. Lilja and Lebda have the most significant advantages, being experienced and entrenched. Kyle Quincey and Jonathon Ericsson represent the paths of least resistance: Ericsson can be sent to GR without clearing waivers, and at this rate I think Quincey will also be waived since he struggled badly last year and has done nothing to distinguish himself now. I'm guessing he wouldn't bring much if anything in a trade, and he might actually squeak through waivers at this point.

THE RACE FOR... NOTHING, PROBABLY: Darren Helm, highly touted young speedster. Aaron Downey, fan favorite pugilist. Justin Abdelkader, hometown hero. Darren McCarty, living Detroit legend. Ville Leino, Finn. The five of them are squaring off for the coveted 13th forward position... which, uh, may not exist, per Khan:
The club appears set with its top 12 forwards and will carry eight defensemen. Even after trading a defenseman, the Red Wings might not have the salary cap space to accommodate an extra forward, at least at the start of the regular season.
Ouch. Here's the really disappointing bit (bold is mine):

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said he has talked with a couple teams but wants to see more preseason games before making a trade.

He said he would deal one defenseman to get under the $56.7 million cap and would not move a forward. He said it was possible the team could start the season with 22 players (12 forwards, eight defensemen, two goalies), one fewer than the maximum.

Aaaauuuugh. He won't move a forward. That means another year of Samuelsson. I go back and forth on him. It's not that I don't like him, it's just that he's a glorified checker and the Wings aren't in need of that. I'd rather see Kopecky get more time with some playmakers, or Leino, or Mac, or Helm, or anybody. And I certainly hope Sammy's days on the point are done.

Like I said, I'll be floating between these topics over the next few days, spreading things out to artificially boost my productivity. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Ill-Advised Discussion

I may be drunk, and high, but it's also worth noting, that under the influence, I am an excellent typist. This past month or so, I must say, my notice of hockey as been... non-existent. School, boredness, and fantasy literature have kept my interest much more than a sport which is at its nadir. But those familiar feelings, of cold ice beneath the skates, charming accents of the blistery north of Europe, the adulation when a goal long-desired is finally netted, they come back to me now, when seeing the news of lines combinations from Babcock's own mouth. Ansar has them, of course -who else?

Split-up, that's how Babcock sees the Circus come season's start. Me, I would have guessed them together, and supposed Mule-Fil-Mars for the second line. But you can't argue with spreading the two best centers in the Western Conference across two lines, not when such wingers as Holmstrom, Hossa, and Franzen abound. Babs mentions Pavs and Homer will stick together, as they have for two good years straight now, with the God of War adjoined duly to the best playmaker the Wings have to offer. That leaves Z with countryman Mule, and... Huds, yes, the Oompa Loompa on his wing. Not Samuelsson. Glad to hear it from Babcock. God I hope Sammy's traded. I'll say it again: he's a highly competent checker, who can occasionally go on an offensive streak - but this team is heavy on scorers and Sammy's worth is greater in a trade than on the ice.

And not Fil either. It leaves Wally to wallow on the third line, which I was hoping for all along. The Finn is a center, and needs to learn to drive a line, and the Wings have the offensive depth to roll three. Put him with his countryman, Leino, if Ville earns it, if not, with Samuelsson, and Cleary or Kopecky to go to the net and muck things up. Leaves Drapes, Malts, and one of the others for a damn solid fourth line. Papa like. Helm in Grand Rapids, undeservedly, but what can you do when you've got this kind of depth.

Oh, oh yes, and Chelios is back. Unlike many doubters and bitch-asses out there, I am not surprised. I have said it before: Chris Chelios is Highlander; he will never die, only walk off into the sunset with Scotty Bowman one day (all the more likely now that the latter is in Chicago.) You might peg him this season for a benchwarmer and a practice-leader, but my guess is a healthy Cheli regains the sixth slot on the blueline, alongside a young Jonathon Ericsson. Lilja is dealt for obvious reasons. Lebda... young, cheap, fast -yes; but that's why his trade value is so high -he's maxed out on his potential, whereas Ericsson can have an impact right away, starting with pummeling that bitch-ass Pronger and making use of his 100mph slap shot on the point (replacing Sammy) - if not him, Meech, who proved highly competent there. Quincey even could become a Lilja-esque PK workhorse, hopefully not adopting the Swede's propensity for puckhandling slip-ups. Lebda and Lilja, while a serviceable last-pair for a Stanley Cup team, should give way to more exciting, more dynamic talent.

Lilja, Leba, and Samuelsson all traded for middling draft-picks, oh and Conklin too, if my boy, Jimmy Howard, wins the spot in training camp as I predict he will? That a team could trade that much talent at season's start and still win Stanley's sweepstakes? I daresay it would set me up for ever. As for the rambling prose? Been reading too much Jane Austen lately. But my Darcy will always be Datsyuk; hockey season can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Let There Be No Comparison

I can't say a lot of bad things about Brett Favre, who was traded to the New York Jets tonight. Being a Lions fan from birth, I have healthy dislike for #4. But there's little doubt the man's a machine, a monument to football cut from stone, his longevity and success a tribute to his dedication and ability.

But for man often praised for his leadership, let there never be any comparison between his legend and that of Steve Yzerman. Yzerman never scoffed at the idea of helping to develop the players who would one day replace him. Yzerman never made ultimatums or demands of his team. He never toyed with his front office or the hearts of his adoring faithful by taking an unreasonable amount of time to decide on his career choice ever summer. He knew when the time was right to retire, he made that decision and never looked back.

And most of all, when his career was far from over, a lot of money-making years ahead of him, he promised he wouldn't play for another team, that if traded he would retire immediately. Then on, Yzerman took less and less from the Red Wings, eventually going year to year on one year contracts, never causing the Wings any concern, only concerned about making sure Ken Holland was able to find the room for the other pieces the Wings needed to win the Cup. He set an example, one of many, that persists today and is so much of why this franchise is the closest thing to a Dynasty since the 1980's, and was instantly assumed into the front office, which had already begun consulting him long before his playing days were over.

Brett Favre? He's a bitch. His legacy is tarnished. The sight of him in a New York Jets jersey will disgust me, not because I like him or so desperately wanted to see him retire a lifetime Packer (technically he started out as a Falcon but meh), but because he had the talent, the success, and the longevity - he had the opportunity to be to the Packers what Yzerman was and is to the Wings: a living legend, a megalith, a paradigm which defines a Dynasty whose success is so entirely predicated upon the example, on and off the ice, set by the greatest leader in its sport. A man of such loyalty and humility in an age driven by salaries and pride. Favre could have exited gracefully, accepted a smaller role, eased a transition, and ensured the future success of his franchise. Instead he has stunted his team's quarterback's growth and left them with little. And left himself with less.

Favre is a great player, he's done great things, he absolutely has the right to change his mind, to go where he wishes, and to do what he wants.

But let there be no comparison.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wally Won't Wander

God I love alliteration. A little too much perhaps.

Anyway, you've all seen it, and I'm a little late getting to this story. I was worried about this right up until Holland said he had two- and five-year deals on the table and was confident it would get done before arbitration. That was all I needed. And Holland is a man of his word, not only reeling in Wally, but for the preferred long-term deal.

3M is a little much and the Wings will definitely make moves to shed salary, and A2Y's got Kenny confirming it (Lilja? Samuelsson? Plz?) and you have to wonder about Chelios who is still unsigned. (It will probably get done, I'm guessing.) But for Wally the term is far more important than the value right now. By the end of this contract (hell, possibly by the end of this year) Fil will be underpaid.

Yes he only netted 36 points this year, below a lot of the other RFA forwards, but remember this guy is a monster defensively (which is what earned him a role on the team in the first place) and also note that his offensive totals are diminished by the fact that he gets zero PP time behind the Circus, and the #2 unit of Buckets/Mule/Huds. Wally is a beast and I would take him over any Wings' forward except the Eurotwins (yes, even Hossa, due to the age factor).

