Friday, July 27, 2012

Semin and Doan: Grasping at Straws

Needless to say, it's been a lackluster off season for Red Wings fans. I shouldn't have to list out all of the places the Wings have fallen short this off-season. At this point I'm sure some fans have gotten it tattooed on their arm, and then promptly severed that arm in a sacrifice to the Hockey Gods to wipe this summer from history and make everything better. But, to recap.

Coveted defenseman Ryan Suter? Passed over the Wings to go and play in Minnesota with less coveted forward Zach Parise, who passed over the Wings because his wife cracked the whip he wanted to play closer to home. Matt Carle took a dump on our chests and fell victim of the allure of Oh Captain, My Captain Steve Yzerman and went to Tampa Bay. We wanted Shea Weber, but Philly pulled the trigger and forced Nashville to make a decision, and they decided to keep him. 

"So then I had my agent say things that made me sound happy to stay in
Nashville in hopes that they wouldn't pelt me with batteries and catfish
when Poile matched Philly's offer"
Now we're getting word that the Red Wings never really showed an interest in Alexander Semin, and the Carolina Hurricanes signed him to a one year, seven million dollar contract prompting me to tweet perhaps the wittiest thing you've ever read. Shortly thereafter, Aaron Ward said the Wings had withdrawn from the Doan race because the "asking price was too high". 

It's hard to comprehend that the Red Wings couldn't afford to pay Semin 7 million for a year. It's hard to comprehend that Shane Doan who made $4,550,000 the past 5 seasons would command such a high price on the market that the Red Wings couldn't afford to pay him. Granted, since we haven't yet seen a figure as to what he is asking, it's hard to say. For all we know Shane Doan has decided he's worth $8 million, which I would disagree with.

I'm going to play the role of Ken Holland Apologist for a moment and play Devil's Advocate to maybe help explain why we missed out on these guys. These are just theories and I always welcome my readers to comment and challenge me on my opinions. I don't necessarily expect anyone to immediately accept these ideas and give Holland a pass. However it should give you a more complete picture as to the potential inner workings of being an NHL general manager

Theory #1: Ken Holland knows what's going to happen with the new CBA

There hasn't been much information shared about the CBA talks. We got our first glimpse of the wholly insulting offer from the NHL to the NHLPA. It's entirely possible that Kenny knows there's going to be some serious hits to the revenue he has access to, or his ability to spend it. Maybe the salary cap is going to come down, maybe team revenue sharing is going to increase, maybe both.

Should something like that happen, then Holland very well might not have the money to spend on a guy like Doan or Semin. He was willing to pitch serious money at Parise and Suter because they're younger, have arguably much bigger upsides to them, and in the case of Suter, the Wings desperately could have used his services. Not only that, but if this theory pans out, Holland looks like a fucking genius when all these teams are scrambling to solve their new financial crises and he's scooping up bargain priced stars. 

Theory #2: Ken Holland was simply outbid by teams who could afford to spend more.

The salary cap has created a greater degree of parity in the league and I think it's a good thing, even if it means the Wings miss out on talent. And simply put, the Red Wings cannot just outspend everyone else anymore. Let's take a look at some CapGeek numbers.
What this means is that both teams went from the bottom portion of payrolls to the middle or top of the heap. It means that prior to the Parise/Suter signing, the Wild had $3,370,102 more dollars to spend than the Red Wings did and the Hurricanes had $6,859,545 more dollars to spend before they signed Semin. And that was after they had signed Jordan Staal to a contract where he has a cap hit of $4mil this year and $6mil from then on.

This should also help to reinforce the idea of parity in the league, where Jiri Hudler's contract can move you from the bottom of the barrel to the middle of the pack in terms of player payroll. This is why Minnesota could offer Parise and Suter 8 million dollars more each than the Red Wings offered, and why the Canes could offer Semin a raise whereas most Wings fans expected him to take a pay cut to come to Detroit. There are still a number of teams under the Red Wings in terms of payroll, and any one of them could potentially outbid Detroit because they have more money to spend.

Theory #2b: Also, Ken Holland is thinking about the future of his current players.

To further complicate the issue of money, here is a list of upcoming free agents the Red Wings could potentially have to resign. The year they go on the market is in parenthesis and bolded names indicate a restricted free agent:

Valtteri Filppula (2013), Danny Cleary (2013), Damien Brunner (2013), Gustav Nyquist (2013), Drew Miller (2013), Jan Mursak (2013), Ian White (2013), Jakub Kindl (2013), Brendan Smith (2013), Jimmy Howard (2013), Pavel Datsyuk (2014), Mikael Samuelsson (2014), Todd Bertuzzi (2014), Patrick Eaves (2014), Cory Emmerton (2014), Kyle Quincey (2014), Jonathan Ericsson (2014), Jonas Gustavsson (2014)

That's the whole team. With the exception of a few guys, within the next two years Ken Holland has to basically resign or replace his entire team. From crucial top players like Datsyuk, Filppula and Howard to production guys like Miller and Eaves, to prospects. Assuming he resigns all of those players, it's fair to say most if not all of them are going to get a raise. If they're used in a trade or if we sign someone else in their place, you have to consider that cap hit as well.

