Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Trade Deadline Thoughts

Well, the 2013 NHL Trade Deadline has passed, and the Detroit Red Wings made no trades at the last minute to bolster the forwards, defense, or goaltending of their team. That sound you year is half the hockey world slamming down the panic button for the soon-to-be-Dead-Things.

Hold on a minute, geniuses.

If you'd like a rather complete explanation as to why the Detroit Red Wings did little to improve the team, here's The Malik Report with a litany of quotes, tweets, and some comments from a host of people who cover the Red Wings on a daily basis. This should satisfy your need to know why nothing was done, or at least give you a modicum of sanity while you tear your hair out over Detroit missing out on overpaying for Jay Bouwmeester.

Most Red Wings fans (I hope) have accepted the reality that the Detroit Red Wings are rebuilding. Management are doing everything they can to keep the team competitive enough to continue making the playoffs and keep the Western Conference annoyed that a playoff slot is going to be taken up by those bastards in the red and white. At this point, it's all anyone can do not to despise the Red Wings and their success. Let's face it, the Red Wings are that guy in the office you can't stand to be around because he has the nice car, the nice apartment, the better cell phone, and that poisonous smile that you just want to sucker punch at lunch time while he eats from his expensive Tupperware containers. If you're not a fan, you're tired of hearing about them and their success and their banners and their late round draft picks who keep taking the damn puck away from you. You're tired of it all, and you want this team buried in the standings.

But they just won't die. They aren't dead yet, and it kills you to know they are rebuilding on the fly and won't go down without snagging one more chance at the Stanley Cup. For those of us grounded in reality in Motown (the figurative one that the global fan community belongs to), we get it. We knew a season like this was coming. We knew a trade deadline would loom and there would be a market the Red Wings couldn't get anything done in because it was time to stop trading away youngsters and draft picks. 2013 was the year Ken Holland said "ain't nobody got time for that". (Note: he didn't say that. But we were all thinking it.)

Deadline Day 2013 was a perplexing array of trades that, on paper, would be wholeheartedly rejected by fan communities. If you want a(n in)comprehensive look at what it means to play "Dumbass Trade Roulette", check out Twitter or HFBoards' trade section, where nothing matters but your top five prospects and first round draft picks. Seriously, don't go there because you will hurt yourself tripping over the lopsided proposals. If you must, go with the understanding that it's all trolling and jokingly bad trade proposals. Otherwise your head will be spinning and you'll be vomiting up pea soup faster than you can say "Filppula for a 2nd round pick and a prospect".

Detroit didn't really participate in the deadline, unless you count missing out on JayBouw and sending Kent Huskins to a place that needed him far more than Detroit. I honestly wish him well and hope he finds a place in Philly. Last time we sent a player their it worked out well. Right, Ville Leino? I do love what you've done in Buffalo. Snark aside for a moment, Ken Holland didn't indulge the bizarre trade market this year in order to spare the prospects from doom elsewhere and preserve the draft picks the team desperately needs to refresh its roster. How many times can we re-sign Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson to contract and deny our gems like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist a chance to shine? I guess we'll find out in July.

A quick glance at Detroit's injured players, we see it includes the third-line center and penalty killing machine Darren Helm, the above mentioned Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson (more than one injury this season), Kyle Quincey, and now Henrik Zetterberg, although thankfully the captain is not going to miss a lot of time.

Well, that list includes, in a pessimistic analysis, two thirds of the third line, a second line RW, and our theoretical second pairing defenseman. We did just get Carlo Colaiacovo back, so when Quincey returns there's the second pairing finally back in one piece. Within a couple of weeks, Detroit will have its depth scoring back from its veteran wingers and hopefully special teams will see a boost from the speedy Helm.

So, did Detroit need to do anything at the deadline?

Nope. So we didn't panic and throw away our future for the sake of acquiring players that would cost a fortune in salary. I guess you should give Ken Holland an "F" for that effort.

If you thought the Red Wings would do something like throw a pupu platter of picks and prospects for Pominville or let a team grab a gob of our greenhorns for Gaborik, you can't see the forest for the trees here in Detroit. I'd lend you my glasses, but they're both dirty and unsuitable for people who lack depth perception. Pun entirely intended.

Now, I won't go far as to suggest a certain Patriarch of the Puck is barking up the wrong tree, because I adore him, but to consider an idle Detroit who are supposedly a "win-now team" the only true failure among a class of 30 teams is folly. To punish a team desperate for a rebuild who chose not to buy up pieces in a patchwork job is folly. Detroit can no longer afford to give their young stars the boot to other teams looking to sell assets because they've done it for too long. The magical spring of Datsyuks and Zetterbergs has run dry. There's plenty of great prospects in the system, despite the tired trope of Red Wings fans over-hyping their future players, and there's no reason to toss aside a plan for a rebuild just to continue a playoff streak that is neither the longest in NHL history nor relevant in the modern age of hockey. 21 seasons is playoffs is impressive. Four Stanley Cups is impressive. Remaining competitive is impressive. You know what's more impressive? Bouncing back from a bad season immediately to rise back up the standings. I'm looking at you, Montreal.

Detroit's recovery begins now that they have secured their own 2013 first round draft pick. Here's hoping it can be used to draft someone with offensive firepower, or perhaps that top pairing defenseman we pine for. Really, one could argue the recovery began symbolically by landing college free agent Danny DeKeyser. It's still exciting that the kid chose the Red Wings when 29 other teams were competing.

As a final thought to Deadline Day, I'd like to adress the most frustrating element of the last two weeks: the status of Valtteri Filppula. Many fans, myself included, have questioned whether Filppula will return to the Red Wings next season. You can sniff around the internet to see that there's been all sorts of quotes about how that's not the focus of Filppula or management right now, but reality is he is looking for a two million dollar per season pay increase. As I pondered this week on Twitter, what has Filppula done since his last contract to warrant a pay hike like that? He had a fantastic 2011-2012, scoring over sixty points for the first time. Jubilation all around Motown. This season, Filppula has looked well defensively, but his offense is paltry, netting six goals and thirteen points in 29 games. As a reference point, six Red Wings have more goals than the Finnish playmaker, including now-top line superstar Justin Abdelkader (maybe a little sarcasm there). It hasn't been a good year for Filppula to show he's worth the 5 million a year, long term deal he's looking for. What should Ken Holland do?

Some suggested we trade Filppula today to get maximum value for him before he walks for nothing. In theory, that's an excellent idea. Today proved to be a bizarre deadline where great players were sent to strange places for curiously diluted packages. All due respect for the players traded for the Gaboriks and Pominvilles, I'm still scratching my scalp. In the end, Holland didn't pull the trigger and that can give us some insight into the Filppula situation. Perhaps he wasn't moved because he's never going anywhere. There could be a plan to keep him. Or it's a gesture of hope that he will resign for a more reasonable amount of money. Or Ken Holland just couldn't get value for him. We'll never know because it makes no sense for Holland to let on that he shopped a guy we kind of want to re-sign.

As another deadline day passes and all the major sports networks pack up their big sets and the poor bastards who had to spend 14 hours covering this dull affair get some rest from their mobile phones, take solace in the fact that the Detroit Red Wings are no worse than they were yesterday. In fact, if you think about it, they're better than they were a week ago. And in two weeks when all of our players aren't beaten up with injures, they'll be better than they are now.

I can live with that.

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