Operation: Bobblehead – The Larry Aurie Write-In Campaign

The Red Wings announced today that, following the success of last year’s fan voting to determine what players would be made available as bobbleheads during the 2011-12 season, they would do it again for the coming year.  The twist this time around is that voting will be for Red Wings alumni, with an impressive list of players on the ballot.

From the press release…

The first bobblehead to be distributed as part of this special Edition will depict former captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Steve Yzerman. As part of Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition, the remaining five former Wings to be featured in the promotion will be determined by an impending multi-week online voting campaign, which will be conducted through a formspring page accessible via DetroitRedWings.com.

Hockeytown Heroes appearing on the ballot for Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition include Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuck, Ted Lindsay, Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, Joe Kocur, Kirk Maltby, John Ogrodnick, Luc Robitaille, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Mark Howe, Igor Larionov, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Chris Osgood, Scotty Bowman and more. Write-in candidates are also encouraged. Voting will begin on Tuesday, July 31, at one minute past noon and will be conducted on a week-by-week basis, closing at noon every Sunday. The following day (Tuesday) at 12:01 p.m., voting will begin anew with the winning player being removed form the ballot. No votes cast the previous week will count towards each player’s total. There is no limit on how many votes fans are able to cast each week. Twitter users, meanwhile, are invited to champion their favorite player’s bobblehead by using the hashtag #HockeytownHero throughout the duration of this campaign.

As seemingly always, when it comes to the Detroit organization acknowleding the team’s history, an important name is missing from that list: Larry Aurie.

I’ve ranted about lack of recognition for Aurie before.  It’s a shame that his number isn’t in the rafters and it’s even more of a shame that the Red Wings organization won’t explain why.

That said, the Wings control those rafters and they can do what they want there.  If Operation: Bobblehead really is about letting the fans decide, then this is the opportunity to get the team’s first real star honored.

The Wings say they encourage write-in votes.  When voting opens on Tuesday, cast yours for Larry Aurie.  It won’t get his #6 to the rafters where it belongs but it’s a start.

Update, 7/31: Voting is now open on the Red Wings’ web site.

How Signing a Forward Could Have Helped the Wings’ Defense

With the news today that forward Alexander Semin had signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and the report that the Red Wings are out of the running for Shane Doan, much has been made of Detroit general manager Ken Holland‘s summer inactivity.

I’m on record as saying that I don’t think you can call a summer in which you sign Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo and Jonas Gustavsson and have $11 million in cap space remaining a successful summer.  Reasonable, perhaps, as it appears the available players just didn’t want to come to Detroit.  Not successful.

There is an argument that going after Semin or Doan is counterproductive because the Wings’ holes are on defense, not forward.  As of right now, the team has six defensemen on the roster and 15 fowards, before signing restricted free agent Justin Abdelkader.

Let’s take a look at a possible set of forward lines…

Gustav NyquistPavel DatsyukJohan Franzen
Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergDamien Brunner
Danny ClearyDarren Helm – Mikael Samuelsson
Drew Miller – Justin Abdelkader – Todd Bertuzzi
Jan MursakCory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo
Patrick Eaves

More important than actual lines here is where each player fits in the depth chart.  That’s why I’m throwing a healthy dose of optimism in there, with both Nyquist and Brunner panning out and fitting into the top six.

Send Brunner to Grand Rapids and slide Samuelsson up if you want, either way I think this shows that the Red Wings have about six forwards that you can actually define as “top six” and not just “players who happen to play on the top two lines.”

Signing Semin or Doan would give Detroit one more of those.  Why is that a good thing?

There are no more top defensemen on the free agent market.  Detroit already has enough bottom-pair defensemen, adding one more of them doesn’t help.  As Holland has already suggested, if the Wings want actual help on their blue line they’ll need to trade for it.

Dealing forward depth for defensive help seems like a perfect fit for this team.  The problem is that you’re not going to see a deal of Emmerton and Miller and Mursak for a Keith Yandle.  No one is going to deal a top defensemen for a bunch of third- and fourth-liners, even a whole line of them.

