There are two types of sports teams to get excited about. One that is currently competing at a championship level, and the other being an organization flush with young prospects that can get your heart racing about the future without the benefit of self-delusion.
Unfortunately, in Detroit we are 0-for-4™ (Miguel Cabrera’s box score from a road afternoon game) with our professional sports teams. A solid debate could be had regarding which franchise between the Tigers, Pistons and Wings is in the worst shape but Detroit’s hockey team has quite an argument.
And that resume didn’t look any better after yesterday’s ESPN Insider article** that ranked the Top 100 prospects in the NHL. Not only are Wings at the salary cap threshold — coming off a season in which they had the third fewest non-shootout wins in the entire league and didn’t improve their roster this summer — they don’t have a Top 50 prospect in the sport according to the Worldwide Leader.
(** — Told ya I have no issue paying for content. Just not from Matthew B. Aggressive Mowery or Emily Waldon.)
And this report isn’t an outlier. Pretty much every independent evaluation of Ken Holland’s farm system (from the Hockey News to TSN) has them ranked in the bottom third.
When idiots cry that it’s unfair to call for Holland’s head after one missed postseason after a streak of 25 years, I respond that it’s not 2016-17 you should be worried about. — it’s the future. Which will continue to be bleak until their entire front office is totally overhauled.
In case you don’t have access to ESPN Insider, the Wings had five prospects on the list with the highest being their recent first round selection. Here are the Wings’ draftees who were included along with their ranking:
#60 Michael Rasmussen
#72 Evgeny Svechnikov
#84 Joe Hicketts
#90 Vili Saarijarvi
#96 Filip Hronek
A couple of items jump off the page right away. First of all, Rasmussen being the team’s highest rated prospect is actually pathetic. The kid was the NINTH pick in the most recent NHL Draft. The forward Red Wings fans almost universally wanted Holland to select — Gabe Vilardi — was selected AFTER Rasmussen by the Kings and was rated #9 on this list by ESPN. Read that last line three times and try not to shit yourself.
Also, ESPN rated goalies separate. Rasmussen is #60 for SKATERS. You can make a reasonable leap that if netminders were lumped in with forwards and D-men, Detroit wouldn’t have a prospect in the TOP 70. And while we are at it, they don’t have a backstop among ESPN’s Top 24.
To make matters worse, read ESPN’s description of Rasmussen ….
Below average skating in a league that is tilting towards smaller players with speed.
Even-strength production was pretty poor.
And THIS is the franchise’s HIGHEST rated prospect!!!! Oy veysmere.
The other major red flag is the fact that 2016 first round selection Dennis Cholowski wasn’t listed among the Top 100. Not only that, the list included 22 honorable mentions and Cholowski wasn’t included in that group either.
And while it’s too early to call Cholowski a bust, this pick couldn’t have looked any worse after 14 months unless the kid had pulled a Steve Chiasson or Pelle Lindbergh. Do you know how difficult it is to select a player 20th OVERALL in a draft and a year later that kid is NOT, considered one of the top 122 prospects in the game? It’s almost impossible.
But we are talking about a defenseman who absolutely flamed out in college at St. Cloud State to the point where he abandoned the team and will be pining away in the WHL this coming season for Prince Albert. Insert your own “Do you have Dennis Cholowski in a can?” joke here.
Since the PROJECT blue liner was picked as a huge reach by Holland and Ryan Martin, he has:
- Bombed out in college.
- Not gotten any ice time during the Grand Rapids Griffins’ Calder Cup run.
- Attended the World Junior Showcase in Plymouth where he looked like a fish out of water;couldn’t crack the upper echelon of Team Canada’s relatively weak defense;and has been given virtually no chance of making his country’s World Junior team this winter.
This selection has been an absolute nightmare and that’s BEFORE you even consider the Jakob Chychrun/Pavel Datsyuk/Frans Nielsen angle which I am not going to rehash here. Mercifully.
So to summarize, the Wings current roster is a disaster and their cap issues aren’t going away anytime soon.
Their farm system is underwhelming and Holland continues to dig a deeper hole year-after-draft-year.
And they’ve spent the summer playing contract hardball with their most dynamic offensive talents (Tomas Tatar and Andreas Athanasiou) and insulting the best goalie they have in their system.
That Tweet was from Andreas’ brother. And I am 100% positive he wasn’t talking about an Uber.
But hey, the new arena does look outstanding!!!!!!
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