First Brad Stuart left Detroit for San Jose, then Jiri Hudler signed a fat contract in Calgary. Both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter chose Minnesota over Detroit, surprising hockey fans everywhere and leaving the Motor City quite dejected. With the top two free agents off the board, what now for the Detroit Red Wings?
Parise and Suter are fantastic players in the prime of their careers who no doubt would have made instant contributions. But it is the Red Wings’ job to look forward at the talent that still remains instead of moping around about the loss of Suter and Parise.
If the season started today, the Wings would have one of the most talented rosters in the league. Sure, a first line of Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, and Parise sounds great, but don’t forget that Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula each had over 65 points and 22 goals last season. Add Todd Bertuzzi’s 38 points to the mix and Detroit has the makings of a very strong top six forwards.
The problem is that I only listed five players.
As it stands, the Wings would likely be playing winger Danny Cleary on their second line alongside Zetterberg and Filppula. Cleary has given his heart and soul to the Detroit Red Wings for seven years now, regularly battling through injury, but he doesn’t belong on the second line of a team with expectations as high as Detroit’s.
The Red Wings must add a top six caliber forward if they plan to contend this year, plain and simple. They have added depth to the third and fourth lines with the addition of Jordin Tootoo and the reacquisition of veteran Mikael Samuelsson. Add the young and talented group of Gustav Nyquist, Jan Mursak, Cory Emmerton, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader, and Detroit boasts a decent bottom six with some speed.
With another quality goal-scorer, the Wings could be a solid offensive team this year despite the loss of Hudler, but the defense concerns me a bit.
Even with arguably the best defenseman ever to play the game, the Red Wings were consistently inconsistent last season. With Nicklas Lidstrom gone, the team’s defensive flaws may
grow even bigger.
Ian White will surely be on the team’s top defensive pair, but who will accompany him? If the season started today, it would likely be Niklas Kronwall. I like a White-Kronwall pair, but White played much of last year alongside Lidstrom, whose game was completely different from Kronwall’s bruising style. There would be a learning curve, but the pair would eventually work nicely.
From there, the situation becomes less clear. The second pair could be Jonathan Ericsson and Kyle Quincey, which concerns me. Ericsson showed signs of outstanding play last year, and I am beginning to trust him more, but paired with Quincey I’m not sure the duo would do well. Quincey belongs in the third pair, and Ericsson needs a solid guy next to him to cover his mistakes (which he makes far too regularly for someone of his talent level).
Washington’s Alexander Semin is now the top free agent left in my book, but rumors have the Red Wings out of the bidding. Shane Doan is also on the market, but I don’t see a Doan-to-Detroit move happening. For one, Doan flat-out hates Detroit. All the playoff losses to the Wings have put Detroit low on Doan’s list of desired destinations. Secondly, the Red Wings can get a far younger player with nearly as much talent for cheaper.
Nashville winger Andrei Kostitsyn is a free agent, and CBS Sports has reported that he won’t be back with the team for the 2012-13 campaign. I see the Red Wings being serious bidders in the Kostitsyn sweepstakes, but don’t be surprised if they go after Doan as well.
To fill the hole in the defense, I like Carlo Colaiacovo of the St. Louis Blues. Colaiacovo has been hampered by injuries for some of his career, but at 29 years old he has several years left in the tank and could be a solid guy alongside Kronwall or Ericsson.
No matter who Ken Holland and the Red Wings target, it needs to happen soon. Time is ticking and a large majority of players have already signed.
Time for Mr. Holland to earn his salary.
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny