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A different theory as to what constitutes ‘rebuilding’ for the Red Wings

Regardless of whether you agree with Red Wings coach Mike Babcock’s assessment that scoring and depth up front doomed the Wings—and as Shark Circle points out, Babcock had hoped that the Wings would land a top-six forward as well as a top-flight defenseman to replace Brian Rafalski when he retired last spring—or whether you believe that the Wings might be better served to not spend their summer out-spending their rivals because of CBA uncertainty, or perhaps because you believe that sacrificing some of the Wings’ roster players and/or top prospects might serve the Wings’ needs better than dipping into the free agent pool…

It’s hard to suggest that the Wings need anything less than some significant personnel changes after last night’s loss to Nashville marked the third time in three years that the Wings have failed to meet their playoff expectations in at least making the Western Conference Final.

What we do know is that the Wings won’t tank the franchise for a couple of seasons to accumulate some higher-round draft picks while undergoing a full rebuild as a) one never knows if you can put the franchise back together if you tear it apart, b) Babcock, the players and the Wings’ management have no desire to, as Babcock put it, “scratch and claw” to attempt to make the playoffs, and c) telling hard-working fans and the season ticket-holders who spend a few seasons subsidizing suckage so that the, three to five years from now, the team might begin to contend for a Stanley Cup again is not a successful business model, especially in Detroit, Michigan.

The National Post’s Michael Traikos offers a very different take on the “rebuild or reload?” argument by suggesting that the parameters of a “rebuild” involve Ken Holland simply crossing his fingers that his team’s top prospects end up replacing Detroit’s ever-aging core of stars (the Wings have built their core around players in their late 20’s and mostly early 30’s for a good fifteen years), and that anything involving being more proactive on the free agent or trade market [edit/update: or maybe even behind the bench, as the men flanking Babcock’s shoulders were ineffectual at best] constitutes a “re-tooling”:

Nicklas Lidstrom, who is a free agent, turns 42 next week. Tomas Holmstrom, who is also a free agent, is 39. Todd Bertuzzi is 37. Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary are 33. Brad Stuart and Johan Franzen are 32. This team is getting older — not younger. No question, Lidstrom is still one of the best at his position and Datsyuk continues to dazzle. But it was clear against the Predators that the Red Wings lacked the legs and championship-level depth to go far.

This is a not exactly a new problem in Detroit. The team has undergone many changes in the last two decades, with Steve Yzerman, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Dominik Hasek, Chris Chelios and several other star players either moving on or calling it quits. Somehow, someway, the Red Wings have managed to continue moving forward, because there was always a young, up-and-coming player ready to take the old guy’s place. When the Red Wings won the Cup in 2002, Datsyuk was a 23-year-old rookie and Henrik Zetterberg was in the process of coming over from Sweden. It was an easy transition from Yzerman and Fedorov.

But who are the next ones?

Is Brendan Smith, who was drafted 27th overall in 2007, the next Lidstrom? Is 6-foot-2 power forward Joakim Andersson the next Holmstrom? Is Tomas Jurco, a second-round pick in 2011, the next Datsyuk?

It is far too early to say. The question is do the Red Wings wait around and see, or do they go out and find replacements? If it is the latter, this summer’s crop of potential free agents — Nashville’s Ryan Suter, New Jersey’s Zach Parise and Washington’s Alex Semin are some of the more interesting names — could be Detroit’s best chance to keep the assembly line moving.

