Red Wings Roster Analysis

They're all cattle, Kenny. - Bruce Bennett

I think the first rosterbation comment hit this site about 15 minutes after game 7 ended last Wednesday. Since then a handful of Fanposts have gone up exploring the options. I think Styks' is the most complete, but the comments on the one from Tigerdog1 have the most of those Capgeek rosterbation lineups that people love to put together.

With this, we're going to just look at where the Wings stand and what they need to play in Mike Babcock's system. The Wings' lineup as it stood was good enough to take the Blackhawks to the brink without two pieces that certainly would have been in the lineup had they been healthy (Helm and DeKeyser). Still, call it whatever you want, be it a rebuild-on-the-fly, a reload, or whatever, this Wings team got away without having expectations. Next year's squad probably won't be so lucky.

Overall, the Wings have 19 roster players (11F, 6D, 2G) and have just under $12M in cap space to fill the need for three forwards and one defenseman. They're going to have some room to spend for improvements.

The Free Agents

UFAs

Valtteri Filppula (C/LW) - Age: 29 - Salary: $3.5M ($3M Cap Hit) - 41GP - 17P
Daniel Cleary (LW/RW) - Age: 34 - Salary: $3M ($2.8M Cap Hit) - 48GP - 15P
Damien Brunner (RW) - Age: 27 - Salary: $1.35M - 44GP - 26P
Drew Miller (RW) - Age 29 - Salary: $850K - 44GP - 8P
Ian White (D) - Age 29 - Salary: $2.75M ($2.875M Cap Hit) - 25GP - 4P

Also UFA: Francis Pare, Jordan Pearce, Jan Mursak

RFAs

Gustav Nyquist (LW/C) - Age 23 - Salary: $875K - 22Gp - 6P - Arbitration Eligible? Yes - Years to UFA: 4
Joakim Andersson (C) - Age 24 - Salary: $875K - 38GP - 8P - Arbitration Eligible? Yes - Years to UFA: 3
Jakub Kindl (D) - Age 26 - Salary $1.05M ($883K Cap Hit) - 41GP - 13P - Arbitration Eligible? Yes - Years to UFA: 0
Brendan Smith (D) - Age 24 - Salary $875K - 34GP - 8P - Arbitration Eligible? Yes - Years to UFA: 3

Also RFA: Thomas McCollum, Brent Raedeke

The Roster (By Position)

Goaltenders:

This one is the easiest, so we'll start it off.
Needs: Starting goaltender who can play the bulk of games backed up by reliable goaltender.
Already on the roster: Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson
In the pipeline: Petr Mrazek, Jared Coreau
UFAs/RFAs expected to be back: Nope
Available as UFA: A whole bunch of guys who may earn interest as a backup, but aren't likely to be looked at because Gustavsson probably isn't worth a buyout and he's not likely to have any trade value.

Analysis: The Wings are pretty set in goal at starter and likely won't spent a lot of time working on that aspect of the team. Gustavsson is going to have to use this summer and all of training camp proving to be more reliable though. Howard is getting paid like a guy who should have to eat minutes, but the backup goalie position is not so well-set that anything is guaranteed. Mrazek isn't likely to get called up to be a backup so soon in his career.

Defense:

Needs: A true top pair, 3 puck-movers, 3-5 stay-at-home defenders, 2 power play quarterbacks, 2 penalty kill anchors, somebody who holds his stick different from everybody else on the blue line. - Overlapping roles allowed.
Already on the roster: Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Kyle Quincey, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brian Lashoff, Danny DeKeyser
In the pipeline: Chad Billins, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Oullet, Gleason Fournier, Max Nicastro, Nick Jensen, Matthias Backman, Adam Almquist, Alexei Marchenko, Richard Nedomlel
UFAs/RFAs expected to be back: Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl
Available as UFA: Mark Streit, Sergei Gonchar, Marek Zidlicky, Rob Scuderi, various other unimpressive names.

Analysis: Of the needs, Detroit is missing a true #1 D-man and don't consistently get the puck-moving or PP QB pieces. Another PK anchor probably needs to come out of the pack as well. Detroit's D-corps exceeded expectations this season. They have a good bunch, but not a great one. Rumors have already started that the Wings will go after Mark Streit, but he's over 35, shoots left, and apparently wants more term/money than I think he should get. The right-shooting problem is harder to solve. There's a few in the UFA pool (Corvo, Zidlicky, Rozsival and others), but I'd rather deal with the trouble of keeping the puck in at the boards on the right side of the zone than make roster space for a guy who doesn't really improve the D to bring that one aspect. The expected improvements from Kindl and Smith, as well as Quincey getting comfortable in his role may end up solving a lot of the problems. The Wings don't need to make lateral moves on D with questionable guys. If they can't get the big name, I don't expect too much roster shakeup at the blue line.

Forwards, the Grinders

The forward corps is a little tricky because there are several different types of forwards in Mike Babcock's system and sometimes they overlap. You're going to see guys names pop up in multiple lists here.

Needs: 3-4 guys who forecheck well and can hold their own defensively against top competition while outplaying lower lines. Also four guys who can penalty kill.
Already on the roster: Patrick Eaves, Darren Helm, Cory Emmerton, Jordin Tootoo, Justin Abdelkader
In the pipeline: Landon Ferraro, Riley Sheahan, Mitchell Callahan, Marek Tvrdon
UFAs/RFAs expected to be back: Joakim Andersson, Drew Miller (?), Danny Cleary (?)
Available as UFA: Matt Cooke (hahaha)... seriously though, there's always a bunch of these guys available.

