It’s September 1st.

Some teams are still trying to destroy their futures. The NHL, like any ecosystem is a delicate entity. There are many moving parts, and the ratio of one part to another will impact things two or three steps removed from either. You need players on the rise, players at their peak, and ones who are on the decline. They all contribute just as moths, and blue jays, and red tailed hawks all play their parts.

Marcus Foligno is a great example of a middle six forward who gives much, and is well regarded. The Chuck Fletcher thought it was more important to sign aging Penguins discard Matt Cullen, than to secure the return for trading Scandella. CapFriendly and others currently project Landon Ferraro and Joel Eriksson Ek as making the roster, with either of them back in the AHL the Wild would have right around three million in cap space. If they decide to carry just twelve forwards it would give them an additional cushion for injuries. The issue here is do you pay him better or the same as other left wings who had similar point totals like Justin Abdelkader and Carl Hagelin who both made more than four million last year? Or do you simply try and cram him into a roster that is unlikely to go far in the playoffs?

In the last two season Bo Hovart has increased his point total year over year, jumping from third two seasons ago to first last year, and has a better faceoff win percentage in that time than team captain Henrik Sedin. Somehow with training camp close enough to feel, he is without a contract. He’s scored shorthanded, powerplay, and even strength goals. He’s played over 18 minutes a night. He’s done just about everything a setup man can do on a roster that is 80% ECHL and alumni quality to help the team win. Joe Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Jason Spezza all produced less points last year with far, far more help and hugely better compensation.  Ondrej Palat was on a non-playoff team and produced the same number of points, Logan Coture had the same points total, as did Anze Kopitar and Aleksander Barkov. With all or most of the $14,000,000.00 set on fire at the feet of the Sedin twins coming off the books next year, and no other player in the system in need of a big raise cash should not be the issue. Not when they have close to nine million in cap space to work with.

David Pastrnak has been covered in depth over the summer and all that’s worth adding is that the team president said there haven’t been any talks in months.

With all the glory of last season, the Columbus Blue Jacket’s seem to have gotten a pass on Alexander Wennberg not having been hog tied to their roster yet. Year over year ye’s increased his points total twenty points twice in a row. He played in 80 of the teams games last year. Last season he stepped into the gap created by trading Johansen and ended up the team’s second leading scorer, putting up just two less points than the Nashville Predator’s second most famous Ryan. While the Blue Jackets do have a pretty dynamic cap situation with the number of impact players due contracts in the next two years, they do have to be careful. But in the ultra competitive Metropolitan division who can afford to be without their number one center?

The Detroit Red Wings roster is as run down as the Joe, and while Andreas Athanasiou isn’t the level of impact player the other forwards on the list are. That said, you don’t improve by continuing to leak talent. All players are ultimately replaceable, but alienating players for little good reason when you have a new arena to fill, and pay off is senseless. The optics are also poor when it’s time to get free agents into town, or when the next RFA is due a contract.

Damon Severson is one of three men to crack the top fifty among defensemen in scoring while playing less than twenty minutes of ice time. The other two Brady Skej, and Dmitry Orlov were both on playoff teams. The New Jersey Devils were needless to day, not quite that good. His point total eclipsed Noah Hanafin, Jake Muzzin, and Jonas Brodin. So why is a team with unlimited growth potential wasting time dithering with a solid young defensemen? It’s not like they have 299 other defenders ready to hold the line against the Persians and other NHL teams.

One thing that stands out right away when looking at the roster is the number of guys who have yet to play their first NHL game. Jacob Trouba is highly touted, but as the Vancouver Olympics showed us the national rosters with the most NHL players will win, and that’s a lot of talent for someone who might still not have an NHL game to their credit. Not long ago, I went over the old roster and looked at the potential new one.

Dan DeKeyser was the most talked about college free agent this spring, and yet he got into just two of the Detroit Red Wings playoff games this spring. If he’s not yet at level to play regularly against NHL competition it is curious to see him on even a preliminary Olympic roster. Jake Trouba and Seth Jones are a surprise because unlike DeKeyser they don’t have even a single NHL game to their credit. It is unlikely that even if all three make it they will play huge minutes for Team USA, but there are other NHL defensemen with a little more creditability as a possible Olympian.

The forward group shows that as always Team USA will be a team designed to win games in a complete manner, and not simply by scoring for dear life. TJ Oshie is a little bit surprising given the occasional questions about his conditioning. Trevor Lewis as a bottom six forward is surprising because he hasn’t shown any strong offensive upside in the NHL yet. Justin Abdelkader’s hits are enough to get anyone attention, but offensively, he’s had just two 20+ goal seasons in his hockey career, one for the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and once in the AHL. Paul Stastny is surprising, well only if you fail to look at his international numbers. His NHL numbers arguably do not justify a spot on the roster, but his international game is quite solid.