If you've got an answer for all of that while spending 7 million on Alexander Semin or potentially spending 5-7 million on Shane Doan, I want to hear it. By the way, you have no way of knowing the team's performance and the production and the heath of any of those players. 

Theory #3: Ken Holland has other moves he wants to make

There is still the potential of trading for Bobby Ryan or Keith Yandle. He still has to potentially resign Justin Abdelkader and most likely if he doesn't trade for a defenseman, he is going to have to sign one in order to have 7 defenseman and therefore, a safety net for injuries or poor performance. Those kinds of moves aren't going to consume $13 million in cap space, but they will consume some of it. And if the Wings are on the precipice of the playoffs or being a cup contender come trade deadline, suddenly that cap space could be insanely valuable. 

Theory #4: Ken Holland is satisfied with our situation at forward

Missing out on Parise, Semin and Doan does suck, because they all have value as forwards. They're all good or great hockey players, there's no doubting that. But we're not exactly hurting at forwards. Sure, there are guys I'd rather we didn't have (Bertuzzi, Cleary, Tootoo) but there's guys we have that everyone would love to have (Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Helm). Look at the prospects we have at our disposal: Nyquist, Tatar, Jurco, Emmerton, and Brunner.

Ken Holland may very well not feel the need to trip over himself to sign guys like Doan and Semin because he feels as though that would hamper the ability to use in house guys he's spent time, money and draft picks developing. He was maybe willing to sacrifice that for a guy like Parise, but not for a Semin or a Doan, and that's not exactly wrong. It's debatable, but not objectively wrong.

The #1 personnel concern of the Red Wings at this point is their defense, not their offense.

All of that being said, I don't begrudge people who are unhappy with Holland. He promised us that he would be aggressive come July 1st and I would hardly call signing Jordin Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson and Mikael Samuelsson as "aggressive". Those are the kinds of calculated moves that Holland makes that frankly make him one of the best GM's in the league. That being said, if Shane Doan goes anywhere other than Phoenix for 6 million or less, I'm going to be genuinely mad that he was deemed "too expensive".

There's no doubt that the Wings still have pieces they have to get, specifically we have to get a defenseman. Ideally someone who can at least crack the 2nd pairing and get some power play/PK time, but really it's more about depth at this point than anything. And I will say that Ken Holland probably does deserve criticism - but he deserves the kind of criticism offered by Graham from Winging it in Motown. He doesn't deserve to be pessimistically eviscerated as if he hasn't helped bring us 4 Stanley Cups and 20 years of playoff runs, nor does he deserve to be verbally fellated with blind adoration.

Just like so many things in this world, the truth is probably somewhere in between, and only time will tell where the puck drops.

Let's Go Red Wings

If Doan is actually demanding this, can you really blame Holland for passing on him?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Detroit Sports Survey: DO IT NOW!

Mike Florek over at The Detroit Hustle came up with a great idea: let's get a feeling for who Detroit sports fans love and hate. Not simply in just one sport, but in the four major Detroit sports. To use his own words:
"I've been over this before, but the idea to host a Detroit Sports Survey stemmed from the void Claude Lemieux left in my heart. There was no one I, and more important Detroit, hated more than Lemieux in the late 90s and early 2000s. Since he faded into oblivion, I've longed for the city to rally together and hate one person with so much vigor. The problem: I didn't know who that person could be. So I got the idea to ask people."
I don't support hate, per se, but I support the free expression of emotion. Especially emotions that burn with the heat of a thousand suns at that very moment. Which is why I've been known to exclaim that a certain player or team could eat a smorgasbord of dicks or threatening our own players with being punched in the taint. How you feel at any given moment, whether it's orgiastic joy or the complete opposite, that brings fans together. When two people who disagree about everything can say to each other, "Fuck Claude Lemeiux", and be the best of friends for a moment. 

So if you haven't already, head over to the The Detroit Hustle or click on this link to go directly to the survey. It will take you less time to fill it out than it takes me to come up with all those high brow Tweets you love me for, and give us a better picture of the sports hive mind of Detroit fans. It's like a thermometer strapped to a barometer strapped to a sphygmomonmeter. 

The survey will be open for two weeks so you have time, but surveys submitted earlier will be weighted more heavily than later entries, so your opinion will mean more than the opinions of slackers. Note: The previous statement may or may not be completely made up. 

And of course: Let's Go Red Wings

Monday, July 23, 2012

Snap Shot: Nash on the New York Rangers Scares Me

Just a few quick words on why Rick Nash and the New York Rangers scare me. Watching a bit of playoff hockey, the Rangers were insane. They were fast, they were gritty and hard hitting, and they could score goals. Plus, they have a very good goaltender behind them who can stop pucks with his body and with a sly wink and smile.

Rick Nash would have fit well on any team that was already built, whether it's Detroit or New York. What he needs is a team that can put him alongside other highly skilled players so that he doesn't have to carry a team by himself. He's going to get that in New York, but he could have gotten that a lot of places. So why am I scared? Size.

