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.

#4: Here's the reality of it
It totally sucks the Red Wings missed out on Parise and Suter. Keep in mind that both New Jersey and Nashville lost huge pieces from their squads as well. So they're hurting, like the Wings are. And Nashville is in our division, so this could end up being an even bigger hit to them than it is for us. They've lost Suter, Radulov, Tootoo and potentially Weber. 

The question the Red Wings organization and the fans need to ask themselves: Are they willing to accept a few sub-par seasons to let guys like Smith, Nyquist and Jurco get the ice time in the NHL they need and become integral parts of this team? This could mean a lot of 1st round playoff exists and possibly even missing the playoffs. It could keep cap space low to allow us to be even more aggressive when it comes to free agent signings, and get us access to even better draft picks. 

Or are we content with continuing to patch up the side of the ship, keep floating into the playoffs and maybe pressing far or maybe sinking in the first couple of rounds. Nobody can disagree that after the Cup in 08' and the near miss in '09 that the Wings have lacked a certain ferocity and threat. 

If we aren't willing to give these guys the opportunity to become what we're all saying they can become, then we have to be willing to part with them. We're either going to lose them to waivers (like what happened with Quincey) or we're going to have to trade them to bring in guys like Nash. If we aren't willing to part with these guys, then we have to be prepared to accept some lackluster years.

Are the Red Wings poised to fall back into the Dead Things era? I don't think so. We still have too much talent on the team, I don't think we're going to turn into Columbus. But we may have to become the current Avalanche, or the Buffalo Sabers, or continue to be an early exit playoff team until our guys are ready to be the dominating force we once were. 

So breath my friends, it'll be okay. You will survive. We will survive. And when we beat Minnesota 4-1 next year, we can just nod and smile quietly. 

#5: Final Thoughts
I really don't think anyone can be mad at Ken Holland for this. Like I said, the rumor is that the Red Wings offered 90 million dollars and 13 years to a 27 year old that we hope for big things from but still can't be sure. Keep in mind that Suter's salary with Minnesota is roughly that of Kronwall and Ericsson combined. Also, Ryan Suter wasn't a Norris Winner. He wasn't even a Norris finalist. And yet this guy landed contract with cap hits comparable to the guys who were Norris finalists: Chara, Weber and Karlsson, the guy who actually won it.  

As I said on Twitter, it's almost impossible to sell the Red Wings wrong to a free agent: Datsyuk. Zetterberg. Stanley Cups. 21 play off appearance straight. Original 6 team. Sign here, please. If that's not enough to bring in someone, then they obviously have priorities that are other than winning hockey games and championships and playing for a team with a ton of history and respect, or they think they can get a better deal at that elsewhere.

Parise and Suter decided money and family were more important, but I don't think we should fear that the Wings don't still have clout. Jordin Tootoo took less money to come to Detroit. Samuelsson desperately wanted to come back. Gustavsson signed as soon as we offered. While I'm not thrilled about two of those signings, they all recognized what this place really is. It's fuckin' Hockey Town. 

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