The Detroit Red Wings gave the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks all they could handle in a seven game series that saw its final game go to overtime. Now that the season has ended for the Red Wings, there are many questions that need to be answered before next season. The team brought in four players in free agency before the 2013 season began, and it was disappointing to see those four players struggle to have an impact. While defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo struggled to stay healthy during the regular season, he helped the team out in the playoffs. His performance may have been a disappointment, but it was far from the biggest letdown from this group of players.
Veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson returned to the Red Wings at a hefty price, but was only able to appear in four regular season games and had one assist. He had a goal and an assist in five playoff games, but his small body of work makes it hard to gauge how he fits in Detroit this time around. Speaking of a small body of work, how about goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who was supposed to give Jimmy Howard a reliable backup option? Injuries limited Gustavsson to just seven appearances and two wins, and his best performance of the season was his one rehab start in the AHL with the Grand Rapids Griffins (a win in which he allowed just one goal). Hopefully he can stay healthy next year and be the backup option to Howard that he was supposed to be when the team signed him.
Surprisingly, it isn’t any one of these three injury-prone players that gets my nod for most disappointing free agent acquisition. That honor goes to Jordin Tootoo, a career agitator who watched all but one game of the playoffs from the press box. He dressed for 42 games this season, chipped in three goals and eight points and led the team with 78 penalty minutes. Unfortunately, a lot of his fights were staged, taking place right after a face-off with no apparent cause. That style of play doesn’t seem to have a place with head coach Mike Babcock, and Tootoo will need to do a lot more for the Red Wings next season if he hopes to see the ice in the playoffs. There’s little doubt the Red Wings could have used him in physical series against the Anaheim Ducks and the Blackhawks, and Babcock’s lack of faith in him at the most crucial of times speaks volumes. When it comes time to sign free agents this summer, the Red Wings definitely need to avoid the mistakes they made last summer by bringing in injury-prone veterans and one-dimensional players.