Red Wings Announce 2018 Exhibition Schedule

The Detroit Red Wings will face a familiar slate of opponents during the 2018 preseason, with home and away matchups against the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs.

The last time the Red Wings faced a team other than those four in a preseason game was 2011, when the Philadelphia Flyers were on their exhibition slate rather than the Bruins.  Detroit was to face Washington in the 2012 preseason that was lost to the league’s lockout of the players.

Detroit’s exhibition schedule is as follows:

Date Opponent Location Time
September 19, 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins Home 7:30 PM
September 20, 2017 Chicago Blackhawks Home 7:30 PM
September 22, 2017 Boston Bruins Home 7:00 PM
September 23, 2017 Pittsburgh Penguins Away 3:00 PM
September 25, 2017 Chicago Blackhawks Away 8:30 PM
September 26, 2017 Boston Bruins Away 7:00 PM
September 28, 2017 Toronto Maple Leafs Away 7:30 PM
September 29, 2017 Toronto Maple Leafs Home 7:00 PM

NHL to Portland? Domain Registrations Hint at It

There are a handful of cities that often pop up in rumors regarding NHL relocation or expansion.

Quebec is one, with their recent expansion bid partially hindered by the NHL’s geographic imbalance.  Seattle is going through the expansion process right now and is expected to be awarded the league’s 32nd franchise.  Houston, with a new owner for the NBA’s Rockets who is receptive to an additional tenant at Toyota Center, has jumped into the discussion of late.

And then there’s Portland, Oregon.

Portland, home of the Western Hockey League’s Winterhawks, has sniffed at the NHL twice in recent memory.

In the late 1990s, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – owner of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers -, backed out of an expansion bid in the round that led to new NHL teams in Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus, and Minnesota.

Just a few years ago, the Arizona Coyotes were rumored to be eyeing the Allen-controlled Moda Center as a landing spot as their (still ongoing) arena issues in Glendale seemed to be coming to a head.

Through spokespeople, Allen has stated that he has no interest in pursuing an expansion franchise for Portland.  However, if one became available for relocation, he would have interest.  Additionally, Winterhawks owner Bill Gallacher has indicated interest in NHL ownership.

Which brings us to a batch of ten internet domain names registered on Thursday by the Portland Winterhawks.

Four of them seem relatively benign.  You could make the case that hockeytownpdx.com, portlandhockeytown.com, playhockeyoregon.com, playhockeyportland.com could all be used in relation to the Winterhawks or other community initiatives (though the Detroit Red Wings might have something to say about a couple of those).

A fifth – hockeytoportland.com – would look innocent coming from anyone other than the Winterhawks, as they’ve already brought hockey to Portland.

The final five, however, explicitly state what kind of hockey would be coming to the Rose City:

pdxnhl.com
nhltopdx.com
nhl2portland.com
nhlinportland.com
nhltoportland.com

That’s five domains making reference to the National Hockey League coming to Portland, all registered by the Portland Winterhawks.

This is hardly confirmation of something coming.  As the Winterhawks do not control Moda Center, this would look a lot more convincing if the domains had been registered by someone affiliated with Paul Allen’s group.

That said, the Coyotes’ arena issues are still unresolved, the Calgary Flames have threatened to move without a new arena, Allen is interested in a relocated NHL team, and now we have domain registrations tied to Portland’s existing team – whose owner is from Calgary and who is already a tenant at Allen’s arena.

It could be nothing.  Or it could be a sign of the NHL’s next franchise move.

Vegas Team Name Speculation: Baseball Edition

Note: This is a non-hockey post but ties into the work I did looking into possible names for the team that became the Vegas Golden Knights and the NHL’s probable future Seattle franchise, so I’m publishing it here anyway.

The Las Vegas 51s of Minor League Baseball’s Pacific Coast League are adopting a new name next season to coincide with their move into a new stadium.

I hadn’t been paying much attention to this as I’m not much of a baseball fan, especially not of minor league teams on the other side of the country and not affiliated with any of my local teams.  The tools that I developed while attempting to determine the name of the eventual Vegas Golden Knights and Seattle’s seemingly-inevitable expansion team are still running, still focused on Las Vegas, and hit on something interesting today.

Yesterday, June 6, a lawyer with The Howard Hughes Corporation – owners of the 51s and their new ballpark in Summerlin, NV –  registered a total of sixteen domains related to the Las Vegas Aviators.

Additionally, a related Twitter handle – @lvaviators – shows as having been registered in June of 2018.  That account has yet to Tweet or update their profile but has a name of “Las Vegas Aviators.”  Ownership of the handle cannot be confirmed.

