On the State of the Logjam

It feels like every offseason we talk about the logjam on the Red Wings’ blueline.  With Libor Sulak bolting the Griffins for the KHL on Tuesday and Jake Chelios doing the same last week, now’s a good time to take a look at where things stand in the Detroit organization.

Last season, the Red Wings came out of camp with the following 14 defensemen spread out between Detroit and Grand Rapids, excluding players signed to AHL deals:

Jake Chelios
Dennis Cholowski
Trevor Daley
Danny DeKeyser
Jonathan Ericsson
Mike Green
Joe Hicketts
Filip Hronek
Nick Jensen
Niklas Kronwall
Brian Lashoff
Dylan McIlrath
Vili Saarijarvi
Libor Sulak

There were also part-time defenseman Luke Witkowski and signed-but-assigned-to-Europe Gustav Lindstrom but I’m ignoring them for the purposes of this.

With everyone healthy, it made for a nice, even split of seven defensemen each for the Red Wings and the Griffins.  For most of the season, though, not everyone was healthy, leading to everyone on that list with the exception of Saarijarvi playing at least one game in Detroit.

As an aside, it drives me slightly nuts that the Red Wings brought up Chelios – who had no future in the organization even then – late in the season, rather than giving Saarijarvi a look.  In meaningless games, there’s no harm in giving an actual prospect minutes, even if you’re concerned he’s not quite ready.  McIlrath could be swapped for Chelios in this argument as well.

By the end of the season, Jensen was gone but Madison Bowey had joined the group, keeping the numbers the same.

Since then we’ve seen the addition of Finnish free agent Oliwer Kaski and the departures of Chelios and Sulak.  Not much of a difference.  What else could we see this summer?

The big name is Kronwall, whose contract is up this summer.  Ken Holland had stated that, should Kronwall want to return, there would be a spot for him.  Holland is in Edmonton and this is Steve Yzerman‘s team now, so does that offer still stand?  It feels like buzz about Kronwall returning for one more season has died down in the last several weeks.  Is that meaningful or is it just the nature of the news cycle?  My gut feeling is that Kronwall is done.

Hicketts is also something of a question mark.  He’s a restricted free agent so he has limited options but it’s possible he bolts for Europe, seeing few options in the Detroit organization.  I wouldn’t call it likely, though.

Then there are trade options.  Early “What Will Yzerman Do as GM?” stories pushed the possibility of trading Jonathan Ericsson or Trevor Daley before the start of the season.  While I’d like to see that, I think they have more value at the trade deadline and Yzerman will hold onto them until then.

On the flip side, there’s the question of whether or not Lindstrom will come over this season, adding a body back to the mix.  Gut feeling again…  I’m going to say he spends another season in Europe.  That could change if Ericsson or Daley are moved in the summer.

So coming out of camp next fall, that gives the Red Wings and Griffins something like the following:

Bowey
Cholowski
Daley
DeKeyser
Ericsson
Green
Hicketts
Hronek
Kaski
Lashoff
McIlrath
Saarijarvi

That’s still 12 names, so the logjam isn’t gone but there might be some room to work.

Let’s say Detroit starts with Bowey, Cholowski, Daley, DeKeyser, Ericsson, Green, and Hronek.  Bowey could be buried in GR but he can also be your seventh defenseman so we’ll assume he and Cholowski split time.

That puts Hicketts, Kaski, Lashoff, McIlrath, and Saarijarvi in Grand Rapids.  Maybe Kaski has a great camp and swaps out for Bowey…  Whatever.

The thing to see here is that, while the roster is still pretty packed, minutes in Grand Rapids have become available.  The ascension of Hronek and Cholowski, combined with the departures of Chelios and Sulak, means that Saarijarvi and Kaski (again, assuming he’s in GR) could have the opportunity for a decent amount of playing time to prove that they’re ready, which will be important if Daley, Ericsson, and/or Green are moved at the trade deadline.

Of course, it’s still early in the summer.  The Red Wings could make another Chelios-like signing to put a body (or bodies) in Grand Rapids, making those minutes harder to find.  Jared MacIssac could make the jump from juniors over the summer.  As of right now, though, there has been some movement on the logjam.

