Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: Replacement by committee and the Belle Tire of hockey

By the time the Red Wings were eliminated by the San Jose Sharks two months ago, the team already knew that Brian Rafalski might retire, that Chris Osgood might have to do the same due to his lingering groin issues and that, given the free agent marketplace, there was no way the team could “replace” either player outright.

So the Wings chose to refrain from spending like there were no CBA negotiations tomorrow, and instead, opted to “replace” Rafalski’s offensive production by promoting Niklas Kronwall to the team’s #2 defenseman’s spot, retaining the services of Jonathan Ericsson (albeit at a near-free agency marketplace price) and adding a suitable #3/4 defenseman who can produce 30-40 points in Ian White and a little depth and/or snarl via Mike Commodore, who will ensure that Jakub Kindl has to do more than simply play decently to earn regular ice time.

In Osgood’s case, the team found that Joey MacDonald could at least capably back up Jimmy Howard when necessary, so a combination of eventually re-signing MacDonald, bringing Ty Conklin back for a second tour of duty, and in general, spending to the 2010-2011 salary cap so that the team can plug any holes in the lineup and/or accentuate it via trades as the upcoming season progresses.

Put simply, the team made enough lateral moves to off-set the departures of Rafalski and Osgood while counting on their own players to step up, their new coaches to infuse the team with a bit more energy and attention to detail on the power play and in terms of keeping the puck out of the net when other teams cycle the puck down low, especially when the opposition’s up a man, and should White, Commodore, Conklin and MacDonald not get the job done, the team has more than enough cap space—around $6.2 million, according to Capgeek.com—to address any lingering concerns and/or provide an upgrade or three down the line (cap space essentially allows you to bring in up to X amount of remaining salaries during the season, so if the Wings are able to avoid injuries and choose to wait until the trade deadline to add to the roster, for example, they could bring on up to $6 million in remaining salaries, which is quite a bit of money when about 30% of the season’s remaining).

At the same time, the Wings have established something of a new trend: the Wings have earned the title of the “Belle Tire of Hockey” over the past 15-or-so seasons, getting more mileage out of veteran players and re-treads than anyone could have imagined, especially in the cases of Igor Larionov, Larry Murphy, Chris Chelios, and perhaps even Osgood and Nicklas Lidstrom, but in the post-lockout CBA, the Wings have focused more and more on bringing “re-treads” back to town, choosing to give players who left Detroit second opportunities to prove themselves at lesser-than-market-value prices.

From Osgood to Darren McCarty, Todd Bertuzzi, Jason Williams, Jiri Hudler (depending on your definition of “re-tread” given that he remained an estranged member of the organization) and now Conklin, the Wings’ front office seems more than content to stick with safe bets and/or known quantities, usually with successful results.

For Ty Conklin, the chance to return to a team and city he knows after two sub-par seasons with the St. Louis Blues gave him more than enough impetus to sign a one-year, $750,000 contract to back up the man whose promotion pushed him out of town in 2009, as he told the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker...

“I had conversations with Ken (Holland, the Red Wings general manager) about it,” Conklin said. “I told him I wanted to stay, but understood the situation “Jimmy [Howard] was ready to play. He proved that and Ozzie was still there. I understood where they were with goalies. I wasn’t surprised (but) I would have jumped at the opportunity to come back.”

Conklin was solid in St. Louis in 2009-10 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, but slipped to a 3.22 average and .881 save percentage this past year.

“I had a much better season my first year (in St. Louis) than last year,” Conklin said. “At the end of the day, you’re remembered for how you played. It was an up and down season (in 2010-11). A couple of games affected my numbers at the end of the day (but) physically I feel really good.”
...
“I knew I wasn’t going to be back in St. Louis,” Conklin said. “The way it worked out was perfect. There’s a lot of guys that were there before. The core of the team is the same.”
...
“Whatever they tell me I’m playing, I’ll play,” he said. “I know what role I’m expected to fill. Whether it’s one game or 10 games or 20 games, it’s not something I have to be told.”

