Reviewing Gordie: The Legend of Mr. Hockey

I was recently asked to review the Detroit Free Press’ Gordie: The Legend of Mr. Hockey.  Due out in a couple weeks, the book is a collection of stories about Gordie Howe‘s career and a celebration of his life.

I say “a collection of stories” because it’s not a single, chronological narrative.  It doesn’t read like a standard biography.

Starting with an obituary by Mitch Albom and coverage of Howe’s visitation at Joe Louis Arena and his funeral, it moves on to a brief biography of his playing years in the context of his recent death.

These aren’t new or exciting stories.  If you were paying any attention last June, you’ve already read some version of them.  They are a fitting tribute, however, and a beautiful read.

From there it’s on – somewhat jarringly – to the debate about Howe’s controversially stem-cell treatment in 2014.  Then to anecdotes about Howe from the Freep’s writers and Howe’s contemporaries, and quotes from Howe himself.

The book closes with excerpts from Mark Howe‘s book, Gordie Howe‘s Son, and from the 1999 Free Press book, Century of Champions, before a look at Howe’s single-shift appearance with the International Hockey League’s Detroit Vipers and a recap of his career statistics.

The knock on this is that it’s structured like a coffee table book but it’s a paperback, with the result something more like a Sports Illustrated collector’s edition.

Of course, like those SI issues, collectors of Red Wings memorabilia will want this on their bookshelves.

As I said, you won’t find anything new here.  My favorite part was the Mark Howe piece, which was just an excerpt from another book.  These aren’t new stories but the value is having them collected in one place.

Gordie: The Legend of Mr. Hockey, will be available on September 1.

On Las Vegas’ NHL Team Name: Nighthawks?

I was chatting this morning with SportsLogos.Net founder Chris Creamer, spit-balling ideas about the name of the NHL’s Las Vegas expansion franchise, when I stumbled onto something interesting.

On Tuesday, team owner Bill Foley was on Sportsbook Radio and SI (among others) picked it up.

But the name is going to have … Knights somewhere in some fashion, some way. Or, there’s one particular animal, a bird, that we have available to us that we might use.

I ignored it when it first came across my Twitter feed.  Frankly, I didn’t care that much.  This morning, though, I started thinking about it and ran down Wikipedia’s list of birds native to Nevada.

Some of names just don’t make any sense for a hockey team to use.  The Las Vegas Trumpeter Swans?  Las Vegas Wood Storks?  No thanks.

Las Vegas Goldeneyes?  Maybe in the 1990s (looking at you, Toronto Raptors).  Las Vegas Canvasbacks?  Hrm.

Las Vegas Nighthawks?

That’s a little too perfect.  A bird native to the state.  The nickname of the F-117, which was tested at nearby Nellis Air Force Base.  A word for a person up late at night, something Las Vegas is known for.

So I checked to see if the domain lasvegasnighthawks.com was available, thinking that I might squat on it if it was, just in case.  It turned out that it wasn’t available.  In fact, it was registered to Black Knight IP Holding Company, LLC, one of the many realms of Foley’s empire.

Domains aren’t any kind of be-all, end-all – anyone can register one for whatever reason – but it does seem to show that Foley’s organization was thinking about Nighthawks.  Creamer’s further research found a small handful of other names that the team might have been considering.  It seems as though no trademarks have been filed, so they can always switch direction.

That said…  Foley said a bird that also includes (k)night in its name?  Nighthawks seems to be a perfect fit.


Update, 10:45 PM: I was on KLAS in Las Vegas tonight to talk about this.  They confirmed that Nighthawks, Red Hawks, and Desert Hawks have all been trademarked and that two other names are pending.


Update, 8/12/2016 – 3:45 PM: I’ve already discussed this on Twitter but, for the sake of completeness, I figured I’d circle back to this post.

For whatever reason, it would appear the names we found are now off the table.

Shanahan in The Players Tribune

Malik and WIIM already shared former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan‘s mailbag in The Players’ Tribune today but neither touched on the final note of the piece, which I think is absolutely fantastic.

What is the worst attempt at chirping/trash talking you’ve seen on the ice? — u/DrCoconutsss

I remember when I was in Detroit, Sean Avery stood up as Joe Sakic was skating by our bench. Sean was a young, enthusiastic hockey player who was well liked by us old guys, and as you might know, was known for trash talking. But when he stood up and yelled, “Hey Sakic!” Brett Hull grabbed him by the back of his sweater and yanked him down on the bench. Then he said, and I’ll never forget this, “You are not allowed to speak to Mr. Sakic.” And then Sean looked down the bench at the rest of the boys and we all just sort of nodded.

Red Wings Sign Mrazek to Two-Year Deal

Per Elliotte Friedman, the Red Wings have signed goalie Petr Mrazek to a two-year contract.

That’s a $4 million AAV, which is a solid deal for the Red Wings except for the fact that they have Jimmy Howard carrying a $5,291,666 cap hit as a backup.

With the deal, the Red Wings managed to avoid arbitration, something the team takes pride in.  It would have been their first “real” arbitration hearing (the hearing for Jiri Hudler in 2009 was a formality as he’d already bolted for the KHL) in two decades.

Mrazek will still be a restricted free agent when the deal ends, giving him time to prove himself as a starter and the Red Wings time to dump Howard.

Red Wings Sign DeKeyser to Six-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Danny DeKeyser to a six-year contract on Tuesday.  In agreeing to the deal, the sides avoided a potentially-contentious arbitration meeting scheduled for Thursday.

The contract breakdown is as follows:

With DeKeyser signed, the Red Wings’ top concern becomes goalie Petr Mrazek, who is scheduled for an arbitration meeting on Wednesday.

My concern with the DeKeyser deal is that, once again, Ken Holland is giving a player long-term money based on his potential, not what he’s proven.

$5 million per season is #2 defenseman money.  I think DeKeyser is the best defenseman on this team, which isn’t saying much.  I think he could be a top defenseman eventually.  I do not think he’ll be worth $5 million in the 2016-17 season.

Giving out contracts like this is a gamble.  Maybe by the second year, he’s taken a step forward and become a legitimate #1 defenseman and it’s a bargain for the rest of the deal.  If not, though…  This is how you get healthy scratches making $2 million (the now-departed Jakub Kindl).

Former Red Wing Richards Retires

We knew heading into the offseason – and it became even more apparent with Detroit’s moves on July 1 – that Brad Richards wasn’t going to be returning to the Red Wings for a second season.  It turns out that he won’t be returning to the NHL at all.

His final season can only be described as disappointing but it had its highlights.  He’ll forever be the guy who helped the Red Wings punch the Avalanche in the throat in Colorado’s own outdoor game.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Red Wings Sign Glendening to Four-Year Extension

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday the signing of forward Luke Glendening to a four-year contract extension.

Glendening still has one year left on his current contract, carrying a $628,333 salary cap hit.

Of course, no financial terms were announced, because team policy is to leak that information to only certain people, so they can tell the rest of the world.

This deal annoys me.  Keep locking up bottom-six forwards long-term, Kenny.  The replaceable guys.  As much as I hate the Steve Ott signing, these are the people you can grab every year if your guy walks.  There is no reason to give four years to Luke Glendening.  None.

Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter, says the new deal carries a cap hit of $1.8 million.  I hate it now.


Update, 11:45 AM: Michael Petrella, formerly of The Production Line, had this to add…

The timing of this extension is particularly bad because it means that the Red Wings are virtually required to protect Glendening in the expansion draft.  Were he going to be a free agent next summer, they could have left him unprotected and used his spot on someone else.

Of course, there’s the cynical thought that the Wings could leave him unprotected knowing that they paid him too much and Las Vegas won’t want to pick up that contract.  I don’t think Ken Holland thinks that way, though.

Red Wings Re-up Pulkkinen

The Red Wings announced the signing of restricted free agent forward Teemu Pulkkinen to a one-year contract extension today…  Sort of.

