Friday, February 18, 2005

Red Wings Status Report

Red Wings Player Update Curtis Joseph: With his option for the 2005-2006 season not activated by clause (Red Wings didn't win a Stanley Cup and Joseph didn't win six playoff rounds in his three seasons - only one), Cujo is likely to make an exit. After a tearful press conference in July 2002, in which Joseph expressed his sorrow for leaving the Maple Leafs, his stay in Detroit has been rocky. His ankle injury and the return of Hasek, which had him playing second-fiddle to a retired star turned roller hockey bum, are among the woes. It didn't help that the Wings, who gave Cujo a no-trade clause in the summer of 2002, asked for him to wave it last season only to eventually keep him as their playoff goaltender when Hasek re-retired. Thanks for being classy and professional through all these dramas, Cujo, and good luck wherever you end up. Look for the Wings and Cujo to respectfully cut ties. Currently living in the Toronto area. Manny Legace: With the assumed exit of Curtis Joseph, Manny Legace will either become the Wings' #1 goaltender or retain his title as the league's best backup. Legace was the Wings' starting goaltender entering the Nashville Predators series this past playoffs, but took to the bench in the third period of the Wings' 3-0 Game 4 loss (to make a 2-2 series) to the Predators. Don’t take this as anything more than a long shot, but Chris Osgood is currently an unrestricted free agent, after rocky stays with the New York Islanders and most recently the St Louis Blues (two season stays each). I’ll keep the rumor mill rolling, and also mention that ex-Red Wing and current Mighty Duck Sergei Fedorov has a player option for the final three years of his five year, $40 million dollar contract, starting in the theoretical 2005-2006 season. Back to topic. Manny will become an unrestricted free agent following the theoretical 2005-2006 season. Currently living in the metro Detroit area. Darryl Bootland: Currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the occasional Wings call-up is a restricted free agent and has put up good enough numbers to earn his keep, especially at his salary level. The Wings will re-sign him. Bryan Helmer: Currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Helmer is an unrestricted free agent and the Wings will probably sign him to an extension. Jiri Hudler: Playing part of the season for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Hudler is now on Vsetin HC of the Czech Extraliga. He recently returned from ankle surgery, and is signed through the 2005-2006 season. Hudler, 21, is one of the Wings’ top developmental players, so he’ll stick around. Chris Chelios: This guy’s been everywhere during the lockout. The World Cup of Hockey, finally securing an insurance policy (weren’t we all tired of hearing about that?), managing Cheli's Chili Bar, bobsledding with the US Team in Lake Placid, NY, and finally joining the UHL’s Motor City Mechanics. At 43 years old, it is unlikely that Chelios will be around for the theoretical 2005-06 season. Chelios is an unrestricted free agent. Mathieu Dandenault: Currently playing for H.C. Asiago of the Italian Serie league, Dandenault is a valuable two-way player (pardon the cliché) and will be an unrestricted free agent for the theoretical 2005-2006 season. The Wings will do everything they can to re-sign him. Jiri Fischer: Currently playing for Liberec in the Czech Tipsport Extraliga, Jiri Fischer is a budding defenseman whom the Wings have signed through the 2006-2007 season. Hopefully Fischer can bounce back from his playoff meltdown, when he was sloppy and out-of-position for much of the Predator and Calgary series. Niklas Kronwall: Putting up MVP numbers for the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Wings are liking to re-sign Kronwall, a restricted free agent, for the 2005-2006 season. The 24 year old is another building block for the future. Nathan Robinson: Currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Robinson, 23, has played five games with the Red Wings. He is a restricted free agent, and would’ve made $390,000 this season. The Wings will keep him around. Derian Hatcher: Currently playing with the Motor City Mechanics of the UHL, Derian Hatcher is signed through the 2007-2008 season. Nicklas Lidstrom: Deciding not to play in Sweden during the lockout for family reasons, Nick Lidstrom is signed through the 2005-2006 season. Currently living in the metro Detroit area. Jamie Rivers: The journeyman defenseman is currently playing with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Rivers