If this is indeed the team’s future identity, the name Aviators would tie in to Howard Hughes himself and the pilots at nearby Nellis Air Force Base.

As far as I can tell, The Howard Hughes Corporation has not registered any other baseball-related domains.

The full list of Aviators-related domains is as follows:

aviatorsdowntownsummerlin.com
aviatorslasvegas.com
aviatorslv.com
aviatorsnevada.com
aviatorssummerlin.com
downtownsummerlinaviators.com
lasvegasaviatorsbaseball.com
nevadaaviators.com
summerlinaviators.com
thedowntownsummerlinaviators.com
thelasvegasaviators.com
thelvaviators.com
thenevadaaviators.com
thesummerlinaviators.com
vegasaviators.com
vegasaviatorsbaseball.com


Update, 6/10 1:30 PM: It would appear that there is a Facebook account for this new team name, too, as @TheLasVegasAviators is classified as a “Sports Team.”  There’s also an Instagram user with the name “lasvegasaviators.” Of course, this could be someone not affiliated with the team.


Update, 6/11 2:00 PM: After SportsLogos.Net picked up our story, I was inspired to give the USPTO database another check.  It turns out that a ton of trademarks for Las Vegas Aviators were registered on June 6, the same day as the domains were acquired.  The trademark database usually takes a few days to update, so it’s not a surprise that we didn’t see this sooner.

A list of Las Vegas Aviators-related trademarks filed on June 6.

Red Wings to Pick Sixth After Draft Lottery

The Red Wings dropped one spot in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, as the Carolina Hurricanes leapfrogged them by winning one of the top three spots via the Draft Lottery.

Carolina’s win means that the Red Wings, who had been slotted in fifth, with an 8.5% chance of winning the lottery, drop to sixth overall.

Winning the lottery was a long shot.  However, it was important that the Red Wings not drop so far as to lose out on one of the second-tier defensemen that are available.

I disagree with Kournianos a little bit here but not enough that I think it’s a bad description of where the Red Wings landed.

At the sixth pick, the worst-case scenario is that the Red Wings will have their choice of three of the second-tier defensemen available after missing out on Rasmus Dahlin.  Or two of them if you think that class is only four defensemen.

So the lottery could have gone better for the Wings but it definitely could have gone worse.

Petrella’s Pre-Lottery Look at the Red Wings’ Options

Editor’s Note: Formerly of The Production Line, Michael Petrella is known for his NHL Entry Draft previews, having provided his thoughts on previous drafts here.  Now he takes a look at options and issues the Red Wings might have with their first-round pick as we wait for the Draft Lottery to find exactly where that pick will land.

My favorite thing to do leading up to the NHL Draft is to try and build a consensus. I’ll find as many reputable lists as I can, see how they line up with one another, and try to order the players in such a way that – usually – plays out fairly predictably on Draft Day.

This year, outside of #1, there’s very little consensus. That would be exciting any other year – but as a Red Wings fan with a vested interest in the Draft Lottery, it is absolutely terrifying. By the end, I’ll hope to make a convincing argument that “winning” the second or third pick might actually be a little bit of a disaster for the Red Wings – not because they won’t get a great player, but because they’ll get a great player that, perhaps, they don’t need as badly as others.

THE PLAYERS

The one spot where there’s a consensus is at the top. Aside from a list or two trying their best to build some suspense, the prize of this year’s Draft is Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Whichever team wins the lottery will be selecting Dahlin, regardless of organizational need. Period, full stop.

Things start to get murky (though not as murky as they’re about to) at 2. A pair of wingers have emerged as the next tier of players available for this Draft. One of them – Evgeny’s little brother Andrei Svechnikov – seems to be gaining an edge, but no one would call you an idiot if you preferred Czech LW Filip Zadina. For what it’s worth, the Wings seem to be leaning Zadina, who The Athletic named as the one guy they’d go off-script to grab, if given the chance. More on that later.

After the top three, things go off the rails. A more-or-less consensus Top 10 does seem to be coming into focus, but the rankings therein vary wildly. Let’s look at a few examples.

Brady Tkachuk, son of Keith and brother of Calgary Flame Matthew, is another winger who plays with an edge (like the rest of his family) but seems to possess a better nose for the net. He’s ranked 4th in a bunch of places, in the 5-6 range in a bunch of others, somewhere around 9 in a few, and even – in one place – outside of the top ten.