The average size of the New York Rangers' forwards: 6'2 and 211lbs. (rounded). The average size of their defense?  6'0 and 205 lbs. You read that correctly: The New York Rangers' forwards are, on average, bigger than their defense.

Rick Nash is a big guy, who can play a physical game and also sports a finesse, goal scoring touch. He's making a big team bigger and adding the potential to score a lot of goals. If that's not a little terrifying, I don't know what is. They are going to be my oracle bone "it's way too early to make any kind of reasonable assessment" prediction to win the Stanley Cup. I'm going to end up completely wrong on this, but it's scary.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Occupy Toronto: The NHL CBA

All hockey fans have to be fearing a lockout. I'm not saying that to be an alarmist or over dramatic, it's just a reality that hockey fans have to be dealing with. If you think about any labor dispute in history, they've often resulted in blood. While I don't expect this particular dispute to go that route - although it would be funny to see the players storm the NHL Bastille and construct a guillotine out of a Bauer skate - it is at its heart a labor dispute and comes with all of the ferocity of a labor dispute.

Anytime you have a pie, everyone is going to want "their fair share" of it, whether it be apple, key lime or monetary. If you want to read an excellent and detailed report on the current state of the NHL and why the owners are asking for what they're asking for, check out this article by James Mirtle. There's a lot of high finance talk and it can be hard to translate (not Mirtle's fault, he does a great job trying to explain it as simply as possible).

The gist of it is this: Prior to the 2005 lockout, many teams were facing huge losses season after season. A major source of that was seen to be sky rocketing cost of labor. Quick economics lesson - labor tends to be the #1 cost of any businesses and hockey was no differently. In order to keep teams and the league as a whole above water, the players were strong armed into accepting a salary cap. The plan worked, the league as a whole is solvent, but not all teams are.

Teams like Columbus and Phoenix are hemorrhagic money and teams like Toronto and, yes, Detroit are sitting pretty. So what to do about the situation? We know what the NHL has offered but we also know that the players and I think a vast majority of the fans think it's a ridiculous offer. I've got a few ideas that I think should be considered that I think will help bridge the gap.

#1: A cut in players' revenue shares be conditional upon greater revenue sharing among the teams

As Mirtle's article points out, in order to make up the financial shortfall some teams face you'd have to cut the players' revenue share as low as 25%. Meaning in 2010-2011, the players would have seen 775 million instead of 1.76 billion, or 44% less. Now you and I might roll our eyes at only getting a chunk of 775 million and think they're being snobby, but imagine getting 44% less money next year as you were getting this year. Whether you make $10,000 a year or $10,000,000 a year that sucks.

Can the players afford that hit? Yes they can. Should they have to? Probably not. For one thing, with the KHL as a serious contender - maybe less for North American players - as well as European leagues, players who do want to make more money do have other viable options. Also, they already have taken hits to their livelihood in the form of the salary cap. Sure, we're seeing some remarkable salaries being thrown at Suter, Parise, Crosby and Weber, but consider what these guys may be earning if there were no salary cap. And consider how many of them might be all on one team (even the Red Wings).

So let's say instead of cutting the player's share down to 46% we come down to an even 50%. The teams are rumored to share about 7% of their revenue. Let's bump that up to at or above 10%. Whatever the exact percentages are can be argued over by lawyers from both sides. What will matter most is that if the players are going to be expected to shore up cash to help keep the teams alive, the teams that are alive and kicking have to be expected to do the same.

#2: If contracts are going to be limited, the current contracts have to be reviewed and possibly voided.

It's easy to say that the PariWebSuter contracts have shown the owners and GM's of the league to be hypocrites, and I don't think that's terribly unfair. As many have pointed out, Minnesota Wild Craig Leopold owner said, "We're not making money, and that's one reason to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now...[the Wild's[ biggest expense by far is player salaries." in April and then two months later agreed to spend $196 million dollars on two players.

Now, I will say in defense of the Minnesota Wild, if paying that kind of money and those kinds of contracts are the expected in the league, I don't expect them to play in a different league. The Wild want to be competitive and they were going to spend the money to be competitive. That's totally fair. But you can't blame us for scratching our heads and wondering if you meant something different when you talked about "fixing our system".

If the NHL is going to force players to settle for 5 year contracts (or whatever the number ends up being, if that's something that happens) then they cannot grandfather in all of these contracts. Any contract signed in-between the end of the 2011-2012 season and the start of the 2012-2013 season that is longer than X years is voided and the players immediately become unrestricted free agents. Any player with a contract signed during or prior to the 2011-2012 that is longer than 5 years has the duration of their contract reduced to X years or the end of the 2012-2013 season, whichever is greater. Those players then become unrestricted free agents. Furthermore, teams would not be allowed to negotiate contract extensions with players until after the trade deadline in the year that player's contract expires.

