Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Meech decision

After signing Ruslan Salei, the place for Derek Meech on this Red Wings team has probably disappeared. A trade of him would be necessary for cap space and between Salei and the kids, there is hardly room for another defenseman on the team. But it's gonna be a tough decision for the Wings. After all they have invested a lot of time in Meech and would have liked to get to reap the benefits. So I'm gonna take a look at the possible benefits of keeping Meech and also what he needs to get there.

It's not very easy to project exactly how good Derek Meech could become. His best aspect is of course that he is a utility player that can play both forward and defense. But it's hard to say how good he could become at each. Meech is limited by his size and skill level for sure. He's not too big and can never be a very physically imposing player. And when it comes to technical skills he doesn't have any that really stick out. He is an average skater, has average stick handling etc etc. He is pretty average in all the technical aspects of the game. And I don't see too much room for potentially improving too much on them to make them what they in baseball would call above average tools. The one I see him improving to such a level is his shot. It is heavy and booming, but right now he takes too long setting it up and it needs a bit of accuracy. But if he could work on speeding up the process and on placing it better and smarter this could develop into a very valuable above average tool for him and give him another dimension as a defenseman.

So if he could get his shot better and also get the mental/strategic dimension up to average, what kind of defenseman could he be? Probably not a top four for the Wings. Maybe for another team in trouble, but not the Wings. So we are looking at a potential solid third pairing defenseman here, which is always a useful thing to have. And considering the fact that he is cheap, seems like a good dude, is well liked by his teammates and is loyal to the club, he could be a real useful asset.
As a forward I actually like him more than as a defenseman, he is tougher, dares to crash and bang more and looks like a guy who could be a decent fourth liner if he got to spend more time there and get used to it. Those two together would make him a really nice asset.

But to get there he needs work. He has some very clear shortcomings and most of those are in his head. He seems to have been good on all lower levels, so I think the speed of the game is among the problems, which would be pretty natural for a guy who's in and out of the team all the time. He doesn't seem to think the game fast enough which leads to him being late into situations and do things just slightly after he should have done them. His positioning is shoddy to so say it nicely, so he would have to work hard on that too. He needs to learn to think fast enough to be where he needs to be in time. Last year, Meech being out of position was more the rule than the exception, especially on the PK. It got better towards the end, so there is hope though. And he also needs confidence. Another thing that is hard to get when you play occationally. He needs to feel safe as a defenseman. You can see he is not from the way he throws the puck away in desperation at times where he should take more time and make a better pass.

The answer to these problems: Some coaching on positioning and consistent ice time in the NHL. As for to develop as a forward, the same thing. And here lies the problem. The Wings would certainly like to have a Derek Meech who have reached his potential as described above. And if they were, say, the Islanders it would be a no brainer to give him the ice time to get there. But the Wings wanna win a cup. They have a great team. And frankly, Derek Meech is not a good enough player to warrant ice time on a consistent basis on this team. Neither is he good enough to be a regular player on a Stanley cup contender right now. So the Wings can't really play him as much as he needs to to become the player he could become. He could of course be used as a utility player who plays 20-40 games again, but he would take up a roster spot and cap space that would be more useful for another, younger defenseman or another forward. And quite honestly, it would be unfair to Meech to keep him back from achieveing what he could potentially achieve with his career. And we've got more talented defensemen coming up anyway haha.

So the right decision both for the Wings and for Meech would be to part ways. He's a good guy and he'll be missed and I'll definitely root for him to do well in the future with another team, but he and the Wings should soon become a closed chapter.

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