It started with a tweet.
A few weeks ago one of our good friends, @JJfromKansas, casually asked the Red Wings community their thoughts about Mike Modano returning for another season. The results were remarkable… when given the choice between “yes” and “no,” a big chunk of the Red Wings online community tweeted back their choice, and an idea was born.
I asked JJ if Winging it in Motown would be willing to join forces with The Production Line (yes, again… we’re good partners, bro) to present a series of profiles: we’d take turns laying out the facts of each of the Red Wings’ impending unrestricted free agents, and ask that you, our beautiful, intelligent, charismatic readers, answer a quick question with a very simple response: Yes, No, or Unsure.
Unsurprisingly, a ton of people turned out to their polling place to cast their votes. And we have some pretty awesome statistics to share with you.
Even though the fates of a few of these guys have had their futures decided by this writing (Nick Lidstrom, for example, has decided to return; while Joey MacDonald has stated that he’ll be seeking employment elsewhere), it’ll be fun to take a peek at the votes during a tumultuous May and early June for Red Wings fans.
As an added bonus, the boys at WIIM and I took it upon ourselves to set a little wager. Each site picked a score for each of the free agents-to-be, based on what we thought the community at-large would think. We’ve listed the winning bid along with all of the other pertinent numbers. I’m proud to report that Team TPL had the closer cumulative score, and narrowly edged out our brothers at Team WIIM, getting closer-to-the-pin on 5 of the 9 players.
Following the analysis of the numbers (the goaltenders and defensemen you can find below and the forwards are hosted at Winging it in Motown), you can find a sortable chart that has all of the data in one place.
With one goaltender (Howard), four defensemen (Lidstrom, Kronwall, Stuart, Kindl), and twelve forwards (including Mursak and Emmerton — for now), the Red Wings have $48,092,044 dedicated toward next season’s $64M salary cap. By my count, they’ll have just under$16M to play with on July 1st.
With that $16M, they’ll have to find a backup goalie (Chris Osgood or otherwise), at least three defensemen (rumor has it Brendan Smith and his $875,000 cap hit are front-runners to fill one of those slots; and Doug Janik’s one-way deal may help him become the 7th defenseman), and two or three forwards (likely Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller… and the wild card is Jaromir Jagr, who may be interested in joining the Wings).
Chris Osgood, goaltender, #30
5’10″ :: 175 lbs
17 NHL seasons (14 with Detroit)
From Peace River, Alberta
PRO-OSGOOD :: 42.27%
NO-OSGOOD :: 40.72%
UNSURE :: 17.01%
Closest Guess :: WIIM predicted 20% positive votes
How appropriate that the one human being who has caused the most dissension among Red Wings fans the last two decades… also caused the closest vote between yes and no. While more than 42% of the respondents hope to see Chris Osgood return to the Red Wings crease in 2011-12, nearly 41% of voters hope he’s played his last game in the NHL.
The two sides were separated by only 1.55 percent, or six of the nearly 400 votes. Not only were the voters who had made up their mind split nearly down the middle, 17% of all respondents were unsure of their stance — the second most (behind only Joey MacDonald). No one should be surprised that there isn’t a consensus among Red Wings fans when it comes to Ozzie because — frankly — there never has been. If the 400-game-winner was to walk away this summer, 42% of folks would be upset… and 41% would be thrilled. Go figure.
For what it’s worth, it seems like Ken Holland is content to head into July 1st and find a backup goaltender for Jimmy Howard — whether that’s Chris Osgood or not. They’ve made no secret about being concerned for Ozzie’s health, and with good reason: he’s only played a handful of games in the last two seasons, the most reason season ending in January following hernia surgery that ended up being more involved than the doctors thought it might be. Since this season seems to be a turnover-happy off-season (by Red Wings standards, anyway), my gut feeling tells me that Chris Osgood won’t be returning for another NHL season.
Joey MacDonald, goaltender, #35
6’0″ :: 197 lbs
6 NHL seasons (2 with Detroit)
From Pictou, Nova Scotia
PRO-JOEY :: 45.42%
NO-JOEY :: 36.68%
UNSURE :: 17.90%
Closest Guess :: TPL predicted 40% positive votes
As alluded to above, Joey MacDonald was the player about whom Red Wings fans were the most “unsure,” with almost 18% of respondents wondering if he’d done enough in his tenure backing up Howard to earn another shot at the Wings’ crease for 20-25 games. While a big chunk of fans weren’t sure, the ones that were sure preferred MacDonald over Osgood, by a margin of about 3% of the vote.
What’s interesting is that there wasn’t a clear majority of Wings fans that wanted either of 2010-11’s backup goaltenders to return. Fewer than half of voters (42% for Osgood, 45% for MacDonald) were comfortable putting their trust in a returning netminder, perhaps indicating that the community as a whole is looking forward to a new body to pick up the slack behind Howard.
