We have heard so much about asset management over the last few years. Detroit has shifted players back and forth from the AHL to the NHL as patchwork for injuries, time missed, etcetera, etcetera. While it's a wonderful luxury to have great assets available to come up at your desire, I have a bit of worry right now.
While it's not 100% confirmed, there have been some underlying rumors that Detroit Red Wings defenseman prospect Mattias Backman might return back to Sweden. While Backman is not a bluechip prospect by any means, he has spent quite some time this season as a healthy scratch with the Griffins, and players like Brennan Evans, and Nathan Paetsch have been seeing time in those instances. I don't really care much about Mattias Backman as a future part of the Red Wings, because I haven't seen much of what he can do.. But boy, I will be quite angry if he runs back to Sweden and messes up his own development because Grand Rapids has a logjam of veteran players who are getting time over the prospect players. Here is the article that created the rumor of Mattias possibly heading back home:
Peter Wallner, the Griffins beat-writer, wrote a pretty interesting piece yesterday on Backman, and his frustration with the limbo he is in:
I play almost four years in Swedish league and played on national teams, so it’s kind of weird you don’t play here," Backman said. "In my opinion, the Swedish league is much better than here. But it’s like different hockey, so it’s hard to compare. You have to get used to the smaller rinks.
I want to develop," he said. "I came here to play hockey and to develop and to someday make the NHL. That’s my base goal. But if I’m not playing, I won’t be able to get to a higher level. But I also know there are a lot of good players here, too … We have a pretty good team and pretty good guys here.
Backman, a victim of being a healthy scratch seven times in the past 25 games, is laying his frustration on somewhat thick here. But this is not his fault. Detroit has put players like Mattias Backman in this situation because of "asset management." Paraphrasing what I have learned in a previous business management course into hockey terms, asset management is facing challenges: Teams fear risk and want to control their expenditures in players, even as consistent contribution is becoming the prevailing ambition. To put that into laymen's terms, I feel Ken Holland could be hesitant in "wasting" what Jakub Kindl could be. The problem is, Jakub Kindl is a flower that the organization is expecting to blossom, and instead of something extraordinary, they're just getting a 6'3" 213 lbs fart-flower in return. How long has Detroit awaited Kindl to become the player that he was meant to be? How much longer are they going to wait? The problem with this logic is that it is creating a serious kink in the development of other promising talent such as...
Xavier Ouellet. Here's a guy who was ready for the NHL right out of Training Camp. Here's a guy who makes $670,000 worth of cap-hit, and performs well at the job he is given. From the get-go, Mike Babcock wanted this guy on his team. Why? Because Mike Babcock is interested in putting the best possible team on the ice. The two players who contributed to Xavier's snubbing are Brian Lashoff and Jakub Kindl. So far this season, Brian Lashoff has performed somewhat okay at the job he is given. A third-pair 7th defenseman with sheltered minutes making $725,000. Not great, not terrible, reasonable for what he makes. On the other hand, you have a player like Jakub Kindl. Same song, different dance. A third pair defenseman with sheltered minutes making $2.4 million. Not great, and not good. He is a player that Detroit has been banking on gaining traction for a few years now. However, the dude just can't get with it in this system. He's a mess in his own zone, and has no bite to his game. So you tell me.. Is the fact that Xavier Ouellet, the lesser-paid and superior defenseman to the both of these aforementioned players will be sent back to Grand Rapids in another week (maybe less) a sign of good asset management? Personally, I don't think so. The narrative of shipping Jakub Kindl off for a bag of cheetohs and a conditional 7th round pick is quickly drowning. Why? Because the guy makes so god damn much money, and is so god damn bad at his job. You could put him on waivers and roll the dice, hoping that someone takes his cap-hit off the books, but if no one does, then you're stuck with only about $925,000 in cap relief.
So let's say Kindl goes unclaimed.. You get $925,000 in cap relief, and Xavier Ouellet finally gets what he deserves: A chance to be a full-time NHL defenseman, and kick tires on his development. You're left with about $255,000 more than you had before and you have instantly made your team better with Jakub Kindl the odd-man out, and hopefully truly lighting a fire under his ass to become a better player. But that's me being optimistic about the guy, because the realist side of me thinks his window as a player has shut.
So where does this leave us? Putting Kindl or Lashoff into the AHL, barring they don't clear waivers, that puts another body in Grand Rapids for players like Mattias Backman to compete with for ice-time. Paetsch and Evans bring veteran leadership to the Griffins that head coach Jeff Blashill loves to have, just like any coach. Part of me believes that Kindl has a chance of being claimed. If he does hit waivers and does end up claimed, what have you lost? A player unable to become what was expected, and a VERY valuable roster spot that provides a crucial fix to your system. You have a spot open in Grand Rapids, and a spot open in Detroit. A spot for a player like Backman to get more time, and a spot for a player like Ouellet to get what he has earned. Could Kindl be traded? Maybe if you soaked up some salary and sweetened the deal, yes. However my consensus is I don't really care about the best players playing in Grand Rapids. What I care about is the development of players drafted by the big club. Is putting a player like Jakub Kindl or Brian Lashoff on waivers a risk? Sort of. It's a win/win, or a win/lose situation. Both of which benefit the big club here, and now.. In the end, that's really what matters in my most humble opinion. All I know is that you created this situation. You snubbed Xavier Ouellet of a well-deserved NHL roster spot, and you have snubbed a promising prospect like Mattias Backman a chance to get crucial ice-time and develop into a possible future NHL player. If you can't trade Jakub Kindl for anything, the answer is simple: Put him on waivers.