mccarty

Johan Franzen Should Retire

Johan Franzen

Photo by Julian H. Gonzalez

Well, not retire, but pull a Chris Pronger (or Marc Savard) and reside on the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term IR for the duration of his contract. Johan Franzen has had a great career with the Red Wings, but he should focus on what matters most—his family.

After reading his story of not being able to spend time with his kids and living most of his life in the darkness of his bedroom to recover, a return to hockey may not be in his best interest, and we should not frown upon a decision to step away. Of course, I wish Franzen could have retired on his terms rather than being forced into early retirement by injury. If he was healthy, I would be happy to have Franzen on the Red Wings for the remainder of his contract, despite his declining production.

It is fitting that this topic comes up four years and a day after the death of former NHL enforcer, Derek Boogaard. Stories like his and Wade Belak’s cautionary tale really make you re-evaluate what matters most.

“Hockey isn’t the end-all, be-all.”

Darren McCarty said this after overcoming drug and alcohol abuse (the first time). This also applies to Franzen’s situation. Hockey should not be his number one concern, especially at this stage of his life.

Even if Johan Franzen is given a clean bill of health before training camp, I hope he does what’s right. Another concussion could make life much worse. Don’t bet that it won’t happen again.

Enjoy the memories.More concussions could result in the loss of them.

Do the Red Wings Need Size in the Lineup?

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

It was apparent against the big, bad Bruins that the Red Wings were lacking in the physicality department. Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller pushed the Red Wings around and did not allow them to achieve consistency in their speed game. Since the Red Wings couldn’t play their game, they could not generate optimal scoring opportunities. Tuukka Rask is a world-class goalie and stopped everything the Bruins kept to the outside with ease.

Look at the teams still in the playoffs. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal all have complete teams with size and toughness to keep things in check. In Sunday’s Western Conference matchup, players like Brandon Bollig, Matt Greene, and Bryan Bickell keep everyone in line on the ice. There is no one player dominating or roughing everyone up. Those players police the ice, but have skills other than toughness.

Justin Abdelkader has similar attributes for the Red Wings, but no one fears him on the ice. He hits and fights more out of necessity than desire. Other than Abdelkader, the Red Wings really don’t have players that grind and wear down opponents physically, much like how the Grind Line was so effective for the Red Wings from 1997 to 2002.

Should the Red Wings invest in players to fill that role? Jonathan Ericsson, Drew Miler, and Brian Lashoff can be physical, but they don’t scare anyone. In the past, guys like Bob Probert, Darren McCarty, and Kirk Maltby created room for other players and lines to generate scoring chances. I think they need one more player to really wear down some teams.

Imagine an energy line of Darren Helm at center, Justin Abdelkader on a wing, and another player with grit. They could rough up a team with their up-tempo, physical style and create room for the other lines to score. Steve Downie, Steve Ott, and Brian Boyle cold all fill this role and contribute on the penalty kill if called upon. Boyle is currently filling this role for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. He gets under the skin of opposing players and has the physical strength to keep them from playing their game.

On the other hand, the Red Wings have not really employed this strategy lately. They tried with Jordin Tootoo, but he was too one-dimensional to fit the Red Wings system. In addition, Drew Miller is already slated for energy line duty and does not fit anywhere else on the team. Miller could play with Helm and an addition, but is slower and less physical than Abdelkader.

My vote is to add size. The players mentioned above would be good fits, as would Mitch Callahan on a line with Helm and Abdelkader. Speed and physicality will allow smaller players on other lines to do their thing without much resistance, or else those defenders would be dealt with. Detroit doesn’t need a fighter, just someone to scare the other teams.

Detroit Red Wings Playoff Hockey: More Than Just a Game

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

It’s gameday.

Today is the return of Red Wings playoff hockey. For the 23rd year in a row, Detroit’s beloved hockey team will begin its quest for the Stanley Cup.