There’s a trio of defenseman who find themselves in this tier, as well. Swedish defenseman Adam Boqvist, U of M blueliner Quinn Hughes, and London Knights captain Evan Bouchard are all reasonable selections in the top five. Boqvist is usually the one listed highest (in other words, the second best defenseman in the Draft), but no one should be shocked if all three are taken in the top six selections. Hughes is listed 3 or 4 a few times, but 5-7 a few more times. Bouchard, the year’s more impressive Draft riser, may be taken before Hughes – with size as a primary reason why (Bouchard is 6-2, 192 compared to Hughes’ 5-10, 174), as is the great attribute of being a “one-man breakout.”

Dahlin is all alone in Tier I. Zadina and Svechnikov headline Tier II, which likely includes the rest of the guys mentioned so far. A third tier is headlined by the next three.

A fifth defenseman who will likely go in the top ten is Noah Dobson, a 6-3 player from the QMJHL. He sometimes hops one of the above listed guys, but he’s more often found in the 6-9 range.

A pair of centers round out what’s shaping up to be top ten-ish picks. They are USNTDP player Oliver Wahlstrom and the first player to gain Exceptional Status from the Q, Joe Veleno. Neither seem like they’re in play in the top five, but you never know how things shake out on Draft Day. After the top ten, things go even further off the rails, but since the lowest the Wings can pick is 8th (until the Vegas pick), that’s where we’ll stop exploring for the time being.

WHY THIS MATTERS

The Red Wings can select 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th, pending the results of the Draft Lottery. The top three selections are made via lottery, and Detroit has a fairly equal chance at any of those picks (8.5% for first, 8.7% for second, and 8.9% for third). They have an 8.4% chance at remaining at fifth, a 34.5% chance at sliding down to sixth, a 26.7% chance at sliding to seventh, and a 4.3% of ending up at eighth.

One of the following statements will be painfully obvious, and the other will seem like absolutely nonsense, but bear with me.

Winning the Draft Lottery would be the best possible scenario (duh).

Winning one of the other two spots – 2nd or 3rd – would be a minor disaster (allow me to explain).

If they get the first pick, we’ve already established it’s a no-brainer. Dahlin is the pick, and they get the best defensive prospect to come through the Draft in literal decades. He’s the best player by a mile, and he fills a glaring need for Detroit, who hasn’t had a bluechip prospect on the back end in some time (also literal decades).

Things start to get weird if they’re picking 2nd or 3rd. It’s no secret that they’re desperate to pick a defenseman, and have no real organizational need for another winger. Aside from Dylan Larkin, most of their young players and prospects are on the flanks: Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, Givani Smith, and Michael Rasmussen are all being used (or will be used) as wingers at the NHL level. So, if defenseman is the priority for their first round pick, a center (which you can never have enough of) is a secondary priority.

Picking 2nd or 3rd, and taking any of the non-Dahlin defensemen or centers might be a bit of a stretch. So the Wings are left with a few options: do they take the best player, even if it doesn’t help fill their glaring needs? Do they select a player they really like, regardless of Draft position, possibly reaching to get a guy outside of his pedigree? Do you fantasize about trading down before realizing this is Ken Holland we’re talking about, and moving from 2nd to 5th doesn’t really benefit the also-bad team that is selecting 5th in this scenario?

Craig Custance had a really great article on The Athletic a few weeks ago. In it, he identified a pool of eight players that, even in the worst-case scenario where the Wings move down to 8th, one or more will be available for selection. They are the same eight players listed above (before discussing Wahlstrom and Veleno).

Custance also mentions that Svechnikov and Tkachuk don’t fit any organizational need. And then there’s this tidbit: “The Red Wings like both players but the crucial need is on defense and it would be hard to pass on a potential top pair defenseman for another winger in the system. The one exception would be Filip Zadina. The organization is well aware they need a game-breaker to compete with the best teams in what’s becoming a one-goal league. Zadina is that guy.”

Considering how important this Draft is for the Red Wings, taking a guy that doesn’t necessarily fit an organizational need would be really disappointing, despite Zadina (or Svechnikov for that matter) being an excellent player. Perhaps “DISASTER” is over-selling it a touch, but it’s not ideal for the team to take someone they don’t NEED when they’re picking as high as they have in 28 years. A similar situation arises if they’re picking 6th or lower, which we’ll explore in a moment.

SO WHO’S THE PICK

I ran Tankathon’s Draft Lottery Simulator a bunch of times. The Wings won the Lottery a little less than 10% of the time, as the numbers above suggest would be the case. They picked in the top three about 20%, again in line with the numbers. They picked 6th or 7th more than 50% of the time, so it’s difficult to gauge who their selection could be until the Lottery is complete. But, we can mock out who it might be at any of those potential spots.

If they win the Lottery, and select first overall, they will add D Rasmus Dahlin to the team.