On the New DH.N Logo, Trademarks, and the Detroit Tigers

Over the weekend, DetroitHockey.Net rolled out a new logo, the fifth in the site’s history.

For the first time, we’re abandoning the combination of an Old English D and crossed sticks.  The new logo instead is based on a deconstruction of the City of Detroit’s flag.

Detroit’s flag is quartered, with each section separated by a yellow-gold border and the city seal in the center.  The three countries that have ruled over Detroit are represented, with five gold fleurs-de-lis emblematic of France on a white field in the lower hoist, three gold lions for England on a red field in the upper fly, and thirteen white stars on blue in the upper hoist and 13 red and white stripes in the lower fly representing the United States.

The new DetroitHockey.Net logo combines each of these symbols, in addition to our traditional crossed hockey sticks, in a shield divided into five sections.  In the upper-left is a single white star on a blue field, with one gold lion on red to it’s right. The bottom-left features a gold fleur-de-lis on white while the bottom-right is seven red and white stripes.  In the middle of the bottom is a red field with white hockey sticks. The five sections are separated by a gold border, with a red border around the shield.

While reducing the stars, lions, and fleurs-de-lis to a single of each was a decision made strictly due to space constraints, the seven red and white stripes represent the Detroit Red Wings’ seven Stanley Cup championships at the time of the site’s founding in 1996.

Like the previous logo, the new logo has a version in a roundel containing the site’s name and year of establishment.

Additionally, the logo of the DetroitHockey.Net Fantasy Hockey League, which has included DetroitHockey.Net’s logo, has been updated to reflect this change.

Why make this change?  Well, there’s a short version to that story and a long one.

The short version: The Detroit Tigers made us.

The long version?

Since this site took on the DetroitHockey.Net name in 2002, we’ve used some form of the combination of a shield with the Old English D and crossed hockey sticks.  From 2002 to 2006, the D was in a shield with crossed sticks behind it. Then the shield was redesigned and the sticks moved into the shield with the D over them. In 2014 the now-replaced version came into use.

DetroitHockey.Net’s logo history, from 2002 to 2005 to 2006 to 2014 to 2019.

For all of that time, we’ve had a little-publicized online store with merchandise featuring the site’s logo and that of our sibling site, FantasyHockeySim.com.  We planned on reworking this store and relaunching it, but we wanted to do it right.

There are a lot of sites out there that sell merchandise based on designs they don’t own the rights for.  We wanted to be in the clear with our designs so last fall we applied for trademarks on our logos.

The 2006 version of the DH.N logo was specifically designed to not infringe on anyone else’s marks.  The shape of the D, in particular, was chosen because it was not the one used by the Detroit Tigers.  Nor was it the one recognized by the Red Wings as the logo of their predecessors, the Detroit Cougars.  In non-technical terms, the Tigers’ D was narrower and pointier than ours.  Our D was always used in concert with the shield and sticks. These design elements were carried into the 2014 version of the logo.

The idea was that, yes, the logo might include an element that was similar to the Tigers’ mark.  However, as a whole, it would not be confused with the Tigers’ logo, with possible confusion being the primary concern of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

A side-by-side look at the Detroit Tigers’ logo and the 2014 version of the DetroitHockey.Net logo.

Moreover, it was – and is – our contention that the Tigers’ Old English D logo is a weak mark.  It’s a letter. We think you have to draw the line somewhere on what form of Old English D is theirs and what isn’t.

Additionally, the Old English D represents Detroit as a city.  You see it on t-shirts, in bars, and on billboards that have nothing to do with the Tigers or baseball.  And some that do.

By law, trademark holders must defend their marks or risk forfeiting them.  Given the use of the Old English D across Detroit, it was – and, again, remains – our belief that the Tigers’ have a weak mark.

Our mark was published for opposition in April.  This gives existing trademark holders a month to review any possible conflicts.  If there is a conflict, they can oppose the mark or they can file for an extension.  Lawyers for MLB Properties took the latter route, then contacted us.

Their argument was that the Old English D is not a weak mark and that the only reason it has come to define Detroit as a whole is because it is used by the Tigers.  They informed us that, not only would they be opposing our trademark, but they were opposing our use of the logo at all.

