If we can't bring in any big pieces, I'd be ok with this:
Henrik Zetterberg Pavel Datsyuk Tomas Jurco
Johan Franzen Stephen Weiss Gustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar Darren Helm Daniel Alfredsson
Drew Miller Riley Sheahan Justin Abdelkader
Niklas Kronwall Danny DeKeyser
Brendan Smith Jonathan Ericsson
Xavier Ouellet Brian Lashoff
That's far from ideal, though.
My concern lies with both our core and our youth. Our core boasts two of the best players in the world in Datsyuk and Zetterberg, but, honestly, that's sort of it - and they've both been showing signs of their age this season. I mean, Kronwall's great for us, but, objectively, he's a #2 on an elite team, and even on some non-elite teams. And he's getting older as well. I guess you could count Franzen as part of our core. And I guess our homegrown starting goalie counts. So, ok, it's Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kronwall, Franzen, Howard. But even if these guys were all in their prime and at the top of their game, we'd be facing quite an uphill battle for the Cup.
As for our youth, well, we have some nice pieces now and in the pipeline, but I'd be lying if I said I know without a doubt that we've got two or three future franchise players who will be more than capable of taking over for the likes of Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and The Ghost of Nicklas Lidstrom. DeKeyser's pretty good. Nyquist is pretty good. Tatar is pretty good. Jurco does have great potential, but he's only 21. Ouellet and Sproul have a long way to go before they're top-pairing talents in the NHL. Jarnkrok may bloom into a lesser Zetterberg, four years from now. Mantha may be our new Franzen, eight years from now. Pulkkinen is the only pure sniper we have in the system (I guess you could count Mantha as well), and, though I think he's better than many seem to think, he's probably not a future force-to-be-reckoned-with at the NHL level. Callahan is a fourth-line agitator.
True, Datsyuk and Zetterberg were unassuming prospects once. But, let's be honest: we got incredibly lucky with them. And not just because of the potential they had, but because they were able to ease into the NHL on stacked Wings teams, learn from future Hall of Famers, and not have to carry the weight of the organization on their shoulders until they were more than ready (and even then, we still had Lidstrom).
We're the Detroit Red Wings. We do field deep teams, but, in all honesty, our "modern dynasty" teams ran on overwhelming star power. Of our last four Cup-winning teams, the '08 team had probably the weakest core. That core was Datsyuk in his prime, Zetterberg in his prime, Franzen in his prime, Lidstrom (always in his prime), Rafalski, Kronwall in his prime, Hasek-Osgood, and The Grind Line guys. God Almighty.
This idea that any team that makes the playoffs can win the Cup is pretty much a crock. Yeah, the Kings were an eighth seed, but the dirty truth is that they were a damn good team all along that just struggled to score in the regular season. I mean, they steamrolled the Canucks and Blues and won the SCF in six. That's not the work of your typical eighth seed.
But I digress.
I mostly agree with what you guys are saying. I think, above all, we need a top-pairing defenseman. Again: last time we won the Cup, we had Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Kronwall (in his prime) as our top three. Currently? Older Kronwall, Ericsson, and DeKeyser. Ouch.
I think a top-six scoring winger is less important, but still necessary, if only because our main guys haven't been able to stay healthy, pointing to age and fragility. Hell, we're in a death race with the Flyers for points and a wild card spot, we're facing them tonight, and Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Franzen will all be out of the lineup. Further, we're not sure if our new second-line center will really pan out, which is a very serious issue because, beyond him, we don't have any other legitimate options for the role (not counting Zetterberg).
What do I suggest? I dunno. I think anyone who counts on free agency isn't with the times. The best UFAs re-sign, and the ones who don't are trouble and/or want much more than they're worth. Or they're like Suter and Parise and Clarkson and maybe Vanek: they know exactly where they want to go before they even hit the market. I mean, sure, maybe there's a guy who doesn't fall into any of those categories. But we can't count on That Guy existing and becoming a Red Wing.
As for big trades...it's an interesting situation. We have exceedingly few roster players who are both high-end and possibly tradable. Like, any team would probably love to have an Ericsson or DeKeyser, but Ericsson just signed an extension because he wants to retire as a Wing, and DeKeyser - who had been courted by all 30 organizations - chose the Wings. So, it'd be a horrible mistake to trade either of them, even for an incredible return. Datsyuk and Zetterberg and Kronwall are off-limits. Howard isn't going anywhere. Even if Holland wanted to trade Franzen, the contract and concussion issues and age - I don't see it happening. Nyquist won't be traded. Tatar won't be traded. Smith won't be traded. Helm won't be traded.
Beyond the roster, we have all of our picks and one of the better prospect pools in the league. But Holland is very, very, very, very big on the whole This Is How You Have to Do It in the Cap Era thing. (Or, at least, he gives that impression.) So, while I can maybe see him parting with our first-round pick (weak draft class), I have a hard time seeing him parting with any of our top prospects. Which is understandable. I mean, take Jarnkrok. He's probably our most promising prospect; GMs would be very interested in him. Trouble is, beyond "Iron Hook," we don't have any high-end centermen in the system. We would have to be getting, like, a Ryan O'Reilly in return. And, even then, what if Weiss doesn't pan out? What if Helm can't stay healthy? What if Datsyuk and/or Zetterberg really start to wear down?
Blah. I do have some ideas, but this post is already too long. I'll save it for a follow-up post.