Postgame Thoughts: Panthers @ Red Wings, 2/20

I’ll start with something I said via Twitter that wasn’t appreciated: I don’t like Anthony Mantha challenging Aleksander Barkov for Barkov’s hit on Dylan Larkin late in the third period today.

Part of it is that bad things happen when Mantha plays that role.  The guy’s hands are glass.  If someone needs to step up, it should not be him.

More controversially, I don’t think the hit was that bad.  I know there are a lot of people saying Barkov stuck his leg out, even saying that it was a (or was at least an attempted) knee-on-knee hit.  I see an awkward hip check.  Barkov’s hip went backwards, his leg went out sideways, and his hip is what made contact.  I’m sure we could say that he stuck his hip out to cover for the fact that he was sticking his leg out but I just don’t see it.

I could see the argument that it was late, maybe.  But I just don’t see that as one that someone should be made to answer for.

Anyway…

Going into the game I was unhappy to see the Red Wings going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with Evgeni Svechnikov left out of the lineup.  I was going to say that, as much as I didn’t like it, much like the healthy scratch of Mantha earlier this season, it would probably work.  I should have hit send.

After so many missed chances this season, it was great to see Mathias Brome get his first career NHL goal.  It’s also funny because he’s had better chances than that one but that’s the one that went in.  I didn’t realize until he scored that goal that he didn’t even have a point yet this season.  Eye-test-wise, he’s played way better than that.

Despite the Brome goal and the outcome, this didn’t feel particularly fun to watch.  Wings games rarely have over the last couple seasons. so that’s not a surprise, but it makes it feel like wins aren’t as earned.

On the aesthetic side, man, I love those Panthers’ Reverse Retro jerseys.  I thought for sure that the Red Wings would use an opportunity when they were already wearing white at home to break out their own Reverse Retro set but they didn’t.  Part of me wonders if the Wings will try to slide through the season never wearing theirs.

Speaking of Reverse Retros, that’s what all four teams are wearing in this weekend’s Outdoor Games at Lake Tahoe.

Seeing media coverage of the event via Twitter has been difficult for me.  As I noted earlier today, it seems like there are a lot of journalists or other media personalities praising the visuals at Lake Tahoe, calling for more events like that.  And I applaud the NHL for giving this a shot, even though the first game is currently paused after one period because of ice issues, because it is a gorgeous setting.

But there are no fans there.  This season, that’s not a big deal.  But you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that, in a normal season, we should be doing made-for-TV events that only media actually get to go to live.  I get that these events (hell, even normal games) have gotten so expensive that a lot of fans are unable to attend in person.  But crossing the line to events that no fans can attend in person seems like too much.

Especially as the line between “fan” and “journalist” seems to dissolve further and further.  In the bad old days of the blogosphere, one of the knocks against bloggers was our fandom, our partiality.  Now there are credentialed media who feel a lot like cheerleaders on Twitter.  So to see those journalists calling for more events without fans, which would be open to them, while they act more and more fan-like…  It rubs me the wrong way.

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings @ Panthers, 2/7

I’m not going to say that the Red Wings looked good in their 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers today. This is still, in general, a Not Good team. For the first time in a long time, though, they did all the things (consistently) that they needed to do to win a game, though.

Specifically, what I liked seeing today was how much Detroit was getting in the way of Florida passes, or knocking the puck off the Panthers’ sticks. It was a level of grind we haven’t seen from the Wings much. And it led directly to Detroit’s second goal, with Bobby Ryan stealing the puck and getting it to Givani Smith in front of the net.

Thomas Greiss got his first win as a Red Wing and it’s kind of funny because I don’t think he looked much better or worse than he usually does. Shows how much a goalie’s stats can be impacted by the team in front of him, which isn’t exactly surprising but is always interesting when such a strong example comes up.

Radko Gudas’ hit on Luke Glendening…  Gudas has a history of dirty stuff. I could see – if one wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt – calling the head contact incidental. I don’t see why anyone would give Gudas the benefit of the doubt. We’ll have to see what the NHL thinks.