If they select second overall, Custance’s article seems to point to their preference for LW Filip Zadina. Though a defenseman is of the utmost importance, the gap between Zadina and Boqvist, et al, might be too wide to pass on the Czech winger. They’re in the same tier, yes, but that tier is leaning a little top-heavy to the wingers.

If they select third overall, there’s a decent chance that whoever selected above them took Andrei Svechnikov, so they may still get Zadina here. If Zadina is picked second, I don’t have a clue what they’ll do. A fair bet would be D Adam Boqvist, or whoever they have as the second-ranked defenseman, drafting him a slot or two above where they could probably get him otherwise.

They cannot select fourth overall. Better hope Svechnikov, Zadina, and Tkachuk go in order!

If they select fifth overall, and the three wingers are taken, they have their pick of the remaining defensemen, with Boqvist, Evan Bouchard, or Quinn Hughes all available – and they get to select the one that fits their needs the most. If, however, it goes Dahlin-Svechnikov-Zadina-Boqvist (for example), they’re left with two of those three. Still an okay position to be in.

If they select sixth overall, there will either be two of those three defensemen on the board… or one of those three and Tkachuk, which means their pick will likely be made for them, letting Tkachuk slide to 7, and taking whichever D is still unselected. The pressure to make the “right” choice would come off, which might be a good thing, but if they have their lists ranked differently than this one, perhaps all of their guys are gone.

If they select seventh overall, they’re in trouble. It’s possible that all four of those defensemen are gone, as are the top two wingers, leaving them Brady Tkachuk, who we’ve already established they don’t really need, one of the centers that are probably being selected a little bit too high, or Noah Dobson, a defenseman who, again, is very good but seems to be ranked a touch lower than the others. If someone above them loves Tkachuk, great – there’s one of Boqvist/Hughes/Bouchard left, and he’s your choice.

If they select eighth overall, things are rough. It’s possible that Tkachuk is there, who at this point you almost have to take… or they take one of the “third tier” players in Dobson, Veleno, or Wahlstrom – all wonderful hockey players, but two tiers below where you want your highest pick in generations to come from. The best case scenario for the 8th pick is someone above them really needing a center and taking one of them, or someone really loving Tkachuk (neither of which is that difficult to believe, really), and there’s still a Tier II defenseman on the board, and he falls into Detroit’s lap.

TL;DR

1st overall (8.4%) – Rasmus Dahlin. This would be a franchise-altering pick.

2nd overall (8.7%) – Filip Zadina. Purest goal-scorer in the organization, will have to find D elsewhere.

3rd overall (8.9%) –Zadina OR Adam Boqvist. Boqvist is a hell of a “consolation” prize.

5th overall (8.4%) – Evan Bouchard OR Quinn Hughes. Either would immediately be the team’s top prospect, and either would invigorate a less-than-exciting D corps, which has plenty of second pair-type guys, and no first pair-type guys.

6th overall (34.5%) – Hughes OR Bouchard. Less decision-making on their part, but still get a great player.

7th overall (26.7%) – Hughes OR Noah Dobson OR Brady Tkachuk OR Oliver Wahsltrom OR Joe Veleno. Hughes may still be around, but if he’s not, they’ve got the entire next tier of players to choose from and Tier II leftover Tkachuk.

8th overall (4.3%) – Dobson OR Tkachuk OR Wahlstrom OR Veleno. Maybe they get lucky and someone above them loves one or more of these guys, and a Tier II defenseman falls into their lap.

Random Season-Ending Thoughts

I’ve been holding off on writing an end-of-season post because something felt off about the end of the Red Wings’ season and I think I’ve figured it out.

This doesn’t feel like the end of the season.  Not because the Red Wings aren’t advancing to the playoffs, but because the 2017-18 campaign didn’t feel like a season to me at all.

I had no expectations last fall.  I knew that this was going to be another lost year.  While it was good to get to open Little Caesars Arena and there were some important milestones and some young players took big steps forward, there wasn’t a single game this season that really mattered.  It was essentially a six-month slate of exhibitions.

I’m okay with that.  Another year has been burned off of the contracts of Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm and Luke GlendeningNiklas KronwallDanny DeKeyserJonathan Ericsson.

But where the Wings stand today is almost exactly where they were at this time last year.

There’s room for change at forward.  David Booth is likely done.  Evgeny Svechnikov is likely up for the season next year.  Michael Rasmussen will get a chance to make the team.  Andreas Athanasiou could be gone but would likely bring a roster player back in return so that doesn’t open up a spot for anyone.

