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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?

Detroit Red Wings Trade Deadline: Who’s Really Available

Ken Holland

Photo by Getty Images

One of the most anticipated dates of the NHL calendar year is quickly approaching. On March 2nd, NHL teams will be scurrying to acquire what they believe are the final pieces to their puzzle in an attempt to challenge for the Stanley Cup. The Detroit Red Wings are no different.

It is widely-known that the Red Wings are looking to upgrade their back end and they have quite a stockpile of prospects on their depth chart. Though they have an abundance of riches, it may not be prospects that are traded for a defenseman or two if the Red Wings decide to make a trade. Let’s take a look at who’s available and who’s not:

Untouchables

There is not a trade out there that will pry these players away from the Red Wings. These are franchise players that will be in the organization for the foreseeable future.

  • Pavel Datsyuk
  • Henrik Zetterberg
  • Niklas Kronwall
  • Jimmy Howard
  • Anthony Mantha
  • Dylan Larkin

 

Young Nearly Untouchables

It is very unlikely that these players will be traded unless there is an offer Ken Holland and company cannot refuse. Some of these players could become franchise players with continued development.

  • Tomas Tatar
  • Gustav Nyquist
  • Riley Sheahan
  • Darren Helm
  • Teemu Pulkkinen
  • Danny DeKeyser
  • Luke Glendening
  • Xavier Ouellet
  • Petr Mrazek

 

Older Nearly Untouchables

These are vital players to the Red Wings that likely won’t be traded unless there is a great offer. While other available trade chips from other teams are better, these players have their role and are not worth trading unless part of a blockbuster.

  • Jonathon Ericsson
  • Kyle Quincey
  • Johan Franzen

 

Trade Chips

In an attempt to challenge for the Stanley Cup, these players might become available to land a key player in return. These players can garner a solid enough return that it might be worth trading them to improve the team.

  • Tomas Jurco
  • Brendan Smith
  • Alexey Marchenko

 

Odds and Ends

There is no interest for these players. They are unlikely to be traded because their contributions to the team are greater than the minimal return that they will bring back in a deal.

  • Daniel Cleary
  • Jakub Kindl
  • Brian Lashoff
  • Stephen Weiss
  • Joakin Andersson
  • Drew Miller
  • Jonas Gustavsson

 

Prospects

Their valuable is still to be determined, but it would take a great deal for Ken Holland to relinquish one of his draft picks from team control. They could be a valued member of the Red Wings—or of another tam—one day.

  • Ryan Sproul
  • Andreas Athanasiou
  • Mitch Callahan
  • Landon Ferraro

 

Next up, a Top 9 look at who the Red Wings might be targeting as the trade deadline gets closer. It will be the RWI analysis of team needs since no one outside the organization truly knows who the Detroit Red Wings are having trade discussions with.

Chicago Blackhawks: True Rival of Today’s Detroit Red Wings

Chris Chelios

Photo by Reuters/Shaun Best

Often times, NBCSports’ Wednesday Night Rivalry Night delivers a matchup of two marketable teams from big market cities. Tonight’s Red Wings-Blackhawks matchup offers that, plus a respectable rivalry in today’s NHL.

Jonathon Ericsson once said in a Bob Duff article that the players from both teams always get up for the Detroit-Chicago games and have mutual respect for each other. The matchup is truly quality hockey at its finest.

Already this season, the Detroit Red Wings have been featured on Rivalry Night a number of times, including matchups with the Capitals, Penguins, and Avalanche. There is plenty of bad blood with the Avalanche in the history of the two franchises, but none as of late. The Penguins and Capitals are obviously former Stanley Cup opponents, but do not offer much else in history or distaste for each other.

The Red Wings-Blackhawks rivalry can be traced back to the days when the Norris family owned both teams. Their proximity to each other and distance from other original six teams offered a Midwest rivalry during Original Six play. Red Wing greats Glenn Hall, Ted Lindsay, and Sid Abel all spent a portion of their careers in Chicago (usually through unbalanced, intra-family trades to improve the Blackhawks).

