The Off Wing

Opinion and Fact…From the Off Wing

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Wings Seeing Red

When the Red Wings drafted Steve Yzerman back in 1983 (in the 4th round no less), I don’t think anyone really expected what he brought to the Joe and the city of Detroit.  (Author’s Note:  When this piece was first written, I did research the picks for the players named in this post.  It would appear that I have misread the information I saw, and incorrectly identified Stevie Y as a fourth round pick, when in fact he was a first round pick, fourth overall.  My apologies to Steve and to you, the reader, for posting incorrect information.)  The talent the Red Wings have acquired and developed over the years since then has been nothing if not spectacular.  Especially in 1989, where the Wings drafted the likes of Nicklas Lidstrom in the 3rd round, Sergei Fedorov in the 4th round, and Vladimir Konstantinov in the 11th round, the boys in the Motor City made the Red Wings relevant again, igniting the fan faithful and inspiring the tradition of the octopus.

So how is it that we now talk of blowing up the Wings?  It’s not loud, but if you listen in the dark corners of the Joe, you can probably hear the whispers.  Should we blow it up?  What do we have to look forward to after Henrik and Pavel?  Datsyuk is arguably one of the best two way players the game has seen.  It cannot be argued, however, that Pavel is on the back nine at age 34.  His production has gone down every year since 2008-09 when he had 97 points.  That production is not the issue here, however.  Pavel can be a great example to a young team such as Colorado (Oh, no I didn’t suggest that did I?) or Edmonton.  His two way play and classic, above board style should rub off on the youngsters.  Pavel has one year remaining after this season, and his 6.7 million would easily fit under both teams” caps.  The interesting bit is what would The Wings want in return?  First and a second round pick?  High level prospects?  Another issue is his no trade clause.  Would he be willing to waive it?  The issue here is that Detroit needs to get younger and maintain their talent level to keep the butts in the seats.

The next aging yet still extremely viable option to send away in a deal is Henrik Zetterberg.  At 32 years of age, he is still somewhat in his prime, and I don’t foresee the Wings dealing away their newly named captain (only the third captain they’ve named since 1986 – can you guess the other two?).  He is the new heart and soul of this team and needs to stick around for some of the same reasons the Av’s should acquire Pavel.  Another reason they’ll keep him around is his current contract (it runs through 2021).

Mikael Samuelsson is 36 years old and sucking up salary without production.  He has one more year on his current deal but also has a no trade clause so would probably only be willing to move to a team that has the potential to go deep into the playoffs.  Question here…What would a team that was going deep into the playoffs want with an aging winger that doesn’t appear to be producing at the level he once was.  His contract is somewhat attractive at $3 million, but how much push would he require to produce?  Bertuzzi fits into this mold as well.  He is the senior member of the Wings at 38, with one more year on his deal and a no trade clause to boot.  He hasn’t played much at all this season, and his toughness could be attractive along with his slightly over $2 million dollar contract balance, but again, who would bring in a player with one skate in retirement.

The remainder of the team is young…except for Danny Cleary, who at 34 will be an unrestricted free agent.  The Wings will probably not tender him another offer, what with Filpula’s contract expiring, ownership will need the funds to pay him.  Damien Brunner will command a few million a year as well.  Youth will serve the Red Wings well, but they need to shore up their prospects.  Most of the good youth has been called up due to injuries so they are thin in the minors.  Dealing someone like Datsyuk could bring them the young gun and/or draft picks to beef up the minors and bring about the rebound to success that the original six team in Detroit so deserves.

Only covered the forwards here, the goaltending and defensive corps are both young and talented, with Kronwall taking on the mantle of “number one defenseman”.  The go-to guy on the blueline appears to understand his role and with his current deal, will be around for many years.  The only other d-man over 30 is Kent Huskins, and as a UFA will probably be looking at other teams come the end of the year.

The goaltending is young and good.  Not great, mind you, but Mrazek has shown flashes.  Jimmy Howard will most assuredly be offered a deal at the end of the year, and at 28 still has many years ahead of him.


The Minnesota Wild Are Just That!

The landscape of the entity that is the NHL Playoffs may have changed significantly this off season.  The Minnesota Wild hit the free agent jackpot and acquired two of the most sought after free agents in some time.  Zach Parise (formerly of the New Jersey Devils), and Ryan Suter (formerly of the Nashville Predators), signed matching contracts on July 4th.  Both contracts are 13 year, 98 million dollar contracts, both are front loaded with signing bonuses and small salaries to lessen the cap hit.  The major portion of the money will start to be paid in year 3, when both will earn 9 million bucks.  Both gentlemen have ties to Minnesota.  Parise was born and grew up in the state of hockey, and Ryan Suter’s wife is from Bloomington.  Even though Suter is from Madison, Wisconsin, it’s just a few hours away from the twin cities.

But beyond the signings of the two super free agents, Coach Yeo will have a whole arsenal of weapons at his disposal next season.  Start with Dany Heatley.  Twenty-four goals and fifty-three points last season on a team where he was one of only 3 players to play in all 82 games.  The other two were Kyle Brodziak and Darrell Powe.

I started this post back in July after the signings of Parise and Suter, but never got around to finishing it.  As I write this, the Wild are sitting in third place in their division and (I really dislike this phrase) if the season ended today, they would be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.  A team that is fabulous at home, they are no better than abysmal on the road, having no wins outside of the Xcel Center.  Zach Parise, who started the season slowly, leads his team with only 10 points (6-4-10).  Heatley has 4 goals however no other player has more than 2.

Devin Setoguchi last season scored 19 goals, the first time he failed to score at least 2o in a full season, but the shocking number was his plus/minus rating.  Last season he had an astonishing -17.  This season, with 10 games played, Devin has only managed to notch 2 assists.  Players like Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Brodziak should be performing better than they are, having 2 goals between them.  Rookie Mikael Granlund has got to be feeling some pressure in Minnesota with the scoring woes that the Wild appear to be experiencing.

The goaltending should be solid this season.  Josh Harding is a good tender and could possibly start on a few NHL teams.  Niklas Backstrom is strong however the defense doesn’t appear to be putting their best foot forward.  None of the defensemen have a positive plus/minus and only two of them are at zero.

The Wild need to find a way to play more consistent hockey going forward.  The team plays well in spots, but it would appear that when one aspect is succeeding, another struggles.  The cliche, one period at a time, one shift at a time may apply.  Minnesota has the talent, but need to gel it together.  Getting their first road win will go a long way towards instilling confidence in a team that, at the start of the season, appeared primed to make a solid run at the playoffs.  No one is talking Stanley Cup, and with their road efforts as of late, the fans may not see a playoff run this year either.



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