is signed through the 2005-2006 season at $400,000, a bargain after he stepped in last season with the Wings’ myriad of injuries. Mathieu Schneider: Currently living in Los Angeles, Schneider is an unrestricted free agent and as good as gone if he doesn’t accept much less money than he thinks he deserves. He finished sixth in Norris voting last season, but the Wings and many others think that his linemate Nicklas Lidstrom is largely responsible for that. Jason Woolley: Michigan State alumnus Jason Woolley was serving as volunteer assistant coach for the MSU hockey team, and now is signed to play for the Flint Generals of the UHL. Woolley, 35, is an unrestricted free agent whom the Wings might sign in a salary cap system (he would’ve made $925,000 this season). But then again they could be looking to get younger. Pavel Datsyuk: Datsyuk is currently playing for Moscow Dynamo of the Russian Super League. The budding star is a restricted free agent, and is going to be looking for a big pay increase after his 30 goal, 38-assist breakout season. And even in a salary cap system, you can bet the Wings would bend over backwards to keep him. Kris Draper: Coming off a breakout season in which he earned the Selke with his 24 goals, 16 assists, and consistently solid defensive play, Draper is currently playing for the Motor City Mechanics of the UHL. He is signed through the 2007-2008 season, and is a candidate for the captaincy once Yzerman retires. Tomas Holmstrom: Currently playing with Lulea HF of the Swedish Elite League, Holmstrom is signed through the 2006-2007 season and is a member of the Wings’ inner core of untouchables. Robert Lang: The Wings’ most recent pickup, Lang was one of the few Wings to score in the last playoffs and is signed through the 2006-2007 season. Currently living in the Miami area. Kirk Maltby: Kris Draper’s linemate, Maltby has the ability to be both a pest and play solid on defense, and he is signed through the 2006-2007 season. Currently living in Detroit area. Darren McCarty: Currently touring with his band Grinder, McCarty is a fan-favorite and that is one of the major reasons the Wings have signed him through the 2006-2007 season. Mark Mowers: Currently playing for Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss National League, Mowers left Malmo of the SEL after only 9 games. He has a player option for the 2005-2006 season, and at a salary of $375,000, the Wings might not mind having him around in a salary cap system. Brendan Shanahan: The former lacrosse star has been practicing with the Toronto Rock of the NLL (of which he is part owner). Shanahan, 36, is signed through the 2005-2006 season, and he has said that if the lockout goes for two years he might’ve played his last game in the NHL. Ray Whitney: After a 76-point season with the Blue Jackets, Whitney was a major disappointment last season, with only 14 goals and 29 assists (and assists are easy to come by on the top offensive team in the NHL). Unfortunately, Whitney is signed through the 2006-2007 season (that being a club/player option year). At his $3.5 million dollar salary and lackluster play, Whitney could be a salary dump. Currently living in Edmonton area. Jason Williams: Currently playing for Assat Pori of the FNL, Williams is a restricted free agent who would’ve made $425,000 this season. The Wings will keep him around. Steve Yzerman: Almost fully recovered from his eye injury, Yzerman is an unrestricted free agent, if it’s even worth mentioning, because we all know he’ll be in Hockeytown if he decides to play again and if the NHL resumes play. If there’s a 2005-2006 season, Yzerman will try to play. A scary quote:
"I'm not setting anything in stone. I've never retired before, so I don't know the process. I know I'm not coming back for some farewell tour. If we're able to get it going next September, and it made sense for the organization, and I believed I was in good enough shape to play, I'd see. I'm not coming back just so I can say thanks and goodbye."
How can someone like Steve Yzerman NOT come back for a farewell tour? Does he think he can just disappear into the horizon like Larry Murphy did? We can’t let him be so humble and do that! And sickly, Yzerman still thinks we can un-cancel the season:
"I wouldn't be surprised by anything now. I haven't talked to anyone behind the scenes, but I still think, seeing where we left off, there's a deal to be made. I think there's still an opportunity to reach an agreement. I just think we should wait and see what transpires over the next day or two. Maybe I'm completely wrong and this thing is totally done."