Which wingers will Wally wind up with as winter waxes? There's a strong possibility he'll be on the wing if the Babcock split up the Circus, and if not very likely he'll be centering the #2 line with Mule and Hossa. However, if the Wings do split the Circus I'd love to see him center the #3 line. The Wings have the offensive depth to roll three lines and Wally should be playing at center where he belongs. I could see Hossa/Dats/Homer, Mule/Z/Huds, Cleary/Fil/Leino? Depends on how Leino turns out, but you've got the Finnish connection there. Potentially lethal offense. Like I said before, take those nine guys, throw in Kopecky and Samuelsson if he's still here, jumble them in a big bag before every game, and pick your lines at random. We will still win the West.

WWWD? Win with the Wings. Wbitches.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why So Serious?

I don't really understand the consternation coming out of les Montagnards over at A2Y over the now official January 1 game between the Hawks and Wings at Wrigley. Granted I live in Chicago and am going to the game, so I may be a bit biased. But. I don't really see why this is such a bad thing.

Chicago is a team on the rise. They have our number, or at least they did last season. They're the underdogs and there's a good chance they'll win. We're the defending champs. It's a good storyline. I keep reading about the conflict with bowl games on Jan 1. Uh, yes, that's what we all said last year. And then, uh, it turned out pretty well. Even ESPN, whom I despise to an unfathomable degree, covered the game pretty well despite the deluge of football. People are saying, well, now the game is in Big Ten country. Mmm, don't worry Wolverine fans, you're not going to be playing on January 1, or any similar date. If at all, your date will be in mid-December, likely at the Bowl. I think we're safe.

And Chicago? No problems there. Northwestern? Haha. Perhaps my own proud institution, the University of Chicago, will being playing on New Year's? It's true, we helped found the Big 10 and the inaugural Heisman trophy was won by one of our boys, but we're not much of a threat these days in Div III. People in Chicago like hockey, actually. They just, for so long, toiled under an awful owner. Those days are gone. They will be out in force, as well as rooting hard in their homes.

Yes I would have liked Wings and Leafs at the Big House. And I'm guessing it will happen, some day down the road, when the league decides it wants to smash the NHL attendance record forever and ever. But if they're smart the NHL will wait until they're on the ropes to play that card. When Bettman's taken a serious beating and the salary cap goes down and Scott Van Pelt is ignoring hockey as hard as he possibly goddamn can, then they'll announce it.

In the meantime I'm happy with Wings at Wrigley. Yes there's no New Year's Eve game. Last New Years Eve I missed it because I was getting trashed and sick at the same time. In 1996 there was no New Years Eve game because there was a rock concert at the Joe. I would say this is a slightly better reason to skip it.

Plus I'm going. Bitches.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Roster Coming into Focus

Every once and a while, when I'm alone with my thoughts or zoning out during an exam, I just smile. He's ours, I think to myself. Holy fucking shit.

Wally's all but assured to return. There's that little matter of agreeing on an amount, and I suppose we're not out of the woods yet since the arbitrator could give him some ridiculously unreasonable award. But Holland sounds confident in getting to an agreement beforehand. (God I've gotten lackadaisical about linking sources. I read it somewhere. Trust me.) And we can at least be sure no dumbassed GM throws an offer sheet at him.

Speaking of which, it's a good frigging thing I was on vacation when the rumors surfaced of Mike Gillis "preparing" a sheet for Wally. I don't know what I would have done with myself between hearing about that and the news that Fil filed for arbitration coming down. It likely would have involved keeping matches nearby at all times, however.

There's not much left. Chelios, Mac, Downey. Official word on Drake, the number for Fil. Nothing else til TC, we can be pretty sure. But when Traverse City rolls around? Oh, I'll probably be looking like a genius, on two, well, one and a half counts. First of all Babcock talks here about Jonathon Ericsson as if he's a lock to make the club next season. Well color me excited. I'll pretend I was going on knowledge of Babcock's inner mind and not wanton speculation based on my own excitable imagination.

And an even juicier tidbit, this time from Holland? We may have indeed seen the last of Andreas Lilja, just as we hoped as he lifted the Cup in June. Dave at GC mentioned this one, and with Babcock himself saying that Ericsson is basically assured a spot, Lilja is basically assured to be gone (and even then, the Wings will still have nine and need to deal/waive another D, so Lebda may yet be traded as I suggested).

I didn't expect Lilja to be dealt because the Wings just signed him, but on the other hand, if Lilja knew the score, as you have to think he did, he knows his chances of winning a Top 6 job in Detroit is going to be very tough. He watched Meech and Ericsson excel with big minutes during the injury shitstorm, and he watched them get bigger minutes than him as well. So he signs with Detroit on the hope he can win himself a job, and worst case scenario he gets dealt. Likely to a contender - I doubt a rebuilding team is going to spend draft picks to get a 30 something veteran who doesn't provide offense. More likely an EC contender looking to add a cheap, experienced minute eater. And as much shit as we give Lilja, I can't think of a team in the hunt who wouldn't mind adding him for a 4th rounder.

I'm pretty much going to be winding things down for the summer once I run out of things to say, which should be, I donno, tomorrow or so. Not ruling out random thoughts over the summer, but things should be pretty quiet pretty soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fiesta Redwingcana Continues: Onomastics, Numerology, and More

First of all, Matt at On The Wings has a frigging dissertation up on Hossa and the impact on the roster. He nails it and I agree with almost everything he says (except for a slight Kopecky dig - I love Kopy). His quote of the day is also spot on. Was going to do that myself but he beat me to it. Strong work Matt. Gorilla Crouch, Behind the Jersey, and Abel to Yzerman are all over this shit. The A2Y 19 are buzzing and coming up with some real gems.

So much time, so little to discuss! Strike that, reverse it.

First things first: I'm reading a lot about how much of a genius Holland is. Make no mistake, I think Holland is a genius and I will never say a bad thing about him (maybe I shouldn't say that kind of thing in the Google era...). But let's be real about who made this entire thing happen: it was Marian Hossa. Holland thought Hossa was too rich for the Wings' blood and went to bed. Hossa called him the next morning and offered a one year deal.

Hossa wanted a certain number. Holland was uncomfortable with giving him more than Nick. Hossa bent over backwards to get to Nick's salary. Hossa wanted to come here. That's why I love him. That's why before ever seeing him lace it up, I love him to death. He wanted to be here so bad he practically had to convince Holland to let him come. Undoubtedly he had to put a gun to Rich Winter's head with the amount of money he left on the table.

Moving on. I'm a number afficionado. I love them. I love discussing them. Couldn't tell you why. But I do. Hossa's likely going to be #81, as many around the blogodrome have supposed. Could be some other possibilities - #8, #78, #17, #36. Ugh, though - I hate goalie numbers for skaters. I'm looking at you Samuelsson. (Gotten too used to Draper's #33 to care.) But I would love #81. That's a great number for Hossa. Big numbers can be sort of blocky looking, but big numbers ending in 1 are sleeker and more fitting for skilled players. #91, #71, #61, #51... good company. As Malik said somewhere, it would also be cool to see Slovaks with consecutive numbers. (btw, I also love #82 for Kopecky - big numbers are great for big/physical players. Holmstrom and Franzen are further examples.)

Moving on to onomastics - the study of names and nomenclature. God, the Wings blogotron is dorky and I love that. BehindTheName is a great resource and I'm astounded to find others enjoy it as much as me. Baroque's onomastic etymological research must be credited with two fantastic nicknames for Hossa: Mars, and God of War. "Mars Hossa" just rolls of the tongue. I love it as much as Wally (which is catching on, as Baroque notes! Strong work, YIG commenters!) Certainly better than Fiesta Redwingcana, which is a mouthful and also stolen (or shall we say, adapted).

Back to Holland. While we can't credit him too much for signing Hossa, we can credit him for fitting everyone under the cap... once it happens. On his radio interview at The Fan 590, he sounded confident and at ease about Wally, though he just mentioned him briefly. Bruce MacLeod (who btw also has a great bit about Hossa as a person) has made it seem like Wally's no big deal. Maybe I've been overestimating his dollar-value. But then again I'm a respected GM in the NHL. I successfully piloted the Red Wings to consecutive Stanley Cup Championships in NHL 95 for the Sega Genesis. Also, look at this goalie I drew!

