The Red Wings gambled, and lost. When July 1st rolled around Detroit allowed themselves to dream the dream and believe that they were going to land both of the most coveted free agents in the 2012 free agent class. But both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter said thanks but no thanks. So, what now?
Good question. There is no easy or quick fix right now. With the retirement of Nick Lidstrom and the departure of Brad Stuart, the Red Wings desperately need help in the defensive corps., but they cannot afford to change the style of acquiring players that has worked so well for them in the past.
For starters, not even Suter would have replaced Lidstrom, but he would have come pretty close. Secondly, anyone who is bashing general manager Ken Holland about trading Stuart doesn’t understand the way the Red Wings conduct themselves.
When Detroit first acquired Stuart, they got him from San Jose. He moved to Motown, but his family remained in California. After several productive seasons in Detroit, it became known that Stuart missed his family and the long NHL season kept him away from them for most of the year. With Mike Illich being the kind of owner he is and Holland the kind of GM he is, they both agreed that they would try to get Stuart back to his family. And they did; it was a class act and should not be knocked.
On to the problem of attempting to fix the Red Wings.
With Suter and Parise elsewhere a lot of attention has shifted to three forwards; free agents Shane Doan, and Alexander Semin and Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash. Of the three Doan fits the best with the style of team that Detroit is, but it could be difficult to pry him out of the desert. Doan has said that he will not listen to any offers and will not make any decisions until July 9, when a decision is expected to be made on the future of the ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes. He wants to stay in the desert with the only franchise he has ever been a part of, but if there is any uncertainty about the ownership there he may listen to offers to move away from the cacti.
The 35-year-old Doan consistently gives his team 20 assists and 20 goals a season and pulling on a winged-wheel sweater every game wouldn’t change that, but the this is the time to retool what the Red Wings are. Stop signing the older players who are on the downturn of their careers, go for the bigger players who can lay the body and get into scraps in front of the net and get the dirty goals.
The NHL has changed since the lockout, it is no longer a game of finesse where the smaller players can make people look silly on a regular basis, it is about speed and physicality where the grittier players are rewarded with goals. That is what this Red Wings team needs to become.
In light of that, Detroit should take a flyer on Semin, but if rumors out of Russia are true then he is already KHL bound. ESPN reported rumors that Semin had already received an offer for 3-years, $30 million from CSKA of the KHL. It is rumored that Semin is looking for an NHL team to match that offer or he will return to Russia; well at that price, he’s gone. Good riddance.
Rick Nash, where to start. The people who are the most vocal about the Red Wings acquiring Nash are the ones who tend to know the least about hockey and the Red Wings themselves. Why in the hell would Columbus trade one of the top forwards in the game to an inner-division rival who just so happens to be the Red Wings?
Secondly, the asking price for Nash is astronomical and would decimate any hope at a successful future in Detroit. The Blue Jackets are reportedly asking for; defenseman Brendan Smith, forwards Corey Emmerton, Gustav Nyquist and Valtteri Filppula. That is absurd, four players for one.
And yet you hear it all the time on talk radio; “the Wings should trade for Rick Nash, don’t worry about the players we have to give up, Holland is good at the draft and can get a seventh rounder to be a stud.”
Wanna know why people make such a big deal about Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg being as good as they are for late round picks? Because it never happens! It’s so unbelievably rare and Detroit just happens to have done it twice. Two times does not a pattern make.
Smith is a stud defensive prospect in the making, give him a year or two and he will be a top-four defenseman. Nyquist and Emmerton are both capable of becoming top-six forwards, it may take them a bit longer than it will for Smith, but they are capable of it. Filppula, while not exactly the best player, has done his job well for Detroit and with the rest of the holes on this team it’s not wise to trade away proven ability.
Any talk of trading for Nash needs to stop, now.
But how then do the Red Wings fix things? They already started down that road. While they were twiddling their thumbs waiting for word from Parise and Suter they went out and plugged a few holes on the offensive side of the puck.
Tomas Holmstrom was considering retirement, so the Red Wings did the right thing and slammed the door behind him. Aside from being a human pitch-back machine in front of the net, he had no use at all to the Red Wings. Holmstrom had no speed left; no goals left in his stick, and was a defensive liability. Seeing him on the outside looking in is one of the best feelings Detroit fans should have from this offseason.
The acquisition of Jordin Tootoo to replace Holmstrom is the best move Detroit has made in quite some time. He is exactly the type of player that the Red Wings need more of; he is aggressive along the boards as well as in the open ice, he is willing to get gritty in front of the net and get the dirty goals. But Red Wings fans hate him. Why? Because he plays the game the way you should. When there is a player on the other team that consistently lays huge hits on your team and gets the dusty goals, you’re going to dislike them, until they’re on your team.
Detroit also waved bye-bye to Jiri Hudler, who was perhaps the most overrated player in this year’s free agent class. Hudler did put up good numbers with the Red Wings during the last campaign, but he was undersized and benefitted greatly from the talent on either side of him. Was he worth the 4-years, $16 million Calgary gave him? Not a chance.
To replace him Detroit signed Mikael Samuelsson. Samuelsson came back to Detroit after time in Vancouver and Florida; while he won’t be anything spectacular, Samuelsson will do a good job in filling the hole left by Hudler, and he will do so without being the defensive liability he was either. Expect around 15-20 goals and about 25 assists from Samuelsson this season.
That still leaves two holes in the defense, well; one of them will be filled by the aforementioned Smith. The other is a bit more of a chore. Keith Yandle has had his named thrown around by the Red Wings is trade talks, but Phoenix isn’t likely to give up a young talent such as Yandle for cheap and they certainly would look to the Eastern Conference before considering Detroit. So Yandle would work, but it isn’t very likely.
More likely would be for the Red Wings to go out and find a cheap veteran defenseman on the free agent market and sign them to a one or two year deal. The perfect candidate for that would be Carlo Colaiacovo. Colaiacovo isn’t the best defenseman, let’s be honest, but he could fill the fourth defensive spot and give Detroit decent offensive numbers while giving them the chance to run down better options at the trade deadline or in next year’s free agent class.
It is tough to say, but Detroit may just have to deal with being a fringe playoff team this season in order to have the money next season to make runs at a deeper free agent class that could bounce them back to the top of the Western Conference.