Red Wings Add Hiller, Brewer as Assistant Coaches

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday the additions of Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer to Mike Babcock‘s coaching staff.

Hiller replaces Tom Renney, who left the Red Wings to take over as president of Hockey Canada earlier this summer. Brewer takes the spot of video coach Keith McKittrick, who moved on to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.

The Red Wings had previously announced the hiring of Tony Granato to replace Bill Peters, who took the head coaching job with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Hiller, who played 21 games for the Red Wings during the 1992-93 season, had spend the last five years as head coach of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. Before that he was the head coach of the Chilliwack Bruins for three years. Hiller may be the analytics mind that the Red Wings had stated they were looking to add to the organization, as he reportedly has a program that he was attempting to market to NHL teams.

Brewer has spent the last three seasons as a video coach for Hockey Canada, working with Babcock during the 2014 Olympics, where Canada won the gold medal.

Red Wings Sign Tatar to Three-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of restricted free agent forward Tomas Tatar to a three-year deal.

As per club policy, financial terms of the contract were not formally announced. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports it carries an average annual salary of $2.75 million.

Tatar scored 19 goals and added 20 assists for 39 points in 73 games last season for the Red Wings, his first full year with the club. After starting the season as a healthy scratch, he spent much of the year on the makeshift second line with Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco as injuries plagued the team.

He also represented Slovakia at the Olympics, scoring a goal and an assist in four games.

Tatar was selected in the second of the 2009 NHL entry draft by the Red Wings, 60th overall.

With Tatar’s signing, Detroit’s the only restricted free agent left for the Red Wings to sign is defenseman Danny DeKeyser.

Red Wings Re-sign RFA Ferraro

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Friday the re-signing of forward Landon Ferraro to a one-year deal.

As per club policy, financial terms were not announced. However, CapGeek reports it to be a two-way deal worth $550,000 at the NHL level, similar to those signed by Andrej Nestrasil and Mitch Callahan last week.

Like Nestrasil and Callahan, Ferraro is out of waiver options for the coming season. If he does not make the Red Wings out of training camp, he will have to be made available to the rest of the NHL’s teams before he can be sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Ferraro made his NHL debut last season, going without a point in four games for the Red Wings. He also scored 15 goals and 16 assists for the Griffins in 70 games.

In three seasons with Grand Rapids, Ferraro has 48 goals and 50 points.

Ferraro, 22, is the son of former NHLer Ray Ferraro. He was selected in the second round, 32nd overall, by the Red Wings in the 2009 NHL entry draft.

Thoughts On the Red Wings’ New Arena Plans

The Ilitch family made a splash earlier today when they revealed the plans for their “mixed-use sports and entertainment district,” centered around a $650 million new arena for the Red Wings.

Many headlines will run (including this one) focusing on the arena but the actual information released doesn’t. The drawings are concepts, actual designs aren’t completed, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know more today than we did yesterday.

The arena’s footprint will be on the block bounded by Sproat St., Clifford St., Henry St., and Woodward Ave. This is one block south of an early projection that put it at the corner of Temple St. and Woodward. This gives roughly the same amount of space for the structure as Columbus’ Nationwide Arena, also designed by in-part by 360 Architecture.

The fact that 360 will be doing the design is a new development, as previously it was assigned to HKS and NBBJ. NBBJ is who 360 (then Heinlein Schrock Sterns) partnered with on Nationwide and HKS had done Dallas’ American Airlines Center, so I had been excited about that. It looks like 360 was in charge of integrating the arena into the surrounding neighborhood in Columbus, though, and that’s what they’re going for in Detroit.

To that extent, the arena will only stand about three stories, with the ice surface sitting over thirty feet below street level, so that the structure won’t dwarf the surrounding buildings. Those buildings will be integrated into the arena structure such that restaurants inside them can be open to the public when the arena isn’t hosting an event or be a part of the concourse on game nights.

That concourse will feature a glass ceiling, while the roof of the arena bowl proper will be covered in LED lights which can be used to display artwork (the example concept art showed the Red Wings’ logo).

The previously-announced capacity of 18,500 has been bumped up to around 20,000. Joe Louis Arena’s capacity is 20,066.

