Monday, August 15, 2005

An apology and an explanation

I'd like to apologize for the dearth of posting around here. There are two reasons for this and they are tied together: first, there is a real lack of Wings-related news and second, it stems from our disappointment in the Wings' inactivity on the free agent market. GM Ken Holland's plan apparently is to go in to the season with little more than a skeleton crew and make trades as the season goes along to add to the roster. Because so many players on the roster will have contracts expire after this coming season, Holland feels it best to wait until next summer to throw money around. This shouldn't make Wings fans feel very positive about the coming year, that's for sure, but it does give us something to look forward to in a year's time. I already have doubts about the team's ability to even make the playoffs, let alone play through them, after seeing the moves other teams, both in our division and throughout the conference, have made. It's easy to criticize Holland for his apparent short-sightedness (or stupidity, if you prefer) in light of the Wings' post-lockout predicament. However, I think it's a bit unfair. For years, everyone with an interest in the team has demanded excellence, from Mr. Illitch to the media down to Joe Fan. And for years, Ken Holland has delivered, assembling a quality roster each year. To do this, he had to negotiate contracts with both new and old players, to bring players in and to keep players here. I suspect, in a number of cases, he was forced to give more lengthy contracts to players with a greater value in order to either lure them to Detroit or to convince them to stay. These contracts extended beyond the expiration of the old CBA and in to unknown territory (though everyone had an idea of what was out there). Today, that seems monumentally short-sighted and stupid, given the restrictions they are now under financially. But I remember chanting "Win! Win!" with all the rest of the herd, when the lockout was a future possibility not a past event. Can we blame Holland for obeying our demands even if it screwed us over post-lockout? I think we would do well to remember that the Wings decade of influence and era of power was nearing its end anyway. The team was getting older and the era of Yzerman-type players and the accompanying loyalty was too. The idea of building a franchise on the youth is a crock any more now that players apparently have little or no attachment to the teams that drafted them, except through the bribery of a lucrative contract. Now, because of the new CBA, we're seeing it happen a bit faster. It will probably hurt more than it would have and the fall could be further but there's at least there's a chance that next summer, the Wings will be back on the market with their checkbooks open. I'm just trying now to be thankful that Holland is working on getting Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk signed. They are another result of the demands of Hockeytown, quality draft picks who were able to develop in to the potential big-time stars because the Wings had the depth and experience to do without them before they were ready. I'm going to just try to enjoy having hockey back this year and not be disappointed if the Wings don't live up to old expectations. They're still my team and that is not going to change. So, I wait for September, when camp starts and beyond that, October 5th, opening night. (Also, I'm working 50 or so hours this week, my last before school starts up again, so my time at a computer is pretty limited. I guess it's almost a good thing there's nothing to comment on...)

17 Comments:

At 8/15/2005 11:47:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

It's easy to criticize Holland for his apparent short-sightedness (or stupidity, if you prefer) in light of the Wings' post-lockout predicament. However, I think it's a bit unfair....I suspect, in a number of cases, he was forced to give more lengthy contracts to players with a greater value in order to either lure them to Detroit or to convince them to stay. These contracts extended beyond the expiration of the old CBA and in to unknown territory (though everyone had an idea of what was out there).

Where are you getting the idea that long-term deals are what is screwing the Wings over now and getting fans angry? That's not the issue at all. We just bought those long-term signings out.

The only signing I can consider bad currently is signing Lidstrom to a two year, $20 million contract last summer. With all the names free this summer, Nick isn't such a hot commodity that we couldn't have waited till now to try to sign him or pick up a Pronger / Niedermayer to replace him. There was no reason to be that desperate to sign Nick last summer. Maybe at the time us fans didn't realize there would be a huge free agent boom this summer (and so we supported the signing), but it was Holland's job to know that and gauge his moves off of that. I'd love to have him on the team and all, but we're over-paying him at $7.6 million. And for all the talk from me that Nick is being overpaid, I doubt we'd replace him for cheaper than $5 million - so there wasn't really a huge cost savings associated with keeping him or letting him go if you realize we'd be replacing him with comparable talent and cost anyways.

Can we blame Holland for obeying our demands even if it screwed us over post-lockout?

No, because the 'predicament' we're in doesn't stem from pre-CBA signings and Holland didn't 'screw us over' from those long-term deals, because we bought the ones out that would have screwed us over.

