The Malik Report
by George Malik on 07/05/12 at 03:36 PM ET
Updated 2x at 2:27 PM: Given the fact that Columbus Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson wants the moon and stars from teams in the Eastern Conference in any attempt to secure Rick Nash, I’ve never understood why the Red Wings would ever entertain thoughts of paying an even more grossly inflated price to bring the Blue Jackets’ poster boy to their self-proclaimed archrival. Greg “Puck Daddy” Wyshynski pondered the Nash-to-Detroit situation this morning, but TSN’s Darren Dreger just happened to fire off a Tweet stating that the very start of any Carolina Hurricanes bid for Nash would begin with Jeff Skinner…
This summer’s been so damn ludicrous in terms of player movement and the lack thereof that one can’t rule anything out, but the concept of Nash going to a team that desperately needs to add a defenseman, not a forward whose asking price would leave the same crater in the Wings’ forward and prospect corps that Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement and Brad Stuart’s exit has created on the blueline makes the Columbus Dispatch’s Michael Arace’s frustration with the Nash-to-Detroit theory seem misguided at best:
he Detroit Red Wings are in the Rick Nash derby. Please, not Detroit. Not there. Have mercy for long-suffering Blue Jackets fans. If the captain wants out, ship him. This has dragged on long enough. It is torturous. It makes the franchise look like something even worse than a last-place team. Please, though, do not cave in to Detroit.
Granted, the Jackets have a perception problem, especially as it relates to swinging a big trade. The problem was exacerbated on the eve of the draft, when Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero and his Carolina Hurricanes counterpart, Jim Rutherford, pulled off a blockbuster that included Jordan Staal, Brandon Sutter and a first-round draft pick. It was huge, fast, neat and clean. Jackets fans saw it go down and buried their heads in their hands. Where is the action on Nash?
The downtrodden supporters clinging to their allegiance to the local NHL franchise need resolution. Have they not been through enough? Do something — but do not send Nash to Detroit. That might be the only resolution that makes the situation worse here. Please, not Detroit. Granted, we cannot be sure how big a player the Red Wings are in the Nash derby, but we know they are involved. Please, rebuff them.
Now, can you imagine Nash playing with Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit, and drumming the Jackets six times a season? Imagine Red Wings fans scalping off half the house at Nationwide Arena, reveling in the carnage and throwing seafood on the ice? Imagine this going on for six or eight or a dozen years? Please, say it ain’t so. The Red Wings are supposed to be archrivals. They play three hours up the road in Michigan. They are in the same division. Chase them, catch them and maybe, eventually, beat them — but do not help them.
Do not give them the only star the Jackets have ever had, the franchise’s career leader in every important offensive category, the man who was supposed to be the cornerstone of the enterprise. To do so would be a crime against sport. Is that an overstatement? I do not think so. Think of the fans. Think of the soul of the operation. It should have a soul, should it not?
There is only one scenario whereby Nash-to-Detroit would be acceptable, and that is if the Wings give up GM Ken Holland, coach Mike Babcock and a goaltender (preferably, Jimmy Howard). Absent such a weighty return, the Jackets are no closer to beating the Wings for another generation. Is that not the point, to beat them?
Howson, after five months of wrangling, has to be haggard, harried and maybe even desperate. We all want this ordeal to end. But it would go beyond farce if Nash is traded to the Wings for a parcel of prospects and picks. It would tear at the very core of a franchise that has little left at which to tear.
And the price the Wings would have to pay to land Nash would tear the very core of the franchise right out of the Wings’ heart and leave the Wings with a marquee forward and very little else going forward.
The free-agent pool is now wading-pool shallow on defencemen; the injury-prone Carlo Colaicovo, 29, or Chris Campoli, 27, might be the best of the rest.
Holland has insisted that free agency is not about making a splash or winning bidding wars; it’s about improving the team. And the Wings did strike new deals with backup netminder Jonas Gustavsson, ball of energy Jordin Tootoo, and former Red Wing Mikael Samuelsson.
The marquee names, so far at least, have passed them by. (The Wings tendered an offer to Zach Parise as well but did not want to pay as much as the Wild.)
