Well, I guess that's it, then. The rebuild is upon us.
I can't say I'm happy with it, but it is what it is.
I'm extremely frustrated with Holland's choice to stand pat, but I can also begin to understand. He wants to build this team again. We entered the twilight of this franchise's success in 2009 and now it's finally over.
We're committed to youth. Our farm system is extremely boom-or-bust, but it's all we have. Or are we? We still employ the likes of Cleary, Bertuzzi, and Samuelsson. Three contracts that could be used on young talent. But no.
So, what do we do going forward? I'll start with right this second and go into the beginning of next season. I'll touch slightly on the draft and free agency. I don't know what the market will look like come "Opening Day" and I'm not in-tune enough with the world of hockey prospects to really make a sensible draft list.
I'm doing this operating under the assumption that we make the playoffs. Missing the playoffs wouldn't change much as far as core needs and tasks, anyways.
Well, here we go.
- Begin contract talks with Filpulla. DO NOT go in with a "sign-or-let-walk" attitude. If his demands are unreasonable (I would consider pretty much what he's making now to be reasonable, given his production), be prepared to move his rights at the Draft.
- Finish Howard's extension. While he is prone to inconsistency and lets in soft goals on occasion, he's the best we have. He's probably worth around 4-5 million a season. He's playing well right now and seems to have put last year's injury behind him.
- Go into the playoffs and do what you're going to do. Allow our current rookies to show what they can do in the playoffs.
- When all is said and done, go to work. It's time to trim the fat. Use cap-compliance buyouts on Samuelsson and Bertuzzi. Try and move Colaiacovo at the Draft, if possible.
- This is the big one: dangle Franzen at the Draft. By no means am I saying to absolutely move him for whatever someone shoves under your nose. I'm saying to dangle him. See what you can get. If you find an offer that you can't refuse, take it. He's aging, inconsistent, soft, and doesn't use his size. He's not a player that will perform well in the East.
- As far as draft strategy, size and scoring need to be the focus. The East is a totally different monster from the West. We're going to get eaten alive in the first couple of seasons. Find a sniping power-forward who plays with an edge and a big, strong, right-handed defenseman early on. Fill out the draft with some good two-way guys. We need all the effort at both ends of the rink we can get.
- After the Draft and everything settles down until the re-sign period, sit down and have a REAL heart-to-heart with Datsyuk. I don't care what BS the media spews about him wanting to leave after this contract. I want to hear it from his mouth. If he does indeed intend to leave, be prepared to make him available at the deadline and move him. Losing Datsyuk for nothing is absolutely unacceptable.
- Seriously re-evaluate your position on Brendan Smith. Let's be honest with ourselves. He hasn't been very good since his first few games after being called up. He's been invisible far too often. He makes a ton of mistakes and, quite frankly, isn't contributing offensively. This should affect your demands from him contractually when it's time to re-sign him. If he doesn't like it...tough.
- Now comes the re-sign period. Brunner needs to be the top priority. He shows a desire to go to the dirty scoring areas, and that translates to the East. While he is undersized, totally un-physical and hard to watch defensively, he scores goals. We can't afford to let that go. Get him for a reasonable raise (3 million should be fine, at the very most). Next, Kindl and Smith need new contracts. Neither realistically command a significant raise. 2.5-3 million each should be just fine. If not, I wouldn't go beyond 4 for either.
-Free-agency comes next. Waive bye-bye to Cleary and White. Completely unnecessary plugs who aren't much use anymore. Make Gustavsson available, and take whatever you can get for him. In what little we ask of him to do, he has been downright awful. Mrazek needs the experience. He deserves a chance to prove he can hold down the backup role. See if Miller can be re-signed for about what he's making now. If not, it's not a catastrophe to let him walk.
- Same strategy should apply to free agency as was applied to the draft. We won't have a whole lot of money to spend, so we're probably not going to be very active. We're screwed cap-wise with so many free agents. I'm going to do the rest of this assuming we aren't active.
- As we enter training camp, we now have 7 defenseman (Kronwall, Lashoff, Quincey, Smith, DeKeyser, Kindl and Ericsson), so there aren't many open spots. None of our defense prospects are close to being ready. I can see Lashoff being the 7th defenseman during the season.
- Forward is a little trickier. Put Abdelkader in the bottom-6 where he belongs and keep him there. He is not, and never will be, a goal-scorer. There are three openings now that Cleary, Bertuzzi, and Samuelsson are gone. Tatar should be brought up full-time. No one else is really NHL-ready. Try to find two young forwards with size and decent offensive skill on the market. I can see us going with a lineup looking like this:
Filpulla - Datsyuk - Franzen
Tatar - Zetterberg - Brunner
Nyquist - Helm - Abdelkader
Miller - Andersson - Tootoo
Kronwall - Ericsson
Smith - DeKeyser
Kindl - Quincey
- Be prepared to call-up Jarnkrok, Pulkinnen and Sproul during the season if injuries hit. They aren"t ready for full-time duty, but could hold down a spot for us.
And that's about it right through the start of the season. Essentially, it's about cleaning up the mess from last offseason and getting serious about installing a youth movement to me.
I do NOT want to go the way of Calgary, Buffalo, and Dallas. Middling in the middle while you try to rebuild on the fly DOES NOT WORK. We can get back on the road to winning consistently if we cut the over-loyal BS and start managing in the 21st century.