Sunday, January 13, 2008

Deadline Needs Clearer?

Back when the Wings biggest hole looked to be secondary scoring, we thought about Mats Sundin and Teemu Selanne. Sundin was probably never in the picture due to the king's ransom he would require in exchange (just look what the Blues got for Keith Tkachuk last year). And he certainly isn't on the radar now that the Wings have bigger needs. Selanne? He comes for free, pick/prospect-wise so the Wings will continue to be interested but conventional wisdom is that it's pretty unlikely to happen. Forsberg, if he became viable (ie, demonstrably healthy), would be another option the Wings would be stupid not to at least investigate.

But it's obvious what the Wings need now. I mentioned a while back that the need had shifted from scoring to the blue-line, but in the last few games that's become far more apparent. The Wings defense was nonexistent against Minnesota, and they got shoved around against Ottawa. The folks at the HNIC Hotstove brought it up, and I agree wholeheartedly that Rob Blake should be the Wings' target. He would bring physicality and defense and would make for a stellar Top 4 D. Imagine what he would do for the second PP unit, which at times looks completely inept.

Now, if we get Blake (or any big, physical D-man for that matter; an offensive touch is a bonus) the question becomes who goes? Lilja is probably the easiest answer and it's true that the guy makes more mistakes than any other Detroit blueliner but, what would the point be of swapping one physical d-man for another? Blake would be an upgrade over Lilja but overall wouldn't make the Wings much better physically. To me Lebda is the weak link.

I like Lebda and the Wings have invested a lot in his development. He's become a solid defenseman. But he doesn't bring any size to the table and he doesn't bring any points. He hasn't gotten a lot of PP time, but on the other hand he hasn't shown at all that he can handle the puck or make breakout passes. His speed makes you think of him as an offensive guy, and his ability to jump up on the rush can help generate offense, at even strength. But I would rather have a third pair of Lilja/Chelios than Lebda/Chelios. Besides physicality and the occasional fisticuffs, Lilja logs huge PK minutes and consistently leads the team in blocked shots. The Wings absolutely need him in the playoffs (just hopefully not in the Top 4).

Which means Lebda becomes expendable. Granted I'd rather have Lebda than Meech for playoff insurance (and playoff insurance is a very good thing, as Lilja and to a lesser extent Quincey showed last year). And it's tough to give up Lebs. But look who's behind him. Quincey, Kindl, Ericsson. All big, physical d-men, the latter two having tremendous offensive upside. You really think Lebda's going to survive those three guys making the NHL roster? It might not be next year but you have to imagine he's going to get squeezed out eventually.

Same goes for Meech. Granted Meech is an actual offensive D-man, QBing the power play for Grand Rapids last year. But he's only on the team because he's out of options and the Wings need a seventh d-man. And he hasn't shown anything in limited time with Wings. And since he has no experience to offer the team during the playoffs (I'd rather call up Quincey than play Meech), to me he's the first chip the Wings put on the table when trying to get Blake (or any other defenseman).

To me Howard, Helm, Abdelkader, Kindl, and Ericsson are the untouchables. Howard's the goaltender of the future and no position is more important than goaltender. He's a no-brainer. Helm and Abdelkader are top-notch physical forwards, a rarity in the Wings' system, and both have extensive championship-level experience. Kindl and Ericsson are goliaths and are easily the two prospects I am most excited about. I only leave off Quincey because of the Wings outstanding depth on the blueline.

If we go for Blake or another potential PP-QB, Samuelsson is another possibility for trade fodder since the Wings would have their 4th point-man for the PP, although I'd rather not deal him. Kopecky is another possibility, but I'm afraid the guy might turn into a first-class grinder with a knack for the net (a la Dan Cleary). And of course there's draft picks.

So maybe Lebda, Kopecky, a first, and a third for Blake? Perhaps Sammy, Meech, a 1 and a 3? I'm honestly not sure what the market value is for any of these guys. Just stabbing wildly at this point. Oh yeah, and if the cost makes you squeamish... there's always Danny Markov. No doubt that guy would bring an edge to our second pairing.