Unlike defence, the position Detroit desperately needs to fill, there is still offensive talent up for the taking this summer. The Red Wings could still lure Shane Doan from the Phoenix Coyotes, and Russian sniper Alex Semin could excel with a winged wheel on his chest.
How many goals would Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash, who reportedly has Detroit on his infamous yes-trade shortlist, score with Pavel Datsyuk setting him up? The over/under is set at 42.
Unless the Red Wings can figure out a way to shore their blue line through trades—we’re looking at you, Jay Bouwmeester—we could be looking a team that’s now offence first and offence second.
And again, I just don’t believe the hype. The Free Press’s James Jahnke’s trying to stir the pot as well, the Hockey News’s Lyle Richardson examines the Nash derby, and as MLive’s Josh Slaghter assesses the disappointment level among Wings fans today, the Red Wings Mark the second anniversary of Bob Probert’s passing and one of Probert’s former employers’ MSM’ers, ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers, is tossing off a rather pathetic, “Well, at least the Red Wings lost out on Suter and Parise, too!” line…
The Macomb Daily’s Pat Caputo offers a grumpy analysis of the fallout surrounding Suter and Parise “not choosing Detroit”...
I suppose the reaction to the Red Wings not signing free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise is predictable, but it doesn’t make it any less pathetic in the sense we’ve known all along this is less “Hockey Town” than “Band Wagon Town.”
Now, because Suter turned down a $90 million offer from Ken Holland, Holland is another Matt Millen, the team should change its name from the “Red Wings” to the “Orange Cones” because they will be just a bunch pylons from now on, and Al Sobotka shouldn’t even bother to flood the ice at Joe Louis Arena this fall.
All this notion the Red Wings “can’t draw the premier free agents anymore” is not true. Detroit still has it’s advantages. It’s still a border city to Canada, still has strong ties in Europe and many European players enjoying playing here. It still has the edge of having many top players who are from this state, and players that played college hockey in this state. The Red Wings front office and ownership still has a tremendous reputation. It’s not like the perception is the Red Wings are perennial losers.
But they didn’t fit here with these two particular American-born players, who played their college hockey in the WCCHA not the CCHA.
Another thing: Neither one of these players is worth $90 million. It might turn out to be the best thing that happened to the Red Wings is getting snubbed here. Parise has been a second-team NHL All-Star - once. And he was brilliant in the 2010 Olympics, which is probably the best thing on his resume. He had two reasonably big seasons in New Jersey, but his numbers did drop last season. The Devils did get to the Stanley Cup finals unexpectedly, but it wasn’t like he was a scoring machine. He had eight goals in 24 playoff games, just 15 points and was minus 8.
The perception Shea Weber and Ryan Suter were 1 and 1-A along the blueline in Nashville is a joke. Weber is the much better player. Suter has never been either a first- or second-team NHL All Star. He didn’t have a particularly good playoff season last spring. Weber was the difference vs. the Red Wings, and both disappeared against Phoenix. In 39 playoff games, Suter has one power-play goal and is minus 4.
By pointing this out, I’m not saying these two players wouldn’t have helped the Red Wings. They would have - absolutely. But the cost was ridiculous, and guaranteed the Red Wings nothing.
I do feel during this last playoff season, the Red Wings displayed virtually no urgency, and it does seem like they’ve been resting on their laurels. As such, the severe public criticism they are receiving may ultimately be of benefit. But because they didn’t land Zach Parise or Ryan Suter doesn’t mean it is the end of the hockey world as we’ve known it.
And, again, via RWF, 97.1 the Ticket’s Mike Stone wonders where the Wings go from here…
1.The dominoes started to fall when Nicklas Lidstrom announced he was not coming back. Granted the lock Hall of Famer was slipping a bit, but he was still the best defenseman on the team and one of the five best in the league. We knew he would be impossible to replace, but with Ryan Suter available ,many thought the loss could be tempered.
2.As expected Brad Stuart told Ken Holland he would not come back so his rights were shipped to San Jose. Stuart was far from great, but he was the third best defenseman on the team and he frequently hit people.
