Monday, November 7, 2011

So What Ails The Red Wings?

Sorry for the long layoff; enjoy this next piece.

So I was reading Yahoo! yesterday and they posted an article that featured 5 reasons why the Red Wings may be as bad as they seem and posed the hypothetical question: What ails the Red Wings? I left my comments yet instead of using it as an opportunity to plug the blog on someone else's medium, I'd rather just share them with you here. They went something to the effect of the following (though I have revised it slightly since posting there earlier):

- No more solid complement to Pavel Datsyuk or Hendrik Zetterberg: Tomas Holmstrom did this forever and a day; now he's reduced to being a spare forward (and there's nothing wrong with having a reserve forward who can act as an offensive specialist the way he can.) But who else can step up next to them and deliver? It isn't Danny Cleary or Todd Bertuzzi; and for that reason Detroit needs to either promote Tomas Tatar to start spending time on the first line or to start looking for players outside the organization that can handle duties on a first line.

- No secondary scoring: Only four players have scored more than 4 points after the first 11 games of the season; a scarier reality to that is that Zetterberg isn't one of them! Bertuzzi isn't looking like the dominant power forward he once was, Jiri Hudler's always been inconsistent, Cleary's better suited as a Number 7 forward (starting off on a checking unit and playing on a scoring unit at various times throughout the season), and everyone else doesn't have the proven offensive acumen to do better. If Bertuzzi can't hang anymore, then the team needs to find another power forward to play on a scoring line.

- Redundancy throughout the lineup: Though the team's immensely skilled and talented, there isn't a whole lot of diverse roles with the guys. Yes, Jonathan Ericsson and Justin Abdelkader are excellent as physical players, but who exactly took over for Kirk Maltby as the team's agitator? Who filled Aaron Downey's spot as the team's enforcer? No one. Instead they have guys like Hudler and Patrick Eaves on the lower lines; who could be sufficient at the jobs either occupied by Holmstrom or Cleary, but don't offer a whole lot of variety beyond what's already in the lineup. Opposing coaches can have an easier time adjusting to the same attack than they would if the lineup were a bit more diverse.

- Poor performance by the guys who have roles: Cory Emmerton is the team's fourth-line center and has a 34% Faceoff Win Percentage. That's no good for a guy who's playing on a defensive unit. Brad Stuart doesn't have a single point in 11 games; I understand his role is more defense-oriented but he's still receiving Top-four minutes. I'll cut Ian White a break, he's the new guy who's filling some big shoes, because the established veterans (or newbies from within the organization) aren't necessarily pulling their weight either.

- The organization's become complacent: Winning can get to your head; and frankly this losing streak could be the start of a renaissance for the Red Wings. It all depends on whether or not Ken Holland decides to shake things up or stand pat. I have a bad feeling about the latter.

- Though they aren't "old", age is still a factor: There's an upside to allowing prospect to "develop in the minors" in that you don't have to worry about confidence issues they way you do with kids that go straight from juniors to pros. The downside, however, is the lack of "spark" in the lineup. The Wings would do well with some young guys in the lineup and while I don't think it would be prudent to promote Smith until someone moves or retires, the Wings would do well to have a few guys in the 19-22 age range to give some genuine enthusiasm to the team.

It's not all doom and gloom for the team. Jimmy Howard's still a fantastic starter, I think Ty Conklin's ineffective appearances have been the fault of the coaches moreso than it being an issue of his own individual effort, and I think their defensive unit is pretty fantastic. However, you need to score to win hockey games and when your forward unit lacks balance, it effects everything. I think GM Ken Holland needs to shake a few things up to ensure that the team remains competitive without blowing up everything. Is it possible during the season? It's a lot harder for certain, but considering the issues lie moreso on the depth forwards than they do the top six, it could be a simpler issue of moving for the right role players in exchange for overall talent as opposed to trying to land a big fish. This especially holds true if Bertuzzi starts playing like his old self again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Season Review: Detroit Red Wings

Since we're at the conference finals, I will be reviewing the seasons of teams as they're eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.

Now the next team to be eliminated from the playoffs: The Detroit Red Wings.

My prediction: First in the Central Division and having a nice run in the playoffs.

