It's almost like there's this cosmic plan unfolding. That the universe has "course-corrected" so that we can not only acquire a top-four defenseman, but do so comfortably. Think about it. The unreal number of injuries revealing four top-six-worthy kids in Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Jurco. Nyquist setting the world on fire. The kid line turning heads. Mantha - the kind of prospect any GM would kill for - being handed to us on a silver platter and then silencing his critics with a monster season. The six young NHL-ready defensemen, all of whom are looking like former first-round picks. Tyler Bertuzzi having the season he had. Glendening showing his mettle against Stamkos and Crosby. Athanasiou looking like a potential top-sixer. Pulkkinen tearing it up for the Griffins. DeKeyser choosing the Wings. A team like, I dunno, the Sens would probably love to have Andersson or Almqvist or Callahan or Ferraro.
Full credit to Team Holland on this front. Having this many promising young assets while always making the playoffs and never picking in the top twelve and never rebuilding - it's incredible, absolutely incredible. But my point is, it almost seems too perfect, doesn't it? It's like this had to happen. Is there perhaps some defenseman out there who's supposed to become a Wing and help lead us to glory? Or is the idea that we truly have all we need, and those special players - say, Ouellet and Pulkkinen - are going to rise to the surface this season and turn us into a contender?
Maybe I have it backwards with my Holland bashing. Maybe the bold, risky course of action is pushing for that one last Cup for Datsyuk using only what we have. I guess the argument could be made that anyone can pull off a trade, but not just anyone can amass the kind of young talent we have in our system. Hmmm.
To be clear, I'm not saying we need to sign Dan Boyle. Even if he's game for a two-year deal with us (not likely), I believe we can do better. That's where I really agree with you, kip. We can do better, at least in theory. We have tons of assets. We have about as much cap space as we're ever going to have (because this is about as close to rebuilding as we're going to get). We can get that top-four defenseman on the right side of 30.
I get wanting to hold on to your prospects, but we're looking at a logjam anyway. Kindl, Lashoff, Almqvist, Ouellet, Sproul, Marchenko, Backman, Jensen, maybe even Smith - these guys are competing for, at absolute most, three spots.
The best argument against signing Boyle for more than one season is that, barring injury, only one of our kids is going to get a legitimate shot over that span of time, assuming Smith isn't traded. I can respect that. At the same time, you have to weigh it against pushing for the Cup. It's not that I don't think we can push for the Cup with a couple of kids on the back end. I just think it's unlikely, versus what we might get from a name talent. Yeah, Boyle isn't the player he once was, but he's still valuable.
The Wings aren't on the same level as the Sharks. We could really use a Dan Boyle. How does having him on the second pairing for a couple years hurt us? Are we that high on our kids that we feel we need Ouellet and Marchenko taking the hypothetical two spots available or we're not going to be able to compete for the Cup?
Kronwall, Ericsson, DeKeyser, Smith, a kid, someone from the outside. That's probably what our blue line should look like next season. If that someone from the outside is Dan Boyle, that's not a bad thing. If he falters, he gets hurt - then guess what: we can bring up a kid. Win-win.
At the time, Nyquist + Smith + a 1st would've been borderline insulting. "We want your cornerstone defenseman, but we don't want to give up a key roster player to get him." Or, basically, "I think you might be an idiot."
He has steadily improved over the past two years, and I strongly believe he will be a top pairing defenseman in the near future. Only time will tell...
Smith's a top-pairing defenseman right now, though, admittedly, it's a learn-from-the-master situation. Still, he was one of our better players in the Boston series. He largely restored my confidence in him by playing to his strengths. He's got size, he's not afraid to use it, he's an exceptional skater, and - as long as he keeps it simple - he's one of our better puck-movers on the back end. I think if he gets time on the power play and first pairing, his production skyrockets and he becomes a legitimate asset in our top four. Might as well put him in a position to succeed and find out if he can do it, provided he remembers to keep it simple.
Ouellet playing to me means that they think XO is safer. Which he is. He is great defensively, very reliable. I still look at our defense and see one of the worst groups in the NHL in terms of offensive play. I don't know where we ended up but I know at one point this seasons we were close to last in the league in points from our D. We have no one to man our 2nd PP, heck I don't even think Kronwall is that great at manning the 1st PP. XO doesn't help with that, neither does Marchenko.
We do need more "O" from our "D," particularly with the man advantage. But Almqvist isn't our only option, even if we don't sign or trade for a top-four guy. On the roster, Smith should probably be seeing time on the power play. Of the kids, Sproul stands out as a bona fide weapon with the man advantage.
The New School is size, mobility, and being good with the puck. The concern with Almqvist is that he's neither big nor an especially good skater. (And he's not very good on the defensive side of the puck.) So, even when he's quarterbacking the power play (which is pretty much the only situation where he's not going to be a liability), if he gets caught flat-footed at the blue line and coughs up the puck to a speedy NHL PKer, he doesn't have the skating to be able to bail himself out. That was an issue with Alfredsson this season.
They better add a bag of pucks to make that deal more fair.
In all seriousness, if anyone here seriously expects the team to look much different going into next season will be disappointed. Mantha will be in the AHL, there will be no big trades, any FA additions will be older players on short term deals with moderate cap hits.
Normally, I'd fully agree. But I'm hoping the frustration Z and D have expressed, and the way we were torched in the first round by a team we absolutely can't compete with without making a major change or two, and the wealth of tradeable assets, and the significant chunk of cap space we should be clearing up, and Babs calling our recent playoff futility a "five year drought," and our core only having a few good years left...I want to believe Kenny will approach things differently this summer. I'm hoping there's an honest push to really, truly compete for Lord Stanley's Cup, as opposed to making the playoffs and treating everything past that point as a bonus.
Actually, the thing that really gives me hope is the Kings' run. One of my absolute pet peeves is referencing their 2012 run as this magical Cinderella story that nobody could've predicted because they were the eighth seed. Bulls***. They won because they were an incredible team. Now they're proving it wasn't a fluke. They're proving you have to be really f****** good to be a dominant postseason team and a true perennial contender.
I'll be rooting for the Rangers 110% (sorry, haroldsnepsts), but I won't be devastated if the Kings win it. I certainly won't be shocked. (Who's actually picking NY to win this? Aside from their fans and people who don't watch Western Conference hockey.)
I'm expecting Kopitar to have a really huge series. With all due respect to the Blueshirts, they don't have a Toews or a Kane. The weight has been lifted, the shackles loosed.
What a matchup tho. Best goalie in the world in Lundqvist (IMHO), best defenseman in the world in Doughty (IMHO), Carter and St. Louis trading end-to-end chances back and forth with blinding speed, both teams are defense-first but can really open things up if necessary...this should be good. Realgud.