Moving on. Sundin. Make no mistake about it: Hossa's better. I was talking about Sundin as the ideal for the Wings because I, like many, didn't even think of Hossa as a remote possibility. Hossa, if he's at his very best, is a bigger offensive contributor than Sundin, and is better defensively, less likely to break down or have an injury, and he can possibly come back long term. That's maybe the best thing about it. Holland wants to try to keep Hossa long term. At first I thought this was just a full year rental (I was still very happy) but Holland has said he's going to try to make it happen. Now let's not get our hopes up because even before Hossa it was looking tough for the Wings to keep it together in 09-10. But now Hossa gives you a bargaining chip when you go to Z and Mule. Dynasty indeed. Shit, my hopes are already up. Dammit.

Lines. Some people are happy because Hossa's a winger and that lets you keep Fil at center. Personally, I would have preferred a center, because the Wings have the offensive depth to roll three lines. I was dreaming of Z, Sundin, and Fil down the middle. But I'll live. Here's my first guess, with Samulesson on the team:


Kopy's a natural center and Babcock likes him there. He started last year centering the fourth line. He had a bad start but his confidence grew, with injuries he saw time at net-front on the Wings' PP and acquitted himself well. So I like him there. If you trade Sammy then maybe you put Kopy on the 4th line and put Leino at center there. Not sure if he's ready, but you can try. Cleary is actually a natural center so you could do that too. See why I wanted a center? Kopy and Cleary maybe aren't thought of as offensive players but they've got it in them.

Okay, how about this craziness:


I don't mean to say the Wally line is the third line, that's just the order I wrote them in. Hossa + Kopy gives you the Slovak connection. Hudler is Czech, so it's like old school Czechoslovakia. Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible languages, so it works. Also the line has a good mix - playmaker, banger, scorer. Then the Wally-Mule line is a big physical line, very solid defensively. And then you have the Circus. It's like you have a #1 line, a #1a line, and a #1b line. Spread the wealth. Okay, okay, maybe you spread the wealth too thin with that one. But actually I really like that lineup.

Line possibilities are endless. Basically write down the nine names up there, throw in Sammy and Leino, jumble them in bag. Babcock could do that 15 minutes before every game and we'll run away with the west.

-I am freaking out
-since this is better than Sundin... do I have to light myself on fire?
-all the credit for this must go to Hossa. He wanted to be a Wing, and bad.
-I like #81 for Mars.
-it's time to man up, pete. light yourself on fire, dammit.
-golly, the consternation at PensBlog is hilarious.
-there's a word i'm looking for, starts with an 's' ends with 'tunned'. it's on the tip of my tongue.
-it's not every day you win two cups in one summer.

Fiesta Redwingcana!?!?

I don't know what to say. Whoa. I'm resisting the urge to type in all caps.

Sources tell TSN that free agent Hossa has signed a one-year, $7.4 million deal with the Red Wings.

The $7.4 million that Hossa will earn next season, is the most Detroit would pay anyone - even an unrestricted free agent. The Red Wings were insistent that no one earn more money than six-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.

The biggest question is, what does this do to Wally. But that shit is depressing. Let's focus on the lines the Wings can roll right now.

Franzen-Filppula-Hossa (!!!)

Trade Samuelsson. 1.2M off the cap. Trading Lebda drops another .6. There's 2M in breathing room right there. Before I wanted to trade these guys to make way for the kids. Now I'm thinking only about keeping Wally. Waive or trade Quincey if it comes to it.

But holy shit.

Holy shit.

We got Hossa.

Who's got matches?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Okay, So, Maybe Not

Sources tell TSN as many as four teams have tablde offers for the 37 year old, including one undisclosed team - believed to be the Vancouver Canucks - that has offered a whopping $10 million per year on a multi-year contract.
Uh. So, Rolston, yeah?

Except that now with Stuart's 3.75 over the next four years, probably somewhere around 3 million over the next couple for Filppula... I can't see how the Wings can give Rolston more than a year. Not that a one-year deal is outside the realm of possibility. But at 35 he could easily get a two or three year deal, especially for a guy as injury-free and dependable as him. Check out MacLeod:
It's interesting that general manager Ken Holland specified that he's looking for a forward to sign "short-term." I'm wondering if that means that someone like Brian Rolston isn't coming to Detroit then because he'd be someone who signs for multiple years.


Reports are that Rolston had narrowed his choices to Detroit and the Rangers, but it's likely he's looking for and will get a multiple-year deal.
Seems more and more like the Wings are basically done with FA. I'll turn my attention now to Naslund. But the Wings have plenty of forwards stomping at the bit, not really any different from their blueline.

And what I said about trading Lebda earlier goes double now. Even after assigning Ericsson, the Wings have nine D:


I don't think Lilja or Chelios get moved - why sign them? Quincey neither, he could develop into a very solid defensive d-man. I think Lebda is the easiest to trade and the least valuable at this point. Meech can potentially be a PP specialist for them, Lebda will never be an offensive producer. Yes he is fast, I understand that. Kris Draper is also fast, despite which he is an offensive black hole (chin notwithstanding). MacLeod is talking about Quincey being in GR next year but Quincey needs to clear waivers and the Wings aren't a team that likes to give talent away. Yes they lost Matt Ellis on waivers but that was only after giving him a shot in the NHL.

If I come across as disappointed with the Stuart signing, I'm not - rather, I've been assuming we wouldn't sign him, and now that we have, I wonder - why Lilja? Chelios gives you the veteran stopgap and you can go with Ericsson and Meech on a rotation. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. The Wings strategy is and always has been: bring them back, bring them all back, forever, until they die. We've seen it with Maltby, Draper, Osgood, Hasek, Chelios, now Lilja. The Wings like their veteran depth and I must say I feel a bit silly for thinking they'd go in a different direction.

The biggest question now is: Where's Wally!?

Stunned: Stuart Back... with NTC

Wow. I did not expect this at all.

3.75M, 4 years.

Okay, so, have fun in Grand Rapids next year, Jonathon Ericsson.

Edit: If my mental math is correct this leaves the Wings with about 5.5M to play with. May be too little for Sundin, but then again he made 5.5 last year, so maybe not. Also surprised that Kenny thinks 3.75 over 4 years won't make life difficult when it comes to re-signing Hank and Mule. But then again, he's the best GM in the NHL, and who the fuck am I.

Edit: Wow, and this:
The deal also included a no-trade clause in the first two season and a limited no-trade clause in the last two years of the contract.
Did not see that coming.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Road to Repeat: Christmas Eve

...or Nothing Eve, depending. Okay, Kenny, here it is. This is your Stanley Cup winning roster:




Look at those three frigging scoring lines. Holy shit. How can that team not win a cup. Well, injuries, that's how. But that's true any year.

The more I think about Rolston the more I like him. Wasn't interested in Minnesota, despite being a great hockey environment. And he seems determined to hit UFA despite what must be piles and piles of cash being thrown at him by Tampa right now. It almost seems like he has someone in mind. Someone guaranteed to give him his best shot at winning. Also it's his hometown. Have you figured it out yet?

That Rolston would want to come here doesn't make me like him better as player, but it does make me think he'll be more willing to take less than Sundin. Er, more willing than Sundin, that is. Mats is still my favorite at this point. But you can't go wrong. Hmm, if Rolston takes a cut... could you imagine? Maybe... 3.5 for Rolston and 5 for Sundin? Maaaybe? In a strange, terrible world? Okay, okay, I'll just take one.

Notice your boy Mikael Samuelsson still has a spot on my dream roster. This is before we trade him to make room for Leino/Helm. I'm not banking on that because Babcock is enamored with him, strangely. My problem with Samuelsson is similar to Lebda - he's not bad, he's not a liability the way Lang and Williams were and Lilja is (sometimes). It's just that he is a checking line player who is put in a scoring line situation. Yes he has the ability to break out from time to time but it's time to stop thinking of him as "a streaky player" and start thinking of him as a checking line guy who very occasionally pots a couple. Unfortunately he had one of those streaks the instant he got here, and Babcock hasn't been able to shake the notion of him as a scorer since.

