It’s been almost two months since I’ve posted on here and that is most assuredly the longest I’ve ever gone without posting. Normally I post about what the Red Wings might do heading into free agency, but I didn’t expect them to do anything this year. With the hiring of Jeff Blashill, I fully expected the Red Wings to just promote from within; after all he knows every one in Grand Rapids quite well. The Wings said early on that they wouldn’t be re-signing Erik Cole or Marek Zidlicky, so I didn’t have high expectations for anything interesting to happen. Then July 1st rolled around and it became very apparent that the Red Wings were making a push for the only good defenseman on the market, Mike Green. Then an hour or so after Green was signed, rumors started to swirl that the Red Wings were looking at Brad Richards. The latter was the far more surprising signing. It has always seemed like the Red Wings were interested in acquiring Mike Green, but just never wanted to pay the price that was required to get him in a trade.
As I said on twitter, I love both the Mike Green and Brad Richards signings. Mike Green may cost you a bit at $6 million per year, but it’s a short-term contract and you can be free and clear of all of it in three years. Most importantly, he’s not expected or needed to play on the top defensive pairing. You can pair him with Danny DeKeyser and let DK be his safety net. I’m not the biggest Mike Green fan, since he has a tendency to be a defensive liability and is mostly a 4th forward on the ice…BUT he’s going to be a major asset on the power play and I’m excited to see what he does on a puck possession style team. Not only that, but the Red Wings finally get an offensive right-handed defenseman to replace Brian Rafalski, something they have coveted for a while.
Last year the Red Wings only had two defenseman with more than 20 points and that was DeKeyser at 31 points and Nik Kronwall at 44. Green himself put up 45 points after having a couple of down years when he was hurt, though putting up 26 points in 35 games during the shortened lockout season is absurd.
Meanwhile, Brad Richards comes over from Chicago and brings some much-needed veteran presence while Pavel Datsyuk is likely out. If you didn’t hear, Datsyuk had ankle surgery and could be out until mid-November. Richards adds depth at center and allows Datsyuk to shift to the wing to play with Zetterberg when he returns. Plus, a one-year $3 million deal (with another $1 million in signing bonus) is an affordable price for a veteran with two Stanley Cups on his resume. Richards isn’t going to set the world on fire scoring-wise, but if he can put up 40-50 points, I’ll be pleased. He didn’t have a great season last year in Chicago, but he’ll be better than Weiss and still would’ve finished 7th in points on the Red Wings.
I would fully expect the roster to look something like this to start the year, with Jakub Kindl, Joakim Andersson and Kyle Quincey as the only potential players to be traded (at least off the 23-man roster). Kindl and Andersson should be obvious choices, but you may be wondering why Quincey? Well, the Red Wings have Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek as UFAs/RFAs. They will undoubtedly be unable to sign Quincey (he’s a free agent after this year), especially since it doesn’t appear that the salary cap will be going up much any time soon with the Canadian dollar still in free fall. Not to mention the fact that unloading Quincey will give the Red Wings more cap room so they aren’t hovering around $1 million or less in free space. They will definitely need that $4.25 million and $3 million from Richards to re-sign their own guys. Let’s be honest, $8 million may not be enough to sign Helm, Abdelkader, Sheahan, DK and Mrazek, so other moves could come next offseason.
Ken Holland has also said that they would like to have Xavier Ouellet and Alexey Marchenko on the roster to start the year, which means that at least one defenseman has to be moved. Jeff Blashill said in a press conference that he wanted to give Jakub Kindl a chance because he liked his skill set, so that really points to Quincey being the odd man out if you want to read between the lines and guess, like I prefer to do.
Meanwhile, I would expect the 14 forwards on this depth chart to be the 14 that they start the year with. I fully expect Anthony Mantha to take another year of seasoning down in the AHL and even though Dylan Larkin has been exciting, I would be floored if he played more than 10 games next season (unless there are an array of injuries of course). You’ll notice that Dan Cleary isn’t on this list and that’s because his time of wasting a roster spot on the Red Wings is now done. He did well for a while, but these last two seasons he has been absolutely abysmal.
I actually really like this group of 14 and really like the versatility of the centers the Red Wings have. Every single center on the roster can play the wing without a hesitation and I would fully expect Helm or Sheahan to start the season on the wing to accommodate the deep group.
In case you don’t follow me on twitter and were wondering what I thought about Mike Babcock heading to Toronto, here’s a pretty quick summary. I’m thankful for everything Babcock did for the Red Wings, but I’m beyond excited to see what Jeff Blashill can do. The Red Wings were never going to give Babcock a contract longer than 3-4 years and by that time, they wouldn’t have been able to hang onto Blashill anymore. He would have been long hired by an NHL team. Blashill is a rockstar that has won at every level like Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay’s coach) and I think it’s time to get a new voice in the locker room. Not that I thought Babcock had lost the room or something like that. But sometimes things can get stale after a decade and they certainly would have as you approached year 14 or 15. On top of that, the Red Wings are in the middle of rebuilding on the fly with younger players, younger players that Blashill has coached in Grand Rapids. It’s the perfect time to make the change and I think it will be beneficial for the Red Wings.
If you look at my post from last year, I actually said I expected Blashill to replace Babcock within the next three years, after Babcock signs a one-year extension to stay in Michigan until his daughter graduates from Michigan. Well as it turns out his daughter was a senior last year, so my prediction was sort of right. That being said, check out the video below…
How would you not love to play for this guy? This speech would win me over as a player instantly.
All of the players have had nothing but good things to say about Blashill, and even Mike Green and Brad Richards did too. He seems to come with a pristine reputation and apparently seems to be a very approachable guy. On top of that, Todd Nelson is now the head coach in Grand Rapids and he is great at developing players. He has an open door policy and always wants to know what a player is thinking and how they are feeling. That’s a huge positive quality for an AHL coach to have, because he’s the one charged with developing your prospects. I’m very excited with the two coaches the Red Wings have in their organization, and Derek Lalonde is no slouch in Toledo either.
Overall, I’m very happy with the moves the Red Wings have made to this point and am very optimistic about this upcoming season and the roster that they have in place.