Well, this isn't encouraging news for Wings fans.
Red Wings VP Jimmy Devellano on Fan 590: Wings fans should lower expectations
By George Malik
October 24, 2009, 7:22AM
Red Wings vice president Jimmy Devellano spoke to The Fan 590's Roger Lajoie on Friday night, discussing everything from struggling franchises in the sunbelt to the economic difficulties all teams in the United States face, Detroit included (Devellano states that all four pro sports teams in Detroit are struggling to sell tickets, with the Wings trying to sell 8,000 non-season ticket-holder tickets for every game, and it's worth noting that he had lunch with Paul Kelly on Friday to expansion in Canada, his Lester Patrick Award, whether the Red Wings are looking to build a new rink (eventually, 5 or 6 years down the line) and the Red Wings' struggles, all during a massive 34-minute interview, and his comments regarding Detroit's 3-3-1-and-1 record are a bit surprising.
Devellano said the following at 21 minutes and 14 seconds, answering an email from a fan named Carl:
Jimmy Devellano: Well, Carl, uh, yeah, there is concern [about the Red Wings' start].
Carl, let me give you the facts, and I think you'll understand why we are where we are in the standings, and why, maybe the expectations have to be lowered. Marian Hossa, 40 goals last year, he plays for the Chicago Blackhawks. Okay, Johan Franzen is out until March 1 with a bad knee, okay, 35 goals last year. Jiri Hudler, 23 goals last year, he's playing in the Kontinental League. Mikael Samuelsson, already got 5 goals for the Vancouver Canucks, okay, scored 19 goals.
It's 110 goals that our hockey club lost over the summer. We did sign Todd Bertuzzi, we did sign Jason Williams; they're not going to score those types of numbers for the Red Wings. I don't know how I can put it any other way than to be truthful; you can't lose those types of players and have the record we had a year ago. We are going to have to work very, very hard to be competitive, and to make the playoffs. That's the truth.
Roger Lajoie: Yep, and, after a 15-year run of unparalleled excellence, it has to happen sometime, and that's the challenge now, for this team to, you know, continue to compete at that level.
Devellano: Exactly. And let me explain to you, why you might say, Carl, "Why did all those players leave?" It's very, very easy: it's the salary cap. It caught up to us. I will give you some, what could be good news, uh...After this season, we have a ton of money coming off the cap, a ton. Now, saying all that, you have to replace those players, and we have to hope that we can upgrade next summer, when money comes off the cap.
Lajoie: You've got a pretty good coach, a pretty good general manager, to say the least...What about the goaltending situation? Is there any kind of a thing there, that might?
Devellano: A little bit concerned, again, I could add that we lost a goaltender, again to the St. Louis Blues, Ty Conklin. Conklin was our back-up to Osgood, was a very good, uh, back-up, Roger. He went to St. Louis and doubled his salary. Can't blame him, okay...Again, we couldn't do it under the cap, so, consequently, we're using a young goaltender from Grand Rapids, Jimmy Howard, I believe he's going to start tomorrow night in Colorado, and he really isn't playing a lot in the NHL, so we have to hold our breath, and see what happens.
Osgood is certainly a, a, a good goaltender, but, um, we have to hope that Jimmy Howard can be, uh, a good back-up.
Lajoie: And you need goaltending more now because of the way the team has changed.
Devellano: Absolutely. The way Kenny Holland describes our year, and he has warned our ownership and our people, is, this is a year of transition for the Detroit Red Wings. We haven't had a year like this, maybe, Roger, in nearly 20, but it is a transitional year because of the cap, because of the people that we have lost, and, uh, our goal now is to try to compete and make the playoffs, and then...
Lajoie: See what happens?
Devellano: See what happens.
Keep in mind that Wings fans complaining about a sudden iceberg would come off like Wall Street executives screaming about losing their bonuses.
That being said, Devellano's right. The Wings experienced a huge exodus of talent over the summer. Maybe one would point to losing a guy like Marián Hossa as the chief reason for their average play this year, but Hossa only played for the Wings for one season, and the Wings won the Cup without him in 2008. Hossa's a star, but his departure isn't the reason. It's the void of depth that kills.
For example, the Wings aren't sure if they have enough talent at goalie, considering what Devellano said. Osgood remains an above-average goalie with a hell of a clutch game during the spring. That doesn't do any good to Detroit, however, if they can't make the playoffs. The Wings need someone to spell Chris during the year. It's too early to tell on Jimmy Howard, but I doubt if he's as stable as Ty Conklin. In just two seasons, Detroit has gone from a duo of Osgood and eventual-HOFer Dominik Hašek during the championship year, to Osgood and Conklin last year, to Osgood and Howard this year. Howard's no Hašek, that's for sure.
Another part of that depth erosion that goes without much notice is the loss of Jiří Hudler.
Hudler's 25. 57 points from a 2nd-liner is solid. Hudler should have been with the Wings for another 5-10 seasons, but he chose Dynamo Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League for $10 million over two years. That was roughly 2x what the Wings could afford to pay him, due to limited remaining space under the NHL's salary cap.
I mean, never mind that Hudler looks like Squiggy from "Laverne and Shirley," Hudler was worth the money.
Jiří Hudler and David Lander's "Squiggy."
The KHL has decent talent, like many European leagues, but it's not the best collection of talent. The NHL still provides the highest level of competition for players. It was definitely about the money with Hudler, and I don't blame Hudler for taking a hell of a deal. His reasoning is sound. If he can be paid twice as much to be a top player in the league on a premier club in their league, then it's better than being less than a 1st-liner for the Wings.
Unfortunately for the Wings, the team lost Johan Franzén for several months to a torn ACL. It's misfortune like this that compounds the loss of guys like Hudler.
There are still a lot of guys on the Wings roster who are staring at the end of their careers on the horizon, due to their age ... Kris Draper's 38, Tomas Holmstrom's 36, Kirk Maltby's 36, recently-bargain-hired Brad May's 37, Nicklas Lidstrom's 39, Brian Rafalski's 36, and Chris Osgood's 36. Maltby, May, and Osgood all have birthdays during the next 2 months. This is not a young team. Lidstrom, the superstar from this list, is showing his age.
Devellano's words appear very wise. It took a while, but the cap has finally caught up to the Detroit Red Wings. There are good kids on the way up from Detroit's system ... Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader are both 22, and they show that they'll be around the league for a long time. Also, with the scouting and management that Detroit has, the club shouldn't hurt for new talent. The days of having grand old rosters pregnant with veteran stars, however, are long gone. Say goodbye to the old days, Wings fans. At least, for the moment, the Wings aren't as bad as the Leafs.