At that point, our argument became theoretical.  DetroitHockey.Net cannot afford to get into a legal battle with Major League Baseball over the meaning of the Old English D.  Their mark may indeed be weak, but their wallet is strong.

So back to the question: Why make this change?  Depending on which side you agree with, either because – however unintentionally – we were using the Tigers’ mark illegally or because they strong-armed us into making the change.

What does that mean going forward?  Well, going forward is what the new logo is for.

I’ve always tried to keep DetroitHockey.Net as an entity separate from myself.  So, speaking as myself, I’m burned out.

Last season I wrote less about the team than I ever have before.  It’s hit the point where I feel like I’ve been making the same points for years.  There are only so many times you can write about a defensive logjam or a glut of overpriced veterans on the payroll.

Add in facing a legal challenge on behalf of the Ilitch-owned Tigers and my already-high cynicism is in overdrive.  There are sites out there that actually make a profit off of the Old English D; sites that they let slide. But a Red Wings fan site – one of the oldest in existence – pops up on their radar and the lawyers are unleashed.  It leaves me less than inclined to put in much effort covering a Red Wings team that’s less-than-exciting on most nights.

So we have a new logo and we have a path to moving forward.  I just can’t say how far along that path we’re going to go.

On Ken Holland Joining the Oilers

As I write this, former Red Wings’  General Manager and short-time Senior VP Ken Holland is being announced as the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers.

This news does not come as a surprise, having been broken over the weekend and rumored since Holland graciously stepped aside and allowed the Red Wings to hire Steve Yzerman in the role that used to be his.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Holland will be remembered in Detroit.  About what his legacy is.  About how we, as fans, should make sure we remember the good times.

Yes, Holland is due credit for his role in Detroit’s Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008 (and other accomplishments along the way).  He should also be accountable for Justin Abdelkader‘s contract and the trades for Kyle Quincey, David Legwand, and Erik Cole.  Don’t pick and choose the good or the bad, remember it all.

So I guess that’s my take on his departure.  Holland did great things for the Red Wings organization.  He also flamed out at the end and got fired for it, no matter how they worded it.  And now he’s going to an Edmonton team where a lot of the problems he’ll face are similar to the ones he’s leaving Yzerman with.

It’s not existential.  It’s not dramatic.  Holland was the face of the Red Wings’ business and that’s all this is: business.

Yzerman to Replace Holland as Red Wings GM

The Stevening is here: The Detroit Red Wings have announced a press conference to name former captain Steve Yzerman as the team’s general manager.

With Yzerman taking over as GM, Holland will be booted upstairs to a senior vice president role.  That said, it might be a temporary move.

Holland has long been rumored to be in the running for the GM role with expansion Seattle, and they had previously said they wanted to get someone in place this summer, so the timeline for that does fit.

I’ve said before, and I Tweeted it again this morning, that my concern with Yzeman coming in as GM is that he’s already a god in Detroit.  He seemingly has nothing left to accomplish.  I don’t want to see his legacy damaged if the Wings are still a lottery team in five years and he’s forced out.

Part of that fear is based on expectations for Yzerman and what he actually has the ability to do.

This is going to be Ken Holland’s team for a long time.  Holland will, at least until he’s named GM in Seattle, remain with the organization.  AGM Ryan Martin will remain.  Kris Draper will remain.  This is, for the most part, Yzerman stepping into a management team that already exists.  How much impact can he have in that environment?

Similarly, at least for the 2019-20 season, the Red Wings roster is relatively locked in.  The bad contracts to Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm aren’t going anywhere.  The best move this summer, no matter who the GM is, is to stand pat.

So the earliest Yzerman will be in a position to really shape this team will be at the trade deadline next February.  Even then, it will mostly be selling pending free agents like Mike Green, Trevor Daley, and Jonathan Ericsson.  In all likelihood, those potential trades bring back draft picks, which means the first players acquired via moves Yzerman makes won’t be known until the 2020 Entry Draft, over a year into his tenure as GM.

Maybe he’ll surprise me.  I don’t see it, though.

Red Wings to Pick Sixth After Draft Lottery

What else do you want me to say?

