During the essence of an unbelievable 23-consecutive playoff appearances, the Detroit Red Wings carried a unique characteristic into the postseason. A mystique presence that struck fear into the hearts of opponents.
Unfortunately, it is perfectly clear that characteristic is no longer with the Red Wings and the franchise needs to accept the fact and move in a new direction.
The NHL is no longer dominated by a group of wily veterans. Year in and year out, postseason success has been driven by dominant goaltending, a veteran core and young, skilled players.
There’s no doubting that this season was ultimately a failure for Detroit, but the learning experience that the Wings’ youngsters went through holds value in itself.
Which is exactly why the Red Wings should pass the leadership torch onto players like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist and Riley Sheahan.
General manager Ken Holland and head coach Mike Babcock should allow these “kids” to learn and grow as the second wave of leaders, behind Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall.
Detroit should not renew the expiring contracts of forwards Daniel Alfredsson, David Legwand, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson and Daniel Cleary.
It’s unlikely that the Wings will buy out the contract of Johan Franzen and since Stephen Weiss’ contract was formed under the new collective bargaining agreement, it cannot be bought out.
Instead of prioritizing veteran leadership over goal-scoring capability, the Red Wings should focus on bringing in a goal-scoring forward this offseason.
Here are a few unrestricted free agents that could fit that mold:
Marian Gaborik, Thomas Vanek, Paul Stastny, Ryan Callahan and Matt Moulson.
The best teams in the NHL have a perfect mixture of veteran leadership and young, raw talent.
The Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, and Anaheim Ducks are all driven by a combination of veterans and young, talented players that have grown into emotional leaders.
When the Red Wings’ playoff chances were in doubt, it was Nyquist, Tatar and Sheahan that held the team together. Now that they have a fair share of regular season and playoff experience, it’s time for them to become the pulse of Detroit.
As for the defense, it’s time to bring in a proven, right-handed defenseman. It has been rumored that the Wings’ top interests include Dan Boyle (San Jose Sharks) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh Penguins).
There’s no sense in renewing the contract of Kyle Quincey.
Detroit also needs to find a backup goalie if Jonas Gustavsson is offered a deal that the Wings can’t match in free agency.
Petr Mrazek may become the Red Wings starting goalie one day but it would be more beneficial for him to spend one more season with the Grand Rapids Griffins.