Another Disappointment

Well here we are, yet again. For the third time in four years, the Detroit Red Wings are out in round 1. In 2012 the Wings had a great regular season until the trade deadline when they ran into some injuries. They struggled after that, and even when they got healthy, couldn’t get back to winning and lost in round 1 to the Nashville Predators.

In 2013, they had some injuries but found a way to win down the stretch and get into the playoffs. Knocked off the Ducks in round 1 and took the eventual Stanley Cup champs to game 7 in round 2.  While not the greatest of outcomes, it was a fun short run.

2014 was a year from hell. Wings were excited to get guys like Alfredsson and Weiss and to hope to have a little more health than the lockout shortened season the year before. That never happened. Weiss missed every game after early December, Alfie missed his share of games. Zetterberg and Datsyuk played only a total of 29 games together, Franzen played only 54 and more I can’t think of right now. Wings were able to squeak into the post-season but lost in 5 games to the Boston Bruins. It wasn’t a surprise, but the entire season was a disappointment.

Now we get to this year. The Wings swung and missed at a number of free agents during the summer.  I was disappointed by that but also knew if they stayed somewhat healthy and Jimmy Howard got back to his all-star form of 2013, they could make the playoffs. Through most of the season that was true. Even when Howard miss more than a month to an injury, the Wings kept rolling. They finsihed a tough 6 games Western Conference road trip with a 4-1-1 record. The two losses they played well enough to win as well. Then after the trade deadline they went into a slump. Howard struggled to track the puck and his team started to turn the puck over a lot.  They stumbled down the stretch and maybe not backed into the playoffs but close to it. They went from thinking about winning the Atlantic Division or finishing second, to just hoping for a wild card slot. Detroit found a way to get to the number three spot and play the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning in round 1.  I thought they’d be lucky to get to 6 games. Mike Babcock decieded to go with young goalie Petr Mrazek instead of the veteran Jimmy Howard and the move worked out. Detroit struggled in the first two games but Mrazek played so well in game 1 they were able to come home tied 1-1. After winning game 2, the Wings looked to ready to grab a 3-1 lead in the series, but when Luke Glendening left the game to get stitches, the Tyler Johnson line (who Glendening was paying against) woke up to tie the game 2-2 and win it in overtime. Even though Detroit won game 5 back in Tampa they couldn’t find a way to win either of the last two games.

After the start of the season that was so good, it stings to lose in the end, especially this way. Now we go into the off-season with so many questions, and few answers right now. The biggest everyone is wondering is, will Mike Babcock coach the Detroit Red Wings next season? During the off-season, my answer was yes. I thought 75-25 he stays. Now I’m 90% sure he is gone. If he really wanted to stay, he had the deal to be the highest paid coach in front of him late in the summer and didn’t sign it. Then there was a comment about how he didn’t think the Wings would be as good as they had been to that point. So I started to think he didn’t sign because he thought the team was done for the short-term and didn’t want to be here to try and fix it. Then after game 7, he kept pointing to the negatives of the team now and going forward. “Where’s the next Pavel?” “We just weren’t that good.” Then talking about how hold Kronner, Pavel and Hank will be next year. That sounds like a guy who is on his way out. If he was staying, he would have been talking about the positives they can take from it.

Do the Wings have talent coming along? Sure. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen Ryan Sproul, Joe Hicketts,  Xavier Ouellet,  Alexey Marchenko and guys like Tatar, Nyquist and others. Are they top line talent? Too early to tell. But I also remember people questioning where the next Yzerman and Fedorov were gonna come from. They found them in Zetterberg and Datsyuk. So it’s possible to find them but if Babcock wants a more for sure thing in terms of superstar talent, he’s probably going elsewhere. I have to say it’s pretty disappointing. I thought he would want to stay here and work to get it better. The regular person of me says, it’s his right to do as he pleases and he’s the best coach in the game so more power to him.  The fan in me is a little bitter. Some were questioning if he would want to go to Toronto for the challenge but if he were to go to Buffalo  or Edmonton, sure taking over a crap team can be tough but with all that young talent it’s not the biggest challenge he’s faced. Faced more taking over for the Ducks and for the Wings. Wings were going from a $70mil payroll to just under $39mil back in 2005. He didn’t take that job for the ease of it. No one knew what the team would be or do.