His second stop in Detroit will mark the sixth time he’s changed NHL teams. His career began in Edmonton in 2001-02 and he’s also had stops in Columbus, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit, St. Louis and now back to Detroit.

“We’re on the run all the time,” said Conklin, a native of Anchorage, Alaska. “It certainly would be nice to be somewhere five, six or seven years. In the same breath, it’s nice to see different organizations. I’ve playing in a lot of different organizations and made a lot of good friends.”

With Joey MacDonald signed to a one-way contract for the 2012-2013 season and Thomas McCollum likely to exhaust his waiver exemption this year (depending on the number of games he plays), that’s not likely to happen, but Conklin can at least hope for a solid rebound season, and as he told the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan, familiarity breeds contentment:

“Just finding the rink, you worry about that coming to a new city,” said Conklin, who agreed to a one-year contract worth $750,000 Wednesday to back up Jimmy Howard. “I won’t have that problem here. A lot of familiar faces, great team; it’s exciting to be back.”

Conklin has played with Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and now Detroit twice since the lockout ended in 2005. But Conklin, 35, enjoyed his best pro season when he backed up Chris Osgood during the 2008-09 season. Conklin won a career-high 25 games with a 2.51 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.

“It was a great learning experience, too, playing with experienced, talented guys, a team with a lot of talent,” Conklin said. “I considered it as a great opportunity.”

But with Jimmy Howard ready for the NHL, and Chris Osgood entrenched as the No. 1 goalie, the Wings didn’t aggressively work to re-sign Conklin, who was an unrestricted free agent Conklin wasn’t necessarily looking to leave the Wings but he landed quickly in St. Louis. With the Blues, Conklin had a good first season but struggled last season (8-8-4, 3.22 GAA, .881 save percentage) as St. Louis traded for goalie Jaroslav Halak and kept Conklin on the bench for long stretches.

“It wasn’t my best year,” he said. “I didn’t play a ton, but in all honesty, when you’re out there you’re still playing hockey.”
...
“Being comfortable in the surroundings, so many familiar faces on the team, just being part of this team, I’m excited,” he said.

Conklin continued that narrative while speaking to the Free Press’s Helene St. James, who notes that the feeling’s mutual...

“It’s always nice to come back to familiar faces,” Conklin said Wednesday, the day his one-year, $750,000 deal with the Red Wings was announced. “I know there are a few new faces, but a big chunk of the team is the same as when I was there, so that’s going to be nice.”

Conklin played for the Wings in 2008-09, going 25-11-2 with a .909 save percentage and 2.51 goals-against average.

“We had him two years ago. He won 25 games for us. We know him as a person,” general manager Ken Holland said. “We like him. He’s a good fit.”

The Wings signed Conklin, 35, to back up Jimmy Howard after attempts to acquire Tomas Vokoun at the start of free agency failed. Holland contacted Conklin’s agent last week and had an agreement on the backburner pending Chris Osgood’s decision about his future. Osgood’s retirement opened the door for Conklin’s return. For Conklin, ‘08-09 stands out because he and his wife welcomed their third child while in Detroit, and he was on the bench as the Wings battled all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

“It’s nice going to a team that is talented and expected to win every night,” Conklin said. “My whole family is excited to be going back.”

Conklin is comfortable knowing he’ll be the backup.

“That’s the role I’ve played most of my career,” he said. “To me, it doesn’t really matter what my workload is going to be, because I know I’m going to play. I understand it. It’s something I’m comfortable with.”

Technically speaking, Vokoun approached the Wings and chose Washington instead after realizing that the Wings weren’t going to offer him the chance to seize the #1 goaltender’s spot, but the Czech article the media’s cited and cited again offered a very clunky translation…

And as MLive’s Ansar Khan notes, the other goalies who were willing to play back-up’s roles pursued more attractive options as well—and Marty Turco and Ray Emery are holding out for starter’s spots, too—so Conklin was both the only viable option for Detroit and the most attractive one for the 35-year-old journeyman:

“I had a much better season my first year (in St. Louis) than last year, but at the end of the day you’re remembered for how you played,” Conklin said. “It was an up-and-down season. A couple of games affected my numbers. Physically, I feel really good.”

