Monday, June 15, 2009

Pool Outlook for Detroit

It was oh-so-close for the Red Wings in 2009, falling just a game short of winning it all again, but ending up losing to the Penguins in seven games for all the marbles. It was a fairly stacked team through the season, built to repeat their championship of 2008, but they were fallen by a young team, arguably destined to take the top of heap eventually. As for the regular season, there was no President's Trophy, but they did have plenty of individual successes, especially since they had nine players in the top 100 in pool scoring. The Red Wings showed that they are still a good fantasy team, regardless of their team outcomes.

Leading the way again for the Red Wings was Pavel Datsyuk, who finished with 32 goals and 65 assists (97 points) in 81 GP, ranking him 5th among all pool players in 2009. Datsyuk is again up for some trophy honours this season, including the Hart Trophy and the Selke, which makes him incredibly valuable going forward. As a fantasy player, he could be considered to be one of the top five picks, if not better, depending on how much you value some defensive statistics.

The Red Wings also benefitted from some other good season performances through the regular season. Henrik Zetterberg scored 31 goals and added 42 assists in 77 GP, finishing just below the point-per-game average, but should still be good for a high pick next season. Marian Hossa's season with Detroit included 40 goals, which is a good season no matter which way you cut it. Hossa finished with 71 points in 74 GP. Johan Franzen didn't quite have a dominating season, but he still managed 34 goals and 25 assists in 71 GP. Jiri Hudler rounded out the forwards in the top 100 in pool scoring with a 57-point effort in all 82 GP, which is a career high for him. Just in time, as he becomes a RFA this summer.

Two defenders finished in the top 100 in pool scoring with Detroit and it's exactly the two you would have expected. Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski both finished with 59 points in 78 GP, but Lidstrom had 16 goals, where Rafalski only had 10. They were reasonable seasons, but they weren't quite up to their top offensive selves through the year, finishing near the bottom of the top 100, whereas both of them can finish around the middle. Niklas Kronwall also stepped up his game considerably in 2009, finishing with 57 points in 82 GP, which should make him a very valuable defender in the fantasy drafts next season.

With Chris Osgood on the shelf for a long period of time in 2009, it was Ty Conklin's time to shine and shine he did. Conklin finished with 25 wins and 6 shutouts for 62 pool points, ranking him 72nd in the league. Osgood did play enough to win 26 games, 2 by shutout and added 2 assists for 58 pool points, ranking him 94th. That's a pretty good year in net for a pair of goalies, but fantasy-wise, you want one goalie to pick up the bulk of those points. Sharing the duty does make it hard to be effective in your pool.

2010 Season Outlook
The Red Wings are stocked up with all sorts of talent already heading into the off-season, almost a full team can be iced already with young players and superstar veterans. There is a pretty good chance that we'll be seeing some new faces in the line-up, as some UFAs may be let go to pastures that have the cap space to pay them.

Pavel DatsyukNicklas LidstromChris Osgood
Henrik ZetterbergBrian RafalskiJimmy Howard
Johan FranzenNiklas Kronwall
Dan ClearyBrett Lebda
Valtteri FilppulaBrad Stuart
Tomas HolmstromAndreas Lilja
Kris DraperDerek Meech
Kirk Maltby
Darren Helm
Justin Abdelkader

The current team listed above shows 19 players already signed on, including a few from their most recent playoff run, who could have earned themselves a spot on the roster for next season, in large part to their play, but in some cases their cap hit. The current 19-player roster above does come with a cap hit of approximately $53.3 million, which doesn't sit far from the $56.7 million cap ceiling of this past season. The announcement of the cap number will be key to the plan for the off-season.

Without a cap number to deal with, it's only going to be speculation as to what the UFA crop is going to do from Detroit, but we can at least have a look at the names. Marian Hossa, Ty Conklin, Mikael Samuelsson, Tomas Kopecky, Aaron Downey, Darren McCarty and Chris Chelios are all old enough (some cases, really old) for UFA status this summer, all of which hold some sort of question mark beside their name.

As much as the RFA class is small for Detroit, there may need to be some decisions made on how to keep or send away these players. Jiri Hudler had a good year, but his price tag may have increased a fair bit, so what to do?

With all those UFAs on the their list, we will be looking to the younger crop to fill in some gaps and it's almost a certainty. Thankfully for the Wings, they had an audition for a number of them, including Darren Helm, Jonathan Ericsson and Justin Abdelkader, who all played well in their long playoff run. All three should be figuring into the full-time roster in 2010, in some capacity. Ericsson may have the toughest time, as the Wings do have seven veteran defenders signed, unless they can drop one through trade here in the off-season to make some room, both on the roster and under the cap.

There is an understanding that the Red Wings are going to make a move to re-sign Marian Hossa, but there doesn't look to be a lot of room to put him back into the line-up, cap-wise. The team still looks very solid throughout, even without him. You can add the young kids and the team still looks like it could be back in the Finals for a three-peat between them and the Penguins. You can look at that team table inserted above and find a number of players that you could be happy with taking next season, but I think a lot of people may have learned their lesson about taking guys like Johan Franzen and Tomas Holmstrom a little too early, as they are good playoff performers who have only good numbers in the regular season, instead of great. Don't be in a huge rush to pick Detroit players, get them when they are at a reasonable points level pick.

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