The logic for trading him works the same as Lebda as well - his value couldn't be higher and you make room for the kids. Remember the last time an NHL team repeated? I believe you know the team. I believe you also are familiar with a trade they made the offseason between. It was their starting goalie in fact, also Conn Smythe winner. I am not talking about dismantling a Cup winning team. I'm not even talking about dealing Zetterberg or Osgood. Lebda and Sammy are fringe players, and the Wings should capitalize on their value given the kids they have in the system. Last time I'll say it. Well, no, it's not, but let's pretend it is.

Let's get back to Sundin. I don't know if I've made this clear: sign him. Do it. Hey Kenny, I have advice for you: sign Sundin dammit. Here's what you should do: instead of signing not Sundin, you know who you should sign? Sundin. That's who. Let me repeat: sign Sundin.

Get Lidstrom on a plane. Z and Kronner too. Hell, the whole Swedish contingent. On second thought, leave Lilja and Samuelsson home. Try not to bring them up. Send the Captain and Gordie while you're at it.

This is how it should go down: July 1, 12:00PM, Yzerman and Lidstrom ring Sundin's doorbell (it may be the middle of the night in Sweden or something - this doesn't matter). Yzerman just says "Six point five million." Then, he and Lidstrom raise their ring-laden right hands, point to them with their lefts, raise their eyebrows suggestively and nod. I can't imagine that this wouldn't be enough to seal the deal. Additionally, Emma Andersson may need to be brought in. I don't know how Z will feel about that, but look Hank - it's all about the team.

Hey Kenny, here's something else, in addition: sign Sundin. Do it. DO IT.

Sign him. Have I made this clear? I'm not sure I have. What I want you to do is sign Mats Sundin. Big, bald, 200+ pound Swede, 70 points a year guaranteed, normally wears 13 but that's going to change. I'm thinking 15 or 17 maybe. 8 wouldn't look too bad. Hey Kenny: fucking sign Sundin. Do it.

What about Wally? I've backed off the ledge concerning our Finnish friend. There are few things that support a non-suicidal position. First of all, there are a number of RFAs ahead of Filppula in terms of point totals last year, so even if the top one or two RFAs (point-wise) get offer sheets, Wally shouldn't be touched.

And if he is? A scenario occurred to me that didn't before: say he gets something ridiculous like 4.5 or 5 over 5 or 6 years. The Wings can't afford to have Fil at that salary and re-sign Z and Franzen, it's just a fact. But they might match anyway. The Wings have this one-year window and especially if their offseason acquisition is Rolston they'll have the room for Wally - this year. The year after they'll be up against the cap, but then you can trade somebody, or maybe someone will suddenly suck and you buy them out. But there's no rule that says the Wings can't get themselves into a little trouble as long as they're sure they can extricate themselves. And as a bonus possibility, the cap goes up wildly again and it all fits after all.

Hey Kenny: you know what I'm gonna say.

-Do I need to recap this? Sign Sundin.
-Samuelsson is a very good checking line player. Too bad we have plenty of those. Need scoring depth. Sorry Sammy. Peace.
-Wally is still my biggest concern, but I am no longer tortured by nightmares worse than staring into the black heart of the devil collapsing in on itself while the four horsemen of the apocalypse fornicate on the plains of Armageddon. What I'm trying to say is, I'm not that worried any more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Road to Repeat: Making Room on the Blueline

Helene St. James is a pretty smart writer. Her Free Agency Preview over at the Freep assures us that indeed, Sundin is the Wings' number one target, the ideal if they can get him, although that's far from a certainty. She also points out that the Wings are willing to go ahead with what they've got on the blueline, as I think they should.
...the Wings are well set on defense. Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Kronwall are under contract, as are Derek Meech and Brett Lebda. Unrestricted free agents Chris Chelios and Andreas Lilja both are expected to be re-signed, as are restricted free agents Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey. If the Wings sign everyone they want to on defense, they'd have to move one guy just to get down to eight bodies.
Move one guy indeed. And who moves? The "easy" guy to move is Jonathon Ericsson, and by move I mean send to Grand Rapids. It's easy in the sense that he doesn't have to clear waivers and you don't give up any commodities that way. It's really not easy in the sense that Ericsson may be the most talented defenseman outside of the Big 3 on the Wings' roster, if not the most polished or experienced.

I fully expect the Wings to go to camp with 9 D, ten if Stuart signs (more unlikely every day, imho - if he makes it to July 1, some Brian-Campbell-Sweepstakes-Loser is going to overpay for him). There's no sense in making any moves now, now when everybody thinks they can go out and fill their holes on FA. And if the Wings do go to camp, there's a possibility that Ericsson isn't one of the six best D in camp, in which case it is indeed easy to send him down.

But I expect Ericsson to win a job on the final pair in camp, and eventually work his way up to the #4 slot (the Wings will probably start out with Lilja at #4 - not exciting, but not terrible either). That leaves the Wings with one too many D as St. James points out. So who goes?

It's not Lilja or Chelios - the Wings value veteran depth way too much and it would be mind-boggling to trade a guy who you just re-signed. And obviously it's not one of the Top 3. So that leaves Lebda, Meech, and Quincey.

Another possibility is to waive Quincey, who had the worst season of any of them least year. However, I think it was a down-year for Quincey and there's no sense in getting rid of a player when his value is lowest. He will not make it through waivers - at this point, very few teams wouldn't take a flier on a Red Wing cast-off.

I think the answer is to trade Brett Lebda. There are two reasons: one, his trade value is highest among those three; and two, his value to the club in future years is lowest of the three. I'll start with the second one. Lebda is a UFA in two years and what are the odds he returns? Not good with this depth. Furthermore, although some people think of Lebda as an offensive defenseman, he really isn't. He's just small and fast. He's not capable of manning the point on the PP as he has proved. And while his speed does occasionally open up things and lead to the odd goal, a quick look at his stats will tell you that doesn't happen too often.

And he's not a bruiser either. He's competent along the boards and certainly he is sound positionally. He's not bad in any sense - he just doesn't offer anything. He doesn't scare anyone the way Kronwall scares opposing forwards or Lidstrom scares opposing D. He's a solid #6 NHL D-man, but the Wings are used to having what we call depth - Hall of Famers riding the bench, could-be superstars on second and third lines.

And direct comparison to Derek Meech should seal the deal. Meech is basically a Lebda clone except that he's not as fast, but can actually move the puck and handle the PP quite well. When Meech was playing regularly due to the injury plague, he, not Lebda or Lilja or Ericsson, was the Wings' #1 D, playing in all situations. After Babcock saw what he could do, Meech was working the PP every time he was on the roster, even when he was playing forward at even strength. And I think it's time to give the kid a shot.

So you deal Lebda. What do you get back? I couldn't say what his value is but I know it's higher now than it's likely ever to be. He's young and cheap - perfect for any rebuilding team, but relative to his youth he's got a ton of experience. Not only has he played a lot of games and a lot of playoff games, but he's been tutored by Chris Chelios, one of the greatest to ever lace them up. He's got that Red Wing pedigree that ought to have any team interested. And any team, especially in the east, has got to look at his speed and maybe hold out the hope that he could develop into more of an offensive threat. I don't think it's likely, but it is possible.

Meech and Quincey are way too unproven to draw much in return. Lebda, however, fresh off of a Cup, could bring in (relatively) a lot right now. Well, not right now, actually, but rather in training camp. Like I said above, every team thinks they have a shot at Brian Campbell or whoever and isn't going to offer anything for Lebda. But in training camp? Right around the time Jonathon Ericsson is earning a job, and the Wings are realizing they have more depth than they can handle, a number of team around the league are going to realize they have way, way too little. That's when you strike. I can see it now, whether it's Cliff Fletcher, Don Waddell, Jay Feaster, or whoever.

