So… That Top Line, Eh?

Just a couple days ago I wrote about how a small part of the Red Wings’ lineup this season was actually cause for excitement, and how we should expect those handful of players to be the exception, not the norm.

Over the weekend, those handful of players proved that, at least in the small sample size of two games, they could provide enough excitement for the whole team.

The Red Wings’ top line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi accounts for eight of the team’s nine goals thus far and is dragging the rest of the lineup kicking and screaming towards respectability.

Again, the small sample size has to be stressed.  Additionally, the schedule has favored the Wings to start things off; opening the season in Nashville, where they’ve had success of late, and then catching a Dallas team mired in a surprisingly slow start.

There were problems, too.  Detroit let a 2-0 lead disappear against the Predators and let the Stars jump out to a 2-0 lead the next night.  Those are the kinds of things I expected to see.

I didn’t expect the top line to be so dominant right out of the gate, though, and that’s been fun to watch.

Red Wings Acquire Defenseman Biega

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Sunday night the acquisition of defenseman Alex Biega from the Vancouver Canucks in return for left wing David Pope.

Biega cleared waivers last week and had been assigned to the AHL’s Utica Comets while Pope had been with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

I’ll admit, the move confuses me.

Biega cleared waivers last week, which means that, if the Red Wings wanted him in Detroit, they could have had him for free.

Sometimes a team will skip out on making a claim only to later trade for the player because they don’t have enough contract spots.  In this case, though, the Red Wings were at 47 out of a possible 50 contracts, so they had slots available.

Perhaps they didn’t make a claim because they wanted him in Grand Rapids, so they needed him to clear waivers first.  That would make some sense, except the Red Wings and the Griffins both already have eight defensemen on their respective rosters.

It could also be that something changed with the Red Wings’ lineup between when Biega was on waivers and this trade.  Trevor Daley did not play the third period tonight against the Stars.  If Daley’s injury is expected to be significant and if Jonathan Ericsson is not expected to return soon, the trade could have been made to give the Red Wings a seventh defenseman with experience.

I find that option hard to believe, though, because the Wings could have just called up Dylan McIlrath, Brian Lashoff, or Joe Hicketts, as they’ve done in the past.

The way this makes the most sense to me is if Daley and Ericsson will not be available long-term and the organization wants to keep McIlrath, Lashoff, and Hicketts all in Grand Rapids to mentor guys like Moritz Seider and Gustav Lindstrom.  I find it hard to believe that one of the AHL veterans couldn’t be spared to fill in with Detroit but I could see if that was the organization’s thinking.

I imagine we’ll learn more about the thinking behind the deal on Monday.

Thoughts on the Opening Night Roster

I’ve struggled to put together words about what I think of the Red Wings’ expected lineup on Saturday in Nashville.

Some years you can look at the lineup and there’s something odd about it, either good or bad, that makes things interesting.  An unexpected missing player or a prospect who had a breakout camp to make the team.

Maybe you could say the absence of Niklas Kronwall is the former but, given the fact that his retirement was kind of telegraphed and the glut of defensemen on the Red Wings’ roster, I don’t really think so.

The roster that the Wings will open the season with has pretty much been set since the July 1 signings of Patrik Nemeth and Valtteri Filppula.  Once Adam Erne was acquired on August 14, the idea of Filip Zadina or Joe Veleno or Evgeny Svechnikov challenging for a roster spot in camp was put to bed.

I’ll admit, part of why I was hopeful that the Red Wings would claim Josh Ho-Sang off of waivers is that at least it would be a surprise and give something to follow.

I’m not saying there’s nothing exciting about the Detroit lineup.  It’s just most of that excitement is centered around six or seven players.

Yes, I want to see what the line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi can do together over an entire season.  I want to see if Taro Hirose is the real deal after the hot start to his pro career last spring.  I want to see if Filip Hronek takes another step and if Dennis Cholowski can stick in Detroit.

And I always want to watch Andreas Athanasiou.

That’s a third of the team.

There are a lot of players on the Red Wings’ roster for whom my hope going into the season is simply that they don’t regress.  Or, in some cases, don’t continue to regress.  My expected best case scenario for them is for me to not notice they’re out there.

This is not going to be a good team.  Yeah, some of the players have to talk about just getting in and then surprising people.  Aside from that, no one is predicting Detroit to finish outside of the bottom five in the league.

This is a rebuilding team.  We should expect them to be bad.  It’s beneficial, to a certain extent, for them to be bad, as it should help their draft position.

It is not, however, an exciting team.  There may be some exciting players but it is not an exciting team.

