Now that the season is done, it's time to pack it up and go home. Today was locker clean out for the Red Wings. Along with that, players, management, and coaching spoke with the media on their thoughts from this season and going forward.
Pavel Datsyuk Situation
Henrik Zetterberg on Datsyuk's possible retirement. "I'm pretty sure he's made up his mind." #ReadIntoItAndWeep— Jennifer Hammond (@HammerFox2) April 25, 2016
To me, that reads as if he's gone. His mind is made up, but apparently it will not be officially decided until after World Championships. Ken Holland told media that he wouldn't move the dead $7.5 million cap hit if it meant needing to ship out a valuable asset such as a draft pick, or prospect just to clear the books for one year.
If Datsyuk not here, "like to move the cap space. But if price lots of futures, doesn't make sense." - Ken Holland— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 25, 2016
While that might make most angry, I think it's a safe bet. It's one year. Don't mortgage the future for it.
Players Speak Out
One of the first players to speak was Jimmy Howard, who said he is not opposed to being traded:
Jimmy Howard said he'd be OK with being traded. Said it's part of the business. #RedWings— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) April 25, 2016
Howard gets it. It's business. Having a backup goaltender get paid like he does makes simply no sense. Holland had commented that the team will be much more aggressive this offseason with trades, drafting, etc. I have to think that moving Jimmy Howard to a team in dire need of a goaltender will be atop the list of priorities.
Another very interesting quote came from Tomas Tatar, and Gustav Nyquist. Obviously the team had a big issue "clicking" and finding chemistry this year, which damned them in terms of scoring:
Both Tatar and Nyquist hinted the constant line shuffling made things difficult to gain chemistry with liberates...— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) April 25, 2016
I believe it, but at the same time think that it's being blown out of proportion. Mike Babcock shuffled his lines constantly. Tatar and Nyquist scored at better rates under the previous coaching scheme, which employed the same "line blender."
Addressing The Flaws
holland: legitimate criticism of team is size, we are too small. priority at draft.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 25, 2016
I'll be honest, I don't like this mindset going into the draft. Drafting players based on size is usually a recipe for disaster in terms of building a lush crop of prospects. While there are a handful of big kids in this draft, I cannot stress enough that size must be secondary to actual skill. As I researched into this quote a little more, a source told me that it wasn't exactly translated correctly from fans. What Holland was trying to say is that the team has drafted bigger in recent years with players like Anthony Mantha, Evgeny Svechnikov, and Riley Sheahan. All three players who have a very bright future. From what it seems, Kenny is going to stick with the status quo on this. I don't hate it. Obviously drafting big skilled players is fine, so long as you feel that they are going to be everyday contributors at the NHL level in the future.
This also brings the thought of what they might do in free agency. I have been joking around about the idea of signing a free agent like David Backes was imminent, but now it seems to be coming more of a reality. As I stated before, Holland plans to become more aggressive in terms of trading. There's a good chance the team looks entirely different next season.
Coach Blashill spoke with the media after his first season as a head coach in the NHL. There were some criticisms, and some highlights. I think Blashill is a good coach, but he needs to be given more from management in terms of personnel. Here's one quote that stood out to me:
blashill: I think our D-corps has to play better. fix from within, fix from outside? I don't know. time will tell.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 25, 2016
We all know the story here - The Red Wings defensive corps is a mess. It's been a matter of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic for some time now. It's not going to be easy, and Blashill certainly made that clear. It's not going to be a matter of making one trade and POOF, everything is better. It's going to be a process of acquiring and removing the right players. You also have to take into consideration that there are young guys in the AHL hungry for minutes in the NHL. I suspect the Red Wings will need to take a step back and re-evaluate what they have, and what they need.
blashill: none of us like sitting here today. improvement will come through staff. our goal is to get better.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 25, 2016
This just backs up my point. Coach realizes that the team needs a lot of work. If they're going to get better, then it will need to happen through the staff. Whether it's making trades, deciding to promote other players, and adjusting usage of this core of veterans.
Final Words from the GM
There was a lot said today. Some was cringeworthy, some was encouraging, and the rest could be translated as head-scratchers. We've covered that Holland wants to be more aggressive this offseason, but he did address something that made me feel much better about the big picture:
holland: some of the developing players need to be supported better. that's on me. that's on jeff and I and the organization.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 25, 2016
holland: younger players will need to come in and support older players, as zetterberg and datsyuk did for yzerman.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) April 25, 2016
There you have it. Ken Holland recognizes that this aging group of veterans cannot do this on their own anymore. We saw Dylan Larkin breakout this season, not to mention the incredible debut Andreas Athanasiou had. There was a lot of frustration with the limited use of AA, and the blunder with Anthony Mantha. What the team needs to do is begin shifting roles. Young players with talent need to be put in a situation to flourish, while older veterans need to be sheltered and not expected to carry the team on their back.
There's a lot more out there that was said. We'll be breaking it down in depth in the coming days.