Legends of the game have donned the Winged Wheel in pursuit of the most glorious trophy in sports. Some have succeeded, while others have failed. However, every year there is an optimistic feeling entering the playoffs, no matter what the circumstances are. Biased? Maybe.

As a Red Wings fans, I’ve seen it all. We have been the number one seed and captured the Cup. We have also been the number one seed and have been eliminated in the first round. Anything is possible.

We have seen the highs. “McCarty draws. McCarty in. McCarty…SCORES! A magnificent goal! Darren McCarty!” We’ve seen Igor Larionov, the oldest player on the ice, shelf a backhand over a sprawling Arturs Irbe in triple overtime. We’ve seen Steve Yzerman (three times) and Nicklas Lidstrom hoist the Stanley Cup while the Red Wings faithful erupt in a euphoria unlike any other.

We have seen the lows too. Both Yzerman and Lidstrom had their careers come to a close after a disappointed first round upset. We’ve seen the New Jersey Devils sweep the Red Wings in the finals after Detroit had steamrolled everyone in their path. We’ve seen Claude Lemieux smash Kris Draper’s face in. On top of that, the Avalanche eliminating the Red Wings after a record-setting 62 wins during the regular season to advance to the finals was a tough pill to swallow.

Vladimir Konstantinov

Photo courtesy of Al Bello/Getty Images

Emotion does not quite capture the feeling of Red Wings fans during playoff season. Though we are away from the players in the stands or through the TV at home, we are there with the players feeling what they feel. Hockeytown’s reaction to the 1997 Stanley Cup championship was equivalent to Steve Yzerman, Brendan Shanahan, and the rest of the team celebrating on the ice after overcoming so many obstacles during the season.

Nothing can compare to the way hockey players feel after winning a championship. Hockeytown knows that feeling though, even if we are not on the ice with them. The feeling after losing a crucial game and having your season end is one of the worst, most gut-wrenching emotions every hockey player will endure. Detroit knows that feeling as well. But every year, we hope and pray for that championship elation at the end of the playoffs. Addiction? Possibly.

As the 2014 playoffs begin, we ready ourselves for a familiar setting, even if some things are different. Sure, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson are out of the lineup, but can that stop Detroit? No. We are the eighth seed playing the President’s Trophy-winning Bruins. Is that a problem? No, Edmonton eliminated us in a similar circumstance in 2006. We might as well have the top seed with all the confidence the Red Wings and fans have entering the first round.

Best of luck, Detroit. We are all behind you and cannot wait to see the Red Wings on top at the end of the pursuit.

Let’s go Red Wings.

Throwback Thursday: Taking a look back at the 1997 Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mary Schroeder/Detroit Free Press

In the spring of 1997, the Detroit Red Wings captured Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in 42 years. Steve Yzerman led the team through a trying regular season to the finals, where the Red Wings faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers. You all know this though. We all know this. I even have the championship video committed to memory and have been able to recite the lines from the “documentary” since I was a kid.

This Stanley Cup victory was especially sweet for Detroit because most of the Red Wings’ fan base had not seen a championship in their lifetime. It was the first one I had seen, despite the fact that I was only seven. It was also the first my dad had seen though. That victory was the first time the Stanley Cup was brought home to Hockeytown since my Grandpa was 33 years old.

Detroit had a rough season that year trying to find an identity. They had won a league record 62 games the previous season, but did not bring home the Cup. The year before, the Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round. The Wings had a coming-together moment on March 26th that propelled them into the playoffs on a high note. Darren McCarty finally got his vengeance on Claude Lemieux for his hit on Kris Draper the previous spring. Patrick Roy came to Lemieux’s aid, but Brendan Shanahan met him at center ice. Adam Foote and Mike Vernon soon joined the fray. All of this started from a stop in the play because of Igor Larionov going after Peter Forsberg. Even though “The Professor” was over a decade younger than Forsberg, he stood up and helped to inspire the team. Detroit came back to win the game 6-5 in overtime.