The Red Wings, following their late-season surge, finished the season with the fourth-worst record in the NHL.  Per Tankathon, they were most likely to end up picking sixth overall.  That’s exactly where they ended up.  You can’t argue with math.

In fact, you can look at the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks moved up from 12th to third as proof that the NHL’s draft lottery is a crapshoot.  It’s hard to argue against that as that’s the whole point of the lottery.

I was on Team Tank from the start of the season and I still think it would have been better for the Wings to lose down the stretch than win.  Had the Wings lost two more games over the season it would have been them, not the New Jersey Devils, in the #3 slot that ended up winning the draft lottery and the right to select Jack Hughes.  If they’d dropped even further into the #2 slot, they might not have won the lottery, but they’d be picking fifth overall instead of sixth.  I find it hard to believe those few end of season wins outweigh that.

But it doesn’t matter at this point.  The Wings didn’t tank and they also didn’t get lucky.  They’re picking exactly where the math says they should.

Post Trade-Deadline Thoughts

I tried to sum up my thoughts on what turned out to be the final Red Wings’ trade of this season’s deadline in my post about the trade of Gustav Nyquist to the San Jose Sharks, but I think there’s more to it than that.

I absolutely get playing the percentages.  I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.  It’s just that this team isn’t very good right now, it isn’t very fun to watch, and even their rebuild strategy is boring.

So, yeah, good deal, I’m just not going to get excited about it.

When Ken Holland spoke to the media after the trade deadline passed, he highlighted that there wasn’t a market for goalies, so he couldn’t move Jimmy Howard.  He wasn’t going to ask Niklas Kronwall to move out of respect for the veteran.  No one asked about Thomas Vanek and no one was willing to pay for Luke Glendening.

The general consensus reflects that.  The Red Wings did the best they could with what they had.

I think that’s the part that’s depressing to me.  Not that the Wings were sellers.  Not that the team is in a rebuild.  That they’re sellers with not much to sell, so they can’t get big pieces back for the rebuild.

Maybe Glendening on a cheaper contract or Darren Helm on a shorter one would have been moved but that’s not what the Wings have.  The trade deadline is hard to swallow because the team as constructed is not good and can’t even be sold for scrap.

Next year it might be different, with Mike Green and Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson all on expiring deals.  But that’s all we have as Wings fans now.  Wait for bad contracts to be burned off.  Watch what little the team can sell be moved for second and third round draft picks.  Hope that one of those picks hits.

Red Wings Deal Nyquist to Sharks

With under fifteen hours until the NHL’s trade deadline, Bob McKenzie, Pierre LeBrun, and Darren Dreger report via Twitter that the Red Wings have traded forward Gustav Nyquist to the San Jose Sharks.

The Red Wings later confirmed the deal.

The condition on the 2020 third-round pick is that it becomes a second-rounder if the Sharks make the Stanley Cup Finals this season or if Nyquist re-signs with San Jose this summer.  Additionally, the Red Wings are retaining 30% of Nyquist’s salary this season.

My thoughts…

The salary retention is nothing so I’m not worried about that.  The Wings have the cap space for the rest of the season, they might as well use it.

The conditions on the 2020 pick I like, simply because usually you’d see one or the other and Ken Holland got both put in there.  I’m not sure I see these Sharks making the Finals and I’m not sure I see them re-signing Nyquist so it probably doesn’t matter, though.

Overall, though?  Based on other forward deals, it’s hard to argue that Nyquist should have gone for more.  That said, I’m kind of tired of Detroit’s strategy being to collect 100 second and third rounders and hoping to hit on some of them.

I absolutely get playing the percentages.  I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.  It’s just that this team isn’t very good right now, it isn’t very fun to watch, and even their rebuild strategy is boring.

So, yeah, good deal, I’m just not going to get excited about it.

Red Wings Deal Jensen to Caps for Bowey, Second-Round Pick

Per TSN’s Darren Dreger via Twitter, the Red Wings have traded defenseman Nick Jensen to the Washington Capitals along with a fifth-round pick for defenseman Madison Bowey and a second-round pick.

