The Malik Report
by George Malik on 04/21/12 at 12:37 PM ET
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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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.