The truth: First in the Central Division and being a game short of making the Western Conference Finals, being eliminated in seven games by the San Jose Sharks after a nearly impossible comeback.

So what happened?: Sometimes it comes down to one game. For that game, the Red Wings went into battle without their top-six big man Johan Franzen while the Sharks had Ryan Clowe return. Within three minutes, the Red Wings other top-six big man Todd Bertuzzi goes down with injury. With the game being a goal apart early in the third period, a careless play by Jiri Hudler inadvertently injures the team's Number 7 forward Danny Cleary. No team can lose three forwards of that importance and expect to win against another team of equal and comparable talent. That's what happened.

So what's next?: This media hullabaloo about a rebuild is utter horseshit. The components are in place for next season so now the reinforcements are sought to be brought in. If Lidstrom comes back, great. If not, they'll land another top defenseman because they're the Detroit Red Wings. The team may opt to go with their current formula of puck-possession players but a few more chippy players would hurt more than not. Nevertheless, a healthy Wings squad is still dangerous and even if Lidstrom and Co. decides to retire, there's a whole lotta power left in that Red and White machine that will be an absolute bitch to contain.

Derek Boogaard passes away

Straight out of the "fucking awful" department :-(

NEW YORK (AP)—New York Rangers enforcer Derek Boogaard was found dead Friday in his Minneapolis apartment. He was 28.

The team announced Boogaard’s death on Friday night, but gave no details.

The Star Tribune newspaper in Minneapolis first reported Boogaard was found dead in his home by members of his family. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office in Minnesota confirmed those details and said an autopsy was pending.

“Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual,” Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said. “He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time.”

Boogaard signed a four-year, $6.5 million deal with Rangers in July and appeared in 22 games with them last season. He had a goal and an assist to go with 45 penalty minutes.

One of the most feared fighters in the league, Boogaard missed the last 52 games of the regular season with a concussion and shoulder injury and did not play in the playoffs.

Boogaard began his NHL career with Minnesota and appeared in 255 games with the Wild from 2005-10.

“The Minnesota Wild organization sends our deepest sympathies to the family of Derek Boogaard,” team said in a statement. “Derek was a fan favorite during his five seasons with the Wild and will be greatly missed here in Minnesota and throughout the NHL. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Boogaard family during this tragic time of loss.”

In 277 regular-season games with Minnesota and the Rangers over six seasons, he had three goals and 13 assists and 589 penalty minutes.

The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native was Minnesota’s seventh-round choice, 202nd overall, in the 2001 draft.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Season Review: The Rest of the Quarterfinal and Semifinal Eliminations

Let's face it, this is a one-man show and that one man just doesn't have the time he used to...

Conference Quarterfinals:

Chicago Blackhawks - Last year's cup champions kept their high-salary guys and rode the heck out of them... and they eventually were too tired because the components couldn't do the job (unlike last season.)

Montreal Canadiens - Give Carey Price kudos for being astounding this season, the rest of the team wasn't as effective against the Bruins in their series.

Pittsburgh Penguins - I thought they'd be out of the playoffs without Malkin and Crosby, so kudos to them for even getting that far. Alas, missing those two guys going up against LeCavalier and Stamkos simply left Pittsburgh with the short end of the straw.

Buffalo Sabres - You can't blame the goaltending in this one; Buffalo was simply outworked by Philadelphia's offensive hustle. Hopefully a full season with their new owner Terry Pegula can see them go deep in the playoffs next season.

Conference Semifinals:

Washington Capitals - The team's still very, very young and there's questions about how coach Bruce Boudreau motivates the team. After their third early season, what will the team with the league's best player do in the off-season?

Nashville Predators - I gave these guys no credit and they still persevered. They came up short against a team who spent to the cap. Would more money in player personnel make them a Cup favorite?

Philadelphia Flyers - The goalie carousel didn't help matters, but it was largely injuries to Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger that deflated the air out the team during the second round.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Season Review: LA Kings

Well, as we're advancing toward the conference semi-finals of the playoffs, I will be reviewing the seasons of teams as they're eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.

Now the next team to be eliminated from the playoffs: The Los Angeles Kings.

My prediction: First in the Pacific Division and in the playoffs.

The truth: Fourth in the division and made the seventh seed in the Western Conference. They were eliminated in six games against the San Jose Sharks.

