Archive for June, 2007

Everybody panic?

Bruce MacLeod has a post not calculated to raise the hopes of Wings fans here. For a slightly more measured take on the situation (particularly the part about negotiations between the Wings and Hasek), see this CP report. With Hasek no longer a sure thing, Schneider on the verge of finding out his market value, and Todd Bertuzzi wanting job security the Wings aren’t willing to give him, it looks like Danny Markov could end up being the most likely to return, after everyone wrote him off.

The Wings would be okay if they couldn’t reach a deal with Hasek. The alternatives on the market aren’t that appealing, but Chris Osgood is more than capable of backstopping the Wings to the Conference Finals, especially if they bring a similarly solid defense to the table. If pressed, they could sign one of the UFA goalies and try a rotation. Not an ideal situation, but a workable one.

But the defense is the big question: what will it look like? It could be significantly different. The thought of Mathieu Schneider bolting began growing in the back of my mind and it now seems to be the most likely outcome. He has his critics in Detroit and around the League, but Schneider’s value to the Wings is widely underappreciated, as anyone who watched the team’s last playoff run can tell you. Losing him to free agency wouldn’t be quite like losing Nick Lidstrom, but the impact would be huge. I don’t think Andreas Lilja and Brett Lebda are capable of together stepping into Schneider’s shoes. The Wings can bring back Danny Markov and count on Niklas Kronwall being healthy, but they’ll still miss Schneider’s outlet pass, his booming shot, and his underrated ability on the power play, not to mention his defensive capabilities. There’s a reason people referred to Lidstrom and Schneider as the Wings’ 1A and 1B defensemen. There is no immediate replacement for #23, if he should decide to take the money and run.

As for Bertuzzi, I would be more disappointed than upset were the Wings unable to reach a deal. I want to see what he can do with a full season under his belt, but it wouldn’t be a great loss if he didn’t re-sign. It would certainly open up some space for another acquisition by Holland, perhaps Slava Kozlov or even Ryan Smyth. Even if the Wings don’t sign a forward, whether Bertuzzi or someone else, I think they’re in pretty good shape up front anyway. They’ve got a good youth corps looking to step it up and begging for the ice time to do it, so maybe it’s right to give it to them.

So, the outlook may seem a bit bleak, but that’s just because nothing has happened yet. I still think Hasek will sign, so the Osgood haters probably won’t have to worry about watching him play more than 30 games. Schneider could very well re-sign and for a reasonable price, and the Wings are likely to sign Bertuzzi and/or another UFA. Those three points would ensure that last year’s team largely stays the same and would offer the best hope of a return to the Conference Finals. 3-out-of-3 may not be too likely, but 1- or 2-out-of-3 wouldn’t be too bad. And really, even the worst-case scenario (Hasek, Schneider, Bertuzzi gone; no UFAs) wouldn’t be awful, because of the team’s youth depth. It’d just make repeating last year’s success that much tougher for the team and stressful for the fans.

The fun days of refreshing TSN and hoping to see news of Wings UFAs’ re-signing, rather than news of their departures, begin tomorrow. Woo hoo.

Wings draft roundups

Since I usually avoid posting too much about draft picks (because I know next to nothing about them), I’ll refer you to a couple bloggers who have posted roundups: George Malik and Christy Hammond. They did a great job of covering the Wings’ picks in a number of posts, so scroll down and check them out, if you haven’t already.

I will say one thing about one of the picks: Joakim Andersson. I like the comparisons being made about him (Keith Primeau, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Samuel Pahlsson) and like his enthusiasm at having been drafted by the Wings. It’ll be interesting to see if he turns out to be another stud.

Bad news: Wings UFAs have high expectations

Apparently, Ken Holland has hit a bit of a roadblock with Dominik Hasek, Todd Bertuzzi, Mathieu Schneider, and Danny Markov. It seems they all want the kind of money other teams around the league have been throwing at players of similar talents (Anaheim, Philadelphia). Ansar Khan says Dom is still a lock, though his demands have taken the Wings aback, but as for the others, he quotes Ken Holland as saying, “It appears one or two are not going to be in Detroit.”