To make a deal for a top-four defenseman, you’ll have to include a top-six forward.  Do that with this lineup and suddenly you’re pretending that Todd Bertuzzi belongs next to Pavel Datsyuk again, and I say that as someone who likes Bertuzzi.

Signing a top-six forward gives the Wings the option of including Johan Franzen or Valtteri Filppula in a deal for their new defenseman.  It gives them flexibility that they don’t have right now.

The Wings’ forward depth in its current form does not help them in bringing in a defenseman.  All it does is push Brunner and Nyquist to Grand Rapids because they can be sent there without losing them, and then you have both Bertuzzi and Samuelsson in the top six and still no addition on defense.

Maybe the new CBA will make certain players available but as of right now, with no top-six forwards available to sign and the free agent market dried up, I don’t think the Wings have what teams will want for a top-four defenseman.

Brunnstrom Signs with Frolunda

Forward Fabian Brunnstrom has signed a three-year contract with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League.

Brunnstrom was unlikely to be offered a contract by the Detroit Red Wings after playing in their organization last season.  The team had said they were happy with his performance in five games with the Red Wings and 45 games with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins but the signing of Swiss forward Damien Brunner made Brunnstrom redundant.

In heading back to his native Sweden, Brunnstrom ends his NHL career with 104 games played between the Red Wings and the Dallas Stars.  He scored 19 goals and 22 assists.

Thoughts on the Shea Weber Attempted Trade

I’m not going to talk much about the offer sheet that Nashville Predators’ defenseman signed with the Philadelphia Flyers late last night.  I don’t know if the Predators will match, I don’t care if it’s a particularly good deal or not.

The thing that interests me is that, prior to the offer sheet being signed, the Red Wings were attempting to trade for Weber.  Honestly, I just do not understand why.

The Predators have a legitimate rivalry with the Red Wings now.  With both teams having lost key pieces of their blue line this summer, Nashville was not going to deal their captain and one of the top defensement in the league to Detroit without a king’s ransom going the other way in return.

I find it hard to believe that whatever it would have taken for the Wings to pry Weber’s rights away from the Preds would have been worth less to Detroit than the four first-round draft picks that would go to Nashville as compensation for signing Weber away.  As we hear time and time again, teams know the Wings need defensive help and are trying to bend them over the barrel in trades.

The Wings had the chance to do what the Flyers did.  They didn’t need to play nice with Nashville and work out a deal.  They could have just signed Weber and forfeited the picks.

I didn’t expect Weber to end up in Detroit this summer (or next, for that matter) so I don’t see this as a big loss for the Wings.  I’m just shocked (and somewhat annoyed) that the team’s front office seemingly ignored the offer sheet option if they really wanted to acquire him.

Red Wings Re-sign Defenseman Quincey

As reported first by TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Detroit Red Wings agreed to terms with defenseman Kyle Quincey on a two-year contract on Wednesday.

As per club policy, financial terms of the deal were not officially announced.  The Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports it’s a $7.55 million deal, which would give him a cap hit of $3.775 million.

Quincey had been set to go to arbitration with the team over a contract for next season.  The hearing was scheduled for July 25.  With the new deal, the two sides avoid the arbitration process.

The Red Wings acquired Quincey in a three-team deal with the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning on February 21.  Quincey had originally been drafted by the Wings but was lost to the Los Angeles Kings on waivers in 2008.  He was traded to the Avalanche on July 3, 2009.

In 18 games to close out the season with the Red Wings, Quincey had two goals and an assist with 29 penalty minutes.  He added two assists and and six penalty minutes in five playoff games.

In his 257-game NHL career, Quincey has 18 goals, 77 assists and 250 penalty minutes.

Red Wings Winter Classic Jersey Concept #5

Things are mostly quiet in the Red Wings’  world so shall we take a look at another possible jersey for the 2013 Winter Classic?

