Stephen Weiss has played all 11 of his NHL seasons with the Panthers. (Getty Images)
Too bad Ken Holland lost his fastball somewhere along the way and no valuable free agents want to play for the Red Wings anymore.
Otherwise, we might have a hockey team in town!
How many times have you heard those sentiments in the year since Nicklas Lidstrom retired?
Well, on Friday, the Red Wings nabbed future Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Daniel Alfredsson and a fairly skilled, quick, two-way forward, Stephen Weiss.
Of Weiss, too many know too little because he has played all of his NHL hockey five minutes north of the Everglades for a team that made the playoffs once since a Republican presidential nominee last won Florida (2004). But he is good.
Not bad for a general manager whom some lily-livered folks around town unjustly have accused of borderline incompetence, as the Red Wings attempt one of the most difficult managerial tasks in sport, rebuilding on the fly.
As for the big boys not wanting to play here?
“I’ve played 18 years and have not won a Stanley Cup,” Alfredsson said, after signing. “As everyone knows, Detroit’s goals are to be at the top of the game and win championships.”
Or, as Weiss said, “It was a pretty easy decision to come play with the Red Wings, where there’s been a culture of winning for many years.”
If Alfredsson provides at age 40 what he provided at 37, when he averaged 0.36 goals per game, rather than last season when he averaged 0.21 goals — the second-worst average of his brilliant career — then the Red Wings greatly improved their roster.
If Alfredsson simply has a similar season to 2013, the Wings have merely improved.
And, given the depth of the Wings need to renovate their roster after Lidstrom’s departure, simple improvement was their stated and sensible goal, for this summer.
Valtteri Filppula is gone. A speedy forward capable of outstanding defensive play and 20-goal seasons, Filppula, who turns 30 next season, was always about potential. Unfortunately, he remains so.
Damien Brunner’s stop in Detroit was all too short. But his passivity and durability raised questions, and the Red Wings entered Friday trying to be a bit more about now than the future. Besides, the salary cap just came down and business is business.
Daniel Cleary remains in limbo, with some chance he might return or be replaced by Brenden Morrow, the former captain of the Stars who had a cup of coffee with the Penguins last season.
Cleary scored five goals in the playoffs, goes to the dirty places along the boards and in front of the net and is invaluable as a leader. Morrow does the same.
Regardless, the Red Wings are a perceptibly better hockey team today, perhaps even substantially so.
Holland strikes fast
As for Holland? Surrounded by one of the best staffs in the NHL, he remains among the best general managers in the league.
He won three Stanley Cups when Mike and Marian Ilitch’s checkbook contained many signatures and awaited Holland’s determination of the name of the payee. He won another one in the post-cap era and had a second on the stick of Lidstrom just before time ran out in the seventh game of the final against the Penguins, in 2009.
And now, he is negotiating some of the most perilous waters in his particular sea, a restructuring while continuing to excel.
Many franchises fade away for several seasons, sometimes longer, at times like this.
Last season, Holland’s club was thrice within a game of eliminating the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Blackhawks, a team so stacked with talent it easily was confused with a pre-cap club.
And now, amid cat-calls from the bleachers, Holland entered the game and produced once again.
That loud popping you heard this week, sounding like tightly wrapped cowhide into leather? It was Holland’s fastball.
Not signing Vincent Lecavalier for nearly $5 million per each of five years? POP!
Not signing David Clarkson for slightly more than $5 million per seven years? POP!
So much for Holland’s problems with velocity, eh, folks?
Holland and Mike Babcock spent 45 minutes with Alfredsson and Weiss on the phone Thursday explaining where the Red Wings are and where they are going.
And as for the folks around town who think players desire not to play for the Wings because Babcock is too intense?
I do not have the space for that in this column. I will save it.