Thursday, September 24, 2009

CLS Redraft: Thoughts and Reflections

(Surprise! I'm back from family, work, and lots of general personal busy-ness, and I'm posting on CLS!)

Some of you may remember that last year, there was a really unfortunate incident that ended with a 14 year old who thought he could grow facial hair lifting the Stanley Cup. Scott Niedermayer's playoff beard must've been rolling in its grave to see that. For a variety of reasons, the Detroit Red Wings came up short in a 7-gamer against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. Fortunately, this summer, James O'Brien gave me a chance to rebuild, retool, and prepare to redeem a team that completely blew it (for various reasons, most forgivably being Nick Lidstrom's testicle) and let a Stanley Cup slip through their fingers. I present to you, the team that will win back the Stanley Cup, the Cycle Like Sedins' redrafted Detroit Red Wings!

Brenden Morrow (A) (3-16, 76) / Brad Richards (8-15, 225) / Jarome Iginla (C) (1-16, 16)
T. J. Oshie (6-23, 173) / Antoine Vermette (9-29, 269) / Steve Bernier (12-23, 353)
Todd Marchant (12-24, 354) / Jarret Stoll (10-16, 286) / Torrey Mitchell (11-30, 330)
Marcel Goc (13-29, 389) / Darren Helm (9-16, 256) / Matt Cooke (13-7, 367)

Aaron Ward (11-22, 322) / Duncan Keith (A) (2-15, 45)
Kent Huskins (14-2, 392) / Alexandre Edler (6-15, 165)
Colin White (14-15 405) / Jonathan Ericsson (6-22, 172)

Pekka Rinne (2-23, 53)
Jaroslav Halak (11-16, 316)

Yes, my entire 20 man starting roster came in the first 14 rounds, ending with Colin White at #405. Early in the draft, as a couple trades starting being made by PHI and EDM, the thought occurred to me that in the late rounds (15-20), all that anyone would have to pick from is the maybes, never-weres, and stupid video game favorites (Dimotrakos!!!) of the NHL. I started trading down in the 4th round, and was able to eventually parlay my picks into all being in the first 14 rounds. After making my 3rd round pick of Morrow, there wasn't too many guys that I didn't feel were significant upgrades over players who would be available 5 rounds later, so I traded down and skipped the draft for a couple rounds, stockpiling mid-round picks. At one point, I think I owned 4 or 5 11th rounders.

My original plan, as detailed at my own mostly inactive blog, was to draft strongly on defense, and build a team more in the mold of the Anaheim Ducks of recent seasons. If Zdeno Chara hadn't gone one pick before me to Columbus, I might've taken him instead of Iginla. In the end, I decided one of the best forwards in the league, a guy who exemplifies everything that is good and wonderful about hockey, certainly deserved to be the centerpiece of my team, and I had to adjust my strategy accordingly. I might have made a mistake in filling up my forwards quickly, and missing out on a couple of better defensemen (Huskins and White are my only significant weaknesses, I feel), but overall, I think it turned out pretty well.

I'm pretty confident that my first line can hang with anyone in the league. Brad Richards may be obscenely overpaid, but he's still a pretty good player, and with Iggy and Morrow on his wings, they're liable to kick your ass and then score on you for good measure. My 2nd line might be a bit weak, particularly Bernier on the right side, but against lower pairings and with solid partners, I think Bernier can do allright. I have a massive hardon for Antoine Vermette, both from video games and from his real life FOW%, and with his speed and two big bodies on either side of him, I think that line could work pretty decently.

What I might be most proud of is my third line. I have 3 C's, all with excellent FOW%, for a 3rd line, and I would have no problem shuffling any of those three into 2nd or 4th line duty as needed. Even my fourth line is pretty sweet, having my personal favorite player, Darren Helm, as well as a fantastic pest with a little bit of skill in Matt Cooke, and a super-cheap Marcel Goc on the left side. In lieu of having a standout defense, as originally planned, I decided it would work just as well to have a big, physical, and defensively responsible set of 12 forwards, and I think I did a pretty good job of filling that mold overall.

On defense, outside of White and Huskins, I think I'm fairly solid. The whole unit isn't elite, but I think its pretty solid, and more than that, that defensive corps can definitely knock you around, and can even score a few goals. One of the hardest things to play against is a team that lets you take the perimeter and the boards, but will flatten you if you take two steps away from them. such teams have been, until 2009, the only kind of team to beat the Red Wings in the playoffs since 2001. Ducks, Flames, Oilers, etc, they were all built on letting you take easy-to-stop perimeter shots, and attempting to decapitate you if you stepped off the boards. I think this defense should do a pretty good job of that.

If there is a significant weakness here, its probably in goal, which should be nothing new to the Detroit Red Wings. I'm not entirely sold on Rinne (if I'd had the original pick that EDM used to draft him, I'd have gone with Vokoun or Hiller), as I'd like to see a bigger sample size, but I don't think its unreasonable to think that at worst, he's about a league-average goalie. Because I don't entirely trust him, I decided it best to have a capable backup, and for that I chose Jaroslav Halak, because he's shown the ability to play like a #1 before, though he's lacked consistency. With help from a good defense, maybe he could gain that consistency. Again, at worst, he's probably league average, and behind this team, I think league average could definitely be pushed up a couple points, a la Nicklas Backstrom.

In building this team, one of the things that quickly became apparent was that some people were attempting to build unrealistic teams full of fragile snipers that could never get the puck for themselves, the kind of teams that work in a video game, but not so much in real life. To me, one of the most fun parts of this entire redraft was not just trying to draft the best player each pick from a "score as many goals as you can" standpoint, but from trying to build an honest-to-goodness functional NHL team. I might not win any of the competitive aspects of this redraft, but to me, that's ok, because I truly believe that this team, as constructed, could do very very well in the NHL. Hopefully, they do that well in the CLS-NHL as well.

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