Archive for April, 2016

I’m far from a zeolot, but…

April 29, 2016

 

The above posts came across from twitter feed, and I probably took more offense to it than I should. However, I hate this idea that a cortisone shot or a surgery is roughly the same as taking an illegally procured steroid or some other ped. And I think it is always too convenient to want to exclude any sort of moral component to the argument. Especially when it is a component the players themselves seem to hold close in interview after interview where the player hates the idea of having his accomplishments blemished by being associated with people who took unfair advantages.

If you really want to take this line that morality (or legality aside, since most PEDs are also illegal, at least once they are discovered to exist, though I think they are probably illegal as a “controlled substance” and your ass could still get rung up in court over it) isn’t a concern, then you could make argument for players taking nearly anything as long as it gets them onto the field quicker. Amphetamines? Sure, it helps the player overcome fatigue and get back on the field. Crack? Why not, it’s a great upper.

And do we stop with just substances with some proven benefit for the player? What about things a player simply believes helps them? Ground up rhino horns? Well, as long as we don’t have to know he illegally poached the animal, it might be okay. What about blood rituals? Maybe a player just feels off and that the gods aren’t looking favorably upon him. Maybe killing a small child will get the gods back on his side.

Yeah, it’s hyperbole, but so is the moral equivalency and win-at-all-costs bullshit being peddled above. If what you’re using isn’t something you want printed in the papers or in your profile, you shouldn’t be taking it, and you know it. There is a moral component, there should be a moral component, and it’s stupid to act like there isn’t or shouldn’t be.

Howard won’t be moved anytime soon

April 26, 2016

As people look for ways for the Wings to find salary room, or just looking to axe “bad” contracts, moving Jimmy Howard almost always comes up at some point. He’s never really lived up to his contract, injuries have been a concern, and his game seems to go off the rails out of the blue. At the same time, after a rough start, he stepped up and played no small part in getting the Wings into the playoffs this year.

However, we have Petr Mrazek here. By all appearances he’s going to be a very good goalie (to say the least), his deal should be quite a bit more affordable than Howard’s, and people just seem ready to turn the page. It’s not like there is not another viable option if Howard is moved.

So, why not move him? Well, it might just not be worth it. Yeah, he makes $5.2 million (roughly) and freeing that up to pursue other upgrades would be nice. Except we wouldn’t be freeing up all of that $5.2m. First, we’d probably have to eat some salary in any move. The absolute best we could probably hope for is to retain just $1 million per year for the rest of his deal. Even after eating some salary, it’s unlikely we can move him and take no salary back. Again, probably the best we could hope for is someone making around $1 million a season. So, there’s $2 million in empty salary and a guy the other team wants around about as much as we want Howard. And now we still have to sign a backup goalie. The best (cheapest) option would be internally, which would mean either Coreau or McCollum. That gets us to ~$3 million spent, meaning we would have a little over $2 million extra to spend over the summer.

Which would be good. However, there are problems with this. First, we’d probably have to retain more salary. I would guess upwards of $2m would be more likely. Second, we’d probably be taking back more than $1 million in salary. Third, would anyone feel comfortable walking into next season with Coreau or McCullum as our backup, with the other being the third stringer waiting to be called up from GR? I’m not saying it’s a non-starter, but it doesn’t seem like a move Holland would make, and I think it would be a big telegraph that making the playoffs is seen as a massive long shot next year.

The third point can be worked with if the rest of the team is strengthened enough with other moves. I mean, we’ve went into seasons with “Ticker” Hodgson and Manny Legace as our dedicated backups in the past, and we did it largely because the rest of the team was so freakishly deep. While there isn’t a chance we approach that sort of depth in the near future, it does show it’s doable. The bigger obstacles are the first two. For every dollar we have to retain, and for every dollar we take back in a modestly undesirable deal, and then for every dollar we have to spend to secure a backup, it becomes increasingly pointless to move Howard at all. At that point, our best move might just be to roll with the guy we know, and look for a better opportunity to move him later – either next offseason, when another year has eclipsed from his deal, or even in an expansion draft where we could leave him exposed.

What hurts is that the same argument can be made for/against moving Jonathan Ericsson. The big guy’s play has slipped, he has a deal not a lot of us like, but try moving him. It becomes a more difficult proposition than it appears. While we could buy him out, and at least lessen his cap hit, we then have that cap hit over a longer period, and we’re already paying Stephen Weiss not to show up at the rink.  We might be better off just demoting him to GR at that point, and hoping either that someone is desperate enough for help that they pluck him away for free, or that he clears and can be recalled from GR at will in case injuries cause a need for a Rent-a-Player.

And all of this is without going into the Zetterberg/Franzen contract mess.

To revisit the Howard situation for a moment, one suggestion floated by, I think, one of the Wings’ beat writers was moving Howard straight up for Wideman out of Calgary. Which actually looks good on paper, except Wideman’s deal isn’t that much better than Howard’s. It’s shorter, but we also saw Wideman be less than an ideal teammate over the course of this season when he decided to bump a ref.

Don’t Expect Help from Free Agency

April 20, 2016

The Wings are on the brink of another early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the post-mortems will begin shortly, and we might be saying goodbye to Pavel Datsyuk as he heads back to Russia a year early – stiffing the Wings with a $7.5m cap hit. We’re going to hear a lot about how the Wings have to find a way of moving Datsyuk’s cap hit off of the books, but I disagree with that. We’re also going to see every half-way decent UFA rumored for us, like most summers. I don’t think we’re going to be casting that wide of a net in free agency, though, and the chances of us getting an upgrade are pretty slim.