Kenny won't put Lebda on the block, no no, he'll talk about sending Ericsson down despite his fantastic training camp. "We like to have a potential Calder-winner in the AHL at every position," he'll say. "We're thinking about sending Filppula down too. Just to get some seasoning."

His phone will be ringing off the hook.

FLETCHER: Listen Kenny, you gotta help me out. I need to rebuild, but without actually rebuilding. My money's all tied up in bought out contracts. I need someone cheap, someone young, but someone who's got experience, and speed to boot.

HOLLAND: Well I suppose we have Brett Lebda, if that's what you're looking for.

FLETCHER: That is exactly what I'm looking for.

HOLLAND: I don't know... we were planning on having him as our waterboy. We like depth, you see.

FLETCHER: Kenny, this isn't fair. You have 17 NHL defensemen. I've got 3. My number four guy is forward, my number five guy is the backup goalie, my number six was the A/V coordinator for the Manitoba Moose last season. You gotta help me out.

HOLLAND: Weeeell, I'll see what I can do...

The one potential downside is it leaves the Wings a little green on the blueline, but hey, that's what the deadline is for. Whatever draft pick(s) you get for Lebda (I'm thinking he's worth a 4th maybe?) you can immediately turn around and deal for veteran help in February. Someone like Brad Stuart. Hell, maybe Brad Stuart himself. It worked pretty well the first time. He could just split his time every year, spending the fall and winter in Cali with his family, then come aboard every spring for a playoff run. I could get used to that.

-Brett Lebda is a solid NHL defenseman, by no means a liability
-however, his trade value is high and he has little future with Red Wings
-I have stopped making threats of violence against others/myself. Positive!
-hey kenny: sign sundin. do it fucker.
-Derek Meech is ready for a full-time job, and should be the Wings #4 D on the PP
-Quincey will likely ride the pines all year like Meech did this past season
-fuck the leafs

Friday, June 27, 2008

Road to Repeat: Keep Wally

Commenter Andrew at A2Y made a novel insight in the comments to the Chief's insane sign-Tucker post: Valtteri is Finnish for Walter. Flip, Fil, Val - they're all solid nicknames for Filppula and I endorse them. Me, I'm going with Wally from here on out. Don't try to stop me.

We've all got our eye on a UFA. I've got Sundin, Dave at GC's going for Rolston, the Chief as mentioned above is disturbingly in favor of Tucker. But let's get our priorities straight here. Acquiring a UFA forward is gravy at this point - this team is already Stanley Cup capable. You know what would make it significantly less Cup-capable? Losing a major cog like Wally. The, uh, YIG 6 beat me to the chase on that one. They're a pretty savvy group.

Having Wally poached by Kevin Lowe or whatever other douchebag would be a serious blow to the Wings, and to my mental health. It would be the 34.7 of Free Agency. Especially if it came on the heels of some pick-up like Sundin or Rolston that had us thinking repeat. BAM. 4.5M, 5 years. Unmatchable. Yes, Kenny has said he will match anything. But I agree with commenter Stytzer when he said that was more likely for scaring off potential poachers than true, in the comments of the Sundin post.

The fact is the Wings have their limits. Zetterberg and Franzen demand that. Yes Z has said he's not looking to break the bank and is willing to take a pay cut. He has said he wants to retire a Wing. But we don't know that about Franzen and even with a pay cut Z is going to command tremendous dollarage. I suggested 2.5M for Fil, that's a lowball estimate. Some of you said you thought it would be closer to 3M. I think that's warmer. And if Kenny can convince Wally to take his hair cut then it could be right in Dan Cleary's area.

But we don't know Wally is available for a hometown discount. Holland wanted to wrap him up during the season, but Wally's agent said no negotiations until the end of the year. Hardball. Well the season ended a a couple weeks ago and we've still heard nothing about an extension. Mike Richards just got 5M/year from Philly, a comparable player who put up 53 pts. Wally put up 36, so let's say that sets his value at 3.5M. How inconceivable is it that some team that's desperate for young talent and attention and is insanely reckless (Tampa Bay? Cough?) overpays for Wally by a measley million dollars? I don't think the Wings could match 4.5.

And Wally may not just not want a pay cut - he may want out. There's nothing to indicate that of course, I'm just going with reckless speculation at this point. But he's won his Cup. What is there left for him to do? Make mad money and be the stud on his own team, that's what. And how soon do you think either of those is going to happen in Detroit, with Wally stuck behind Z and Dats? Not for a while, I'd wager.

What if it happened? What if the unthinkable occurred? The bright side is the Wings would be up a bucketload of draft picks, which they could immediately turn around and trade for help. If the Wings did sign Sundin that would ease the pain. Rolston would make even more sense at that point since the Wings would have more room for a long-term contract without Wally's. Conceivably, without Flip's salary, the Wings could bring both in. Haven't done the math, just guessing at this point.

Ville Leino might also help ease the pain. I'm actually not expecting the Finnish C/RW to make the team due to the Wings' outstanding depth. In which case he'll go back to Finland and try his luck with a different squad next year, I'd guess. But without Filppula there'd be a need for a scorer like him.

But Leino may also give us a hint that we shouldn't be too worried - Wally was key in signing the Finn in the first place. As a countryman, Val sat down with Leino and told him to put on the Winged Wheel. That tells me Wally wasn't thinking of bolting. But I'm not convinced. Minds change, especially with money. And if we actually make it to July 1 without locking up Wally-o? I'll be under my bed until it's over. And if he's poached? I will fucking puke blood. Draft picks or no.

-Wally is the best name, like, ever
-I have turned to wanton fear-mongering
-i'm scared. someone hold me
-GMs who are potentially thinking of poaching Wally: I will murder your family.
-did anybody see that discovery channel commercial? boom de yada, boom de yada... it cheers me up in an otherwise grim time.
-pleeeeeeease come back Wally

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fifty-Six Point Seven

Make that 8.5M we can offer for Sundin. TSN has it.

If you're not interested in reading the comments on the TSN page, let me distill them for you:

Why the fuck was there a lockout?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Road to Repeat: Sign Sundin

There is no move the Wings could make that would better nail down a Stanley Cup victory than bringing Mats Sundin aboard. Dave at Gorilla Crouch has talked about this, and he rightly suggests that Sundin would be the ideal pick-up. Not only is Sundin probably looking for a one-year deal (given that he considers retirement after every season these days) but he is right in the Wings' price range. Actually, everyone is the Wings' price range. I keep reading all over the place about how the Wings could only spend ~5M on Sundin. I don't think that's true, at least if the Wings don't re-sign Brad Stuart and go with Jimmy Howard as the #2 netminder, which I think are both probable.

To sort it all out, let's consult the handy cap graph. Here is the Wings' current cap situation, assuming, as has been widely reported, a 56M cap, and taking a reasonable guess at what Ville Leino's salary would be if he makes the big club.

(full size chart)

Notice the Wings have a whopping $15M+ to work with. This is for a couple of reasons; one, the Wings were already under the cap by a significant amount. Two, Kris Draper and Nick Lidstrom's salaries went down while Zetterberg and Franzen continue to be dramatically underpaid. Finally the cap apparently will jump nearly 6M this season (it was 50.3M this past year.) Now, around the middle of the season I heard 53M (some article linked at Slapshots, don't recall which), then at the end of the year everyone started saying 56. So, I don't know how trustworthy 56 really is, but everyone is saying it. So if we assume that...

... and we assume a few other things: measly salaries for Chris Chelios, Andreas Lilja, and Darren McCarty, who figure to be part-time/role players, and peanuts as well for Kyle Quincey and Jimmy Howard, who are unproven. I also assume the Wings will at least start the season with Helm, Leino, and Ericsson in Grand Rapids (I don't think they will necessarily, but in order to have any of them on the big club, trades will have to be made, and I want to just paint a relatively simple picture here.) Finally, I have assumed below that Val Filppula will get 2.5M, which is maybe a little high but I'm playing it safe by assuming the upper bound on what he might get paid.

