For the introductory post, I'm going to touch on my favorite sports team, the Detroit Red Wings. Seeing as the blog's namesake is Pavel Datsyuk, this seems mildly appropriate.
As you may or may not know, the Wings have spent the past few weeks courting "coveted" free agent, and Michigan native, Mike Modano. GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock have given their best effort to persuade Modano to join the club as their third line center. On the surface, this seems like a fantastic idea.
Modano is from Westland, Michigan, about a 15 minute drive from where I live. I've played at the Mike Modano ice arena in Westland. It's a nice rink. Cold, icy, very conducive to playing the game of hockey. Unfortunately, some other things related to Mike Modano are cold and icy - his game and his personality.
Modano is 40 years old and on the verge of the end of his career. He spent the past 20 years in the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars organization. He is the all-time leader among U.S.-born players in both goals and points. He has a Stanley Cup Championship and has been selected to 8 All-Star games. This sounds all nice and peachy now, doesn't it? Well, you'd be wrong. His goal production has declined each of the past 5 years, and his points production has declined each of the last 3. He played 59 games last year, but only totaled 30 points. For a third line center on a perennial Stanley Cup contender, this may sound like a nice addition, but I'm here to tell you why it's not.
The Red Wings currently have about $3 million in salary cap space available, and still have to sign young guns Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm. But that's not the biggest issue here. The bigger issue is that Abs and Helmer have earned bigger and better roles in the organization. Both have put in significant time in Grand Rapids, the Red Wings' AHL farm club, and have worked their tails off to get to the big club full-time. Helm made that jump successfully last year, and while he didn't necessarily have the year he may have hoped for, he came up with some big goals and a ton of energy. That's what he does. The same can be said for Abdelkader. He's not going to give you 20-goal seasons (although he may sometime down the road), but what he's going to give is a lot of effort and grit. Something the Wings have lacked over the past 5 or so years. These two players have earned the right to play more than 6-7 minutes a game. If we sign Modano, they can't do that - they would be battling for the 4th line center position, along with eternal slapshot-from-the-top-of-the-circle-pounding Kris Draper.
Not signing Modano would enable the Wings to reward one of the players with additional playing time on a scoring line. Surely these players deserve that by now, don't they?
The third line, as it stands right now, consists of Happy Hudler and Charlie Buckets (Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary). Adding a guy like Modano would be nice, and would certainly seem to provide an excellent third scoring line, but couldn't you say the same thing for adding Abs or Helm in there? If you put Helm with those two, he could just skate all over the ice, find open spaces, then create open space by blowing by defenders. If you plug in Abdelkader, he'll just go to the front of the net, and you can let Happy and Charlie fire away. You could essentially have 3 lines with a Tomas Holmstrom-eqsue player. Doesn't that seem like a great plan? One of those guys on the third line, and sitting Drapes for the entire season, would enable your checking line to be Miller-Abs/Helm-Eaves. That's a 3rd scoring line on any other team in the league. Sounds fantastic to me.
Unfortunately, Holland and Babcock seem to have a hard-on for Modano. But here's where his personality comes in. We were the first team to show interest in him. After he attended a Tigers game with the front office brass, he openly claimed that it was "Detroit or retirement." What happened next? You bet! Other teams start showing up late to the party and requesting his services. Then, his tune changed. All of a sudden Detroit isn't the only choice on "Deal or No Deal." So much for your word. Then, Minnesota comes into the picture and he says, 'Oh, gee, wouldn't that be cute to go back where I started and finish my career there?' The answer, Mike? No! It wouldn't! You wouldn't make the playoffs and could berate your legacy. Then, he claims that he won't make a decision until late in the summer when he re-starts his training regimen, and decides whether or not he wants to go through the grind of professional hockey every day. It can't be that hard to imagine yourself waking up and playing hockey everyday, can it?
This is what gets me. This is the kind of Brett Favre-like prima donna-ish behavior that made me hate the former Green Bay golden boy. However, being this is my home team, I wouldn't really have a problem with it if we had our younger guys locked up under contract. Therein lies the problem: Helm and Abdelkader are not signed, specifically because Holland is waiting for Modano's decision. He's not only potentially going to take a roster spot from one of those two, but he's also potentially forcing Holland's hand into trading another piece just to create cap space for Helm and Abs to be signed in the first place. These two players HAVE to be on the roster this year. Based on Holland's past loyalty-related doings, it would be sacrilege to trade either of them. And the fanbase would be furious. Surely, they would trade Miller or Eaves, but those players carved out nice little niches last year and earned at least a chance. Helm and Abs are the future, but they should also be the present.
Signing Modano seems like a great idea on the surface, but just like icebergs, 90% of signing Modano's danger is below the surface. The Wings have already, unfortunately, made a contract offer, so it's up to Modano whether he signs or not. But if I were Ken Holland, I would turn the other cheek, rescind the offer, and move on with the future becoming the present.