I forgot to mention Ericsson. Ericsson doesn't produce much; he's a shutdown defenseman.
Kronwall is our only reliable point producer.
I truly feel as if Smith could jump to the 30-35 range next year, given some actual PP time. One of his biggest issues at the beginning of the year and prior was getting the puck out of the zone - boneheaded passes up the middle. He seemed to get away from that near the end, and especially when paired with Kronwall. More poise in the defensive zone and some time on the PP and I think this team has got another point producer.
Justin Bourne wrote a piece a little while back about the importance of having a cornerstone defenseman. He listed each team's #1 defenseman and divided the teams according to how they (the teams) ultimately fared this season. The point he was making is that the remaining playoff teams generally boast better #1s than the teams that have been eliminated, and the teams that have been eliminated generally boast better #1s than the teams that didn't make the playoffs. But what really struck me is that virtually none of the league's #1s are shutdown types. These days (maybe like always), a Truly Elite Defenseman is, basically, a two-way monster. He can defend, but maybe more importantly, he moves the puck exceptionally well and puts up lots-o-points. He drives possession, offense. He runs the power play...
I'm not saying Dan Boyle is one of the true elites. But he's a lot closer than a Luke Schenn. With Kronwall being excellent (though, not elite) in his own right, we don't necessarily need a true elite. We just need a guy who has that kind of ability. A guy like...Dan Boyle. After two years of Boyle, Smith would, hopefully, be a big producer, and Sproul (who I think has the potential to be a #1 in this league) would be ready to play big minutes. And even if Boyle gets hurt or seriously falters, well, that's an opportunity for one of the kids. So, to me, it's a win-win.
I think it's been pretty obvious in recent posts that I'm pro-Boyle, and I agree completely above the elite defenders. Doughty and Keith are there, McDonagh has turned into that guy. I don't think PK is that two-way monster, but Markov makes up for it. Regardless, those are the guys who dictate possession.
I also agree with the sentiment behind having Boyle mentor the other offensive defenders. I think Smith, Sproul, etc could learn from watching his poise, ability to hold the puck at the blueline and his puck movement. I'm not sure about the "Sproul being a #1 in this league" comment. I am a huge, huge Sproul fan, but I think his defensive game is definitely lacking. He's really at a crossroads right now where he needs to fill out and shore up his defensive game, or he could run the risk of developing a Cody Franson type game. That's the downside with him - an offensively driven big man who is prone to defensive lapses - a PP specialist. Right now I see Sproul as having a 2nd pairing guy kind of upside, but that could change, obviously. I for one really hope he rounds out into a two-way guy.
Whoa, I'm not being clear. I DON'T(edit) think we should tank on purpose. And I don't think we would if we let Sproul play rather than sign Boyle. I just think we should live or die with the young kids in the lineup. If we make the playoffs great. If not, they have a year's worth of experience for the next year.
The only way I'd be in favor of signing Boyle is if we were a really good team and that was the one thing we needed to put us over the top. It isn't. So I don't see what it would accomplish.
Fair enough. Perhaps I misread it, but I just say it as, "contend or s*** the bed with the prospects in the line-up". Again, I'm not saying it's Boyle or Sproul, I'm saying it's Boyle AND Sproul. I'm looking at vet-prospect/young player combinations. Kronwall-Smith, DeKeyser-Boyle, Ericsson-Sproul. One of Kindl or Lashoff can be moved or waived. Neither factors in on the future of this team's blueline.
I think there's a big difference between regular season experience, and playoff experience. This year kind of showed that - those kids helped this team into the post-season and then looked like deer in the headlights when they got there. I think the younger guys need that post-season experience, and I think this team has the potential to be better than last season's team. I don't think we have to live or die with the kids in the line-up, because I think that's how you deflate some of them. I think that's where they can look to a guy who has experience to calm them down, and follow his example.
I guess this is where we differ in our opinion on what Boyle would bring. I think he helps this team get into the post-season/boosts the PP, I think he helps guys like Smith, Sproul and Marchenko learn the ropes on the PP a bit better, and I think he helps DeKeyser develop into a more stable defender who, in two season when the kids are really ready, will be able to manage his OWN pairing with a younger player. I don't think the guy is the missing piece, but I do think he could have a positive impact on this team's future blueliners, and ease their transition into becoming responsible, reliable defenders in their own right.
OMG THAT'S TERRIBLE IT NEEDS MORE YOUTH OR WE'RE SCREWED
I'm sure I sound like a broken record, but this is my ideal defense corps for next season. Great balance there - saves the headache of seeing a forward play the right point on the PP (though, I think given the depth at forward, we'll still see one on the 2nd unit, left side) and gives the guys roles. Kronwall, Boyle and Sproul would be PP for certain, maybe some looks for Smith. PK would be Kronwall, Ericsson, DeKeyser and Smith.
I love his speed and the way he shoots the puck, but I don't see the Kings letting him go. As others have said, he seems to be pretty comfortable on Kopitar's wing. With the cap going up and guys like Mitchell and Greene coming off the books (or signing for a fair amount less there), LA will have every opportunity to keep Gabs. They could even move Williams to shore up some cap space and let Toffoli jump into their top 6 if it came down to it.