Aside from that hit, I thought Florida’s Mackenzie Weegar was throwing his weight around in some annoying ways today. Earlier this season he bloodied Glendening without a penalty, then when Michael Rasmussen took him into the boards, Aaron Ekblad attempted to fight Rasmussen in retaliation. Today Smith hit Weegar and Ekblad again stepped in. I really don’t like it when players are willing to throw hits but can’t take one, and I really don’t like it when physical players have someone else do their fighting for them. This checks both of those boxes, so I was happy to see Weegar was the one who lost the puck on the play leading to Detroit’s empty-net goal.

As I’ve been writing this, the story behind Anthony Mantha‘s unexpected scratch was revealed: He was a healthy scratch. Look, I get that Mantha is underperforming. I thought he’d looked better over the last week than most of the team, though. I don’t get how you look at this roster and, eight games into a losing streak, say it’s time for him to sit. The Wings won, so you could say it worked, but this baffles me. It’s the first time I’ve moved strongly into the “Fire Blashill” camp. This is a rebuild. This kids are going to make mistakes. But why give Mantha the contract they gave him if this is how he’s going to be handled? I don’t get it.

Postgame Thoughts: Blue Jackets at Red Wings, 1/18

Well, that was something.

I was all ready to talk about what an ugly third period the Red Wings had this afternoon and how much it looked like last season’s Red Wings.  They got pinned down, they didn’t control anything, and they allowed two quick goals.  It was bad.

That is going to happen this season.  Just because this Detroit team looks better on paper doesn’t mean they’re all that good and some of the issues from last season are bound to carry into this season.  It’s not the end of the world as long as we temper our expectations.

Then the final minutes of the third period happened and I got all riled up.

The scoresheet will show a false-hope goal by Bobby Ryan with 57 seconds left and a bunch of fighting penalties at the same time.  It will not show that that goal was first emphatically waved off and had to be allowed via video review.

After years of goals being called back due to Tomas Holmstrom being within 50 feet of the goal, this kind of thing is a trigger for me.  The idea that the refs can be so emphatic, so sure of what they saw, only for the video to show that they didn’t actually see that, and then they just get to carry on like they didn’t botch it and only get saved by review.

Ken and Mick like to talk about how officials have a hard job and they get most of the calls right, and it’s true, but no one is talking about the line changes that Marc Staal got right today, just the one he was slow on that led directly to a goal against.  We talk about player screw-ups, we talk about coaching screw-ups, we should talk about officiating screw-ups, too.

Of course, that goal was, as I said, a false-hope goal.  Neither it, nor how it happened, mattered in the end.

Positives…

Two more goals from Bobby Ryan, on top of the one he scored on Saturday night.  I’m giddy thinking about what he might bring back at the trade deadline if he keeps this up.

I thought Michael Rasmussen looked decent centering the second line for much of the game.  Certainly not great, but a sign that he still has some upside.  That said, his demotion late in the third when the Wings were pressing to get back into it was absolutely the right decision.

I think Thomas Greiss looked good.  He’s winless as a Red Wing but that feels more like the team in front of him than the goalie himself.  It wouldn’t make me feel better if I were him but I’m not so I can silver-lining it.

Negatives…

Looking like last year’s Red Wings.  Like I said, it’s going to happen, we should expect it.  But, ugh, it’s still painful to see.

Season Opener Thoughts

New season, same Red Wings.  Kinda.

Like many games last season, Detroit didn’t look particularly good in their season-opening 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s entirely the same, though.

The Wings never really got going last night, and most of the opportunities they did get came from the top line of new captain Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi.  That’s a familiar look.  But (eye-test only, maybe the stats don’t back this up) I thought the third line of Valtteri Filppula, Sam Gagner, and Mathias Brome also generated some chances and on a team starved for secondary scoring, that’s important to see.

Specifically, I really liked the play of Brome in his NHL debut.  I don’t recall him looking out of place at all.  On Twitter I called out one specific play in the second period where he powered through the Hurricanes’ defense to get to the front of the net, even though nothing came of it.

