Yes I understand there are parts of what follows that could be in about 5 different threads, but this is addressing all of the issues in one thread so bare with me here.
The first thing we all have to do is the easy part: identify the problems. There are several. We need to improve the D. Both defensively and offensively. But our biggest issue is our O. The problems with our O have been talked to death around here and elsewhere. lack of front of net guys, lack of guys working the corners, lack of guys working behind the net. lack of physical play. This year lack of shooting. The second half of the year G has been an issue. Howard was bad in January and lately Mrasek has not been sharpe-he might just be tired.
Now the harder part, fixing the problems. It is impossible to move/get rid of everyone that we should. In a cap world you can't just cut everyone that isn't performing. So this will take time. We have at least 2 more years of making changes ahead of us. I think most of us understand that we all just differ as to how we need to do it. Some want to tank and get the top 10 picks, others hope we can just keep patching holes and be better than everyone else at drafting. The former is a tough pill to swallow and the second is naive.
There are some players on this team that right or wrong are not going to get traded or cut. Z, Datsyuk, Abby, Kronwall and maybe Ericsson are here until they choose not to be or their contracts expire. There are some others we just will have to wait it out like Green.
So let's start with my thoughts.
1. We have a top line. Let Z-datsyuk-abby play together until retirement. They have alwasy been a good group and will continue to be, even though they are slowing down.
2. Second line starts with Larkin and Mantha. Find them a wing that can match their skill.
3. 3rd line should be Jurco-AA-Tangradi for next season. 2 young guys and a journeyman that does a few things well-like play in front of the net. Tangradi is here until Scvechnikov is ready in a year or 2.
4. The 4th line is made up of Sheahan and Glendening and whatever good skating checker we choose. be it from GR or sign a cheap UFA like Mike Martin to fill out the 3rd spot. Bring Miller back for one more year as the 13th forward.
5. Everyone else not listed above is allowed to walk as a UFA or becomes trade bait. There is only one hole left in the forward group. But we have guys like Nyquist, tatar, and Pulk that can be moved.
6. Plan on keeping 8 Dmen next year. My top pair would be DD and ????. The second pair would be Kronwall and Marchenko, with Ericsson and Green on the third pair. Oullett and Sproul are the 4th pair-otherwise we risk losing them via waivers. That leaves Smith as a tradable piece. 1 hole left to fill on the blueline.
7 G is Mrasek and find a new veteran backup. This means Howard can be moved.
By doing this we have 3/4 holes to fill: 2nd line winger, checking winger for the 4th line, top pair Dman,and backup G. But we have Nyquist, tatar, Pulk, Smith, and Howard as trade pieces. We would also have a large amount of cap space if those 5 are in fact moved if we decide to enter the UFA market.
Now the hard part. Filling the holes. We have to find dancing partners and more importantly we have to have a GM that looks and tries to make moves.
The very first move I would try to make is call the Jets and Islanders and put together a 3 way trade. Something along the lines of: Howard, tatar, and jensen to the Isles, they send Halak to us and hammonic to the Jets, and the Jets send Trouba to us. Halak becomes our vet G and Trouba gets paired with DD to develop as our top pair. That fills 2 of our 4 holes, the money washes out for everyone, and everyone gets a little better.
Now we can take Nyquist and Smith and try to work a deal for the second line winger to fill that hole. Our we can stand pat play Nyquist and move Smith for a pick. Same with Pulk.
This summer we then draft Gauthier and give him a year or 2 to get ready. After the 2016/17 season Scvechnikov replaces Tangradi who can then be traded. The following year Gauthier replaces Jurco.
Of course the big question is who replaces datsyuk in the summer of 2017?
There are rumors-yes I know, that he may be available. The Stars are looking for upgrades on D. Nill and Holland have worked trades in the past. IF he is available this is a guy I go after hole heartedly. Guys like him are the future of the NHL. 6-4/210 with great speed and skill. He is still very young and learning how to play at the NHL level. He was in the same draft year as Mantha. If he was added to the mix we have a real talented group of F's: Larkin, AA, Mantha, Nichushkin, Svechnikov, to go along with Tatar, Nyquist, and Sheahan and maybe Frk and Pulk.