I admit that I don’t know much about Bowey, aside from him being a 23-year-old defenseman.  His million-dollar salary cap hit comes in higher than Jensen’s but the Wings have the room to make that work.

I like that Ken Holland was able to get a player who has some NHL experience but it still younger and might have some upside.  That said, another defenseman coming back the other way for Jensen doesn’t help the blueline logjam in Detroit.

It’s possible that Bowey is just a body coming back to clear a roster spot for Washington.  His salary can almost be buried in Grand Rapids.  That, to me, is less than ideal as the organizational logjam already extends to the Griffins.  His deal is a one-way deal, though, so that doesn’t seem likely.

That said, the second-round pick in 2020 is worth it, to me.  I like that Holland got the second rounder and I like that he pushed it out to 2020.  Already having ten picks in 2019 (though one of their three fifth rounders heads to Washington in this deal), I’d rather see the Wings stock up for the next draft out.  Especially if it was the choice between a higher pick in 2020 than in 2019 (which I have no evidence of it being, it’s just been suggested in the past.).

However Bowey plays out, I like the deal.  The Wings get younger and get a decent pick.

On Keeping Howard, Nyquist, and Jensen

We’re ten days away from the 2019 trade deadline and, because of the company line coming out of the Red Wings, I find myself looking ahead to the team’s lineup for next season.

Four months ago, at the start of what was expected to be – and has proven to be – another lost season in Detroit, much of the chatter was about which players would be moved before the end of the season and what pieces might come back that could help the team’s rebuild.  Max Bultman of The Athletic, for example, was speculating about Jimmy Howard bringing in a first round pick or a top prospect back in November (subscription only).

But now we’re hearing how much the Wings want to keep Howard, as they’ve got no goalies in the system ready to take over for him.  We’re hearing about how much chemistry Gustav Nyqiust has with Dylan Larkin.  How Luke Glendening is such an important part of the room.  How Nick Jensen‘s analytics and low contract make him worth keeping while the team’s blueline prospects continue developing.

Let’s take a look at the Wings’ roster for last night’s game against the Senators, courtesy of MLive’s Ansar Khan (who still has me blocked on Twitter).

Gustav Nyquist – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha
Darren HelmFrans NielsenThomas Vanek
Andreas Athanasiou – Luke Glendening – Christoffer Ehn
Justin AbdelkaderJacob de la RoseMichael Rasmussen

Niklas KronwallMike Green
Danny DeKeyser – Nick Jensen
Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Bernier

Scratches: Martin Frk, Dennis Cholowski, Luke Witkowski

Nyquist, Vanek, Kronwall, Jensen, Witkowski, and Howard are all pending unrestricted free agents.  Additionally, Frk – who was sent down to the Grand Rapids Griffins along with Cholowski after last night’s game – is a restricted free agent.

Given the team’s stated desire to keep Howard, Jensen, and Nyquist, for this exercise, I’m going to assume that they’re brought back.  I’m also going to assume that Frk and Witkowski aren’t re-signed and that Kronwall retires.  With those assumptions in place, the Wings’ lineup becomes as follows:

Gustav Nyquist – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha
Darren Helm – Frans Nielsen – Tyler Bertuzzi
Andreas Athanasiou – Luke Glendening – Christoffer Ehn
Justin Abdelkader – Jacob de la Rose – Michael Rasmussen

Dennis Cholowski – Mike Green
Danny DeKeyser – Nick Jensen
Jonathan Ericsson – Trevor Daley

Jimmy Howard
Jonathan Bernier

Scratches: Filip Hronek, available, available

I’ll continue my assumptions and have Filip Hronek up with the Red Wings next season, in this case as the seventh defenseman, after Cholowski slots into the spot vacated by Kronwall.  We can assume that Tyler Bertuzzi will be healthy so he gets Vanek’s spot.

How the Wings fill those open spots really doesn’t matter for my purposes.  The important thing is to see just how much of the roster would be returning in this scenario.

On the strength of this week’s wins over the Predators and Senators, the Red Wings currently sit in 28th place in the NHL, six points up on last-place Ottawa, with all three teams below them having a game in hand.