If you assume that restricted free agents Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Martin Frk all return, that’s eleven forwards under contract for next year.  Athanasiou would make it twelve.  Svechnikov is thirteen.  Rasmussen is fourteen.

On the blueline it’s worse.  Mike Green is the only pending free agent defenseman on the team and there has already been talk about bringing him back.  That would give the Wings seven defensemen, though one has to think they’ll find a way to move spare part Xavier Ouellet.  Where’s the roster spot for Joe Hicketts or Filip Hronek or Vili Saarijarvi?

In goal, Jimmy Howard is the man.  They’ll need to find a backup with Petr Mrazek gone and Jared Coreau seemingly out as well, but aside from no longer paying $9 million for their goaltending tandem, that doesn’t impact space for kids to come up.

So in April 2018 we’re in the same spot we were in April 2017, and probably in a spot similar to where we’ll be in April 2019.

Until some of these dead weight contracts are up, all of these games are an extended preseason.


Ken Holland said something that really annoyed me during the Red Wings’ locker room cleanout, speaking about the infeasibility of icing a roster of “20 kids” – which absolutely no one has suggested.

Holland’s strawman arguments and false equivalencies annoy the hell out of me.  It comes across as condescending and insulting.

Another of his favorites is that it takes ten years to do a full rebuild, which the organization refuses to do.  But I want to take a look at that one.

The Red Wings squeaked into the playoffs with a win on the last day of the 2013 season.  They then went on a short run that pushed the eventual champions to overtime of Game Seven in the second round.  The playoff run makes the season seem better than it was but, given that this was an improvement over their first-round loss to the Nashville Predators the previous season, I’m willing to call 2013 a success.

In 2014, Detroit backed into the playoffs with a point earned in a shootout loss in the antepenultimate game of the season, then got bounced by the Boston Bruins in five games.

It was a similar story in 2015, making the postseason on the strength of an overtime loss in Montreal with two games remaining, then getting bounced by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.

In 2016 the Wings were only in the playoffs because, after Detroit dropped a 3-2 decision to the New York Rangers in the last game of the season, the Ottawa Senators beat the Boston Bruins to push the Bruins behind the Red Wings.  It was another short postseason and another elimination by the Lightning.

So we’ll call 2013 acceptable but I’m not willing to say the same for anything since.  Yes, they made the playoffs.  I’m not saying it’s Cup-or-nothing.  I’m just not willing to settle for backing into the postseason and then doing nothing once you’re there.

That means we’re five years in to the downturn.  Next year will be six.  I could very easily see it taking a few more years to get back on the upswing.  All the sudden we’re looking at the ten year rebuild that Holland refused to do.

On Lottery Odds and the Red Wings’ Options

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m on #TeamTank for the Red Wings.  They can’t finish 31st overall anymore to get the best odds in the NHL’s draft lottery – and they probably can’t finish 30th, either – but they could still drop to 29th and get an 11.5% chance at drafting Rasmus Dahlin first overall.

The argument against the tank is that an 11.5% chance isn’t all that great, and not that much better than the 7.5% chance they currently hold.  You can’t expect players to give up, anyway, and it’s worth the drop in draft position to give young players such as Anthony Mantha, Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Joe Hicketts valuable experience, playing hard even in games that seemingly don’t matter.

That last point is absolutely valid.  The Wings’ younger players have looked good as the season winds down and that bodes well for next season and beyond.

The second point, that you can’t expect players to give up, makes sense but is a little harder to handle.  After seeing the Red Wings drop ten consecutive games looking relatively awful earlier this season, it’s a little hard to see them suddenly look so much better when more of those losses could actually be put to use.  But that’s how a season goes; you have ups and downs.

The problem I have is with the first argument, and I have it for two reasons.

The first is simple.  Yes, 11.5% isn’t that much more than 7.5%, but it’s still more.  More is good.

The second is that it focuses entirely on first overall when there are more players to look at.

Dahlin is the consensus number one pick and is in a tier of his own when it comes to the available players in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.  Then come forwards Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina, then back to defensemen with Evan Bouchard, Quinn Hughes, and Adam Boqvist.  You could argue for Brady Tkachuk or Ryan Merkley, especially depending on each team’s needs, but that’s the top group I’m going to go with.

The Red Wings need a defenseman.  I could see them picking Svechnikov and uniting him with brother Evgeny but it wouldn’t make a ton of sense.  Win the lottery and that’s easy, it’s Dahlin.  Lose and you’re looking at Bouchard, Hughes, or Boqvist.

But what if you not only lose but get passed by lower teams?  That’s what I think the Wings should be worried about.

