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Matt Shepard

Shep's Take: Detroit Red Wings Bad Day

 
Posted July 2nd, 2014 @ 10:14am

Like you, I am stunned and surprised. 

Like you, I am used to seeing the Detroit Red Wings jump into free agency and come out a winner.  

Like you, I expected Ken Holland to get at least one of his main targets -- a defenseman who would comfortably skate into the top four rotation and solidify a desperate need. Instead, we are left with the same group and same roster as a year ago. 

The Wings couldn't lure the top right-handed shooting defenseman -- Matt Niskanen. He inked a seven-year contract worth more than $40 million. I wanted him in a Winged Wheel sweater, but he's only had one good year. His timing was perfect, and so was the excessive offer from the Washington Capitals.

The Red Wings wanted Dan Boyle, but he shunned them for a lesser financial package from the New York Rangers.

Reportedly, Christian Ehrhoff told the Red Wings he wanted a five-year contract, but accepted a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Anton Stralman is now in Tampa Bay, courtesy of a five-year commitment, and Stephane Robidas took Toronto's three-year offer rather than a comparable deal offered here.

This is troubling. 

Is it because of Mike Babcock's hard-driving personality? The guy has two Gold Medals, a Stanley Cup and makes the playoffs every year. Do we suddenly think players are headed to Tampa Bay because Jon Cooper is the head coach, or because Barry Trotz is now in the nation's capital?

Is it because Joe Louis Arena is old? Has anyone been to a Lightning game before in their arena or the Verizon Center in Washington? Neither are all that special.

I can give you somewhat legitimate reasons why these guys thumbed their noses at Detroit and went elsewhere, but it doesn't make it any easier for you to swallow. 

Niskanen took more cash, Boyle wanted back with his friend Martin St. Louis, Stralman took the years of security and Robidas is from Quebec and wanted to be closer to his family. The more disturbing example is Ehrhoff, whose camp reportedly suggested to the Red Wings that they wanted a five-year commitment and instead took a one-year deal with Pittsburgh. That speaks volumes to me. He felt the Penguins are closer to winning a title than the Red Wings. I suppose he’s right, with MVP Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Chris Kunitz.

Photo/Getty Images

Look, we have a tendency to overreact to the first day of free agency. These guys are all July 1 Hall of Famers, right?  I’m not freaking out the Red Wings failed to address their need with the names we expected. There is time to fill the void via trade ... but it does spark the controversy on why the Red Wings aren't viewed in the same light as they used to be.  

Some players would rather play closer to home (Parise &Suter in 2012); some feel a team is closer to winning than Detroit.

My bigger concern is the fact that this team is the same as it was a year ago. There has been no upgrade! If anything, I think they have taken a step back because of Ken Holland's decision to bring back Kyle Quincey on a two-year deal worth $4.5 million per season.

Photo/Getty Images

Quincey is underwhelming. He turns the puck over too often, takes too many penalties and is not as physical as his 6'2", 210 lb. frame would suggest.

I think it was a desperate move by Holland, and it leaves even his most ardent supporters questioning their support. And maybe other players questioning why they would put on a Red Wings sweater.

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