Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Modano signing imminent, blind faith "IHWT" waining in Sunny SoCal

Updated 8/5/10: Reports are furiously flying that the 40 year-old Mike Modano will announce his signing with the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday, Friday making the long journey home to his birthplace ostensibly to finish out his career. Flags will waive, the Franklin High School Band will play in the parade down 5 Mile in Livonia, I will pretend to fondly remember the days of growing up at the same time and in the same town as one of the NHL's finest. B-Raf will take him to Eddie Edgar for a spin around the rink, then maybe to Perani's for some reminiscent skate sharpening. Afterward, they will go grab a beer at the Bench Pub or the Post. Michigan will welcome another of her most talented sons back into the fold.


I don't get it. I don't like it, I don't think we need him.

There. I said it out loud and it felt great.

(caveat: If it turns out he's looking to return to Michigan for family or personal reason, I will withdraw my complaints.)

But as it stands, I mean it:  I don't get it.

 True, true, I am not one to ever question the decision making process of Wyle Kenotye Holland, Mr. Ilitch or the perpetual juggernaut that is the RWO. Even as I stick stubbornly to my guns, I know I am going to have to take a trip to the penalty box at the Joe, confess my sins  and say three "Our Pashas", and four "Hail Lidstroms" just for having the audacity to write this blog.

And it absolutely goes without saying that I have not paid enough attention to the UFA machinations this summer, but no matter. I have to get this off my chest. (You can thank our good friend JHRangers for lighting this fire under my tail this morning.)

I don't get or even like the way the Wings have chased Mike Modano. I don't like the signing. I think its a mistake. I think its a waste of money as I don't see the cost-benefit trade off.

Hold on one sec, while I find my little red and white rosary, the one with the Steve Yzerman Bobblehead hanging from its end. I have some penance to carry out, sure. But before I bow my head under the Octo-alter,  let me 'splain myself.

Here are my issues:

1. Modano doesn't really fill a crucial need. Wings don't really have a hole at center.
2. Modano doesn't fit the typical Wings "Charity Contract" mold.
3. There are several other cheaper younger centers, scorers and forwards out there with stellar talent if we really think we need offense
4. We have a problem on defense and there were a couple of amazing defensemen who were up for grabs at bargain prices.

The Typical Wings Charity Contract

First, its not fair to label anything a "Charity Contract", because this is actually a strategy that I adore, and furiously maintain is one of the Wings most brilliant tricks in their considerable bag.  I used the phrase "Charity Contract" because I am rushed and being lazy. Forgive me Stevie, for I have sinned.

Almost every year, the Wings take a look at the UFA list and find that one exceptionally talented guy hitting the tail end of his prime years, whose never hoisted a Cup, whose so damn hungry you can see little silver trophies in his dilated pupils. Most often its a guy whose on clearance, in the 1 to 1.5MM range.  Wings sign them to a one year deal and flash that brilliant Red Wing smirk first perfected by Mr. Scotty Bowman.  Pick your favorite, we have some awesome contributors: Dallas Drake, Marion Hossa (not so much a clearance price, but still damn hungry), Slava Fetisov, DINO Cicarelli (who didn't actually win a Cup), Luc, Gilchrist, Cheli.  Bringing Ozzie back also classifies.

How fricking smart is it to find that one guy whose considered a great player, but near the end of his career without ever seeing a Cup? The chance to join a team with a perennial shot at Stanley will give that guy the youngest legs of his life. His experience and drive and hunger will motivate and guide the younger guys.

And Bonus: Its a very cool thing to do for the player.

So who was/is available that fits this bill in 2010?  Not Modano. He got his Cup. Frankly its bizarre that he's even available, having been a  Minnesota-Dallas Star lifer and a Wings nemisis, semi perennially since the late 1990's. Shame on Dallas! Would Colorado send Joe "Snow Blower" Sakic to Detroit? HEDHS-NO!  Sure Big Mo' hasn't seen a Cup since 1999, but he's 40- he probably doesn't even realize it.

I'll tell you who  better fits the Charity Contract bill: Shane Doan.

Ok fine, so Doaner is not a UFA, or available on the cheap... small details. That is the guy. I want Shane Doan for the Wings. When is his contract up? Stay tuned. Doaner might play in the Winged Wheel once he hits 37-38.

Ok, back to business. What UFAs were available this year under 3MM, late thirties, talented, without a Cup that fit the bill?

Brendan Morrison, that is who. Keith Tkachuk might have been lured out of retirement for a chance at the Cup, he was on fire last year. FIRE! Slava Koslov (Yes I know he's raised the cup, so had Hasek, Cojo, Hull and Ozzie).

Even better- Sean O'Donnell was available. we'll discuss this more later on. 

