While it's true they lost some talent and production, and haven't added anything of consequence in the early stages of the offseason, it still shouldn't put much of a dent in the Red Wings' Stanley Cup chances for 2009-10.
Let's take a look at what Detroit is really losing, and what it has coming up through the Grand Rapids pipeline.
In recent years, Detroit has been one of the better teams in the league at even strength. During the 2008-09 season, for example, the Wings had a +28 goal differential in such situations, the sixth best mark in the league. Below is a look at every Red Wings forward and their points-per-minute at even strength.
Obviously, this isn't the absolute best way to evaluate a players value, seeing as how it doesn't take into account defense or other variables. It should, however, give us a rough idea as to what type of production the Red Wings need to replace, and who their most efficient forwards were.
Hossa is going to be a big loss, there's no way to avoid it. If we ignore Ville Leino's small sample size of ice-time, Hossa was Detroit's second most efficient forward at even strength, and by a pretty decent margin. On the plus side, the Red Wings have already proven they can win the Cup without him, and we all saw what happens when Hossa leaves a team in free agency.
After Hossa? It really shouldn't be much of a concern for the Wings, at least when it comes to 5-on-5 play. I see no reason why Leino can't step into Hudler's role and put up similar numbers over the course of a season. He played sparingly for Detroit during the 2008-09 season, and showed flashes of brilliance, finishing with nine points in just 13 games. As for Kopecky and Samuelsson in even-strength situations -- they provided the offense of a fringe third/fourth liner. Certainly replaceable.
Enter Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader.
Helm provided plenty of energy and speed for Detroit in the postseason, while he was also an asset in the faceoff circle. He's been moved along slowly (as is typically the case in Detroit with its young players) and this should be his ticket to a full-time gig. Abdelkader also had his moments in the postseason, scoring two goals in the Stanley Cup Final before being sent to the bench when veteran Kris Draper returned to the lineup.
In the case of Samuelsson, it's worth questioning how much his production was a result of him as a player, or Detroit's system and the talent around him. Prior to signing with the Red Wings in 2005-06, he was essentially a journeyman, playing for four different teams in four years and scoring just 19 goals. Once he put on the Winged Wheel, he instantly became a 15-goal, 40-point forward every season.
Is he a late-bloomer? Or simply a product of the system? Vancouver will find out soon enough.
While the Red Wings won't be suffering much of a loss at even strength, they will be taking a hit on the power play as Hossa, Hudler and Samuelsson were three of their top six players in terms of power play points-per-minute.
This is where Hudler has done much of his damage the past two seasons, recording nearly half of his points on the power play. Still, it's hard to feel bad for a team that still has Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula and Ville Leino as its forward options on the power play. And that's not counting Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall on the blue line. Somehow, I think Detroit will manage.
The aspect of the team that will feel the least impact of the free agent losses. And by "least impact," I mean virtually no impact.
Between Hossa, Hudler, Samuelsson and Kopecky, the four players combined for just 123 minutes of ice-time this past season. Hossa and Kopecky recorded 120 of those minutes (80 for Hossa, 40 for Kopecky).
Over the past two seasons, Kopesky, Samuelsson and Hudler played just a little over 54 minutes on the penalty kill.
While Detroit lost some depth this offseason, it's not only replaceable depth, it's simply how things work in the salary cap era of the NHL. When you have so much money invested in top-tier talent (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, etc. etc. etc.) you're not going to be able to keep every Mikael Samuelsson and Tomas Kopecky when they hit free agency; you have to develop more of them through your farm system.
Something Detroit shouldn't have any problem doing.