The Detroit Red Wings of 2012-2013 will be a team that even die-hard fans may have trouble recognizing. With the retirement of longtime captain Nicklas Lidstrom and the possible retirement of Tomas Holmstrom, the powerful Wings team of the late ’90s and early 2000s will, for the first time, be fully in the rear-view mirror.
It’s bittersweet for most of us who watched the Wings pick up one top free agent after another in the ’90s (Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Larry Murphy and Paul Coffey, to name a few), while retaining the same core players. Those teams were put together to win championships — these Wings need to find the right tools to complement their core to have an opportunity to win when it counts.
The core of the team is here, but management needs to find the right players to fill the holes. Although winning back-to-back Cups, as the Wings did in 1997 and ’98, is much more difficult these days, a couple of swift moves from arguably the top GM in all of sports, Ken Holland, would put them in position to win for the foreseeable future.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s been talk that Mike Babcock is on the hot seat. With some disappointing playoff runs, its certainly a possibility, though it could be the rumor mill running wild. If it’s an issue, expect it to be resolved quickly.This organization is run so smoothly that if there were an issue with the coach not getting it done and the players not responding, it would be dealt with. This club does not let things fester (case in point: Dave Lewis). When things aren’t working out, Ken Holland and Mike Illitch make the decision quickly and decisively, deal with it, and move on. The team keeps the players they recruit by treating them with respect and, in turn, the players show their loyalty by wanting to be a part of such a class group — which resonates throughout the league.
All rumors and management shifts aside, the roster is going to be quite different. There will be no Lidstrom or Brad Stuart, and most likely another household name will be on the move (probably Jiri Hudler via free agency or Valtteri Filppula in a trade). I am not advocating the loss of another big-time Red Wing player, but to bring in some new fresh talent, it might be a necessary loss.
The talk around town has been to let Hudler walk — I like Jiri but do agree he is not worth the $5 million-per-year price tag he may be seeking after a career-best 25-goal campaign. I said in a previous article that Johan Franzen could possibly be used as trade bait, and I am one of the Mule’s biggest fans and would hate to see him go, but if he can get the Wings a consistent hard-nosed veteran and some young, quick guys in return it could be worth it.
Is Franzen worth all that? I don’t know. Any trade the Wings make will be something that makes a splash. I feel like it has to.
Looking for some insight from some of the players, check out what Jimmy Howard said on Sunday when he spoke with the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff regarding the rare Red Wings’ offseason shuffle that is about to go down and what Howard’s role might be in persuading a free agent to make their way to the 313 for the upcoming season:
“That’s Kenny and (assistant GM) Jim Nill’s department,” Howard told Duff, sounding as if he had no plans of sticking his nose into their business in enticing a player to come here. “I don’t feel like it’s up to somebody making phone calls. If they want to be a Red Wing, they will be.”
I love those comments coming from him — very confident in his bosses and in himself. That’s how you want my goalie to talk, and that’s the sign of a top-notch organization.
Expect speculation on the Red Wings roster moves to continue throughout the offseason, so get ready for a long, exciting and unfamiliar ride with the organization. Will they trade a big name? Will they get their two dream free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise?
The only guarantee is that Holland and the Red Wing organization are not rebuilding; they are reloading. Mike Illitch is itching to hoist the Stanley Cup again, and Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are prepared to prove their stature in the NHL by bringing it back to Hockeytown.