bertuzzi

Detroit Red Wings Young Guns: Pushing the Vets and Each Other

Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist

Source: AP

It’s been said that the younger players on the Red Wings will need to push the vets to make them and the team better this upcoming season. What hasn’t been explicitly stated is that the younger group will be battling each other for prime lineup spots.

Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have established themselves as goal scorers and dangerous playmakers. Riley Sheahan could potentially slot in at second line center. Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, and Anthony Mantha will all battle for playing time (and in Mantha’s case, a roster spot).

All of these players figure to be battling for top-9 spots in the forward lineup. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader have locked up spots in the top-nine as well. Stephen Weiss is under contract and management would likely prefer to not play a $5 million player on the fourth line. He will be battling for a top-nine spot as well.

Provided that all of these players are on the roster when the Red Wings break camp, there are five spots to battle for in the top nine. Nyquist and Tatar will easily claim two spots, but it’s just a matter of where since they played on all three top lines last season. Sheahan will likely center the third line to start the season. That leaves two spots for Jurco, Mantha, Pulkkinen, (and Weiss). Mantha can be assigned to Grand Rapids to start the season if need be.

A secondary roster spot battle will be flying under the radar as well. Joakim Andersson and Landon Ferraro will be competing for the fourth line right wing spot alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. Out of options Mitch Callahan could be in the running as well. He, along with Andersson and Ferraro, are all restricted free agents this summer and can’t be assigned to the minors without passing through waivers. There’s a good chance one of these three won’t be with the Red Wings next season.

A healthy Johan Franzen or a potentially re-signed Dan Cleary can further complicate these roster battles as well. Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou are putting up solid numbers for the Griffins on their playoff run. They could factor into roster decisions with their current coach, Jeff Blashill, expected to take over the Red Wings’ coaching position.

Ken Holland was clear earlier this summer: the young players need to challenge the vets. They will need to earn their spot in the lineup first though.

It’s nice to have a bunch of talented players, huh?

Very Special Teams

Last season, the Red Wings’ special teams were, well, not up to par. Our penalty kill was atrocious at times, especially against the Bruins in the first round. Additionally, the power play was not very powerful. It was difficult to gain some consistency on special teams with players missing so much time during the season, but that should not stop world-class hockey players from capitalizing on the man advantage.

Looking ahead to next season, I wonder if the Red Wings will continue to use the Tomas Holmstrom screen in front of the net. Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, David Legwand, and even Riley Sheahan filled that role at times last season, but none caused as much havoc as Homer once did. With Bertuzzi and Legwand departing, I wonder if the Red Wings will shift to a more puck possession-focused power play next season.

For the power play, I have to imagine the set up will stay the same, unless Mike Babcock devises some ingenious strategy over the summer involving newly re-signed Daniel Cleary. Here is what the top two power play lines will probably look like:

(Note: other signings and TRADES could change these lines below.)

First PP: Niklas Kronwall up top, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg on the half walls of the respective off wing, Pavel Datsyuk as the rover finding space and creating space, and Johan Franzen in the slot.

Second PP: Danny DeKeyser up top, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith on the half walls, Gustav Nyquist filling Datsyuk’s role, and Riley Sheahan in the slot. Stephen Weiss will also get some time in Sheahan’s role, as could Justin Abdelkader. It all depends on who is playing best at the time.

Now, on to the penalty kill. Woof.

We need improvement. Period. The strategy needs to improve in order to prevent goals. We have great players, but the positioning and assignments need adjustment.  The first thing that needs to happen is our defensemen need to be more physical down low. Boston’s defense hit our forwards enough that they won battles in the corner before they even begun. Intimidation goes a long way. Unfortunately, Kyle Quincey doesn’t scare anyone. Let’s take a look at who will most likely start the season on the penalty kill teams:

Forward pairings: Darren Helm and Drew Miller; Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader; Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson.

Defense pairings: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson; Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff.