Naming rights to the arena have yet to be sold but it’s a good bet Ilitch won’t pass up the revenue it would generate. As such, don’t look for a Little Caesar’s Coliseum as that would just be Ilitch paying himself. More likely is another Detroit-based company. I’d suggested Quicken Loans but they have the naming rights to Cleveland’s arena, though two arenas with the same sponsor isn’t unheard of (the aforementioned American Airlines Center in Dallas and Miami’s American Airlines Arena, for example).

The arena is expected to open in 2017.

What do we not have at this point?

There’s no finalized design for the arena. As such, there’s no finalized capacity.

Parking options have yet to be determined, though it looks like at least some of that may be south of I-75. With that, the link between the north and south sides of the highway still doesn’t have a design.

So basically we’re seeing a lot of ideas at this point but nothing more. That’s to be expected, it’s early in the process.

Red Wings Re-Sign Callahan, Nestrasil

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday the re-signing of forwards Mitch Callahan and Andrej Nestrasil. Both were signed to one-year deals. Other terms were not officially announced but the pair reportedly received two-way deals. Callahan will make 555,000 at the NHL level and Nestrasil will make 550,000.

The pair are expected to be sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins to start the 2014-15 season, however, both are out of minor-league options and would have to clear waivers to remain in the organization.

Callahan, 22, made his NHL debut last season, appearing in one game with Detroit. In his third season with the Griffins he scored a career-high 44 points with 26 goals and 18 assists in 70 games.

Nestrasil, 23, split his first two pro seasons between the Griffins and the ECHL Toledo Walleye. Last year was his first full year in the AHL, scoring 16 goals and adding 20 assists for 36 points.

Guest Post: The Red Wings and the Media

The following is a guest post by Michael Petrella, formerly of The Production Line. It is presented here – as well as at Winging it in Motown and on Kukla’s Korner – unedited save for a trio of typos.

My name is Michael Petrella. I’m not a journalist by trade. As you may know, I had — for several years — a blog called The Production Line, with a pair of partners. We found ourselves being able to spend less and less time writing on the site, or running the podcast, so we’ve let the domain expire, but I’m very grateful that Clark Rasmussen from DetroitHockey.Net has offered to host an archive, so that it lives on.

If you’re familiar with TPL’s work, you’ll know that MOST of it was silly. Perhaps you recall Operation Curly Fries – our efforts working with Fox Sports Detroit and Arby’s to re-ignite the curly fry giveaway when a Red Wing scores a hat trick. We created a phenomenon called the Shirtuzzi. And there were more Whitney Houston-themed posts that I care to count.

But not everything was ridiculous — some of it was conscientious and thoughtful. Please don’t forget the several H2H gatherings, where we raised over $20,000 for Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Or my trip on Red Bird II, joining the team on a weekend home-and-home with the Nashville Predators. Or the series I did about playing collegiate hockey and the prevalence of painkillers and head injuries, and what it’s like to be a role-player compared to the responsibilities of top-end talent.

Once upon a time, I had a good relationship with the Detroit Red Wings. I had a two hour breakfast with Ken Holland, where he was very open and never once asked me NOT to print something. I had an open invitation to sit in the press box if ever I was around for a game (I no longer live in Michigan, and haven’t since I graduated high school). I was briefly credentialed by the NHL, and had the opportunity to interview Red Wings draft picks in Los Angeles at the 2010 Draft. I was even approached by the Red Wings to publish some information about a move that didn’t get a lot of positive publicity, though I was asked not to say where the information came from.

But all of that stopped. I can’t explain why — or what happened. But it was abrupt. I’m pretty sure that it’s based in The Production Line’s increasingly critical tone about Red Wings management and on-ice product. All I know is that one day e-mails stopped being responded to, the press releases stopped coming into my inbox, and things I’d discussed doing with the Red Wings were being done by other people.

This summer has been a bad one for Detroit Red Wings fans. It’s become obvious that it’s no longer a destination for free agents, and another July full of panic moves has been underway for a few weeks now. But this piece isn’t about that. At least not directly. It’s about the local media’s handling of the organization — and vice versa.

When news breaks — like the Dan Cleary signing, for example — it’s announced practically verbatim by several writers. Every article is nearly identical, but not identical enough to just be the press release, and is published at precisely the same time. It’s the hockey equivalent of state-run media. It seems as though the only information that’s released by the allegedly-independent media is the information that the organization wants to be released. Is it that anyone that isn’t willing to toe that line — bloggers, included — are excluded from access to the team, its players, or members of the front office?