Detroit holds the sixth overall pick right now at 26th in the current standings.  That puts them in a position to get one of the four defensemen on our list.  But it also means there’s a 31% chance that they get passed by at least one team, bumping them out of the top six and into a position where they have to hope another team reaches for someone else.

If they were to drop behind the Vancouver Canucks and up to the fifth pick at 27th in the standings, the chances of getting bumped out of the top six drop to 9.61%.  That becomes 2.98% if they drop to 28th and it becomes impossible to go lower than sixth overall after the lottery if they end up in 29th.

Tanking wouldn’t just increase their chances at getting Dahlin but put them in a better position if they don’t.

That said, as I admitted above, you can’t expect the players to quit.  If they wouldn’t embrace the tank for Dahlin, they’re not going to just to make sure they get Hughes instead or Merkley or something like that.  I just think there’s so much focus on first overall that we lose sight of who will be available when the Wings are more likely to pick.

Wings Send Tatar to Vegas, Keep Green as Trade Deadline Passes

The only move the Detroit Red Wings made on the NHL’s trade deadline day was to send forward Tomas Tatar to the Vegas Golden Knights for a trio of draft picks.

As much as I didn’t want to lose Tatar, that’s an impressive haul for him and it’ll help kickstart Detroit’s rebuild.  It was always rumored that one of he or Gustav Nyquist would be moved and Tatar probably had a higher value.

Unfortunately, none of the other rumors surrounding Detroit came to fruition.  Luke Glendening and Gustav Nyquist and Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser and Xavier Ouellet and – most importantly – Mike Green are all still Red Wings.

Glendening was always going to be a longshot.  Helm and DeKeyser as well.  Nyquist was probably going to stay if Tatar went so that’s not really a surprise, either.

Ouellet… It would have taken a team looking for just a little cheap depth, hoping a change of scenery helped.  I could have seen that happening but it’s not surprising that it didn’t.

Green, though, is difficult to swallow, even though I called it repeatedly.  He was supposed to be the Wings’ big trade piece and there was apparently absolutely no market for him.  Some of that is out of Detroit’s control, as why would Tampa want Green when they could get Ryan McDonagh.  It’s a bad look, though, when the good teams don’t even want your supposedly good players.

But that’s what makes the Tatar deal so much more important.  Tatar would have helped the Wings’ now.  He would have been fun to watch now.  But it’s clear that Detroit doesn’t have the assets to make big trades and doesn’t have the cap space to make big signings.  They need draft picks and they need to hit on those draft picks.

I don’t have a ton of faith in the organization to actually make good use of the picks, but they have to try.

Final Thoughts on Petr Mrazek

Much like my thoughts on Andreas Athanasiou‘s mindset during his holdout last fall, I have a theory on Petr Mrazek‘s tumultuous tenure with the Red Wings.  A lot of it is conjecture, so take it with a grain of salt, but I don’t think I’m far off.

Mrazek was known as a cocky goalie from the start.  His celebrations while playing for the Czech Republic in the 2012 World Junior Championship introduced him to the world.  His “attitude problems” through the 2016-17 season can be attributed to it.  His comments upon being traded reflect it.

“The pressure for both of us was pretty high,” he said. “You have to show up every night if you want to play the next game. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s a really good thing when we can battle between goalies and do the best that we can. Sometimes when they say, ‘you’re the guy who’s gonna play for a while,’ I think it’s better.”

Specifically that last line.  I read that as Mrazek being frustrated that he was never made “the guy” in Detroit.  Some might say he never earned it, given his regression last season, but I think the slump was caused by feeling threatened by the presence of Jimmy Howard.

We don’t know what went down in meetings between Mrazek and Ken Holland.  We don’t know the reasons behind decisions made by Mike Babcock and Jeff Blashill.  But what if it went something like this…

In 2012, Mrazek is coming off being named the best goaltender at the World Juniors.  He wraps up his OHL career and goes pro in the fall.  The Red Wings assign him to the ECHL to start the season but he quickly replaces future doctor Jordan Pearce in the AHL as the backup for the Grand Rapids Griffins, then supplants Tom McCollum as the starter.  He even gets in a couple games in Detroit, going 1-1 with a respectable .922 save percentage and 2.02 GAA.  By spring, he’s leading the Griffins to their first-ever Calder Cup Championship.

For 2013-14 Mrazek is back with the Griffins, with Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson manning the crease in Detroit.  In 32 games he drops his GAA to 2.10 and his save percentage gets up to .924.  He gets into nine games in Detroit, putting together a 1.74 GAA and a .927 save percentage.

