On The Red Wings:
In this post, I will examine a multitude of different things. Note, most of this is my opinion, but some of this is fact, and some of it is believed facts (by reporters, insiders, etc.) I would LOVE your opinion or take on my post, and encourage you to think about what is happening with the organization. So, I would like to start this, with where it all began. The Red Wings of the PAST.
On The Red Wings Past and History:
Let's start this with where it all began. The Wings had legends of Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsey, Sid Abel and Terry Sawchuck, just to name a few. Some of the great legends of the game spent their time playing in a Detroit Cougar or Winged Wheel red and white uniform. Us, along with five other teams we now consider rivals (Except the Rangers) became the First six teams to play the game of Hockey. So let's start here. Of the Original Six teams, only ONE did not make the playoffs. Detroit (1) did of course, we lost to Boston (2) as we all know. They lost to Montreal (3), who lost in the Conference Final to another one, the Rangers (4), the Blackhawks also lost in the Conference Finals, (5), and then there's the lonely Maple Leafs (6) who didn't, but they also have a bright future, a good new General Manager, and a relatively young solid core to build around with the likes of Lupul, Kadri and Franson (before trades). All of the original six teams have a deep history, including the Red Wings, and all of them KNOW HOW TO WIN GAMES. Even look at the more recent past. Montreal had future Hall of Famers like Patrick Roy (Blech!) and Eric (Day-Zhar-Dan) however it's actually spelled. Chicago had Chelios, Boston had Bourque, Toronto had Tie Domi, New York of course had Messier and Leetch, and the Wings had many greats including Yzerman, Lidstrom just to start. Sure, LA might have a lucky run, but even they have a bunch of history (Gretzky and Dionne for example). Teams like Columbus and Nashville, Arizona and the Panthers, all the newer teams don't have that history, and with the exception of one year each, they haven't done anything in the playoffs. So, the first point to take from this post, is that THE OLDER TEAMS (Including Detroit) HAVE ALWAYS FOUND A WAY TO KEEP GOING. With that, we now go to section two. The Wings of Today (This Year).
On The Red Wings Today:
If you are just a casual sports fan, or even a casual hockey fan, you might see the Detroit Red Wings in the 8th spot and think- "Wow. They must not have done that well" among any number of thoughts those people might think. Truth be told however, that last year, the Wings were not lucky to make the playoffs. Okay, maybe a little, (but not much). The Wings were adjusting all year long. If I had one word to describe the Wings last year, it would be either New or Adjust(ment/ing). This story can be told through many factors, whether that be injuries, (nobody except for WHO played in 80+ Regular Season games last year?!), young kids finally getting a chance to prove themselves (and in some cases they shined like Goose), and a new conference, new teams to play against, a new style of play, and what seemed like at some points, a whole new team to play with. We still have our "Big Three" in Pavs, Z and Kronner. But, Who talks about our YOUNG big three? Right now, that appears to be Tatar, Goose and Mantha. Outside of Detroit Red Wings avid fans, People who watch the Olympics, or hockey geeks and personnel themselves, I don't know anybody who knows who Mantha is, or Tatar maybe a couple. Goose, people might have heard of him, but don't know him like we do here. Next year, should not be about adjusting, or new. It should be getting back to the Good times of the Wings. Reliving our past, and giving Goose that chance to be the next Zetterberg, or Mantha the chance to be the younger more consistent (among other things) Franzen. Or Dekeyser (or any other defenseman for that matter) the chance to be the next Lidstrom/Kronwall. Maybe we can get Babcock renewed, to give us more stability inside, and maybe we can actually hire our second assistant coach. There's no rush to these things, but they do provide much needed stability to our organization. Name any other professional sports team in ANY sport around the WORLD that has lost 3 assistant coaches in 5 years? Peters to Carolina, McLean to Ottawa and McLellan to San Jose. Those losses, while not players, have provided instability to our team, and having to hire 2 new assistant coaches last year didn't help us stabilize. New assistants mean teaching coaches again and again and again how we run our team, only for them to leave. So, to summarize in One Word what the Wings need to do to succeed next year, it is not improve. It's not even youth. It HAS to be STABILIZE. Now, with that, I move on to the next topic- The Red Wings Near Future.
