The Malik Report
by George Malik on 05/26/11 at 03:53 PM ET
As Red Wings GM Ken Holland discussed the implications of Brian Rafalski’s early retirement in terms of building the Wings’ blueline going forward, he never suggested that the Wings would overpay for an Ehroff, Wisniewski, Bieska, Pitkanen, etc., suggesting to MLive’s Ansar Khan that it’s entirely possible that the Wings could sign two defensemen if they wish to spread their salary-capped dollars around. That being said, the Wings do believe that the team needs to replace Rafalski’s offensive production, which kind of makes the theory posited by the Hockey News’s Adam Proteau a moot point:
The Red Wings had no trouble with their offense this year, finishing second in the league in goals-for per game (3.13). On the other hand, their goals-against average was considerably worse (2.89 goals per game, 23rd in the NHL). They don’t need a puck-moving, offense-generating type. They need a defensive defenseman, someone you wouldn’t have to break the bank on and pay the same amount as Rafalski.
I mean, what, are you going to spend $5 million of your cap space on Joni Pitkanen? He’s one of the top unrestricted free agent blueliners on the market, but here’s what one veteran hockey observer recently said about him:
“There’s a bit of a misunderstanding about this player,” said an NHL GM, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I don’t think he’s as much of a high-end offensive player as he is an all-around, puck-moving guy. I guess if he played for Washington or one of those high-powered teams, 40 or 50 points (a season) wouldn’t be out of the question. But if you’re expecting him to carry the load on your power play or be your big point guy, I don’t think that’s him.”
What, are you going to acquire Mike Green from the Caps? If you want a player whose confidence and effectiveness (especially in his own zone) has never been lower, knock yourself out.
Assuming Lidstrom returns, Detroit’s top four would be Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart and Jonathan Ericsson (who averaged slightly more shifts per game than Rafalski this year). There are GMs who would hold their owner hostage for that type of defense corps. A $6-million salary for Lidstrom would give Holland roughly $12-16 million in cap space (depending on what the knew level will be) to address his other needs. And frankly, I think those needs are more important than making an already-above-average blueline even better.
Look at Detroit’s goalie situation. Would you not want to spend a little extra on a capable, veteran backup such as Johan Hedberg, who could work in a semi-platoon with incumbent starter Jimmy Howard and take some pressure and workload away from the 27-year-old? I would.
And would you not want to use some of that cap room to shore up the quality of your bottom two forward lines? I would. Mike Modano and Kris Draper are at the end of their admirable NHL careers and it would behoove the Wings to pursue a younger type of bottom-six forward, the way Vancouver did last off-season with Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres.
Uh, the Wings have intimated that if Chris Osgood wants to return, he will, and while I agree that the Wings need to add a “top nine” guy, they’re going to fill their need for a big, fast forechecker either via the free agent bargain bin or by simply abandoning the size aspect and hoping that Jan Mursak can crash and bang while working his way onto the Wings’ roster on a full-time basis.
The Wings want and need a puck-moving defenseman. Whether that’s Pitkanen or someone else remains to be seen, and whether the Wings spend Rafalski’s $6 million on one player or two or three remains to be seen, but the Wings’ puck possession game suffered when Rafalski was absent, and simply turning one’s back on that fact makes no real sense.
They don’t need Andreas Lilja. They hope to bring Lidstrom back, keep Jonathan Ericsson and add someone who can provide offense.
Also of Wings-related note: No foolin,’ via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jeff Gordon:
Brian Rafalski’s exit was something of a surprise for the Red Wings. If Nicklas Lidstrom also packs it in, that juggernaut will have some major issues on the blue line. Skilled offensive defensemen have long been an important ingredient for that team.
“We need great news on Nick Lidstrom,” general manager Ken Holland, according to NHL.com. “If we get great news on Nick Lidstrom, we need a defenseman or two (in free agency), depending on where their salary is at. We’re kind of done up front. Our top three lines, for the most part, are in place. Our No.1 goal is defense and we’ve got to rebuild a little bit now. We’re hoping on Nick Lidstrom (returning).”
Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovksi can become an unrestricted free agent and he grew up across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario. He could provide some stopgap offense and tougness.
But Rafalski’s retirement and Lidstrom’s advanced age makes player development especially critical in Detroit.
“Is Jakub Kindl ready for a bigger role? Is Brendan Smith ready to play in the NHL?” Holland said. “These are things we’re going to have to find out. Certainly we need one or two more veterans signed this summer. We’re going to sign somebody. It’s a matter of how much and who and how big of a role. Obviously, Nick’s decision is going to factor into how active we are on July 1 (the first day of NHL free agency).”
Gordon’s referring to Brian Hedger’s report...
• As noted by Sportsnet’s Chris Nichols, the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren believes that Brad McCrimmon’s in the running for at least an interview with Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray for the club’s vacant head coaching job;
• In the multimedia vein, via RedWIngsFeed, the Wings’ website posted an in-arena profile of Brian Rafalski (with House of Pain’s “Jump Around” as his theme song)...
• Red Wings social media coordinator picks the following game as the fourth-best Wings tilt of the 2010-2011 season…
GAME FOUR – RISE ABOVE THE FLAMES!
November 21, 2010
Red Wings 5, Flames 4 (OT)
Little did we know at the time, but the 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings were going to turn the comeback into an art form.
Henrik Zetterberg tied the game with 3.2 seconds left in the third period and Nicklas Lidstrom scored in overtime, giving the Red Wings a 5-4 victory over Calgary in the last game at the Joe before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Wings trailed 3-1 in the second period and 4-2 midway through the third before Zetterberg lit the lamp twice to even the score. Detroit also received a goal and two assists from Pavel Datsyuk, three assists from Brian Rafalski, and went three for seven on the power play in the win.
• And finally, for now, anyway, the Canton Observer’s Helen Niemiec informs us of the following about Canton, Michigan’s IKEA store:
Swedish members of the Detroit Red Wings hockey team make regular visits to the store to pick up items that they had in Sweden but are difficult to find locally. They’re most usually dropping in to buy food items, [deputy store manager James] Organ said. There is a variety of herring and salmon products, as well as lingonberry jam and cookies, a Swedish mainstay.
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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.