So, enough of that. Onto the player moves. There will be plenty to do there. Wings have some choices to make in goal. Is Mrazek their future after this playoff? If so, they should look into trading Jimmy Howard while his stock is high. Edmonton needs a goalie and has young talent to space with all the #1 draft picks they’ve had in the past. So that’s something they could look at. I’d hate to seem him go, because I am a huge fan of his, but his stock won’t be higher than it is now. Same could be said for Mrazek if they wanted to trade him, but I doubt it. Cap comes into play too and trading Mrazek doesn’t save money there. The other two players for sure gone (in my opinion) are Stephen Weiss and Jakub Kindl. Kindl has regressed over the last few years and is taking up too much for space for a #7 defenseman. With young talent coming along, they need to try and move him. Weiss has just never fit in. Missing pretty much all of 2013-14 sure didn’t help. Other young guys have stepped into the top 6 or 7 forward spots and Stephen Weiss just isn’t a 3rd line forward. He needs more ice time to be productive. The rumor at the deadline had him as part of a deal to get Dion Phaneuf from Toronto. I think it’s still a strong possibility if the right deal materializes. Toronto would have to eat some salary and most like some sort of draft pick (not a great one) would probably have to go back to TO as well. Heck, maybe even Kindl is part of it as well.

That’s it for my rant for today. You’ll see another one from me either when Babcock signs with his new team, when he re-signs (doubt it) and/or around the draft time when the Wings most likely start making deals. Try to enjoy another long off-season Wings fans. I know it’ll be tough but it’s still just a game, the greatest one out there.

Wings Miss Out

So we went into July 1st, “Free Agent Frenzy”, expecting the Wings would get a defenseman to improve their D. They had their options, three guys to be exact. Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Boyle and Matt Niskanen. All three were good options for different reasons. The problem though, they were really the only three options and most teams were looking for the same thing. Wings were told just before July 1st that Ehrhoff wanted five years and Niskanen had the Wings on his shortlist. What happened? None signed with the Wings.

So why did this happen? Well, the players chose to go elsewhere. Ehrhoff took a one-year deal to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Wings were never given a chance to even negotiate to try and beat that. They would have too. Boyle took slightly less money to go to the New York Rangers. he gets to play with his old teammate Marty St. Louis and play for the Eastern Conference Champions. Are the Rangers a better team than the Wings? Debatable in my opinion but that’s Boyle’s Choice. Maybe he felt more comfortable then. With Niskanen there are conflicting reports about what the Wings offered him. One said just under what the Washington Capitals signed him for, one said just over that at 7 years and $40 million.Regardless, Wings made competitive offers and the players chose to sign elsewhere. This has thrown the Red Wings fans into a tizzy. Ready to fire Ken Holland. Thinking this will be the end of Mike Babcock in Detroit because players signed somewhere else. There is also one blog post on another site where someone was saying Jim Nill should be the GM or Steve Yzerman should be. Trying to point out what they did with their respective teams. You can’t do that because each team is different. Nill went and got Jason Spezza from Ottawa. The Wings didn’t need to do that and the Stars need to make a splash because of their market and to compete in the tough Western Conference. Stevie Y, the same thing. Tampa had different needs. The Lightning did get  Anton Stralman for five years. The Wings didn’t wan to commit to him for five years with some of their young defense coming up.