The 'predicament' is invented by Wings fans who are angry that we're not signing Forsberg and Khabibulin. They should've realized by now that the new NHL doesn't allow teams to have 3-4 lines of super stars like the 2002 Wings spoiled us with. So the predicament is just that we can't stomp on the rest of the league anymore, and that the Predators actually can sign star players now. And yes, I've been in that crowd time to time. It takes a while getting used to this new structure.

What is getting this Wings fan angry the most now is that Holland can't get Datsyuk and Zetterberg signed (or Kronwall, for that matter). To be fair, I'm also mad at Pavs and Hank for asking for way more than their market value. And instead he wasted his time signing Chelios, who at 44 should be the LAST guy signed. I also think we could've signed Lidstrom for less if we hadn't signed him last summer, but oh well.

Wings fans just aren't used to the system yet, and are angry at Holland for not making moves when he really can't fit any more stars on the team with a $39 million cap. Yes, it's largely misdirected anger - but it has nothing to do with long-term deals and mistakes Holland might've made before the lockout. Buyouts corrected those mistakes (albeit at a high price for Ilitch).

--And sorry for the jumble of thoughts and jumping around. That's why it's posted as a comment and not as an official post on the site.

I also apologize for not posting in the past five days, but like Matt said, there hasn't been anything Wings related to write about. And I don't have an unlimited supply of rant like some of the other hockey bloggers.

 
At 8/16/2005 06:16:00 AM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

By "long-term" I meant deals that extended beyond the 04-05 "season" that was obliterated by the lockout. At first, it sounded great to have so many players signed but it's going to turn out to be a problem because Holland will barely be able to fill out the roster with the $9 million or so he has left. Sure they bought out Hatcher's contract, which had 2 or 3 more years on it but that was just one real long term contract. My point is, maybe the Wings shouldn't have signed so many players beyond the season we lost.

I'm not disappointed the Wings weren't able to go after Forsberg or Khabibulin. I am disappointed they have not been able to add any mid level players to fill the roster out. Also, if they had more cap space, negotiations with Zetterberg and Datsyuk might be going better. As it is, we are severly hampered in what we can offer them and they aren't helping.

 
At 8/16/2005 08:28:00 AM, Anonymous Kevin R said...

Give thanks for:

1) We will be having Red Wings hockey come October.

2) We will be having NHL Hockey come October.

3) We will be watching, listening and living NHL hockey until June, when we will properly give thanks again and count the days until the second week of October in 2006.

I am grateful and refuse to think I have been disenfranchised or slighted for the above said reasons!!!

 
At 8/16/2005 11:48:00 AM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

a few random thoughts. a) the best defenseman in the world deserves the maximum salary, no bitches there.

Dats and Zberg will end up getting what the market will bear, and in Dats case, that appears to be 3.2 mill, tax free.

The Chelios signing was a horrible one, especially with Bykov wanting to return. And quite frankly, they should have bought our Shanny, because it's time to see what Kronwall, Hudler, Grigorenko, Filppula et al can do.

The Wings should have made sure they had enough money to sign Datsyuk and Zberg before signing up a bunch of slow footed aging vets. And as much as I like Ozzie, I would rather have stood pat with Manny, and see how Howard looks this year at Maine.

The Wings obviously need to rebuild. They should have started sooner, not later.

 
At 8/16/2005 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

By "long-term" I meant deals that extended beyond the 04-05 "season" that was obliterated by the lockout. At first, it sounded great to have so many players signed but it's going to turn out to be a problem because Holland will barely be able to fill out the roster with the $9 million or so he has left.

A lot of those signings were fine. Draper, Maltby, Fischer, Holmstrom, Lang, Legace, arguably Shanahan. Are those the signings you're referring to? Remember, we only had 12 or so guys signed early on - it was just Lidstrom and Hatcher's contracts that brought our cap number way up. And after the wave of buyouts the only contract that sticks out is Lidstrom's $7.6M.

Holland only has $9 million left to 'fill out' the roster because the Wings are nearing the limit of star players that the CBA cap system allows. I really think we have to expect 2 lines of prospects, and there's nothing Holland can do or could've done to give us a 2002 Red Wings roster. It's not a 'problem' but a reality - all teams are going to be 'barely filling out the roster' and using minimum salary AHLers to do it. Along those lines, I hear Holland is announcing a bunch of prospect signings today.

My point is, maybe the Wings shouldn't have signed so many players beyond the season we lost.