On The Red Wings Near Future:
So, when I say "Near Future" you might not know exactly what that means. When I say "Near Future" I'm talking about the Wings era when Datsyuk and Kronner retire, and when Z is approaching the end of his career here. In other words, when the "Big Three Era" ends. This will start to take place in 2016-2019. I'm not going to say an exact year, but it will be in that range. For this portion, I'm going to assume for next year the Wings advance to the second round, LA doesn't win the cup, and everybody including Babcock renews their contracts, and somebody hires Tom Renney as a Head Coach.
The Red Wings by this point have given their young kids a chance to do something special. With the help of the aging vets, they will have. The Wings near future might not have that last wish of a cup, but it could. We may not have a Lady Byng or Ted Lindsey winner. Somehow, someway, this team will find a way to win. It may be a trade for a Defenseman, it may be Sproul excelling, or even Quincey performing decent. It may be Mantha blowing up the league, Dats and Z staying healthy, or even just a better line chemistry and better special teams. For all we know, it could just be not having an Olympic Break! Something, however, anything, will bring this team back to the way things used to be. Winning. So, to sum up this section, the one word I will use is not surprise, or achieve, or even greatness. It's RETURN, to symbolize the Return to how things were when we won. When we were successful, and most importantly, when we achieved our expectations.
So, before we go to the distant Future (2020), I'd like to touch on one topic that hasn't been touched on in this article yet, but has been mentioned all over the WWW (Winged Wheel Web). Free Agency.
On Why Free Agents Don't Want To Come Here (Why Some Are Wrong):
So, this is where my note at the beginning takes effect. Some things are true, reported true, or opinion. With that, I start by mentioning one simple fact. FREE AGENCY IS NOT CRUCIAL TO THE SUCCESS OF THE RED WINGS. Also, I won't do this in caps, but it is a key idea. Ken Holland, Mike Babcock, and the Tradition of the Red Wings are NOT at all responsible for anything that is happening here. Nor the players, nor the arena. In this, I will disprove all of these theories one way or another, and I will tell you the real reason(s) why Free Agents don't come here. Yet.
First, I start with Babcock. It might be because his contract is not renewed, sure in some instances that's the case, but Pittsburgh just hired a new coach, and they still got Ehrhoff to come. Babcock's coaching is well respected around the league, and many coaches (including our assistants which gain lots of free agents) use his style of coaching.
Second, continuing on management level, it's not Holland. Holland was one of the key cogs in drafting excellent players, making good trades, and building a winner in 2002 and 2008. He is also willing to pay to get guys to come (see Parise and Suter offers.)
Third, it is absolutely NOT the Arena. The Joe had (and I believe still holds) the highest amount of fans per game at 20,066 (sold out capacity). The arena much like Olympia now holds a lot of history, and players aren't crazy enough to not want to go somewhere because of an arena. Also, to top it off, we are building a new one, and it will have been active for FIVE YEARS (maybe four?) of Niskanen's deal. The idea it's the Joe's fault is absolutely crazy, and illogical.
Fourth, it is not the players. Swedes have come here because of Liddy and Z (see Alfie), Older vets have come here because of our '02 success (see Alfie), and players who may not have ever played together before (Hull/Luc/Dom?) have joined here successfully. We have any kind of player you want, except for a Tough Guy, but Abs is close enough and Mitch is coming up too.