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Comments

Avatar

George - thanks for all your great writing this year. And Wings fans we still have a couple things to celebrate, the home win streak, the playoff streak and of course NICK LIDSTROM.
Next year obviously the defense has to be better. Currently we have one #1 D-man and lets hope he doesn’t retire. After that we have a couple #3’s (Kronwall & White) a #4 in Quincy and not-so-young-anymore Erickkson. Pretty sure Brad Stuart will leave for the west coast. He was a true warrior for Detroit. So bottom line - our defense is a mess even if Brandon Smith is any good. Kenny spend your first chunk of $ on your defense.
Goaltending is just OK. Howard in my opinion is a 11-15 goalie but the “Wings Way” will never allow for a $4-6 million goalie like Pikka. Just get a very capable backup and not rely on JoeyMac or Conklin.
I don’t think Hudler will take the hometown discount so no more than $2.5 for more than 2 years so send him on way If you can move Cleary or Franzen do it.
I also think its time to say goodby to Homer unless he will take nothing more than 1 million. He basically is a one trick pony. If he doesn’t get the deflection he doesn’t offer much. You can use Bert or Franzen to do the same thing.
The assistant coach fiasco was just that. I don’t know how much of the blame can go to the players or coaches but the power play was AWFUL all year and obviously the defensive wasn’t good.
The slow starts more than half the year - that has to fall on Babcock. I still think he is the best coach in the NHL but looking at the job Tippett, year after year does and MIKE, LOSE THE SMUGNESS NEXT YEAR!

So, bottom line Kenny 1. Fix the defense.  2. Get yourself a couple goal scorers. 3. A quality back up goalie. 4. Don’t think it’s real important to save some $$ for trading deadline day, you did that last year and did relatively nothing. And finally hope & pray Nick comes back for one more year.

GO WINGS!

Posted by Acim on 04/21/12 at 02:35 PM ET

HockeyFanOhio's avatar

Suter’s 27, Semin is 28 and Parise is 27 as well.  So those would be core age players.  If the Wings could get Suter and one of the other two that would go a long way to shoring up the team’s roster until the younger players either develop into full fledged NHL players or don’t.  Not sure of the money, but I think a bit of a shake up could help this team.

Posted by HockeyFanOhio from Central Ohio on 04/21/12 at 02:37 PM ET

Savage Henry's avatar

George - thanks for all your great writing this year.

Yes, this.  George, your writing has been thorough and timely enough that it’s replaced most of my previous hockey browsing.  You’re providing almost all of the hockey information that I’m interested in reading.  Keep up the good work!

Posted by Savage Henry on 04/21/12 at 02:39 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

We had just shy of fifty contracts going into the trade deadline.  The Wings have prospects coming out of their ears.  I don’t think packaging a few more prospects with somebody like Jiri Hudler or hell even Franzen would have amounted to “tanking the franchise.”  It could be four, five, six, or seven years before most of those prospects are ready to help the Wings.  What will the season ticket holders think about treading water for so many years?  Pavel, Z, and Kronner will be starting to turn grey by then.

As far as Nashville goes, every trade they made with the exception of Hal Gill ended up having a key effect on the series.  Gaustad was superb in the faceoff circle, and he hurt the Wings in key situations.  I’d say he was worth every penny they paid for him.  Also, a brief look at the score sheet will show you what Andrei Kostitsyn did for the Preds.  I’d say they got good value there as well.  What could he have gotten done on Pavel’s line?  Who knows, but I bet I’d like it more than what most of our forwards were able to accomplish.

What did staying put do for the Wings?  Well I guess we have a bright future ahead of us…...  I completely understand Ken Holland’s thinking about not over paying, but when that mentality starts to have an adverse effect on your team’s chances, you have to be flexible.  Babcock has been screaming for help for over a season now.  No wonder he let his team stew in its own refuse all year.  The cost of another trade wouldn’t have ruined the Wings future.  Give me break with that stuff.

But enough of that.  What is more important to me, and I hope Wings fans take this to heart, is that we can begin burying the “trade deadline hatchet.”  Some of the folks (on this site and on other blogs) who defended Holland, persisted in being real dick heads towards the opposite camp for weeks afterwards.  (If I were them, I’d be feeling a little sheepish this morning.)  It was pretty disheartening and disappointing to see.  Some folks let their inner fan skew their perception of reality, and I get that that is annoying, but we all know well enough who deserves to be taken seriously and who doesn’t.  Neither side of the argument had a monopoly on reason.  I was on the fence throughout the argument, but at no point did I feel that either side was being irrational, or had “won” the argument.  I won’t go so far as to say that apologies are in order, but I hope we can all show a little modesty in our opinions going forward.

