I can’t help but think about what our line combinations are going to look like for the 2009-2010 season (to start with anyway). With 4 players leaving and one in a real sticky situation (I have to assume that Hudler won’t be back), Ken Holland is going to have to fill a couple of holes. This is how I see it shaking out as of now…
Line 1: ZETTERBERG-DATSYUK-HOLMSTROM
Line 2: FRANZEN-FILPPULA-CLEARY
Line 3: LEINO-HELM-???
Line 4: MALTBY-DRAPER-???
Def 1: LIDSTROM-RAFALKSI
Def 2: KRONWALL-STUART
Def 3: ERICSSON-LEBDA
Def 3: ERICSSON-LEBDA
Now, since I don’t want to see either Draper or Maltby on line 3, that leaves us looking for a 3rd and 4th line winger.
Our blip on the addition side of Free-Agency has been Kris Newbury, a left-handed center by trade, right-winger Jeremy Williams, and journeyman defenseman Doug Janik.
To be honest, I’m a little puzzled as to why we signed Janik, a 29 year old who has played on four teams in seven NHL seasons (Buffalo, Tampa, Dallas, Montreal), when we already have a lion’s share of defensemen with the likes Derek Meech and Jakub Kindl waiting in the wings. Unless Janik really brings it in training camp, I see him starting the season in Grand Rapids.
Other than Newbury and Williams (you can follow the link for their stories), my leading candidates for filling out the two remaining roster spots (should Hudler not return) are the following:
Justin Abdelkader: MSU graduate who stepped into the limelight scoring a pair of goals in the Stanley Cup Finals before being sidelined with an illness. He had 52 points in 76 games with the Griffins last year while racking up 102 PIM’s. Personally, I’d like to see him play one more year in Grand Rapids.
Francis Pare: If you haven’t been to many Griffins games, you probably don’t know who he is, but he had 48 Points (24 Goals) in 62 Regular season games with the Griffs last year. He is a rare right-handed shot, very similar to Darren Helm in stature. He could possibly be a sleeper for that 4th line wing if he impresses the staff at camp.
Mattias Ritola: He’s a Swede, so he’s got that going for him (which is nice). He also has an awesome name. I proclaim him to be “My Griffin”, but you could make a case for him aside from personal reasons. 42 points (15 goals) in 66 games with Grand Rapids last year who may turn out to be a better player with the big club than he is with the Griffs. Smooth skater and a great playmaker could possibly see a little more time in Detroit this year. Look for him to go up and down throughout the year.
Evan McGrath: 6’0, 190 lbs center whose point totals have climbed for three consecutive years with the Griffins. He finished the Regular Season fourth on the team with 47 points (17 Goals). Solid frame could see some time with veterans Maltby and Draper on the fourth line.
You know what puzzles me? Darren Haydar signed with the wings at this time last year. He was the leading scorer in the 2008 Calder Play-offs on the Chicago Wolves and his head coach (John Anderson) got the head coach job with the Atlanta Thrashers. Instead of staying within the Atlanta organization and be a sure call-up to the big club, he jumped ship and came to Detroit where he basically had zero chance of making the big club. After running away with the point total lead in Grand Rapids, having a real legitimate shot at making the big squad this year, he leaves and signs with Colorado. Um..what’s with this guy? Who cares? He’s a Dive now. Say ‘Hi’ to Quincy for me.
Of course, all of these guys could spend the ENTIRE year in Grand Rapids if Ken Holland gets Hudler signed and/or goes out and finds some cheap free-agents later this summer. You just never know when Holland is going to find the next Dan Cleary or Mikael Samuelsson…and that, my friends, is a very comforting thought.