Mike Comrie I like less, but lets face it if the guy is ever gonna live up to his potential, its almost now or never. Guys like Conroy and Derek Armstrong were also available on the cheap.

No.  I am not throwing Jody Shelly into this lot. I think Shelley is a dirty player, although with our weakness at Defense, we could probably use a thug or two. I'd take Shelley for Z's line if he can be turned into a Bertuzzi.  (Did ya ever think you'd hear that come out of my head?)

We don't need scoring, leadership or a star. We need someone to create holes for Pavel and Z to get through.

Admittedly our second line needs a strong center, but with the return of Happy, and today's announcement that Darren Helm has signed a 2 year contract, the Hudded Helm Line will RIDE again, making our 3rd line indestructible.   I was ready to patiently allow Darren Helm to grow into that 2nd line center role with those ultra speedy legs. But now that Jiri is back, the Hudded Helm is going to blow people away this year. You watch:  Helm and Hudler on wing, with the only other player in the league that can possibly keep up with them, the one, the only,


this line is going to make FOOLS of people. Mark my words. The Wings' third line will be better than 29 other second lines across the league.

So, we don't need scoring at center, we need someone to open it up and let Z and D get through so they can score more, work defense less. I don't see Modano playing the Homer Role, and am perfectly happy with Dan Cleary and his talent. Can Modano mimic Bertz? Maybe, but he better stay on the 2nd line, and he better provide the body we need to give Z a bit of breathing room.  No way should he be allowed to take Homer's spot. The Homer-Datsyuk chemistry should be etched onto stone tablets and carried down from Mr. Ilitch's box to center ice. Dats-Homer-Bertz: first line. I am calling it.

Admittedly this is my weakest argument against the Modano acquisition, but here is where I am truly dismayed. Sure it won't hurt us to have him as our second line center, but dammit Janet, we need D-men.

Dismayed about the D in the D

 Obviously we did the only smart thing in resigning Nico. No credit is earned here because anything else would mark Redageddon, and the end of the Red Wing Order as we know it. Nic and B-raf still remain the best D-uo in the biz, no questions. Kronner and Stuie are solid and fantastic. but we fall apart thereafter, and Holland Forbid any of them get an injury. We need to build younger strong players to give Nico and B-Raf more rest. Even if they don't want it. Even if an older, tired, injured, ballspeared Nic Lidstrom is still better than 99 and 44/100% of the players in the league.

Frankly, we need our next Brad Stuart. Wings also need to build up a younger D-patrol, but our rooks are not ready. Ericsson is... Well. Johnathan, he's... Young and big. That is all I will say at this point.

So what do we do? We let Lebda go and looks like we are leaving Andreas on the sidelines (no comment). Even though I am not the biggest Lebda fan, signing Modano while letting Lebda go to Toronto and not signing Lilja, without filling the hole we have in defense, is - in my opinion-

A mistake.

So what D-men were available this year, say in the 2-2.5 MM, no age limit, hungry for a Cup:

Well, Derek Morris for starters. Adrian Aucoin at second. Look. I know I am bringing up Coyotes far too often, but here is the thing: I saw them up close and personal in the playoffs. I saw the hunger. I saw a group of guys who had a taste of blood- who thought they could upend the greatest hockey franchise of the past 30 years, in the first round. A group of guys with a fire lit.

But if we shift from the land of Az, the real defensive steal this year was Sean O'Donnell. I  watched Sean for 2 royal years, as a King and watched him and his mighty mighties take the 2007 confy from us. He was a huge part of the Kings recent rapid ascent into respectability. He's strong, and smart, and wants to win. When he got to Edmonton, he was quickly turning heads, making a name. I am certain that the only reason his spark was snuffed is that the Oilers plummeted in the second half of the 2010 season with less grace than MA Fleury hitting the ice.

Wings should have picked up O'Donnell. He was cheap too!

On a side note, who the hell is Kim Johnsson and why the Fawk is he worth 5.3MM? Seriously. I thought I knew this league, but I absolutely don't know who this is. I realize admitting this exposes the fact that I did not pay one ounce of attention to the Chicago Blackhawks this year, but honestly, that is not a flaw- its the norm for the entirety of my hockey fan career.

Seriously, who is he?

Incidentally, "Fawks" is my new nickname for the BlackHawks- as in "Faux Hawks" as in "fakes". Meet the Fawkers everyone...

In sum and back on point, the fervor with which Coach Babcock chased Mike Modano publicly is a conundrum and and frustrating oddity since the Wings typically play their trade and UFA cards close to their chest. It honestly baffles me and I don't get it. I don't know why Wings are ignoring defense and piling up offense.

I can only say this- hopefully I will be proven wrong, and the Wings will see a SCF series again this year. 

Now, if you will excuse me, I have about 10 more Hail Lidstroms and 3 Our Pashas to complete before the season begins.

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