With Bill Peters gone and Tom Renney possibly accepting a role with Hockey Canada, Coach Babcock has the opportunity to add an assistant coach with a great special teams background. I heard Adam Oates is available.

Potential Trade Partners for the Red Wings #1

The Red Wings’ braintrust is currently evaluating the roster and planning their offseason. Ken Holland and company could say that they have a team ready to compete for a Cup next year and injuries derailed their chances this year. They could also look and the roster and decide that there are a few pieces to the puzzle missing.

Personally, I think Detroit needs more size. It was apparent against Boston that the Red Wings could not use their speed game to win the series against the Bruins or match their physicality. They also need some help on the back end and penalty kill. Let’s take a look at some teams the Red Wings could swing a deal with this offseason and some proposals that could work. Note: Detroit’s best chance at acquiring talent is by trading young talent. It’s possible that they trade players from the current roster, but for this article, we will stick with trading prospects.

St. Louis

David Backes

Photo courtesy of Yahoo Sports

WHAT? Yeah, they are not in our division this year and will not be any time in the future. The Blues had yet another disappointing first round exit this playoff season and could be looking to make some trades. Patrick Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, and Jaden Schwartz are all scheduled to become Restricted Free Agents this summer and will definitely receive raises. In addition, both Ryan Miller and Brian Elliott will become Unrestricted Free Agents. They may want to move pieces for a new look or clear some salary cap space.

It’s hard to tell who St. Louis could move, if anyone. Philadelphia thought they could win with Mike Richards, James van Riemsdyk, and Jeff Carter, but they were all moved (for one reason or another) and brought back Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Luke Schenn, and Jakub Voracek in return. Like we saw with the David Legwand trade, teams need to give up good players to bring in good players.

Proposal: Roman Polak and David Backes traded to Detroit for Alexey MarchenkoTomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, and a conditional draft pick (second round pick that turns into a first round pick if Detroit makes the Eastern Conference Finals).

Buffalo

Christian Ehrhoff

Photo courtesy of Timothy T. Ludwig US Presswire

Could the firesale continue? Christian Ehrhoff, Chris Stewart, and Drew Stafford could be moved. Stafford presents an interesting opportunity for the Red Wings. The big winger has one year left on his contract at $4 million. Stafford’s mediocre play is questionable, but I’m positive a change of scenery and great linemates could help him regain his game. Ehrhoff plays in all situations and would certainly be an upgrade for the Red Wings’ defense.

Proposal: Ehrhoff, Stafford, and a salty Mikhail Grigorenko traded to Detroit for Ryan Sproul, Tomas Jurco, Tyler Bertuzzi, and a first round pick.

Edmonton

Nail Yakupov

Photo courtesy of Shaughn Butts

Could the Oilers move a big player for a few role players? Sam Gagner has been rumored to be on the move since 2011, but would not necessarily fit with the Red Wings. Nail Yakupov could thrive with Pavel Datsyuk as his center, but it is highly unlikely that Edmonton trades him. Nonetheless, the Oilers may make some moves after seeing their core group of players achieve nothing other than scoring goals in their time in Edmonton.

Proposal: Yakupov traded to Detroit for Alexey Marchenko and a second round pick.

Other targets: Evander Kane, Vancouver defensemen, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, and/or Brian Campbell.

Summer Plans for Pending Red Wings Free Agents

Kyle Quincey

Photo courtesy of Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency should be fun for the Red Wings this summer. They have cap room to spend and issues to address. The free agent signing period, or #QuinceyWatch2014, will give Detroit a chance to add some size and talent to a roster that was lacking in the physicality department in their first round matchup against Boston.

Today, we are going to take a look at the pending unrestricted free agents. The Red Wings have seven players on the current roster (or injured reserve) slated for free agency this summer: David Legwand, C; Daniel Alfredsson, RW; Mikael Samuelsson, RW; Todd Bertuzzi, RW; Daniel Cleary, RW; Kyle Quincey, D; and Jonas Gustavsson, G.