3.Jiri Hudler decides to seek free agency so the Wings try to replace his 25 goals by bringing back Mikael Samuelsson. He will help on the power play, with his lethal slapshot, but at 35 years old,I don’t think 3 million a year and a no trade clause makes any sense. Hudler meanwhile gets a 16 million for four years with Calgary. I am no Hudler fan, so his loss does not bother me. Hopefully I am not wrong on that.
4.Jordin Tootoo signs a 2 year contract for nearly 4 million dollar. I know I am in the minority but I don’t mind this signing. Yes he is small, but the Wings need a pain in the ass and Tootoo is that.
5. Signing Jonas Gustavsson as a backup to Jimmy Howard was a sound move,but I don’t do summersaults for a backup goalie
6.And last but not least,the failure of the Red Wings to land either Ryan Suter or Zack Parise. Not getting Suter is devastating because of the Lidstrom and Stuart departures. He is not a Norris Trophy winner, but he is an excellent defenseman. Parise was a pipe dream. He was the power forward the Wings have not had since Brendan Shanahan turned into a finesse forward. It is obvious that the two wanted to play together and they wanted to do that in Minnesota where they are most comfortable. I do not blame the Red Wings for not getting either. They made a great offer. I can’t kill Ken Holland for this. However, I do fault him for not making this team more playoff ready the last couple of years. I contend Holland was too loyal to some players and should have gotten a couple(not all) bigger and grittier players. He should have been drafting more players who fit today’s style of playoff hockey. Trading a first round pick for Kyle Quincey was not the answer Wing fans were looking for.
The Wings might have been hampered by the style of Mike Babcock. I have heard enough stories from people I trust the past few years that the players were sick of his voice and sick of his ways. I can’t say this is a common thread with the majority of the team but players around the league talk. In fact someone told me in March that Suter would not come here because of Babcock. I told him that was bull crap. Maybe it wasn’t.
The bottom line is that the Wings as of NOW are not an elite team. They have two excellent forwards in Datsyuk and Zetterberg and one very good defenseman in Kronwall. Jimmy Howard is a regular season all star who still has under performed in the playoffs.The rest of the team is made up of some good players and some average players. Red Wing followers expect more.
So where do they go from here. I don’t think they should go crazy and overpay for players like Semin and Doan .Working out a trade for someone like Bobby Ryan,Keith Yandle,Jay Bouwmeester,or Rick Nash without crippling the team would be the way to go. Remember there will be a lockout and when the league resumes, the cap will go down. That means plenty of players will have to be let go or traded. The Wings should have plenty of quality players to choose from after next season. My advice for Wings fans is to lower your expectations for this year and hope that Ken Holland can make the right moves to make the Wings elite again, because if he can’t, the chances of another dominant run will be non-existent.
Maybe we need a voice of reason here regarding the Wings’ future, from ESPN’s Craig Custance (insider-only, sorry), who ponders where the spurned bidders for Suter and Parise go from here…
Detroit Red Wings—Suter said he gave Detroit serious consideration before choosing Minnesota as his ultimate destination.
“Obviously, Detroit is a great franchise,” he said. “Everyone knows how much success they’ve had. They were right there until the end as well.”
Losing out on Parise isn’t a huge loss for the Red Wings but losing Suter is devastating. He could have made the transition into the post-Nicklas Lidstrom era almost seamless and now GM Ken Holland has to move on to Plan B. The next best fit in free agency is St. Louis Blues D Carlo Colaicovo, although he’s had trouble staying healthy. Holland may have to turn to the trade market and see if he can lure Keith Yandle away from a Phoenix team that would much rather ship him East, if the Coyotes are going to trade him at all. Alexander Semin’s name has been linked to the Red Wings and playing with Pavel Datsyuk could help revive his reputation as a player whose intensity doesn’t match his skill level, but the team would much prefer a shot at Shane Doan who loves Phoenix but doesn’t want to sign there unless he’s sure the team will remain in Arizona. If Doan is open to leaving, Detroit will push hard to sign him.