The Red Wings made a pitch for other goalies when free agency opened on July 1, talking to, among others, Tomas Vokoun, Jose Theodore and Mike Smith. All were seeking starting jobs, not interested in going anywhere to play 20-25 games as a backup. So the Red Wings turned to Conklin, who went 25-11-2, with a 2.48 GAA and .909 save percentage during his lone season in Detroit.

“Whatever they tell me I’m playing, I’ll play, whether it’s one game or 10 games or 20 games,” Conklin said. “It’ll be nice to see a lot of familiar faces, it won’t feel so foreign. I knew I wasn’t going to be back in St. Louis. The way it worked out was perfect.”
...
“I had conversations with Ken (general manager Holland) about [staying in 2009]. I told him I wanted to stay, but I understood their situation,” Conklin said. “Jimmy was ready to play. He proved that and Ozzie was still there. I wasn’t surprised, but I would have jumped at the opportunity to come back.”

So he’s back, and as Khan suggests, the Wings might very well be done making roster moves for the summer, barring a very difficult decision on Kris Draper’s part:

Holland must still make a final decision on whether to offer veteran forward Kris Draper a contract. That likely won’t happen until next week, at the earliest. Otherwise, the Red Wings roster appears set. They have 23 players signed (the limit) for slightly more than $58 million. The salary cap is $64.3 million. The Red Wings have the flexibility to acquire a high-priced player through a trade, if one were made available, but would need to clear a roster spot.

Technically speaking, the Wings wouldn’t have to clear the 23-man roster limit until the last day of training camp, nor would they have to be cap-compliant till then should they spend and spend some more, but the Wings seem to want to see how their acquisitions play out and allow that cap space to multiply as the season goes on (again, if the team saves its cap space for the deadline in late February of 2012, you’re looking at being able to add players who have up to about $6 million in salary owed to them for the remainder of the season) instead.

Add in the fact that the Wings want to see what both Jan Mursak and Cory Emmerton, who would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the AHL, can do as the team’s 13th and 14th forwards, that Doug Janik (who handily didn’t play in enough games for his one-way contract to force him to clear re-entry waivers to be recalled) and Brendan Smith will be given the opportunity to push Kindl and Commodore during training camp and that Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and probably MacDonald, McCollum and Jordan Pearce—who both Khan and Capgeek.com finally confirm has signed a 2-year contract extension (the Anchorage Daily News’s Doyle Woody confirms that his deal’s worth $525,000 at the NHL level and $85,000 and then $95,000 at the AHL level)—will join the team for cups of coffee, and the fact that the recently-signed Chris Conner and Garnet Exelby are also on the upper half of the depth chart, and you have a team that’s more or less set in the depth department.

Aside from probably saying goodbye to Sergei Kolosov, who can earn more money in Europe than he can in the AHL, re-signing restricted free agent forward Francis Pare and eventually asking Draper whether he’s willing to take a Maltby-esque try-out (does Mike Modano’s lingering career-extending decision-making process count as he’s no longer with the Wings?)...

That’s probably that for the Wings, barring a trade for Mike Babcock’s mythical top-six forward (who we’ll probably meet at the trade deadline).

Two new assistant coaches, a top-four and depth defenseman to help ease the pain of Rafalski’s departure, a platoon of #2 and #3 goaltenders in Conklin and MacDonald, the by-default additions of Emmerton and Mursak and the team’s belief that Ericsson, Kindl, Valtteri Filppula, Johan Franzen and apparently Jiri Hudler have more to give add up to, again, save a surprise or two, the team we’re going to see in Traverse City in early September.

