Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's New York, New York for Shanahan

It was a strange feeling watching as the New York Rangers cautiously approached free agency, with their only acquisitions of note having been Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen from the defending champs.

Bringing in Brendan Shanahan, however, constitutes a true return to form.

While 37, Shanahan was still one of the top forwards available this time around, but I was almost convinced he would re-sign with Detroit and close out his career a Red Wing — where he'd been since 1996.

That he's chosen to head for Broadway's bright lights for one last hurrah speaks to a number of things, one of them being Detroit's impending decline. Here's On the Wings:
I had read his shopping on the free agent market as nothing but a veteran taking his last chance to do so, and merely to see what kind of offers he could get. I guess I was in denial to what I've also been saying lately about the Wings: that I see no reason for anyone to want to sign with us other than for a lucrative contract. I don't see the Wings getting past the second round of the playoffs next season, and that Shanahan and Yzerman are both gone in a matter of days makes this only more likely.

I don't blame Shanahan at all for leaving, as this is the first off-season as a fan where I actually have said I wouldn't even sign with the Wings, outside the fan perspective.
Make no mistake, Shanahan's a big loss (or a big gain, if you're on the Rangers side). The old-timer had a 40-goal season in 2005-06, and his best point totals since 1996-97. Playing on Jaromir Jagr's left wing is certainly going to make the New York power play even more dangerous than it was last year (8th).

I'd thought Detroit's line-up had looked decent enough with Shanahan's return, but now they're looking as thin upfront as I can remember in recent history (Detroit fans, feel free to correct any mistakes here):
Holmstrom - Zetterberg - Samuelsson
Lang - Datsyuk - Williams
Maltby - Draper - Franzen
Filppula - Hudler - Cleary
Now, Hudler's clearly ready for a step up after his season in the minors last year, but from the looks of this list here, Detroit's still going to be banking on two more 60-point campaigns from Holmstrom and Williams. With questions still surrounding who will play goal in Motown this season, you really wonder if this is the year Nashville makes a move for the Central Division title.

As for the Rangers, things look rather rosy — at least on the top two lines — with Shanahan slotted in:
Straka - Nylander - Jagr
Shanahan - Cullen - Prucha
Hossa - Betts - Ward
Hollweg - Moore - Ortmeyer


At 6:27 p.m., July 09, 2006, Blogger Matt Saler said...

The only change to your depth chart, James, would probably be Tomas Kopecky for Filppula. Also, Hudler's small size may end up preventing him from making the roster, given that the Wings are even smaller up front now that Shanahan is gone.

At 7:56 p.m., July 09, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Detroit has to rebuild sometime and see what their young players can do. May as well be this season. Most teams can't count on the playoffs every year, so the Red Wings fans are a little spoiled. In the long run, the team will be fine.

At 8:12 p.m., July 09, 2006, Anonymous snafu said...

I thought I lost my way on the blogosphere. James has 3 ex-Wings posts in succession! That's a lot of red and white I'm seeing.

To be honest, I am not all that sad to see Shanahan leave. Don't get me wrong. I love the guy and he consistenlty has been one of my favorite Wings. However Holland needs to wake up and smell the coffee. He has been stuck in the past, and I don't know if it is loyalty alone or some other factor, but several of these older guys should have retired or taken on reduced roles in the last 2-3 seasons. 3 early exits in a row? Yzerman did the right thing finally. We are kind of stuck with Maltby's and Draper's current contracts, however they did what they were supposed to do the past year as defensive forwards. Lidstrom, despite his Norris-winning regular season, was nowhere as dominant as we would expect in the playoffs.

So what did Holland do? Had Shanny stayed, Lidstrom and Shanahan would have had the two highest value contracts on the team. That is a lot of money in a capped NHL to sink into two guys whose peak years are clearly behind them. It also precluded Holland from making any other kind of move- one even remotely resembling the rebuild that is needed - while he pursued Nick and WAITED well beyond the start of free agency to get Shanny's answer.

We know the old formula won't work anymore. Holland needed to bite the bullet and make some tough choices. I think now several of those have been made for him.

Yes, the front does look a bit thin and small. However even with Shanny we did not have enough grit. He was getting beyond the years where he could be our tough guy up front. Hudler is too small and Babcock has not been too enthusiastic about his work ethic. I view him as trade bait actually. Grigorenko is at least a year away from coming over. Filppula may get a chance now, and Kopecky will have to show something in camp if he wants a shot at a roster spot.

Holland just got about $6 million in cap space that was being taken up by Shanahan and Yzerman. He should be able to do something with that... seeing that he did not spend >$5 million on a goalie or Elias!

At 11:56 p.m., July 09, 2006, Anonymous rajeev said...

shanahan played great for the wings against edm!! 38 year olds without the legs or hands anymore to do anything on their own, who have enough experience and smarts to benefit from extremely talented linemates during the regular season when the games dont count, are not smart free agent signing at 4 million a year, or roughly 10% of a team's cap space. sather should know better, but he doesnt apparently. shanahan's paid 2/3 of havlat. give havlat the puck in the offensive zone and give shanahan the puck in the offensive zone 100 times each. do you think shanahan will lead to a goal 2/3 as often as havlat. this is a joke.

At 12:51 a.m., July 10, 2006, Blogger Nick said...

I really never cared much for Shanahan, I always thought he was overrated. The Wings really need to overhaul their lineup, and maybe ultimately this could be a good thing. We still have some forward talent in guys like Lang, Zetterburg, and Datsyuk - and I think Williams has potential to step up more too. I think the team may struggle for a few years while they do some rebuilding, but I doubt it will get too bad. I think what they really need to do is find some bigger guys to back up thier scorers like Datsyuk... You could say that they're not really moving in that direction by dumping Shanahan, but I'm thinking there's potential to replace him with two or three guys who could better fill that position. Anyway, time will tell.

At 7:22 p.m., July 10, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

Nick, Shanahan was that good. There's a reason the Wings started winning Cups when he came to town. Did it help him to have really good linemates? Sure; that's going to help anyone. Still, not just anyone can take advantage of having great linemates, and Shanahan did. There are holes in his game that weren't there a few years ago, so he needs the right linemates to complement what he has left. I'll miss him a lot.

That said, I think letting him sign somewhere else is a smart move. I don't think that Detroit is a top Cup contender next year, so it's time to shed some age. The Wings have no excuse to ever finish a season with unused cap space, but it's time to be ready to use that space to pick up young players who are just becoming expensive.

In the end, the Wings long term success hinges a lot upon continuing their ability to dredge up prospects from Europe that no one else has on their radar, and they can scoop up in the later rounds of the draft.

At 1:36 p.m., July 11, 2006, Blogger Nick said...

This just struck me but, if they would have known Shanahan was leaving, do you think they would have put some serious pursuit into Pronger?


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