Of the players on today’s teams, only Marian Hossa and Danny Cleary have played for both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks. Greats Chris Chelios and Bob Probert also spent time as fan favorites for both franchises during their careers.

The showcase of these two teams for Rivalry Night features Detroit’s one true, contemporary rivalry. It can be traced back to the franchises’ entrance to the NHL, but most recently to the 2009 Western Conference Finals, where the Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks in five games on Darren Helm’s overtime goal.

Since then, the Red Wings and Blackhawks have been among the NHL’s most talented teams year-after-year. They feature superstars, budding players, and the most pure skills between any two teams in the NHL. Look back to the quality of hockey played during the 2013 playoff matchup of these two teams. Though the Red Wings lost, you can’t help but appreciate the talent these two teams put on the ice for that series.

The teams’ talent and compete levels are similar because their systems are bred from the same template: the Red Wings franchise. It’s no wonder the Blackhawks resemble the Red Wings—Scotty Bowman is a team consultant and his son is the GM. The Blackhawks are modeled after the success the Red Wings experienced over the past two decades. Pretty cool to be model franchise for rival teams and other NHL clubs, huh?

Enjoy the game tonight. It’s the best matchup in the NHL and the best rivalry the Red Wings are a part of today.

Red Wings Facing Roster Decision…Again

Andrej Nestrasil

Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images via Detroit Red Wings

With the expected return of Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Jurco Friday night against Chicago and Stephen Weiss making it through practices without injury, Ken Holland once again faces a tough decision regarding which player will be kicked off the Detroit Red Wings island.

Of the players on the roster, only Jurco is exempt from waivers and can be sent down to Grand Rapids without another team claiming him. But we all know that, as it has been discussed all summer and now into the fall. Jurco being sent down was supposed to mean the return of Daniel Alfredsson, but like some complex high school math problems, correlation doesn’t always prove causation.

What are Mr. Holland’s other options? He could try another conditioning stint in Grand Rapids for Stephen Weiss, though that option may be off the table since he’s already had a conditioning stint during his current Injured Reserve stay. Andrej Nestrasil could be sent down to Grand Rapids to further develop, but another team could claim the big, young winger. That option may be too risky for a generally risk-averse team. Dan Cleary could be sent down and exposed to a waiver claim. The downside to that is that Cleary is a veteran presence in the locker room for the young Wings and it could be a tough loss for the team, whether he is playing in Grand Rapids or elsewhere. Even Joakim Andersson could be on the chopping block.

So what will happen, given these circumstances?

We predict that Weiss will stay on IR until he is ready to be inserted into the 20-man game roster, further delaying this inevitable decision. Unless someone else is injured and can go on IR, Andrej Nestrasil seems like the most likely Red Wing to pack up his bag at the Joe and head off to Grand Rapids.

If Nestrasil goes unclaimed, it would be nice to see him develop further and add some more skill to his large frame. He can rejoin the Red Wings for the playoffs, when players can be recalled without having to go through waivers, or possibly earn himself a roster spot with Detroit next year following a breakout year in the AHL playing alongside prospects like Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha, and Andreas Athanasiou.

 

Update

Per Ansar Khan, Weiss will play another conditioning stint game in Grand Rapids next weekend after a week of practice. It appears everyone is safe for now, but this decision will have to be made after Weiss finishes his conditioning stint. However, the week leading up to Holland’s decision gives the Red Wings ample opportunity to get hurt and further delay subtracting someone from the roster.

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.

D Stands for Defense

Before I venture into the trainwreck that is the Red Wings defense, here is a quick update on the forwards. We signed Dan Cleary to a one-year deal. You can add him to the forwards post and put him in the stands with Joakim Andersson. Cleary will likely rotate into the fourth line and step into the top-nine if someone goes down with an injury (please no).

Anyway, on to defense. Many were disappointed with the signing of Kyle Quincey and deserved to be. We struck out with bigger, more expensive names like Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle. While a trade is still possible (hopefully probable), we are going to project the defense for next season with the players on the roster. Here is what we are looking at:

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson

Danny DeKeyserBrendan Smith

Kyle QuinceyBrian Lashoff

Jakub Kindl is scratched.