Those were only a few players crucial to the team’s success that year. Scotty Bowman and the Red Wing’s front office put together a grittier team than recent years, instead of relying on talent alone. Let’s take a look at the lineup and how each player was acquired.

C: Steve Yzerman (C) – Drafted 4th overall by Detroit in the 1983 Draft.

LW: Tomas Sandstrom – Acquired from Pittsburgh for Greg Johnson halfway through the season.

RW: Darren McCarty – Drafted 46th overall by Detroit in 1992.

C: Sergei Fedorov (A) – Drafted 74th overall by Detroit in 1989.

LW: Slava Kozlov – Drafted 45th overall by Detroit in 1990.

RW: Doug Brown – Claimed off waivers from New Jersey in 1995.

C: Igor Larionov – Acquired from San Jose for Ray Sheppard in 1995.

LW: Brendan Shanahan – Acquired from Hartford along with Brian Glynn for Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first round pick one game into the season.

RW: Martin Lapointe – Drafted 10th overall by Detroit in 1991.

C: Kris Draper – Acquired from Winnipeg in 1993 for future considerations ($1).

LW: Kirk Maltby – Acquired from Edmonton for Dan McGillis in 1996.

RW: Joey Kocur – Signed as a free agent in December of that season.

D: Nicklas Lidstrom – Drafted 53rd overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Larry Murphy – Acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline for future considerations.

D: Slava Fetisov – Acquired from New Jersey in 1995 for a third round pick.

D: Vladimir Konstantinov – Drafted 221st overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Aaron Ward – Acquired from Winnipeg for Paul Ysabaert and a fourth round pick in 1993.

D: Bob Rouse – Signed as a free agent prior to the 1994-95 season.

G: Mike Vernon – Acquired from Calgary for Steve Chiasson in 1994.

G: Chris Osgood – Drafted 54th overall by Detroit in 1991.

 

Other key contributors that season drafted by Detroit were Mathieu Dandenault, Jamie Pushor, Tomas Holmstrom, Kevin Hodson, and Anders Eriksson. Detroit signed Tim Taylor as a free agent in 1993.

Shanahan, Lapointe, McCarty, Sandstrom, Draper, Maltby, and Kocur gave Detroit sandpaper that they could balance across all four lines. The acquisition of Larry Murphy gave Detroit’s defense a former Cup winner that brought out the best in Nick Lidstrom.

No one predicted this team would win the Cup in 1997 after everyone did the previous year. The Red Wings overcame adversity to eventually become the best team in the NHL. Who is to say the Red Wings of 2014 can’t do the same?

The Trade That Almost Was

First off, congratulations to the Red Wings for clinching the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. I can’t wait for the playoffs to start and for the Wings to make some noise in the East.

Wayne Gretzky

Photo courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images

On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in a trade that created shockwaves throughout the hockey world. “The Great One” left the only team he knew only a couple months after leading the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Gretzky was traded along with Marty McSorley and future Red Wing Mike Krushelnyski for another future Red Wing in Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993.

Some people do not know that Gretzky was allowed to pick his destination after Oilers owner, Peter Pocklington, told him that they had to move him. Pocklington knew Gretzky was going to be a free agent after the 1988-89 season and wanted to receive something in return rather than lose Gretzky outright in free agency. Gretzky begrudgingly picked Los Angeles over another team because his wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, was an actress in Hollywood. That other team was the Detroit Red Wings.

We almost acquired Wayne Gretzky in 1988. We had just lost to the Oilers in the Western Conference finals the previous spring and lost to Gretzky’s team. Imagine the possibilities for the 1988-89 season and beyond if we had acquired Gretzky. But what would it have taken to acquire Wayne?

