Monday, March 31, 2008

Fitting Homer In

No, it's not an April Fool's joke, I'm back from a hellish quarter (it's like a semester, but shorter and more pretentious) and the ensuing, highly relaxing, spring break. And I come to ask the question of what the hell to do with all these Top 6 forwards once they're all healthy and raring to go.

First of all, there's Homer. He has spent the last two years consistently playing wing to Dats, and, when Voltron is assembled, Hank. I think that when he gets back (expected to be Thursday against Columbus) Homer should return to the top line as well as the top power play unit. Why? Franzen is a more dynamic player and is more likely to thrive away from the Eurotwins. How's this for a lineup:


The FFC line gives Babcock his big, violent, shutdown line. This is the Anti-Thornton line. And, if Franzen can continue his monstrous streak into the playoffs, it gives the Wings two legit scoring lines. Granted he'll have Val Filppula for a setup man instead of Pavel Datsyuk, but I think Frankie can handle it. I also like that third line there. It's big, very stable defensively, and between Draper's speed, Sammy's shot, and Kopecky's growing ability to crash the net, you've got a formula for clutch garbage goals right there - much like the Grind Line of old. Then for a 4th you've got what I call the Grumpy Old Men line, which features cranky, violent, old-timers who know how to win and are safe in their own zone.

You'll notice a certain Czech midget missing, and that is precisely because he has been doing absolutely nothing for a very long time. He's a PP specialist, but with Homer back, you can basically use your top two lines as your PP units. Honestly, playing Hudler in the playoffs sounds good, but what are the odds he actually gets into a game? I say small. So you may as well put in Mac. Want your Oompa Loompa? Maybe for home games, when the Wings can control matchups, you can put him on the third line and go with this arrangement:


Or possibly bump him up to the second line and have Fil center the third. But still I like my original arrangement better.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Kopecky Pulls a Datsyuk!

How about that move by Kopecky against Columbus! Reminds me of someone...

Would be more impressive if the BJs didn't do this to themselves all the time.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Be Back Soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Evaluating The D: 2008 Playoffs and Offseason

Edit: Related: Meech deals with lack of PT, via Snapshots.

We begin with this gem from Bruce MacLeod:
Rookie defenseman Jonathan Ericsson was assigned to Grand Rapids after a seven-game stay in the NHL. Ericsson was moved so that he'd get ice time. With Brian Rafalski and Nicklas Lidstrom back, there was no spot for him in the lineup. Coach Mike Babcock said that he considers Ericsson an NHL player right now, one that he would put in the lineup without hesitation.
(Bold is mine.) Ericsson's re-assignment was no surprise since, even if he has out-played several of the Wings current D, he has no playoff experience and is unlikely to hurdle Brett Lebda and Andreas Lilja for the last D spot. However, Babcock's comment on Ericsson gives us plenty of fuel for speculation. First of all, is he ahead of Meech on the depth chart? Let's assume Nick, Raffy, Stuart, Kronner, Cheli, Lils, and Lebda are the top 7, regardless of who's #6. Ericsson got PT ahead of Meech a number of times during his call-up, despite Meech displaying a lot of game and surprising a lot of folks, most especially his game against Edmonton. It's no surprise Mike Babcock loves size, but not that much (remember Cory Cross vs Brett Lebda? I believe Brett won that particular competition.)

Ideally, we'll never find out who's #8 on the depth chart, because ideally we'll never get there. A much more interesting question is the #6 slot: will it be the physical, shot blocking, PKing but occasionally boneheaded Lilja? Or Lebda, who is much safer but brings pretty much nothing to the table (no offense, doesn't PK, not physical, doesn't drop the gloves, etc)? My guess? I'm going with Lilja, but methinks that come playoff time, the only minutes he'll get will be on the PK. Why?

There are two D-men on the ice at all times, and 60 minutes in a game. That means, 120 minutes of TOI between six defensemen. Lids will eat 30. Let's say 30 for Kronner. He PKs, he QBs the PP (albeit the second unit of both teams) and of course is a monster at even strength. The Wings will pair him with Lidstrom on the road in order to avoid having a non-physical/non-physical pair of Lids and Raffy. So between the Ni(c)ks, that's 60 minutes right there. Rafalski, Chelios, and Stuart are all obviously capable of big-time minutes as well, each in the 20s at least. I've argued that in the playoffs, Chelios is due for a bump-up in PT, after what he showed last year in the postseason after Schneids and Kronner went down.

Given their depth, the Wings probably will end up not playing Lids and Kronner 30 each just because they can afford not to. But my point is, their depth also affords them to not play their 6th D very much at all. So if you're not getting a lot of minutes, who do you go with, Lilja or Lebs? Well Lilja can pitch in on PK, whereas Lebda can't - Lilja can be physical, Lebda can't. Lilja blocks shots more than Lebda, and shot blocking in the playoffs is critical. My point is, Lilja makes for a better specialist than Lebda, even if Lebda is overall a safer D-man.

