By: Mike “Stoney” Stone
The 2012 off season for the Red Wings is the subject matter of this edition of the Stoney Six Pack. And much like the old Miller Lite ads, the off season is less filling, but unlike the ads,the off season does not taste great.
1.The dominoes started to fall when Nicklas Lidstrom announced he was not coming back. Granted the lock Hall of Famer was slipping a bit, but he was still the best defenseman on the team and one of the five best in the league. We knew he would be impossible to replace, but with Ryan Suter available ,many thought the loss could be tempered.
2.As expected Brad Stuart told Ken Holland he would not come back so his rights were shipped to San Jose. Stuart was far from great, but he was the third best defenseman on the team and he frequently hit people.
3.Jiri Hudler decides to seek free agency so the Wings try to replace his 25 goals by bringing back Mikael Samuelsson. He will help on the power play, with his lethal slapshot, but at 35 years old,I don’t think 3 million a year and a no trade clause makes any sense. Hudler meanwhile gets a 16 million for four years with Calgary. I am no Hudler fan, so his loss does not bother me. Hopefully I am not wrong on that.
4.Jordin Tootoo signs a 2 year contract for nearly 4 million dollar. I know I am in the minority but I don’t mind this signing. Yes he is small, but the Wings need a pain in the ass and Tootoo is that.
5. Signing Jonas Gustavsson as a backup to Jimmy Howard was a sound move,but I don’t do summersaults for a backup goalie
6.And last but not least,the failure of the Red Wings to land either Ryan Suter or Zack Parise. Not getting Suter is devastating because of the Lidstrom and Stuart departures. He is not a Norris Trophy winner, but he is an excellent defenseman. Parise was a pipe dream. He was the power forward the Wings have not had since Brendan Shanahan turned into a finesse forward. It is obvious that the two wanted to play together and they wanted to do that in Minnesota where they are most comfortable. I do not blame the Red Wings for not getting either. They made a great offer. I can’t kill Ken Holland for this. However, I do fault him for not making this team more playoff ready the last couple of years. I contend Holland was too loyal to some players and should have gotten a couple(not all) bigger and grittier players. He should have been drafting more players who fit today’s style of playoff hockey. Trading a first round pick for Kyle Quincey was not the answer Wing fans were looking for.
The Wings might have been hampered by the style of Mike Babcock. I have heard enough stories from people I trust the past few years that the players were sick of his voice and sick of his ways. I can’t say this is a common thread with the majority of the team but players around the league talk. In fact someone told me in March that Suter would not come here because of Babcock. I told him that was bull crap. Maybe it wasn’t.
The bottom line is that the Wings as of NOW are not an elite team. They have two excellent forwards in Datsyuk and Zetterberg and one very good defenseman in Kronwall. Jimmy Howard is a regular season all star who still has under performed in the playoffs.The rest of the team is made up of some good players and some average players. Red Wing followers expect more.
So where do they go from here. I don’t think they should go crazy and overpay for players like Semin and Doan .Working out a trade for someone like Bobby Ryan,Keith Yandle,Jay Bouwmeester,or Rick Nash without crippling the team would be the way to go. Remember there will be a lockout and when the league resumes, the cap will go down. That means plenty of players will have to be let go or traded. The Wings should have plenty of quality players to choose from after next season. My advice for Wings fans is to lower your expectations for this year and hope that Ken Holland can make the right moves to make the Wings elite again, because if he can’t, the chances of another dominant run will be non-existent.