Yes, this could mean we'd be looking at guys like Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Kronwall hitting the free agent market in the near future. But it would mean that Crosby, Weber, Suter and Parise would all be back on the market and have to be resigned now.. It would mean all kinds of star players would come back on the market. If the league truly wants to limit long term deals, then they can't allow teams to get away with long term deals.

If Leopold really wants the system fixed then he has to roll up his sleeves and make sacrifices he'd expect the "big market teams" to make.

#3: No-Trade/No Movement Clauses have to be changed

The Rick Nash/Dany Heatly nonsense that has taken place over the past few seasons has earned the ire of fans, probably more than a number of GM's and possibly the league in total. When a team gives a player an NTC or NMC are basically a marriage between player and team. We agree to the money I'm worth and how long I'm going to be worth it, we agree that I am to be a marquee player who produces, brings victory and money to the team and you can't get rid of me just because I'm expensive.

But when a player waves their clauses and then sits there and vetoes any move they don't like, it just reeks of a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum.

The simplest way to solve this problem: if a player announces they are waving their no trade clause, they have nullified that part of their contract. They cannot undo that nullification. They are a fully tradeable player who can be sent to any team that is interested. That means if Rick Nash is traded from Columbus to the Islanders or the Coyotes, then he gets to pack his bags and bring an industrial sized box of tissues for his tears.

Some have suggested that players can give a list of so many teams they will not accept a trade to so they can have some some input as to where they go. That could be a fair compromise, so long as it doesn't completely handicap a team's ability to move a player that obviously doesn't want to be there anymore.

#4: Trade offers and offer sheets should be anonymous between teams

This might seem like me being a sore loser, but fuck it. It pisses me off that Columbus can refuse to trade Nash to the Red Wings because they're in the same division. There should be a panel of arbitrators who take offers from Team A and present it in an anonymous way to Team B. And if Team B accepts then Columbus finds out they've traded Nash to the Red Wings.

I know there's problems with it. For one, it might just cause teams to refuse all trades based on principal. And second, if Columbus is given an offer that includes a 32 year old forward who has been scoring around 30 goals most seasons, with an 8 years left on his contract they'll go "It's Johan Franzen!".

Like I said, this could be just me being really sour about Columbus and Poile's asinine behavior with regards to Rick Nash. It just seems like something could be done to prevent teams from being unnecessarily stingy.

In conclusion: I would like to say a couple of things. The salary cap is a good thing for the NHL and for professional sports. Granted, there is nobody in the world who would be unhappy if their team were the team that bought all the talent. People bitch about the Yankees and before the cap, they bitched about the Red Wings. However, if there was no cap, you can't sit here and tell me that if your favorite team spent all the money on all the best talent in the NHL that you'd complain.

But parity is good. If you want your team to win every game and the Stanley Cup every year, then purchase the newest edition of EA Sports NHL game. The game of hockey is better when any team, including the Red Wings, can't buy all the talent. Yes, it was great in 2002 to watch Datsyuk skate around with Lidstrom and Yzerman and Shanahan and Hull and Robataille and Hasek and Federov and Chelios.

But, that was great for Red Wing fans, but the entirety of the league and the game is better with more parity. But too much parity just makes things stale and uninteresting, and if the league and owners want parity in the game of hockey, then they have to agree to parity in the CBA.

Friday, July 13, 2012

What Cam Janssen's Comments Really Meant

The hockey world was abuzz yesterday due to the comments of one Cam Janssen. The enforcer for the New Jersey Devils was on an Internet radio show talking about the playoffs and losing the Stanley Cup to the Los Angeles Kings. In the midst of the interview, Cam responding to questions made some comments that upset a lot of people in the hockey world.
"(The Los Angeles Kings) are. They're the fat broads that you regret bangin', and I've been there and done that."
 "But you wanna be scary. You wanna put the fear of fuckin' God in people's eyes, and not just, 'Oh, I'm gonna beat you up' --no, 'I'm gonna catch you with your fuckin' head down and hurt you because you're not gonna know I'm comin', because I know how to hit'...But if you have the puck and you know how to hit and you can hurt guys with hits like I know how to do, that's what puts the fear of God into people."
When people are chirping at him from the bench: "Okay, I'm going to hurt someone on this fucking team"
On gay people in the game: "Oh, if he's suckin' cock, he's gettin' his ass kicked."
Here's a link that'll allow you watch the entirety of the interview, and I'd strongly encourage you to do so to get the complete picture. So many people are willing to read the quotes and not get the complete picture. Don't be that guy or gal. Also be aware, if you weren't already, there's a ton of vulgarity.

The first thing I want to say about this interview is that there is actually a ton of great stuff. Despite some of the potentially asinine things Cam Janssen says that'll piss you off - every time he does, pause the video, reload yourself and go back - he actually says a lot of really great stuff about the NHL and hockey. He hoists a ton of praise for all most of the teams in the playoffs - one marked exception being the Phoenix Coyotes. He talks openly and honestly about the role of the enforcer, his work out regiment and what it takes to keep his edge, and the lockout among other topics.

