Friday, September 11, 2009

Puckdaddy Previews Wings

Ol' Greg over at Puckdaddy has brought his preview show to Hockeytown. Many of us see a little anti-Wing bias in Greg's writing, as a Devils fan, but I'm willing to see what he had to say and, of course, pass that along to you...

Last Season's Ad Copy (See Also Wings Eulogy): Second in the Western Conference, first in the Central Division (51-21-10, 112 points). Swept the Columbus Blue Jackets, outlasted the Anaheim Ducks in seven games, blasted the Chicago Blackhawks in five and then watched Sidney Crosby snub the handshake line while celebrating the Stanley Cup championship after Game 7. And yeah, they're still a little sore about that last one.

Do yourself a favor and DON'T read the eulogy, I made the mistake of humoring the bumblescum sour grape loser from Chicago who wrote it shortly after game's actually terribly written (shocking) and lacks any real thought. The guy was probably drunk while writing it.

Entering 2009-10, there are those who will say the Red Wings have lost some depth, lost a step and will cede their supremacy to Chicago or Vancouver or whomever the heir apparent is this season in the West. Which is exactly the sort of thinking Detroit excels in debunking on their way to another run at the Cup.

Nothing new here...oh wait...a compliment? Greg, you shouldn't have!


Latest Gadgets (Offseason Additions): Ken Holland and the Wings' managerial brains have rightfully earned the trust from fans that their decisions are the right ones for the organization. That faith was put to the test this summer.

And how. It seems that Kenny has developed a system of alternating years where one year he has money to make a big move, then the next he puts subtle pieces together to reload the team. This year is the latter. 2008 was the former. Who knows what next year will bring?

Winger Todd Bertuzzi returned to Detroit in a one-year deal after a mini-career revival with the Calgary Flames. Bert's on his fifth team in four seasons, hasn't cracked 20 goals since 2006 and remains a polarizing figure amongst fans. But he says he's healthy, and if that's the case, then he could be a valuable power forward.

Polarizing to say the least. Some Wings fans have threatened to boycott the season so long as Big Bert is on the roster. I'm not as radical as that. I'm more loyal to my team than I am to my own morals. Oh and Greg's optimism is starting to scare me...

Another former Wing, Jason Williams, returns to a coach and a system he's familiar with in an effort to replace Mikael Samuelsson.

Yes, Williams returns and we replace one player insanely frustrating to watch on the blue line of the 2nd PP unit for another player who is insanely frustrating to watch on the blue line of the 2nd PP unit. Let's hope that Williams has learned to back check and that his shot is still more accurate than Sammy's ever was...the glass behind the net will thank you.

Winger Patrick Eaves was traded from Carolina to Boston, bought out in Boston and then signed by Detroit. Journeymen defensemen Andy Delmore and Doug Janik are both on the roster.

I know, I know. Ho-hum signings. Eaves may be the breakout player that we all want and hope he will be. Janik and Delmore will see plenty of time in Grand Rapids helping to ease Jakub Kindl's workload.

Holland saved his most curious move for last: The invitation to much-maligned goalie Dan Cloutier to attend Wings camp, after a busy summer attempting to save beach balls at Jimmy Buffet shows.

Yes, we've all seen the photoshopped images, Greg. This move is indeed curious. But I've heard that it was Cloutier who asked for the tryout so it's not as if we approached him...or so I've been lead to believe. Maybe Dan begged Kenny to let him come to camp so that the rest of the league would take notice. "If Detroit is willing to give him another shot..." says the rest of the league.

Also, what is our obsession with goalies that have goofy helmets?

All of these moves were made with reasonable, sometimes discounted price tags and relatively low-impact ... in direct contrast with Summer 2008, when Holland and the Wings made a huge free-agent splash. Say, whatever happened to that guy?

Hardee-har-har. The Mercenary Maryanne Hossa will be recovering from shoulder surgery for a while. Don't worry, his man servant Kopecky will nurse him back to health...just in time for Kronwall to line him up at the Chicago blue line.