Fifth, it is not the tradition either. As mentioned previously, Montreal, Boston, Toronto, Chicago and especially New York have had no problems except for Salary Cap in attracting free agents. Why would a player NOT want to play for a team with good tradition? As noted earlier, it's the teams like Nashville, Arizona, Florida and Columbus who have little tradition who have trouble attracting free agents. Remember when Weber almost left for Philly? Nash wanted out and got traded to the Rangers? A divisional rival now? Doan almost signed with Pittsburgh? Stephen Weiss came here? Also, to a now- divisional rival? It has nothing to do with the history, in fact, that should be a bonus.
Now, I will mention a few different factors in here. One of them is disheartening, one of them may make you angry, and another one is one I've mentioned earlier in this article. I'll start with that, as it is the main reason, and is the foundation behind most of them.
The first reason why, is because of insecurity/stability on the ice. Whether that be Babcock's contract not getting renewed yet, Datsyuk threatening to move to Russia two years ago, or that we aren't moving our young kids up. Most free agents look at our team and think about how our core is aging and not about the kids.
The second reason, is the one that makes the least sense, but it is possible, and it is related to the ice. Just not, the hockey ice, and that's the stinking freaking weather. Look at Tampa Bay! Heck, even the California teams like LA. While there are other factors why they get free agents including player connections (Boyle to NYR) and another one I'm going to cover later, one of them is the warm weather. Players would prefer not to play in a town where there is a blizzard threat every winter.
Third in my book, is debatable, but still realistic and not as crazy as it may appear, and that's the city of Detroit itself. Players don't really think about cities if they're okay, good or whatever, but when they get bad press like Detroit between the crime, abandoned houses, gangs, and of course scandal and economic issues, there's got to be some thinking that goes into that.
Fourth, relates to number three as well as number two, and that is TAXES. As mentioned before with Tampa Bay, they have no state income tax there, and as we've seen with the NBA (Miami and Houston anybody?) the state government, taxes, and economics do make a big enough deal. Of course, not big enough to where teams don't sign in places like LA or New York, but still.
Fifth, is the one that takes us back to actual hockey ice. This is the one that may make you furious, but it is also possible that players don't want to play here because of injuries. Almost every player that's walked through here has gotten hurt at one point or another, most of them while they played here. Even though it may seem odd, it does seem like something could be wrong with the training staff if you're looking at it from the outside, and players don't seem to like that.
Sixth, is one that makes me want to cry to change up from the furious one, and that is, unfortunately, the ownership situation. Mike Illitch is not the healthiest he's been the last 25 years, and he's not exactly getting better. As exemplified by the Doan situation, players are looking to play for teams with good ownership, and while Illitch exemplifies perfect ownership, we come back to the word stability, and that players want to be stable. The ownership here isn't exactly stable, and players don't want to play for a junk owner, which could lead to just the tiniest amount of insecurity for a player.
Seventh, going back to less emotional topics, but still focused on, of course, Stability, is that I haven't seen many reports mentioning no trade or no movement clauses being offered by us. Notice that Sammy, Quincey, Weiss, and I believe Alfie, all had no movement clauses offered to their deals. Could it be that players are worried that we might trade them? It's something to consider.
Eighth, is another reason to think about, and it may sound really ironic, but it could be the younger guys themselves. We have so many kids, and if Babcock starts to finally favor the kids, the player we sign might be the next Tootoo, Samuelsson, etc. And might be run off the team. It may not make much sense for say Niskanen, but for a forward, it could prove to be an interesting case.
Ninth is something that has been mentioned, is what's been bugging us recently, and will always be a factor for ANY team. It is the single most important factor and is ALWAYS overlooked by everybody except for the players making their decisions, and that is... Personal decisions/family reasons. This is most notable in the cases of Suter and Parise. They wanted to play together, and Holland offered them both nice deals. In fact, some news outlets reported Suter actually signed here! Ultimately, after talking with his friend and his Wife, he decided to play for the Wild, also because that's where he grew up at. Boyle wanted to reunite with MSL in New York. Niskanen and Orpik playing together in D.C (Notice Niskanen signed after Orpik did and overpaid for both?) Vanek with Minnesota, etc. Personal reasons have been major the last few offseasons, and as hockey players have kids to worry about (Universities and Safety), wives to please (family friends? Hometown?) and friends they want to join, the Wings don't have everything.