As for next season, Lilja's been offered a two-year deal, but that was ages ago and we haven't heard anything on that front in a while. Return to the quote from Babcock. He says Ericsson's NHL ready. Meech is under contract next year. Neither he nor Quincey can't be returned to the minors. Without Ericsson, and assuming Lilja and Stuart both jet in FA, you've already got a full boat with 7 defensemen. So my guess is Holland is backing off his plan of bringing back Lilja, for two reasons: Kronner's emergence as a star, and Ericsson's as an NHLer. I'm going to make a bold prediction right now, now that it's obvious: Ericsson is going to Filppula his way onto the roster. The question is, who else is on the blueline next year?


Lebda, Meech, Quincey, Ericsson

I've said it before, but for as solid and dependable as Brett Lebda is, he has little future with the Wings. This was the reasoning I used to say that they should trade the guy at the deadline, although I'm glad they didn't because I like having 7 playoff tested D going in to the postseason. But if Ericsson does force his way on to the roster, the Wings will have to move at least one D if they don't want to carry eight. And Lebda - he's got Ericsson, Meech, and Quincey on his back, to say nothing of the more distant Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith. And Rafalski, Kronwall, and even Chelios and Lidstrom won't be making room on the roster any time soon. I don't see how he can possibly survive to get a contract extension.

I would've said dump Meech until I saw what the kid could do - I thought of him as a Lebda clone, but as demonstrated during the injury high-tide, dude's got skills. He worked the PP, jumped up in the rush, made solid passes, and altogether showed himself to be more offensively competent than Lebda. Don't let his speed fool you, Lebda is far from an offensive-defenseman. His goal against Minnesota to win it was a tantalizing taste of what that speed can do, but we've actually seen it pay off only a few times.

So here's my guess: Lebda gets dealt, Ericsson skips the Chris Chelios School For Defensemen and jumps right into the Top 4. It's a bit of a stretch, and if that indeed happens the Wings will be chomping at the bit to pick up a playoff tested D or two at the deadline. Then you've got Meech and Quincey platooning the #6 spot.

It's a very green defense, and another possibility might be to bring back Lilja or Stuart on a one-year deal, or sign a veteran FA in the offseason. Then you either give Ericsson another year in the AHL, or you put him at #6 and have Meech and Quincey ride the pines all season. But honestly I like my Ericsson-at-#4 scenario a lot better. Why? Because I fucking love Jonathon Ericsson guys. I can't wait until the Wings monopolize the Calder race next year, between him and Fabian Brunnstrom.

Anyway, enough dreaming. Hasek's looking sharp, the D is generating offense once again, and best yet, secondary scoring is picking up as Franzen and Hudler both showed last night. Chelios is ready to step in. The only question is: how quickly can Dan Cleary return to his epic-beard-growing, penalty-shot-scoring, Dion-Phaneuf-crushing, balls-to-the-wall, playoff-fucking-animal form? My hope: soon.

-Given that top lines/pairs play disproportionately more in the playoffs, whoever does win the #6 D spot won't be playing that much anyway
-I like Lilja to win it, not because he's a genius or anything, but because he's better at hurting people and killing penalties
-Look out for Jonathon Ericsson. I think he'll Filppula his way on to the roster ahead of Meech and Quincey, and be the #4 D next year
-That means at least one of Lebda, Meech, or Quincey will be traded or cut (my guess: Lebda)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ryan Miller in 09-10?

(Another long post, another concise summary at the end! Scroll down to skip the argumentation.)

Didn't see the game, but it's of course good to get winning again - a look at the stat sheet is enough to tell you how desperate the Wings were to score - goals from Drake and Maltby? Damn. Also, Kronwall, 2A and first star? Yeah, he's ready for the playoffs. I'm pumped guys.

What I will talk about, however, is the rampant rumors about Ryan Miller, who will be a FA in 2009, bolting Buffalo for Detroit. I would like to take a moment to address how ridiculous this is. Don't get me wrong, I love absurd trade/signing dream scenarios, as evidenced by my posts leading up to the deadline - Forsberg, Selanne, Markov; Sundin, Blake, Antropov, I was all about the Wings signing or trading for everyone and his mother. Except, you will recall, Olli Jokinen, because of his cap number. And the cap is precisely why Ryan Miller is extremely unlikely to sign with the Wings. If there's one kind of ridiculous acquisition scenario I dislike, it's the mathematically impossible kind.

