Postgame Notes: Red Wings @ Lightning – 10/13

Well, this was pretty much the game that I feared, but it didn’t start that way.

The Red Wings came out strong in the first period, which was really good to see.  Thomas Vanek looked fantastic around the net, with two goals to show for it.  The power play moved the puck well, leading to Vanek’s first.  Petr Mrazek was sharp in net.

Then, like too many games last season, all those good things disappeared.

Early in the second period, the Lightning took over.  The Wings were on their heels, taking too many penalties.  Tampa was the faster team.  Yeah, Frans Nielsen got his first goal in a Detroit uniform, but it was on a broken play that you can’t really credit the systems for or anything.  But the Wings still had a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Things only got worse in the third period.  More penalties.  Four goals against.  Only one fluke goal for.

There were good things to take away from this but they were mostly early.  Vanek looked great early on.  Nielsen looked good.  Darren Helm looked fast, as did Dylan Larkin (who seemed to be having trouble controlling the puck).  Mrazek made some amazing stops.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of bad.  Mrazek allowed a couple awful goals.  The penalty kill was 3-for-6 (despite the Wings rolling a fourth line assembled specifically for their PK ability).  Two (TWO!) too many men on the ice penalties.

There was fun with reffing, of course.  Steve Ott squared off with Jonathan Drouin, only for Brayden Coburn to jump in.  But because Drouin hadn’t actually dropped his gloves yet, Coburn wasn’t the third man in.  Later, Steven Stamkos appeared to reach in and grab Jonathan Ericsson while Ericsson fought Ondrej Palat.  No call in either case.

Ott going after Drouin in the first place was pretty stupid, as you had to know the Lightning weren’t going to let a young scorer get into a fight with a grinder.  That’s why fighting doesn’t work as a deterrent, it’s always two fighters going at it because that’s their job.  Likewise, Ericsson going after Palat was ill-advised, cancelling out a pending Detroit power play (that said, as I said via Twitter, it’s rare to see the instigator called in that case, but in retrospect I think it was the right call).

That fourth line that is supposed to make the Wings so much harder to play against and kill all the penalties?  I’ll close with their fancystats courtesy of WIIM’s Prashanth Iyer:

Pregame: Red Wings @ Lightning – 10/13

Well, here we go, the 2016-17 Red Wings season is upon us.

Detroit opens in Tampa tonight against the Lightning team that knocked them out of the playoffs last spring.  Tampa spent most of their summer locking up their core to mostly-reasonable contracts, making the rest of the league look stupid.  The Wings spent their summer swapping talking about how great their fourth line is going to be.

*shrug*

Here are the Wings’ projected lines, courtesy of MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter…

Stupid stat of the day: This is the first time the Red Wings have opened the season at Amalie Arena in Tampa.  It is the 22nd arena that they’ve played in for a season opener.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.

On Hope and Excitement, and Lack Thereof

I’m not excited for the start of the Red Wings season.

I’m not saying that I won’t watch the opener tomorrow or I won’t be at the Joe for the home opener on Monday.  I just wouldn’t feel an absence in my life if those games weren’t happening.

I’m also not saying that I don’t care what happens with the team.  Quite the opposite.

At the end of last season, even with the Wings bowing out so early in the playoffs, there was hope.  General Manager Ken Holland spoke about giving opportunity to the team’s prospects, about revamping the defense, about ways to make the team better.

In June Pavel Datsyuk left but Holland managed to unload his contract.  It came at a high cost but was necessary given what the team was trying to do.  There was still hope.  I still had hope

As free agency approached, the Red Wings had money to spend and roster spots to fill, as well as prospects like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi and Tomas Nosek ready to challenge for a role.

Then the Wings brought back Drew Miller, the penalty-killing specialist who missed most of the season with a pair of injuries.

Then the Wings brought back bottom-six forward Darren Helm on a five year deal.

On July 1st, the Red Wings signed Frans Nielsen to replace Datsyuk and Thomas Vanek to replace the soon-to-retire Brad Richards and Steve Ott…  For some reason.

Suddenly those open roster spots were filled and the hole in the team’s defense hadn’t been addressed.  Holland reassured us that the glut of forwards gave him pieces to use in trade for a defender.

Training camp approached and there was no trade.  News broke that Jacob Trouba, Michigan-native and right-shooting defenseman, exactly what the Wings were coveting, was demanding a trade.  But those pieces that Holland had assembled wouldn’t be enough.  So there was no fix for the blueline and there was no battle for forward spots.  Athanasiou beat out Teemu Pulkkinen – waived off to Minnesota – but it was for the 13th forward spot, relegated to the press box.

