An Alternate Rebuild

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big alternate history fan, and have posted a few hockey-related alternate history timelines here before.

The Athletic’s Max Bultman took a look today at what the Red Wings’ roster might look like if they had embraced the rebuild sooner. I think it’s a fun piece with a really solid premise and point of departure but I’d love a look that included alternate draft choices.

Bultman specifically mentioned that he left them out on purpose, which I get it as they’re a pain.  I’m going to spitball a little, anyway, and riff off his idea. I should note that this was originally going to be a comment at The Athletic but it got to be long enough that I didn’t feel like it was fair to dump there.


Let’s say the Red Wings not trading for David Legwand in 2014 and Erik Cole in 2015 costs them just a single win for the remainder of those respective seasons. Neither player did much for Detroit so I can’t see them being that much worse without them. Now they pick at #14 in 2014 and #16 in 2015.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I think it’s safe to say they still take Dylan Larkin at #14, with Julius Honka on the board. The next year, though? You could be looking at Mathew Barzal at #16 instead of Evgeny Svechnikov.

And the streak stays alive even without those deals.

Assume it’s Larkin and Barzal and that Larkin debuts in 2015. The only difference on the roster at this point is that Justin Abdelkader has a shorter contract, so 2015-16 plays out as expected.

Summer of 2016, the Pavel Datsyuk contract trade still happens; the Red Wings don’t sign Frans Nielsen. I’d also say that the Wings don’t sign Darren Helm, giving his minutes to Andreas Athansiou, because that’s what I called for at the time and I don’t feel like I should go back on that.

The streak ends on schedule but the team is slightly worse for the 2016-17 season. This is where the butterflies really come in, though, because – for the first time in this scenario – the Red Wings are in the draft lottery and we can’t say the lottery will go the way it did in reality.  Wherever the Wings are slotted based on the standings, it’s harder to know exactly where they’ll end up. I’ll have Colorado win the lottery, Detroit pick seventh instead of ninth, and the Wings get Cale Makar instead of Michael Rasmussen.

Does Barzal still have his Calder-winning performance if he’s in Detroit? Not sure but these 2017-18 Red Wings might be better than ours were. Lets say, since the butterflies have pushed us pretty far off course at this point, by the 2018 draft the Wings aren’t in position to draft Filip Zadina but get Quinn Hughes instead. I can’t see Barzal making the Wings so much better that they’re out of that range but it might be a reach.

However the Wings do in 2018-19 doesn’t really matter because the players selected in the 2019 draft aren’t going to be on the roster today, unless they manage to win the lottery in this alternate world. That said, I question whether or not Taro Hirose would sign in Detroit in this scenario. I’ll assume that he does.

With Makar and Hughes in the fold, I don’t see Patrik Nemeth getting signed this summer. I also think the Wings would be less likely to have taken Madison Bowey back in trade for Nick Jensen, but I’ll allow it. However, I don’t see Oliwer Kaski signing in Detroit in this scenario.  Bowey and Kaski might be interchangeable for this exercise.

Bultman’s takeaway was that his alternate Wings would be simlar to the existing team, simply younger and cheaper. With these draft adjustments, they’ve got a better blue line as well. You’ve swapped out Svechnikov, Rasmussen, and Zadina for Barzal, Makar, and Hughes, giving a lineup that looks as follows:

Tyler BertuzziDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha
Andreas Athanasiou – Roope Hintz – Mathew Barzal
Mattias JanmarkCalle JarnkrokTaro Hirose
Justin AbdelkaderLuke GlendeningChristoffer Ehn

Danny DeKeyserFilip Hronek
Cale Makar – Mike Green
Trevor DaleyQuinn Hughes
Jonathan EricssonMadison Bowey

Jimmy Howard
Elvis Merzlikins

2019 Free Agency Thoughts: Day One

I noted my thoughts about each of the Red Wings free agent signings yesterday as they were announced.  Since then, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has spoken and explained some of his plan.

I’m not sure I buy it, so I’m going to revisit those thoughts a bit.

Calvin Pickard

Yzerman confirmed that Pickard is bound for Grand Rapids, not competing with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit, as was suggested when rumors of the deal broke on Sunday.  That makes significantly more sense.

My only concern is how Pickard (along with Curtis McElhinney) was claimed on waivers at the start of last season, leaving the Toronto Marlies without any goalies.  That said, veteran goalies make it through waivers every year, it’s last year that was the outlier.  I think it’s safe to blame my concern on recency bias.