There are some genuinely upsetting about what Janssen said. In this day and age there is a huge cultural battle over homosexuality, and even homosexuality in sports. I'm not going to preach my political views on it, but I will say that whether you are for or against it, I think we should agree it is hard to watch children, teens and adults being beaten, killed or committing suicide because of the pressures of being gay. So one does have to question the wisdom of of a professional hockey player who is a known enforcer to come out and rather strongly imply that gay players on the other team are going to get their assess kicked.

And remember when Sean Avery commented on how Dion Phanuef was dating his "sloppy seconds"? Going on about how losing to the Los Angeles Kings, a team you just heaped a ton of praise for, is the equivalent of banging a fat broad and regretting it is stupid. A small grain of defense for Janssen - he didn't make the connection, the hosts of the radio show did and he went along with the joke and agreed to its premise. But still, to not sort of brush the comment off and to partake in a joke that simultaneously nullifies the praise you had for the Kings and insults and objectifies women in a sexist and pig-headed way is just stupid. Avery was suspended for his comments and Janssen should be punished based on this comment alone.

Finally, after having watched the NFL go after players and coaches for a bounty system, and knowing the NFL and the NHL are rightly trying to address the issue of head hits, head injuries and specifically concussions, listening to Janssen talk is disturbing. Let's compare what Janssen said to things other players have honestly said about head hits. Which is a great watch on its own.

Jason Spezza of Ottawa makes the comment about guys who "play like there's no puck on the ice". And I think that's what makes Janssen's comments so vicious and incendiary. Granted, he talks about hitting guys who have the puck, but to come right out and say "...I'm going to catch you with your head down and hurt you..." because "...I know how to hit..." is terrifying. It speaks exactly to what Spezza is trying to get at - players who are more interested in hitting and hurting other players than they are to play the total game of hockey. 

Is that any better or worse than anything Gregg Williams said? I don't think so. But I will say that if Janssen and other players like him want to just hit and hurt people, they should probably find a different activity. While hockey affords you the ability to hit people and fight, so does boxing, kickboxing, martial arts, MMA and professional wrestling. Shit, join the roller derby if all you want to do is knock people over. 

But is this the only thing that disturbs us about it? I submit not. Hit the break for more.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Considering Shea Weber

People are screaming to make a play for Weber. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea. J.J. from Kansas had suggested the Wings offer Weber a 1 year, 8 million-ish deal. When the Predators match it, they are then forced to scramble to sign him to an extension otherwise he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2013 season. Recently, that ideas has blossomed into bigger plans - why not offer Weber a contract the Predators won't match and actually sign the bastard?

The pitch from Nightmare on Helm Street: Offer Weber a 1 year, 11-12 million dollar offer. When Nashville doesn't match, you sign him to the offer and lose 4 first round draft picks to Nashville. As soon as he signs, you rapidly work to sign him to a long term, smaller cap hit contract. 23 skadoo! The Red Wings have Shea Weber. It's not a bad plan. It has a certain evil scientist quality to it that I have to tip my hat to Chris to for thinking of. 

I am going to put my education to work here and tell you guys all about an economic concept called "opportunity costs". Simply put, opportunity costs are all the alternatives you give up by making a specific choice. Let's look at what Shea Weber would do the Red Wings line up and what the opportunity costs might be.

The Current Red Wings Salary Cap is: $16,832,955 according to Capgeek
This does not include the potential salaries of Kyle Quincey (RFA-Arbitration), Justin Abdelkader (RFA) or Tomas Holmstrom (UFA) because as of now, none of them are technically signed.

Adding the Shea Weber 12 million contract, our salary cap drops to: $4,832,955

It's possible that we can get Quincey and Abdelkader back on the payroll, but probably not. I would argue that Quincey is the bigger of the two concern. While I have been really hard on Kyle Quincey in the past, I know a lot of people have a better opinion of him. Furthermore, we need to maintain 7 defensive deep roster in order to rotate out guys who are injured, need a rest or aren't playing that well. Let's say Quincey gets resigned for $4mil, our defensive roster most likely look like this:
Kronwall - Weber
Ericsson - White
Kindl - Quincey
#7: Smith

New Salary Cap: $832,955

Sounds like a done deal, right? Well, keep in mind this means we can't resign Abdelkader. The bonus he has to receive due to the CBA would put his minimum salary at $866,250. We would have to cut someone loose. Moreover, Red Wings said they didn't want to pay more than 2 million so let's assume they come to an agreement at $1.3 million. That puts us $467,045 in the hole. Meaning Cory Emmerton or Jan Mursak would have to go. Or you can forego Abdelkader and use Emmerton or someone else in his place.

Sound like a done deal? Hit the break for more. 

Doan, Semin or Both?

This is the question that has been rising in the minds of Red Wings fans since we lost out on the PariSuter Sweepstakes. I've brought up the point that the Red Wings have to make a choice - continue to bring in outside talent to try to compete or give the young prospects a chance to get some serious NHL time - and a lot of people are pro-Bring In Talent. We're going to ignore the defensive side for now, because there are still a couple of forward UFAs that have Red Wings fans abuzz: Phoenix's Shane Doan and Washington's Alexander Semin. Let's take a look at the Red Wings' forward situation.

