Numbers Game 2009: Camp Roster Set

Red Wings Central has published Detroit’s training camp roster and this year there aren’t a lot of surprises with the sweater numbers players will be wearing.

Todd Bertuzzi will keep the #44 he has worn for most of his career, including during his first stint in Detroit. Newcomer Patrick Eaves, who also typically wears that number, has taken #17.

Jason Williams, also in his second run with Detroit, returns to his familiar #29.

Depth defenseman Andy Delmore did not take the #15 he wore last time he was in camp with the Wings, instead going with #4 as his usual #5 is taken by Nicklas Lidstrom.

Doug Janik has inherited Mikael Samuelsson‘s #37, while other newcomers Kris Newbury and Jeremy Williams will wear #32 and #15, respectively.

No returning Red Wings regulars have switched numbers.

Blame Bettman?

Saw this over at Rangerland, thought I should bring it over here. A bit from Mirtle on the dynamics of the NHL board of governors.

Hockey fans like to use Gary Bettman as a convenient scapegoat but it’s not him alone. He answers to the owners and really can’t do anything they don’t want. It’s the owners that we as fans need to worry about and because they act in secret we basically don’t even know which owners have what opinions.

In the comments for that article someone posted an SI article from 1965 about the operations of the NHL. Read that and then consider the following paragraph:

In his tenure as NHL commissioner, Bettman has sat like the man who is dunked by baseballs at the carnival, absorbing shot after shot by critics who mistakenly assume that he is setting policy. “This is a problem in journalism today,” he said. “If they all wrote the same thing it wouldn’t be any good, would it? So they are all looking for a new angle, particularly if it can be one which is challenging. The little man enjoys seeing the big guy get the hell kicked out of him. The reader just isn’t interested if you say Bettman’s a nice guy. They don’t give a goddam.” Neither, to judge by his cold analysis, does Gary Bettman. He has developed a thick skin, perhaps because he realizes better than his critics that he is not the grand emperor of pro hockey but simply the agent for the owners of thirty commercial enterprises known as hockey teams. He reminds one of John L. Lewis’ description of Cyrus Ching as “a truly remarkable man, who sees through the eyes of United States Rubber.” Lewis was not challenging Ching’s honesty or skill, nor does anyone who knows Bettman challenge his. They merely challenge a perspective that may be so limited as to distort.

Numbers Game 2009: Bertuzzi and the Prospects

Two things have come up since my look at possible Red Wing sweater numbers for the 2009-10 season on Sunday, the Wings signed Todd Bertuzzi and the team’s prospect tournamant roster was announced on Red Wings Central.

If the roster on the Red Wings’ newly-redesigned web site is to be believed, Bertuzzi will be wearing #44 for Detroit this season. He’s also listed as wearing #7 on his player profile page (which he wore last season in Calgary and is retired in Detroit) so that might not be a trustworthy source.

Should Bertuzzi indeed be wearing #44, Patrick Eaves will be searching for a new number and the #9 and #7 he’s previously worn are unavailable. Should Bertuzzi leave the #44 to Eaves, the #4 he wore in Anaheim is an option (though I personally think #4 is not a forward’s number, no matter what Jean Beliveau and Vincent Lecavalier say) as is the #27 he wore with the Vancouver Canucks while Dave Babych had #44.

At the prospect tournament three players will be wearing new numbers for the Red Wings.

Francis Pare will be switching from the #57 he wore when he was invited as a Grand Rapids Griffin last season to #59. Travis Erhardt moves from the #63 he wore as a free-agent try out last fall to #45. Brian Lashoff, who was also a free-agent last year, moves from #65 to #49.

Of course the number a player wears as a prospect isn’t always tied to what they’ll wear should they make the big club. Tomas Kopecky wore #27, #44 and #32 before finally breaking into the league wearing #28 (and switching to #82 for his sophomore season).

Red Wings Confirm Negotiations with Bertuzzi

After several days of rumors, the Red Wings have confirmed that they are indeed negotiating with Todd Bertuzzi.

Greg Brady of AM 640 in Toronto (and formerly of Detroit’s WDFN) says the Wings have offered one year at $1.5 million.

I’m with Malik in thinking that it’s a lot of money, similar to the contract for Jason Williams. Perhaps being a little desperate is causing the Red Wings to pay more than they’d like.