Come summer of 2014, Mrazek has put together stellar numbers through the first two years of his pro career and Gustavsson’s contract is up.  There is no reason for him to not think that he’s earned the backup role in Detroit.  Yet the Red Wings re-sign Gustavsson after a season where he had a 2.63 GAA and a .907 save percentage.  With one year left on his existing deal, Mrazek signs a one-year contract extension – a one-way  contract to ensure he’s in Detroit for 2015-16 – but starts 2014-15 in Grand Rapids.

Injuries open the door for Mrazek, who steps in and plays 29 games.  His 2.38 GAA and 9.18 save percentage are better than both Howard and Gustavsson.  He starts all seven games of Detroit’s playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning and, though the Red Wings drop the series, Mrazek  improves on his regular season stats, going 2.11 and .925.

Despite his playoff starts, Mrazek is the backup when the Red Wings start the 2015-16 season.  He ends up starting 49 games, though, with a 2.33 GAA and a .921 save percentage, better than Howard’s 2.80 and .906.

Come Game One of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs – with the Red Wings facing the Lightning again – Howard gets the start.  In the first two games of the series, Howard puts up a .891 save percentage and a 3.59 GAA as the Red Wings go down, 2-0.  Mrazek takes over for Game Three but Detroit falls in five games.  Mrazek’s GAA is 1.36 and his save percentage is .945.

Mrazek’s contract extension from 2014 is up and on July 27, 2016, he agrees to something of a bridge deal, two years at $4 million each.  It’s less than Howard’s salary and a shorter deal but he’s being paid like a starter.  The rumor is that Howard will be dealt.  By all appearances, the Red Wings are now Mrazek’s team.

But Howard isn’t dealt.  Mrazek gets the start to open the season in Tampa and at the final home opener at Joe Louis Arena.  He gets 14 starts in the first two months, being pulled once.  Howard started 11 games, also being pulled once.  It’s clear it’s a 1A-1B situation.

It’s at this point that the wheels come off for Mrazek.  Even with Howard hurt for much of the season, Mrazek puts up the worst numbers of his career, with a 3.04 GAA and a .901 save percentage.  Both are better than the 3.46 and .887 of Jared Coreau, who “steals” some of Mrazek’s starts, including the outdoor Centennial Classic in Toronto.  Rumors abound about Mrazek’s attitude and it’s even suggested that Coreau is the true heir-apparent to the Detroit crease.

Six months later, Mrazek is left unprotected in the expansion draft, going unclaimed.

He comes into the 2017-18 season the clear backup.  It’s expected the Red Wings won’t even give him a qualifying offer when his contract is up (which has since been confirmed).  His .910 save percentage and 2.89 GAA nearly match Howard’s numbers but Mrazek ends up dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers.

If I were in Mrazek’s skates, I would have a bad attitude, too, and it would certainly impact my play.  I’m not saying it’s okay for that, just that I can understand it.

You rise up from the ECHL to the AHL to the NHL in your first season and carry your team to a Calder Cup Championship.  The next year your stats are even better, but a worse goalie is re-signed to play in front of you.  You take over the starting role anyway and make the most of it, putting up great numbers in a seven-game playoff series.

By next fall, you lose the starting role anyway.  You fight your way back to become the playoff starter again, you get a starter’s contract, and then again you’re the backup on opening night and the guy who they said they’d trade is still there taking up space in your crease.

It’s in your head, you falter, and suddenly the third-string goalie who hasn’t done anything is stealing your starts.  The spiral continues.  You pull yourself together over the summer.  After a rough start, you’re putting up similar numbers to your partner in the crease.  But it’s too late, you’re out.

Again, I’m not saying that Mrazek didn’t slump and didn’t have an attitude.  I’m saying that I can see why he would have one and why it would impact his play.  And, with that perspective in mind, it’s also why I think the Red Wings should have tried harder to deal Jimmy Howard, rather than giving up on Mrazek.

On Draft Pick Quantity vs. Quality

After trading Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday night, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said something that triggered a gut reaction of concern in me.  I honestly don’t know if there are numbers to back up my worry, so I’m going to walk through it a bit.

“What’s driving me is I want us to be a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup. We’re competitive, but we’re not quite where we need to be in order to be where we want to be. I have to acquire draft picks and we need to hit on those draft picks.

“The more draft picks I can acquire, or young players through trades, is a better chance we’re going to wake up three or four or five years from now, or two years from now, and start to see young players coming on to the team and have an impact.”

That’s from the Detroit News but Winging it in Motown highlighted it this morning.  It also comes coupled with rumblings that the Red Wings may accept two second round picks for Mike Green rather than a first-rounder.