No one seems to have a problem with that. No one has the guts to question it. No one is willing to rock the boat or burn whatever bridges they perceive they may have.

So I figured… I’ve already been blackballed, what do I care? The mainstream media — or diggers, as they’re passionately known by the Red Wings community — doesn’t care, presumably because any deviation from the company line will cost them their access. So, instead of doing what they’ve committed to doing — reporting, asking tough questions, and making good on their journalism degrees — they do nothing. They refuse to criticize, and happily post the exact same thing that all of the other writers in the area do. Pretty groundbreaking stuff.

I reached out to quite a few people to talk about it. Former members of the Detroit Red Wings media departments, current and former Detroit Red Wings beat writers, as well as national hockey media. Will there be any effect? Probably not. This seems like it’s become accepted practice, but I couldn’t sit by any longer, only reading what the North Korea of NHL teams wants its citizens to believe. But it’s worth a shot — and if I learned anything from my time running TPL, it was that no one answers if you don’t ask.

And, usually, the only question that needs to be be asked — and no one ever seems to ask — is “why?”

“[John] Hahn was a vindictive man who enforced codes of conduct through threats, intimidation, revoking of credentials, and out-and-out bullying. That’s not just personal dealings, that comes from hearing more than a few similarly-credentialed outlets vent aloud. Before he departed the organization, Hahn taught Todd Beam everything he knows, including simply ignoring those who the team doesn’t want to deal with, and Kyle Kujawa has been a quick study.”

That quote is from an anonymous source with access to the team.

John Hahn was — for sixteen years — the senior director of communications for the Red Wings. He left those responsibilities behind in September of last year, and handed the reigns to Todd Beam, the current director of communications. I found Mr. Beam to be a very kind and engaging man when I traveled with the team in 2011, but he didn’t yet hold that title.

One thing that’s clear is that bloggers still aren’t given access — though that’s not the aim of this article. We’ll touch on that more in a few minutes. More evidence from our unnamed friend, and some more regarding Hahn:

Hahn established the protocol by which the diggers operate during his nearly 20 years with the team, and the concept of a hierarchy of access is always in evidence. Whether it’s seating assignments, who can speak to whom, whether people have to “check” certain stories or subjects with the team before publishing them, which topics are off-limits, and which diggers get more access based upon their preferred status thanks to “playing well with others,” it feels like you’re dealing with high school cliques, and their strata are all but set in stone.

When I dealt with the team, John Hahn had a league-wide reputation as a dictatorial jerk, and according to people I spoke with who were intimate with the team’s situation, they insisted that the Red Wings’ status as an incredible pain in the real to deal with was one of the reasons we kept reading the outside media so gleefully wish to see the Big Red Machine fail (when it was the Big Red Machine).

Personally, I only encountered Mr. Hahn one time — when I was credentialed by the League to cover the 2010 Draft in Los Angeles. I didn’t have to interact with him, since I wasn’t representing the team, nor did I need anything from the Red WIngs to do what I was there to do, but he absolutely was an intimidating man that everyone — and I mean everyone — steered well clear of.

More confirmation, however, that the team’s principals aren’t the responsible parties for the lack of information coming from the team to the people who care about it most:

Talking about getting straight answers, minus the occasional lies that GMs and coaches tell everyone, I have never had any trouble asking questions to Ken Holland, when he was with the team Jim Nill, nor Ryan Martin, Kris Draper, any of the Griffins coaches, or even Mike Babcock.

When they want to talk to you, they’re incredibly accommodating in terms of their time, energy, and honesty. I’ve never had any indication that they’re somehow bad human beings who want to screw over the media or make their jobs harder than they already are (or vice versa).

The coaches and management obviously have an agenda with their information, they have an agenda as to how they want the team to be perceived, but even Babcock, testosterone included, is the most honest coach I’ve met. He spars with you, but he doesn’t screw around with you for the sake of being a more gigantic jerk than he already can be.

Every experience I’ve had suggests that PR or ownership… were the ones who wanted to make dealing with the team something of a shake-down.

So, the team’s media and public relations are to blame? About that…

“It’s a third-world media town. Let’s just say that the organization won’t be winning the Dick Dillman Award anytime soon.”