On defense there was a bit of a bright spot in that, after giving up the opening goal early in the first period, the Red Wings did not collapse, as they did so many times last season.  Carolina didn’t score again until a long power play in the third period before adding an empty net goal.  The Hurricanes still managed to take 43 shots but (again, eye-test), it seemed like they were less-dangerous opportunities.

Of course, that’s a low bar for the team to clear.

Thomas Greiss looked good in his first start for the Red Wings.  It seems ridiculous to say but he managed to make a 40-save night look quiet.

It’s one game.  And Detroit certainly had games like this one last year.  If the Wings rattled off a string of games like this one, it would probably be an upgrade over last season’s disaster.  Eventually they’re going to need something better, though.

Thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2021 Roster

The Red Wings made a series of assignments to their taxi squad and to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday and, with that, their roster for the 2021 season is pretty much confirmed.

I qualify that because the Red Wings are starting with Bobby Ryan, Darren Helm, and Christian Djoos out of the lineup. So, while this might be the roster on opening night, it’s probably not exactly the one they’d hoped for, nor is it the expected roster on a nightly basis.  Even if they are small changes, we’re probably going to see a bunch of adjustments to this roster over the first month of the season.

Right now the taxi squad consists of Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Kevin Boyle, and Calvin Pickard.  You can bet that, once the Grand Rapids Griffins’ season gets going, five of those players will be in GR.  The Red Wings won’t want any of their youngsters sitting in the press box (or wherever the NHL has mandated that taxi squad players sit) when they could be playing in the AHL. They’ll keep one of the goalies up, as required, then swap out everyone else who isn’t playing for guys like Turner Elson and Dylan McIlrath.

Meanwhile, on the playing roster, we’re seeing these lines:

Obviously we’ve got some taxi squad guys in there but they’re not in positions we need to worry about. Rasmussen and Smith on a “fifth line” with a no-contact Bobby Ryan isn’t a real line and while Lindstrom may very well effectively be the Red Wings’ eighth defenseman right now, they’re not going to roll four pairings in a game so his play alongside Alex Biega in practice doesn’t matter.

The top line has been virtually set in stone since last season so there are no surprises there.  Vladislav Namestnikov with Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina is somewhat unexpected but likely influenced by Ryan’s injury.  Mathias Brome got some buzz in camp and seemed likely to get some NHL playing time once Helm and Ryan were out.  The fourth line looks a whole lot like a “and everyone else” line as I don’t see a reason for Frans Nielsen to be there.

I think once Ryan returns, we’ll see Nielsen drop out of the lineup (unless he’s rebounded strongly from last season but there’s been no camp chatter to say we should expect that) and Brome drop down a line.  Namestnikov could also move to the third line to make room for Ryan with Fabbri and Zadina.

Helm’s return (which I’m assuming would come later as he’s not even skating right now) would then seemingly push Adam Erne off the fourth line, unless Brome is shown to need AHL time to adjust to the North American game and he is the one who comes out of the lineup.

On defense, the big thing left to see is Djoos’ role on the team.  He’s sticking in the Detroit lineup as he would otherwise have to clear waivers and the Red Wings didn’t claim him just to be a tradable asset as they also can’t trade him without first waiving him.  Does he bump Marc Staal or Troy Stecher off that third pairing or is he just here as another depth guy, effectively replacing Lindstrom alongside Biega?

Assuming what I’ve suggested, a healthy lineup would need one more change, though, as the Red Wings would have 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies, putting them over the 23-man roster limit.  The easy answer there would be to drop Brome down to the Griffins as he wouldn’t need to clear waivers.  That said, I’ve already advocated for keeping Brome in the lineup over Nielsen and Erne, so a more interesting option would be to waive Nielsen and (assuming he’s not claimed) put him on the taxi squad.  The Red Wings have the salary cap space to eat his contract and the one-season taxi squad gives a place for Nielsen to go where he can’t take a spot with the Griffins from one of the kids who needs it.