This season’s roster is last season’s roster.  From opening night to the end of the season to today, Johan Franzen became Pavel Datsyuk who is now Frans Nielsen.  Brad Richards became Thomas Vanek.  Landon Ferraro was replaced by Darren Helm – re-signed due to a need for speed.  Drew Miller became Joakim Andersson who became Drew Miller again.  Teemu Pulkkinen became Andreas Athanasiou who became Steve Ott – despite that supposed need for speed.  Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey became Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.

The team that backed into the playoffs and only made it there because they got help from the Ottawa Senators on the last day of the season is much the same as the team that begins this season.

I expect this team to miss the playoffs.  I expected that this would be a losing season last May.  But in May, I had hope that this losing season would feature learning experiences for the next generation of Red Wings.  Instead, they’re going to lose with the same guys that lost last year.

So I’ll watch and I’ll root for the Wings, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  I’m not getting excited.

Red Wings Place Pulkkinen on Waivers

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Red Wings have placed forward Teemu Pulkkinen on waivers.

The move comes on the heels of the Red Wings losing Martin Frk to the Carolina Hurricanes via waivers.

I get that this move likely means that either Andreas Athanasiou or Anthony Mantha have made the Wings’ opening night roster, as there’s no spot for them without cutting someone loose, but I really hate this.  This is a direct result of unnecessary signings (or re-signings) last summer.  The Wings are going to lose Pulkkinen for nothing because they couldn’t resist bringing back Helm and Miller and bringing in Ott and Vanek.

Red Wings Lose Frk to Carolina

For the second time in three years, the Red Wings lost a player to the Hurricanes via waivers, as Carolina claimed Martin Frk on Sunday.

Frk, Detroit’s second-rounder in 2012, never saw a game with the Red Wings.  He had 27 goals and 17 assists for the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.

In 2014, Carolina claimed Andrej Nestrasil from the Red Wings.  Last season, Detroit lost Landon Ferraro to the Boston Bruins.

While Frk was claimed, Nick Jensen, Brian Lashoff, Mitch Callahan, and Eric Tangradi cleared waivers.


My thoughts on this are on Twitter but to re-hash…  I don’t think losing Frk by itself is a major issue.  I do think losing him for nothing combined with the coming demotions of Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha is disheartening.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it when those moves become official tomorrow.

Red Wings Waive Five

Per Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, the Red Wings placed five players on waivers today.

Mitch Callahan, Eric Tangradi, and Brian Lashoff come as no surprise, as they all cleared waivers last year and spent the season (aside from a brief call-up for Tangradi) in Grand Rapids.

Martin Frk seems to be a victim of the Red Wings deciding to keep eight defensemen on the roster while Niklas Kronwall recovers from injury.  With eight blueliners, there’s only room for 13 forwards, leaving Frk out.

Nick Jensen has lost the battle for the final spots on the blue line, as it would seem the seventh and eighth spots have gone to Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul.

If I had to guess, Jensen will be claimed.  Frk might be as well, but I thought there was no way Landon Ferraro and Callahan would make it through in 2014 so what do I know?

Red Wings Name Abdelkader Alternate Captain

Justin Abdelkader will make his first appearance of the preseason in Chicago tonight and the Red Wings didn’t wait any longer than they had to before naming him as the team’s new alternate captain.

Yeah, they used the word “assistant.”  Whatever.

Abdelkader takes on the ‘A’ left behind by Pavel Datsyuk‘s trade to the Arizona Coyotes and subsequent departure for his native Russia.

It’s the first time the Red Wings have named a new alternate since Niklas Kronwall replaced Kris Draper in the three-man rotation for the 2011-12 season.  When Henrik Zetterberg ascended to the captaincy in 2014, the team simply went back to two alternates instead of replacing him.

The Red Wings did not assign an extra ‘A’ in cases of injury throughout the 2015-16 season.  The only players on the active roster to have previously worn a letter for Detroit in a regular season game were Jonathan Ericsson (three games) and Darren Helm (one game) during the 2014-15 campaign.

I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone.  The buzz surrounding the ‘A’ had been focused on Abdelkader all summer and he’s really the most logical choice, after accepting Dylan Larkin wasn’t going to get it.


Update, 11:30 AM: The Red Wings deleted their original announcement tweet and replaced it with one using the word “alternate” instead.  Small victory.