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.