For the first time, in a long time, the Detroit Red Wings struck out in free agency. For years they would poach away other teams captains & stars. Things have changed. Now there’s a salary cap, which hinders the Red Wings from throwing money at any and everybody.
This summer they wanted a right-handed defenseman who could score. They made offers to Matt Niskanen (signed with the Capitals), Dan Boyle (signed with the Rangers) & Stephane Robidas (signed with the Maple Leafs).
Why did the Red Wings come up empty? Was it the roster? Too many young players? Perhaps it’s head coach Mike Babcock. His harder-than-usual coaching style can’t be too attractive to players with fragile egos who just want to get rich. Whether it’s on a winning team or not.
“The game has changed” general manager Ken Holland said. “Players can go wherever they want. We all have the same money because of the cap. We made some pitches. Those players chose to go elsewhere.”
So now they look to the future. The Wings have some stars in the waiting room. The problem is having to wait for them to develop. However, if it’s one thing the Red Wings know how to do it’s to develop players.
First, there’s Xavier Ouellet. He’s a talented defenseman who is great on both ends of the ice, even though his skating could be improved. He can man the advantage line and will only get better as he gets more experience.
Ryan Sproul made an appearance this season for the Red Wings, but it was only a 1-game stint. However, in the 2012-13 season he won the Max Kaminsky Trophy of the Ontario Hockey League by scoring 66 points in 50 games.
Alexey Marchenko is a defenseman’s defenseman. His playing style is very aggressive. He doesn’t score much, but his sole reason for playing is to not let the other team score.
Mattias Backman has great vision on the ice. He rarely makes a bad pass, and can score when needed. At 6’2, he’s a pretty good skater and is pretty agile.
The defensemen the Red Wings seek aren’t too far away from making a difference in the NHL. They just have to be patient while they develop in the minor leagues. The growing pains might be rough, but every team has to go through a rebuild at some point. The once veteran-laden team has almost all retired & moved on. It’s time for the kids to take over the team and lead the franchise into a new era.
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