Should this deal happen it means Andreas Lilja will certainly start the season on long-term injured reserve and Justin Abdelkader will be skating in Grand Rapids. Neither comes as a surprise, from all reports I don’t expect Lilja to play another game for Detroit and the Wings’ brass wanted Abdelkader in GR anyway.

Red Wings Sign Bertuzzi

The Detroit Red Wings have signed forward Todd Bertuzzi to a one-year contract, the team announced on Tuesday.

As per team policy, no financial terms were announced. Rumors surfaced Monday night and Tuesday morning that Detroit had made a one-year, $1.5 million offer.

That deal would virtually ensure that defenseman Andreas Lilja will start the season on the long-term injured reserve, giving Detroit the cap space to sign Bertuzzi.

Bertuzzi played for the Red Wings in 2007, having been acquired at the trade deadline. He scored 15 goals and added 29 assists in 66 games last year with the Calgary Flames.

Numbers Game Preview 2009

As I mentioned last year, I look forward to training camp not because it marks the start of the start of the season but because I’m a sweater numberphile and as camp rosters are released we see what players are switching numbers.

So far no news is out from the Wings camp but there are five regular players I’m keeping an eye on this season and a handful of likely Griffins, as well as one rumor.

I expected Darren Helm to switch from the #43 he’s worn for his entire Detroit career last year and I still think that’s an option this year. The #15 he’s worn in Grand Rapids is currently available and the #14 he wore in Medicine Hat of the WHL could become available if the Red Wings move Derek Meech to clear up their logjam on the blueline.

Assuming Helm doesn’t take #15, it seems a natural fit for depth defenseman Andy Delmore, who wore that number in his 2005 training camp stint with the Wings. His preferred number is #5, which no player other than Nicklas Lidstrom will ever wear again with Detroit. He wore Niklas Kronwall‘s #55 while playing in Germany for the Hamburg Freezers for the last two seasons, #5 having been unavailable.

Now that he’s assured a spot in Detroit, Ville Leino may look to move to a familiar number. He wore #89 with Jokerit and the Wings organization has never had a problem giving out high numbers, so that switch is possible.

Jonathan Ericsson will likely stay with his #52 as he’s had the opportunity to switch in the past without doing so. He reportedly was told by teammates that a big guy like him needed a big number. The #4 he wore last season in Grand Rapids is available, though, so it’s an option for him to switch to.

Jason Williams has returned to Detroit and it’s likely he’ll go back to the #29 he wore during his first stint as well as while he was in Chicago and Columbus. The #14 he wore in Atlanta could be available if Meech is moved but Helm could also be interested in it.

Patrick Eaves seems set to go with the #44 he’s worn in Ottawa and Carolina, now available with the departure of Aaron Downey. He wore the unavailable #9 at Boston College and #7 with the Binghamton Senators so he may have no attachment to #44 and could switch to something else.

That switch might be needed if the rumors of Todd Bertuzzi coming back to the Wings are true. Bertuzzi has worn #44 for most of his career, including his first stint with Detroit, but has worn #4 and #7 since then.

Doug Janik has worn #3 for most of his career but isn’t likely to take it from the injured Andreas Lilja. His fall-back #33 is also taken, as it was when he wore #21 for the Montreal Canadiens. If Leino changes, Janik could go with that number. Similarly, if Helm makes a switch we could see Janik go with the #43 he wore with the Hamilton Bulldogs. The #11 he wore with the Rockford IceHogs is unavailble.

Last on my watch list is Justin Abdelkader, who is unlikely to change from the #8 he inherited from Matt Ellis in 2008. He has previously said that he doesn’t worry about the number he wears but did choose #19 in Grand Rapids in honor of Steve Yzerman. He wore #89 in high school at Mona Shores so he could take that if Leino doesn’t. The #9 he wore in Cedar Rapids and for two years at Michigan State is, of course, unavailable, as is the #18 he wore for his freshman year at MSU.

The Red Wings’ official web site is, as per usual, no help. It has traditionally been late to add updated sweater numbers and currently lists Williams, Eaves, Delmore and Janik without numbers.

The More Things Change…

In November of 1917 the National Hockey League was founded in Montreal by four of the five National Hockey Association member teams.

