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?
Sigh. We all feel robbed that the Red Wings did not advance further in the playoffs. But, it also signifies that there is still work to do in Detroit. Scoring and team defense were issues this playoff season, much like last year. Those areas of concern should be addressed this offseason, which looks to be a big one for the Detroit Red Wings.
We are going to count down the top five offseason storylines, briefly touching on each of the five in this post. All five storylines will also get an in-depth look in their own post. Enjoy the fireworks this summer, both for America and the Red Wings.
5. The Future of Johan Franzen
While Franzen barely played 30 games this season, he is a big part of the Red Wings and their success. When healthy, Johan Franzen possesses a lethal shot and size to bully his way around the offensive zone. Unfortunately, he has suffered quite a few concussions over his career, with the last one leaving doubts about returning to hockey. Can Franzen fully recover and return to form?
4. Young Guns Taking Charge
Mike Babcock said it in his season-ending press conference: the young guys need to step up and make the older players better. The Red Wings have Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Jurco contributing, but not taking control. They need to in order to set the Wings apart form the competition. It wasn’t that long ago that Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg stepped up in place of aging Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. You can forget about Teemu Pulkkinen, Anthony Mantha, and Dylan Larkin coming soon as well.
3. The Tendys
It has already been said that Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will compete for the starting goaltender position heading into training camp. Will one or both goalies come into camp hungry for playing time? Petr Mrazek is heading into a contract year that could pay huge dividends if he can seize the opportunity. Howard needs to prove that he can be the #1 goalie the Red Wings thought was worth over $30 million.
2. Improving the Defense
Dion Phaneuf stated that he wanted to be traded to Detroit at the trade deadline. Mike Green has long been linked to the Wings. Jeff Petry grew up in Michigan with his dad pitching for the Tigers. The Red Wings need to improve their defense beyond Niklas Kronwall, Danny DeKeyser, and Kyle Quincey (I know right? Quincey?). Marek Zidlicky was a nice addition this season, but is almost 40, and not a long-term solution. Will youngsters like Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko, or Ryan Sproul step up and earn a starting spot? Will the Wings make a splash in free agency or offseason trades?
Please stay. Jeff Blashill isn’t a bad #2 option, but Mike Babcock is the best coach in the NHL. Please stay. Please.
With another excited trade deadline in the books, the Detroit Red Wings came away with two players that improve their roster and didn’t have to mortgage much of their future to acquire them. Let’s take a look at the players the Red Wings targeted and where they ended up.
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The Red Wings would love to acquire the offensive defenseman, but the cost would be way too high, likely costing them at least one of Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar, or Gustav Nyquist. There is no rush to more Ekman-Larsson, but perhaps Ken Holland could create a package around Brendan Smith and Tomas Jurco to acquire him. Arizona did not end up moving Ekman-Larsson, opting to keep the young defenseman as part of their rebuild. Seeing what the Rangers paid to acquire Keith Yandle, it’s probably for the best that the Red Wings did not meet Arizona’s demands for a better Ekman-Larsson.
8. Roman Polak – Toronto’s defenseman could occupy a third-pairing spot and help on the penalty kill. His cost should not be terribly high, but there’s a chance that the market and demand for defensemen could drive up the price higher than the Red Wings are willing to pay. Surprising, Polak stayed put in Toronto. A number of teams were rumored to attempt to acquire the Maple Leafs’ blueliner, but no one offered the right package for Polak.
7. Matt Hendricks – Perhaps costing the Red Wings only a late round draft pick, gritty Matt Hendricks could help the Red Wings form a formidable fourth line alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. This new iteration of the Grind Line could pester the best lines in the Eastern Conference. Hendricks also has experience killing penalties and winning shootouts. Hendricks will stay put on Edmonton’s fourth line for now. His name was not mentioned in rumors today on social media, so he either was not in demand or Edmonton was not looking to part with his services.
6. Erik Cole – Dallas’ power forward has plenty of playoff experience and will fill any role the Red Wings ask him to fill. I’m sure Dallas GM Jim Nill has a few prospects in Detroit’s system he could try to pry away. Cole could add some depth to an already deep forward lineup. Pairing him with Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen could pay dividends. We got him! The Red Wings acquired Erik Cole and a conditional pick from Dallas for prospects Mattias Backman and Mattias Janmark, and a second round pick. The conditional choice depends on if the Red Wings make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Cole could wind up playing alongside Sheahan or Henrik Zetterberg on Wednesday.