After four ideas that stuck to the current rule of the home team wearing a dark jersey, I’m getting away from that on this one and going with a design based on the white jersey created in 1934 to wear against the Montreal Canadiens, who also wore red.

Why I started with the 1934 sweater as a basis:
As I mentioned when I published my concept based on the 1932 red jerseys, I’ve seen a lot of feedback calling for the old-school Winged Wheel to be featured on the Wings’ Winter Classic jerseys.  This keeps that in mind while also going in a slightly different direction.

To me, the pre-1961 jerseys just scream “old time hockey.”  It’s probably because they’re recognizable as being a precursor of the current sweaters while still being relatively different, as the current red sleeves weren’t in use yet.

Why I made the changes I made:
Again, as with the 1932-based concept, I’ve added modern elements such as sleeve numbers and a nameplate.

I avoided the trend of using “vintage white” because I personally think that looks awful on a white-based jersey.  I don’t see the Wings escaping all of the current vintage trends, though, which is why I went with the opposite-colored nameplate.

Other design decisions:
As with my previous designs, I would expect this design to include a lace-up collar, I just don’t have a template that can show it.

I placed the captain’s C in a rounded diamond with a white background because that was the modernization that the Red Wings used in 1991-92.  No, I don’t have any official word on Henrik Zetterberg being given the C, I just don’t see it going to anyone else.

Why I don’t think this will be worn:
Unlike my other ideas, I really don’t think this one is likely to be worn.  As I said off the top, I had to go against the current  dark-at-home rule and, while Buffalo did wear white in the initial Winter Classic, I don’t see the Red Wings doing the same.

Disclaimer:
I have no advance knowledge of what the Red Wings or the Maple Leafs will wear on New Year’s Day, this is just a concept of something Detroit could wear. I know my template isn’t perfect. I’m admittedly too lazy to fix it. I know the Reebok vector would be replaced by their wordmark, for example.

Previous Designs:
For the record, here are the links to my previous Winter Classic concepts…
Concept #1 (February)
Concept #2 (May)
Concept #3 (June 4)
Concept #4 (June 25)

Partial Rosters Announced for Red Wings – Maple Leafs Alumni Game

In a Comerica Park press conference on Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced a handful of the players who will participate in the Alumni Showdown in December.

The Alumni Showdown will consist of two games to accommodate all of the players interested in appearing.  No details on how the games will be broken down are known at this time.

The confirmed Red Wings’ alumni are as follows:

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Ted Lindsay
Joe Kocur
Kirk Maltby
Kris Draper
Darren McCarty
Mickey Redmond
John Ogrodnick
Luc Robitaille
Larry Murphy
Mark Howe

The team will be coached by Scotty Bowman.

Among the confirmed Maple Leafs players are former Red Wings Curtis Joseph and Wendel Clark, Felix Potvin, Darcy Tucker, Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk.

On the Misguided Idea of Playing the Kids

In the aftermath of free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise having spurned an offer from the Red Wings to sign with the Minnesota Wild (and shortly thereafter, supposed Wings’ Plan B Matt Carle signing with Steve Yzerman‘s Tampa Bay Lightning), we’re hearing a lot about how Detroit should rebuild from within rather than signing free agents to replace their summer losses.

Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland himself has pushed that line of thinking.  I’ve already touched on his line of “There’s also got to be an opportunity for some of our kids and the guys we’ve just signed to play.”

That’s an idea that’s been espoused for some time by many fans.  With the constant idea that the Wings are too old and slow, there’s always a call to “just play the kids” and we’re seeing that again now.

There’s a problem with that idea this time around, though.

I’m not against playing the kids.  I want to see what Gustav Nyquist could do in a top-six role and I want to know whether or not Tomas Tatar is ready.  With Detroit’s current lineup, though, Nyquist and Tatar are going to start the season in Grand Rapids.

There are simply too many forwards on the Wings’ roster right now.  Up front is not where the kids will be given a chance.

