holland

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?

How the Detroit Red Wings Handle Analytics Correctly

Mike Babcock

Photo taken by the Grand Rapids Press

It’s about time for a rant.

Recently, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press wrote about the Red Wings’ opinion and involvement in the analytics trend within the NHL. Gustav Nyquist, Stephen Weiss, and Jimmy Howard all brushed them off as not a big deal. Not concerned at all. Ken Holland and Mike Babcock insist that they have their own analytics.

When it comes to analytics in the NHL, I do not believe today’s metrics offer an effective value-add to teams looking to improve their roster. There has been a lot of discussion in the media and other hockey blogs about Fenwick and Corsi percentages and how players’ performance in these scores are accurate representations of how they play.

For those who have not been exposed to the Fenwick and Corsi percentage metrics, they track puck possession by adding up shots, missed shots, and in Corsi’s case, blocked shots. My issue here is that missed shots and blocked shots are valued the same as shots on net. As any individual who played hockey can tell you, you can’t score on missed shots. Wayne Gretzky did say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” but you also miss 100% of the shots that miss the net.

Additionally, there has been word that, in the near future, pucks and jerseys will be equipped with tracking chips to uncover deeper analytics within the game. The FoxTrax puck was a fun novelty for kids and visually-impaired individuals, but not very helpful otherwise. Chips in jerseys? I’m not an octogenarian scared of technology, but this is unnecessary. However, I can’t wait for Pierre McGuire to tell me that Pavel Datsyuk skated 1.34 miles through the first two periods and what that means going into the third period with the Red Wings up 3-1, but down 7-5 in scoring chances.

For goalies, I’ve read other blogs that discuss 5-on-5 save percentage, penalty kill save percentage, and other metrics. As a goalie who has played high-level hockey, these numbers mean nothing. You stop the puck or you don’t. You win or you don’t. Petr Mrazek has a higher-than-average GAA, but wins games. Viktor Fasth of Edmonton has a high GAA, but loses. The team in front of the goalie also has an impact, so stats for one team do not translate to success or failure with another team.

There is not yet a way to determine a player’s value based on more than what the eye can see. Don’t read into analytics. See player development for yourself. Game tape and vigilant observation is currently more effective in determining if the players on your roster are the best fit. Finally, who are you going to trust when it comes to player evaluation, Mike Babcock or a journalist discussing Fenwick scores? I think the two have their respective jobs for a reason.

New Years Resolutions for the Detroit Red Wings

First off, happy weekend to everyone ready to enjoy a couple more days off. Cheers to another year of great Detroit Red Wings hockey and another season added to the Wings’ glorious playoff streak.

If you go to your local gym, you’ll likely see a lot of New Years resolutions in action. While those may only last a month or less, let’s hope the Detroit Red Wings stick to their resolutions. And by their resolutions, I mean the resolutions I am giving them.

For the New Year, the Red Wings should, and hopefully will, focus on five resolutions that will make them a better team — like how going to the gym will make me a better person. Five is a fair number because Nicklas Lidstrom is a fair person. In no particular order, here we go:

1. Wake Up the Hibernating Johan Franzen

Johan Franzen

Photo courtesy of Julian H. Gonzalez

Obvious, right? Right. Capable of being a 30-goal scorer for the Red Wings with his blistering shot, Johan Franzen only has seven goals to his name at the halfway point. He is always on the cusp of going on a hot streak. However, Franzen is currently enduring a shivering cold streak. How cold? Think north of the wall on Game of Thrones. If Franzen can put the biscuit in the basket in consecutive games, I am confident that will jump-start his game and be the goal-scoring power forward the Red Wings have been hoping for this season.

2. Add More Sandpaper to the Lineup

A healthy Stephen Weiss will help achieve this goal, but he alone is not enough. Weiss and Justin Abdelkader are primarily the only forwards that add grit to the lineup. Look back to the last game against Boston. The Bruins’ tough defense would not allow the Red Wings’ team finesse to get going in the offensive zone. While Detroit’s finesse game is what makes them a great team, they need to add more sandpaper and grit to the lineup if they are going to advance in the playoffs. Whether that comes from some soul searching or from another player being added to the lineup, the Wings need some toughness.

3. Let the Kids Play

Those not helping the grit department, the Red Wings could benefit from giving prospects like Teemu Pulkkinen and Anthony Mantha a game or two with the big league squad. Though their impact may be minimal at first, it certainly helps their development to skate along with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Kronwall. It certainly helped guys like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Riley Sheahan play a game or two before they fully ripened. This brief experience teaches them that while they may be dominating the minor leagues, the NHL is a whole different world and that further development and training is necessary for success.