5. Alexander Semin – This trade would only benefit the Red Wings if Carolina retains a good portion of Semin’s salary. He is a high risk, high reward potential acquisition, but could enjoy a career renaissance in Detroit playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk. His right-handed shot would be welcomed in the Red Wings’ lineup. No one appeared to be interested in Semin’s trainwreck of a contract. Carolina still has Semin rostered for quite a few years. They could look to make a move in the offseason to unload his contract, while likely retaining some salary, to a team that can help turn Alex Semin around.
4. Adam Larsson – the former fifth overall draft pick of the New Jersey Devils has struggled to establish himself among the Devils’ blueliners. If the Red Wings could pick up Larsson or fellow Devil Marek Zidlicky, their defense would improve. Larsson would fit right in among Swedes Niklas Kronwall and Jonathon Ericsson and may not require a huge return for acquiring his services. While the Devils did not part with Larsson, they did with Zidlicky. The right-handed defenseman is coming to a hockey rink near you after the Red Wings acquired Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils for a conditional third round pick. The condition of this choice depends on if the Red Wings reach the finals.
3. Jeff Petry – Michigan-born and a right-handed shot? Jeff Petry has long been linked to the Red Wings in the rumor column. Until now, the Red Wings have not met Edmonton’s demands for the defenseman. A mid-level prospect and a draft choice could likely bring in Petry. Edmonton dealt Jeff Petry to the Montreal Canadiens for a couple of draft picks. While Andrej Sekera and Cody Franson netted a first round pick, Petry did not, and some wonder if Edmonton could have held out for more in return.
2. Mike Green – While his defense is not his strong point, Green’s offensive flair is exactly what the Red Wings are looking for. The Capitals acquisition of Tim Gleason solidifies their defense, so Green may no longer be on the market. A conditional draft choice plus a player could net Green if the Capitals are looking to deal him. It would be nice to see Green in Detroit after the Red Wings traded his draft pick to the Capitals for Robert Lang at the 2004 trade deadline. Green was not dealt and will stay in DC for the rest of the season. It’s good news for him, as the Capitals are looking awfully dangerous for a playoff run. Washington features one of their deepest teams in recent history, especially on the blue line.
1. Dion Phaneuf – I am convinced that a change in scenery will get Phaneuf back on the right track. His stock has never been lower and if the Leafs are willing to keep some of his salary, Phaneuf could be a great acquisition for Detroit’s top four defense. His cannon of a shot would certainly bolster an already strong power play for the Red Wings. Detroit was pushing hard to acquire Phaneuf from Toronto, but in the end, their demands were just too high. Before trading for Marek Zidlicky, Toronto was asking for either Brendan Smith or Anthony Mantha as part of the deal according to different sources. The Wings would not budge, but could look to acquire Phaneuf in the offseason for the right price.
Note: Bleacher Report produced a similar article to this and featured David Legwand as a potential trade option for the Red Wings. LOL. Legwand was not dealt and Bleacher Report still does not know a thing about the Red Wings.
With quite a few trades already completed this past week, the Detroit Red Wings have less than 24 hours to make upgrades to their roster. Curtis Glencross, Jaromir Jagr, and Kimmo Timonen have already switched teams in deals. It has long been rumored that the Red Wings are looking to acquire another defenseman and possibly some size upfront. Darren Helm’s injury should not impact the trade outlook. It is still to be determined if Helm will be out for an extended period of time.
Let’s take a look at the Top 9 potential trade deadline targets the Red Wings could acquire:
9. Oliver Ekman-Larsson – The Red Wings would love to acquire the offensive defenseman, but the cost would be way too high, likely costing them at least one of Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar, or Gustav Nyquist. There is no rush to more Ekman-Larsson, but perhaps Ken Holland could create a package around Brendan Smith and Tomas Jurco to acquire him.
8. Roman Polak – Toronto’s defenseman could occupy a third-pairing spot and help on the penalty kill. His cost should not be terribly high, but there’s a chance that the market and demand for defensemen could drive up the price higher than the Red Wings are willing to pay.
7. Matt Hendricks – Perhaps costing the Red Wings only a late round draft pick, gritty Matt Hendricks could help the Red Wings form a formidable fourth line alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. This new iteration of the Grind Line could pester the best lines in the Eastern Conference. Hendricks also has experience killing penalties and winning shootouts.
