The Biggest Missed Opportunities in Detroit Red Wings' 2014 Offseason So Far
Thanks to some missed opportunities during the 2014 offseason, the Detroit Red Wings could be well on their way to a repeat season of last year's disappointing first-round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the Red Wings didn't make any moves at the NHL draft and struck out in free agency, they still had the chance to turn the page on last season's disheartening finish.
Instead, the team's management buried their collective heads in the sand and missed some opportunities to move on.
Here are the biggest missed opportunities (so far) in the Detroit Red Wings' 2014 offseason.
Note: "Biggest" in this instance means situations where the team had a chance to get better by making (or not making) a move.
Not Making a Move at the 2014 NHL Draft
Ken Holland has helped the Detroit Red Wings become one of the best teams in the NHL since he took over as general manager in 1997.
His ability and willingness in the pre-salary-cap days to use draft picks as pieces in deals to get NHL talent made the Red Wings a consistent threat to win the Stanley Cup.
But his recent unwillingness to trade any first-round picks in an attempt to keep Detroit's prospect pool well-stocked has caused frustration at the NHL level with the Red Wings.
This frustration stems from the ineptitude and average nature of some of the players on the team. While Detroit certainly doesn't have one of the worst teams in the league (making the playoffs for the 23rd straight time last season), it was bounced from the postseason in just five games.
With the 15th pick in the 2014 draft, the Red Wings could have made a move but chose to stand pat instead.
On the day of the 2014 draft, Holland discussed his optimism with Detroit Free Press member Helene St. James: "I'm excited about this year’s draft because of what we’ve got already....we’re hoping to get another good prospect. We’re trying to build up, get as many prospects as we can and hope some of them end up in the NHL and help us win games."
This frustrates Red Wings fans to no end due to the fact that no one knows when these prospects will be called up. Holland has expressed his reluctance to let any prospect into the NHL prior to being ready, but he refuses to use what he's "got already" to his advantage to continue to acquire NHL talent like he did pre-salary cap.
Yes, the cupboard is well-supplied (see the 2013 Grand Rapids Griffins winning the AHL championship), but no, the cupboard will not be unnecessarily used anytime soon.
Detroit had a chance to make a move before the start of NHL free agency to bring itself back to "contender" status and thus actually attract some of this year's free-agent crop.
Holland needs to remember that not all of his prospects can or will make Detroit's roster if he keeps retaining players who are over the hill.
Re-Signing Kyle Quincey
Kyle Quincey should not be playing hockey in Detroit, but the pending unrestricted free agent was re-signed by the Wings to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million, per CapGeek.
Quincey was signed when the Red Wings couldn't recruit another blueliner (right-handed or left-handed) to replace him and cashed in when all other defensemen spurned Detroit.
Neither offensively nor defensively gifted, the Red Wings re-signing Quincey stems from the issues addressed on the previous slide. In essence, the Wings didn't make a move at the draft to show that they wanted to be contenders next season.
While Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were both only about 50 percent, the fact is that Detroit has not made a real "splash" in free agency since it signed Marian Hossa in the 2008 offseason.
Free agents like to know that teams that they are interested in will be competitive for the duration of their tenure with said team.
Detroit made the final two- or three-team list for some free agents, but its lack of playoff success and moves leading up to unrestricted free agency could have made a difference.
Re-signing an underachieving Quincey only further accentuates the fact that the Red Wings couldn't do enough leading up to the NHL draft to rid themselves of his services.
By retaining Quincey, the Wings prevent a prospect from moving up into the lineup and only secure another mediocre defenseman for another two seasons.
Re-Signing Dan Cleary
Guess where Dan Cleary looked the best in a Red Wings uniform this past season.
Hint: It wasn't on the ice.
Cleary couldn't get it going when he was in the lineup and was flat-out terrible. The eight points in 52 games and minus-11 are kind of terrible. So when the Red Wings gave him a new contract worth more money (if he plays 10 games), fans were outraged.
Cleary is guaranteed $1.5 million and will receive an additional $1 million if he plays in 10 games with the Detroit Red Wings, per Cap Geek. Give a monkey a pen and paper and he offers a more reasonable deal on Detroit's end than a possible $2.5 million cap hit for Cleary.
Holland is justified in making prospects beat out veterans for spots on the team, but Cleary is a washed-up 35-year-old coming off of his worst season in his professional career.
He's not going to get any better. Sure, he might contribute 15 to 25 points again, but he will do so at the cost of a player like Tomas Jurco making the NHL roster or a potentially healthy Daniel Alfredsson getting a new contract.
The Red Wings have suffered through the last year or more with an influx of contracts at the forward position and had a chance to get rid of some of them.
They failed to do that in re-signing Cleary.
Not Trading for an Impact Defenseman (Yet)
What is a top-tier defenseman?
Don't ask Detroit Red Wings fans because they will likely just throw out "Nicklas Lidstrom" as an answer.
Well, 2012 called and wants to remind Holland and Detroit fans that Lidstrom retired and has no interest in playing hockey again at a professional level, per Ansar Khan of MLive.
The Red Wings need to move on. More importantly, they need a new No. 1 defenseman.
Niklas Kronwall is a solid top-pairing defenseman, but he plays tough minutes, leading the Red Wings in ice time and minutes on the power play and while short-handed. This wears Kronwall down, and Jonathan Ericsson, who should really be playing the second pairing and not the first pairing, was injured for 34 games last season.
The pressure is on Holland and the Detroit management to find an upgrade on the blue line, as they could not do it in free agency.
If they fail to do so via trade, it will be another missed opportunity if the defense struggles again next season.
Not Yet Getting Mike Babcock Re-Signed to a Contract
Mike Babcock is key to the Red Wings' success, both past and future.
Babcock guided the injury-depleted Wings to a 23rd straight playoff appearance this season without big guns Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Both players were out for almost half of the season, but Babcock earned himself a Jack Adams Award nomination for his ability to keep the Red Wings in the playoff picture.
Babcock surpassed Jack Adams for the most wins in Red Wings franchise history for a head coach with his 414th victory this past season. He owns a Stanley Cup ring and two Olympic gold medals as the head coach of Team Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Games.
So the fact that he had to defend himself on the radio on Detroit Sports 105.1 regarding comments that he might be the reason the Wings didn't get any top free agents this offseason is utterly ludicrous.
Even if Babcock is comfortable with the one year remaining in his contract with the Red Wings, Detroit fans and Holland shouldn't be.
Babcock doesn't need to "earn" a contract extension because he has the credentials to get snatched up by any team looking for a coach next offseason if he does not get one from Detroit.
He has already declined to work on a contract extension once the season starts, so Holland needs to get busy and attempt to get him locked up past this coming season.
Contract extensions take time, but this is one extension that cannot be allowed to slide into next offseason.