Some of that can be blamed on the team’s horrific start to the season when injuries forced forced them to ice an extremely inexperienced defensive corps.  At some point, though, you just have to accept that this lineup just isn’t very good.

This despite a near-career year from Nyquist.  This despite a resurgence from a Jimmy Howard who will be 35 before the season ends.

If the Wings are intent on bringing back Howard and Nyquist and Jensen, they’ll essentially be bringing back the entirety of their 28th place lineup next season, one year older, yet expecting a better result.

It’s fine for this team to be bad while they’re going through a rebuild but, at some point, you have to actually rebuild.  Bringing back the same losing lineup year after year isn’t a rebuild, it’s just losing.

Forty-one

It’s a new year, the Red Wings are exactly halfway through their season, and I haven’t written anything in quite awhile.  Sounds like a good time to check in.

If you’re positive, you look at the Wings being ten points out of a playoff spot and think “Hey, that’s only five wins, there’s still a chance!”  You’d be correct, and someone in the Wings’ front office might even say something to that effect.  “Just go on a run and see what happens.”  I’d feel a lot better if we didn’t hear that, though.

If you’re negative, or if you’re more focused on the future, or if you’ve written off this season for whatever reason, you might look at the standings in the opposite direction.  Detroit is three points up of last-place Ottawa with the Sens holding a game in hand.

You could argue that the “Lose for Hughes” case is strong here – I called for it often last summer – but even that has an issue.  Detroit might be just three points out of last place but there are so many teams at the bottom of the standings that the Wings would still have (pre-draft lottery) the seventh overall pick.  The standings are so packed that a single additional win in the first half of the season would have put them out of the top ten in the draft.

To me, the standings are a worst-case scenario for the Red Wings.  Bad enough to be out of the playoff race but not bad enough to have locked up a high draft pick.

Okay, so the standings are bad.  That was to be expected.  What’s good?

Not much, but what’s good is important.

Dylan Larkin is on a pace to shatter his season scoring records.  Eighty points wouldn’t be a stretch with a previous personal best of 63.  He could end up in the mid-thirties in goals scored.  The Wings needed him to take a step forward and he has.

Similarly, Andreas Athanasiou is putting up career numbers and is getting the ice time that he seemed to think he was due last season, at 16:29 per game.

Dennis Cholowski has stepped in and looked good on a Detroit blue line that’s been wracked by injuries.

Jimmy Howard is having himself a bit of a renaissance just in time to raise his trade value.  Whether or not the team actually moves him will probably have to wait to be seen.  My prediction is that they don’t, simply because I strongly believe they should and this team frustrates me to no end.

Gustav Nyquist‘s trade value also looks good, and if you squint just right you might think he could hit 70 points on a better team (he’s almost on that pace as it is).

So there are positives here.  The Wings still sit in good draft spot, they’ve had young players step forward, and some of their potential trade pieces are keeping up their value.  It might make the season hard to watch but it’s good overall.

What else?  Well…

Anthony Mantha remains out after injuring his hand in a fight on December 2.  He recently re-iterated that, despite having hurt his hand twice in his four career fights, this won’t stop him from fighting in the future.  This drives me nuts.

I get that hockey is a fast sport.  I get (but don’t believe in) “the code” and all that, by which players attempt to police themselves.  There are two things wrong with that.

My initial complaint was that if Anthony Mantha (or Dylan Larkin, or Michael Rasmussen, or whoever) is the one fighting to avenge dirty hits, then what is Luke Witkowski on the Wings’ roster for?  We don’t have traditional enforcers anymore, true, but isn’t Witkowski supposed to be here to handle that for the enforcers?

As I said, though, it’s a fast game.  Witkowski’s not out there and Mantha is so Mantha handles it.  Okay.  But if Mantha is fighting Patrick Nemeth because he didn’t like a hit that Nemeth put on Dylan Larkin, what does Nemeth learn from it.  In theory, he learns that if he makes that hit, he’s going to get hurt back.  In practice, he just learned that if he makes that hit, he can hurt a second Red Wings’ scorer by letting Mantha smash his hand into his head for a bit.

It just seems counterproductive to me.  Mantha needs to learn that it doesn’t help.  So we’ll see how much his views on fighting carry into the second half of the season.