Our “State of the Union”

NHL.com continues its “30 Teams in 30 Days”, it’s our turn today, baby. Here’s what they had to say, and of course, what I had to say about what they said…enjoy. I’ll be breaking this down into three parts of the course of the day.

STATE OF THE UNION – As expected, the salary-cap stricken Detroit Red Wings got hammered once free agency started July 1.
Alright, that’s a bad start. I think everyone expected Detroit to lose a couple of players (one being Hossa), but I don’t think anyone expected the number of exiting players to be what it was. Still, the loss of Hossa was significant (for regular season play, anyway), but to say we got “hammered” is a bit strong.
Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson, Tomas Kopecky and Ty Conklin led the charge out of Motown, and Jiri Hudler was considering leaving for a Russian team. In return, the Wings only were able to sign veteran journeyman defensemen Doug Janik and Andy Delmore to two-way contracts.
Holland’s hands were tied until the Hudler situation was resolved. This could have been quick and painless, except that Lil’ Gary and his NHL desperado’s decided that they were going to set precedent and take a hard stance against the Hudler situation and forced the Wings to take him to arbitration, even though both sides had already peacefully parted ways. Go figure.

“I believe we have the potential (to win the Cup),” Wings GM Ken Holland told NHL.com last month.Chalk it up to smart drafting, excellent player development and inventive contracts. Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg, each home-grown players, signed cap-friendly contracts last season that should keep them in Detroit for another decade.
Ahem. Should? Zetterberg is the next captain of this team. A Red Wing for life. Franzen too. Those are two guys that have bought into the system, know how privileged they are to play for such a winning organ-i-zation, and will continue to do so until they’re no longer value-added to the team (or a few seasons after their usefulness as run out **coughMaltbycoughcough**).
Pavel Datsyuk, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula are all signed for at least three more seasons. Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom are entering the final season of their contracts, but there’s little doubt both will re-sign if they want to keep playing beyond this season. Chris Osgood is inked for two more seasons.
So for the next three years, we already have inked in five out of our top six forwards and three out of our top four defensemen…and yet we still got “hammered” in free agency this year, is that how I am to understand it? Lidstrom will re-sign, unless he wins a gold medal, a Stanley Cup, and especially if he wins both (nothing would top winning gold and the Silver Chalice in the same year). Holmstrom may or may not sign after this year, but in all fairness, he’s becoming less and less relevant with Franzen and Cleary starting to pick up on his in-front nastiness. Still, he’s the master…for now.
“We like the core of our team and we’ve basically married them,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock told NHL.com. “We’ve signed them to long-term deals, are paying them lots of money and they’re the guys that have to drive the bus.”
I love this man.

Only five players from the 2007-08 team (Samuelsson, Chris Chelios, Darren McCarty, Dallas Drake and Dominik Hasek) are no longer with the club.

Instead of Sammy we have Ville Leino, possible upgrade, I will reserve judgment after a full season. Instead of Chris Chelios, we have Jonathon Ericsson…the Big Rig is definitely an upgrade in terms of skills, this guy is going to be an All-Star in just a few short years. Instead of Darren McCarty we Darren Helm, 2007-2008 Darren McCarty was little use to us, 2009-2010 Darren Helm is going to be a monster…not necessarily in the points department, but the kid just keeps getting better and better. Instead of Dallas Drake we have Justin Abdelkader, who may turn out to be a younger version of Dallas Drake. Both big, solid, North American grinders who both played college right here in Michigan. Not necessarily an upgrade…yet. Instead of the Dominator we have Howard…downgrade (sorry, Jimmy), but it’s the only one where we come out in the red.

However, it’s not fair for the Wings to ask or expect Helm, Leino and Abdelkader to replace the 82 combined goals they got last season from Hossa, Samuelsson and Hudler, if he doesn’t return.That’s why consistent production from Filppula and Cleary is essential.

No, it isn’t fair to expect 82 goals from Helm, Leino and Abdelkader…especially because Abdelkader will in all likelihood, begin the season in Grand Rapids. Is it important to get production from Filppula and Cleary? Of course it is. Is it essential? Not necessarily. Like I said before; Franzen and Zetterberg’s numbers are going up this year, and I expect Leino, Eaves and Williams to be in that 15-20 goal range apiece. That’s 45-60 of those goals right there. Increased production from Filppula and Cleary could help make it a wash and we forget there was ever ANY Slovaks on this team wearing number eighty-something.

Osgood is coming off the worst regular season of his career, but also one of the best postseason runs he’s ever had. He insists he knows what he was doing wrong during the regular season, but which Osgood shows up will determine a lot of the Wings’ success.

Obviously not. The Wings finished #3 in the entire league last year in points, despite Ozzie having his worst and most frustrating season ever. Granted, we had Conk-block to step in and he played well. But there’s a couple hungry youngsters that will be dying to step in if Ozzie, Howard, or both start to falter a little. And we know that Ozzie can turn it on for the play-offs. Don’t ever doubt him again after this year. Ever.

“I’m wrecking lots of napkins this summer putting people all over the place,” Babcock said. “Then we’re going to start and see what happens.”

Ah the perennial problem with being the Detroit Red Wings head coach, too much to work with. Even after getting “hammered” in free agency. Those are the kind of problems that keeps the Red Wings Nation spoiled.