This is based on assumptions and extrapolations. The 1st and 2nd lines are based off the lines we saw last season. and with the exit of Jiri Hudler there's an opening with Zetterberg and Filppula. The extra spot on Datsyuk's line is left open because it felt like a revolving door by the end of the season. 3rd line has a good chance looking like it did last season. The 4th line has a right wing spot open, and I left the center spot open because Justin Abdelkader* is a restricted free agent who has yet to sign. 

Patrick Eaves** is an unknown because he's still on injury reserve. While he expects to be ready come regular season time, and we hope he is, we just don't know. 

For the most part I listed the extra players in their officially position, with the exception of Abdelkader. Technically he's a left wing but he usually centered the 4th line. . What we can assume is that there are openings on the wing on the 1st, 2nd and 4th lines as well as 4th line center. 

If you wanted to go the "let's use what we've got" train of thought, it's just a matter of filling spots. Samuelsson is Jiri Hudler without the love of hookers, and is a right handed shot. So he'd fill the slot on Zetterberg's line. Babcock has said that Brunner is breaking the top 6. Fans want it to be Tatar or Nyquist. Tootoo is a shoe in for that bottom right wing position, and the 4th line center can be done by Abdelkader (if we resign him) or Emmerton (if we don't). But let's look at what Doan and Semin could bring to the Red Wings.

Just stat wise from 2008 to this season, here's how the two stack up.

Some details jump out. Semin missed some games due to some injuries, although nothing that screams massive white flag. His offensive numbers are impressive, but he's been playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom. You're going to be on the ice for a lot of goals, but his +/- bolsters his two way credentials a bit. Although along with his scoring, his plus minus took a hit this season too.

Conversely, Doan has been a very solid 50+ point guy, with 20-30 goals and 30+ assists. This production coming from a Shane Doan who has never gotten to play with guys like Datsyuk or Ovechkin. His plus minus has been less than stellar, but a lot of that was because he had to play on the Phoenix Coyotes in front of Ilya Bryzgolov. He comes with the added advantage of being a right handed winger and despite his gritty, physical play style he somehow managed to tally fewer penalty minutes in the past 5 years than Semin. Although he has been suspended.

Break down of the pro's and con's after the break.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Conclusion to Free Agency Frenzy

This off season has been a tough pill to swallow for Red Wings fans. We first had to watch as our beloved captain and staple of the Detroit blue line for 20 glorious seasons and 4 Stanley Cups retire respectfully and gracefully. More expected, we also had to watch solid blue liner Brad Stuart leave for California to be back with his family. The high class escort community around Detroit was rocked by the news that Jiri Hudler would be leaving, having signed a deal in Calgary for more money than Detroit was willing to pay the "Oh, it's a contract year?!" forward. 
It's funny, because next season, all those Flames fans
behind him will be just as disappointed.
(Photo: Todd Korol / Reuters)
After a disappointing exit from the playoffs, Detroit found its self in an odd position: We weren't "one or two pieces from a Stanley Cup" we were in desperate need of some pieces, especially on defense, to maintain our competitiveness. Kenny Holland said all the right things and he pulled the trigger on #1 and #2 UFAs in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. However, neither would be allured by the siren sound of Hockey Town and chose instead to head to the Minnesota Wild.

There are a ton of emotions being expressed on the Internet. A lot of anger, resentment, greed, envy, sadness, confusion, depression and interestingly enough, hunger. I would like to be one of the places Red Wings fans can sort out their feelings and help bring some clarity and even closure to today's bad news and how it changes our situation.

#1: Yes it was about family, but it was also about money
Both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise wanted to be closer to their families. There's no doubt about that. And I would like to encourage Red Wings fans to temper their anger a bit by remembering the fact that when Brad Stuart wanted to go elsewhere because of family, we gave him a fond farewell. Granted, he'd been a part of the team and won a Stanley Cup with us, but we didn't scoff at him and his reason for wanting to head back west. We understood. 

But we also know what dollars and cents do to people. The rumor is that Detroit offered Suter a 13 year, 90 million dollar contract. That means instead of the 7.5 million and change he'll make annual in Minneapolis, he'd be making 6.9 million and change in Detroit. If money isn't the deciding factor, one does have to raise an eyebrow at the fact that the team that best satisfies Parise and Suter's need to be near family just so happens to be the same team that offered them the most money - or at least the most money that we know of. So far all we know is Detroit, New Jersey and Nashville made "competitive" offers and the Nashville wasn't given the chance to match Minnesota's. 

That all being said...

#2: They have every right to be "all about the money"
Granted, this is the same guy who said hockey wasn't a sport
He can't be right about everything

George Carlin made an argument years back that I think is very true. He said that the only people who matter in professional sports are the players, and therefore they have the right to earn as much money as they want. His argument was that if you take away the team owners, the general managers, the coaches, the training staff, the television cameras and the fans, these guys would still play. 