I asked the above-quoted former DRW media department employee, and everyone else, if the Red Wings threaten — explicitly or implicitly — to revoke their access to the team, its players or staff if they refuse to push the party line… and he makes it sound like the writers are more to blame than the team for pushing narratives:

The verbatim articles are a product of the writers, not the team. They’re all chatty, friendly, with few rivalries amongst them. They are very much ‘Super Friends’ on the beat and are given limited crumbs in media availability, or on conference calls, etc. Unlike many [Original Six] markets, Detroit’s media doesn’t feast off of rumors, off-ice antics, or running players out of town. It is very much old school… this is the story… these are the quotes… this is the narrative I’ve weaved around it.

You could look at markets like Montreal and Boston, where the media will literally carve up and eat the players alive (Tyler Seguin, Tim Thomas) and say that what happens in Detroit is a good thing (or a bad thing), that’s the way it is.

He even touches on some experiences with the team that I can absolutely confirm — like the aforementioned Ken Holland conversation. That’s evident when he says that “Babs will say no to a lot of things… Kenny won’t turn down a reporter’s phone call… and it’s the only place where the ‘Super Friends’ do well.”

Perhaps things will change if the Wings fail to make the playoffs and are forced to re-brand a bit… and also, start accepting bloggers into the fraternity:

…Two organizations that do it right were once in the Red Wings position (long playoff streaks and a perceived organizational arrogance about opening the gates and fans flying through. But when the Bruins and Blackhawks became non-factors in their city (2006, 2007)… both had to go back to the PR drawing board. When the Red Wings miss the playoffs for two or three seasons and are playing at 50 percent capacity, the media relations strategy will change.

It is impossible to compare Detroit and the five people who cover the team on a regular basis to the other five Original Six markets. The Bruins have six or seven George Malik equivalents who work for online outlets, just churning out content. It is actually pathetic how high quality their work is compared to those on the Detroit beat… yet they’re doing it for $10 an hour, while [the beat writers are likely making] 60K a year. It makes me violently ill.

Of the Detroit media, only Helene [St. James] could survive in another Original Six market. She’s the alpha female. The Regina George. Everyone follows her lead.

I reached out to Ms. St. James, as well as many others listed below, but as of this writing, she had not returned my inquiries.

Continuing down the blogger path, he offers me a very kind compliment and discussing how allowing someone to break through the barrier might have made a difference to the team’s coverage as a whole — even from the professional outlets.

If you were local, it would have been a game changer. So few of the Red Wings bloggers with some credentials [are not in] Michigan. To have someone who knew how to channel the emotion of the fans, to do so in an entertaining way… it would have been a blast to see how it would have played out IF they were ever credentialed.

As some of you grew a spine or two to ask the tough question after a game… and risked pissing off the ‘Super Friends’ in the process, it would have forced them to adapt.

An independent writer points to the team. A (former) team employee points to the writers. What does a mainstream media writer with access to the team think?

“I can only speak for myself. As a beat writer, I report the news and keep opinions to a minimum — with the exception of reader Q and A. Opinion pieces are best left to columnists.”

Ansar Khan, the gentleman who covers the Red Wings for MLive, was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Most importantly, I tried to find out if the Red Wings threaten — whether explicitly or implicitly — to revoke access to the team if the local writers don’t fall in line. He says, in no uncertain circumstances, that the team does NOT dictate what’s reported, and have never threatened to deny his access.

The reason his gives for the media’s — or, at least, his — reluctance to criticize the team stems from the organization’s relative success the past several decades. You can debate amongst yourselves if just making the playoffs earns the team freedom from criticism. And there are plenty of people out there that defend every move that the Red Wings make (I heard from a bunch of you when I mocked the Quincey signing). There’s no arguing with them — the Red Wings are infallible because of past success (somehow). But sometimes it’s okay to question the team you love, even if you admire a majority of the things they’ve accomplished over history.

If you think the media is not critical enough of the organization, that’s your opinion. I don’t agree with some moves the team has made (Cleary), but I’m not going to destroy them for it. Four Cups since 1997 and 23 consecutive playoff appearances doesn’t earn them a free pass but with that kind of track record I would find it difficult to call for anybody’s head.

Again, to be clear: I’m not hoping to send waves through the front office based on Dan Cleary’s contract (though, that is questionable, particularly following the last three summers). My goal here is to find out if the local media’s unwilling or unable to offer the fans anything worthwhile — or if it’s the team driving the narrative.

So far we’ve learned those with semi-access blame the team… the team blames the writers… the writers seem to blame the fans for expecting more and defend the team because they’ve done so well in the past. Let’s take a step back… what does the national media think of Detroit’s coverage?