 

Yikes.

I believe Smith and DeKeyser will start the season together, unless there is a trade (please). They will be in Detroit for a long time and could develop some great offensive chemistry together breaking the puck out of the zone.

Personally, I would like to see a top-four defenseman acquired and Xavier Ouellet in the lineup full time. I would keep Brian Lashoff as the seventh defenseman to play in games where a defensive defenseman is required. Kyle Quincey can do the job, but there are better options out there. If Jakub Kindl had a lower salary, he could be kept. But in the salary cap era, Kindl’s $2.4 million salary is too much for someone to sit in the stands.

There’s still a possibility of a trade. Mike Green is certainly an option at the right price. There are a lot of rumors flying around here in DC, but I anticipate Green staying put. Jeff Petry would be a more realistic option.

Next up, we will take a look at special teams. May God have mercy on the penalty kill.

 

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Free Agent Frenzy Roundup

Top 9: Worst Plus/Minus in Red Wings History

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?

Top 9: Odd Facts from the Regular Season

This past season has been a strange one by Red Wings’ standards. Injuries, new conference opponents, youth in the lineup, and a compressed schedule (because of the Olympics) have made the regular season a trying one at times. However, Detroit persevered and made the playoffs for the 23rd straight season. Before the Red Wings take on the big, bad Bruins on Friday, let’s take a look at the Top 9 odd notes from this season:

Mike Babcock

Photo courtesy of Norm Hall/NHLI

9. In a season marred by injuries and losing streaks, Mike Babcock passed both Scotty Bowman and Jack Adams to become the Red Wings’ all-time coaching wins leader. Babs finished the regular season with 415 wins in Detroit. Hopefully there will be many more wins added to that number.

 

 

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Richard Meek/SI

8. In his first season in Detroit, Daniel Alfredsson led the Red Wings with 49 points. He is the oldest player (41) to lead the Red Wings in scoring since Gordie Howe did it during the 1969-70 season. I’d like to see Detroit bring back Alfredsson for another season, but we will get to that once the playoffs are over and free agency and the draft are the priorities.

 

 

 

Daniel Alfredsson

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

7. Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall led the team with 49 points this season, though Alfredsson scored that many in fewer games that Kronwall. Their point totals were the lowest to lead the Red Wings in scoring since Joe Carveth led Detroit with 35 points during the 1945-46 season. Back then, teams only played 48 games in the regular season.

 

 

Fedorov

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

6. Alfredsson and Kronwall’s 49 points is the lowest to lead Detroit in scoring in the Modern Era. No one has led Detroit with less points since teams began playing 70 games (or 80, or 82, or 84…) in the regular season. Players like Howe, Steve Yzerman, and Sergei Fedorov consistently scored more than 49 points. In fact, they usually hit the 49-point mark 49 games into the season (or earlier).

 

 

 

 

 

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

5. On that note, Pavel Datsyuk scored 49 points last season…in 47 games. The Magic Man scored as many points as Detroit’s leaders this season in a lockout-shortened year last year. In addition, during the 1994-95 lockout-shortened season, both Fedorov and Paul Coffey bested 49 points each. Offense dipped this year, but it was spread out amongst many different players.

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Howard

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

4. Jimmy Howard‘s 21 wins are the lowest to lead the Red Wings since Glen Hanlon only won 15 for Detroit during the 1989-90 season. That was the last season before the playoff streak started. Injuries to the lineup, inconsistent play, and injuries to Jimmy himself prevented that number from being higher.

 

 

 

 

 

Gustav Nyquist

Photo courtesy of Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings

3. Gustav Nyquist led Detroit with 28 goals this season. The odd fact about that was that he was not part of the opening night lineup. Nyquist started the year in the minors and played 15 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins before getting called up to the show. It was more of a salary cap move to keep Nyquist in the minors for so long, but the signings of Daniel Cleary during training camp and Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo the previous season to play over Nyquist was questionable then and now.