Unfortunately for the 45 percent of voters that hoped to see MacDonald return, he’s decided that he’d prefer to seek a one-way deal in the NHL (the Red Wings were only prepared to offer a two-way deal, so that he could be returned to Grand Rapids) or take a big payday overseas. A week away from free agency, it seems clear that the Red Wings and Joey MacDonald have parted ways and that Ken Holland will be looking for a goaltender on the open market.
Nicklas Lidstrom, defenseman, #5
6’2 :: 185 lbs
19 NHL seasons (all with Detroit)
From Vasteras, Sweden
PRO-NICK :: 98.07%
NO-NICK :: 1.65%
UNSURE :: 0.28%
Closest Guess :: WIIM predicted 99% positive vote — and got within a single percentage point.
Obviously, all of this will be for naught as we look back now, with Nicklas Lidstrom having re-signed with the Red Wings for another year on Monday. And just as the pro/no vote was for completeness sake only, the analysis of the numbers will be strictly to take a peek at some interesting trends.
The Lidstrom vote came after the Brian Rafalski retirement, but I have a hard time imagining fewer than 98% would vote yes anyway. But, with the void left by the other top flight defensema’s sudden retirement, it was all but clear that Lidstrom had to return or the Wings would be in a tricky predicament to replace a pair of all-world blueliners.
Lidstrom’s 0.28% of “Unsure” votes was the fewest of any of the players profiled — but his 1.65% “No” was the second fewest: behind Patrick Eaves near-unanimous voter approval. To let you in behind the curtain for a moment… of the nearly 400 votes cast in 48 hours, only 7 were “Unsure” or “No.”
Ruslan Salei, defenseman, #24
36 years old (11/2/74)
6’1″ :: 212 lbs
14 NHL seasons (1 in Detroit)
From Minsk, Belarus
PRO-SALEI :: 10.7%
NO-SALEI :: 78.82%
UNSURE :: 10.5%
Closest Guess :: WIIM predicted 15% positive votes.
Like Joey MacDonald, it seems that Ruslan Salei’s fate has been decided for him. The Wings media said on Tuesday that the Red Wings will not be offering “Cirque” a contract — at least, not before the July 1st deadline, allowing him to seek employment with another NHL club, probably a west coast team to be closer to his family — who stayed behind in California despite daddy playing in Motown in 2010-11.
Fittingly, perhaps, is that Ruslan Salei received the fewest percentage of positive votes of any of the players profiled. 10.7% of respondents hoped that he’d be offered an extension, while nearly 79% — the second largest collection of dissenters — hoped that he was a one-year wonder in red and white. His 10.5% “Unsure” votes are probably a result of a community that is unsettled by a lot of potential roster turnover on the back end.
Whatever the reason, it seems that the majority of Red Wings fans will get their wish. The door isn’t entirely closed — if the Wings can’t find a suitable replacement on the market, they may see if Salei would like to return for another go-around — but it seems like#24 was one-and-done in Motown.
Jonathan Ericsson, Defenseman, #52
27 Years Old (3/2/84)
6’4″ :: 220 lbs
2 NHL Seasons (both with Detroit)
From Karlskrona, Sweden
PRO-ERICSSON :: 50.97%
NO-ERICSSON :: 36.74%
UNSURE :: 12.29%
Closest Guess :: TPL predicted a 40% approval rating.
This profile yielded my absolute favorite numbers of the entire series — and it’s not because I’m particularly pro-Ericsson (obviously). It’s because Red Wings fans proved themselves to be quite astute when it comes to matters of roster turnover. In all his wisdom, @JJfromKansas marked on our scoresheet the moment that news of Brian Rafalski’s retirement became public on Twitter. The results were remarkable — and wise.
Before news broke, only 46.75% of voters had voted “Yes,” indicating that they’d like Jonathan Ericsson to return and build on the development that he’s had with the Wings so far. After Rafalski’s retirement became a real possibility (and, eventually, truth), the votes swung way up — 57.38% of vote-casters realized that maybe we should hang on to the rest of the blueline if we could. Our voting was by no means scientific, but that’s a difference in range that you frankly can’t ignore.
Again, prior to the Rafalski news, an even 40% of voters said that they would prefer that Ericsson move on and chase dollars with another organization. After, only 31.48% of respondents thought the same. Also interesting is that the number of “Unsure” voters dropped from 13% to 11%.
When the totals were tabulated, including votes from before the Rafalski announcement and after it, just over half of the community voted to have Ericsson return — 50.97%. A cumulative score of 36.74% said no, and the remaining 12.29% couldn’t quite make up their mind.
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