A lot of fans, and the blog I mentioned above also freaked out on how the Wings missed out on some of the second tier guys and said those guys chose other teams. That’s not how it works. The one player they pointed to was Tom Gilbert. Actually what happened was the Wings called him and at that time he had a deal from Montreal that he needed to get an answer on. The Wings were still waiting on some of their first choices, so Gilbert couldn’t wait. He didn’t diss the Wings, he made a smart choice for himself. What if the Wings then sign a guy and he misses out on his deal with the Canadiens. This is what happens in the free agency world. A team puts most of it’s effort into one or two guys and if they wait on them, they can miss out on the second tier guys. That’s not the GM’s fault, this is the game you play. Yahoo’s Nick Cotsonika tweeted out today these very same thoughts, which I’m sure Wings fans didn’t want to hear.

Look, it’s disappointing the Wings lost out on these guys, but that’s the reality of life in the cap world. Everyone is on a level playing field with cap space. Wings are a good team but they are one of many because of the salary cap. On top of that, everyone has the same money to spend, so players have a choice. Fans want to be mad at Ken Holland but he did what he could do. These players made choices for themselves. Ken Holland has to plan for the future and the present and sorry to say, he knows more than us. He’ll be looking at a trade but he’ll need to weigh if it’s good for the present and future. Is it worth giving up Jurco or Tatar for player X? We might think so, he might not. Just because he stands pat, doesn’t make him wrong. I want them to improve their defense, and maybe they still do, because I think they have a shot at competing for a Cup but they do have to be careful with the risk of the franchise. Again, we’re sitting at home on our computers, while these guys are living it, they have a lot more info and insight than we do.

So where do they go from here? The rumors heavy around the draft was Tyler Myers and Keith Yandle. Myers is a little bit of a project. He hasn’t lived up to his rookie season, but he’s only 24 and maybe with a fresh start, a good coach, a good system he could turn it around. I worry there because if he doesn’t work out, you give up a lot and are playing against whoever you gave up probably five times a season. Yandle? Not a right-handed shot but what they are looking for, being a puck-moving defenseman. I’d love to get him. I think he’s greatly underrated, but we don’t know what Arizona would be asking for him. Another option that popped up with the Caps signing both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen was maybe Mike Green is on the block. He’s a bit of lightning rod in Washington, but he’s also what the Wings are looking for. He’s got an expensive cap hit at $6-million but it’s the final year of his contract, so no commitment past this year. Depending on the price to get him, that’s also something I’d consider.

The truth is even with very few changes, a healthy Wings team is still dang good. They missed so many guys last season and still made the playoffs. Health, and better years from Jimmy Howard and Jakub Kindl would be huge boosts to this team. I want them to add another defenseman to try and keep up with the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, but I also understand that this isn’t the old days, and the Wings actually still are a pretty good team.

Babcock; Howard Not Going Anywhere

So, I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now, but just now had the time. I’ve seen a lot of either reports by people in the media or by fans thinking somehow Mike Babcock was leaving before next season and that the Wings should go and get Ryan Miller.

First, I’ll start with Jimmy Howard and Ryan Miller. It was announced recently, that the St. Louis Blues would not be bringing back Ryan Miller for next season and beyond. The Blues gave up quite a bit to get Ryan Miller, thinking he was the last big piece to the puzzle to get them deep into the playoffs and hopefully, a Stanley Cup. That didn’t happen. The Blues started off with a 2-0 series lead on the defending Stanley Cup Champs, Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, but then lost 4 straight to lose the series in 6 games. Ryan Miller struggled for the Blues, both down the stretch and in the playoffs. He wasn’t the reason they lost, but wasn’t the game breaker they had wanted. He finished the playoffs with a GAA of 2.70 and a save percentage of .897.

So I saw (dumb) people posting on blog comments and message boards about how the Wings should hurry up and sign Ryan Miller because Jimmy Howard is not the big time goalie they need. First, I’ll point out that Jimmy Howard has a NMC though next season and a limited NTC after that. Minor details when wanting to dump one guy for another. Beyond that, Jimmy Howard is 30 years old and was fantastic a year ago when the Red Wings forced the Blackhawks to 7 games.  Yes he was inconsistent this season but the team had so many injuries, Jimmy had some himself, that it’s not wonder he was inconsistent as the whole team was, with guys going in and out of the lineup.  Jimmy was better in the playoffs, but his team was not. Howie’s stats, before he missed two games with the flu, were better than the “savior” Ryan Miller’s. GAA of 2.02 and a save percentage of .931. Back to the age, Howard is 30 and Miller is 35. So the Wings are supposed to buyout, or try and trade a guy with a NMC, for a guy who is 35 and struggled last year in the playoffs and before this hasn’t played meaningful hockey in years.  The Wings, not being guys like us sitting on the internet, have a better idea of what to do with their team. They won’t look at this year as a  reason to dump Howie, they’ll look at it as an aberration and give the guy who is 5 years younger a chance to get back to where he was a year ago.