6. Eric Cole – Dallas’ power forward has plenty of playoff experience and will fill any role the Red Wings ask him to fill. I’m sure Dallas GM Jim Nill has a few prospects in Detroit’s system he could try to pry away. Cole could add some depth to an already deep forward lineup. Pairing him with Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen could pay dividends.
5. Alexander Semin – This trade would only benefit the Red Wings if Carolina retains a good portion of Semin’s salary. He is a high risk, high reward potential acquisition, but could enjoy a career renaissance in Detroit playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk. His right-handed shot would be welcomed in the Red Wings’ lineup.
4. Adam Larsson – the former fifth overall draft pick of the New Jersey Devils has struggled to establish himself among the Devils’ blueliners. If the Red Wings could pick up Larsson or fellow Devil Marek Zidlicky, their defense would improve. Larsson would fit right in among Swedes Niklas Kronwall and Jonathon Ericsson and may not require a huge return for acquiring his services.
3. Jeff Petry – Michigan-born and a right-handed shot? Jeff Petry has long been linked to the Red Wings in the rumor column. Until now, the Red Wings have not met Edmonton’s demands for the defenseman. A mid-level prospect and a draft choice could likely bring in Petry.
2. Mike Green – While his defense is not his strong point, Green’s offensive flair is exactly what the Red Wings are looking for. The Capitals acquisition of Tim Gleason solidifies their defense, so Green may no longer be on the market. A conditional draft choice plus a player could net Green if the Capitals are looking to deal him. It would be nice to see Green in Detroit after the Red Wings traded his draft pick to the Capitals for Robert Lang at the 2004 trade deadline.
1. Dion Phaneuf – I am convinced that a change in scenery will get Phaneuf back on the right track. His stock has never been lower and if the Leafs are willing to keep some of his salary, Phaneuf could be a great acquisition for Detroit’s top four defense. His cannon of a shot would certainly bolster an already strong power play for the Red Wings.
Note: Bleacher Report produced a similar article to this and featured David Legwand as a potential trade option for the Red Wings. LOL.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Though no Detroit Red Wings player will be a part of it, the NHL All-Stars will be participating in the All-Star Skills Competition this weekend in Columbus. Among the events are competitions for fastest skater, fastest slap shot, most accurate shot, and best at breakaways. Looking at this from a different and probably more entertaining perspective, I wonder which Red Wings would participate in each event if the team had its own skills competition.
Teams used to hold these kind of events for fans in the past, but have since allowed players not invited to the NHL events to take the time off and rest up for the stretch run. Red Wings like Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek have already found sun and warm weather for the week break. If those two and the rest of the team were still in town, who would participate in what event? Who would win? Well, we thought about it and need your opinion regarding the participants and winners.
Who has the fastest clapper on the team? There is no clear answer like Alex Ovechkin in DC or Zdeno Chara in Boston. The Red Wings boast a few players with hard shots, but none that could break a goalie’s hand. Who gets your vote? The winner receives the Reed Larson Award for hardest shot.
Niklas Kronwall – Known for blasting shots from the point on the power play, Kronwall probably takes a clapper more than anyone on the team. He tries to be more accurate that powerful with his shot like the great Nick Lidstrom.
Jonathan Ericsson – “Big Rig” can really bring it from the blue line, but does not wind up for the cannon shot very often. He has rifled some big shots in the past though.
Teemu Pulkkinen – You can’t be compared to Brett Hull unless you have a heavy shot. Teemu’s go-to is his cannon that we are all hoping he’ll get to shoot a lot of in the show soon.
Danny DeKeyser – Another blueliner who favors the smart play over the big wind up, DeKeyser would be another participant in the hardest shot competition. Does he trump the field?
Most Accurate Shot
Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov come to mind when thinking of Red Wings who can pick a corner. Who from today’s team would win the competition though? There is an abundance of talent here, but we picked the top four for consideration. The winner receives the Sergei Fedorov Award for Shooting Excellence.
Pavel Datsyuk – Obvious participant. Magical in general for snipage.
Johan Franzen – Though he goes through dry spells, Franzen can snipe. He can go bar down on most goalies in the league when his confidence is riding high.
Tomas Tatar – Could he be the next best pure goal-scorer for the Red Wings? His team-leading 21 goals don’t lie. He could reach 40 goals this season if he keeps making goalies look bad.
Henrik Zetterberg – Most of Z’s goals are not fancy snipes, but accurately and strategically placed shots to where the goalie is not covering. Could that translate to hitting all four targets at each corner of the net?