Los Angeles gave up two great, young players in Carson and Gelinas. Carson had just come off of a 55 goal season in LA and Gelinas was one of their top prospects in juniors. Who would have been the Red Wings equivalent of those two players? I believe three players would have matched Carson and Gelinas. Adam Oates, Petr Klima, and Joe Murphy could have gone to Detroit for Wayne Gretzky. Oates and Klima were just coming off of a great playoff against Edmonton. Joe Murphy was a former first overall pick that still had a lot of upside at the time. Klima and Murphy (and Adam Graves)would later go to Edmonton for Jimmy Carson and Kevin McClelland in 1989. Add in the cash and draft picks and there may have been a deal.

Now the trade between Detroit and Edmonton stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993. Sounds like a good deal, but let’s look at who Detroit drafted in those years. In 1989, the Red Wings drafted Mike Sillinger in the first round. He had a great career, but was traded in 1995 and never made much of an impact in Detroit. In 1991, the Red Wings took Martin Lapointe in the first round. Lapointe played a crucial role in the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup runs. In 1993, Detroit drafted Anders Eriksson in the first round. Eriksson was a top defensive prospect for Detroit in the mid- to late-90’s and played in the back-to-back finals runs in 1997 and 1998. Eriksson was also traded for Chris Chelios in 1999. Chelios played a role in the 2002 and 2008 Cups as well.

Now the trade stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, Mike Sillinger, Martin Lapointe, and Anders Eriksson. There’s no telling if Edmonton would have drafted those players, but let’s assume so for the sake of this argument. Is this a trade we would want over 25 years later knowing the outcome? No, but we could not have predicted the future back then. Here is a quick look at what the 1988-89 Red Wings could have looked like:Projected 1988-89 Lines with Gretzky

The 1988-89 Red Wings finished 11th in the league that year, while Los Angeles finished 7th. Because Detroit finished 11th that year, they were able to draft a few good players in the draft. Those players were Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Dallas Drake, and Vladimir Konstantinov. Those players may not have been available when and if Detroit finished with a better record with Gretzky on the team. The same can be said about players drafted in later drafts like Keith Primeau, Slava Kozlov, Lapointe, Jamie Pushor, Chris Osgood, Mike Knuble, Darren McCarty, Dan McGillis, Eriksson, Mathieu Dandenault, and Tomas Holmstrom.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Another argument against the Gretzky trade is what if Steve Yzerman could not develop the way he did with Gretzky as the star of the team? He could have asked for a trade elsewhere where he could have been the star. Gretzky and company producing a better record could have kept Jacques Demers as the coach in Detroit for a longer amount of time as well. That would mean that Scotty Bowman may never have come to Detroit.

It’s cool to think that Wayne Gretzky could have been a Red Wing, but the repercussions of the trade would not have been worth it knowing what we know now. I’m thankful Wayne went to LA and won zero Cups while Yzerman and company stayed in Detroit and eventually won four Cups since.

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.

Top 9: All-Time Penalty Minute Leaders

On March 26th, 1997, all hell broke loose at the Joe. Pent up frustrations boiled over during the heated matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and the Red Wings leading to a line brawl with Darren McCarty and “the turtle”, Claude Lemieux, at center stage. With the 17th anniversary of the brawl this past Wednesday, today’s list is going to take a look at the Top 9 penalty minute leaders in Red Wings’ history.

For a look at the fights that happened 17 years ago, visit hockeyfights.com and view the game’s profile. You won’t be disappointed.

Here are the Top 9:

9. Gary Bergman– 1101 PIMS

Gary Bergman

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

8. Reed Larson– 1127 PIMS

Reed Larson

Photo courtesy of Steve Babineau/Getty Images

7. Dennis Polonich– 1242 PIMSDennis Polonich

6. Darren McCarty– 1302 PIMS

Darren McCarty

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

5. Ted Lindsay– 1423 PIMS

Lindsay

Photo courtesy of TedLindsay.com

4. Gerard Gallant– 1600 PIMS

Gerard Gallant

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

3. Gordie Howe– 1643 PIMS

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Richard Meek/SI

2. Joe Kocur– 1963 PIMS

Joe Kocur

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

1. Bob Probert– 2090 PIMS

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of Associated Press

Stats provided by hockeydb.com