For each player, we are assigning their Hockeytown Lineup Probability (HLP) for next season. What does that mean? It’s the probability that they will be on the opening night roster next season. I will not say which members of the current team have a 100% HLP in order not to jinx them. I’m a goalie and am very superstitious.

HLP

 

Kyle Quincey has the best chance at returning next season. While his play has been consistently average, he is a better fit than a lot of free agents. The free agent defenseman pool will be thin this summer and he may be able to give the Red Wings a discount. I would prefer the Red Wings to bring in someone else, but the reality of that is less likely than Kyle Quincey returning.

Jonas Gustavsson has a decent chance of returning too. He played great this season when Jimmy Howard was injured or underperforming. If the Red Wings want to keep Petr Mrazek in the minors for one more season, I think Gustavsson would sign a one-year deal to stay another year. He could test the market though after a solid season.

In my opinion, Daniel Alfredsson has a spot for next season if he wants to play another season. He may be an old man, but still led the Red Wings in scoring this season and provided veteran leadership in the locker room while Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were out. Another one-year deal is possible if Alfie wants to play another year.

For the rest of the free agents, a return would be slim. Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, and David Legwand are as good as gone. Todd Bertuzzi could return for another year if Detroit needs a physical presence on the ice, but probably would not play much. They could sign David Legwand to a multi-year deal to compensate for sending Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok, and a second round pick to Nashville for Legwand at the trade deadline. It would be hard to see the Red Wings resign him with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, and Joakim Andersson slated at center on the depth chart, though. However, trades and buyouts happen and the Red Wings are primed to do one or both this summer. There are reports out that while Daniel Cleary will not be in the Red Wings’ lineup next year, he may be in their front office after playing the last decade in Detroit.

What do you think?

Throwback Thursday: Looking to the 1998 Red Wings for Tonight’s Motivation

Chris Osgood

Photo courtesy of AP

Around this time of the year in 1998, the Red Wings were gearing up for Game 4 of their first round matchup against Phoenix. They had just come off of back-to-back losses to the Coyotes, where Chris Osgood had performed below expectations. We all remember Jeremy Roenick blasting a clapper past Osgood from center ice.

Going into Game 4 down two-to-one in the series and on the road, Detroit had every reason to lose and eventually lose the series. Chris Osgood could have let the Coyotes rattle him again and it looked that way early after an early goal. After that, Osgood shut them down. The Red Wings roared back and took the game, winning 4-2.

The current Red Wings are in a similar situation today. Although they are not the favorites this year, the Red Wings have their backs against the wall going into Game 4 against Boston. The Bruins could beat Detroit tonight and finish off the Red Wings at home in Boston on Saturday. I don’t think the Red Wings’ locker room leadership will let that happen though.

Imagine the confidence tonight. Todd Bertuzzi is in the lineup and ready to go. Henrik Zetterberg may make his return tonight. There is no one in the locker room who thinks they are the underdogs tonight. Bertuzzi has played the game a long time and is dying for a Cup before he calls it quits. He will be on his horse tonight and hitting everything he can. Zetterberg, though probably not at 100%, will give it all he’s got. The team will see that and take note (see Zetterberg’s Impact on the Offense).

Can today’s Red Wings repeat history and follow in the footsteps of Chris Osgood and company? Can Jimmy Howard step up and shut down Boston on his own like he did in the first game of the series? Will Bertuzzi and Zetterberg have an impact the offense that has scored two goals in three games?

Game 2 of the 1998 first round matchup with Phoenix was the last time the Red Wings lost on April 24th. I’d like to wait before seeing another loss on today’s date.

Side Note: Congratulations to Pavel Datsyuk and his wife, Svetlana, on the birth of their baby girl. Also, best of luck to Niklas Kronwall and his girlfriend, who is currently in labor.