The pundits will obviously say that a Wings team minus Rafalski and Osgood isn’t as good on paper, but between the new additions, expected internal growth and cap space (and tagging space) to add players down the line, the Wings are well-positioned to at least defend their Central Division title and make a more concerted push to break the Sharks’ hex and play later into May, if not June, with a helluva nucleus in place in Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom, Howard, Kronwall, Stuart, Franzen, Danny Cleary, Filppula etc.

The team’s not perfect, but especially given the ridiculous salaries that were doled out to both free agents and free agents-to-be whose rights were acquired ahead of July 1st, the Wings have brought in a solid mix of youth (White), enthusiasm (Commodore, Mursak, Emmerton) and a re-tread who they hope to get some extra miles from (Conklin) without breaking the bank and without moving backward.

And rather selfishly speaking, I hope the Wings are done as I’m going on my first vacation in two years on Sunday, and I’m hoping that the twelve-to-fourteen-hour days that have been the norm since the NHL Awards start to slow down to a more tolerable level. That, and I don’t know about you, but after Osgood’s retirement, I could use a little recharge before we have to deal with the possible retirement of another Wings player who’s become nothing less than a part of the team’s fabric and identity.


In the interim, the Wings’ players’ summer adventures will keep us busy, and Justin Abdelkader’s flight with the Blue Angels on Wednesday is the stuff of dreams for many a ground-pounder.

The Wings’ Facebook page, the Free Press and MLive posted photo galleries from Abdelkader’s flight over Willow Run Airport and Ann Arbor, and the Free Press posted a video from Abdelkader’s adventure…

As did WXYZ:

 

Abdelkader did have to make the obligatory, let’s say incendiary remark about flying over Michigan Stadium…

“We were joking around (when) we went over the Big House,” the Red Wings forward and former Michigan State star said of Michigan Stadium. “If we’d had a couple of bombs on it (the jet), maybe we would have dropped a couple on there.”

Pilot Lt. David Tickle, an Alabama native, said: “One of the maneuvers that I can show him is a bombing hop. … We just happened to be over Ann Arbor at the time, and I know he’s a Michigan State guy. So it worked out great we could pretend we were bombing Ann Arbor for him.

“Obviously I would never bomb Ann Arbor. I have nothing against Michigan.”

But Abdelkader was mostly floored by the experience:

“It was awesome, indescribable,” said Abdelkader, who hopes to one day earn a license to fly. “I grew up fascinated by airplanes and going to (Blue Angels) shows, and to be able to go up in one is an honor.”

Abdelkader, however, admitted it took some adjusting to the G-force — the force to which a body is subjected when it is accelerated. And that was at no time more evident than at takeoff, when the F/A-18 Hornet went up at a 90-degree angle.

“Right when you start it’s nothing like you’ve ever experienced before,” Abdelkader said. “You’re used to flying (regular airlines) and it’s a slow, gradual takeoff. But you can actually feel the power of the plane when you take off and feel the afterburner.”

Abdelakder told WXYZ’s Brad Galli that he really did fulfill a childhood dream…

“It’s unbelievable to have an opportunity like this to fly with the Blue Angels,” Abdelkader said. “To go up, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” I always grew up fascinated, going to the air show and watching the Blue Angels fly a few times. To actually go up in one is an honor.”

Lt. David Tickle was Justin’s co-pilot, and was impressed by the Muskegon-born NHLer’s toughness.

“He’s an athlete, so his body’s used to the pressure that I put him through,” Lt. Tickle said.

“A lot of times I didn’t know which way we were going,” Abdelkader laughed. “Sometimes I would ask him, are going right or left? Up or down? “
...
Of the experience, Abdelkader said “Just like you dream of playing hockey in the NHL, you dream of going up in a fighter jet in a Blue Angel.”

