Chelios. Drake. Downey. McCarty.
Three of the four are ancient, three of the four are known fighters, all of them bring physicality and leadership to this team, and each played a significant role in the long haul. All four are unrestricted free agents. Will they be back, and should they? First I'll say I'd love any and all of them to return - I don't know if you're all familiar with this axiom, but when you win the Cup basically you want everyone to come back. I know, it's unintuitive, but true. The real question though, is, can they?
I'll start with McCarty. His resurrection was a phenomenal story and I can still hardly believe it. He showed himself to be a valuable contributor even during the postseason when fighting, his milieu, is not a treasured commodity. Mac could easily come back to the team and, besides being a huge draw, contribute on the fourth line the way he did in the playoffs - fists, stare-downs, hits, and the occasional offense. If Mac returns he's likely to play a role similar to Dallas Drake's this past season - every-other-day player who will see more ice time in the case of injuries and will be especially valuable come playoff time. And, to my great joy, it seems Mac will indeed be back - Holland says he'll offer #25 a contract (at the very end of Khan's article). Fuck yeah bitches.
On to Drake. A contract is his if he wants it. His performance in the playoffs was unreal, and he was a solid contributor in the regular season especially as injuries mounted. That being said he played out of his mind in the playoffs, and having finally achieved his life-long goal of the Stanley Cup it's hard to imagine him having that same kind of special season that he did this past year. And late in the season and in the postseason he sure sounded like this was it. It would be all too story-bookish for Drake to go out on top now, having returned to his original team to finally win the Cup. And it's not to say he'll be unmotivated or complacent if he returns, but he probably won't be as good as he was without the possibility of never winning a cup driving him. I think he retires, but like I said, it's up to Drake, and if he wants back Holland brings him back.
Downey's future rests on Drake, I think. If Drake comes back, then the Wings will be almost sure to return every one of their Top 14 forwards (includes Helm). It's not even clear the Wings will carry 14 forwards since they're loaded at defense right now and could very well carry 8 blueliners. In that case it's obviously against Downey returning, especially with Mac around. In the case of injuries the Wings would more likely turn to Abdelkader or Ritola than the one-dimensional Downey. But that being said I think the Wings will give him a two-way contract and see what he can make out of training camp - he's earned that much. If he gets waived I think he's certain to get nabbed by someone else after his strong season - 5-0-5 and some impressive beat-downs of Ian Laperierre and George "Porn 'Stache" Parros. I'm not very optimistic, but I sure hope he returns. I love you Deputy Downer.
Chelios is going to get his knee scoped apparently, and frankly, I mean, come on, that was obvious. Lilja? Really? Cheli was hurt, and if he had been in perfect health you have to think he'd be in there. Anyway, he's a lock to return. Holland's policy with veterans is generally "bring them back until they die." If you bring back a vet, you can always bench them if a kid outplays them. If you deign not to re-sign a vet so as to give a kid a spot you're risking a lot on that kid. With Chelios there's no risk. The Wings are vastly deep at D: if Stuart returns they'll have five D, plus Meech and Quincey who can't be sent down, add Chelios that's eight, and that's without re-signing Lilja, and that also means sending Jonathon Ericsson to Grand Rapids again which is so fucking ridiculous I can' t believe I just typed it, but keeping kids in GR way longer than necessary has always been the Wings' strategy. Chelios is just too good at killing penalties, too cheap,and too good a leader and a mentor not to bring back. I think he returns.
This upcoming week's going to be hell for me school-wise, so I've planned out my posts ahead of time. I'll be spending this week handing out playoffs awards (I know, a little out of order since I've already started talking about next season) as I did last year. The week will proceed like so:
Monday: Best n00b Award
Goes to the best rookie in the playoffs.
Nominees: Darren Helm. Yeah, it's pretty obvious.
Tuesday: Blackest Ace Award
Goes to the best player who I can't believe didn't play. This was more appropriate when we didn't win last year and it was cool to second-guess the coach's decisions.
Nominees: Justin Abdelkader, Jonathon Ericsson, Aaron Downey.
Wednesday: WTF!? Award
Goes to the player who most improved his performance from the regular season to the playoffs.
Nominees: Dallas Drake, Jiri Hudler, Val Filppula.
Thursday: Best Beard Award
Goes to the most pirate beard adorned in the playoffs.
Nominees: Dan Cleary, Kris Draper, Henrik Zetterberg.
Friday: Manliest Motherfucker Award
Goes to the player who manned up the most during the playoffs.
Nominees: Dallas Drake, Val Filppula, Pavel Datsyuk.