We got a long summer ahead of us….. LGRW.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/21/12 at 02:47 PM ET

DocF's avatar

I see some needs.  I also saw a team that was far from healthy for the last third of the season and did not get better.

It was obvious to me that Lidstrom, Datsuyk and Zetterberg (to a lesser extent) were still limited by injuries.  Franzen was skating like a 50 year old with a bad back.  Could this be because he is a 32 year old with a bad back?  Bertuzzi also looked like he was hobbling and was not a force, nor even a ballerina.  Was this back or groin issues or both?  Filppula had that deer in the headlight expression.  Oh my!  Cleary played way better than he should have on one leg.

The loss of Helm certain caused a total lack of flexibility, but this has been evident ever since Patrick Eaves got hurt.  He was the total package of a guy who could play anywhere.  When he and Miller were healthy, players did not have to play much with nagging injuries.

I have not talked much about the defense as realistically even without Lidstrom and Stuart the defense will be better than most teams in the league.  I do not think they will be able to pry Suter away from Nashville as they have enough cap space to keep him.

Now at forward, I do see Parise as a potential Red Wing.  New Jersey has little cap room and is almost a ward of the league.  I can also see another offensive forward being brought in (Radulov? he really impressed me).  I also would think that having Eaves healthy would help enormously. 

I presume that Helm will be back at close to full tilt at the start of the season.  This kind of injury is very serious for a guy who is so very good at stick work.  I want to see Gustav Nyquist come back bigger and stronger.  His passes are way to soft.  He need to have some more muscle to zip them through.  He weighs less than Hudler and it shows.  He is a potential great player and he should be able to get up to 190 lb. or so.  Emmerton made no progress all year.  Mursak had a lost season account his pre-season ankle break.  He should come back next year and be better.

I think the major need is better coaching.  The experiment with these unproven assistants has to stop now.  Babcock wanted them and he must bear the responsibility for their inability to do their job.  I would oust Babcock too, but who would be a likely replacement? 

A backup goalie is going to be an issue too.  I am seriously afraid that Joey MacDonald’s back problems may be career ending.  There are some good guys who are in sour situations.  I certainly would look at Mason from Columbus.  I think a good goalie coach can straighten him out and make him close to what he was when he came up.  Any Toronto goalie would be another possibility.  Those guys are respectable in a toxic situation.  The problem is that so many teams are in the same or worse straits.

Anyway, I do not want to see a major demolition of the team.  We do need to jack things up a bit and I am sure that Ken Holland will find some pieces.

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 04/21/12 at 02:47 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

George - thanks for all your great writing this year.

Yes, this.  George, your writing has been thorough and timely enough that it’s replaced most of my previous hockey browsing.  You’re providing almost all of the hockey information that I’m interested in reading.  Keep up the good work!

Posted by Savage Henry on 04/21/12 at 12:39 PM ET

Ditto.  Thanks for the great content George.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 04/21/12 at 02:48 PM ET

bbmaggiemay's avatar

Well..what can you say..it wasn’t meant to be. I guess. As always I picked your brain constantly thru the season. Especially with the Quincy trade…I hoped for a power forward like Babs. Makes me wonder if there was a little flack when Holland didn’t get one. A Sean Bergenheim or Tuomo Ruutto would have been nice..but your have to be willing to pay for quality. Don’t suppose Wings could get anything for Quincy now. In meantime Stuart will go home to California..just praying Lidstrom stays 1 more year. Brendan Smith will be a D-Man for sure..should have been playing last night! Is the Winter Classic enough to entice Nick for one more year? Going to be a long, long summer
Thanks for all George..you have been great

Posted by bbmaggiemay on 04/21/12 at 02:51 PM ET

Avatar

I’d rather have anyone in the NHL, then to have Radulov on my team. That dude is a cancer and he can take his ass back to mother Russia. He gets a penalty and cries about it to a point where I thought he was going to get kicked out. I think a preds player may have pulled him away. Then when he scored last night it seemed to me that he wanted to celebrate with himself. He seems to only care about himself rather then the team. Up until he scored he acted like a crybaby when he didn’t get the puck.  No thank you.

