Far be it from me to question Ken Holland (though I’ve already done that right here), but a day after watching Jason Williams break his leg and the Red Wings re-enter their spiral of terrible hockey, we get this gem, compliments of the Free Press:
Holland said the Wings do not expect to have to call anyone up from Grand Rapids, because Patrick Eaves (bruised left foot) should be healthy for Wednesday’s game against Columbus.
So let me get this straight. We’re down Franzen, Filppula, and Williams up front (after losing Hossa, Hudler, Samuelsson and Kopecky this summer), but we’re NOT going to add any bodies to make up for the loss of bodies or offense?
It’s not as if the Wings are playing just peachy. Aside from the Bruins and Sharks games, they’ve played rather poorly. And maybe the forwards aren’t the problem, per se, but going with whatcha got hasn’t exactly been working this season, Tick Tock.
What sets this team apart from those in years past is the lack of depth. We’ve always had a handful of NHL ready guys who WEREN’T in the lineup. We no longer have that luxury, with the top call-up from Grand Rapids being, by my guestimate, Mattias Ritola. That’s not to say Ritola’s not an NHL player, but let’s take a look at the Red Wings depth, from the final forward or two, and the top five call-ups, comparing last year to this one:
2008-09 Red Wings Forward Depth
12. Kirk Maltby
13. Darren McCarty
14. Darren Helm
15. Ville Leino
16. Aaron Downey
17. Justin Abdelkader
18. Mattias Ritola
Everyone on this list, minus Ritola, had every confidence of everyone involved in the Wings that they could step in and be a contributor in one way or another. Now let’s compare that to this year’s list:
2009-10 Red Wings Forward Depth
12. Kirk Maltby
13. Brad May
14. Patrick Eaves
15. Justin Abdelkader
16. Mattias Ritola?
17. Kris Newbury?
18. Jeremy Williams?
Abdelkader looks like he’s on the Wings to stay, though the team made no secret that they preferred he stay in Grand Rapids. Brad May may never have even earned a call-up on last year’s team. Ritola, Newbury, and Williams each have had cups of coffee in the NHL, but raise your hand if you think any of them are the answer to the woes currently facing the Winged Wheel. Couple this lack of depth with the mounting injuries, and we’re required to look a bit further down the chart, just in case:
19. Ryan Oulahen?
20. Cory Emmerton?
21. Francis Pare?
22. Evan McGrath?
23. Dick Axelsson?
I’m not advocating for a trade, but if now isn’t the time – with Lilja, Franzen, Filppula, and Williams’ cap numbers coming off the books – albeit temporarily – and it at LEAST calls for fresh blood to make its way east to Hockeytown.
Allow me to start the “Call Up Tomas Tatar” bandwagon. Is he the most NHL-ready of Wings property on the farm? Of course not. But there are some intangible things that come along with an 18-year-old being in the locker room with you all of a sudden:
1. Put yourself on watch. There are teenagers at the ready. Pull your head out of your keister, and get scoring or we’ll find someone who doesn’t know any better.
2. Why not trial by fire? The last teenager the Red Wings gave regular season time to was Steve Yzerman and that worked out okay (note: I’m not calling Tatar the new Yzerman, just demonstrating that the organization is familiar with bringing along a player at his age and ensuring he doesn’t become a crazy Sidney Crosby-like prima donna).
3. Fresh blood. Here’s a kid that doesn’t know any better. He showed flashes of offensive brilliance in the pre-season and played with complete abandon, which is something I can’t say for the rest of the roster. There’s no urgency from ANYONE, but there would be from a kid who’s trying his damnedest to make an impression on the team. The team which, by the way, has already shown great confidence in Tatar by signing him, and keeping him in Grand Rapids.
Make no mistake, please, I’m not calling Tomas Tatar our savior, but if at any time in the last two decades it was time for a move that might raise eyebrows, it’s right now, and this move.
Vote Tatar in 2009.