Even if the Wings had started out with a blank roster and $39M to spend, we'd still be in the same situation with limited space for stars and filling out the rest of the roster with prospects. I write this assuming we'll be able to get Pavs and Henrik back. If not, yes Holland will finally go out on the market and sign a scoring forward.

I am disappointed they have not been able to add any mid level players to fill the roster out. Also, if they had more cap space, negotiations with Zetterberg and Datsyuk might be going better.

To that point, it's idiotic that Holland committed money to Chelios when we could've signed a young defenseman out there for the same salary. I'd expect Holland to get a Jason Williams/Mark Mowers type player on the market, but beyond that we don't have any more space for signings other than Pavs / Henrik and prospects. The room to pay Pavs $3.5M and Henrik $2.5M isn't there in the new NHL, whether we have cap space or not. The Wings just won't give them that type of money.

 
At 8/16/2005 12:38:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

Dats and Zberg will end up getting what the market will bear, and in Dats case, that appears to be 3.2 mill, tax free.

Wow. If Dynamo offers Pavs $3.2M tax free, forget it. The Wings stand no chance competing with that.

The Wings should have made sure they had enough money to sign Datsyuk and Zberg before signing up a bunch of slow footed aging vets.

I don't follow the line of thinking that if the Wings had, say $15M to spend now, that we'd be treating Pavel and Hank any different. We have a budget for how much we can spend on individual players, and we just can't give those guys what they're asking ($3.5M to Pavs, $2.5M to Henrik). Whether or not we have $39M to spend or $9M to spend.

 
At 8/16/2005 06:33:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Kevin, I don't feel slighted or disenfranchised either!

I too am thankful for the coming season and the chance to see the Wings play again, in whatever form they take. Like I said, they're still my team and that is not going to change.

 
At 8/16/2005 07:29:00 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

While I would probably balk at paying Zberg 2.5 mil, I think they HAVE to make Datsyuk an offer around the 3.5 mark. In the new skill oriented NHL,
Datsyuk will be worth every penny of it, the Wings desperately need him, and someone, either here or in Europe, eventually will. Incidentally, I believe the hockey writer for the News said essentially the same thing last week.

 
At 8/16/2005 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

While I would probably balk at paying Zberg 2.5 mil, I think they HAVE to make Datsyuk an offer around the 3.5 mark.

I can see the argument Pavs and his agent are making. Rick Nash is getting $3.5M next season, and he's a co-winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy as a 41 goal scorer (57 pts total last season). But then again Milan Hejduk is getting $3.7M, and he's a 4-time, 30+ goal scorer, even scoring 50 goals in 02-03. The difference between Hejduk and Nash is that Nash is the franchise player (#1 overall draft pick) for Columbus and Hejduk is among equal company in Colorado. I'd say Hejduk's pay sets more of a precedent for the Wings' signing Pavel than Nash. It's a bit of a stretch for Pavs to command $3.5M, especially considering how he flopped during the playoffs. But you're right that the skills-oriented new NHL plays into Pavs' talent - he'll be a great shootout player.

 
At 8/16/2005 10:26:00 PM, Blogger greatwhitebear said...

Actually, Nash is getting $5.3 mil per! Which is still probably a bargain. After the season he had in Europe last year, I fully expect he will be the best player in the league this year.

But, If Iginla and Thornton, and Hossa are going to get in the 7 mil range, and at age 21 nash is getting 5.3 mil, Dats asking range doesn't seem way off base.

 
At 8/16/2005 10:48:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

Ah that's right. Nash is averaging $5.3M. He gets $3.5M this season, $4.5M in 2006-07, $5.5M in 2007-08, $6.5M in 2008-09, and $7M in 2009-10.

Another precedent: Lecavalier at 4 years, $6.8M per.

I still don't think Pavs is worth it if we have to give him a long-term deal at $3.5M. Only if performance bonuses are built in. Remember after the Turco goal, when teams started to double-team him? His scoring dropped off considerably (20 goals first half of season, 10 goals second half), and he was lying on his back most of the playoffs. I'm just not ready to trust that he'll have 68 pt seasons consistently.

 
At 8/17/2005 01:07:00 AM, Blogger d-lee said...

Who said Hossa will get $7M? I think he will get more than the 3-year/$11.9M that he's taking to arbitration, but I don't think he'll get $21. His numbers are awesome, for sure, and I've written at length about this, but I think he'll be awarded somehing more like 3-years/$17M.