In goal, there isn’t an a team that can match the depth of the Americans at least on paper. Craig Anderson and Jonathan Quick in whichever order you care to list them are the easy picks as first and second goalies. But they probably shouldn’t be, even with strong performances in the last two seasons because Miller and Gibson are both en fuego  Miller, Howard and Schneider should spend their time at camp and early in the year looking over their shoulder at John Gibson who has a career 9.35sv% in international play including tours-de-force of .951 and .955 in separate tournaments this year. Of all the goalies there, Jimmy Howard probably has the least pressure on him.

The biggest surprises on the Team USA roster are who isn’t there. But that’s for tomorrow’s snubs post.

Every dynasty has its end. The Hapsburgs, the Mings, the Boston Celtics, and so too does the Red Wings organization find itself at the end of its time as an elite power. It is one of those inevitabilities of  human history. Some times great dynasties come to an end because they simply run out of heirs. In other cases outside forces conspire to tear them down, or simply overshadow them. Other times the faith in the cause or the bloodline runs thin and the pinnacle of the dynasty is simply no longer great. Whatever the cause, the Detroit Red Wings are there.

In 2008 when they last won the Stanley Cup they were the best team everyone wanted to be. They gave up less goals than anyone, they had the best goal differential and won their division by a jaw dropping 24 points. The next year they would slide into the the playoffs with three straight losses, 51 wins, and having given up 60 more goals than the year before on their way to losing in the Cup finals. Fast forward to last year : the goal differential shrank from +73 to +20, they would lose in the second round for the second year in a row to the San Jose Sharks, and Lidstrom would finish the year as a minus player for the first time in his career.

This year they are on pace to score 179 goals. That is a number than any of the lottery teams has scored in the past several seasons. Their goals for goals against differential is a negative number, and if they playoffs started today they’d be looking at a long golfing season. Only perennial lottery team the New York Islanders have scored less goals than the Red Wings this season, and that team has played fewer games, and has a better goals against average. Dire is perhaps the only word that can describe the situation. Amazingly the St Louis Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets are the only cushions between the Motor City heroes and the conference basement.

To make matters worse, they don’t have much in the way of prospects to call up. In the past decade they’ve only made four first round selections. One of those Jakub Kindl is attempting to stick with the team for the third time. 2007 selection Brendan Smith has yet to earn a call up despite good numbers in the AHL last year. Thomas McCollum was picked at the end of the first round in 2008, and has earned one NHL appearance and gave up three goals to the Blues in less than fifteen minutes, he’s assigned to the Wing’s ECHL affiliate this year. Their 2010 first round pick is a college athlete currently attending Notre Dame, Riley Sheehan has been middling on the Fighting Irish team. For later round picks, you have to go all the way back to 2006 draft class to find three picks who have hit double digit games played in the NHL. One of those three is Shawn Matthias is  Florida Panther, right wing Jan Mursak has 1 point in 19 games and is currently on the injured reserve, and 2006 left wing pick Cory Emmerton is has only broken double digit minutes once this season, despite heading into their last game with as many points as Cleary, Helm or Abdelkader.

Over the last several years the talent leaving has been an even bigger problem than what has been drafted. Brian Rafalski was lost to retirement last year to be replaced by the well traveled Ian White. Chris Chelios is long gone, Shannahan is now one of the NHL’s best known suits, and Lidstrom while still on the ice, is not the player he was when he last hoisted the Stanley Cup. The teams forwards don’t dominate any more, and depth at every position is lacking.

The brain trust in Detroit has a stark choice to make: tarnish the reputation of the organization by riding aging players down in flames or give them the opportunity to help other teams and restock the team at the same time. Of their top five scoring forwards last season only two had a positive plus minus. All five of them are 31 or older. Even if they managed to restock with a set of high end players like their division rivals the Chicago Blackhawks did, that takes 4-5 years and that would put Zetterberg and Franzen the youngest of the set at 35, and Bertuzzi would be at least 40.

In stark contrast to their neighbors to the north the Calgary Flames they are largely unencumbered by no trade and no movement clauses. Even with a contract that stretches until 2020, Franzen would catch a return of at least a first round pick and a prospect. He’s got size, plays both wings and has been to the promised land. For Pavel Datsyuk the sky is literally the limit, a quiet conference call with the teams he’d be open to moving to could yield the largest haul since Gretzky was shipped to the Oilers, possibly larger if a contract extension were worked into it. Even the teams that normally shy away from the ultra long contracts are likely to step to the plate if Zetterberg is offered up. Without a non-movement clause the 2008 Conn-Smyth winner opens the field to anyone who can pony up the picks, prospects and roster players that most appeal to Jim Dellevano, Ken Holland and their advisers.

A look at the ISS, TSN and other prospect rankings for this years draft class says there is plenty of potential to turn their defense around in short order if they have multiple first and second round picks. If they sold off early and mostly went with picks and prospects they might even have a shot at Yakupov. With all their talent in place  they are one point above the lottery as winter closes in. If they hit ctrl+alt+delete soon enough they have a chance of regaining dynasty status in two or three year and staying their a long, long time.