Abdelakder received a passing grade from Lieutenant Tickle (his real name) for mastering what’s called the, “Hick maneuver,” which helps reduce the effects of sharp turns and acceleration on the body, as Tickle told the Free Press’s Helene St. James…

“It’s a combination of contracting your leg muscles and also controlling your breathing,” Tickle said. “When we contract our leg muscles, we force all that blood up into our core, and then with controlled breathing we maintain a good, positive pressure on our lungs, and that helps us to fight the G’s.

“Justin being the athlete that he is, he was able to handle that without any problems. I took him all the way to 7.4 G’s. As we stand here talking, we’re under 1 G—one times the force of gravity. A lot of people ask, hey, is it like riding a roller coaster? Well, no roller coaster can get you to 7.4 G’s. If you take a 200-pound person and you put him under 7 G’s, now their body weighs 1,400 pounds. So, you can imagine the force on your body. That’s why it’s so critical to do that controlled breathing.”

But while Abdelkader didn’t lose his breakfast, he did admit to suffering a few “gray-outs”...

Abdelkader, 24, arrived at the airport around 8 a.m. He ate a light breakfast—very light—to help offset any chance of getting sick. He said he never screamed during the flight, but conceded there were times he blacked out, and times he didn’t know what had just happened.

“A lot of times I didn’t even know which way we were going because I was so focused on squeezing my legs and doing the right breaths,” he said. “I sometimes asked him, did we just go left or right or up or down? We did a few spins, were upside down a little bit. It was amazing, the power of the plane and how fast you can cut a corner. Right when you start, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced. I’m used to flying on the Red Bird or on airlines where it’s a slow, gradual takeoff. But you can actually feel the power of the plane when you take off and you get airborne.”

Overall, Abdelkader truly appreciated the rarefied air he now inhabits as a member of an incredibly exclusive club:

“(Tickle) did a great job of coaching me up,” Abdelkader said. “These pilots obviously are in phenomenal shape, they’re trained phenomenally. Just an honor to go up there.”
...
The Red Wings made this ride possible. Former players Kirk Maltby and Dallas Drake, as well as Paul MacDonald, the team’s vice president of finance, have taken a ride on a Blue Angels jet in recent years.

“To have an opportunity like this, it’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life,” Abdelkader said. “I grew up fascinated with airplanes and going to air shows and I’ve seen the Blue Angels fly a few times.”

He never worried for his safety.

“They take care of you really well, take all the precautions necessary,” Abdelkader said.

Still, some of his teammates were surprised to learn he was doing it.

”A lot of them would be pretty nervous to get up here,” Abdelkader said. “It is tough, but it’s a lot of fun.”


Otherwise, if you missed it, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose noted that the Detroit Historical Society asked Gordie Howe to…donate…his hand prints to a sort of “walk of fame”;

Hockey’s Future’s Brad Garnder offered a review of the Red Wings’ 2011 draft picks;

According to TSN’s Scott Cullen, Sharks captain Joe Thornton registered more takeaways than Pavel Datsyuk (who played in only 56 games due to a broken wrist) and didn’t register as many takeaways a game as Thornton (see: broken hand, 56 games played);

And if you find yourself in Umea, Norrkoping or Nykoping, Sweden on August 9th, 10th or 11th, Expressen’s Alf Karlsson and Henrik Sjoberg report that Henrik Zetterberg will probably take part in two of the three games scheduled for Peter Forsberg’s charity hockey team, the “Icebreakers,” and Forsberg himself might take a twirl as well.

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Comments

Ajax19's avatar

Enjoy your vacation, G$.  You’ve more than earned it.

Posted by Ajax19 on 07/21/11 at 09:28 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, enjoy your trip and RELAX! 

cool smile

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 07/21/11 at 10:42 AM ET

Avatar

you’re looking at being able to add players who have up to about $6 million in salary owed to them for the remainder of the season ...

I used to believe that too, but it’s not true.  You can’t be over the 62M-whatever cap at any one time during the season, or in real dollars at the end of the year.  In the scenerio you suggest, you could bring in 3 players at 6 million each at the trade deadline.  That’s just not how it works, but it would be pretty cool. 

