(My posts have been getting lengthy lately, so for the reading impaired, I've decided to start putting concise summaries at the end. Scroll down for the goods.)
First things first, I love the Stuart trade, and I also predicted it, give or take a fourth round pick. He's by far the best value on the market. The guy has first round skill but hasn't found the handle. If the Wings can do to Stuart what they did to Cleary, he'll turn into a dominant defenseman. If he does reach his potential, the Wings won't be able to afford him in 09-10, but at the least they could bring him back next year, in lieu of Lilja.
Basically the Wings kept 1) their roster intact 2) all their prospects and 3) their first rounder in a very deep draft. The only criticism I could make is not snagging at least Mark Recchi, who Atlanta had no reason to hold onto. Huds for Recchi straight up? I don't know. Doesn't matter. I like this team, once it gets healthy.
Bruce MacLeod reports that Stuart will be paired with Kronwall, a wise move. As good as Meech has played of late, Kronner is second only to Lidstrom on this team (that's right, ahead of Rafalski) and a Meech-Kronner pair would be a little undersized and not great defensively. So you put Nik with Lilja or Stuart, but it makes sense to keep Lilja and Meech together as they have been for a while. Thus, Kronner-Stuart. The only problem is you've got a guy coming off a long injury break and a guy new to the team - if San Jose takes advantage of that Babcock would be wise to split them up (or just move the Meech-Lilja pair to #1).
Or, how about Kronner-Ericsson, Stuart-Meech, Lilja-Lebda? I dream of a Kronner-Ericsson pair, some day, maybe next year. Jumping up in the rush, drilling in goals from the blueline, brutalizing opponents along the boards and in open ice, Ericsson throwing hands with Pronger and widening that gap in his ugly goddam grin....
Ahem. Where was I? I drifted off for a moment. It was wonderful...
Back to Meech. The consensus is he fucking rocks. And I must say, I'm glad we didn't trade him, as I had suggested before the injuries happened. His problems are the same that we always knew: he is undersized. And I can't say it enough, it doesn't matter how talented you are, you can't teach physical, and the Wings need physical. So my original point stands that on an already small, relatively nonviolent team, Meech is playing from behind. But he's definitely in the game, as opposed to when we weren't seeing anything of him, and I assumed it was because he wasn't very good.
And he has, for the moment, jumped over Brett Lebda, who is relatively well established on the team. For the first time in a while Lebda's going to be playing for his place in the rotation, as will Andreas Lilja, who has a step up in that he does bring the hits. Lilja also leads the team in blocked shots (last I checked), something which is absolutely critical playoffs. Basically I think Lilja understands that he is not talented, and makes up for it by doing painful things.
As Iwo points out, despite all this talk of a four-horse race for the last two spots, Chelios is a fucking lock and don't even start the discussion. The only question about Chelios is whether when the playoffs start he moves up to the second pair or not. And I think he will, as I argued before, leaving the following playoff blueline arrangement:
Kronner and Raffy will swap between home and away as they have all year (when healthy). From this vantage point, Meech is the number 6, as he's outplayed Lebda, and Lilja for all his size has been a bonehead lately as well (6 PIM Tuesday, including the fatal delay of game with under 2 to go). But I think (and hope) Lilja can turn it around and whip himself into playoff shape (and we all know the playoffs puts guys on a different level.) But on the other hand, we know from '06 that Babcock will put a kid in in April. So. Who knows.
-The Stuart trade was good
-Nik Kronwall is back, and that's very good
-Derek Meech is surprisingly good
-Andreas Lilja is unsurprisingly bad
-Chris Chelios will never die
-Chris Pronger is a motherfucker, and I hope he dies soon. In a fire.