Update (11:05 PM): Be sure to read Pete’s well-thought-out followup post on the Trade Question. Nonetheless, I remain unenthusiastic about trade possibilities.
I guess part of my reluctance in this is due to my belief that too much tinkering (read: any tinkering) would mess up what’s already a good thing. The Wings can always try to “trade up,” I suppose, but why? I’m in basic agreement with HockeyTownTodd on this (from the comments):
I am reluctant to play wannabe GM, and think the Wings should stand pat. The girl should dance with the guy who brought her to the prom.
As long as the Wings are healthy, why would they want to risk screwing up team chemistry for what may only be marginal potential gain? - Matt
Update (10:40 PM): I feel I should clarify my position on the Blake/Lebda/Meech thing. As I said below, I think the argument that the Wings will look to improving their defense at the deadline makes sense, given the consequences of injuries last post-season. That said, I don’t know that a move is really all that necessary.
Derek Meech has played in a grand total of nine games for the Wings this season. In those nine games, he put up zero point. So the kid hasn’t dazzled offensively. But what do you expect? He’s a rookie in the NHL with a precarious spot on one of the deepest teams in the game. It’s perfectly understandable if he plays a conservative game in his position. Heck, it’s probably demanded of him.
He’s minus-2 and that may not be impressive, but this is: he’s taken zero penalties. For comparison’s sake, Kyle Quincey had zero penalty minutes through six games with the Wings in the regular season last year, and just two through 13 playoff games. I’ve frequently seen Quincey touted as a rock-solid young defenseman and part of the reason for that was his conservative play. Why doesn’t Meech get the same credit?
When Meech has been in the lineup, I generally only notice him the first time I see his #14 and think “Shanny…” In my experience, hardly noticing a young defenseman is a good thing. I don’t think Meech is an exception to that rule. There’s no need for him to be flashy or to “show anything.” He just has to do his job, and I think he’s done it pretty well for someone relegated to a practice drone.
There are far worse things than having Derek Meech as a seventh defenseman. A way to improve the situation would be to get him in the lineup more often in the second half. Give Chris Chelios a rest more often. Bench Andreas Lilja after a bad game in order to motivate him. Another “conditioning stint”(I’m told Derek has been “awesome” in his brief return to Grand Rapids, by the way. He should re-join the team late this week.). Whatever it takes to get him some playing time. Then Meech will gain the confidence he needs to stand out more. He’s not going to put up huge numbers, but he’s more than capable of being a solid, steady depth defenseman.
That said, I did write below that, “The team may be better off including Derek Meech in such a trade.” Of course, there I meant relative to trading Brett Lebda, whose upside is greater than Meech’s. I certainly didn’t mean to imply I think they should trade Meech. I’m not a fan of the idea of trading either of them, though if I had to choose, Meech would be the one to go.
My point is this: The Wings can go get a veteran (such as Keith Carney, as suggested by Todd below) if they feel they must and that they can get a good deal. It probably can’t hurt (they’re generally good at finding players that fit with team chemistry). But they also can stick with what they have and probably do okay as well, assuming everyone stays healthy. - Matt
… Bruce MacLeod, George Sipple, and Ansar Khan report that Dallas Drake missed practice today due to a knee injury sustained on the same collision in which Ottawa’s Dany Heatley separated his shoulder. The collision happened around the 3:42 mark of the third period Saturday night and was the last time Heatley saw the ice.
Drake, however, was able to play two more shifts before hitting the bench for the final time at 11:21, finishing with just under seven and a half minutes. Drake has started to get less time since the return of Kirk Maltby, so the low TOI wasn’t necessarily due to his knee. He is, however, questionable for the game against Atlanta tomorrow night, though Mike Babcock told Sipple that he thinks Drake will be available.
… All three beat writers also note that a possible replacement for Drake in the lineup, Aaron Downey, hurt his knee in practice when he fell and hyper-extended it. HeÂ did return, though, and seemed none the worse for wear. According to MacLeod, he shared time with Matt Ellis skating on the fourth line.
… According to MacLeod, the team “spent significant time” practicing their power play today. That’s good news as they’ve been pretty ineffective with the man-advantage for a while now. MacLeod has a good piece on that topic here.
… Ansar Khan addresses the Trade Question by claiming Rob Blake would be a better acquisition than Mats Sundin. He presents a good argument, though I wonder if Blake isn’t at the end of the road at 38. He would, as Khan points out, be cheaper than Sundin, though. He’d also fill in an actual need (making the defensive corps an experienced seven), whereas the Swede would be somewhat extraneous on a team already full of forwards.
I have to say that I’d hate to see that happen. As Pete points out, that would probably result in a third pairing of Andreas Lilja and Chris Chelios. Whereas Pete considers that an upgrade over Chelios/Lebda, I’d call it a nightmare. The two slowest defensemen in the same pair? One of the reasons Chelios remains so effective is that he has a smooth skating partner in Lebda. The same goes for Lilja with Lidstrom.Â Put them together and they’ll both be relegated to pylon status.
Sure Lebda doesn’t have the size. Sure he’s not producing offensively like he should be. But his speed and skating ability alone makes him worth keeping.
The team may be better off including Derek Meech in such a trade. It would go a long way in clearing the logjam and would give the kid an actual chance to play in the NHL.
Who knows, though, whether the Wings will actually look to Blake to fill out their defense? It stands to reason that they’d want to shore up against injuries this time around, as losing Mathieu Schneider while already down Niklas Kronwall was probably the single biggest reason they were eliminated, but Blake may not be their man. Holland likes to go for guys few people were expecting and the more I hear the Blake rumor, the less I’ll believe it.
… Lastly, the Thrashers are pumped to be visiting Detroit tomorrow night.