Aside from that, I think it's a little far fetched to suggest that Datsyuk deserves $3.5M. I think something in the range of $2.75M would be reasonable, which would be a payraise of 83% over his 2003-04 salary of $1.5M.

I'm not debating that Datsyuk is a great player. He's certainly that. I just don't think it's appropriate to compare him to Thornton and Iggy and say "well, he should get half of what they get".
It's far more appropriate to compare him to Martin Havlat of the Senators, who has the same amount of NHL experience, had almost identical numbers last year (Havlat 31/37/68 --- Datsyuk 30/38/68), and who has barely outperformed Datsyuk in each of the last three seasons. Havlat signed a one year deal for $2.6M. Datsyuk should, then, be in the same range.

As an aside, I think it's foolish for teams to offer these contracts with escalating salaries when we don't know what the cap will be next year. For all we know, it may go down. Then they'll have to scramble to unload more salary.

By the way.... you guys do a really outstanding job here. I'll never be able to bring myself to like the Wings, but I'm really liking the job you guys do.

 
At 8/17/2005 12:05:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

Aside from that, I think it's a little far fetched to suggest that Datsyuk deserves $3.5M. I think something in the range of $2.75M would be reasonable, which would be a payraise of 83% over his 2003-04 salary of $1.5M.

I agree. I'd accept Pavs making $2.5-2.75M, and think that the Nash contract can in no way be used as a precedent for what Pavs gets. Nash is a franchise player on a team that has room to spend, and the Datsyuk is one of a few, in Hollywood terms, 'supporting actors' on the Wings squad. I think Milan Hejduk stands as the best precedent, as the Avs are a similar team to the Wings. After two seasons of 36G/36A/72PTS and 41G/38A/79PTS, he got a pay increase from $1.2M to around $2.93M per season. Recently, he was awarded a five year deal at $3.9M average per - after four 30+ goal seasons (one at 50 goals). Considering that Pavs has a single season of 30G/38A/68PTS on his resume, and a lack of success in the playoffs, $2.5M should be a fair market value for what he's done.

 
At 8/22/2005 06:51:00 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

The signing of Kronwell, Datsyuk and Zetterberg is imparitve for the futer health of the organization.
All three are the future of the franchise and must be signed, unless of course we can put together a package to get Luongo to Detroit.

 
At 8/29/2005 10:50:00 PM, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

Paying Stars way too much to sit on the bench for 48 min ea game may have worked for the wings under Bowman, but proved pretty rediculous under the poor coaching of Lewis. Now it is a new game, The wings have secured excellent coaching for this team, plugging that hole and opening another. If the wings fail this year it will be in goal. I have a real problem with them re-aquiring Osgood for the same amount that Joseph signed for.

 
At 8/29/2005 11:09:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

I don't have a problem with re-signing Osgood since I wasn't part of the crowd that reviled him constantly. It is an interesting point, though, that Joseph, who earned $8 million in his last season, signed for so little this time around. I hadn't realized that. I think he was overrated anyway.

 
At 9/15/2005 11:11:00 PM, Blogger Grampapinhead said...

You are way off the mark on Datsyuk. He has made it plain and simple for Red Wing fans that he could care less about hockeytown. The fans are aware of somethings that may be a part time hockey writer hasn't noticed. Pavel sucks when it comes to clutch play. His playoff stats are dismal, he was a (-2) in regular season play, only Hull (-4) and Devereaux (-1) finished in minus column among forwards. He is way too susceptible to defensive lapses and if he returns will be in Babcocks doghouse with speedy dispatch. Sure he is exciting to watch, but do we really need a player capable of scoring a hat trick when already ahead in a 6-1 blowout. I think not. We need game tying goals and game winning goals and that is where he failed miserably. Babcock is an excellent strategist, but remember above all else it will be defense, defense, defense, among all the forwards.
Detroit fans are hockeywise and that is why it is called Hockeytown.
If Datsyuk returns, don't be surprised if he is boo-ed the first time he steps on the ice at the Joe.
If you go thru the 2003-2004 stats carefully, including the playoff, you will see that Ken Holland should have offered this narcissistic little twirp precisely 1/2 of what Schneider signed for and each time he rejected it, lowered the offer by 10%. Now, Zetterberg is a whole different story, He is a Keeper.

 

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