So, those are my (Gordie Howe) reasons why I believe Free Agents haven't signed here. Now, however I look to next year. Assume the same things happen that did in the Near Future post again for this. Let's take a look at next season to get our hopes up a little bit shall we?
On Red Wings Free Agency 2015:
The first thought I have (and I'm sure you probably have) is Wow! Look at that Class! As we know, some of them will get resigned like Gaborik did, and some people might still get bought out like Ehrhoff this year and that things may change by the time we revisit this next offseason. For now though, I will just focus on guys that we could target next year. Here is the full list for those interested:
You can sort by position, UFA/RFA, and also change the year to see who's available this year (I like Setoguchi still ooh.) etc. Imagine if we could sign somebody like a duo of Paul Martin and Justin Williams in 2015 (Doubt Kane/Toews sign here.)? Or even this year if we sign Setoguchi and Hal Gill? Or in 2017 when there's the possibility of Neal, Marleau, Benn, Sharp, Oshie, Gionta, and of course Datsyuk hitting the market on offense, of course Shattenkirk, Hedman, Scuderi and James W. (Who grew up in Canton, Michigan) all hit the market on defense! Of course don't forget 2016 and what could be the best free agent class to ever exist and hit the open market lead by Stamkos, Kopitar, Eriksson, Eric S., Backus, Kesler (Livonia, MI), Gagner, Byfuglien, Yandle, Seabrook, E. Johnson, Schenn, Gunnarsson, and more hit the market! And that's before all the rookies and prospects who we could offer sheet, or before the possibility of a trade! The Red Wings missed on all kinds of busts, players who got overpaid, and players who don't even fit our style in some cases. If we bust in the next COUPLE of years though, that will tell us there's something wrong. So, to keep spirits and hopes as high as they are, let's check out the final Section before the Wrap Up. The Red Wings Future (2020).
On the Red Wings Future:
So, for this portion, I'm going to assume anybody over 30 on the Wings except Ericsson and Z retired, Babcock is still our coach, and we have a huge youth movement, the Illitch family remains smart, good owners after Mike passes and Holland doesn't go insane. I'm also going to assume Almost everybody re-signs through 2020 (you will see who doesn't shortly) and because they are too hard to predict, I'm not going to predict trades, anything in the draft for the future, and any free agent signings. I doubt Howard is going to retire or leave in 5 years, but apparently there is always a chance he gets traded with these goalie. These are based on talent by my projections in 5 years. So, with that, I leave you with my Two Thousand Twenty Detroit Red Wings Line Projections.
Future Red Wings (2020) Projections-
Notable Names Left Off (Extras):
Keep in mind, this is before Future Prospects/Picks with FIVE more Firsts Included, not including any of Hakan's steals, etc. Parenthesis mean they don't resign, meaning Sheahan, Weiss, Andersson, and Quincey will not be Red Wings.
My point by showing you this, is that by 2020, the Wings have the potential to beat any team in the world. If Blashill continues to Develop guys, Babcock works with them, we don't lose Assistant Coaches every year, and we sign just one or two guys over the next couple years (for injuries), Holland and Hakan continue to draft even okay, and even if we only have three guys that played a game in a Wings jersey before last year (Helm, Abdelkader, and Brendan Smith), the Wings will continue to be a dominant team. Don't listen to those losers in the media overreacting to us not signing some loser from Pittsburgh, believe in Kenny, Mike, Hakan, and the Illitch family, and we can avoid another 1980s from happening, and even better, return to the golden age of the late 90's to Mid 00's once again. I leave you with a quote from a great movie. As 'The Polar Express' once said "You Have Everything You Need, If You Just Believe".