Patrik Nemeth

I honestly don’t know much about Nemeth.  At first glance he seems like a good fit for the Red Wings.  Yzerman specifically mentioned that he could play with either Mike Green or Filip Hronek.  I imagine that whichever of those two doesn’t pair up with Nemeth gets Danny DeKeyser and, while not great by any means, that could be a solid top four.

The problem is the ever-present logjam.  Assuming a third pair of Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson with Madison Bowey as the seventh defenseman, that means there’s no room for Dennis Cholowski or Oliwer Kaski or anyone who might surprise in training camp.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying that it’ll be okay because there will be injuries, which was the case to start the season last year.  In all likelihood, yes, players will get hurt.  If you are counting on that, though, you have to count on someone getting hurt badly enough that they go on injured reserve, otherwise their roster spot isn’t cleared and no one can be called up to fill in.  So to get significant time for anyone outside that top seven, you have to hope for significant time lost due to injury to someone, which doesn’t sit well with me.

By the end of the season things might be different.  Ericsson and Daley and Green could all be gone.  Of course, there’s most of a season to play between now and the trade deadline and the last time the Wings expected to see a veteran defenseman moved in February, he got hurt and ended up signing an extension.

Valtteri Filppula

Oh, here’s the big one.  Yzerman says that Filppula was brought back to give the Red Wings depth at center, allowing them to shift Andreas Athanasiou back to his natural position at wing.

Obviously the organization thinks Athanasiou’s try-out as second-line center to end last season didn’t go well enough.  That’s fine.  I don’t think it was enough time to tell but I’m willing to accept their conclusion.  The issue is that I don’t accept that Valtteri Filppula is a second-line center.

The Wings now have a top line center in Dylan Larkin and bottom-six centers in Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening, Christoffer Ehn, and Jacob de la RoseDarren Helm can fill in at center and Yzerman mentioned Justin Abdelkader as well, which I think would be awful.  Helm and Abdelkader can be ignored anyway, though, because that’s six centers for three lines, none of which is the second line.

If the choice is between playing Athanasiou out of position and seeing how it goes or playing Filppula up a line, I’d pick Athanasiou.

I have nothing against Filppula as a third line center.  If Yzerman were to find a way to move Nielsen and slot Filppula in there, I’d be all for it.  Especially with Filppula coming in cheaper than Nielsen.  But that’s not the move that’s happening.

Red Wings Sign Goalie Pickard

As rumored yesterday, the Red Wings announced today the signing of goalie Calvin Pickard to a two-year deal.

As per club policy the financial terms were not announced.

Until yesterday, I’d been unaware that the Detroit organization wasn’t expecting Patrik Rybar to return, so this deal was not on my radar at all.

Frank Seravalli said yesterday that Pickard should be expected to compete with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit while Max Bultman pointed out that seemingly-Grand Rapids-bound Filip Larsson was expecting the team to bring in a veteran to work with him on the Griffins.

Given the money involved, I have to think the Wings have Pickard slotted in for GR, but even that is problematic.  It was just last fall that Pickard was headed to the Toronto Marlies to start the season when he was claimed on waivers by the Philadelphia Flyers.  Another rash of goalie injuries like we saw last year and the Wings could lose whichever veteran they try to send to the Griffins, leaving Larsson alone there.

That said, much has already been made of the free agent goalie-go-round.  It’s possible that whoever gets left out on that ride would be available to a team facing an injury, so this year is a little different from last year.

Red Wings Add Blueliner Nemeth

The Red Wings signed defenseman Patrik Nemeth on Monday, as NHL free agency opened.

The deal was first broken by Frank Seravalli of TSN.

The two-year term gives the Red Wings some depth going into next summer, when much of their blue line corps will hit free agency.  Between now and then, though, it adds to a logjam that already includes Madison Bowey, Dennis Cholowski, Trevor Daley, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, and Filip Hronek.  Additionally, free agent signee Oliwer Kaski will look to contend for a roster spot and veteran Niklas Kronwall may choose to return for another season.

This could be a sign that one or more of that group won’t be back with the Red Wings in the fall.  At this time, however, that’s a lot of defensemen for not enough roster spots.

Red Wings Bring Back Filppula on Two-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of center Valtteri Flippula to a two-year deal.

Financial terms were not immediately available, because of course they weren’t.  According to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has us blocked on Twitter, the deal is worth $3 million annually.

I don’t like this move.  At this point in his career, Filppula is a bottom-six center and the Wings have enough of those.  Maybe they’ll shift him (or someone else) to wing and play him on the third line.

I could have been okay with it if it were a one-year deal, giving Evgeny Svechnikov time in Grand Rapids to recover from his lost season and Joe Veleno a year to adjust to the professional game.  Now Filppula will be taking up a roster spot past that timeline.