Saturday, June 07, 2008

Beat Detroit

Lowetide has a great post about Dan Cleary and his journey to Wednesday night's Cup win. Last week I was rereading Bill Boyd's Hockey Towns, which is a nice read if you can pick it up. In the book Boyd travels around Canada, talking hockey with scouts, players, ex NHLers, management of local teams and so on. A lot of great stories. One of the first chapters finds him in Peterborough where he watches the Petes play the Belleville Bulls.
Belleville's Daniel Cleary, a Newfoundlander, and highly thought of, disappointed Barrie and the other scouts tonight. "They say he came to camp fat and out of shape," Barrie says, "and he still shows it ... I can't understand a kid doing that. I wonder if they realize it's such a fine line between making the NHL and not. You won't always have your best game, but you've got to work hard out there, work hard every night. If not, you'll spend your career, if you have one at all, in the minors."
After the Cup had been awarded Cleary was being interviewed and referred to the fact that he came out of the lockout without a job, his career on the brink. If you remember back to April 2006 he played against the Oilers on the fourth line with Franzen and Maltby. Two years later he is a Cup champion, has two straight twenty goal seasons and a five year contract.
Detroit always had the money before the lockout but unlike the Leafs and Rangers, for example, they had the smarts too. Their drafts in the late eighties and early nineties laid the foundation for what is now a sixteen year run of excellent results. The money allowed them to keep their homegrown talent (if Lidstrom had been drafted by the Oilers he would have been long gone) and to sign those who they traded their young players for, for example Chelios and Shanahan. But it was the smarts that put together an organization that is second to none in terms of drafting and player development. Of the twenty players who were in Game six, plus Chelios and McCarty, fourteen were drafted by the Wings. Throw in Cleary, Samuelsson, Draper and Maltby as guys who were not highly sought after (you could likely add Osgood, McCarty and Drake in there as Wings' picks who were brought back). Who is left? Deadline pickup Stuart, oldsters Chelios and Hasek and one big UFA signing, Brian Rafalski.
The Wings have only Stuart as a guy who they might miss who will be a UFA this summer and Filppula as an important RFA. They have tons of cap room and plenty of young players on their way up. Next summer they will have to worry about Zetterberg and Franzen. Any doubts that Zetterberg will be signed by Labour Day?
Really until Lidstrom retires can anyone see this team fading? Even then? They don't win every year but in the last six seasons they have won the Cup twice and the Western representative in the Final has beaten them to get there. Last year they almost beat the Ducks despite losing two of their best three defencemen.
They don't win every year but this is the team to emulate. Excellent drafting and player development ensures a pipeline of good young, cheap talent, which is necessary these days. Success year after year makes your franchise a desired destination for free agents and means you can get players to take the discount.
Quick, is there anyone on the Wings who is overpaid? Is there anyone who they don't get value for? Maybe Hasek but he had good numbers and his contract is up anyways.
How about guys who are underpaid? Guys who outperformed their contracts? Osgood, Kronvall, Lidstrom (seriously), Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Draper, Cleary, Franzen, Drake, Samuellsson, Hudler, Filppula ... am I missing anyone?
That's how you build a winner.


doritogrande said...

Under the category of overpaid players, I'd venture Rafalski has a shot at that title were he not being paired with Lidstrom, but that's really, really reaching.

An open topic question: does Ken Holland make other GM's look bad, or do other GM's make Ken Holland look good?

Black Dog said...

I don't know dg - Rafalski is making a lot of dough, yes, but if he is overpaid its by a little, not a lot. Guy is a terrific player, imo.

As for your question, there are a lot of very good GMs out there but Holland needs to get his due as the best. Year in and year out. He makes very few mistakes. Also, its the organization though. Winning begets winning and a lot of very good hockey men have less power and money then they might have elsewhere because they like to win.

HBomb said...

If there was one guy in the entire league who could justify 20% of a team's total cap hit every year, it's Nik Lidstrom.

The gap between him and all but one of the other d-men in the NHL is ridiculous. The evil one who wears 25 for Anaheim is the only other guy with a (remote) case as best defenseman in the NHL.