That sucks, but I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. I’d hoped everyone would put winning ahead of money and keep together a team that could be right back where it was this past season. Idealistic, I know.

If only two of the four will be back, let’s hope it’s Hasek and Schneider.

Will Sergei Fedorov return?

The Edmonton Journal is reporting that the Columbus Blue Jackets may buy out the last year of former Red Wing Sergei Fedorov’s contract, the same one he signed in 2003 when he left Detroit for Anaheim. This little piece of news has led some to pose the idea of bringing Sergei back to the team that drafted him and helped him defect from the USSR. It’s an interesting question. A player of Fedorov’s capabilities would certainly be attractive to everyone, were it not for his history. Unfortunately, that history may be a roadblock.

As everyone remembers, Sergei did not leave Detroit on the best of terms. It wasn’t about the money, as he eventually took the same $40 million Wings had offered him after withdrawing their original $50 million offer. It was more a division between Sergei and management. Given that management is largely the same these days, does it seem realistic to think that those differences are gone?

It also doesn’t help that the team is coached by Mike Babcock, who, we know from watching his handling of Robert Lang, doesn’t accommodate the whole moody superstar act. Still, Sergei’s stats in 2003-2004 (his year in Anaheim under Babcock) were pretty decent, so maybe there wouldn’t be as much friction between the two as there was between Lang and Babs. I wish I had paid more attention that year, because I honestly can’t remember if they got along okay or not.

When he left Detroit in 2003, Sergei was a selfish, whiny player running up against the transition plans of the Detroit front office. He wanted to be the #1 man and to play his game, which was apparently the only way he would have felt wanted by a city that took him for granted until contract negotiations. The Wings wanted him to be a team player and to mentor Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who were visibly on the rise and prepping to pick up the torch of leadership. When he couldn’t get what he wanted in Detroit, he bolted to Anaheim, where he thought he’d get it. He didn’t, though, and, in the seasons since, Fedorov has seemingly matured and has started speaking like a teammate rather than a superstar. He’s clearly a different player, and person, than he was.

To return to the question of whether or not the Wings would bring him back: I’d be all for it, if it’d be on financial terms similar to Hasek’s contract last year. Do I think they will? Probably not. Changed man or not, Sergei said a lot of hard words when he left the team and I’m sure many more were said behind closed doors on both sides. While that bridge may not be fully burned down, I’d be surprised to find out that it’s one either side can still cross enough to reach a deal. Plus, he may still have enough of the superstar mindset that he’d clash with Babcock.

Even if I’m wrong about relations between Sergei and the front office, there’s no mistaking the sentiment among a particularly ungrateful and shameless subset of Wings fans that boo him every time he touches the puck at the Joe. I’ve never understood the idea of booing Sergei after his first return to JLA as a Duck. I was all for it that night, but that time is long, long past. Do I think those people would be mature enough to cheer Sergei were he to don the Winged Wheel again? No, I can’t say I do. They seem to only remember that he left, not what he did while he was here and why would his return change that limited mindset? The rest of us were able to move on, but apparently we’re not the ones in majority at the Joe.

I would love to have Sergei Fedorov back, but the bridge between him and the fans has been burned to ash by those overly-vocal ingrates and I can’t see it being rebuilt again. Detroit can warm to Todd Bertuzzi and Chris Chelios, but I think Sergei Fedorov will always be a villain to a large number of fans in this city and, given that, he would probably just end up being a distraction rather than what he should be: a valuable (and valued) member of a powerhouse squad.


Lidstrom, Datsyuk winners at Awards

Nick Lidstrom has won his fifth Norris Trophy in six years and Pavel Datsyuk has won the Lady Byng Trophy for the second year in a row. Nick winning the Norris was no surprise, but it seemed that the pre-Show favorite for most gentlemanly player was Martin St. Louis. Congratulations to both players. Paul Kukla’s got a post with the other winners here and James Mirtle liveblogged the whole thing here.