Jiri Hudler sucks so far. He's played 10 of Detroit's 12 games and has only 3 assists and a minus-6 rating. He plays on the Red Wings' 2nd power play unit and our PP sucks right now. The last two games, he's played in place of guys who had been on our PK unit and they've sucked in those games (7/10 effectiveness). For a guy that Babcock expected to score 70 points, he's on pace for about 20. My abacus tells me that number is a lot smaller and I trust my abacus, so that makes me angry. Everywhere Hudler goes, the Wings suck. Take him out of the equation and they're better.
If Jiri Hudler were a Roomba, the only areas of your carpet that would consistently stay clean are the low-traffic areas where there's not much dirt to begin with. Roomba Hudler would see carpet matted down by foot traffic and would turn around and bump into your coffee table seven more times. Justin Abdelkader in his place has been a Rug Doctor. You don't even use it in the quiet areas because it hurts to lug the damn thing around. You put it on the dirty spots and let it hit everything. It might leave things a sopping wet danger area for the next 24 hours, but it gets the job done. I don't need stupid metaphors to tell you this though. You've watched the last four games and you've seen what Abdelkader has done. Everywhere he goes, he leaves the place smelling lightly of citrus and sparkling like Edward Cullen's nipples.
So what to do with the $2.875 million Hudler who will never outplay anybody on our top two lines and isn't worth nine minutes he'll play with the fourth line if he's going to make our penalty killers suck? I mean, we can pretty well assume that, while he'll get better as he readjusts to the NHL surface and speed, he's a guy who just doesn't really fit in well enough anywhere. Hudler has never learned to backcheck and creates a fair portion of his points by cherry-picking in the neutral zone, which doesn't fit into the Wings' style of play. The question is whether we can afford to trade him.
Right off, I want to say I love Nick Lidstrom. I'd let him do things to me that I wouldn't let my wife do.* There's nothing I'd like to see more than Lidstrom raising his fifth Stanley Cup and second as Detroit's captain. I'll say it loud and clear that I'm willing to mortgage a bit of the Red Wings mid-term future if that will help make that happen. I don't think trading Hudler for draft picks is going to help Lidstrom raise the cup in the short run. Without trading him for picks, there's only a bit out there for talent in his price range, but we can't afford to take more salary. If you take out the strictly entry-level deals, here's a short list of players making less than Hudler:
Every Islanders forward not named John Tavares
While Holland might be able to get a bite on that fourth item, he'd get laughed at by a bunch of GMs that aren't even on the same level as he is if he even bothered picking up the phone and offering Hudler for any one of these guys. If you're going to trade Hudler for a warm body, he's going to have to be either an unproven, a has-been, or another defensive guy. If you think you're frustrated with the play of Hudler after ten games back to get used to the NHL again, wait until we've got a guy who's played his whole life on the NHL surface sucking it up out there.
Finally, the scariest part is that the Red Wings are going to deal with injuries. While I'd like to think that guys like Eaves and Abdelkader can step into top-six spots if and when Franzen's hip flexor keeps him from doing the Electric Slide or Bertuzzi's spine prevents him from doing the Rockaway, the reality is that Hudler has more offensive talent than anybody left in the bottom half of Wings forwards, including Modano and Cleary. We can't just bench Hudler waiting for a spot to open up there among the five offensive forwards whose jobs he'd have to replace if they go down either. Hudler needs playing time. Trust me when I say that he doesn't suck as much as it seems. Just be patient with him.
* stop looking at me like that. I wouldn't let my wife throw lit firecrackers at me or drag me through a briar patch behind an ATV. Not everything has to be sexual, you know?