Moving on to Mike Babcock. First it was Brendan Shanahan, the new president of the Toronto Maple Leafs, should get him to come to the Leafs.  Again people (including people in the media who should know better) forget that Babcock is under contract for another year. Then Babcock himself said he was going to be the coach of the Wings next season. His daughter will be graduating high school and he wasn’t going to miss that.

Then there was this guy in Pittsburgh, Mark Madden. I’ll let you read it if you want, but this guy is just freaking nuts. The theories he comes up with for how Mike Babcock would somehow coach the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2014-15 is amazing. Somehow they would fire Dan Bylsma and make Jacques Martin the interim coach for a full season. Yeah most guys would take that gig. But that’s not the best part. Somehow Babcock would know that that was a sign for him that he should try to force the Wings to let him out of his contract. How would he know that without the Pens contacting him? That I believe would not be allowed since Babcock is under contract. How he comes up with this I don’t know. He of course also doesn’t pay attention to Babcock again sayind he was under contract with the Wings and would be here in 14-15.  I won’t deny that if Babcock becomes a “free agent” next summer that he could end up with the Pens, but this kinda of stuff is amazing. This guy writes for a major publication?

So I’ll wrap it up with saying that Babcock and Howard will both be with the Wings next season. Stop coming up with these crazy conspiracy theories and ignoring facts. A coach under contract isn’t going to get pulled away from an organization who won’t even let teams talk to their AHL coach who is under contract. And the Wings aren’t going to somehow get rid of a goalie they’ve invested a long-term contract with for a guy who is 5 years older and hasn’t proven anything recently. Maybe try to think like a real GM would, not like you’re playing NHL 2014.

Back in the Swing of Things

The site I used to post on is no more. But I have such a love for hockey that I wanted to keep writing. I will try to post once a week if I can, but time is a lot tighter than it used to be. So here it goes…

After what was a nightmare season for the Detroit Red Wings, it’s finally over. The Red Wings lost 412 man games due to injury. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins lost more. Amazing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg missing over a season’s worth of games combined, that anyone could have lost more than the Wings. The Pens did have Crosby the entire season and Malkin for most of it, so they weren’t missing their two best players. It was rough to say the least for the players and the fans too.

There were some positives that game from all the injuries. Kids. No, the players and their wives were off making babies cause they weren’t playing. The Wings young players got a chance to show what they could do. They weren’t brought up to play on the 4th line, they were brought up to fill major holes. Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist finally were given a real shot but it wasn’t just them. Tomas Jurco, Rilely Sheahan and Luke Glendening were also given big roles. The kid line of Sheahan, Jurco and Tatar gave the Wings a spark when they needed it most. They helped get the Wings back into the playoffs for the 23rd straight year.

With all the kids coming up, it’s a huge benefit going forward. The Wings won’t need to pay bigger money for ageing veterans to play the roles that the kids can now play. The Wings have a lot of cap space going forward and can use that on bigger acquisitions that they will need, if they want to compete with the Boston Bruins in the Atlantic Division. The Wings only have a few more years of Datsyuk and Zetterberg being some of the best two-way players in the game, so they need to make the decision to go for it big the next few years, or let the kids take their time to develop into champions. My guess is, they will go all in as much as they can, without sacrificing too much of the future.

I will have my offseason preview coming up in a few weeks when we get closer to the draft, or if any major news breaks for the Wings in that time. Go Wings!

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