Hockeytown has had a few days to digest what went down on July 1st, but the effects still seem to be rippling.
Every big name free agent was offered a solid deal by the hockey club, but in an event that would not have been thought of ten years ago, each one was turned down. Hockeytown, once a haven for free agents that lined up to go sign, was shut out. Matt Niskanen went to go play with a team that had Ovechkin. Christian Ehrhoff, once asking the Wings for five years and then signing for one and $4 million went to go to Pittsburgh to play for what he described as a “good team”. Dan Boyle took less money to go to play for New York on Broadway. When Anton Stralman’s agent was asked if Detroit was on his list, his answer was a swift “no”. Amazing how things have changed. Is it the recently declared bankrupt Detroit? Is it Mike Babcock’s demanding demeanor? The aged arena? Well, all of these suggestions have been put forth by fans and media and this writer completely disagrees with all of them. Let’s take a look at the talent on the ice. Datsyuk and Zetterberg still have a lot to put forth, the young talent is filtering through, the playoffs have been made 23 straight years, who wouldn’t want to come to this place?
There is one fault with the Red Wings right now. They are not serious Cup contenders. All these free agents wanted to go to a place that they felt were an impact player or two away from vaulting into Cup contention. One could argue that the Wings were in this same boat, instead turned down for other possible reasons. However, with one of the best prospect pools in the league, the Wings have a sparkling future in front of them with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco leading the charge. Is it the nonexistent patience? The desire to go to a “win-now” situation? Ken Holland himself suprisingly doesn’t even know why the big names aren’t coming here. This writer is puzzled at that as is Holland, as the Wings got their men last year in Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson. But this year, the Wings swung and missed again, and for the second time in three offseasons are the ones no one wants to dance with. How does this affect this next season? Well, it might not be as bad as people think.
Coming into the 2014-15 season, the Red Wings are basically the same team, but with young guns for shaping up to be around for the whole season. There are some challenging to crack the opening night roster for the first time as well, with guys like Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet, and Teemu Pulkkinen knocking on the door. This writer believes Ouellet and Sproul will have the best shot to make the team as the fifth and sixth defensemen playing together. The feeling stems from the fact that this pair gives this writer more comfort than a pair like Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff, even though they are unproven. Another factor is the Daniel Alfredsson decision. Will he stay, or will he hang em up? The Wings may not know until August. This could be an issue in a delayed possible trade or acquisition to recreate his production. It will be interesting to see how his situation plays out.
One final factor has got to be health. Last year, it was laughable. Stephen Weiss played 26 games. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk only played 29 games simultaneously. The only two players that played all 82 games were Drew Miller and recently signed Kyle Quincey. If the Wings can stay just a little bit healthier than last year, it could make a huge difference in turning 39 wins into 45+. Fully healthy, this team is very talented and with highly touted prospects like the ones mentioned before coming into their own, they could be even better than last year. There are many factors that play into this success for next season, but health is the biggest one. More games in which Datsyuk is setting up Zetterberg and Stephen Weiss is scoring can go a long way in changing this team’s fortunes for next season. Until then, we can just envision what could be in these summer months.
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featured image courtesy of mbd.scout.com