“For all of them publish ‘Hey, cool, Cleary is back’ at the same time with no real critical look at A) how bad he is, B) what it means for younger, better players, and C) whatever the fuck Holland was talking about is borderline dereliction of duty as a journalist and supposed hockey analysis. It was a move that deserves to be criticized on at least a superficial level.”

The problem is obvious not only to local Red Wings fans, who are more knowledgeable about the game and their team than they’re given credit for by the media. The above quote, and the following section are from a national hockey writer, who has asked to remain anonymous.

He points to a trend — that no one in the local, Detroit media questioned or criticized the move, but that nearly everyone else in the hockey media world did. There are plenty of articles that ask “why” and zero of them originate from Detroit.

It is either absurdly, embarrassingly lazy, or the team is swinging the hammer. Best case scenario is that all of them tried to get away with mulligans at the same time. It’s up to readers and whoever else to judge if that’s feasible. And if that is indeed what happened, it’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of things.

It honestly probably isn’t the team calling them up and saying ‘if you rip the Cleary deal, you’re out.’ It sounds to me more that they continue to buy into Holland’s justification for the deal, which is… not good. For whatever reason, they are not critical of that team.

The relationship between beat writers and teams is really complicated, and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it. It’s incestuous and weird by necessity. You’re going to have different writers approach it in different ways. The fact that zero turning anything approaching a critical eye toward it is a problem, though. Maybe that is none of their jobs. For some people, that is actually the case. They’re just conduits without any responsibility to do next-level shit. Maybe it’s not their job, but it should be. Every beat writer should provide actual analysis, not just act as a conduit for the team’s decision-making process.

As noted, his interaction with the team differs from those with daily access, and from those who have to live nearby and rely upon the team for the entirety of their content. He admits that he has “next-to-no experience with them,” that he’s “never heard anything terrible about” about dealing with the Wings, and that the one time he was in the locker room, “everything went fine” but agrees that, as a consumer of information, something’s not quite right.

Near the end of our conversation, I sighed and lamented that Red Wings fans deserve better. He succinctly answered “I would say so.”

“Some of the best journalism advice I ever received was ‘don’t stand with everybody. People don’t want the same story, they want different perspectives.’”

If you’ve been a Red Wings fan for some time, you’ll remember Bruce MacLeod. Formerly of the Macomb Daily, he was the one beat writer we could always rely on to get a different angle and present something that was engaging and insightful and he wasn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. He was kind enough to answer a few questions of mine and explain what it’s like on the beat, and share his experiences, as well as a few clues as to why things are the way that they are.

The best writers, professionally, don’t want to miss anything. They don’t want to be one piece out of four. One way to make sure you don’t miss anything is to stand together. Not to mention, players don’t want to do five interviews — they’d rather do it all at once.

Imagine life as a beat writer. You’re traveling with the team, interacting with them every day. That’s what they do. This is their office. You don’t want to piss off someone in your office.

But there’s a definite need for people who are skeptical and agitating to a degree. New media, digital journalism would open everything up.

For the third time, I hear that the hockey operations people aren’t to blame, and that the general manager and former assistant GM are wonderful and never back down from a conversation, even if it’s a difficult one to have. And while Mr. MacLeod tells me that John Hahn isn’t as intimidating as we all may have felt, the team obviously wants to put the best foot forward and try to maintain that face.

From a club perspective, Ken Holland and Jim Nill give you everything you want.

The Red Wings really don’t control the media, other than who they credential. They’re one of the few teams that’s still a little backwards on new media. They view print and broadcast as the only things that really matter and are way behind on the other.

Once the team gives you contact, you’re on your own. There are no threats, but the team does control the message in that way.

So that’s where we’re left. The team has a vested interest in the information that’s exiting the locker room (obviously), but that they don’t rule with an iron fist — straight from the horse’s mouths. Could the team benefit from someone who questions and agitates and is skeptical of the things they’re doing? Of course. Will it be one of the beat writers we currently have? It doesn’t appear to be, nor does the team seem willing to allow someone different to have the kind of access that would require.

Like I mentioned at the very top, I’m not a journalist. It is not my intention to become a journalist. My goal with this project was to shed some light on what is very obviously a problem for Red Wings — and hockey — fans.