 

 

Tomas Jurco

Photo courtesy of Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

2. The Red Wings had nine different players make their NHL debuts this season. Tomas Jurco, Luke GlendeningLandon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Mitch Callahan got a chance to crack the top-12 forwards, while Adam Almqvist, Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, and Ryan Sproul made their NHL debuts on defense. So many rookies making cracking the lineup is certainly an oddity in Detroit, considering the Red Wings overdevelop their prospects and prefer to have veterans suit up over rookies.

 

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mary Schroeder/Detroit Free Press

1. Detroit’s 39 wins this season is the lowest win total in a non-lockout-shortened season since the 1996-97 team finished the year with 38 wins. While losing sucks, I’ll gladly take 39 wins because the Red Wings happened to win the Stanley Cup in 1997 after the “subpar” regular season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statistics provided by hockeydb.com

Playing a Two-Way Game

Alex Ovechkin

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin is a polarizing figure around the NHL. No, he is not a Red Wing, but does have a place in this blog. Here’s why: Steve Yzerman was once in a similar situation as Ovechkin.

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, our beloved captain lit up the scoreboard, but the Red Wings never were legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. They reached the Campbell Conference (Western Conference) Finals in 1987 and 1988 only to be eliminated quickly by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers won the Cup both years because Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier could do anything they wanted on the ice. Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey (only in 1987), Craig Simpson, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, and Grant Fuhr also “contributed.” Detroit did not return to the conference finals until 1995.

In 1993, Yzerman was approached by newly-appointed coach Scotty Bowman. He wanted Yzerman to focus more on his defensive game in order to help develop the team. Bowman said the points would come, but not as often as they usually did. However, his contributions playing well in the defensive zone would more than compensate for the loss in production. Yzerman could have easily said no and continued to score at will. He reached 100 points in each of his previous six seasons.

Instead, Steve decided to focus more on the defensive side.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of AP

Now, the leader of the team and leading scorer was playing a more defensive style of hockey and it began to rub off on the rest of the team. Detroit continued to score as well. Sergei Fedorov and Ray Sheppard each had 50 goal seasons. Fedorov bought in as well and won the Selke Trophy that year. He would win it again in 1996.

Scotty Bowman taught superstar players that how to play defense and continue scoring, even if it was at a slower pace than they are used to. That has rubbed off on Red Wings players since then. Guys like Yzerman, Fedorov, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Keith Primeau, Dallas Drake, Slava Kozlov, and Martin Lapointe were on that 1993-94 Red Wings team that Scotty Bowman influenced. The next four years produced incredible results stemming from a defensive system. Detroit reached the finals in 1995, set a record for regular season wins in 1996, and won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998.

All of those players are now retired. However, the way they played the game rubbed off on younger players. Last I heard, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were two of the best two-way players in the NHL. Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary also got a chance to play with Steve Yzerman and learn the ropes of defensive hockey. Now, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Tatar are all playing strong defensively (some more than others though).

Getting back to Ovechkin – he needs to change his style. As of this morning, he is -35 on the season with 74 points. He only has 38 points at even strength. That means that 73 goals have been scored while he has been on the ice. That number is absolutely absurd. He is a right wing, so his contributions to the defensive end may not be as crucial, but the problem is not the Caps defense, centers, and goalies. If someone is not covered in the defensive zone, everyone overcompensates to cover, often leaving their man. This scramble usually results in a goal against.

Will adopting a more defensive style work? Dale Hunter tried that a few seasons ago, but him and Ovechkin were often feuding and they did not advance far in the playoffs. Perhaps a change of players and management in DC will produce better results, even if Ovechkin’s numbers decline. Ask Steve Yzerman what meant more, three Stanley Cups or putting up 100 points every season? In a crazy hypothetical situation, I’m sure Yzerman would have had no problem refraining from scoring if it meant Stanley Cups in Detroit.

Thank you Scotty Bowman for changing the Detroit Red Wings culture to a more accountable one that continues today. Thank you Steve Yzerman for the selflessness that led Detroit to three Stanley Cups.