Look for one $6M sniper/power forward to be acquired at the deadline or one $6M puck-moving d-man who can help the PP if White doesn’t pan out.

Posted by jkm2011 on 07/21/11 at 11:43 AM ET

SnLO's avatar

didn’t register as many takeaways a game as Thornton (see: broken hand, 56 games played)

By determining an average of takeaways per 60 mins played, he eliminated the differences due to number of games played. Granted, Pavs has a smaller pool to work with, but it is an average all the same.

I decided to look at that article and I noticed that Cullen is calculating his conclusions based on even strength takeaways / time on ice. So, taking that in context I looked at some of the total raw numbers to find a percentage of ES takeaways of the total for the season.
Thornton had 93 ES takeaways, 114 total for a 81.6% of his takeaways were at even strength.
Datysuk had 62 ES takeaways, 71 total for a 87.3% of his takeaways were at even strength.
So clearly Datsyuk has an advantage at even strength.

I would like to know where Cullen gets his breakdown of ES PP SH takeaways because I couldn’t find any. If I had that data, we could analyze averages and percentages for SH and PP minutes to takeaways to get a clearer picture of their efficiency.

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 07/21/11 at 12:03 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

is that TPSH in an SnLO suit?

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 07/21/11 at 12:39 PM ET

MOWingsfan19's avatar

There’s no comparing Thornton to Pavel, plain & simple.
There’s no diving, choking or slashing at injured ankles in Pavels game.  wink

Posted by MOWingsfan19 from I really like our team on 07/21/11 at 12:47 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Well, he hasn’t offhandedly dismissed any statistics which don’t support his case, so I would say no.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 07/21/11 at 12:47 PM ET

SnLO's avatar

is that TPSH in an SnLO suit?

lol ick no!
I like to think that when I play with stats they are free of subjectivity, applicable and I explain their calculations and conclusions clearly.

It’s summer. I get bored. I can back off playing with numbers if it’s getting a bit much.

Posted by SnLO from the sub great-white north on 07/21/11 at 01:04 PM ET

Avatar

Aside from the money given to Ericsson, I haven’t disliked anything Detroit has done so far, but after back-to-back years of falling to the Sharks, I don’t think anyone can argue that the Red Wings are any better than they were last year.

I’m just saying, it would be nice if we could say that the team starting in October is demonstrably better than the one that skated off the ice after Game 7 against the Sharks.

Posted by Garth on 07/21/11 at 01:24 PM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

I’m just saying, it would be nice if we could say that the team starting in October is demonstrably better than the one that skated off the ice after Game 7 against the Sharks.
Posted by Garth on 07/21/11 at 11:24 AM ET

Couldn’t agree with you more.  I think a lot of folks are thinking the situation with the Wings is decent because they are resting their laurels on two series wins over the Coyotes and the “McClellan” mystique (which is good for getting trounced in the “final four”).

The number of uncertanties has been growing with this team as 2008 and Bowman’s exit fades in the rearview mirror.  They have (what appears to be) a hole on the 2nd power play blue line, a change in philosophy (which is unavoidable with two new assistants), a goalie looking to shake the sophomore slump (which is never a given, see Steve Mason for recent ex.), a backup goalie that wasn’t pursued by anyone on the open market and a heap of forwards on the roster sitting on the 2-3 units that are suited to a specific brand of hockey.

Couple that with the investment in Ericsson (who has yet to prove that he’s a 2nd line defender) and you’ve got a laundry list of ? items that we have not been accustomed to around here in 20 years.

Hoping for the best, obviously, but all we fans can go off of is what is on paper right now.

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 07/21/11 at 02:47 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

Garth and Leo, I totally see where you are coming from, and lots of other people are making the same case, yet…

Last season our team was one goal and two concussions - the worst hockey karma ever - away from the Western Conference Final.  And did anyone know how badly Brian Rafalski was struggling with injuries?  I sure didn’t.  And Pav still had a sore hand.  And who knows what else.

