Evaluating Red Wings UFAs and RFAs, Or Why Brad Stuart Sucks

Let’s start with the no-brainers, the easy ones, and conclude with the problematic ones.

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Sadly, this picture was not taken during warm-ups. Datsyuk threw his helmet down in frustration, in case you were wondering.

TY CONKLIN (UFA)
You remember that FSD promo they played all season long where he was plunging a toilet somewhere in the bowels of Joe Louis arena?  Probably the best thing he did this year, and would have been better utilized actually plunging toilets rather than simply pretending to.  The Joe is rather old and the cuisine isn’t the highest of quality, so I’d imagine the toilets frequently get backed up, needing the assistance of a plumber.  (I’m trying to insert a joke about Conklin being a back up goaltender and toilets backed up etc. here but nothing’s coming.  The point is that he sucks.)

Though he only had 11 starts, I don’t anticipate Conklin would have proved anything more than barely competent; he posted a .884 SV% and a 3.28 GAA for a 5-6 record.  His last year with the Blues wasn’t much better.

The Bottom Line: *toilet flush*

TOMAS HOLMSTROM (UFA)
I love Homer, but it’s time for him to retire; he’s a defensive liability when he’s out there, and with Eaves on his way back and Nyquist ready to work full time, it’s hard to justify keeping him around. I don’t know if he wants to stay around and get a job in the organization, but he’s certainly earned it if he wants it.

The Bottom Line: I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t retire.

DARREN HELM (RFA)
Helm posted 9 goals, 17 assists in 68 games, which is more or less on pace for the same total (32 pts.) he had last year in 82 games. Helm is lauded as a bit of a PK expert, but given how miserable the Wings PK has been the past two seasons and that he averages more shorthanded time on ice per 60 minutes than any other Wings forward, it’s difficult to say his game couldn’t use a bit of polish in this area, particularly when he ranked fifth among all Wings in 4v5 GA/60.  Paradoxically, he posted a +9.7 relative corsi in 4v5 situations, so because I like Helm I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is not the weakest link; there are so few goals against on the PK in a given year that the sample sizes are simply too small.

What we do know for sure is that collectively the team has done poor on the PK the past two seasons, ranking 18th this past year and 17th the year before, which seems to be directly correlated with Lidstrom averaging fewer and fewer minutes on the PK.

Anyways–Helm. He’s a grinder who won’t score many goals, but that’s not his job. Anyone who watched Helm this year (or any year) knows one thing; when he’s on the ice, he’s fighting for every loose puck and oftentimes succeeds in keeping the play in the offensive zone; his even strength relative corsi of +3.2 says as much. As an added bonus, he’s pretty good at the dot, winning 51.9% of draws this season. (Here’s a refresher course on corsi.)

Of course, being the heir apparent to Draper also means he has little to no scoring or playmaking touch to his game. That’s fine with me. He’s the prototypical third liner, and he does a damn good job all things considered.

The Bottom Line:  He’ll get resigned and deservedly so.

JUSTIN ABDELKADER (RFA)
Abdelkader is a lot like Helm, but not as good. He posted 22 pts. in 82 games, averaged less shorthanded TOI than Helm, and did worse when he was out there (-6.7 relative corsi). At even strength Justin posted a -3.9 relative corsi, so his game could certainly use a bit of work.

(I know some are put off by advanced stats, and I understand, but in evaluating third and fourth liners it’s particularly effective because these guys aren’t out there to score goals so much as they are out there to keep the puck out of their own net. It just so happens that guys who direct more pucks at the oppositions net than at their own net have the most success in doing so.)

He also had a penchant for dumb as hell penalties at inopportune times, racking up 62 minutes this year, which is 3rd highest on the Wings and relatively low compared to the rest of the league. Still, he could learn a thing or two about keeping his stick away from people’s faces.

The Bottom Line: He’s a guy born and bred in the Wings system, and he’s a Michigan Man.  He’ll get resigned.  I’m not the biggest fan, and quality third and fourth-liners can be bought on the cheap, if not brought up from the AHL, but he has some room for growth.

JIRI HUDLER (UFA)
Happy potted a career high 25 goals for a total of 50 pts. on the season. The Zetterberg-Filppula-Hudler line proved to be one of the deadlier lines in the league in terms of point production, and he played his role well. He is a damn fine playmaker, but his lack of size and strength definitely hurt his defensive game, evidenced by a 5v5 0.8 relative corsi despite going against slightly above average quality of competition. And his decently high PDO suggests he may not duplicate the production he had this year.

Numbers aside, he was still an integral part of a very effective line, a solid playmaker, and some of his goals were beauts.  I like him.  Last year he was the butt of many a Red Wing joke, but this year he certainly redeemed himself.

The Bottom Line: How much will he ask for?  He’s worth resigning, but if he asks for too much or too long of a deal, I say let him walk.  I’d assume this is Holland’s line of thinking right now as well.

KYLE QUINCEY (RFA)
I don’t have his stats split between Colorado and Detroit, unfortunately, but going by the eyeball test I can say Quincey is a skilled forward who took a lot of dumb penalties and played like shit for us down the stretch.  He posted a +3.2 5v5 relcorsi between both teams, though how much of that was due to him playing on Colorado’s top pairing, I don’t know.  I do distinctly remember this being quite a bit higher when the Wings acquired him if that’s any help, though I think anyone who watched him with the Wings knows he kinda sorta played like shit.

Though he seems to have the chops to be a solid puck-mover–if his corsi with the Avs says anything–he has a tendency to make some bonheaded plays, and we’re not the first to bitch about him turning over the puck a lot.  What’s perhaps even worse is his habit of getting tossed in the box; the Wings are one of the least penalized teams in the league and benefit greatly from it, so adding a player who averages more penalty minutes than any other Wing doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in me.

The Bottom Line:  With Lidstrom and Stuart leaving, the Wings will need ever defeseman they can get.  He’ll get resigned, but how good he’ll be in a Winged Wheel his second go-around remains to be seen.

BRAD STUART (UFA)
“Wait, what?  I thought you said he’s leaving?”  Yes, he is, but it needs to be pointed out that Brad Stuart is not good.  Were he not planning on returning to California to be with his family (which I do not hold against him in the slightest), it might be advantageous for Holland to cut him loose anyways.

Duck Lips is known for a few things–not scoring goals, kick saves, putting himself out of position, and mind-bogglingly frustrating turnovers.  (I still have not forgiven him for Game 7 in ’09.)  Since joining the Wings in ’08, his relcorsi is consistently at the bottom of the Wings roster.  For you non-stat geeks out there, that means that when he’s not on the ice, the team does better.  And given that this is a year-in, year-out pattern, I blame him and not the stat.

Given that he is not skilled at getting the puck out of his own zone, it’s no surprise he is forced to make up for this deficiency with brilliant kick saves in front of an otherwise empty net.  Despite being an integral part of a dogshit PK, he’s considered a valuable part of it, even though Easy-E outperformed him and Kronner toward the end of the season and in the playoffs.

The Bottom Line: Defensive defenseman is code for “sucks ass”.

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And that about wraps it up.  If you like Brad Stuart, hate advanced stats, or any of my other opinions, feel free to bitch about it in the comments section or hit me up on twitter (@thisidislame).

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