After the absolute crushing heart breaking loss to the most hated Pittsburgh Penguins, Red Wings fans such as I have already become restless. After last year’s Cup and the addition of the best free agent available in Hossa, I thought a repeat was a lock. Hossa was dynamite in the regular season but lacked that same scoring prowess in the post season. I’ll be frank. Dump Hossa. He locks up money the Red Wings could A. use to sign other high priced talented scorers, (Marion Gaborik, Vincent Lecavalier) or B. make our case for the Bouwmeester sweepstakes (yeah Calgary, he’ll test the market just like Leopold) or C. use at the trade deadline. Hossa has only showed up for one Stanley Cup playoffs in his career (Pittsburgh 2008) and is a liability for distracting press coverage and lack of production in the playoffs.
So Hossa is toast. Next, let Samuelson walk. He has little production and Ericsson can replace his cannon at the point on power plays. That’s money saved and a freed up roster spot for Leino, Abdelkader or a FA. I’d like to resign Hudler, but I’ll assume he finds “greener” pastures elsewhere. Another roster spot and more money available for Holland. Kirk Maltby is worthless, and hardly played any. He doesn’t produce and is only mildly a grinder who won’t drop the gloves. He can go to Grand Rapids or anywhere he likes, just not on my Red Wings. Holland is right in letting Chelios go. He played little and the young defenseman coming up can develop more in the NHL than Grand Rapids. Stuart forgot how to play as Stuart during the finals especially Game 7. A lot of people are calling for his head, and maybe they are right. If a trade is pending, his value is still high and moving him wouldn’t be devastating. Kronwall came into his own and Ericsson is going to be an elite defenseman. A gritty winger (please no more Darren McCarty!) or some depth forward could be valuable. Lilja’s injury could be career ending. That would be brutal because of the amazing progress he made this year. I am a former Lilja hater, but he really turned it around and it would be a shame to lose him. This is not a popular decision, but I would let Conklin go. It is put up or shut up time for Jimmy Howard or Daniel Larsson. Howard has had plenty of seasoning and he needs time up to show what he has. If he falters, the Wings can trade for a solid backup in the season. Then we will know whether Howard is worth having around. The Red Wings first rounder from last year Thomas McCollum is waiting for his chance in just a few short years.
Assuming no retirements or trade requests from anybody else, the Red Wings should look very similar from last year. Not that it’s a bad thing as we were one game from repeating. The changes I would implement would be summed up as following: Hudler, Samuelson, Conklin, Hossa, Chelios, are out. That would save the Red Wings roughly ten million dollars, moving us around ten million under the cap, which stayed at last year’s total. Call up Leino, Abdelkader, Helm (if his spot isn’t already locked up), Kopecky, Howard or Larsson and possibly Jakub Kindl or Derrick Meech. Ericsson would resume playing in Detroit like he did in the playoffs. With the money we saved from letting people go and our core locked up for the next decade we go after Gaborik. Lecavalier will most likely want to stay in the Eastern Conference. He already has a Cup too, so that will not factor as it did last summer for Hossa. Gaborik has spent his entire career in Minnesota and with a new coach, he could want out. He would be signable for the Wings as well, with a short term deal possible. I know what you’re saying, “Weston, another Cup hungry scoring winger? What is the difference?” We got to get the bad mojo away from Motown and sign somebody who is used to the Western Conference and for once play in an offensive friendly system. Without him being held back in the defensive Wild style of play, he can truly show off his amazing skills. That should be enough to carry the Wings to the top of the Conference, and a move before the deadline can put us over the top.
In recap, it is a lot of staying put and rebuilding from within. It is hard to forecast who will be on the trading block come the trade deadline. I am counting on a lot of youngsters to step up like they did in the postseason, but I hate to see prospects rot in Grand Rapids when they earned a chance to play in Detroit (see Kyle Quincy, now a LA King). We reload the Griffins with deep drafts every year, but it could be a lean year for mid season call ups. I can see this team going to the Stanley Cup Finals again, and with the added experience and Babcock coaching, anything can happen.
Weston’s 2009-2010 Detroit Red Wings Starting Lineup
Lebda-Lilja (if not recovered, substitute Meech or Kindl or an untraded Stuart)