And now we have Ian White (young and presumably healthy), young Kindl who will be a regular this season, Brendan Smith potentially moving up (and all the buzz about him is great), Mursak and possibly Emmerton joining the lineup, a solid (well I believe he will be) experienced back up goaltender, and Commodore who should add some physical toughness. 

And let’s not forget the $6.2 million still available if need be.

To me, that sounds better (even though I don’t think we needed to get a whole lot better).

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 07/21/11 at 02:59 PM ET

Amerinadian's avatar

Posted by Garth on 07/21/11 at 11:24 AM ET

Question for you, and I’m not trying to be a dick by asking this, I want an honest opinion: who (besides LA) in the West has gotten better from last year?

The Wings haven’t gotten better by leaps and bounds, but I don’t think they’re any worse than they were after Game 7. If every other team around them either stays the same or regresses, and the Wings were truly 1 goal away from being in the WCF, then I don’t see how there can’t be optimism headed into the new season.

And as MsRedWinger pointed out, there’s that nice bag of cash sitting in the vault just waiting to be used at the trade deadline for a player that can fill any holes that may be on the team in February/March.

Posted by Amerinadian from Chicago via Toronto on 07/21/11 at 03:24 PM ET

Avatar

And now we have Ian White (young and presumably healthy), young Kindl who will be a regular this season, Brendan Smith potentially moving up (and all the buzz about him is great), Mursak and possibly Emmerton joining the lineup, a solid (well I believe he will be) experienced back up goaltender, and Commodore who should add some physical toughness.

But what of those make the team better?  I really like the White signing, but Kindl isn’t likely to be any more regular than he was last year.  With White, Ericsson and Commodore he’s going to have a hard time cracking the lineup on a regular basis.  Commodore can be a reliable 5th or 6th, but is he an upgrade over Salei?  I also don’t really see Commodore, White and Ericsson being any kind of an upgrade over Salei, Rafalski and Ericsson from last year.  They did a decent job trying to replace Rafalski, but he’s not easily replaceable, and the offense hasn’t been upgraded at all.

Mursak and Emmerton are fine, but they’re #13 and #14 on the depth line up and will also not likely see all that much time.  Nothing in our top six is any better.

Sure, the Wings were a goal away from the WCF, but they were also a period away from being swept.

They’ve gotten to the same point in the last two playoffs and I don’t see anything that’s an improvement.

Question for you, and I’m not trying to be a dick by asking this, I want an honest opinion: who (besides LA) in the West has gotten better from last year?

LA has absolutely gotten better.  Columbus has gotten better.  Minnesota could be better.  San Jose and Vancouver are probably a push from last year (and San Jose made moves to at least show that they know there was something that needed to change, and they’ve made it to the WCF back to back years).  Edmonton should be better, if only because their rookies all now have a year under their belts.

But if you’ll allow me to answer you with an honest question of my own:  even if there wasn’t a single team in the West that got better, are you happy with the Wings essentially standing pat and simply hoping that the rest of the conference is worse?

I will admit that the new coaching staff could make a huge difference, but they’re as much of a question mark as any of the new signings are and I have a hard time being overly optimistic looking at a team that hasn’t made it past the second round for two straight years not making any big improvements, at least on paper.

And sure, there’s some money in the bank, but there are no guarantees that there will be anyone willing to deal what Detroit would be looking for, or that there would be anyone worht bringing in.  Money is just money.  Money doesn’t neccesarily mean improvements.

Posted by Garth on 07/21/11 at 03:51 PM ET

Amerinadian's avatar

Columbus has gotten better.  Minnesota could be better.  San Jose and Vancouver are probably a push from last year (and San Jose made moves to at least show that they know there was something that needed to change, and they’ve made it to the WCF back to back years).  Edmonton should be better, if only because their rookies all now have a year under their belts.