Analysis: After a disastrous start to the season, the Red Wings' penalty killing forwards got things fairly sorted out. Babcock tends to start PKs with either Datsyuk or Zetterberg to win the faceoff before switching them out for more lane-blocking, zone-clearing guys until it's time to bring them back late to try and transition back to offense when both sides are even again. Miller led forwards in SHTOI/G and did so well. If he's gone, Helm will probably take that role back over.

At even strength, the Wings bottom lines generally were beaten in the possession battle. The third line started doing much better late in the season as Babcock filled it with transitional players who are expected to grow into top-six skill guys. I hope that plan continues.

Forwards, The Transitional Skill Guys

Needs: 2-3 young guys who can challenge for bigger minutes.
Already on the roster:
In the pipeline: Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Calle Jarnkrok, Teemu Pulkkinen, Martin Frk
UFAs/RFAs expected to be back: Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner
Available as UFA: This isn't really a role that lends itself to UFA status.

Analysis: Brunner started on the top line and struggled mid-season to the point where he got moved down until he started consistently outplaying third line competition. Nyquist and Tatar also showed that they can consistently get the best of lower-level NHL competition and earn the call to top line responsibilities (and to play with top line players) when the situation arises.

This role is something I'd like to see more revived for the Wings this coming season. One of the knocks against Babcock is that he's come away from the meritocracy of earning one's way up to top minutes. Fans worry that without the pressure from lower line players who likely deserve more ice time, the top line guys can get a little... comfortable where they are.

Also, with Detroit's core aging, the Wings need to know which guys can be trusted to move into the huge minute responsibilities and which ones need to become trade bait while their value is still driven by the nebulous concept of their untapped potential.

Forwards, The Piano-Movers

Needs: Four guys who lean on defenders, annoy goalies, make space for teammates, help get the puck off the boards in the offensive zone, draw retaliatory penalties, and generally wear the other team out.
Already on the roster: Justin Abdelkader, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson, Johan Franzen, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves
In the pipeline: Riley Sheahan, Landon Ferraro, Marek Tvrdon
UFAs/RFAs expected to be back: Danny Cleary (?), Joakim Andersson, Drew Miller (?)
Available as UFA: Ryane Clowe, David Clarkson, Pascal Dupuis, Brad Boyes, Brenden Morrow, Nathan Horton

Analysis: The overlap here with the grinders is heavy, except these guys don't necessarily have to kill penalties. In fact, one of these guys should be on every Red Wings' power play, as they're expected to score the garbage goals that come from tip-ins and rebounds. There's a bit of overlap with outright skill guys (where the lost art of the Red Wings power forward lies), and I'd personally take a guy who moves his own piano on-stage and then plays you some Mozart himself. While we're asking for things that are kind of hard to get, I'd also like him to be seven feet tall, smell of lilacs, and have immunity from penalty calls.

Abdelkader finished the season well, but I'm not entirely sold on his ability to do it consistently. When Franzen is on his game, he's just about unstoppable. It's keeping Franzen on his game that's the problem. Still, with the overlapping roles, the Wings have space to bring in a guy expected to make this his one his primary responsibility. Horton seems to be the popular choice.

Forwards, the True Skill Guys

Needs: Playmaking sniping game-changers. As many as you've got. Definitely at least one more
Already on the roster: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen,
In the pipeline: Tomas Tatar, Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, Calle Jarnkrok, Marek Tvrdon, Martin Frk
UFAs/RFAs expected to be back: Gustav Nyquist, Damien Brunner
Available as UFA: Mike Ribeiro, Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla, Teemu Selanne, Tyler Bozak(?), Derek Roy

Analysis: This one is much harder to pin down because If you get a guy who does this all the time, he's a bona fide star and those are almost never available as UFAs unless they're old or as draft picks unless you suck. The Wings have a handful of guys they're hoping can grow into this. The issues with that is that they're a transitional skill guy until they're a true skill guy and the only difference really is how often they take over games. Side B of that record is full of aging true skill guys who do it less and less often as talents deteriorate.

Despite an uplifting season, the Wings still sit on a bit of a chasm here as Datsyuk and Zetterberg continue to get older without true replacements being ready to pick up all of the slack. Brunner has a lot to work on, but has a great attitude. Nyquist and Tatar are fiercely skilled, but still fall victim at times to the stuff that both Datsyuk and Zetterberg grew through. That's not a guaranteed growth pattern though. Some guys (like Valtteri Filppula) never really break through. They're good enough to be supporting players, but need heart-and-soul guys around whom to thrive.

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Conclusions: The Wings aren't in bad shape if all they do is re-sign their RFAs. Doing that leaves them with some questions on the blue line and the PK, as well as without an established scoring machine that they'd like, but it also leaves them with the put up or shut up nature of forcing the youngsters to prove their mettle. I think Detroit will take a bit of a wait and see attitude leading up to free agency because they're going to want to know who's available after teams start using buyouts. Detroit might get some skill guys out of that mess or may be able to work some trades with teams wherein they hold their own buyouts in case a team needs to offload a guy as part of a package for somebody the Wings really want.

I think the Wings will have the space to spend on one skill guy and I have a gut feeling it will be a forward. The UFA market isn't currently strong, but it's hard to know what it's going to look like a month from now when guys like Danny Briere possibly find themselves suddenly out of work. I'm not sure he's the guy I'd go for, but this could be one of the more interesting offseasons in recent memory. What do you think?

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