And he offers a set of “best players still available” by position:
Forward—Semin is the best forward remaining on the market and likely won’t last through the end of the week. He comes with risk, but is still a remarkable talent who has been productive when healthy. If Doan makes himself available, there will be no shortage of interested teams. Teams looking for veteran leaders have strong options in Mike Knuble, Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner.
Defense—Colaiacovo has skill and can play in a team’s top four, although he is probably ideally suited a little further down depth chart on contending teams. Brett Clark is a durable defenseman who played in all 82 games the last two seasons with the Lightning despite his fearlessness when it comes to shotblocking. Only Josh Gorges blocked more shots last season than Clark’s 199.
“Lots of moving pieces in the goalie market,” said one source. “Hard to predict.”
There’s something to be said for players like Matt Gilroy, Pavel Kubina, Jaroslav Spacek, Michal Rozsival and even Scott Hannan and Chris Campoli on the blueline, and Petr Sykora and reclamation projects like Wojtek Wolski, Peter Mueller, Marco Sturm, Kristian Huselius, Jochen Hecht, Niklas Hagman and Eric Fehr are out there up front, should the Wings not out-bid their opponents for someone like Semin or go after Doan—assuming he wants to leave Phoenix at all…
But they won’t exactly sell jerseys, will they?
Update: For the record, I’d love to see the Wings go after Keith Yandle, too, but given that they need a second line center, and that Valtteri Filppula is more or less the “next in line” in the leadership and foundational department after Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, I don’t see that trade happening, especially given that the Wings are seen as another “archrival” that would need to be fleeced to receive a tolerable return.
At this point, we might be talking about Bouwmeester or bust, as uncomfortable as that is to admit, on the trade market, and otherwise…We may have to get used to spelling Carlo C-o-l-a-i-a-c-o-v-o’s name
Update #2: As many Wings fans here and on Twitter have suggested, there’s a very logical player to trade for that the Winnipeg Jets don’t seem too keen on retaining, and he’d fit in perfectly: Tobias Enstrom. He’s small but he’s a very slick, smart puck-moving defenseman, and everything I’ve read from the Jets’ press over the past four months has indicated that the team’s worried about having to overpay to retain his services as he’s a UFA next summer.
Content update #1: From ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun:
Don’t be surprised if the Red Wings come calling on Phoenix for Keith Yandle after losing out on Suter, but I’m not sure there’s a fit there. For starters, it would take a strong offer for the Coyotes to move Yandle, especially given that the money handed out to defensemen over the past week or so makes Yandle’s contract suddenly look like a bargain. Yandle has four more years at a $5.25 million cap hit, less than what Matt Carle signed for in Tampa on Wednesday night ($5.5 million average salary) and the same as what Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million AAV) got in Calgary. I like Wideman and Carle (I think Carle in particular has always been underrated), but they’re not Yandle.
However, if the Coyotes get a serious enough offer for Yandle, my guess is they’d rather move him to the Eastern Conference, where several teams have been nibbling already.
With Carle gone, the unrestricted free-agent market for defensemen thins out in a hurry. The best bet would be Carlo Colaiacovo. Detroit and Nashville would be among several clubs to have some level of interest. He’s a good puck-mover and solid character guy.
And here’s Adam Gretz’s take on what the Wings need to do next…
[Brendan Smith]‘s only appeared in 14 NHL games (all of them last season, and he played well in his limited role) but has put up nice numbers in the American Hockey League in each of the past two seasons. He’s not going to be ready to step into a top role at this point, but barring a trade (perhaps Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester could be available, given the numbers the Flames now have on their blue line) there’s nobody else available that would be able to at this point either.
For as many hits as the defense has took this summer (Lidstrom retiring, Brad Stuart going back to San Jose) they could also look to spend that money on giving their forwards an additional boost. One name that’s out there is Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash, who happens to have Detroit on his short list of teams that he will accept a trade to. There are, of course, multiple problems with this idea.