4. Insert Xavier Ouellet into the Lineup Permanently

As the only defenseman to be recalled from Grand Rapids this season, Xavier Ouellet is quickly making a case that not only does he belong in the NHL, but in Detroit’s top six defensemen as well. It is apparent that he has leapfrogged Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff in the depth chart. No transactions allowing Ouellet to occupy that spot have been made yet because neither Kindl or Lashoff have played poorly enough to garner one. Xavier Ouellet is better than the two, but neither Kindl or Lashoff have been good enough to warrant a fair return on the trading block or bad enough to force an action by Ken Holland. My thought is this: dress the best 20 guys in the organization for a complete, balanced team. Ouellet cracks the top 20.

5. Don’t Throw Away Prospects

For the love of God, do not repeat the Calle Jarnkrok-for-David Legwand trade. It is true that the Red Wings have an abundance of solid prospects within the organization. They have depth at forward and on defense in the prospect pipeline and are looking for a top defenseman for the big league squad, but the Wings cannot squander a good prospect for minimal, short-term impact. Make the right deals leading up to the trade deadline. As parents often say (too late) to their children, “Don’t make poor choices!”

Stick to the plan, Red Wings! Don’t be the fatty in May who hasn’t been to the gym since early January!

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.

Looking Ahead: 2014-15 Forward Lines

It’s summer and the Red Wings are hopefully preparing for the coming season. Ken Holland and company are still looking to add to the roster, but chances are, it won’t change much from the lineup they would roster today.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s say Detroit re-signs Daniel Alfredsson to a new contract. It’s possible they make a trade for a top defenseman like Mike Green or a power forward, but I can’t predict that deep into the future. Signing Alfredsson is a logical outcome.

So first, let’s take a look at the forwards. Here is my guess at the opening day lineup:

2014-15 Lines

 

I am certain the Mike Babcock will keep the kids together on the second line. They played well down the stretch and could thrive going forward. Additionally, they could gain some knowledge watching Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterbergand Johan Franzen play right before them.

The third line could develop some chemistry. Stephen Weiss and Justin Abdelkader could flush the puck out while grinding and help set up Daniel Alfredsson. The fourth line would be a great grinding line. Darren Helm and Luke Glendening could annoy the shit out of opponents. Helm may be asked to participate in more of a scoring role, but with depth down the middle, he may be pushed to the fourth line. Joakim Andersson would take turns getting into the lineup with Glendening and Drew Miller.

Things could all change if the Red Wings make a trade. But until then, who knows?

Next up, we will take a look at the defense pairings for the upcoming season. Maybe the Red Wings will acquire a new defenseman before then.

Finally, what do you think the forward lineup will look like?

 

Previous Posts:

Free Agent Frenzy Roundup

Top 9: Worst Plus/Minus in Red Wings History

Red Wings Who Have Switched Positions

 

Free Agent Frenzy Roundup

Swinggg and a miss. Today, the Red Wings missed out on signing Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle, and others to reasonable contracts. Niskanen signed with Washington for seven years and $40+ million. Boyle signed with the New York Rangers for two year and $9 million.

Per Ansar Khan, the Red Wings offered Boyle three years and $12.5 million, but he declined in favor of the Rangers. Niskanen followed his former defensive coach from Pittsburgh to Washington. Todd Rierden also got former Penguin Brooks Orpik to DC, but the Caps grossly overpaid (over $5 million per season for five years).

With the market thinning out, we signed Kyle Quincey.. I am only okay with this if Ken Holland and company can still pull off a trade. Hopefully Quincey will be on the third pairing an help Danny DeKeyser develop more. In addition to Quincey, they are looking to the trade market for a top defenseman. Could Keith Yandle, Tyler Myers, or another young defenseman be available for a reasonable price?

The Red Wings did sign Kevin Porter to a two-way deal to add depth in Grand Rapids. It’s good to see the University of Michigan alum back in Michigan.

As for everyone else, there were some good deals and some bad ones. They are summarized below in the SOLID and LOL categories:

 

SOLID:

Ryan Miller to Vancouver

Boyle to New York

Jim Nill acquiring Jason Spezza from Ottawa

 

LOL:

Benoit Pouliot to Edmonton (five years at $4 million per year)

Orpik to DC

Florida drawing names out of a hat to sign

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for more updates and commentary. Hopefully the Red Wings can add and not subtract key pieces.

 

 

Can’t Forget About Detroit’s Restricted Free Agents!

Danny DeKeyser

Photo courtesy of Steven King/Icon SMI

Detroit has three players on their NHL roster that are slated for restricted free agency, meaning that if any team offers a restricted free agent (RFA) a contract, the Red Wings can match it or let the player walk and receive compensation. The three players up for a new contract are Danny DeKeyser, Riley Sheahan, and Tomas Tatar.

Of the three RFAs, I can only see Danny DeKeyser signing a long-term contract with the Red Wings at this point in time. I could see Detroit and DeKeyser agreeing to a five-year, $15 million contract this summer to lock him up for awhile. He would make more than Jakub Kindl’s $2.4 million per season on the open market and the Red Wings will pay him accordingly. Additionally, they could come to terms on a two-year, $4 million contract and work on another long-term deal when that contract expires and DeKeyser is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. Expect DeKeyser to be taken care of this summer and contribute in the top four on defense next year with a new partner.

Riley Sheahan had a breakout year this year just in time for a new contract. He solidified the number two center job with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Stephen Weiss out with injuries at varying times this season. It is likely Sheahan (and Tatar) will sign a two-year deal this summer with the Red Wings. If I had to guess, he would receive around $1.5 million on average for those two seasons. It would be nice if Ken Holland and the Red Wings’ brass could keep Sheahan’s average cap hit closer to $1.2 million to spend the other cash elsewhere.

Finally, Tomas Tatar will also probably sign a two-year deal this offseason. His cap number will be higher than Sheahan’s and closer to $2 million per year. If the Red Wings are smart, they will sign him to a long-term extension after this next season. Tatar could potentially explode and command more than $4 million per season if he puts up 30+ goals and 60+ points. He could certainly do that if a big winger is added to his line in order to give him more time and space to shoot.

These three players will combine for approximately $5-6 million in cap space of the projected $20 million in cap room this offseason. It would be wise for the Red Wings to keep these salary low with Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, and Tomas Jurco all slated to become RFAs next season.

This will be a fun offseason.

Best Draft in Detroit Red Wings History?

Ken Holland and the Red Wings scouts have made a living drafting players in late rounds that blossomed into superstars (see Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg). Some players have been busts though. Igor Grigorenko and Tom McCollum certainly fit that description, although Grigorenko had the excuse of being in a car accident and never really regaining his form.

There have been a couple drafts in Detroit’s history that stand out as their best, but which one is the overall best? Let’s take a look at the 1983 and 1989 drafts.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

In 1983, the Red Wings had the fourth overall pick and were lucky enough to have Steve Yzerman fall to him. We could just compare Yzerman to the other draft and have a pretty good argument for his draft being the best. They took Lane Lambert in the second round and had him for three okay seasons before trading him to New York for Glen Hanlon. In the third round, the Red Wings picked another long-time Red Wing in Bob Probert. Detroit took Czech sniper Petr Klima 86th overall and then Grind Line member Joe Kocur two picks later. Finally, the Red Wings took Stu Grimson in the tenth round for some more toughness. Grimson did not sign and was drafted again by Calgary two years later. Combined, this draft produced 1,323 goals, 1,713 assists, 3,036 points, and over 10,000 penalty minutes in the careers of those players. They also combined for six Stanley Cup rings.

Nicklas Lidstrom

Photo courtesy of Doug Maclelland/Getty Images

Six years later in 1989, the Red Wings were coming off of a Western Conference finals loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers. They had reached the Western Conference finals the year before as well. In the draft, they took Regina Pats center, Mike Sillinger, in the first round with the 11th pick. In the second round, the Red Wings drafted defenseman Bob Boughner. Then the fun began. The Wings took Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, and Dallas Drake in the third, fourth, and sixth rounds, respectively. Finally, in the 11th round, Detroit took a chance and drafted a Russian defenseman by the name of Vladimir Konstantinov. Of the 14 players drafted in 1989, only one other player besides those mentioned played a game in the NHL (Shawn McCosh played nine games in his career). All of these players combined for 1,227 goals, 2,367 assists, 3,594 points, and over 5,000 penalty minutes. These players also combined for nine Stanley Cup rings as well.

So which draft was better? For the sake of this argument, let’s decide which draft was better for the Red Wings.

The players from the 1983 had direct and indirect impacts on winning the recent championships. Steve Yzerman was obviously at the center of it all. Joey Kocur was there grinding it out. Stu Grimson and Bob Probert were there before the championships to protect the skilled players as they developed. Petr Klima indirectly helped as well. He was traded in a package for Jimmy Carson, who was traded to Los Angeles later for Paul Coffey in a multi-player deal. Paul Coffey would eventually be sent to Hartford for Brendan Shanahan, who was right there alongside Yzerman for three championships.

From the 1989 draft, Lidstrom, Fedorov, and Konstantinov developed with the Wings and won the 1997 championship together. Bob Boughner and Mike Sillinger did not have any impact on the Cup runs. Sillinger was actually traded for Stu Grimson in 1995 before the run to the finals. Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov were dynasty players that were essential to winning the 1998 and 2002 Stanley Cups as well. Dallas Drake and Lidstrom were in Detroit for the 2008 Cup as well.

My vote: the 1989 draft was the best. It comes down to Yzerman vs. Fedorov and Lidstrom. Steve Yzerman was my hockey idol growing up, but Fedorov and Lidstrom were essential to starting the Red Wings dynasty.

What do you think?

 

Stats and draft results provided by hockeydb.com

Offense With and Without Henrik Zetterberg

Henrik Zetterberg

Photo courtesy of AP

Two goals in two games is not where the Detroit offense would like to be heading back to Detroit for Games 3 and 4. Although the Red Wings managed to win with only one goal in Game 1, they cannot win the series by winning three more games by that 1-0 score. Most every player has at least one thing to work on for Game 3, one simple solution fans are calling for is for Henrik Zetterberg to return to the lineup.

Zetterberg has been out since the Olympic Break following back surgery and has been skating with the team recently. Ken Holland previously said that Z (and Jonathan Ericsson) would be out for the first round and may be back for the second round. Fans are still hoping that they will make an appearance against Boston. I am one of those fans, but have reservation about Zetterberg returning possibly too soon.

Players play hurt in the NHL playoffs all the time. I’m positive that Zetterberg wants none other than to be out there with the guys and beat the Bruins. Team Doctors monitoring their patient and owners monitoring their investment may say otherwise. Zetterberg will return as soon as he can, but when exactly will that be? And when he does, what will happen?

Bad News (Bruins)-

  1. Too soon? Back surgery recovery is nothing to mess with. Zetterberg could not even get out of his bed after Sweden’s first game in Sochi. He was in a lot of pain before and needs to fully recover so nothing lingers.
  2. Bruins’ Defense. Boston features big, strong defense. Torey Krug may not fit that mold, but the rest do. Henrik likes to be a little physical while playing to get to the net. He will take a beating from Boston’s D that might aggrevate his back. Would it be worth it for Z to return for a few games, but hurt his back again?
  3. Someone comes out of the lineup. Who gets scratched if Zetterberg returns? Legwand? Miller? Jurco? If it was my guess, I would think David Legwand would be scratched first. Tomas Jurco had a great Game 2 and is playing a physical game against the big Bruins. He hasn’t done much offensively or on the power play, but neither have Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, or Daniel Alfredsson. Drew Miller may not be the most skilled player, but he has played well on the penalty kill. No matter who comes out, each has a reason to stay in and Mike Babcock will have a tough decision. The decision to play a healed Henrik Zetterberg is an easy one though.

Good News-

  1. More offense. Zetterberg’s return to the lineup obviously brings more offense. He won the Conn Smythe trophy in 2008 and almost led the team in scoring this season, despite missing nearly half of the games. His point-per-game scoring rate will help our sputtering offense immediately.
  2. Leadership. When a team sees their captain come back from injury and give his all, they will be inspired. The 2002 Red Wings did it for Steve Yzerman. It holds true for any level of hockey. When a captain returns to the lineup and shows more grit than anyone on the ice, the team will follow suit and play their hearts out for him. Z has that sort of respect in the locker room.
  3. Wake up others. Zetterberg’s return will create a competition to not be the one who is scratched. There are plenty of options at this point, so the boys will be on their game for Game 3. In addition, Zetterberg’s offensive skills will create room for others on the ice. It’s apparent when Pavel Datsyuk is on the ice that the Bruins leave others alone to neutralize him. In Game 2 when Datsyuk threw the nasty backhand sauce to a trailing Brendan Smith, the replay showed four Bruins within three feet of Datsyuk with two guys trailing wide open. Datsyuk can create offense and so can Zetterberg.

 

In the meantime, Detroit needs to learn to score and create offense against Boston without him. They have been doing it for most of the year anyway. If the Red Wings can dictate the pace, they can win and let Zetterberg rest up. Game 3 needs to be played like Game 1 for Detroit to go anywhere. Let’s see it, Red Wings.