Posted by T on 04/21/12 at 03:25 PM ET

Primis's avatar

As I stated over on the Sharks blog that was linked, I think DET has gotten themselves into a pickle.  They talk about “over-ripening” prospects, but the last year or so has been ridiculous in terms of not playing them even in meaningless regular season games.

DET is starting down a slippery slope, and it’s the same slope teams like COL and DAL tumbled down.  You get far too caught up in the now and you squander your youth and future, and next thing you know… wham… you NEED that future now and it’s not there anymore.  DAL and COL still haven’t recovered from the mess.  DET won’t either unless they nip it in the bud now.

DET’s at a crossroads, and it’s not going to be pretty.  DET preaches loyalty and blah blah blah… but it’s time to cut some of the older, underperforming players go, period.  Guys like Cleary, Bertuzzi, and Hudler if they really don’t like him need to be sent away to open up spots.  Guys like Stuart let go if he doens’t want to be here anymore and it’s a distraction.  Guys like Homer and Nick, let them retire.  And then let the kids succeed or fail in their place, alongside the other remaining core guys that are good (Pavel, Fil, Helm, Franzen, Z, Kronner, etc).  Some will fail for sure.  Other will succeed certainly still.

Cream rises to the top… but only if you don’t hold it down first.  DET’s holding their kids down too much at this point, and not for good enough reasons.

Posted by Primis on 04/21/12 at 03:59 PM ET

perfection's avatar

absolutely agree on Radulov. by his demeanor alone, he seems like the anti-Datsyuk… self gratifying, self serving, and a crybaby.

I also don’t think Suter is going anywhere. The Preds are making a serious run. They have to be brimming with confidence and they’ve proven that they are willing to spend enough to compete which is what the stars wanted to see before they signed anything long term.

Re. the deadline, too many people still think that this works like a video game. Like all Holland had to do was press the X button and WE would have gotten Gaustad. Total disregard for the fact that we didn’t even have the pick that Nashville sent over. There are TWO sides of every trade. I’m sure Holland made an offer for Gaustad. Nashville offered more. Buffalo took their offer. That can’t simply be construed as some kind of “failure” by Holland because that’s just not how it works. The Red Wings philosophy of not overpaying is about more than simply hanging onto assets. It’s about maintaining the image of a “winner”. It’s maintaining the image that, you hope, makes someone like Parise choose to play in Detroit for a million bucks less than Minnesota is offering him. It’s about not seeming desperate. You can criticize the philosophy, but taking the longterm view is exactly what has maintained the Wings’ dominance over two decades. I mean, does anyone think we were Paul Gaustad away from the cup… seriously? I actually think Nashville could have given us Gaustad and we still would have lost. It’s not like HE could score on Rinne.

And I also want a KK feature where I can block anyone who suggests that the Wings should fire Babcock. That’s really like the dumbest possible suggestion there is. You might as well trade Datsyuk for Leino while you’re at it and bring back Dave Lewis too. These ideas seem about on par with firing one of the best coaches in the league for basically not overachieving quite enough.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 04/21/12 at 04:03 PM ET

Crow's avatar

The roster needs to be infused with players with more desire to win.  Trade Franzen for Nash.  Sign Parise(he has the heart and desire we need) instead of resigning Hudler.  If Lids stays one more year, then forgo the free agent defenseman for next year.  Lids, White, Kronner, BigE, Q, Smith and Kindl would suffice.  Helm and Eaves coming back next year should shore up the bottom 6.  A solid 1b goalie would be huge but not necessary.