Given that the Red Wings just re-confirmed that Nielsen will be an alternate captain under new captain Dylan Larkin, I can’t see them punting him to the sidelines so easily, though.

Obviously further injuries could change this quickly but I think this is an approximation of what we could be looking at under ideal conditions.

Red Wings Announce Larkin as Captain

The long-expected announcement of Dylan Larkin as the next captain of the Detroit Red Wings came Wednesday morning.

The Red Wings had been without a captain since Henrik Zetterberg was forced to stop playing due to a back injury at the start of the 2018-19 season.  The two season gap is the longest the Red Wings had gone without a named captain in their history.

Via press release, the team confirmed that Luke Glendening and Frans Nielsen will be Larkin’s alternates.

Red Wings Waive Svechnikov, Nine Others

The Detroit Red Wings waived ten players on Monday, including former first-round draft pick Evgeny Svechnikov.

Svechnikov missed much of the Red Wings’ recent training camp due to injury.  This after missing part of last season and the entirety of the 2018-19 campaign with unrelated injuries.

The consensus seems to be that, given his age and injury history, Svechnikov will either clear waivers or not be much of a loss.  I’m not so certain but I also view these situations with a high level of pessimism, so take that with a grain of salt.

All of the other waived players were expected to be bound for either the Grand Rapids Griffins or the Red Wings’ taxi squad anyway so there are no surprises there.

It is perhaps worth noting that Christian Djoos, who the Red Wings acquired via waivers over the weekend, was not re-waived, meaning he will start the season in the Detroit lineup.

Red Wings Claim Defenseman Djoos via Waivers

The Detroit Red Wings claimed defenseman Christian Djoos off of waivers from the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Djoos, 26, split last season between the Washington Capitals and the Ducks at the NHL level but spent most of the season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. In 119 career NHL games, he has five goals and 22 assists for 27 points.

Christian Djoos is the son of former NHLer Per Djoos, who played 26 games for the Red Wings during the 1990-91 season.

This pickup is a little weird to me.  Detroit’s blueline seems set with Danny DeKeyser, Filip Hronek, Patrik Nemeth, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, Marc Staal, and Alex Biega.  That’s with Gustav Lindstrom on the outside looking in.

Djoos could have been claimed to fill space on the taxi squad this season but he will have to clear waivers to be assigned to it, just as if he were being assigned to the AHL.  In that case, Anaheim would have the right to claim him back and – if no other team placed a claim – send him to their own AHL affiliate, as they originally intended.

Maybe Detroit GM Steve Yzerman thinks the Ducks just didn’t want Djoos anymore and he’ll make it through waivers.  There’s no risk in trying it.  Best-case scenario, the Red Wings add a depth defenseman.  Worst-case scenario, they’re right back where they started.

Griffins Jersey Number Notes

The Grand Rapids Griffins updated the roster on their website yesterday, adding jersey numbers for new players and reflecting a change for one returning player.

Goalie Kaden Fulcher is shown as switching from #33 to the #36 worn last season by Kyle Wood.  Fulcher has worn #33 for most of his career but appears to have switched to make room for Kevin Boyle, who takes over as the new #33 in Grand Rapids and gets his usual number.  Fulcher is also assigned #36 in Detroit.

Mathias Brome has been assigned his usual #86, as he was in Detroit.

Kyle Criscuolo picked up the #51 he wore during his first stint with the Griffins, which had been worn in the interim by Trevor Yates for two games during the 2018-19 campaign.

Riley Barber, assigned #26 in Detroit, gets the #45 that he wore last season in nine games for the Montreal Canadiens.  It was last worn for the Griffins by Colin Campbell.

The #21 most recently worn by Chase Pearson and Michael Rasmussen during the 2018-19 season has been assigned to Max Humitz, who wore that number during his college career at Lake Superior State.

Finally, #11 has been assigned to Patrick Curry.  Curry wore that number at Boston University.  It was made available by Filip Zadina‘s promotion from the Griffins to the Red Wings.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle