Motown Modano: The Pros and Cons of Detroit Red Wings Adding a Legend

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IAugust 4, 2010

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 10:  Mike Modano #9 of the Dallas Stars skates against the Buffalo Sabres at the HSBC Arena on March 10, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Before we get started here, I want to be up front about a couple of things.

First, about an hour after it was announced the Dallas Stars would not be offering Modano a contract for the 2010-11 season, I predicted that the Detroit Red Wings would .

However, though I understood their reasons for going after him, I also believed they should refrain from extending him an offer .

Now that the speculation has turned to abject certainty, I must say that, though my concerns are still present, the Wings getting Mike Modano is a pretty cool thing.

To add a legend of his calibre to an already veteran-laden roster for only $1.25 million is a trick few teams could pull off.  The fact that the Red Wings did just that speaks volumes about their sustained status as a top-notch NHL franchise, as well as Modano's respect for the team itself.

He could have gotten more money, from several other good teams, yet he chose to play in Detroit for an incredibly modest sum.

The reason he did, ostensibly, is that he believes Detroit is capable of making another Stanley Cup run this season.  Coming from a guy like Modano, that should infuse a heap of confidence in the fanbase, as well as the team.

Now, assuming that is in fact possible, what would Modano bring to another Cup run?

For starters, even at 40-years-old, he's still an offensive threat.

As he's slated to center the third-line with Jiri Hudler and Dan Cleary flanking him, Detroit might well boast the best third-line in hockey.  Seriously, how many other teams can ice a third-tier trio of players that all have Stanley Cup rings?

Additionally, Modano could provide a boost to the second power-play unit, taking a spot at the point or along the half-boards.

Lastly, Modano will provide experience and leadership. Not that Detroit was particularly lacking in this department, but he will offer these traits in a way that few, even in Detroit's locker room, can match.

The pros of acquiring Mike Modano are many and obvious, but what about the cons?

Well, there's been some who've suggested that, because Dallas cut him loose despite being their highest scoring player in franchise history and a lifelong Star, they know he simply can't deliver the goods anymore.

That's nonsense.

If the firing of Dave Tippett last summer—you know, this year's Jack Adams Award winner—then replacing him with Marc Crawford of all people, and the master plan that is a Kari Lehtonen/Andrew Raycroft tandem in goal is any indication, I don't think Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk is going to be confused for a master tactician anytime soon.

Letting Modano walk likely has more to do with a GM trying desperately to rebuild his team—even if that means snubbing its most celebrated star—than any qualms about Modano's ability to play the game.

But, speaking of that, we must consider the fact that, clearly, Modano is not the force he once was and his body is showing signs of wear and tear, which is understandable given the fact he's played over 1,600 games (regular season and playoffs) in his 20 years in the NHL.

Modano may indeed suffer an injury or breakdown to the point that bringing him in would provide just a fraction of the reward the Red Wings are expecting from him.

His health is a definite concern given his age, which brings us to con number two.

Modano coming in means that young players like Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, and Matias Ritola will be marginalized in terms of their ability to develop and contribute on the trajectory that was expected prior to all of the Modano hoopla.

The NHL is very much a young man's game and, though Abdelkader and Helm are still works in progress, their speed, aggression, tenacity and scoring ability—not to mention their 23-year-old legs—are valuable assets on a team who's best players are 30 or older.

All things being equal, who would you think would have more in the tank come playoff time, Modano or Abdelkader?

Remember, all the talent in the world is useless if, when called upon to perform, you simply cannot muster the required energy to do so.

Is a Mike Modano at, say, 60 percent capacity, worth more than a Justin Abdelkader or Darren Helm at 100 percent?  I'm not sure that it is.

Lastly, the decision to sign Mike Modano, a short-term move for sure, may impact the Red Wings' long-term future.

GM Ken Holland has stated with certainly that he'll sign Helm and Abdelkader in short order. However, these are likely to be affordable, one-year deals. 

Given their potential and success they've already achieved in their very short careers, either Helm or Abdelkader could be prime targets for offer sheets from other teams, and the Red Wings would not be able to match.

Now, if one of the two (or, maybe even both) left this season, the loss may be well absorbed by the presence of Modano.

But, what about next season and the season after?

Losing Helm and/or Abdelkader would put a serious dent in the team's depth in future seasons.  Is that risk worth the reward of having Modano center the third-line for one year?

Only time will tell.

Look, if I was forced to be either happy or disappointed about the Modano signing, I'd have to go with happy.  Nevertheless, the stunted development and potential loss of Detroit's younger players is a risky gamble for a team that must get younger sooner rather than later.


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