2008 Stanley Cup finals
Images from Red Wings-Penguins series
With many of the players who are at the core of their success under contract for at least two or three more seasons — and some much longer — Detroit is sitting as pretty as any team in the league when it comes to having the talent needed to win championships.
Credit for this goes not only to general manager Ken Holland but also to Director of Hockey Administration Ryan Martin, who serves as the team’s salary cap guru.
Center Pavel Datsyuk is under contract through the 2013-14 season. If you wanted to create close to the perfect hockey player you’d create Datsyuk. Watch him play for no more than a few minutes and you gain a tremendous appreciation for all of what he brings to the ice. Offensively he’s superb and he’s also one of the best defensive forwards in the league. His work ethic is impeccable. Never complaining about anything, he just comes out and plays like a machine. He’s also far stronger than he looks and plays a physical game. A natural center, he can also play wing. What’s not to love about Datsyuk?
Likely headed for his sixth Norris Trophy, 37-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom will have two more years on his deal after this season. Even if his play trails off by 25 percent before his contract is up, he’ll still be one of the 10 best defensemen in the league. One thing that never atrophies is a player’s hockey IQ and Lidstrom’s hockey IQ is at genius level. Lidstrom is in a class by himself: the best defensive defenseman of all-time, the best first passer among blue liners and the best at his position at getting shots through from the point.
Winger Tomas Holmstrom is 34, but he can still play at a very high level. He’s not eligible for unrestricted free agency until 2010. Holmstrom has never really been able to outskate anyone but his game is all about positioning. And when parked in his comfortable area — which is with the heels of his skates against the edge of the crease — he’s the best in the game at tormenting goalies, screening them, deflecting shots and scoring off rebounds.
Signed through the 2011-12 season is defenseman Brian Rafalski, a core player for this team and someone management didn’t realize was so good until he played for Detroit for a few months. In a lot of ways he is like Lidstrom in that he is so efficient and does things so well and with such ease it’s hard to measure his true impact on a game until you see him play on a regular basis.
Like Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, another key blue liner, has a deal with Detroit that ends in 2012. Earlier in his career, Kronwall was injured a lot but he has finally managed to stay healthy. He has outstanding puck skills and can play the point on the power play. He has an extremely high hockey IQ, enabling him to make great defensive reads. He also is a terrific passer and unleashes some of the most forceful body checks in the league.
It’s doubtful that future Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek, whose deal is up this summer, will be back with the Red Wings. He missed a lot of time due to injury this season and it would be surprising if the Red Wing re-signed the 43-year-old or if he played anywhere else next season.
When Hasek went down this season, Chris Osgood moved into the No. 1 role and has responded by playing maybe the best hockey of his career. Osgood is signed through the 2010-11 season. Looking at his numbers, he might very well have punched his ticket into the Hall of Fame.
Osgood has retooled his goaltending style the last couple of years. Coach Mike Babcock told him he had to become a butterfly goalie and not a reflex goalie and to his credit Osgood worked super hard during the lockout to become a more tactical goalie.
Last year when he broke his hand he couldn’t touch a puck for six weeks so all he worked on was his footwork. So from a technical standpoint Osgood is a better goalie now at 34 then he was when he was younger. He also has shed the reputation he had during his early days in the league of being lazy. He now works hard to achieve the level of conditioning required to be an elite player.
While Hasek may have played his last NHL game, it would not be surprising if 45-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios, who is finishing up a one-year deal for $850,000, is back with the Red Wings next season. Detroit is so deep on defense that in the playoffs Chelios usually finds himself on the outside looking in but for the amount of his salary he is a tremendous asset to have around especially during the long grind of the regular season.
Chelios is a future Hall of Famer and not to be condescending towards him but at this stage of his career he is a tremendous spare part to have on the roster. If he’s not an ace in hole should the Red Wings lose a defenseman to injury, he’s at least a king in the hole. Chelios wants to play until he is 50 so he’s willing to make concessions on playing time.
Also important to Detroit’s future success is that center Kris Draper is in the fold until 2011 and winger Daniel Cleary until 2013.
PHT: Tuukka Rask has frustrated the Blackhawks to the tune of a 1.22 GAA and .959 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final. Can Chicago find any luck in Game 4?
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Rask credits a team effort on defense
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