I appreciate Mantha's skill level, but I think the idea of him playing on the team right now is rushing it a bit. Unlike last season (where they expected veterans to "bridge the gap"), this year is going to be used to gauge where the young wingers (Nyquist, Tatar & Jurco) are at, and if they fit into the future plans of the team. As high on Mantha as Babcock is, he's also been really high on Jurco from some of the stuff I've read lately. My best guess at what the forwards look like going into the season:
Z-Dats-Abs (Hate it or love it, Babcock uses it)
Mule-Weiss-Nyquist (Assuming Weiss is healthy)
This is assuming Weiss is healthy, and Alfie doesn't return. If both guys are in Detroit, I could see Jurco starting the year in Grand Rapids (as there would be no room in the top 9). Otherwise, I see that as his spot to lose. I would honestly be amazed if Mantha cracked that top 9 - not because he isn't talented, but because I think it's a solid group of guys with some balance and he's going to benefit playing some AHL hockey.
As much as the guy frustrates me, I don't see how you just replace his points - especially with the lack of offense being generated from the D. He's not a 1st line guy, but he's a solid top 6 forward. It just pains people to watch him float and cool off for the long stretches that he does. Buying out Tootoo is the right move, and it allows him to find a job elsewhere.
I think it's easy to look at this season, perhaps the last two or so, and feel as if Kenny dropped the ball. Personally, I hate all the vet signing he's made. I think the Quincey trade was a big mistake. I feel as if he should listen to Babcock about certain aspects of this team (there seems to be some definite friction). I think he should have trusted the kids a bit more. If Jarnkrok stays in North America, I'm sour about that trade as well. It's easy to be upset with Kenny right now.
On the flip side, it's hard to argue against the drafting this team has done since 2008 - Kenny hanging onto all those picks has paid off. The team couldn't lure Parise-Suter over, but I don't think the blame can solely lie on Kenny shoulder's for that. It's a combination of destination, coaching and desired teammates. Maybe the team overestimate the allure of playing here, and they're realizing now that they're going to have to overpay to land a big name. That's reality now.
I think this team is in a good position to make some real changes. They've got cap space, some reliable older players and a cupboard full of prospects knocking on the door. Now if in the next 2-3 seasons he pushes this youth movement, makes a trade and can sign a big free agent or two, he redeems himself in my eyes. We have several assets - prospects can be flipped and some picks can be moved for legitimate players. Kenny has cards to play with now, and I'd like to see him actually play. Dropping the ball here would definitely sway me to the, "Good-Bye Kenny" side, but I'd also like to see what he does in this (favorable) situation.
I think the only circumstance where Mantha makes this team is if Alfie doesn't re-sign and he outplays Jurco big time. Then he might have a spot on the 3rd line. I wonder about Jurco's status with the team at the moment... I think he'll both have to prove he deserves a spot in camp for sure. Either way, I think he should play in the AHL to start the season - just my preference.
Some of the other interesting info on Twitter was about Babs' status with the team/Holland not allowing teams to talk to Blashill and the desire for a right-handed shot. I think that's a huge signal to Sproul and Marchenko, and a hint to guys like Quincey, Kindl and Lashoff. They've specifically praised the play of Smith and DK. I don't blame them for not getting into a bidding war over the thin market of UFA d-men - the only RH guy who will truly make an impact is Niskanen, and I'm sure he's going to command a good chunk of cash.
At this point, I think they could definitely use a stop-gap before Ouellet, Marchenko, Sproul, etc. come up to the big club. I don't want that stop gap to be Kyle Quincey again. Almquist should battle for a spot on the team in camp, and I think he could be an asset on the PP, even just for the short term. Lashoff has been running around too much lately, and I'm not sure how much management trusts him as an every day defender.
Out of the UFA crop I'd be willing to take a look at Meszaros, Orpik, Mitchell, Greene or Nikitin before I went with Quincey/Lashoff as a regular, even if it's just as a two-year transition period. I know some (maybe most) of those guys will be retained by their current team, but those are pretty much the five I'd take over the current situation. Worst case scenario, so long as Quincey moves on, I'd still be fine with some combination of Kronwall, Ericsson, Smith and DeKeyser as the top 4, with Kindl, Lashoff and Almquist rounding things out.
I just hope Kenny doesn't have some misguided sense of loyalty toward Quincey. He's a product of the team's development and they gave up a 1st for him... but he's still Kyle Quincey. Please, just let him go, Kenny.
I thought he had a pretty good game. He really is way too passive when he's on the rush - just shoot the puck.
I'd still like to see him get paired with DeKeyser, but that might be risky for DK's development. DK might be better off with Kronwall for now. This is where I would have loved to still have Stuart here. I think he would have made a great partner for Smith.
No to this guy yes he is big, physical and a SOB but he also shows absolutely no class and acts like a stupid agitator and never backs it up.
Even off the ice. I can't speak for anyone else, obviously... but Kassian has come back to Windsor several times since I've worked at a bar in the downtown sector. Every time I've seen him, he's been kind of a jerk. On one occassion, he walked up to me at the door, and we ID'd the people he was with (they looked younger). Long story short I got the, "do you know who I am?" and "Oh good, do you want my autograph?" treatment. I told him I could live without the signature, so he spent the rest of the night banging his bottles off the tables and staring me down. Good times.
Welp... Must have been a nasty break to be out that long. Big big loss down the stretch.
Really sucks to lose him. Seems like Detroit can't even catch a break on the length of injuries. It's never "progressing ahead of schedule". Ugh.
Almqvist has been called up
On the flip side, glad to see AA getting a shot. I personally hope they play him over Kindl and give him time on the 2nd PP unit. Let DeKeyser focus on being part of the top PK unit. If I remember right (correct me if I'm wrong), Lashoff-Almqvist played together at times last year in GR and complimented each other well.