Eddie Livingstone, owner of the NHA’s Toronto franchise, was not invited to join the new NHL. Toronto was awarded a franchise in the new league under different ownership.

Quebec, Montreal (both the Canadiens and the Wanderers) and Ottawa couldn’t kick Livingstone out of the NHA so they did the next best thing: They started a new league without him.

Ninety-two years ago the National Hockey League was born of back-room dealing, mistrust and trickery. Today those founding tenants remain alive and well in the NHL.

Lawyers for the league have asked a bankruptcy judge to ignore Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie’s bid for ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes, claiming their unanimous rejection of him as an owner trumps the need for the team’s creditors to be paid.

Balsillie had previously been allowed as a bidder on the Coyotes by Judge Redfield T. Baum, having accepted Balsillie’s argument that the NHL had approved of him as an owner during his attempt to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006.

The league used that failed purchase attempt – as well as Balsillie’s attempt to buy the Nashville Predators in 2007 – as reasoning for rejecting him on July 29th.

“We voted to deny approval to Mr. Balsillie because we concluded he lacks the good character and integrity required of a new owner” required under NHL bylaws, said Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, chairman of the league’s board of governors.

Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold, who was the owner of the Predators when Balsillie attempted to buy them, also spoke against him.

“Based on my owner experiences with Mr. Balsillie, I have formed a highly unfavourable opinion regarding him, including his suitability as an NHL owner,” Leipold said in his declaration.

Balsillie has long contended that the league has a personal grudge against him. He claimed the 2006 deal fell through when the NHL attempted to require him to keep the team in Pittsburgh even if a new arena wasn’t built.

When Leipold declined to sell him the Predators, Balsillie said that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman agreed to ease Leipold’s purchase of the Wild should he sell the Predators to a different buyer. Leipold sold his Nashville interests for roughly $50 million less than Balsillie was offering. Less than a year later he became the majority owner of the Wild, with no hints that it would happen other than Balsillie’s claim months before.

The NHL also wants to hold rumors about the Montreal Canadiens against Balsillie. In November 2008 he made statements about the Canadiens being up for sale, which the team immediately denied. Seven months later, the Canadiens were sold.

Balsillie has seemingly been correct every time he’s attempted to put the NHL’s shadowy deals into the daylight but the league wants the courts to believe he’s the one in the wrong.

Judge Baum’s focus should not be on the politics of a corrupt league but on satisfying the creditors of the bankrupt Coyotes. As such, Balsillie and his $212.5 million bid should be allowed and accepted as it greatly outweighs the NHL-approved $148 million offer by Jerry Reinsdorf.

Assuming that purchase survives the legal battle sure to ensue, the league will have only a handful of options.

They can swallow their pride and accept Balsillie as an owner.

They can let Balsillie have the team but refuse to allow him to sit at their table, giving him no voice in league matters but giving him control of the day-to-day operations of the team.

Or they can take the franchise back, giving it to their preferred owner.

That last one sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it? The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Williams Rejoins Red Wings

After watching five players leave their team during the first month of free agency the Detroit Red Wings made their second move in three days on Thursday, signing forward Jason Williams to a one-year deal.

Williams broke into the NHL with the Red Wings in 2000 and was with the team until a 2007 trade that sent him to Chicago for Kyle Calder. Since then he has also spent time with the Atlanta Thrashers and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Williams is the second forward the Wings have signed this week, joining Patrick Eaves, who signed a one-year deal on Tuesday.

In 376 career games, Williams has 85 goals and 120 assists.

Financial terms of the deal were not announced.

Red Wings Sign Forward Patrick Eaves

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday that they have signed forward Patrick Eaves to a one-year deal. As per club policy, financial terms of the contract were not announced.

Eaves spent the 2008-09 season with the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring six goals and adding eight assists in 74 games. He was traded to the Boston Bruins on July 24th for Aaron Ward before being bought out of a contract that would have paid him $1.1 million this upcoming season.

Eaves broke into the NHL in 2005-06 as a 21-year-old, scoring 20 goals and 9 assists in 58 games for the Ottawa Senators. He tallied 32 points the following season but has not broken 20 points since then.

In an offseason where the Red Wings have lost Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler, Eaves is the team’s first free agent signing expected to play significant time in the NHL next season.