jurco

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.

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.

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

Red Wings’ History vs. Eastern Conference

Igor Larionov

Photo Courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

It’s officially time for Detroit Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd straight year, the Red Wings will attempt to bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup. This year, however, there will be a new twist to the Red Wings’ pursuit: they are in the Eastern Conference now.

Detroit does have some recent experience against Eastern Conference teams though. They have played seven other current Eastern Conference teams since the streak began, though Columbus and Toronto were in the Western Conference when Detroit last played them in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at Detroit’s playoff experience against the Eastern Conference now that they are in the East and will have new postseason opponents.

  1. Pittsburgh- Detroit last played the Penguins in the 2009 Finals. We won’t talk about the results, but the Red Wings did beat the Penguins in the 2008 Finals. Those are the only two playoff matchups between the Red Wings and Penguins, with each team winning a series and a Cup in the process.
  2. Columbus- The Red Wings and Blue Jackets only met in the playoffs once. The 2009 sweep of the Blue Jackets was Columbus’ only playoff appearance until now.
  3. Carolina- Back in 2002, Carolina met Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals only to see Steve Yzerman lifting the Cup and Nicklas Lidstrom taking home the Conn Smythe Trophy. This was Carolina’s only playoff matchup against Detroit as either the Hurricanes or the Whalers.
  4. Washington- Team Ovechkin met the Red Wings in the 1998 Finals only to be swept in four straight. This Cup matchup against Detroit was the high point of the Pre-Ovie era and the only DC-Detroit playoff series.
  5. Philadelphia- Eric Lindros and the Legion of Doom took on the Red Wings in the 1997 Finals and got swept. Detroit took home the Stanley Cup for the first time in 42 years that season. This matchup was the only time Detroit and Philadelphia have met in the playoffs.
  6. New Jersey- We just were not ready yet. New Jersey swept Detroit in the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals even though Detroit was heavily favored. This was the only time in each franchise’s history that they met each other.
  7. Toronto- Detroit and Toronto met in the first round of the 1993 playoffs. Detroit took a three-games-to-one lead in the series, but Toronto roared back to take the series. This was the 23rd time Detroit and Toronto met in the playoffs, with Toronto breaking an 11-to-11 tie in series wins that year.
  8. Montreal- In 1977, Montreal defeated Detroit in the Quarterfinals in five games. That was the 12th time the two teams met in the playoffs with the Red Wings owning a 7-5 series wins lead. The two teams could potentially meet in the second round this year.
  9. Boston- My dad was not even alive when the Red Wings and Bruins last met in the playoffs. The two met in the 1957 Semifinals, with Boston taking the Series in five. Boston has fours series wins against Detroit, with the Red Wings only winning three series against the Bruins. The Red Wings have an opportunity to tie the all-time series score with a win against the Bruins in the first round this year.
  10. New York Rangers- In the 1950 Stanley Cup Finals, the Red Wings defeated the Rangers in seven games. Detroit has won four series, while the Rangers have only won once in their history.

Detroit has never played Buffalo, Florida, New York Islanders, Ottawa, or Tampa Bay in the playoffs. They could play the Lightning in the second round this year though.

Even though only the playoff series against Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Carolina are the only recent matchups with players still active, Detroit has had good luck against Eastern Conference foes. Their extensive playoff experience since the lockout will provide the essential “big game” mentality needed to make a playoff run, even if the Red Wings are the eighth seed. Additionally, the Griffins run to the Calder Cup last season with guys like Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, and Danny DeKeyser is crucial. Playoff and championship experience at any level will help with the nerves and put them in the right mindset come Friday.

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?

Looking into the Future: 2018 Lineup

After really thinking about how prospects like Riley Sheahan, Tomas Jurco, and Petr Mrazek are getting a chance to prove themselves earlier than expected, I began to wonder what the lineup would look like when those players were in their prime. Five years from now, the current batch of prospects would be in their mid- to late-20s and hopefully will be mainstays in the Red Wings’ lineup.

Below is a depth chart of how I think the Red Wings lineup will look in five years. All of the players are in the organization, as I cannot predict who will get traded or let go in another way. Note: Pavel Datsyuk will not be playing in the 2018-19 season, unless he decides to follow in the footsteps of Igor Larionov and play until he is 44.

2018 Lineup

2018-19 Projected Lineup

It was tough to predict the future.

Only Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, and Jimmy Howard are under contract for that season currently. Everyone else will be on a new contract than the one they are currently signed under.

I surely hope Anthony Mantha is dominating the NHL by then. He has the makings of a goal-scoring power forward and would fit well with an aged playmaker in Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist in his prime.

Defense is a huge question mark in my opinion. I can see Brendan Smith or Brian Lashoff not being on the team in 2018, though I hope they are unless they are traded for even better players. Luckily, Detroit has a great batch of prospects on defense are could afford to lose Smith and/or Lashoff. Even some of the prospects could be dealt. Guys like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, Ryan Sproul, Mattias Backman, and Adam Almquist should all be NHL-ready by 2018, it’s just a matter of who is with the Red Wings, in the minors, or elsewhere in the NHL.

Players I am hoping will be in the lineup: Zetterberg, Mantha, Marchenko, Mrazek, Pulkkinen.

Players who could be traded by 2018: Franzen, Howard, Smith, Jurco, any defenseman prospect.

NHL Experience for Red Wings Prospects

With all the injuries to the Red Wings this season, more than a few prospects are getting a shot at playing in the show. Injuries to captain Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, Joakim Andersson, Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, the octopus, Joe Louis himself, and the popcorn vendor have opened the door for young talent to fill their shoes…or skates. Get it?

Tomas Jurco, Landon Ferraro, Riley Sheahan, and Luke Glendening have all gotten a chance to show their skills in the Red and White. Guys like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have not only made the team this year, but have been thrust into prominent roles and performed admirably. Side note: Tatar and Nyquist should have been in the top 12 forwards all season.

As of 3/23, Sheahan has five goals, 13 assists, and 18 points with a plus-one rating. He has centered what has become Detroit’s second line and played strongly at both ends of the ice.

Luke Glendening has been one of Detroit’s top penalty killers, while providing a spark for the Red Wings’ fourth line. Due to injuries, he moved up to the third line at times. Glendening has earned Mike Babcock’s trust for penalty killing, defensive zone faceoffs, and shutting down opponents’ top players.

Jurco has contributed ten points playing on the “Kid Line” with Sheahan and Tatar before breaking ribs earlier in the month. His saucy paws are getting some valuable experience playing in Detroit before he was expected to crack the lineup.

Other prospects have gotten a chance in the Red Wings lineup, but have not played as much as the guys mentioned above. Landon Ferraro got a chance on the fourth line and even got a chance in the PK rotation, but was sent down for Mitch Callahan today (3/24). Teemu Pulkkinen appeared sparingly in three games, but got a chance to play the point on the second power play unit. Petr Mrazek has gotten in a few games with Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson each missing some time throughout the season. Adam Almquist, Xavier Ouellet, and Alexey Marchenko have all gotten a shot on defense this season.

Even though most of these guys will not be in the list of 23 players who make the team next year, this experience is great for their development. The extra confidence gained from playing high-stake NHL games will greatly improve their game and help them develop into the players Ken Holland, Jimmy Devellano, and the scouts envisions when they drafted or signed these players. It’s rare for the Red Wings to play so many young players, so they should take advantage of the playing time and soak in what is is like to don the Winged Wheel.