Posted by Crow on 04/21/12 at 04:50 PM ET

Chet's avatar

the “Turn Turn Turn” post over at TPL sums up my thinking in the team going forward very well.

let’s hope the blue jackets are into taking franzen and a prospect/pick package for nash. his game seems well suited for columbus at this point. he’s not much more than a bigger, better paid leino in my mind…

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 04/21/12 at 05:58 PM ET

Tuba Guy's avatar

Is it definite that NJ won’t resign Parise?  Why wouldn’t Sutter remain with Nashville? 

If there is anything I have learned about Holland’s post-lockout approach it’s that he won’t pay top dollar for new blood. He tries to obtain the bargain priced second tier player and reserve top dollar to retain his own players. Holland is a calm and collected individual. He isn’t going to make drastic moves simply because the Wings were knocked out by an inter-divisional rival that will lose some of it’s rent-a-players in the offseason.

I’m not saying that the Wings don’t need a bit of a shakeup (retooling has become a popular phrase today) but I have no reason to think that Holland will make an out of character move.  I can virtually guarantee no activity on July 1.  Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Posted by Tuba Guy from Royal Oak, MI on 04/21/12 at 06:24 PM ET

babymachine's avatar

Suter and Parise really seem to be the only big names the Wings could nab. Lets be cautiously optimistic: Detroit lands Parise, not Suter, because i agree with previous posts and sentiment that if Detroit had won this series, we had a better shot of getting him. Now, not so much. Would you want to leave a team with Rinne in net? If i was a D man on Nashville, heck no!

So we add Parise, and maybe land someone else via free agency (Parenteau?). I say we keep Hudler, since he played well this season.

Our D still looks good (assuming Lids returns) with Lidstrom, Kronwall, Ericsson, and Quincey. I really think next season we need to go all-in with Kronwall. Put him on the top line and leave him there-he needs to be groomed to be our #1, unless we do the impossible and land Suter. As far as other Free Agent D-men, maybe we take a look at Matt Carle. He’s still young (27) and could be a good Stuart replacement. All of this is assuming Smith comes in and stays on the third D pair, and develops, because i think he still needs a full season under his belt before showing what he could be.

As for Howard, he was playing great until he got injured. Drop Conks and sign a capable backup. Maybe we can convince Vokoun to ride the pine this time around? lol

Posted by babymachine from Portland, Oregon by way of Macomb, Michigan on 04/21/12 at 06:34 PM ET

awould's avatar

Radulov is the biggest puck hog in all of hockey. He’s the worst kind of Russian stereotype.

Posted by awould on 04/21/12 at 06:45 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

DET’s holding their kids down too much at this point

Primis, I said something like this a couple days ago.  the cap era has caught up with the Wings.  they held it off longer than other teams, I think…but nobody can hold it off forever.  gone are the days when you can fill your team with free agents like Hull, Robitaille, Hasek, etc and let kids languish….I mean, develop…in the minors until they’re 25.  gone are the days of an 8-10 year rotation around your core.  that rotation needs to be shortened, and guys need to be pushed out of the frying pan into the fire earlier.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/21/12 at 08:59 PM ET

Avatar

If there is anything I have learned about Holland’s post-lockout approach it’s that he won’t pay top dollar for new blood. He tries to obtain the bargain priced second tier player and reserve top dollar to retain his own players.

He paid top-dollar for Hossa in 2009.

Posted by RyanVM on 04/21/12 at 09:04 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

here’s an idea.  it seems like the Wings have had fast starts (to their seasons) then as fatigue and injury mount they slow down, bring up young guys to fill in late in the season, back into the playoffs and then don’t have any momentum going into round 1.

how about bringing up the young guys at the START of the season?  sure, maybe it’ll mean a slower start to the season, not coming out of the gate guns-a-blazin…but maybe it’ll mean a better finish, some momentum going into the playoffs, and healthier players.

you don’t win a marathon by running as fast as you can at the beginning until you run out of gas.

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 04/21/12 at 09:07 PM ET

w2j2's avatar

That Shark Circle anaysis is really good.

Posted by w2j2 on 04/22/12 at 12:07 AM ET

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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.