Certainly, some of these guys won't because there'll be no money in it. But games on makeshift courts, sand lot fields, and frozen ponds around the world would still go on. Perhaps not quite at the level that it does, but those games would still go on. 


So? Everyone pays everyone salary, it's called an economy. Yes, when fans go to a Minnesota Wild game this season, part of their ticket price goes to pay Zach Parise and Ryan Suter's salaries. As well as everyone else who works for the Wild organization. And when Zach Parise goes to buy his soon-to-be blushing bride a gold plated dildo marital aid as a wedding present, the money he spends on it will go to the people who manufacture and sell gold plated dildos marital aids. Those people will buy groceries, and the people who work at the grocery store will buy gas, and the people at the gas station will go to Minnesota Wild hockey games. 

I say this as a hockey and Red Wings fan and blogger: We are largely irrelevant to the game. I watch and follow hockey and the Red Wings because I love to. The money and attention I give them, I get back several times over by being able to witness and comment on a team of players who are exceptional at the game I love, and hold geographic significance to me. 

So really, maybe my Red Wings memorabilia and tickets should cost more than they do, because I really feel like I'm coming out ahead. Or less. Less would be good.

#3: We need to screw our heads on straight and look at this objectively. 
I have found a great deal of contradiction from Red Wings fans and commentators. For example, the Nash trade: Everyone agrees it would cost a great deal for the Wings to trade for him. And there are pro's and con's of it, and nobody can be truly sure if we'd get our moneys worth for the deal. Basically, from the Red Wings stand point you'd have to give up: 

Why is it that unfair for Columbus to ask for an arm
and a leg for Rick Nash? The guy has two of each.
(Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Filppula or Franzen
1 or 2 from the following list: Kindl, Smith, Tatar, Jurco, Nyquist 
Maybe: Quincey, Tootoo or Abdelkader
1st and/or 2nd round draft pick

That's a lot. And I won't talk about the merits of the trade here. Only to say that as soon as you discuss this with Red Wings fans/commentators, it basically goes like this: What about Kindl? "NO! You can't trade Kindl. He's got a ton of promise and could be a solid 2nd/3rd pairing defensemen for us! Plus he's earned his spot!" Okay, Sm- "YOU CAN'T TRADE BRENDAN SMITH HE'S THE FUTURE OF THIS TEAM!" Tatar? "What, and give up all the speed and talent?" Okay, Jurco: "Dude is going to be a huge goal scorer to replace Datsyuk, no way!" Nyqu- "Fuck you"

Then, when you have a conversation about the future of the Red Wings, and the need to make free agent signings like Parise, Suter, Carle, Semin, Doan or go after guys like Nash or Weber, people have a completely opposite feeling about those same names a lot of times.

"Well we can't let Quincey go because he's a top 2 pairing defenseman." What about Brendan Smith? "He's not ready. And we need a goal scorer, a top pairing forward to bring in some scoring" Well you just said that Jurco is going to be a huge goal scorer for us, "Well yeah but he's no Alexander Semin! I mean, Semin you are guaranteed X number of goals. We can't be sure Jurco can do that". 

So there's really weird simultaneous contradiction going on with little if any congnitive dissonance about it. People don't want to give up all of these guys because "they're really important to the Red Wings' future" but they don't want to play any of them on the Wings because they aren't guaranteed producers and we just can't know. 

Yes, guys like Nash and Semin and Carle would be nice bonuses. And I'm not suggesting the Red Wings give up on bringing in talent. I just think we have some questions to face.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

FAF Day 1: Joy and Confusion

We all hoped for a big explosion when 12:01 came. When it didn't, we settled for a couple pops and sparklers. Then something happened. Something that we're still trying to make heads or tails from. Something, dark and sinister.

The Red Wings started off the day well. They made their pitches to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise - rumor has it the offers for Suter were in the ballpark of 80-100+ million dollars over 10-13 years, with Parise attracting similar offers - and gave fans a good jolt of confidence early on with the signing of former Maple Leafs' goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. How does he stack up against other Red Wings goaltenders? 

So he played almost as many games as Jimmy did, with a slightly worse save percentage, a fairly high GAA and a .500 win-loss ratio. He did post 4 shutouts, more than MacDonald and Conklin combined, and did have a better save percentage and GAA than Conklin. Keeping in mind, however, that he did all of this while playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The guy has stated he wants to be a starter, but he understands that coming to Detroit, he's going to be a backup. Here is really all you need to know about this guy to understand the value in signing him: While he was getting other offers, as soon as he got one from Detroit, he signed. He knows what we do here and wanted to be a part of it.

Further more, he's 27 and MacDonald is 32. We've got some guys in Grand Rapids I'm sure the Red Wings would love to move up in the system. So we give this guy 2 years, see how he does, see how our prospects are doing. If he's getting the job done and our guys need a bit more time, we sign him for another couple years. If he's done the job well, and even challenged Jimmy to get better, then he hits the market with some even more solid credentials and can maybe land a nice big fat 5 year starting contract, and the Wings can bring up someone from Grand Rapids who is ready to get some NHL games and start preparing to take over for Jimmy Howard, who will then be 31-33 years old. 