Unless injuries happen, we’re not going to see Riley Sheahan ir Joakim Andersson.

It’s Detroit’s blueline that has holes.  Decimated by the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, the Wings’ defense is where there’s room for someone to step up and take a bigger role.  The problem?  The Wings have no defensive prospects to do that.

Brendan Smith will make the full-time jump to the big club next year but that was virtually a given at the end of last season.  Aside from him, there are no NHL-ready defensemen in the Red Wings’ system.

Gleason Fournier?  Spent most of last year (his first in the pros) in the ECHL.  Ryan Sproul?  Has yet to play a pro game.  Same for Xavier Ouellet.  Adam Almqvist has played all of three AHL games.  Max Nicastro will make his pro debut this season.  Travis Ehrhardt is an unrestricted free agent on his way out of the organization, as is Logan Pyett.  Brian Lashoff is entering his third pro season but I’ve heard exactly no one say he’s ready.

So there are no kids for the Wings to rely on here.  It’s a bigger role for Smith or Kyle Quincey or Jonathan Ericsson or Jakub Kindl.  Or all of them.  As of right now, two of those four will be in the Red Wings’ top four.

A trade could always happen that shakes things up.  As things are right now, however, “just play the kids” is not a solution to the Wings’ problems.

Red Wings Hire Renney as Associate Coach

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday the hiring of Tom Renney as associate coach.  Renney replaces Jeff Blashill, who took over as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins last week.

Most recently the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers, Renney has also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, assistant and head coach of the New York Rangers, and associate coach in Edmonton.

The Oilers did not make the playoffs in two seasons under Renney, leading to his replacement this summer.

Free Agency 2012: Day 4

So far since the NHL’s free agency season opened, we’ve had a day where the Wings brought players in, a day where players left Detroit, and a day when the team was quiet.  Today we had the day the team was left out.

Things started with defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise – both Red Wings’ free agent targets – choosing to sign with the Minnesota Wild around noon.  About ten hours later, Detroit’s supposed Plan B – defensman Matt Carle – signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I’m not going to fault any of the players for signing where they did or taking the time they needed to sign.  You become one of the top hockey players in the world and hit free agency, you get to decide things like that.

I’m not happy with the Wings’ organization, however.

I said on Twitter that I didn’t like comments that GM Ken Holland made after the Suter/Parise signings were announced.

“At the end of the day, we feel good about our offers. It was in the ball park of what they signed for.”

To me, that sounds like Holland is fine being close but not finishing on top, which sounds a lot like when Mike Babcock talks about winning forty minutes of a game after a loss.

It’s easy to look at the deals that Parise and Suter signed and say Minnesota overpaid.  It’s also easy to extend that and say we wouldn’t have liked Holland making those deals.  I don’t think it’s true, though.  I think Wings fans would have been thrilled to have the pair for that price and we’re only shaking our heads at the amount or the term because it’s another team that spent it.

“There’s also got to be an opportunity for some of our kids and the guys we’ve just signed to play. It’s not a high profile, big-star team that we’ve had in the past. We made our pitch the last three days and it didn’t fall in our favor.”

Quite honestly, that quote pisses me off.  After all the “we’re going to be very agressive” we heard from Holland, now we’re getting “We don’t need free agents, we’ll let the kids play.”

That means that we’ve got something like a top pair of Niklas Kronwall and Kyle Quincey with Ian White and Brendan Smith next and Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl on the third pair.  Quite honestly, I’m not okay with that.  Maybe I’m spoiled but I expect better from this team.

And something tells me that if the Wings roll into the 2012-13 season with a $60 million payroll instead of the expected $70 million, season ticket holders won’t be getting 1/7th of what they paid back.

The summer isn’t over and the Wings aren’t done.  I’m not going to write them off.  The buzz now is that they’re looking to make a trade and/or sign Shane Doan, who won’t make a decision about his future until July 8th.

Things could still happen for Detroit, I’m just not happy with how the organization has handled it thus far.