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 Shortly thereafter, Aaron Ward said the Wings had withdrawn from the Doan race because the "asking price was too high".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?

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