With the season over for the Red Wings, it's time to look ahead to a long offseason.
But first, it's important to point out that this season was not a failure. Injuries definitely prevented the team from reaching their full potential, but give head coach Mike Babcock credit for getting a group mostly made up of raw talent to the playoffs for a 23rd consecutive season.
Now that the season is over, the Wings will get together as a team on Monday to clean out their lockers. Then they will all go home or take vacations or do whatever until training camp arrives in August.
For now, we'll look at some concerns that need to be addressed.
It's no secret that Babcock wants to build his blue line like he has for Team Canada with three left-handed shots and three right-handed shots. The problem is that the Wings played a majority of the season with six lefties on the blue line.
Kyle Quincey is the only pending UFA out of the group, and he likely will not return despite playing better down the stretch. Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff both struggled frequently and could get moved. Brendan Smith could also be moved as he repeatedly let his emotions dictate his playing style against the Bruins.
San Jose's Dan Boyle and Pittsburgh's Matt Niskanen are two right handed shots that the Wings should and will look at. Boyle has been on the radar for a while. Even though he's 37, he can still contribute offensively (36 points in the past regular season) and play 20-25 minutes a night. Niskanen had a breakout season with the Penguins (10 goals, 36 points, plus-33 rating), and has been strong in the playoffs.
Ryan Sproul is another righty in the organization, and he has the best chance to make the team over fellow rookies Xavier Ouellet, Adam Almquist, and Alexei Marchenko because of his shot.
If the Wings were to want another veteran righty, Florida's Tom Gilbert could be another target.
Addition and Subtraction on Offense
Daniel Alfredsson and David Legwand are both set to be UFAs in July. Alfredsson has said that he would like to play in Detroit another season. If he does, Ken Holland is going to have to make some moves in order to make the Wings a Stanley Cup contender because Alfie feels he can win a Cup in Detroit.
Legwand may or may not be back. Even though he is close to his native home of Groose Pointe Woods, Michigan, there's just no room at the inn for the center. Stephen Weiss is expected to be back after abdominal surgery in February, and with solid play from youngsters Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening, Legwand will be likely looking for a new home.
Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi are as good as gone. Both might retire, but Bertuzzi might go somewhere else to finish his career. And (hopefully) Daniel Cleary will not be re-signed. However, there has been talk that Cleary will retire and be offered a front-office position with the Wings or their farm team in Grand Rapids.
If the Wings add a forward, it will be a winger. They will likely not pursue Marian Gaborik, Dany Heatley, or Thomas Vanek. The most reasonable option could be Mike Cammalleri, who has performed well in the postseason. Plus he played his college hockey at the University of Michigan.
Other options include, but are not limited to, Milan Michalek, Ryan Callahan, Matt Moulson, Radim Vrbata, Jussi Jokinen, Devin Setoguchi, and Lee Stempniak.
And if Anthony Mantha is assigned to Grand Rapids next season, could we see him in the lineup if anyone gets injured?
The Wings used one of their two compliance buyouts on Carlo Colaiacovo last season. They either have to use up their last one or else.
There is one player that it should be used on: Johan Franzen.
Franzen has six years and $17.5 million left on his deal that he signed back in 2009 (he gave the team a hometown discount). Given that he has regressed over the years, and that he laid an egg in the playoffs (zero goals, minus-2 rating in five games), it's time for the Mule to go to a new farm.
Before you all start firebombing me with hate mail, please remember that Franzen would not speak to the media after Game 4, which is something that did not sit well with Babcock. There's no place for pouting in the NHL.
If the Detroit Tigers can send Prince Fielder packing after a dreadful postseason, the Red Wings can do the same with Franzen. However, buying him out is the only way to ship him out, as it's highly unlikely Franzen will fill out his contract elsewhere.
Jimmy Howard got sick and didn't finish the remainder of the playoffs. However, he has come under fire from some fans and Mike Valenti of 97.1 The Ticket, as he has not gotten the Red Wings past the second round of the playoffs in all five of his seasons as the starter.
The front office is nowhere near as irritated with Howard as they are with Franzen, but given how restless Hockeytown is getting with no Cup since 2008, could it be time to make a change?
Ryan Miller is the biggest fish on the market in terms of goalies, and he may not stick around in St. Louis after the Blues were knocked out of the playoffs. What could make signing in Detroit enticing is that Miller played at Michigan State, he would be coached the same guy who was the bench boss of the team that beat him in the medal round of the last two Olympics, and he would be on the same team as his younger brother, Drew. It sounds crazy, but if Holland were willing to do something big, this could be it.
Backup Jonas Gustavsson is a pending UFA who the Wings would like to re-sign after Alfredsson, but he will be due a hefty raise (this doesn't depend on the aforementioned move). If he isn't re-signed, there are two routes the Wing could go.
The first is promote Petr Mrazek to backup. Mrazek has been strong despite not getting much goal support when he has played. Holland would rather he stay in Grand Rapids for another year, but he would only count for a $600,000 cap hit if he spent the season in the NHL.
The other is sign a veteran backup. Some names available include Brian Elliott, Ray Emery, Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Thomas Greiss, and Al Montoya.
The Return of Hossa?
We all know the story. Marian Hossa signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings after losing to them in the Stanley Cup Finals. After losing to Pittsburgh, he signed a 12-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks and has won two Cups with them.
However, there were rumors last season that Hossa would be bought out because of cap reasons. That never happened, but there is still chatter that Hossa could be moved.
If those rumors are true, the Red Wings will lure him back. Both parties have mutual respect for one another, and Hossa could mentor fellow countrymen Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco.
Babcock is entering the final year of his contract with the Red Wings. The front office will be very busy trying to sign him to an extension.
However, there will likely be two vacancies north of the boarder in Toronto and Vancouver, and the Canadian media loves Babcock. Plus when you coach the national team to Olympic Gold twice, your popularity is pretty high.
There could be changes coming to the staff, but not because of someone getting terminated. Grand Rapids Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill has been rumored to be a candidate for an NHL job since last season, and he could be a candidate for vacancies in Nashville, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.
If Blashill bolts for an NHL job, assistant coach Tom Renney could follow the route Blashill took from Red Wings assistant to Griffins bench boss. That could mean recently fired Capitals coach Adam Oates returns to Detroit which is where he began his NHL career and serve as an assistant. For the record, Oates also played for Babcock in Anaheim in the early 2000s.
Defense coach Bill Peters is likely to stay put for now, as well as goaltending coach Jim Bedard.
Also, Holland is in his last year of his current contract as general manager. He too will need a new deal, unless he chooses to retire. But is assistant GM Ryan Martin ready to take control? If not, then will Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman leave the Lightning and come home?
There are a lot of questions, and it's tough to predict the answers. But that's the beauty of the offseason. We need to expect the unexpected.
Raise your hand if you thought the Wings would rapidly develop their prospects while still making the playoffs…anyone? Didn't think so.
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