Which Red Wings player has the best wheels? We cannot go into bars to determine that, but we can quantify who can skate around the rink the fastest. Speed is another talent the Wings have collectively, but here are the top four. Winner receives the Kris Draper Hustle Award.
Darren Helm – Like Datsyuk when it comes to sniping, Helm is an obvious candidate for fastest skater.
Luke Glendening – He would probably have Mike Babcock‘s vote. Hustle is key here.
Brendan Smith – When given a lane and an opportunity, Brendan Smith can really fly. As a defenseman, you wouldn’t normally consider him for a fastest skater competition, but he deserves the chance.
Justin Abdelkader – Just another Red Wings player who can move in a fast manner. Abdelkader could definitely keep pace with the other competitors.
Breakaway Survival Challenge
For the sake of changing things up from the norm, this competition would be to see which Red Wings player would be the last man standing in a breakaway contest. To ensure that all four are not stopped on the first try, imagine Jimmy Howard is in net for the event. This winner receives the Steve Yzerman Award.
Pavel Datsyuk – We haven’t seen as many Datsyukian Dekes lately, but Pav can still dangle with the best. He is currently the active leader for shootout goals.
Gustav Nyquist – He’s the next man up after Datsyuk in the shootout and has converted on a few attempts this season. Could he outlast the Premier of Danglestan?
Tomas Tatar – Typically number three in the shootout lineup, Tatar can also snipe goalies when it comes to shootouts.
Tomas Jurco – He was highly-touted in juniors for his dangles and we have seen flashes of that over the past season and a half. Jurco is a wild card here with the skills and not much shootout experience.
Just for funsies. Which player on the Red Wings would take the longest doing a lap around the Joe? Could one of the goalies beat them? These players can have cinder blocks in their skates at times. Johan Franzen is not an option here because he can skate fast…when he wants. I won’t elaborate on why they are slow to prevent hurt feelings. Just vote for who you think needs turbo boosters to reach normal speed. I’m not sure this warrants an award, but winner get the Andreas Lilja Cement Shoes Award.
Vote! See, voting can be fun when it doesn’t involve politics or prom king or queen! Vote!
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
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!
It’s no lie that the Detroit Red Wings have experienced a string of great seasons in recent years. Actually, it has been more like a quarter century.
Yes, they may have finished lower in the standings in the past couple years than what Red Wings fans are used to, but they still made the playoffs and gave us hope for another Stanley Cup.
Now, the Red Wings look to have a cupboard of prospects capable of launching another legitimate Cup run. A few of them are already on the team and starting to take charge. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are budding superstars and will follow the teachings of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, as they learned from Steve Yzerman. Nyquist and Tatar need to learn the defensive side of the game and how to consistently led the team in the scoring department, but they have the mental makeup to do so.
Ready to Fly High
Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are scoring the goals now, but Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco will be scoring plenty soon. Both have size, but play different games, giving the Red Wings a bit diversity in their lineup. Sheahan has shown he can be the Red Wings’ #2 center and can hold down that position until Pavel Datsyuk and/or Henrik Zetterberg give it up. By then, maybe Sheahan will be ready to be the Red Wings’ top center ice man.
Tomas Jurco has a chance to development into a superstar, but he still has a few years until he can receive his Masters’ Degree in Hockey from Mike Babcock and the Red Wings. He is on his way though and has shown flashes of brilliance.
Waiting in the Wings
You’ve heard of Anthony Mantha, right? The best pure goal scorer since Brendan Shanahan is scheduled to make his Red Wings debut in the near future, but still has a few years of experience to gain before the Red Wings’ investment starts paying dividends. Rightfully so, the organization would prefer Mantha to stay in the minors until he can play top-6 minutes with the Red Wings on a regular basis. He has the finishing ability to garner that playing time.
Another sniper waiting for playing time is Teemu Pulkkinen. His heavy shot is definitely NHL-caliber. The Red Wings are just waiting on him to round out his game in the minors. Pulkkinen is currently leading the Griffins in scoring and could be ready for a promotion soon when a spot opens up on the Red Wings’ roster. Plus, he shoots right-handed, a luxury the Red Wings don’t have much of on the roster.
So the Red Wings have Nyquist, Tatar, Sheahan, Jurco, Mantha, and Pulkkinen all between the ages of 20 to 25. All of those guys can develop into key pieces of a Stanley Cup run soon. This is an embarrassment of riches. Throw in old, wise Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, plus key role players, and you’ve got the makings of another generation of the Red Wings dynasty.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 Glendening, Landon 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.
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.