Tonight’s Projected Lines:

Zetterberg (hooray!) – Datsyuk – Abdelkader

Franzen – Helm – Nyquist

Tatar – Sheahan – Bertuzzi

Miller – Glendening – Legwand

Kronwall – Smith

Quincey – DeKeyser

Kindl – Lashoff

Red Wings’ Prospect Update

With NCAA and junior teams in their playoffs now, let’s take a look at how Red Wings’ prospects fared during the regular season. By now, we all know that Anthony Mantha, the Red Wings’ first round pick from last year, tore up the QMJHL this past season. How well did everyone else play though?

Red Wings Prospects

Stats provided by Hockeydb.com

 

Quick Intelligence:

-Anthony Mantha was named the MVP of the QMJHL. His 120 points topped the league this season.

Zach Nastasiuk, Marc McNulty, and Jake Paterson were all called up to Grand Rapids once their junior seasons ended. Nastasiuk was also named the second best shot blocker in the OHL.

Colin Campbell signed with Detroit once his season at Lake Superior ended. He was assigned to Grand Rapids, where he likely play next year.

Hampus Melen was shut down for the season after just 11 games. He developed a fatigue ailment that would not allow him to compete.

Marek Tvrdon started the season playing for Grand Rapids and Toledo before being returned to Kelowna of the WHL to finish the season. He will get another chance next season to prove himself at the professional level.

Tyler Bertuzzi season was shortened due to a neck injury. However, he returned to Guelph’s lineup for their playoff run.

Rasmus Bodin’s season was hampered by chronic hip and back injuries. It appears that Detroit is unlikely to sign him with doubts about his ability to play in higher levels.

 

Red Wings’ MASH Unit

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Carlos Osorio/AP.

It is expected that Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson will return to the Red Wings’ lineup today after missing time. Alfredsson only missed one game and Datsyuk has been out since the Winter Classic for the most part. It’s great that the team is getting healthy in time for the playoffs, but one thing I wonder is what if the team was completely healthy this season?

Generally speaking, teams like Anaheim, Boston, and Colorado have all had decent luck when it came to injuries this season, though no team can make it through the season completely unaffected by injuries. What if Detroit had that same luck? What if Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Ericsson, Stephen Weiss, and Darren Helm had been healthy and played around 70 games up to this point?

Could today’s lineup look like this instead?

Lineup

 

What are the consequences of having a healthy team?

  1. Tired players- Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Alfredsson, and Todd Bertuzzi are getting up there and need rest to be at the top of their games. If they had played an entire season, would they be fresh for the playoffs?
  2. Nyquist’s development- Gustav Nyquist would not have been thrust into the spotlight without the injuries to key players. He may not have even been called up as soon as he was. Would he be on the same current hot streak?
  3. The Kid Line’s chemistry and progress- The line of Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Jurco would have never gelled and become the offensive force it is now. Maybe “offensive force” is too strong, but the line produces. Tatar would have played third line with minimal power play ice time, while Sheahan and Jurco would still be in Grand Rapids.
  4. Early ice time for young players- Would Sheahan, Jurco, Luke Glendening, Mitch Callahan, Adam Almquist, Landon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen, Xavier Ouellet, or Alexey Marchenko crack the Red Wings’ lineup this year? Their playing time this season was incredibly valuable to their development.
  5. No Legwand- This is a toss up. David Legwand has certainly helped the Red Wings spark their offensive and has found some chemistry at times with Franzen and Nyquist. I highly doubt Detroit would have acquired him if Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Weiss, and Helm weren’t all injured at the Trade Deadline. Unfortunately for Detroit, Calle Jarnkrok has been playing well for Nashville and is showing signs that he will develop into the top-six talent Red Wings’ scouts pegged him as. Patrick Eaves was a great penalty-killer in Detroit, but did not have much of an impact otherwise (besides a few shootout goals).

At this point, are these injuries hurting the team or a blessing in disguise?