To The Recycle Bin (Offseason Subtractions): Marian Hossa's defection to the Chicago Blackhawks came after the winger was somewhere between ineffective and invisible during the finals loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He left the Penguins for the Wings; the Penguins won the Cup. He leaves the Wings for the Blackhawks, and ... well, let's just say that karma is a cruel mistress, and she's not waiting for the playoffs to show her teeth.

Hossa takes some significant offense with him, to be sure. But he also takes a salary and contract commitment that the Red Wings, in the long term, are likely better without carrying on their cap.

I'm not going to beat this to death (more so). Dan Cleary has already gone on record and said that they are going to be a better team this year than they were last year. Without Hossa: 11 Cups (and counting). With Hossa: 0 Cups.

Enough said.

Like Hossa's, the Wings expected other departures. Backup goalie Ty Conklin went to St. Louis, where the Blues may be under some delusion that they have a Winter Classic this season. Center Tomas Kopecky, a very good depth player for the Wings, followed Hossa and the money trail to Wirtzville. Winger Mikael Samuelsson left one group of famous Swedes for another, signing with Vancouver.

The Blues DID get to open the season in Sweden...that's got to count for something eh, Ty? Like I've said before, I think that Conklin may have contributed to Osgood's shabby play last year...not intentionally, mind you. But I don't expect a repeat regular season performance from Ozzie, so that's not that big of a loss. Kopecky is NOT a significant loss by any stretch and though I won't miss Sammy's ridiculously inaccurate shot, I'll miss the hustle he had in the defensive zone.

Losing Jiri Hudler hurt, if only because it appeared he was headed for salary arbitration before bolting to the KHL. It wasn't guaranteed he'd be back as an RFA, but losing four solid supporting players in the same summer added up.

Very true. Though let's hope that Hudler is really only gone for two years, at which rate we'll be getting him back at a bargain...assuming his game doesn't go to pieces while playing in the KHL. Leino is a perfect substitute and may even prove to be an upgrade when it's all said and done.

Also, the Wings finally said goodbye to 47-year-old Chris Chelios, who may actually end up in the AHL this season. Where he won't be: Skating with his son, who is starting at Michigan State, because "I'm not going to follow him around like Rodney Dangerfield" in "Back To School." No doubt because he's yet to master the Triple Lindy.

I'd like to see him try it first, Greg. Chelli is a who knows?

The Pitchman (Top Offensive Player): OK, so Pavel Datsyuk couldn't break through the 100-point mark with Hossa on his week; are we really going to kvetch about 32 goals and 97 points?


Datsyuk averaged 2.91 points per 60 minutes of even-strength hockey, and had 36 power play points. His Selke award was another shred of evidence for those who claim Dats is the most complete forward in the NHL. He's an offensive dynamo that, had he been healthy in the finals, could have turned the tide. Of course, his appeal goes beyond what he does on the ice. Once more, with feeling: "Don't touch my dream with your dirty hands."

And good on you for those translated interviews where we actually get to see how funny this guy truly is. Datsyuk and Zetterberg will reunite this year, and one of them (at least) is going to break triple digit points. "Mark it, Dude".

Introducing ... (Potential Breakout Player): With due respect to defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who's going to be a very good pro, the one to watch this season is Ville Leino. Leino's a 25-year-old winger who had nine points in 13 games last season, showing flashes of enormous offensive potential. He's been working hard to develop into an NHL player, working on skating and defense. He'll no doubt make the team in some capacity, but the question remains if he'll be a role player down in the lineup or play his way up to being a de facto replacement for Hossa's points. It'll be the difference between helping the Wings win and challenging for the Calder.

Doubtful the man reaches 80 points...but not impossible. This guy, even at 25, has boat loads of potential. He just needs to find the right line mates. Obviously sticking him with Draper and Maltby isn't going to get him points. He spent his time in Grand Rapids last season and will have his shot at the big leagues full time, as promised. If he can just score one more goal like he did his first as a Wing, this is a huge bonus for the Wings (and with nothing lost to attain it).