I agree on Columbus, although that defense corps of theirs is still miles away from making that team any kind of threat to the top teams in the West. It will also depend on whether Steve Mason is a Calder-winning goalie or the hack we’ve seen the last 2 years. MN is in the same boat. They’ve got more talent, but how are Heatley and Setoguchi going to do away from Thornton? Hard to know at this point. Again, I don’t see them challenging the Wings in any way.

even if there wasn’t a single team in the West that got better, are you happy with the Wings essentially standing pat and simply hoping that the rest of the conference is worse?

If I believed that the Wings were right there and only need a minor tweak or two to get back to the SCF (which I do), then yes, I’m very happy with the moves the Wings made in the last month. The Wings are still close. Yes, they have lost in the 2nd round the last 2 years, but that doesn’t mean they’re not contenders any more. Remember, they’ve lost to the same team in both those years, and that team didn’t really improve (IMO) beyond what they were last year. The only team the Wings can control is themselves. Are you measuring the Wings against the Sharks or against the rest of the West?

Perfect example is Vancouver. They knew they had a legitimate shot at contending for a Stanley Cup, but lost to Chicago 2 years in a row. Rather than blow up their roster, they stayed the course, made a couple of depth moves, and got to Game 7 of the SCF. They choked that series away, but they got there and had a chance to win. They didn’t do anything drastic simply because they lost to the same team 2 straight playoffs. The Wings are in the same boat. The core is still there, and it’s just a matter of finding the right complementary pieces and having everyone perform up to capabilities. Staying healthy will help immensely, too.

Truth be told, there’s never been a guarantee the Wings would be successful entering any season (except 2002). I’m not saying the Wings are constructed perfectly and we should start engraving the Cup right now, but they’re no further away from contending now than they have been in the last 3-4 years.

Posted by Amerinadian from Chicago via Toronto on 07/21/11 at 04:12 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

It’s one of those deals where we’ll just have to wait and see.  Intangibles like injuries can’t be foreseen, and who knows when a player will just suddenly play way over (or below) what we’ve seen before, or what rookie might come in and really make a splash, or what line combination might click, or what new assistant coaches might bring.  Which is why I don’t usually partake in these types of debates.  I just think the Wings are looking pretty darned good, with a core of elite players who are as good or better than I see on any other team, plus some new blood.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 07/21/11 at 04:16 PM ET

Avatar

Let’s not forget that during past years because the Wings were so up against the cap, they couldn’t do anything during the season.  Effectively, their playoff roster was set in September.

There are plenty of examples of the lack of cap space hurting the team over the past 3 years.  Having a good amount room, to react to the realities of the season makes the team better.

For the sake of argument, if we assume that the team isn’t as good as last years to start, they could still be a lot better before the playoffs roll around as they have the ability to make trades and ship out people who aren’t performing.

Posted by sabby on 07/21/11 at 05:43 PM ET

statelouis26's avatar

Aside from the money given to Ericsson, I haven’t disliked anything Detroit has done so far, but after back-to-back years of falling to the Sharks, I don’t think anyone can argue that the Red Wings are any better than they were last year.

I’m just saying, it would be nice if we could say that the team starting in October is demonstrably better than the one that skated off the ice after Game 7 against the Sharks
Posted by Garth on 07/21/11 at 11:24 AM ET

Yeah.  That.

Posted by statelouis26 from Detroit, MI on 07/21/11 at 10:18 PM ET

Crater's avatar

a goalie looking to shake the sophomore slump

Posted by Leo_Racicot on 07/21/11 at 12:47 PM ET

What are you smoking? Since when did Jimmy Slump? Was that when he was leading the league in Wins for a great deal of the season? Just like any goalie he did have his ups and downs, but I wouldn’t call anything he did this season a Slump. He has all the tools he needs to be successful, his consistency if anything got better this year.

Posted by Crater from SoCal on 07/22/11 at 02:33 PM 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.