Very smart move by Ken Holland and company. A good price for a good back up goaltender. I like it.

We also heard that the Detroit Red Wings had finalized terms with Damien Brunner, who Mike Babcock went so far as to say would crack the top 6 lineup this season. Now, it is entirely possible that this is some Mike Babcock Inception "We Need to Go Deeper" Jedi Mind Shit. He comes out and says that, and then guys like Emmerton, Nyquist, Mursak, and Jurco are busting ass in prospect and training camps to make sure they make the team. Guys like Hudler can be let go to free agency because we've got guys ready to fill the void and in a more consistent way. And if any of your prospects choke under the pressure, then you've got Damien Brunner ready to step up to the plate and help you get it done. Or maybe Brunner just gets the spot because he's just that good. In any event, Red Wings fans rejoiced again and all was well.

Then...something happened. After the break.

Christmas in July Eve: Preview to the R/UFA Frenzy

We're just under 12 hours to go until Zero Hour. As I'm sure you're aware, at 12:01 PM EST on July 1st, 2012 teams can officially make offers to restricted and unrestricted free agents in the NHL. And in total contrast to all of those offers we've been making on blogs, message boards, among friends, family members, co-workers and those disinterested jerks on the bus who don't understand that being friends in high school is not the strongest indicator that Zach Parise is signing with Pittsburgh...

It's not okay? I'm not saying he's not going to sign there, but if he doesn't it wasn't because him and Sidney Crosby went to school with each other like 10 years ago. Okay? OKAY!?

...anyway, in total contrast to those offers, players can actually accept the offers teams make!

So I thought I'd post some predictions, thoughts, observations, jokes, etc. Just another bit of warm up reading material before we all go bat shit insane in 12 hours.

#1: This is my first Free Agency Day as a blogger/Tweeter. I will admit to being one of those people who just kind of picked up bits and pieces after July 1st about who we signed and why they're important. This year, instead, I've spent much more time checking out the free agents with regards to who the Red Wings might need and want this off season.

#2: Who the fuck is Steve Sullivan and why do I care?

#3: Apparently some people were flipping their shit over Justin Schultz signing with Edmonton. Some people - perhaps rightly so - felt that a college free agent with no NHL experience should not have been cavorting about as though he was the end all be all of potential signings. TSN's Bob Mckenzie was explaining - perhaps rightly so - that the kid was being reasonable and professional in his behavior. None of that is important. What is important is the following exchange between me and George Malik.
Damnit, you'd be proud of it too if you'd thought of it!
#4: Going back to my previous comments about Parise going to Pittsburgh, I just want to re-iterate, I don't have a problem believing that Parise could sign in Pittsburgh. Playing alongside Crosby and/or Malkin on a team that many are expecting to be serious Cup contenders, who has freed up the cap space to afford him. Yeah, it's totally feasible. But those are the same reasons he could go to Detroit, so let's be reasonable here.

#5: That being said, please don't let him sign in Pittsburgh. Hockey gods, you have been both generous and evil to the Red Wings these past few years. I ask that you please do not dump all over them. If we are not to land Parise, I can live with that, so long as he does not going to the sweltering turd factory that is the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

Simon Cowell was that kid growing up.
I just fuckin' know it. 
It's like when you're a kid, and you sign up for the Pinewood Derby, and you do the best you can to make the best damned car you can, and you're really proud of it. It's a good car, maybe even a championship car, and you really hope you can win. But if you don't win, you just hope that little bastard Billy doesn't win. Because his dad always built it for him helped him build it and he won every year and you just wanna wipe that smug grin off his stupid face.

So please, Hockey Gods. First and foremost, please bring Parise and Suter to Hockey Town. However, if I must pick between one or the other, I pick Suter, and simply ask that you have Parise stay in New Jersey. Or he can go home to Minnesota. Or he can shock everyone and sign with Colorado. Just please... PLEASE... do not let him sign with Pittsburgh.

In thy names we pray, in the name of the Gordie, The Stevie, and the Holy Nick.

#6: If you haven't yet, head over the The Production Line and make your predictions for the 2012 UFA Challenge. If anyone has all their predictions come true, I will personally make a disingenuous offer to donate to a charity of their choosing.

#7: I just have to say being so excited for UFA day is very much like Christmas in July that I've always heard ABC Warehouse advertise for and never understood why they were so damned excited. But it really is like anxiously awaiting tomorrow to see what kind of presents the Red Wings have left us. It's interesting though, because unlike Christmas, I'm totally okay with my presents this year being completely intangible.

Will Momma and Poppa Ilitch get us that Ryan Suter we've been asking for since April? Will they surprise us with a brand new top 6 forward? Or is this going to be a disappointing Christmas where not only do we not get anything, but our Jiri Hudler gets broken and put out on the curb for some poor hapless franchise to pick up? Only time will tell.

Probably want to Febreeze him before you toss him in the back of the truck.
Approximately 10 hours and counting. Let's Go Red Wings!