Operators Are Standing By (The Defensemen): Nicklas Lidstrom's name was on the Norris Trophy ballot yet he didn't win it, which is odd. The 39-year-old Swedish cyborg (26:43 TOI per game) has rehabbed his elbow all summer and enters the last year of his contract. Think a guy who suffered a "nearly catastrophic injury to his testicle" and then kept on competing for the Stanley Cup will retire? Didn't think so.

And I'm betting the farm that he takes a nice hefty pay cut to make room for another move after this season, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Lidstrom still finished 3rd in defensive scoring (really second because I don't count Mike Green as a defenseman). He and Rafalski are power play artists, and I put them against any top 2 in the league in situations when trailing or when you're ahead.

Lidstrom's partner in crime, Brian Rafalski, had his best offensive season as a pro (10-49-59) even with slight dips in power-play numbers and plus/minus.

Pretty cut and dry. Raff's numbers have gotten better each year. His $6 mil Cap hit has come under scrutiny, but compare his numbers to others around the league, and he's a bargain. I love Rafalski and what he brings and will continue to bring.

While the Wings had to find some new faces to fill in the blanks behind their offensive stars, the defense basically returns intact. Brett Ledba and Andreas Lilja could be paired again, assuming Lilja's brain has stopped bleeding. Nicklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart are the most physical pairing on the team; players like Ericsson and Derrick Meech are tapping their feet patiently.

Ericsson is head and shoulders above Lebda...literally. He's 6'5 and seems to be getting better shift by shift. He's going to be an All-Star before you know it. Even if Lilja's head doesn't stop hurting, our top 6 defenseman are almost second to none.

The Spokesmodel (The Goalies): We all know the story -- Chris Osgood goes from the Stanley Cup's escort at movie premieres to a mediocre regular season goalie who nearly lost his gig and was actually sent home in an attempt to bust the slump. Then, when the playoffs arrived, Osgood became Osgood again: One of the best postseason money goalies in recent history, backstopping the Wings to within one win of a second straight Cup.With that, he rendered predictions about his upcoming season pointless. Jimmy Howard could start five games or 25 games; barring injury or the Wings' inexplicable absence from the postseason, Osgood'll be the starter in Detroit's first playoff game. There's no other goalie in hockey whose regular season matters so little in relation to his postseason. OK, outside of Luongo.

Well said, Greg. Well said indeed. Are you sure you wrote this? I really don't have anything to add that I haven't already said in previous posts. Historically, Red Wings goalies have nothing required of them aside from NOT blowing the game. Osgood is a perfect fit at a perfect price and brings it in the play-offs. What more could you ask for?


The Inventor (The Coach): Mike Babcock is, without question, one of the best coaches in the NHL, and not just because the man contorts his face into several dozen snarly grimaces during any given game. He's a great tactician, solid manager of talent and exudes the calm confidence that's found throughout the locker room. Babcock has some challenges this season, from integrating new faces to figuring out with the penalty kill was poo-poo. But he's the right man for the job.

Any doubt that Babcock is coach of Team Canada if Yzerman isn't the GM? There shouldn't be. The fact that he wasn't even nominated for the Jack Adams this year after leading his team to two straight Stanley Cups is criminal. This is the best bench boss out there right now, hands down.

2009-10 Preseason Report Card:
Forwards: A
Defense: A-
Goaltending: B
Special Teams: B- (A power play that's as good as the kill was bad.)
Coaching: A-
Management: A

Ahem...A- on Defense? Assuming that you pick Calgary as the best defense in the league...who else even comes close? What do you have to do to get a straight A when you have 3 of the top 10 scoring defensemen in the league? The rest I say is fair, only I think the ridiculous PP makes up for the bad PK and brings it to a B or B+ tops.


I must admit, I'm actually quite impressed with this bit of writing from Mr. Wyshynski. He might actually start to win me back. Just keep that idiot who openly admitted to "hating Wings fans" out of my line of sight and we'll call it a deal.


My Grade of Greg's Preview: A- (same as our defense)


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  5. That's it, you idiots have forced me to start overseeing all comments. Leave your personal trash talking to the e-mail strands. It adds absolutely nothing to this site. I know that you may think you're the only ones reading this, but you're not.

  6. Putting the smack down early eh? Right on man. Good responses to PD.