So how much does that leave for Mats Sundin, assuming the Wings want a 2M cushion as usual? It leaves eight million frigging dollars.

(full size chart)

I don't think Sundin deserves, or that any team will give him, 7.972M, I'm just proving a point. Look at the bottom - the Wings have 2M to spare still. I don't think any of the numbers for the other guys are lowballed, at least not by much. Now, to be fair, I am assuming the Wings don't bring back Stuart or sign a FA goalie. But really, what goalie is out there for much more than 900K who the Wings would be seriously interested in? Kolzig had a bad year by all accounts and wouldn't merit more than 2M, at the very most. And Stuart is a goner in my opinion. The Wings just simply can't devote any money to 09-10 and beyond without knowing how much the cap will go up that year. The cap's huge jump this year has been predicated on the strength of the Canadian dollar versus the American. Will it stay that way? I'm no economist, and I don't think Ken Holland is either.

So my point here is if the Wings make Sundin their only FA acquisition they can spend as much as I think any other team would be willing to. Sundin made 5.5M and I doubt he'll be looking for much of a raise at his age. The Wings could easily give him, say, 6M and 1M in playoff bonuses (which could potentially be deferred to next year if it's needed). I doubt any team could boast that kind of pay as well as a good shot to win the Stanley Cup. Throw in Little Sweden and the chance to not play against the team he has been so loyal to, and I don't see how Detroit isn't the best bet for Sundin.

And again, Sundin is the best bet for Detroit. He's probably the only player of his caliber looking for just a one-year deal right now. And he doesn't just give the Wings one more good offensive player, he makes them capable of rolling three scoring lines. Check it out:


If Sammy goes through one of his cold streaks, or gets traded as I hope, Leino could step in, or Kopecky could, playing Holmstrom to Fil's Zetterberg and Huds's Datsyuk. Now you have arguably the best line in hockey as your #1, a potential #1 line as your #2, and a potential #2 line as your #3, with a darn good checking line for your #4. And that's not even all Sundin brings. To me, the biggest thing he offers is this: hunger.

The Wings have just won a Cup and the hardest two things about repeating are: keeping a great team together given the cap (see: Pittsburgh's apparent loss of Malone, Roberts, and Hossa) and keeping players hungry. The Wings have no problem with the former, but will suffer with the latter. Gone is the Dallas-Drake-has-never-won-it story. Gone is the starvation for that first Cup among many of the young stars like Zetterberg, Kronwall, Filppula, Cleary, and Franzen.

Now, the Wings are a veteran team and so I like their odds of staying motivated. A this-could-be-Cheli's-last-season storyline would help as well, not that I'm hoping for that. But nothing would help more than bringing aboard a Hall of Famer who is late in his career and has never won. Not only will Sundin be individually motivated-as-hell (see: Drake's playoffs), but the team can rally around him.

Given all of this, I'm going to go out on a sensationalist limb here and say barring an injury shitstorm from hell, if Sundin signs here, the Wings will absolutely win the Cup and demolish everyone in their path.

-I think people are selling the Wings' cap space short
-the Wings can definitely afford to pay Sundin, unless he's looking for a HUGE raise, which would be undeserved by anyone's standard
-Sundin would keep the Wings from dreaded complacency
-wow, Pittsburgh is getting shit on by its UFAs, eh?
-if Sundin signs, I will be so happy I will light myself on fire

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wrapping Up the YIG Awards

I want to start talking about free agency and trades and shit, but I haven't finished those playoffs awards I started a while back. So let's just wrap those up real quick.

WTF!? Award
Goes to player who cowboyed up the most in the postseason, relative to their regular season performance. Nominees: Dallas Drake, Jiri Hudler, Val Filppula.

Winner: Hudler
Filppula had a strong regular season, but at times was electric in the playoffs (much like last year). To boot, he did it all on a pretty seriously banged up knee. The complaint about Fil though is that he didn't really show up when he was most needed, namely Johan Franzen's absence. Drake is a very close second, as he went from a fourth line minute eater to a third line energy guy extraordinaire, gaining notoriety especially for his vicious hits. Mike Babcock's infamous quote said it best: "Dally loves running defensemen and I love watching him run defensemen." But I've got to give it to Hudler.

The Oompa Loompa had a disappointing start to the season when he was paired mostly with Fil and Sammy or with Z and Sammy. After putting up fantastic numbers in extremely limited time last season, Hoodlum was expected to jump up the second line and completely failed to do so. As the season went on Babcock moved him to the third and fourth lines, although importantly kept him on the second power play unit. When the playoffs arrived, Hudler stayed right there, but his production jacked up - he was the catalyst on the Wings' potent second PP unit (Franzen got a lot of credit, but he was more of a finisher rather than starter) and maybe more importantly, he was the playmaker on the Wings' critical fourth line. His puck control led to goals small in number but huge in clutchness, as well as keeping the Wings deep in the opposing zone while teamed with Mac and Helmer. Strong work Jiri.

Baddest Ass Beard Award
Self explanatory. Nominees: Dan Cleary, Kris Draper, Henrik Zetterberg.

Winner: Draper
Z had a strong showing but didn't really compare to Cleary and Draper's pirate beards. If I had handed this one out last year it would have gone to Buckets for his red monstrosity, but this year his jaw surgery clearly had him playing catch-up. Furthermore, Kris "Chuck Norris" Draper (not to be confused with Norris Nick) sealed the deal by actually scoring a goal with his beard, and also refusing to shave it off when his chin required stitches. Truly, a god amongst beards. Pavel Datsyuk deserves honorable mention for actually managing to pull off a decent goatee for the first time.

Manliest Motherfucker Award
Goes to the motherfucker who went most balls out in the playoffs. Nominees: Dallas Drake, Val Filppula, Pavel Datsyuk. Popular choice nominee: Johan Franzen.

Winner: Tomas Holmstrom
I know I didn't nominate Holmstrom, but a dude can change his mind, alright? Filppula deserves mad credit for playing on a bum knee and Drake does as well for the viciousness of his hits (as does Kronner). I was originally going to give the award to mah boy Datsyuk for the way he totally blew up physically and manhandled the opposition (particularly the renowned bitch-ass, Gary Roberts. What would he do, anyway? Be a bitch, that's what.) Commenters demanded Johan Franzen, and indeed, playing with a brain injury is pretty frigging balls out. I didn't originally think of Mule because he actually didn't play once they found out about the injury, and he was kept out for a very long time (not that it was his fault). But in retrospect, even after his subdural hematoma had healed it takes serious balls to put your noggin out there again. Just ask Jason Williams, who completely wilted after taking a concussion early last year. The Wings ended up trading him because he became so averse to physical play even after recovering.

But then I found out Tomas Holmstrom, who on an average day takes a vicious beating, did his usual job while suffering from not only knee and hamstring issues but also a frigging sports hernia that he got before the playoffs even began. The abuse Homer takes in front of the net ought to merit him at least a nomination in this category anyway, although I'm ashamed to admit I didn't even think of it. Holmstrom is kind of like Nick Lidstrom (this is the only time the two will ever be compared, ever) in that he does his job so regularly and completely and so rarely falters that you just expect it and forget to praise him for it.

But then add the injuries he was dealing with already? Bingo. There's your Manliest Motherfucker. Would have won the award last year too, btw, had I handed it out. Remember 13 stitches, and then back the next period? Honorable mention goes to Ryan Malone, who was a frigging warrior for going out there with twenty broken noses or whatever. It's shitty that the Wings will probably be playing him 8 times a season next year with the BJs, but then again it will be fun to watching Pavs upend his ass 8 times a year.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Be Cool, Stay In School

Well the second day of the draft is well underway and a trend is developing among Wings' Day 2 picks: collegians. College players get four years to develop meaning they can be stashed longer than junior players or Europeans (well, except Russians, who can be kept indefinitely as of right now, but that's a whole other can of worms). The Wings organization is loaded and they have no immediate needs either on their pro-roster or in terms of near-to-pro prospects. Furthermore, they're very near the 50-man roster limit so keeping kids in college 4 years before signing them and thus adding them to the roster gives the Wings some breathing room and time to sort out their prospects. The Wings took Max Nicastro, D, Boston U. (3rd round); Gustav Nyquist, C, Maine (4th round); and Julian Cayer, C, Clarkson (5th round). Red Wings Central is updating with quick mini-analyses on each prospect as the draft unfolds, and Dave at Gorilla Crouch is also providing coverage.