So what happened?:
1. Every team in the division has their big man at center: Phoenix has Martin Hanzal, San Jose has Joe Thornton, Dallas has Brad Richards, and Anaheim has Ryan Getzlaf. LA has Anze Kopitar, who is excellent but went down right before the playoffs. This absolutely affected their chances of going deep in the playoffs.
2. The Dustin Penner acquisition was an absolute bust so far, and unless he commits to better health (or if the Kings can get rid of him for something in return) then this is going to look like a very regrettable trade for the Kings.
3. Not everyone was as productive as the team would have hoped. Michal Hanzus and Wayne Simmonds topped out at 30 points while Alexei Ponikarovsky hadn't produced as few points has he has since the 2002-03 season. That all carried into the playoffs and stacked up against the Sharks, it just wasn't enough.

So what's next?: Drew Doughty and other key RFAs need to be re-signed and the Kings would loved to bring in another first-line forward. The only way that's seemingly going to work is if Penner's moved or sent to the minors and paid over $4M to do so. Hanzus will either come back at a lower salary or will need to be replaced as well. I will say this though, they don't need to blow too much up. That's for certain.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Season Review: Anaheim Ducks

Well, as we're advancing toward the conference semi-finals of the playoffs, I will be reviewing the seasons of teams as they're eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.

Now the next team to be eliminated from the playoffs: The Anaheim Ducks.

My prediction: Fourth in the Pacific Division and out of the playoffs.

The truth: Second in the division and made the fourth seed in the Western Conference (this was thanks in part to a serious mid-season surge thanks to some key acquisitions.) They were eliminated in six games against the Nashville Predators.

So what happened?: The Ducks often played like two teams: The first was the highly-skilled squad that has sent numerous players to their respective countries' Olympic teams; the second was a team that completely lacked discipline and found themselves in the penalty box far too often. GM Bob Murray was able to correct defensive deficiencies by trading for Francois Beauchamin and goaltender Dan Ellis while signing goaltender Ray Emery to help replace the void left by Jonas Hiller's mysterious ailment best described as vertigo, but the team simply couldn't get past the Predators' defense-oriented system to advance beyond the first round. Not that their goaltending was overly stellar in the round but you can't expect much from two guys who weren't on the roster when the puck dropped back in October.

So what's next?: The team's got $9.6M to lock down six players next season, one of them will be Teemu Selanne if he decides to return for another year. All and all, they look to have the components in place to have a more balanced attack next year, but how well they perform next season largely rests on whether or not Hiller can return from whatever it is that's affecting him.

Season Review: New York Rangers

Well, as we're advancing toward the conference semi-finals of the playoffs, I will be reviewing the seasons of teams as they're eliminated from the playoffs. Obviously, the last team reviewed will be the one that wins the Cup.

Now the next team to be eliminated from the playoffs: The New York Rangers.

My prediction: Fourth in the Atlantic Division and out of the playoffs.

The truth: Third in the division and made the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference thanks to a Carolina Hurricanes loss. The success was short-lived, however, as they were dispatched in 5 games by the Washington Capitals.

So what happened?: The backup goalie (Martin Biron) who was supposed to take playing time away from the oft-overworked Hendrik Lundqvist ended up injured, the defense looked awfully young after sending Wade Redden to the minors and Michal Rosival to the Phoenix Coyotes, and few forwards came to play on a consistent basis (I'm pretty certain that Marian Gaborik isn't making first-forward money to put up 2 points in 5 playoff games.) The team's got a flair for the dramatic but the most dramatic thing that's happened in the past two seasons was barely missing and barely making the playoffs, respectively. In summary: The team spent a lot on their roster but didn't necessarily spend well.

So what's next?: They've got nearly $15M available in cap-space going into next season but need to qualify Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Matt Gilroy, and Mike Sauer, not to mention have to wonder what they're going to do with veterans Valcav Prospal, Bryan McCabe, and Ruslan Fedotenko. In other words, it looks like they're going to have another season of exactly what they've been up to until some heavy duty contracts come off the books (like Chris Drury's disappointing $7M+ cap hit) but even then, these guys haven't shown that they can build a winning team within the confines of a salary cap; and that's very problematic for Rangers fans.