Now Dallas wants D help for their playoff run. Ok we give them some. Start with Smith. Throw in KFQ and maybe a F prospect or 2 not named Mantha, Larkin, AA or Svechnikov. Point is we can make this happen. This gives Nichushkin over a year of playing with his idol Datsyuk to learn from.
I have typically started these around the first of the year, so off to the races!
Before we get into the draft a quick review of the organizations strengths and weaknesses.
Strengths: we have a ton of guys that can skate, handle the puck, and shoot the puck. F's and Dmen. RHers and LHers. We have a very good pipeline of young F's on the team or that will be here soon.
Weaknesses: Very little G depth and while we have several good young Dmen, most lose their waiver protection next summer and have to stay with the Wings or risk being lost. There are 2 types of players that the organization lacks completely: Front of net forwards that can screen a goalie, deflect shots, bang home rebounds and pound on the other teams D behind the net and in the corners. We also have 0 Dmen that can clear the crease and pound on the other teams F's behind our net and in the corners. We need some Dave Backes type forwards and Marc Staal type blueliners. Another G prospect in this draft is a must and if a good C is available in case one of Larkin, Sheahan, or AA don't pan out that would also be wise with Datsyuk down to his last year-next season.
Picks available: we have our 1st, 2nd, no 3rd, and then the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th. Yes there is a chance that Tor could give us the 3rd they owe us this year for signing Babcock, but most expect that to happen next season.
Standings: as of today Washington is running away with the EC at 56 points. There are 9 teams between 40 and 46 points including us in the EC. I said before the season that we would once again finish between 6th and 10th in the EC. To date nothing has changed that opinion. Add in the teams from the WC and the best guess is we will be drafting once again between 14 and 22. We will either just make the PO's or just miss making it, we are talking about a 4 point swing one way or the other. Yes it is possible we have tragic injuries and fall apart-unlikely or that we could get red-hot and make a deep run-also unlikely IMHO. So the 14th to 22nd spot seems about right-as of today.
One last thought. The last 3 1st round picks (Mantha, Larkin, and Svechnikov) are 6-4, 6-1, and 6-2 respectively. They average out to 6-2.5 inches tall.
Now for some names to watch for by round, starting with the 1st.
Julien Gauthier RW 6-3/225 from VDO. He is the perfect front of net player. Currently he has 29 goals and 8 assists in 33 games. All of his goals come from inside of 15ft. he is actually a very good skater with good speed. he just loves to play the Holmstrom type of game and is very very good at it. ISS has him as the 11th best player in their December ranking. Most mock drafts have him going from 15th to 25th. He is a RHed shooter as well. That would balance out Mantha or Svechnikov who are both LHed.
Logan Brown C 6-5/220 from Windsor. very good 2 way Cman. Think a taller version of Sheahan with slightly better offensive abilities. A future 50 point guy and solid 2/3 C in the NHL. ISS had him ranked at 8th in December, but every mock draft has him lower than that. Most in the 18th-20th range.
Nathan Bastien C 6-4/210 from Miss. Another good 2 way C but with better offensive upside than Brown. He started this season rated as a late 2nd round guy/early 3rd round. But his offensive game has shown up and he is a big riser. He was 22nd by ISS in december. Most other sites haven't updated yet and are still showing him in the second/third round.
Markus Niemelainen D 6-5/200 from Saginaw. finnish Dman who skates well and plays good D. Have yet to see a scouting site/service that doesn't have him in the top 30. 25th is the average spot of his rankings. Most Finnish defenders tend to have a physical side to their game.
I would be fine with any of those 4 guys. My hope is Gauthier. he fits our biggest need and would complete an awesome top line down the road. If taken we could have the following 2 top lines:
Svechnikov-Sheahan-AA or AA-Sheahan
That could be 2 very good lines.
I will do the second round a bit later. There are more Dmen that fit our needs better in the second than in the 1st. Most of the 1st round Dmen are smaller guys that are good puck movers. Not the crease clearing guys we need to find.
These numbers show it about as clear as possible. Nobody plays at a static level every day/week/month/season. All players are up and down. So far our G's have done it perfectly. When Howard is up Mrazek is down, when Mrazek is up Howard is down.