Numbers are scary, I know, but let's look at the Wings cap situation from now until the 09-10 season when Miller's hypothetical contract would start, in easy-to-read spreadsheet format (all real contract values from

You'll notice that I'm projecting Zetterberg gets 8M, something he could easily demand, Cleary and Filppula get news deals, and that the Wings will have 6.65M in room in 09-10. Now, a lot of this is very nebulous, so it's hard to see how Miller would fit in - the 09-10 cap figure isn't known, nor is the value of nearly half the contracts the Wings would have at that point. So let's imagine a few scenarios in which the Wings sign Miller prior to 09-10. In the "L. Bound" scenario, I imagine the cheapest possible deals for all the Wings who will need new contracts between now and then - 7M for Zetterberg (he has suggested he'll take a hometown discount, after all), just 2.5M for Cleary (their current offer, which he hasn't accepted - Patrick Sharp has comparable stats and got 3.9M), just 2M for Filppula, 1.5M for Franzen. I also imagine neither Lilja nor Stuart is re-signed past 08-09, and that Ericsson is on the team on a cheap contract. Finally, let's imagine Miller gets 6M, which is significantly below his market value.

In this situation, as you can see, the Wings have 2.85M in cap room, but only if they spend the bare minimum on the last five forward spots, and don't carry an extra forward. Hudler, Sammuelsson, Kopecky, none of them will go for deals that cheap. This all also assumes the cap rises 6M from now until then. The cap, currently 50.3M, has been rumored to be heading to 53M, a raise of 3M, next season. So assuming it does the same the season after, we have a 56M cap. However, it's far from assured the cap will rise that much. Much of the NHL's salary inflation is due to the comparative strengths of the Canadian and American dollars. I'm no economist, but if the USD gains any ground on loony, the cap's growth will be stunted.

To summarize, yes the Wings can afford Miller in 09-10 if: The cap, Zetterberg, Cleary, Filppula, Franzen, and Miller himself all cooperate, and the Wings roll three lines because they have a bunch of scrubs rounding out their roster. Look back up at the chart and take a gander at the "U. Bound" scenario, in which I give each player the maximum value I think they could sign for. Zetterberg for 8.5 (he could get even more on the open market), Cleary for 3.9, Fil for 2.6, Mule for 2, and Miller for 8, which, again, I think he would get on the open market. That last value is maybe a little high (Luongo didn't even break 7), but the point is clear: in this scenario the Wings would be 3.15M over the cap. And still with a 4th line of 4th-graders.

I'm not saying Miller won't ever come here. I am saying it will require the Wings to trade some cap space to do so. I can envision a scenario ("Trade" column in the chart above) in which the Wings falter down the stretch next year, with Howard not yet ready to lead the team in the playoffs, and Osgood hurt or ineffective. Maybe Kronwall continues to develop, stays healthy, and shows himself to be a legit #1 defender (he pretty much already is), and Ericsson has a Calder-type season and earns a spot in the top 4. In this scenario I could see the Wings, at the '09 deadline, dealing Rafalski and Howard for Miller and maybe some picks. If Miller agreed to a hometown-type extension at around 6.5M, and Zetterberg gets ~7.8M, Cleary goes a little low for 3.2M, the Wings would be able to fit under the cap and actually ice a real 4th line. Suppose Kopecky rounds out the 3rd line for about 1M, and Helm and Abdelkader each debut at .85M, with the other two forward spots going to Drake/Downey-type veterans. The Wings would be a pretty green team, but with a stalwart in goal, in the big characters still around (ZDH, Cleary Mule Fil, Lids Cheli Kronner, Drapes). They would be a more defense-oriented team without Rafalski and with only one top flight scoring line and one middling one, but reasonably could do damage in the playoffs.

All this having been said, it's not going to happen, unless a goaltending catastrophe of the type described above strikes. And even if it did, even that might not encourage Holland to give up on Howard and slash salary to fit Miller in the cap. It wouldn't be a bad move because goaltending is the most important position and I don't mind spending big bucks there and re-arranging your roster to do so. But the Wings are ideally situated in net already - Howard showed during Hasek's injury that he's ready to be an NHL goalie next year, and Osgood is the perfect mentor. I see Osgood as starting the majority of the regular season and in the playoffs next year, a battle the year after, and the Howard Supremacy starting 2010-11. And with Howard in his RFA years, and Osgood on a discount/veteran deal, the Wings will continue to get great value at the goaltending position, which will allow them to spend so much on skaters (~28M for the top four skaters depending on Zetterberg). So why mess with a good thing?

-a lot of people seem to think the Wings should go after Ryan Miller in 09-10
-that's fucking ridiculous
-because of Zetterberg's looming extension in '09, and extensions for Cleary, Filppula, and Franzen on the horizon, the Wings would need to shed considerable salary to fit Miller, who will command 6M at the very, very least
-the only reasonable move would be to trade Rafalski, which might happen only if the Wings are very happy with Ericsson and the other young D's development, and very unhappy with Osgood/Howard
-but if Osgood stays steady and Howard develops well, why would you even entertain the notion?
-boldface allows you to highlight key ideas and is fun to use!
-avs suck