It’s well-known that the Red Wings haven’t had many high draft picks in the last several decades.  Trying to find a team that has consistently picked near the Wings in the draft even just going back to the big lockout in 2005 is impossible.  They’re in a relatively unique situation that has – to a large extent – led to their current downswing, as they haven’t been able to restock their talent pool with top prospects.

Knowing that – yet hearing Holland declare than the answer is to acquire more second, third, and fourth round draft picks – is triggering my spidey sense, so to speak.  If the team’s downfall is because they never pick at the top, how is the path to a rebuild through the second and third and fourth rounds?

Let me take a second to acknowledge that defining picks by round is somewhat lazy.  The 32nd overall pick and the 62nd overall pick this summer will both be second-rounders but they’re not really comparable.  As such, while I’m attempting to apply some logic to this, it’s entirely unscientific.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking back at Detroit’s recent drafts, trying to determine just how good the organization is at making use of picks outside of the first round.  I went back to the 2005 draft as the salary cap era is really when the Wings were no longer able to replenish their roster via free agency.

Detroit has had 95 draft picks in that time.  Thus far, 33 of them have played at least one NHL game.  Yes, that measure means there’s built-in bias against recent drafts, as those players haven’t had the chance to make their debuts.

Eliminate the first-rounders, since we’re talking about what the Wings can do if they don’t acquire extra picks in the opening round, and we’re down to 26 players.  We might as well drop the sixth- and seventh-rounders, too, since no one has claimed you rebuild with those.  That’s another four gone, so we’re at 22.

Of those, only 14 are still in the NHL, though that leaves out Dominic Turgeon, who got a call-up earlier this year and is now back with the Griffins, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and call it 15.

That means since 2005, the Red Wings have drafted 15 players who “made it” (by a generous definition of the term) in the NHL in the second through fifth rounds.  That list is as follows:

If you’re looking at a rebuild, are those the players you’re looking for?

The Red Wings’ draft record in the rounds where they’re targeting picks seems to show that they won’t be able to do what they’re trying to do.

Obviously not every draft is equal and, as I already mentioned, not every pick in the same round of the same draft is equal.  If the Wings grabbed another Tatar and Nyquist in the second round this summer – combined with a good pick in the first round – it’d be a successful draft.  But if adding all of these picks results in more Xavier Ouellets and Ryan Sprouls, it’ll just be a waste.

Frankly, I’d be a lot more comfortable if the asking price for Mike Green went back to being a first-rounder.


Update, 12:15 PM: Via Twitter, @RedWingRubbish pointed out that @ChartingHockey has statistically determined that, outside of the top 24 picks, quantity does indeed beat quality.

This made me take a second look at the first-rounders I dropped from my original list.

Player Year Overall
Jakub Kindl 2005 19
Dylan Larkin 2014 15
Anthony Mantha 2013 20
Tom McCollum 2008 30
Riley Sheahan 2010 21
Brendan Smith 2007 27
Evgeny Svechnikov 2015 19

If you should be able to reasonably expect a “hit” in the top-24, the Red Wings are still doing something wrong.

Kindl made it into 353 games but never really panned out.  Larkin and Mantha are the players the Red Wings are building around right now.  McCollum is a bust.  Sheahan seems to have maxed out as a third-line center.  Smith – somewhat like Kindl – has washed out of the NHL.  Svechnikov is still a question mark.

Seven first-round picks – five in the top 24 overall – and only two players that can reliably play in the top half of the lineup.  Will Svechnikov or Michael Rasmussen or Filip Hronek or Vili Saarijarvi join that list?  Perhaps.  So for the sake of discussion I’ll switch to the 2005 – 2014 date range.

That gives the Red Wings six first-round picks, four in the top 24, with a 50% “hit” rate.

Who are their hits through the other rounds?  Tatar.  Nyquist.  I think it’s safe to include Athanasiou.  Mrazek, too, despite his epic slump.

There are plenty of other useful players, guys like Abdelkader and Helm.  A team needs those guys.  But you can’t make a team of them, you need high-end talent to lead them.

Over a decade, the Red Wings managed to draft one starting goalie (assuming Mrazek has shaken that slump), no top-three defensemen, and five top-six forwards.  It’s worse if you don’t include Mrazek or Athanasiou.

So maybe it’s not about the Wings needing to get more first-round picks.  Maybe it’s that – contrary to the myth – the Red Wings just don’t draft very well.

I don’t want to dig in to compare them to other teams.  As I said originally, it’s near-impossible to find a team that picked near the Red Wings for that whole period to use as a comparison anyway.  Maybe San Jose?

If it’s that the Wings don’t draft well, and they’re putting everything they have into the draft, things could get ugly fast.