They later “corrected” the “typo.”

As per club policy, no useful information was announced.  So we’re waiting on that.

Pulkkinen is expected to miss the start of the season after off-season shoulder surgery.

The Red Wings now have 18 forwards signed for next season.  Johan Franzen and Joe Vitale will likely spend the entire year on LTIR while Pulkkinen will start the season there.  That’s still 15 players for 14 spots, meaning, one of Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha likely starts the season in Grand Rapids.  That’s not including Tyler Bertuzzi or Martin Frk or any of the other young guys that are supposedly going to fight for a roster spot next year.

Of course, there’s always the mythical “forwards for defense” trade that could clear up that logjam.

UPDATE: HSJ tells us that the deal is for $812,500.

On the Red Wings’ Next Alternate Captain

With Pavel Datsyuk having departed, the Red Wings are left with an open spot among their contingent of captains.  I brought this up on Twitter a month ago and WiiM did a post on it a couple weeks ago.  I went back through the team’s recent history to see if anything can be gleaned from it to show us who might be picked.

The 2015-16 season was unique for the Red Wings in that captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternates Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall were the only players to wear letters for the team all year.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opportunity – both Datsyuk and Kronwall missed significant time due to injury – it means that there were 34 games where Detroit didn’t even bother sewing an “A” on anyone else’s sweater.

Captains are the only players who can speak to on-ice officials but the Red Wings’ going with fewer than the allowed number of captains shows how unimportant that rule.  Of note: Teams may have no more than three lettered players on the roster but there is nothing saying that they have to have that number.

We have to go back to the 2015 season to find replacement captains used by the Red Wings.  Despite ten games with only two captains dressed, seven players still managed to wear a letter throughout the year.  The injured Johan Franzen wore it for ten games, Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary each wore it for three, and Darren Helm wore it for one.

If he were healthy, I think Franzen would get the A, but he’ll never play again.  Cleary may very well return to the organization and get a letter in Grand Rapids, but I think he can be ruled out in Detroit.  That leaves Ericsson and the recently-re-signed Helm.

Going back one more season to 2014 adds no new names to the list, as the now-retired Daniel Alfredsson was the most-frequent extra alternate, wearing an A for 36 games to Franzen’s 31 and Cleary’s 8.  Five games were spent with only two captains.

The lockout-shortened 2013 – Zetterberg’s first as captain – featured three games with only two captains but no replacement alternates.  It was also the first season since the 2007-08 campaign, when Datsyuk was given an A along with Zetterberg and Kris Draper, that the team had only three captains.

Even with four captains on the books in 2012, Tomas Holmstrom wore the A for eight games.  The team dressed three captains for every game.

Going back further, we see the names of long-departed defensemen Brian Rafalski and Chris Chelios…  Clearly players who won’t be options now.

In the last seven years there have been ten players to wear the C or A with the Red Wings.  Two of them – Zetterberg and Kronwall – still do.  Only two of the remaining eight are still with the team: Ericsson and Helm.

At three games to one, Ericsson has more experience wearing the letter than Helm.  Maybe that gives him an edge.

So can anything be pulled from these numbers?  I think the only thing they show is that it’s time for someone new.  The old standbys are gone.

While newcomers Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott have all worn letters elsewhere in their career – Nielsen had an A with the Islanders last season while Vanek and Ott co-captained the Sabres back in the 2013-14 season – the Red Wings haven’t given the alternate captaincy directly to a newcomer since trading for Brendan Shanahan in 1996.

By my count, the Wings haven’t had two defenseman with letters since before the Steve Yzerman era, which would seemingly rule out Ericsson or any of the other blueliners, so long as Kronwall wears the A.

Jeff Blashill is not Jacques Demers.  I don’t think Dylan Larkin gets the available letter by virtue of being the team’s best player.

I think – almost from lack of better options – that we’ll see Justin Abdelkader get the A.

Of course, that could change if the mythical “trade for a top defenseman” ever emerges.  We’ll see.