My Red Wings offseason

When the Detroit Red Wings lost to the Nashville Predators Friday night, it was the end of more than a playoff series. The Wings lost in the first round of the playoffs for only the fifth time in the last 21 seasons, and yes, they made the playoffs all 21 times. At the start of the next season this team will be five years removed from their most recent Stanley Cup, with the last three years being early exits from the playoffs. While many franchises would kill for this success, it is not enough, not in Detroit. I have a few offseason needs that I would love to see happen, and if they were to happen it would make the Red Wings one of the favorites next year. The team has cap space and GM Ken Holland decided against using it to make a move at the trade deadline this year. That move will now pay it’s dividends this offseason, allowing Holland, who is one of the best GM’s in all of sports, to work his magic. These are my needs in order of importance.

1. Sign Ryan Suter – Nick Lidstrom is aging and may only have one season left in him. Suter is in the prime of his career and is a physical defensmen who can immediately step in and take over the void Lidstrom leaves, if he does retire.

2. Nick Lidstrom paycut – He is without a doubt one of the best three defensemen to ever play the game and there is no arguing that. However, he turns 42 next week and although his production is still solid, he is no longer a $7 million player. I would over him one year at $3.5 million and if he doesn’t take it, I’d let him walk. Sports is a business and the extra money is absolutely necessary.

3. Sign Zach Parise – Holland will need that money here. It is no secret Parise and Suter want to sign in the same place, so why not Detroit? Parise is a skilled and tough forward who will add more punch to the offense that was exposed in the Nashville series. Parise needs to be a Wing next year.

4. Trade Hudler and Filppula – Don’t get me wrong, I like both of these players. They play both ways and are solid forwards who play well within the Wings system. The downside is they both make $3.5 million and $7 million is too much money for almost no production. They are relatively young so they will have good trade value and we can get some good draft picks for them.

5. More Gustav Nyquist – I came away very impressed with Nyquist’s performance this season and in the playoffs. He is, in my opinion, the best young guy the Wings have and should be a full time NHLer. He played very well and was extremely productive when he was paired up with Datsyuk this season and I want to see more of them together next year.

6. Less Tomas Holmstrom – I love Tomas Holmstrom. He has been a staple of Red Wings hockey for the entire length of his tenure in Detroit. He made his living taking abuse in front of the other teams net, and I still believe he can do that, but that is all he has left to contribute. He was never a skilled guy and he is always a step behind everyone on the ice. He isn’t getting any younger so, as much as it sucks to see, I would like to see his role reduced drastically again.

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Author: Wil Hunter

NHL Playoff picks: First Round

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are THE greatest playoff system in all of sports, in my humble opinion, of course. The playoffs start Wednesday so I figured now would be a wonderful time to put down some thoughts and predictions for the first round.

Eastern Conference

1. New York Rangers vs 8. Ottawa Senators

Ottawa has had a nice and very surprising season, and the future looks bright for the Senators. Unfortunately they run into a buzz saw in the first round. The Rangers have one of the most talented teams and are very balanced up front and on the blue line. Henrik Lundqvist is a stud and should lead the Rangers deep into the playoffs.

Rangers in 5

2. Boston Bruins vs 7. Washington Capitals

Expect this to be a very fast and physical series. The Capitals had a down year this season, but are still tremendously talented up front. You can never count Ovechkin and co. out. I expect the Caps to put up a fight, but the Bruins are just too big and too strong. Expect Bergeron and Seguin to have big series’ and help carry the B’s to round two.

Boston in 6

3. Florida Panthers vs. 6. New Jersey Devils

The upstart Panthers won the Southeast division and made the playoffs for the first time since 2000. You may not know much about the Panthers, but they have a good amount of strong hockey players and are very good on the blue line. The devils bring the star power to this series with Brodeur, Kovalchuk, Parise and others. The Devils are still a good team, but are running out of time to win.

Florida in 7

4. Pittsburgh Penguins vs 5. Philadelphia Flyers

This is the series that I am so excited to watch. These two teams are both loaded with talent and they HATE each other. Malkin has been the best player all year for the Penguins and Crosby has looked real strong since his return. Expect Giroux, Hartnell and co. to play an extremely physical game to slow down this Pittsburgh attack. Ilya Bryzgalov needs to have a big series in net for Philly.

Pittsburgh in 7

Western Conference

1. Vancouver Canucks vs. 8. Los Angeles Kings

This series will not be easy for the Canucks. The Kings have been playing better hockey lately after a slow start and will have Jeff Carter returning to the lineup soon. The Cancuks are still loaded up front and will need strong play from the Sedin twins. Ryan Kesler had a down season but was great in last years playoffs. I expect John Quick to make this a great series.

Vancouver in 7

2. St. Louis Blues vs. 7. San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks are not as good as they were the past few seasons and need the last week of the season to squeak into the playoffs. The Blues broke out in a big way this year and play some of the most physical hockey in the NHL, along with boasting good talent all around the team. This series will make a lot of people in Detroit happy.

St. Louis in 5

3. Pheonix Coyotes vs. 6. Chicago Blackhawks

Pheonix has had a very nice season and wrapped up the Pacific division on the last day of the regular season. Mike Smith has been very reliable between the pipes for the ‘Yotes this year. The Blackhawks obviously have great talent up front and have a great top pair of defense men in Keith and Seabrook. One thing they lack is a goaltender and that is a little important in the playoffs.

Pheonix in 6

4. Nashville Predators vs. 5. Detroit Red Wings

Picking this series breaks my heart because although I adore my Red Wings, this series will be an uphill battle. I expect the Wings to step up their play considerably, because they always seem to do that for the playoffs. The Preds have been hot lately and their moves at the deadline have payed off big time. Pekka Rinne is a stud in net for Nashville. So many signs point towards Nashville winning this series that I can’t possibly pick the Wings without losing my integrity. Wait, yes I can, this is my blog. Screw integrity, I’m a homer.

Wings in 7

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Author: Wil Hunter