But what boggles my noggin a bit is the Wings' first round pick, Thomas McCollum, who Central Scouting had as the number 1 North American Goaltender, ISS had as the Number 2 overall goaltender, and TSN had as the Number 3 overall goaltender. Now, it's true that the Wings are shallower at goal than any other position, but I'm just wondering where they're going to put McCollum. Daniel Larsson is slated to start in GR this year and Jimmy Howard should be joining the Wings in the NHL. McCollum has one year of junior eligibility left, but after that then what? Will he and Larsson split time in Grand Rapids? If they're eating into each others' IT, that can only hamper their development. You would think the Wings would have gone for a college or European goaltender who the Wings could keep out of the AHL for longer. That being said you can't argue with just going for the best player available at the position of greatest need.

As for McCollum, the kid has got to be breathing a sigh of relief right now. I'm sure he thought he was a pretty good goaltender, and it must have been reassuring to hear ISS, CSB, and the various media telling him he was very good as well. But he couldn't have really know that he was actually a very good player until he got the Jim Nill seal of approval. That must have been nice to hear. I heard that Jim Nill doesn't discover which players are good - he decides, and God then makes it true.

Anyway, ultimately the Wings only need one of these guys to develop into a number 1 NHL netminder, something I was confident would happen just going with Howard and Larsson. McCollum gives the Wings an even stronger possibility of that. Down the line the Wings could very well be able to trade one of these guys if the Wings get themselves into a Giguere-Bryzgalov or Nabokov-Toskala situation. And let's face it, the Wings could have drafted Pierre McGuire with their pick and would still be set to maintain the Dynasty for a long time to come.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Montreal!? Wha!?

Come on Mats. If you are going to leave the Leafs after refusing to do so a couple of months ago, to their great detriment, you're not really going to go to Montreal are you? You'd just have to play your old team over and over again, and do you really want that? And some 20 year old kid in net?

Everyone with a brain knows Detroit is your ideal landing spot, should you leave the Leafs. Different conference from your Leafs, but not geographically far. Novi of course, would be your home. And a shot at the Cup? Pshh. If the Wings grab Sundin forget about it. Number 12, locked up, bam. The Wings' offense would be ridiculous. It would be ridonkulous. I'm willing to say, in fact, that it would be ricountchoculous. What I'm trying to say is, it would be good.

As has been said, a lot, the Wings have a one-year window to take on a big FA before Z and Franzen's contracts are up and the Wings' cap number will rise dramatically. Again, Sundin is the ideal. If the cap really is going to hit 56M, the Wings could throw 6M at Sundin easily. I'll have charts later. They're around here somewhere.

Don't do it Mats. I've been resisting speculating about you because you in the Winged Wheel would be just waay too frigging cool and I've been sure you'd either return to TO or retire. But now this... this day may hold drama for the Wings yet. Or heartbreak. Or both.

Judgment Day!

...for teams that actually, you know, have work to do. Ahaha. Anyway, the Central is abuzz. The Preds dealt Mason to the Blues for a 4th-rounder. Strong move by the Preds, as it clears room for them to re-sign Dan Ellis, who stood on his head against Detroit in round 1. If Mason continues to be a bust for the Blues, however, I can't say how much sense it makes to pay $3M for a backup to Manny Legace. If he returns to the form that earned him that contract, however, the Blues could sport a pretty decent 1-2 goaltending punch. Risky move though.

As for the BJs? Rumors have them eyeing Ryan Malone, as well as a trade for Patrick Marleau. If they get both? A Nash-Marleau-Malone line? Yikes. That line would be... what's the word I'm looking for... legitimate. Throw in that Leclaire kid and we could be talking a strong bid for the 8th seed. Yowza.

The only prospect whose name I know is Stamkos but Bruce MacLeod has the nitty gritty on who should be available come pick #30. Bruce's hunch is the Wings trade down, however, much as they did a couple years ago when they moved their first round pick for two 2nds - they grabbed Cory Emmerton (RWC's #8 prospect) and the much-lamented Shawn Matthias. I'm trusting MacLeod on this one.

Really, the Wings having a first-round pick is just a sin. It's like the Penguins getting another hot-shot 18 year old skilled center. It's like the 2002 Red Wings getting another Hall of Famer. It's like Iwo getting another reason to bag on the Dive. What I'm trying to say here is we don't need it. Whoever we get is gravy. This team is already stocked to make a run next year and well after that. Let's just sit back, relax, and enjoy this.

Edit: Whoa! Should have finished perusing the blagotron before spouting my mouth off. Looks like Dave at GC's got all the information you could ever want, ever, about the draft today. Check it out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Okay, so my well-laid plans of keeping the posting up through my hellish finals week and then through my excitingly painful wisdom tooth extraction recovery may have been... dumb. But I'm rounding back into shape! I'll be wrapping up those awardy things I was talking about before and then maybe chat a bit about the cap and some intriguing fellows around the league.

In the meantime, I've been watching, you know, other sports, which I'm told do exist. For some reason I haven't been able to catch a single Tigers game all week, particularly disappointing since they apparently have finally located their asses vis-a-vis holes in the ground. So with no baseball I've been subsisting off of UEFA championship soccer.

Now I like the idea of soccer as much as anyone but I don't really follow the sport. There are a few things I do know: I'm pretty sure they play soccer year round and I think hockey needs that. They have hilariously delightful Scottish and/or Irish commentators (we're talking Lucky Charms level of accent here) and we need that kind of accent in hockey. Speaking of which, it tickles me when those silly Brits say things like "And Germany win!" instead of "And Germany wins!" you know? How great would it be, Ken Kal's hoarse voice shouting "And Detroit have won their 11th Stanley Cup Championship!"

Naah that would be dumb. This is America. Anyway, back to hockey. I can't stop reading PensBlog. At first I just read it when I couldn't find any more Detroit-angle articles or blog posts on the Wings' championship so I'd go to PensBlog to delight in their misery. But now I'm just hooked because they run a damn good blog. It's magically delicious. Possibly the best on the net, but I wouldn't know because I otherwise don't read non-Wings blogs (more of a time thing than anything else). I think they employ 10 or 20 bloggers because every other day they're bring aboard somebody new, and after all how the hell else could they put up those massive posts, rife with brilliant photoshoppery. Man, if only their team hadn't heartbreakingly lost the Stanley Cup. Hahaha. Ahhh. Man, that's going to be funny all summer.

Anyway, back to daily posting soon. Ish. Or something. No promises.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blackest Ace Award

I made up the Blackest Ace Award last year because I thought Jiri Hudler should have played and might have made the difference in the Anaheim series. This year, it doesn't make nearly as much sense. But nonetheless, I will present it to...

Jonathon Ericsson

He's number 52 there. Good number.

Few can argue with the benching of Aaron Downey or Justin Abdelkader; given how well the fourth line performed throughout the playoffs, Darren Helm in particular, it's hard to see how either could possibly have done better. Jonathon Ericsson probably was best left on the bench too - having only played 17 NHL games, all earlier in the year, Ericsson was about as green as you get (well, actually, not as green as Kyle Quincey or Darren Helm....) Even so, there were two points when I was extremely nervous, and in my panicky rage, I told myself that Ericsson ought to be sent in, namely after Game 4, Round 1, and after Game 5, Round 3.

I'm not a huge Brett Lebda fan, not because he's incompetent but just because he doesn't bring a lot to the table. He is solid defensively and only getting better in that respect as he matures and gains experience. He isn't overly physical, however, and he has little offense to contribute. So when things got rough and Lilja was already out of the lineup, I thought Babcock had little choice but to shake things up by inserting Ericsson. Babcock himself had said in a presser that he couldn't believe Ericsson wasn't playing, and had earlier in the year called him "an NHL defenseman".

