weiss

Detroit Red Wings Young Guns: Pushing the Vets and Each Other

Detroit Red Wings' Gustav Nyquist

Source: AP

It’s been said that the younger players on the Red Wings will need to push the vets to make them and the team better this upcoming season. What hasn’t been explicitly stated is that the younger group will be battling each other for prime lineup spots.

Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have established themselves as goal scorers and dangerous playmakers. Riley Sheahan could potentially slot in at second line center. Teemu Pulkkinen, Tomas Jurco, and Anthony Mantha will all battle for playing time (and in Mantha’s case, a roster spot).

All of these players figure to be battling for top-9 spots in the forward lineup. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Darren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader have locked up spots in the top-nine as well. Stephen Weiss is under contract and management would likely prefer to not play a $5 million player on the fourth line. He will be battling for a top-nine spot as well.

Provided that all of these players are on the roster when the Red Wings break camp, there are five spots to battle for in the top nine. Nyquist and Tatar will easily claim two spots, but it’s just a matter of where since they played on all three top lines last season. Sheahan will likely center the third line to start the season. That leaves two spots for Jurco, Mantha, Pulkkinen, (and Weiss). Mantha can be assigned to Grand Rapids to start the season if need be.

A secondary roster spot battle will be flying under the radar as well. Joakim Andersson and Landon Ferraro will be competing for the fourth line right wing spot alongside Luke Glendening and Drew Miller. Out of options Mitch Callahan could be in the running as well. He, along with Andersson and Ferraro, are all restricted free agents this summer and can’t be assigned to the minors without passing through waivers. There’s a good chance one of these three won’t be with the Red Wings next season.

A healthy Johan Franzen or a potentially re-signed Dan Cleary can further complicate these roster battles as well. Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin, and Andreas Athanasiou are putting up solid numbers for the Griffins on their playoff run. They could factor into roster decisions with their current coach, Jeff Blashill, expected to take over the Red Wings’ coaching position.

Ken Holland was clear earlier this summer: the young players need to challenge the vets. They will need to earn their spot in the lineup first though.

It’s nice to have a bunch of talented players, huh?

Detroit Red Wings Trade Deadline: Who’s Really Available

Ken Holland

Photo by Getty Images

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

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

Untouchables

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

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

 

Young Nearly Untouchables

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

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

 

Older Nearly Untouchables

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

  • Jonathon Ericsson
  • Kyle Quincey
  • Johan Franzen

 

Trade Chips

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

  • Tomas Jurco
  • Brendan Smith
  • Alexey Marchenko

 

Odds and Ends

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

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

 

Prospects

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

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

 

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

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.

Very Special Teams

Last season, the Red Wings’ special teams were, well, not up to par. Our penalty kill was atrocious at times, especially against the Bruins in the first round. Additionally, the power play was not very powerful. It was difficult to gain some consistency on special teams with players missing so much time during the season, but that should not stop world-class hockey players from capitalizing on the man advantage.

Looking ahead to next season, I wonder if the Red Wings will continue to use the Tomas Holmstrom screen in front of the net. Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, David Legwand, and even Riley Sheahan filled that role at times last season, but none caused as much havoc as Homer once did. With Bertuzzi and Legwand departing, I wonder if the Red Wings will shift to a more puck possession-focused power play next season.

For the power play, I have to imagine the set up will stay the same, unless Mike Babcock devises some ingenious strategy over the summer involving newly re-signed Daniel Cleary. Here is what the top two power play lines will probably look like:

(Note: other signings and TRADES could change these lines below.)

First PP: Niklas Kronwall up top, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg on the half walls of the respective off wing, Pavel Datsyuk as the rover finding space and creating space, and Johan Franzen in the slot.

Second PP: Danny DeKeyser up top, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith on the half walls, Gustav Nyquist filling Datsyuk’s role, and Riley Sheahan in the slot. Stephen Weiss will also get some time in Sheahan’s role, as could Justin Abdelkader. It all depends on who is playing best at the time.

Now, on to the penalty kill. Woof.

We need improvement. Period. The strategy needs to improve in order to prevent goals. We have great players, but the positioning and assignments need adjustment.  The first thing that needs to happen is our defensemen need to be more physical down low. Boston’s defense hit our forwards enough that they won battles in the corner before they even begun. Intimidation goes a long way. Unfortunately, Kyle Quincey doesn’t scare anyone. Let’s take a look at who will most likely start the season on the penalty kill teams:

Forward pairings: Darren Helm and Drew Miller; Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader; Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson.

Defense pairings: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson; Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff.

With Bill Peters gone and Tom Renney possibly accepting a role with Hockey Canada, Coach Babcock has the opportunity to add an assistant coach with a great special teams background. I heard Adam Oates is available.

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

 

Friday Wish List

Ken Holland

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

It’s finally Friday, which means it’s time for some fun.