How could anyone accept his last moments in the NHL as being hit with a puck in the eye and throbbing on the ice? At this point the Captain's in denial like we all are. And joining the Mechanics is out of the question:
"They turned me down. They saw me skate in Igor's farewell game."
Currently living in the metro Detroit area. Henrik Zetterberg: Currently playing for his former club Timra of the SEL, Zetterberg, 24, is an up-and-coming talent whom the Wings expect to have the next breakout season. He’s a restricted free agent, and, like Datsyuk, the Wings will do whatever it takes to keep him here. Anders Myrvold: Currently playing for Valerenga of Norway, Myrvold was an unrestricted free agent this season, and the Wings are unlikely to re-sign the 29-year old. Ryan Barnes: Currently playing for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Barnes, 25, has only 8 points through 39 games, and that won’t help him get back with the Wings. Some consider him a “poor man’s Dandenault.” He was an unrestricted free agent this season, and is likely gone. Red Wings Staff Update While other clubs are going to be laying off their support staff, the Wings have no plans of doing that. That includes Ken Kal and Joe Louis Arena Building Manager Al Sobotka. But others are less fortunate. Fan favorites Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond, and strangely Paul Woods, Ken Kal’s color commentator, are employed by Fox Sports and haven’t been paid. As for head coach Dave Lewis, assistant coach Barry Smith, and associate coach Joey Kocur, all three have contracts that expire on July 1, and GM Ken Holland is looking at how to structure their contracts so that they can keep up with their lockout scouting in the minors. According to Holland, there are approximately 200 Wings employees on one-year contracts expiring soon, something he will be dealing with. Holland is also busy scouting, just returning from Sweden and likely to go back to Europe in the next few months. NHLers who could be forced into retirement (and fall off the face of the Earth Larry Murphy Style) The 37 and Up Club Mark Messier, 44 Chris Chelios, 43 Ron Francis, 41 Dave Andreychuk, 41 Al MacInnis, 41 Steve Thomas, 41 James Patrick, 41 Brett Hull, 40 Dominik Hasek, 40 Scott Stevens, 40 Dave Lowry, 40 Tommy Albelin, 40 Mario Lemieux, 39 Luc Robitaille, 39 Steve Yzerman, 39 Marc Bergevin, 39 Cliff Ronning, 39 Ed Belfour, 39 Scott Mellanby, 38 Joe Nieuwendyk, 38 Shayne Corson, 38 Don Sweeney, 38 Gary Roberts, 38 Eric Weinrich, 38 Vincent Damphousse, 37 Mike Keane, 37 Murray Baron, 37 Robert DiMaio, 37 Joe Juneau, 37 Curtis Joseph, 37 Shaun Van Allen, 37 Scott Young, 37 Suckiness Redefined Jeff Lentz, 25, and his family had waited eleven years to get their Red Wings season tickets, and they finally made the cut for the 2004-2005 season. Season ticket holders like Lentz have been receiving monthly refund installments since November, and will receive their full refunds with 1% interest in the next week or two. Quotes Wayne Gretzky: "What scares me now is, I don't feel there will be a lot of negotiating between now and next September. Hopefully I'm wrong." "Let's be honest -- Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, places like that, people are going to be mad and disappointed and upset, but eventually they'll come back 18,000 strong...But that's not our project. Our project is places like Phoenix and Miami and Los Angeles, where we've been on the back burner. We've disappointed a lot of fans. It is devastating for us." Some say you saved the Game when you were traded to the Los Angeles Kings and brought excitement to the sport in the US. And, in the darkest hour hockey has seen, how can you be so average? Save the Game again, Wayne! Jimmy Devellano: "The biggest mistake we made in the league was that we didn't do this in '94. Had the owners hung tough and cancelled the season and not played hockey, I think the collective bargaining agreement that we would've worked through the '90s would've been much different. It would've contained a cap. But the owners caved." And the Wings won three Stanley Cups in six years largely because it didn't happen, Jimmy. I find it hard to believe you can be as indoctrinated in the salary cap system as the average club executive on a losing team in a apathetic city. All's I can say is Gary's mouth piece. Ted Lindsay: "I'm on the players' side. But both are wrong. This is about stubbornness or egos, or whatever it is. The players gave back 24 percent of their salaries. That should have been enough. I hope the players stand firm. They're getting crucified a little bit in Canada for being greedy, but if a guy offers you that money, what are you supposed to do, say no? The owners have nobody to blame but themselves, and now they want the players