He's a big fella. Skates, scores, fights. I'm pumped.

Now, the playoffs being now over and the Cup being won, I was obviously on crack. But Ericsson still merits discussion. Particularly, the question is, does he make the team next year? Babcock's clearly in love with him, and so am I. And let's face it, those are the two most important voices in the Red Wings organization. But Ericsson's got a few folks ahead of him. As of today (ie, prior to free agency) here's the Wings defensive depth chart:


Given the Wings organizational stance against having kids on the roster who aren't getting significant playing time, Ericsson will have to secure a Top 6 job to make the squad. Assuming Lilja doesn't come back, Ericsson is still number 9, stuck behind Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey because they can't be sent down to the AHL without clearing waivers. Mathematics tells me that means he has to move up three spots. Here's what Ken Holland has to say on the issue, courtesy of Bruce MacLeod:
General manager Ken Holland said this morning that the Red Wings will carry eight defensemen again next season. Holland said that if unrestricted free agents Brad Stuart and Andreas Lilja both sign with Detroit, the Red Wings will have "10 NHL defensemen." That figure includes the eight that Detroit had on its roster through this season -- Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Stuart, Lilja, Brett Lebda, Chris Chelios and Derek Meech. Holland also labeled prospects Kyle Quincey and Jonathan Ericsson as NHL defensemen...
Well that makes things pretty darn interesting. MacLeod goes on to guess that the Wings' outstanding depth and the Wings' tight budget means Stuart won't be back. And as much as I would be content to see Stuie return as the number 4 D-man, I wouldn't cry if he got replaced by Ericsson either. You see, to me Brad Stuart is a rich man's Andreas Lilja. Yes he has offense and moves the puck better than Lilja. Otherwise they're the same. Stuart gets caught out of position alot going for hits. He makes bonehead mistakes (the Crosby goal in game 3) and he wanders out of position in the offensive zone. I would always see him in Holmstrom territory and wonder who that forward was, then I realized it was Brad Stuart. The Wings like D to jump up, but only in an opportunistic sense - jump up when there's something "up". Otherwise hold the frigging line. Stuart didn't really ever catch on to that.

What the fuck are you DOING!? Blue LINE not blue ICE!

Now, with a team defense as good as the Wings' and a partner like Nik Kronwall, Stuart's errors likely will not be very noticeable, but his physicality and offensive contributions will be. But that being said, I would not put Stuart's value at more than 2M. I'm not saying that he needs to take a pay-cut to 2M to stay here, I'm saying he's not worth more than 2M in the first place. In March I wrote that I thought Stuart would leave in FA and that Ericsson would take the number 4 spot next to Kronner. I'm sticking with that. I thought Lebda would get traded because I didn't think the Wings would go with 8 defensemen, but apparently they are. So here's my guess for next year's D:


Chelios and Ericsson will likely rotate out with Meech and Quince. It's certainly a very green blueline but hey, that's what trade deadlines are for. If the Wings go into the season with this lineup, they're sure to pull the trigger on a Stuart-like deal in February. So all this having been said, yeah I see Ericsson in the lineup. 6-5, 220, scores, skates, hits, even fights. Oh, and one more note about Ericsson: I consider myself a number afficionado, and I have to say: 52? Gorgeous. Looks great on a big guy. Couldn't say why. It just does.

Tomorrow: WTF!? Award
Nominees: Jiri Hudler, Dallas Drake, Val Filppula

Monday, June 9, 2008

Děkuji, Dominik

As expected, Hasek called it quits Monday. As I talked about earlier, this paves the way for Jimmy Howard, and Kenny Holland sure makes it sound like that's what he's thinking. HockeyTown Todd has a pretty reasonable solution if the Wings decided to go for a one-year stopgap, though. Oh, or how about Curtis Joseph!?

And this guy has his own fashion line?

Drew Sharp suggests Dom's number be retired. It's not a... crazy thought - Hasek is undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and was a Stanley Cup champ for this team. He had a falling out with Buffalo, where he did most of his best work - six Vezinas and two (consecutive) Harts - so his number will not likely hang there. His stays with Chicago and Ottawa were far too brief and inglorious to merit anything from either of them. And it would be just all too sad if the iconic 39 didn't hang somewhere.

Ah, we got used to this kind of shit. Almost.

But this is Detroit. We have enough tradition and mystique for three or four teams (nine or ten Colorado Avalanches) and retired numbers aren't cheap. Just ask Larry Aurie, Red Kelly or Norm Ullman. Marcel Dionne played four seasons for the Wings, same as Hasek (way more games than Dom), and is one of the greatest ever at his position, too. He set the rookie record for point with the Wings, but his number isn't anywhere close to the rafters. And such current greats as Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, and Chris Chelios are unlikely to have their numbers retired as well. Nick Lidstrom is likely the only player of this generation to already have that honor secured. Having been the starter for just one championship, I don't think that cuts it. Ask Mike Vernon.

But I will always look back on Dom fondly, for all his... quirks. He was exciting, and pretty damn good when healthy. He won two cups and that's more than can be said for a lot of folks. He inspired and excited us. And you have to wonder, will any goaltender ever do this again?

Thanks, Dom.

Best n00b Award

Yeah, it's pretty much Darren Helm.

I had to look him up - I didn't know what he looked like.

Last year Best n00b went to Kyle Quincey. Quincey was thrust into action by injuries, and had one job: don't screw up while playing 8 minutes a night on the third pair. Helm was in a similar position, playing on the fourth line with the hope that he would solidly eat minutes while giving the others rest, allowing Mike Babcock to keep rolling four lines. Helm took the job and ran with it, literally; his speed gave the fourth line a boost, and teamed mostly with Darren McCarty and Jiri Hudler, Helm's line gave the Wings energy, occasionally offense, and tireless puck pursuit. Helm was a demon on the forecheck and was all over the puck at all times. The ability of Babcock to role four lines was crucial throughout the playoffs and was a major reason the Wings went all the way. Helm may not have put in a lot of offense or killed many crucial penalties, but helped round out the team and keep the big guns fresh. Strong work, Helmer.

Helm roofs it on Turco for his first NHL goal.

Now the question becomes, does he make the team next year? If not for his playoff performance, the answer would almost certainly be no. The Wings strategy with kids is to keep them in the juniors, minors, college, or Europe until they are way past ready. The other half of that is that the Wings keep their veterans around, never releasing them to make room for kids. The Wings maintain the status quo until they are forced to give a kid a spot. That's how Val Filppula got on the roster.

And Helm may very well Filppula his way onto the roster as well. After this performance it's hard to see him getting cut come training camp - hard to see him not deserving it, and hard to imagine how he'd take it. Quincey had high hopes of parlaying his strong playoffs into a regular season job, and whether that was realistic of him or not it led to disappointment when he got sent back to Grand Rapids this past fall. That in turn led to a poor season which now sees Quincey behind Derek Meech and Jonathon Ericsson on the depth chart.

On the other hand, there are 13-14 forward spots as opposed to 7-8 defense spots. Assuming Val Filppula returns, here are the Wings commitments:


Looks like a good spot for Helm. McCarty will likely be re-signed as a depth forward. Downey could also be back as the 14th forward if the Wings elect to keep only 7 defensemen. The one possible sticking point is Ville Leino. The Wings signed him from Finland during the playoffs on a one year deal with the expectation that Leino would return to Finland if he didn't make the team. Leino is no prospect, really - the Wings are hoping he'll make the club because otherwise they'll lose him. So I think for Helm it comes down to a one-on-one battle between him and the Finn.

He's under there. Trust me.

And what if Helm and Leino both perform well? I suppose the Wings could trade somebody. Somebody who doesn't pitch in enough offense, but had a strong Finals, dramatically inflating his value? Hmmm....

Tomorrow: Blackest Ace Award
Nominees: Justin Abdelkader, Jonathon Ericsson, Aaron Downey.