The offseason is one of my favorite times of the year. I know, that’s strange for a Red Wings fan, but I enjoy the team management side as well. As the GM of the Red Wings, I have a few wishes for the offseason. The window for Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg is closing as they are getting older and more prone to injuries. I’d like to see at least one more Stanley Cup in their careers to cement their legacy with the Detroit Red Wings and the NHL.

The Red Wings have some obvious needs heading into the offseason. A scoring winger, top two defenseman, and some size would be nice. We can’t forget about a backup goalie either. Here are the priorities:

1. Sign a scoring winger to play with Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, and Jarome Iginla would be expensive, but would solve the scoring issue.

Daniel Alfredsson

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

2. Sign a scoring winger or someone with size to play on a line with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar. Daniel Alfredsson would be perfect to fill this role, as would Steve Ott or Ales Hemsky.

3. Move Stephen Weiss to right wing. He could play on any of the top three lines as a Justin Abdelkader-type player, using his grit and physicality to retrieve the puck. His offensive abilities could be utilized as well in this role.

4. Move Johan Franzen to center. He has stated that he loves playing center because of the added responsibility. What better way to motivate the Mule than give him extra responsibility on the ice. Gustav Nyquist could play left wing on his line. The right side could be occupied by Weiss, Abdelkader, a free agent acquisition, or someone acquired in a trade.

5. Make a trade. Great transition right? The free agent market is a little bare this offseason and the Red Wings need an impact player. Or two. Buffalo, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Vancouver could be trading partners.

6. Sign a depth defenseman with size for the penalty kill. None of our defensemen block shots and the penalty kill is awful. I am hoping Brian Lashoff can fill that role, but I would want a veteran defenseman either this offseason or at the trading deadline as insurance. Someone proven in this role would boost the penalty kill immensely.

7. Move Jakub Kindl for whatever we can get in return. Xavier Ouellet leapfrogged him on the depth chart during the playoffs and deserves a starting spot more so than Kindl. Trading Kindl plus a prospect or pick to the Islanders for Michael Grabner would be great. Grabner would fit perfectly with Sheahan and Tatar.

Petr Mrazek

Photo courtesy of Brad Rempel/Icon SMI

8. Promote Petr Mrazek to the team as the backup goalie. Unless we can sign Brian Elliott to a cost-effective deal, I think Mrazek has earned a full-time gig as the Red Wings’ backup tendy.

9. Not worry about Mike Babcock. He isn’t going anywhere.

 

What are your thoughts? What would you do as the GM for the Red Wings.

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.

Summer Plans for Pending Red Wings Free Agents

Kyle Quincey

Photo courtesy of Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Free Agency should be fun for the Red Wings this summer. They have cap room to spend and issues to address. The free agent signing period, or #QuinceyWatch2014, will give Detroit a chance to add some size and talent to a roster that was lacking in the physicality department in their first round matchup against Boston.

Today, we are going to take a look at the pending unrestricted free agents. The Red Wings have seven players on the current roster (or injured reserve) slated for free agency this summer: David Legwand, C; Daniel Alfredsson, RW; Mikael Samuelsson, RW; Todd Bertuzzi, RW; Daniel Cleary, RW; Kyle Quincey, D; and Jonas Gustavsson, G.

For each player, we are assigning their Hockeytown Lineup Probability (HLP) for next season. What does that mean? It’s the probability that they will be on the opening night roster next season. I will not say which members of the current team have a 100% HLP in order not to jinx them. I’m a goalie and am very superstitious.

HLP

 

Kyle Quincey has the best chance at returning next season. While his play has been consistently average, he is a better fit than a lot of free agents. The free agent defenseman pool will be thin this summer and he may be able to give the Red Wings a discount. I would prefer the Red Wings to bring in someone else, but the reality of that is less likely than Kyle Quincey returning.

Jonas Gustavsson has a decent chance of returning too. He played great this season when Jimmy Howard was injured or underperforming. If the Red Wings want to keep Petr Mrazek in the minors for one more season, I think Gustavsson would sign a one-year deal to stay another year. He could test the market though after a solid season.

In my opinion, Daniel Alfredsson has a spot for next season if he wants to play another season. He may be an old man, but still led the Red Wings in scoring this season and provided veteran leadership in the locker room while Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were out. Another one-year deal is possible if Alfie wants to play another year.

For the rest of the free agents, a return would be slim. Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson, and David Legwand are as good as gone. Todd Bertuzzi could return for another year if Detroit needs a physical presence on the ice, but probably would not play much. They could sign David Legwand to a multi-year deal to compensate for sending Patrick Eaves, Calle Jarnkrok, and a second round pick to Nashville for Legwand at the trade deadline. It would be hard to see the Red Wings resign him with Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss, Darren Helm, Riley Sheahan, and Joakim Andersson slated at center on the depth chart, though. However, trades and buyouts happen and the Red Wings are primed to do one or both this summer. There are reports out that while Daniel Cleary will not be in the Red Wings’ lineup next year, he may be in their front office after playing the last decade in Detroit.

What do you think?