So, what do we need? I think it’s clear we need a blueline that is better with the puck. Looking at the UFA list, though, and I see only three guys who really stand out as players who would be worth the money and term to sign: Brian Campbell, Keith Yandle, and Alex Goligoski. None of these guys are true #1s, but I think all three are capable of first pair minutes. All there could/should come in and be able to put up at least 30 points and knock half of our blueline down a spot the moment they are signed. There are some other guys like Dan Hamhuis and Jason Demers who would provide upgrades, but I don’t see either as a significant upgrade worth the money and term over just promoting a XO/Jensen/Sproul or even just sending Smith out there again.

Up front, we need a quality top6 center. I think we are clearly seeing Zetterberg on the downside of his career, he’s taking a lot of flak from fans, but he’s being overused and overexposed because our depth is so mediocre outside of Larkin (and Datsyuk, though he’s also shown his age/injury shortcomings) – who we haven’t even been using as a center. While Andrew Ladd and Milan Lucic would be really nice adds, providing us with some needed size and snarl, it’s far easier for us to fill spots along the wings. And without quality centers driving our game and putting those wings to good use, while winning defensive match-ups against the opposition, blowing a big chunk of cash on a wing just doesn’t make a lot of sense. The problem here is the same as the problem on the blueline, a lack of options. There’s the obvious, Stamkos, but why would he sign here? He’s 26, likely looking for the best place to land for the next seven years, and I have to believe he’ll likely find better options if he’s not artificially limited by refusing to play in different geographical areas. Assuming Stamkos is a non-starter, who is left that would be a viable top6 center? At that point, we’re looking at Frans Nielsen, David Backes, and Eric Staal. If Nielsen is leaving NYI, I think he’s looking for his first (only?) big contract of his career. He hasn’t been seriously paid yet, and I think he’s got to be looking for it. If St. Louis doesn’t win the cup (again), I think Backes is going to go Cup shopping, looking to land somewhere that guarantees him at least a decent shot at the cup, which means not here. We could have a shot at Staal, but there are legitimate concerns of his game slipping and injuries being an increasing problem. Also, all three of these guys are on the wrong side of thirty, so going four or five years on them should be a proposition that causes some pause among fans.

Rather than spending money and term on a moderate upgrade, I think we’ll probably be better off just going with the kids in significantly bigger roles. Let Larkin and Athanasiou center the top2 lines, shift Z to wing, bump up the ice times for Nyquist and Tatar, have Mantha up, etc. and let the pins fall where they may. On the blueline, let Quincey walk, and go with something like:

Dekeyser-Green

Kronwall-Marchenko

XO-Ericsson

Smith, Jensen/Sproul

 

Next season will likely be pretty ugly, but we’re to a point where easy answers just are not plentiful. Our best bet might be just taking solace in (hopefully) seeing the kids mature and become better players.

 

It Doesn’t Matter If The Wings Trade Datsyuk

April 12, 2016

So, Pavel Datsyuk is likely going to home to Russia after the playoffs this season. This will clearly hurt the Wings next season, though how much depends on how much of  contender you view them as. If you don’t view them as a contender, and Datsyuk leaves, they’re still not a contender. If you don’t view them as a serious contender, and Datsyuk stays, they’re still not a contender. The only circumstance where Datsyuk leaves really hurts if is you see the Wings as a serious Cup contender next year. His absence would just cripple those expectations.

But what about the money the Wings would still have tied up on their cap if Datsyuk leaves? Isn’t that crippling? No, I don’t think so.  It would be nice if we could wade into free agency and grab a piece or two that would solve some long term problems. It’s something Holland has attempted to do off and off since Lidstrom retired. the problem has been that it hasn’t been happening. The Wings finally pulled in Green last summer to fill a massive hole on the backend, marking the first major UFA signing since, well, that guy from Florida, who was also a rarity for Wings free agent pickups in recent years. So, the chances of us landing a guy we want are likely pretty slim.

Now, how many guys out there do we really want that are going to carry a significant cost? Up front there’s definitely Stamkos, maybe Lucic. On the backend…Yandle? Maybe?

Now, here’s what really crazy. We don’t really need to move Datsyuk’s salary to afford a couple of smaller, more likely, moves this summer. Here’s a quick and dirty look at a possible roster to build off of over the summer. Despite the odd formatting, it looks like Datsyuk’s salary is included. I tried to be as realistic as I could with the RFA deals, I let Helm, Richards, and Quincey walk, and I dealt Smith to Edmonton for a pick. As you can see, at this point we have a full roster, and $8m in cap space. The only significant loss from last year to this year, imo, is Datsyuk. And his production has become steadily easier to replace as age and injuries have taken their toll.

While we wouldn’t have the room, at this point, to add Stamkos and the likely $10+m cap hit he’ll command, we should have enough space to add a couple of $3-5m cap hits to bulk out the roster. That’s assuming you want to do that sort of shopping and not just run with the kids and see where they get us. Datsyuk leaving a year early puts a wet towel on next season, but I’m not sold it really changes the team’s goals much. They aren’t a serious cup contender with or without him, and it’s unlikely they could add a significant free agent piece in either case. It would be easier to build a better team on paper with Datsyuk around, yes, but even then I’m not sure we’d be building a Cup contender, or a another 3 seed contender.