to correct it for them.” So just let the Game die, Ted. The players have the imbalance of league revenues at roughly 75%, and, yes, they were given it, but is it really worth doing nothing when the league is dying? Even if you are not obligated to fix something, sometimes you might have the best footing to make a change for the better, so why not do more than you're required? Step out of your Union first mindset and look at what's happening. It's not a legal obligation. It's a moral obligation. Kris Draper: "To lose a season over how close we are is very disappointing. and I blame that all on Bettman. If we had reached $45 or $46 million, I'd be talking to you about meeting you at the Joe this weekend. Maybe this man never wanted to get a deal done. The only thing we asked for was a fair number, and he couldn't even come up with that. He low-balls us and has no intention to negotiate a cap that the union can accept. How he can sit there and say he is trying to create a partnership is mind-boggling." It's easy to say you'd accept a $45 million salary cap after it's all over, but I wonder if Draper would be hailing that number if we were in a pre season-cancellation timeframe. I don't want to label him a hypocrite, but where was his big mouth when it was the 11th hour and such words could've changed Union minds? I certainly hope that he let Bob know that before we lost the season. Hindsight criticism doesn't help in negotiation, especially when the deadline has passed, Kris. And go get your visa fixed so we can see you play for the Mechanics! Ken Holland: "I think it's going to be the end of coming up here to announce another superstar like we were able to do for over a two-, three-year period. But I think at the same time, if we are able to develop some young players, you're still going to have some money to get into the open market. That's really the vision from Gary Bettman -- that everybody has a similar opportunity financially. And we're going to be one of the teams out there competing for free agents." I don't know how Ken Holland can be happy with the end of that era. He's done some of the biggest blockbuster moves in the league since becoming GM for the Wings. And he's willing to give that up to save the Pittsburgh Penguins or Columbus Blue Jackets or any other teams that have no place in this league? That's dedication to a vision, El Vision de Bettman. Mathieu Schneider: "I think at some point Bettman took our willingness to negotiate as a sign of weakness. We've done everything in our power to get the game back. I'm of the opinion that Gary Bettman has not only failed in this negotiation, but that he's failed in his last 10 years as commissioner. I don't know how Gary sleeps at night these days." A better question is how does the Board of Governors that hired him back in 1992 sleep at night these days? He was hired from his NBA executive position to bring popularity and profitability to the league, and his expansion of NHL teams was largely a product of the Boards' expectations. They didn't hire him to be a lame duck commisioner, they hired him to impliment radical change in the league. So equal criticism should be levied towards the 1992 Board of Governors. Bettman's $3 million/year contract expires after the 2007-2008 season. A famous quote by Orlando Magic GM Pat Williams: "I gave Gary a hockey puck once, and he spent the rest of the day trying to open it." Who hired and renewed his contract? Equal blame, people. Mario Lemieux: "Once I got on this side, I saw the losses that this league was accumulating. Really, the players' association never looked at our books." Very true. They denied the credibility of the Levitt Report, yet what is their answer to that report? If they deny the league's truth, what is their truth? In numbers, please. Luc Robitaille: "I do believe there was room to negotiate, but I don't believe at this point that the league wanted to negotiate." If he's talking about the league's failed bluff that they called their last offer, I think the league was still willing to move after that, to some extent. But on the other hand, I think the owners realized that if they accepted too high of a salary cap, it would be something they just could not afford. So it was just not an option. Don Cherry: "We had something in hockey that no other sport had. The fans really thought that our players and everything were sort of innocent. And I don't think we'll ever feel that way again." Nothing could be truer. The NHL stil has the best players and best fans, but it's going to take a long time before the bitterness is cast aside and we forgive each other. And it's terrible that Louis Sutter died when the league was in such turmoil. The Sutters are an example of hard-working and humble dedication. Hockey is the Sutters. Mike Modano: "The NHL has totally deteriorated the last 10 years under Gary's regime. The game isn't like it used to be. Now we're asked to fix a lot of people's problems, and as players we don't feel we should do that." Any honest player knows they've had a great deal for the past decade. So don't act like it's a surprise you're the ones conceding the most come CBA expiration. That's a really selfish attitude - it's not my problem if I didn't cause it. Maybe in court. Maybe in a morally deficient society. But some things transcend legal responsibility and you have to look at the larger picture. It's called basic human compassion. If you recognize that the owners made mistakes and gave too much (which any honest player could see at 75% of revenues going to salaries), then how can you live with it at the detriment to your own league and sport? That's a level of bitterness I cannot fathom. I only pray the population of players is not like Mike. What's the point of being right if it has the baggage of killing the NHL and much of the sport in the US? Sometimes it's just not worth being steadfast. Are they looking to become martyrs for hockey players of the future or something? Instead of continually blaming the dying horse the NHL has become for not drinking water when it's starving of thirst, force its mouth open and pour some water down its throat. Or just let the horse die. It's not your fault it died after all. Hands are clean of blame. That's the attitude fans love to see. I think a lot of fans see that attitude in a few vocal players and think that they are greedy - what they really are is selfish. Rod Brind'Amour: "The game's just suffered an absolute blow it'll never recover from. They're totally underestimating the damage that's being done." Sickly I think they release the damage, but still failed to agree to a deal. John Madden: "Are fans going to come and watch replacement players? Are guys going to cross the line? Is any of this stuff going to happen? It's all unknown, and it's not good news." Those are some great questions, and the future of the league and lockout will pivot on them. Scotty Bowman: "I think they would probably not want to end their careers without trying next year." There's Scotty, again. Saying the obvious to avoid becoming a part of the controversial flame war. He's as smart as ever. Peter Karmanos Jr.: "Every time I read something from a journalist and they say hockey will never be the same, we're all praying, 30 owners are praying, it won't be the same." Financially, yes. Tim Leiweke: "I'm ashamed by what we did. Smart people should have solved this by today." Your darn right. Smart people would've met more than five times in five months or whatever the number is. There was a gap in meetings between September 9th and Dec 2nd, and the sides only committed to saving the season with a week to spare before Gary's the deadline. Had he not set that deadline, maybe they'd still be engaging in the blinking contest, and us the fans would be still hoping in vain. Richard Peddie: "[The players] do not understand the numbers. That's just not their area of expertise. So it's easy for them to say, 'I don't trust the numbers,' because that's what they're hearing from someone else." I don't like this assumption of ignorance, or either side using it. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean it's out of ignorance or dissillusionment. It IS possible for someone to have a conflicting opinion to yours and be looking at the same facts. Interpretation is human. Don't assume an alternative opinion is inferior because it is foreign. Both sides need to work on this one. Joe Sakic: "I'm bitter. We should be playing hockey. The framework is there." We are all bitter, Joe. They cut through the philosophical differences, but when it came down to shifting numbers, both sides felt they had given up enough in taking linkage off the table and accepting a salary cap. Thus we are here today. Mike Commodore: "In Canada, it won't be a big, big deal, but I think it's absolutely going to butcher the game in the United States. I don't think anybody's going to come back." I'll be back, and I know Matt will be too. One thing I hate is when the media marginalizes the passion of American hockey fans and acts like we are hanging on a thread of fanship or something. But I know Commodore is not like that. He's a good guy, and effectively few will come back. So he's right. Brenden Morrow: "I hope they don't wait until September to talk. I hope they let themselves cool off for a week or two and get back. ... It's frustrating, but I'm glad we didn't take their offer just to play hockey." I worry about them waiting until September too. With linkage back on the table and the players likely to rescind their acceptance of a salary cap, it looks like it's going