I know Mac has his ups and downs with additction, but I think his fighting skills were at their best after spending that glorious summer of 02 booze-free and working out in a boxing gym. I saw Grinder that summer, and Mac was sober and ripped like Bruce Lee (I was drunk off my gourd and lugging a corresponding beer gut; both issues have since been rectified). During the 02-03 and 03-04 season, he was literally wrecking opponents as I saw him drop guys and bust heads open often by landing a single hit. Mac hits very very hard, and fast. I've heard through grapevines that the lockout season didn't go too well for Darren as far as staying clean was concerned, but hopefully his new job with Calgary will help him get back on track.
I grudginly acquiesce to the economic realities of the NNHL and the subsquent moving on of Mr. D Mac, but he is exactly the kind of player we need, someone who can beat the horses*** outta anyone that calls for it, and still skate well, play some defense, and maybe even chip in a goal or 2 once in a while*.
To sate this need, we have a number of options, some more appealing than others, although the more appealing options tend to be the less possible.
1. Trade Datsyuk for someone affordable who can score as well as chuck em. Players like Brenden Morrow or Mark Bell, who have good hands for punching and scoring and are young enough to contribute to the future build of the team. Very efficient and effective when paired with option 2. This is my preferred option, but I doubt any GM, especially one from Chicago or Dallas, is gonna be falling all over himself to take on the headache that is Datsyuk and help us out in the process.
2. Daryll Bootland. Its been said that Boots hasn't been the same since getting his clock cleaned by Todd Simpson in December of 03. I'm of the mind that a big part of becoming a great fighter is getting your ass kicked once in a while, and that by now Boots is well past the Simpson beating. Bootland is also a competent checker and brings more than just the slug goon thing to the ice. Last season with Da GRG, Boots had 14 goals, 20 helpers, and a whopping 336 PIM, finishing +5 to boot (sorry). Not too shabby. This is the most likely option to materialize, and I don't think we'll be too bad off with just Boots, but I'd feel more comfortable with some additional muscle of course.
3. Sniff around teams with cap issues. Problem is, if we sign Datsyuk, we have cap issues of our own. If not, this approach could land a player somewhere betwen the caliber of option 1 and the following option. NJ doesn't have much to offer in the way of forwards who can throw without being a liability that I know of. Other teams may, but no one comes to mind at the moment.
4. Aquire by trade or UFA a classic goon, who contributes nothing but fists to the mix. Now, I like me some fightin, but I also think that the age of the dedicated brawler has long since passed. The Wings would be better served to rely on Boots and Babcock-inspired team toughness than to burn a roster spot and even NNHL minimum wage on any such burden.
* with Patrick Roy now retired, Darren McCarty will never again score a hat trick.