Chief among them is the completely unreasonable, unrealistic, and downright absurd asking price that Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has put on Nash. It’s perhaps the biggest reason this saga is still going on, and if he’s reportedly asking for players like Jeff Skinner in return from the Carolina Hurricanes, you have to imagine he would want even more from a division rival like the Red Wings. Especially as some in the local press plead with Howson to not deal the franchise’s best player to its closest “rival” to the north, as Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch did on Wednesday.
The other issue is that Nash’s contract is ugly, carrying a cap hit of $7.8 million over the next few years for a guy whose production has been trending in the wrong direction in recent years, and has very likely already played his best hockey.
Another intriguing option: Alexander Semin. He’s the best player still available in free agency, and based on his talent and production over the years should have been able to find a new home by now.
There is perhaps no other player in the league that faces more scrutiny and criticism than the talented 27-year-old free agent, formerly of the Washington Capitals. Some of it is deserved. Much of it is not. There is no doubt that he has his flaws as a player, but he also has many strengths. He scores goals. His talent level is matched by few in the league.
He also excels at helping to drive the play up the ice while playing a style of hockey that keeps the puck away from his opponents. His talent seems like it would be a perfect fit on a team like Detroit that aims to dominate possession and play a skill game. He also seems like the type of player that enough teams around the league have a poor enough opinion about that it could drive his price down to a pretty reasonable level given what he can provide.
Now, at first I was hesitant to jump on Howson for asking for [Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff] Skinner in return (well, no, at first I was too busy laughing to actually have coherent thoughts) but the more I think about it, the more I kind of feel bad for Howson now that the Twitterverse is eviscerating him so. While the idea of the Hurricanes including Skinner in a package for Nash is totally insane and would never happen, you can’t really blame the guy for asking. He’s already screwed up this whole situation so badly and handled Nash so poorly that the only way he can save face would be to pull off a blockbuster trade that would pay immediate dividends for his team.
This is the same reason why Rick Nash (you have no idea how many times I’ve typed “Steve Nash” today accidentally) will never be seen in a San Jose Sharks jersey. The Sharks apparently have a deal on the table for Nash, but they had a deal on the table for Nash at the trade deadline too and Howson demanded Logan Couture be part of the deal. Because the Sharks aren’t run by a team of monkeys (this truly is the blurst of times for the Blue Jackets), they said no. Now, again, one could make the not unreasonable assumption that Howson is overreaching in this trade in demanding the budding star from the Sharks but, again, how can you blame him? How do you sell to your fan base “Ryan Clowe jerseys will be on sale soon!” Nothing against Clowe, but after trading your first and only superstar, it’d be a tough pill to swallow. That being said, I once again completely understand where Howson is coming from and why he is asking for players such as Couture.
Oh. Wait. There’s also the news that Howson asked the Flyers for both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier in a trade for Nash. This…is insane. This, of course, is also definitely not happening. I’m sorry Scott, I can no longer try to justify and defend you. I’ve tried. But the only conclusion I can come to is that Scott Howson has lost his goddamn mind.
Look, Scott, I get it. You’re already kind of a laughing stock (seriously, do a Twitter search for Scott Howson, there are some gems) and you don’t want to get rid of the best (only?) thing to happen to the Blue Jackets in their short history (remember when Nikolai Zherdev was going to be a thing? Good times). There are all sorts of PR implications here, not the least of which is that Columbus will host the 2013 NHL All-Star Game, presumably with no marketable star nor a marketable team. But there’s not wanting to be fleeced in a deal and then there’s looking logic squarely in the face and telling it to go *#$%@& itself.
The Rick Nash situation escalated from idle speculation to ugliness quite quickly for Howson and it’s a problem that is likely going to get worse before it gets better. I don’t see a deal getting done that truly benefits the Blue Jackets if only because Howson now has absolutely no leverage in a deal. He’s overreaching on his return yet the market has clearly been set as to what he can’t get. Because of the last few months, it has become abundantly clear that Howson can’t go into next season with Nash on his roster and the rest of the NHL knows this as well. A deal just has to get done. Nash is of a certain caliber that basically guarantees that Howson will get some sort of return for him but it won’t be anywhere close what he was hoping.
And all because Scott Howson lost his goddamn mind.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.