For casual hockey fans, who only read one of the local papers, the coverage is “good enough.” They get the facts, they get a quote here and there, and they can keep up with what the current roster looks like. For the bulk of us, who are rabid hockey fans and consider ourselves to be relatively knowledgeable when it comes to things like this, it’s shabby. Whether it’s because the team’s media department is strict and intimidating, or the writers are lazy and unwilling to ask tough questions and be critical of anything the organization does, we all lose.

What we’re left with is people who would be willing rock the boat being frozen out, people with access unwilling to deliver anything of value to those who consume it, and a team that doesn’t seem to care to rectify that — or change the way information is disseminated to the public based on some perceived sense of untouchability.

What it boils down to is a team that limits access to those that don’t care very much… and those that don’t care very much, don’t care very much. Everyone has a little bit of blame in this matter.

Whoever you feel is most to blame, one thing is clear: we deserve better.

Full Disclosure: I reached out to the Free Press’ Helene St. James, the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness, MLive’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan. Mr. Kulfan responded, saying that he was on vacation and that he’d get back to me but hasn’t yet. Mr. Khan is quoted above. The others have not responded to my requests.

I also reached out to multiple people who could speak about the environment within the media department at the Red Wings. Some respectfully declined to talk, and I won’t name them here.

A very special thank you to Bruce MacLeod, Ansar Khan, and a trio of people who requested anonymity. That will be honored. I would also like to thank George Malik, of the Malik Report, JJ from Kansas, of Winging it in Motown, and Clark Rasmussen, of DetroitHockey.Net, for agreeing to post this piece sight unseen. You’re a nice gang of fellas.

You can follow me on Twitter @TPLhockey, or e-mail me at

Update, 7/16/2014: Petrella adds the following addendum via Twitter:

One quick thing I’d like to add to yesterday’s post, and it’s regarding @Kyle_Kujawa. He’s mentioned very briefly, but at the end of a very powerful quote. I wasn’t expecting it, but he’s being viewed as a bit of a villain in this whole thing. I consider Kyle to be a friend, and owe him a great deal of gratitude, particularly for his help when he was with the Griffins. He was ALWAYS helpful when we asked to get a Griffin on the podcast, and NEVER asked to censor anything. I haven’t had to interact with him professionally since he’s joined the Wings, so I can’t speak to the quote’s validity — but if there’s one thing I regret, it’s that I didn’t reach out to him for comment. I’d certainly welcome his thoughts, and hope he accepts this apology for not offering to include him.

Reports: Red Wings Coaching Staff Loses Renney, Adds Granato

TSN of Canada reported on Monday that the Detroit Red Wings made two coaching changes.

Associate Coach Tom Renney will be leaving the team, taking over as president of Hockey Canada while Tony Granato has been hired as an assistant coach to replace Bill Peters, who took over head coaching duties for the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this summer.

Granato comes to the Red Wings from the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he spent the last five seasons as an assistant under recently-fired head coach Dan Bylsma. Prior to that he was an assistant coach for the Colorado Avalanche, then that team’s head coach, then assistant coach again before a second promotion to head coach.

The Red Wings cannot formally announce Granato’s hiring as he is currently still under contract with the Penguins. The team is working with Pittsburgh to secure his release.

Granato’s 13-year NHL career was split between the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.

Renney leaves the Detroit organization after two years, having been brought in to replace Jeff Blashill as he moved on to the head coaching role for the Grand Rapids Griffins. He will replace Bob Nicholson at Hockey Canada in a role that Nicholson had held since 1998.

Thoughts on Signing Cleary


I’ve wanted to put together some kind of all-encompassing set of thoughts on the Red Wings’ signing of Daniel Cleary but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I find myself just repeating what I said when Kyle Quincey was brought back just over a week ago, that the Red Wings’ youth movement is a lie.

I mean, swap out Ryan Sproul‘s name for that of Tomas Jurco. Replace Kyle Quincey with Cleary. It’s the same story ten days later.

The Red Wings – personified by Ken Holland but lets not pretend this was him going rogue here – gave Cleary a contract because they had told him they would take care of him this year when they signed him last summer.

Not because Cleary earned one last season. Because they felt they owed him. Not because for hockey reasons. For personal ones.

Daniel Cleary, who scored eight points in 52 games last year, got a $2.5 million contract (because, let’s face it, he’s going to get the $1 million bonus for ten games played). Four goals got him a raise of $750,000.

Four years ago, Kirk Maltby scored four goals in 52 games and missed the end of the season due to injury, just as Cleary did last year. The case could be made that Maltby, part of four Detroit Stanley Cups and a 14-season Red Wing, could have been owed something from the team. What did he get that summer? An invite to training camp, which led to a two-way contract offer, which he turned down in favor of retirement.

Maltby, a veritable Detroit legend, got a two-way contract. Cleary got $2.5 million.

Some will try to justify it. Detroit is no worse than they were last year and they made the playoffs last year so that’s good enough. Cleary has been hurt but he was good when he was healthy and he’s healthy again so we can expect a return to form.

True, the Red Wings made the playoffs. And if making the playoffs – keeping that streak alive – is all that matters, then this is a team that might be good enough to do it. And, yes, Cleary has been hurt, and might be able to be better, but he’s also older and coming off of surgery.

Justify it if you want. I just don’t buy it.

“Taking care of” Cleary could have been a two-way deal at the league minimum. It could have been a front-office gig. If he turned those down, it’s not in Holland’s hands anymore. There was absolutely nothing that required Cleary getting $2.5 million on a one-way deal and a no-trade clause (not that anyone would trade for him, especially on that contract).

Holland and the Red Wings went above and beyond to make an unnecessary move even worse. There is no excuse for that.

Red Wings Bring Back Cleary

The Detroit Red Wings announced the signing of forward Daniel Cleary to a one-year contract on Thursday.

As per club policy, financial terms were not officially released. Reports state that the deal carries a base salary of $1.5 million with up to $1 million in performance bonuses.

Cleary, 35, played 52 games for the Red Wings during the 2013-14 season before a sprained knee kept him out of the final 22 games and all five of the team’s playoff games. He scored four goals and added four assists in that time.

He was expected to spend that campaign with the Philadelphia Flyers, having agreed to a three-year contract before spurning it on the eve of training camp, finally getting a $1.75 million offer from Detroit for one year with a verbal agreement to “take care of him” for 2014-15.

Cleary has spent the last nine seasons in Detroit after stints with the Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes.

The Bad and Worse of Striking Out in Free Agency

That the Red Wings struck out in their search for a right-handed defenseman on the free agent market is bad, there’s no denying that. It’s also something that can be explained, though.

Sometimes there’s no amount of money you can throw at a player to make them sign with you. We saw that in 2012 when Ryan Suter and Zach Parise chose the Minnesota Wild over Detroit because it was closer to home for them. Sometimes you do everything you can and it’s just not enough.

Worse, though, is then compromising and making a signing for the sake of making a signing, as the Red Wings appeared to do today. For weeks the story was that they wanted a right-handed defenseman; that they wanted to upgrade. The names weren’t always the same, sometimes it was Dan Boyle and sometimes Matt Niskanen. And then they missed out on Boyle. And Niskanen. And Anton Stralman. And the left-handed Christian Ehrhoff.

As the list of players spurning Detroit grew longer, the goal seemingly changed. It no longer became about getting a right-handed defenseman or an upgrade but about signing someone, anyone, for the sake of making a signing.

With the signing of Kyle Quincey, Detroit has not found a right-handed shot (something that could have been done by simply not signing anyone and promoting Ryan Sproul from Grand Rapids). The blueline has not been upgraded as it’s the exact same septet as skated there last season.

Bad is not being able to draw in free agents. When you’re not a destination, you have to do more to pull people in. We saw that in 2008 when the Chicago Blackhawks had to overpay to bring in defenseman Brian Campbell. In that case, money was enough. Sometimes it takes something else.

Worse is not knowing what the something else is.

“We made pitches to a number of defensemen,” general manager Ken Holland said. “For a variety of reasons, they opted to go elsewhere. I don’t know why they’re not coming here.”

The NHL now has an interview period prior to the opening of free agency. It’s no longer a matter of throwing your best cash offer out there on July 1 and hoping it’s good enough, you’ve got an opportunity to sell the player on your team.

But it works both ways. GMs have the opportunity to talk to players, see what fit they’re looking for, see what makes them tick. And if July 1 comes around and you’re left saying that you don’t know why a player isn’t coming to your team, it means that you didn’t do your job in the lead up to free agency.

DetroitHockey.Net is not officially affiliated with the Detroit Red Wings organization or the National Hockey League

Sort By Date (Oldest to Newest)