to be a brutal cycle of negotiations, and I wouldn't be surprised if they end up faxing the same offers they had a week ago come next Fall. Wouldn't that be fun. A second ride on the coaster. Kevin Lowe: "I believe I have the same sort of numb, empty feeling (as when the team traded Gretzky)." Though I never felt the pain of the Gretzky trade, I have to say that i feel those numb, empty feelings. The league is so distant right now. It's hard to imagine there ever being a season... Brad Richards: "I will, as of today, try and find a job in Europe for all of next year; it's just what I have to do and will do. I'm not going to sit around and listen to this. It's hard on the head, and I have to go and live my life." It's hard on my head too, but, unfortunately, I can't go to Europe and avoid this. Unless I purchase satellite coverage of European play, I'll be stuck waiting on the NHL or trying to accept a lesser league. Bob McKenzie: "When you think about Canadian history -- not just sporting history -- where does it fit in? You don't want to get ridiculous and say that it's the most important thing that's ever happened in Canada, because it's not. But by the same token, hockey is part of the fabric of this society and NHL hockey is a huge part of that fabric. Now it's not there." As always, well said. You're insight was helpful to fans during the lockout, Bob. Doug MacLean: "I'm sick when we go around to the restaurants. Some of the managers get mad at me: When are you playing? When are you playing? I don't blame them. It's devastating for them." Yeah, I read an article in the Free Press about Detroit losing $500,000 just from a lack of business. It's hurting everyone... Glen Sather: "He (Mark Messier) called me to get tickets to see 'Saturday Night Live.' He didn't even talk about hockey, so I don't know whether he's interested in coming back or not." This has nothing to do with the lockout, really, and everything to do with whether or not Mark Messier is itching to play again. I couldn't care less. Guy Lafleur: "The players took advantage of the situation in 1994. They won the lottery for 10 years in a row. I have nothing against the guys who have taken advantage of the system for 10 years, I'm very happy for them. But it makes no sense. These guys have to be realistic. I know it's going to be tough for them to leave this money behind, but they were lucky to have it for 10 years. From the beginning, the owners said they were going for a salary cap and they stuck to their plan. That's why there's no hockey today. How can a business survive when they give 75 per cent of their revenue to salaries? There's no (expletive) business in the world that can. None...I have no respect for the mentality of some of the players. They say I'm frustrated I didn't make their type of money. Well, I don't give a (expletive). We played with passion, for the love of the game. If today's players are so smart, why don't they buy a (expletive) franchise and they'll see what's going on. The answer right now is to keep talking to solve the conflict, as soon as possible, and then work on improving hockey in the NHL. They have a lot of work on the table, and since before Christmas they've been chasing their tail. Hockey has to become fun, where you'll see a nice show and be pleased with the effort of the players and the organization. What hurts me most is that fans have suffered, and people have lost jobs because of this." Well said, Guy! I can't say anything to add to that except, ditto. Stop Toying With The Fans Even TSN is getting involved in what has been rumbling over the internet since Wednesday: that the season can be un-cancelled. Even Yzerman said he had a sense that it was still possible. Rumors have been flying around that Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux are applying their dual player/owner muscles and trying to get Gary and Bob to make a deal. Ok. I usually would appreciate the effort, but gesture not accepted. You don't have to go through the chirade of negotiations. The fans are just gaining closure to the cancellation. Enough damage has been done, guys. The fans' hearts have already been riped out. So leave us alone. Stop toying with our emotions and making us believe that it's still possible. The vault to my bank of hope is closed to these rumors, and I'm not going to let them take me on a second ride on the rollercoaster of hopeless negotiations. We have that to look forward to next Fall when they will attempt to start the 2005-2006 season on time.

1 Comments:

At 2/19/2005 12:35:00 AM, Blogger Christy Hammond said...

Wow Brian-

Really nice, thorough, and long entry. And it was great how you went in depth as to where players are and how they're doing there. Nice work!

 

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