This team is built to lose, but hopefully not embarrassingly.  A big part of the roster is there to just not screw up so badly that the remaining players can’t make something of it.

That’s not much to get excited about.

On Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection

Four years after being released in Sweden, Nicklas Lidstrom‘s biography is getting a bit of a makeover and an English release. Originally titled Lidstrom: Captain Fantastic, the update carries the name Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection.

Disclaimer: Not being Swedish-speaking, I never read the original. As such, I can’t speak to how much the actual content changed between the Swedish and English releases. While the increased page count (roughly 200 in the original compared to 278 [plus some pages of photos] in the new edition) would imply significant new content, it could also be due to a formatting change or the addition of an appendix including Lidstrom’s stats and records. The new book’s final chapter does reference events that occurred after the original’s release, so at least some of the content is new.

I’ve stated in the past that I like biographies that give a different view to the stories we already know. In the Internet Age, with events reported on from seemingly every angle in real-time, that gets harder and harder to do. Lidstrom’s biography is no different on that front. This being a second release makes it even more difficult, as the chapter discussing his injury during the 2009 Western Conference Finals might have been shocking had it not been revealed four years ago.

What makes Lidstrom’s biography unique is what made Lidstrom himself unique: consistency. Every chapter carries the same thread forward, showing how Lidstrom worked like a machine at every level of his career.

A chapter about his youth playing days? Here’s a quote from a coach describing how he was different even then. His rookie year in the NHL? Here’s Brad McCrimmon saying virtually the same thing. His international career? Here’s Peter Forsberg. His NHL breakout? Wayne Gretzky. His ascension to the captaincy? Steve Yzerman. The end of his career? Drew Doughty.

At every level of his career it would appear that the biggest names on the stage recognized just how unique Lidstrom was. Reading those players gushing over Lidstrom is a big part of what makes this book fun.

My personal favorite story from the book would be the one that’s also the most painful to me as a fan, as Lidstrom describes how much it hurt to lose Game Seven of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals. To see that it still haunts Lidstrom shows his humanity as a contrast to the machine-like performance he’s so famous for.

One final note: The book’s cover carries a bit of a lie.

I read that as “Nicklas Lidstrom with Gunnar Nordstrom and Bob Duff.” An autobiography with help from a couple professional writers. Which would be acceptable; I don’t think anyone would have been surprised if Lidstrom had narrated his story and allowed the writers to shape it as necessary.

The problem the book is in the third person. I don’t know how much was written by Nordstrom and how much came from Duff but – aside from the photo captions – it would appear none of it was written by Lidstrom himself. As such, it’s not so much “with” Nordstrom and Duff as it is “by” them. That might be a small thing but I do think it’s worth noting.

Nicklas Lidstrom: The Pursuit of Perfection is scheduled for release next week, on October 1, 2019.

Public Service Announcement: Red Wings’ Nameplates Haven’t Changed

With the Red Wings opening up their preseason exhibition schedule tonight, I figured it was time to make the annual public service announcement about their jerseys.

Mike Green wearing the Red Wings’ preseason nameplate (Credit: Clark Rasmussen)

Yes, they’re wearing straight nameplates on their jerseys, including a pretty standard block font.

No, it’s not a permanent change.

Detroit does this every preseason and seemingly every year it causes some to question what happened to the team’s traditional vertically-arched nameplates.

Sean Avery, Tomas Kopecky, and Chris Chelios wearing the Red Wings’ preseason jerseys in 2002 (Credit: Clark Rasmussen)

Maybe you like the romantic-sounding “the players have to earn the fancy nameplate” reason.  Maybe you accept that vertically-arched nameplates for a 60-man preseason roster would be a lot of effort for the Red Wings’ equipment staff.

Whatever reason you like, it’s not permanent.  They’ll be back to the normal lettering come Opening Night.

Twenty-three

Today marks the twenty-third anniversary of the founding of DetroitHockey.Net, originally known as YzerFan19’s Detroit Red Wings Home Page.

Obviously, things have changed a lot since then.

I wish I had some words of wisdom to share with regards to that.  Things that I’ve learned or poignant commentary.  I don’t know.  I guess the lesson of DetroitHockey.Net’s most recent year is don’t get into trademark disputes with Major League Baseball.

Absent such a maxim, I’m going to take a page from DH.N’s 17th anniversary post and talk about Red Wings who have worn #23.

Greg Johnson was wearing #23 when this site was founded.  Mike Ramsey wore it for his only two games of the 1996-97 season, after Johnson was traded to Pittsburgh for Tomas Sandstrom; with Tomas Holmstrom having been assigned the #15 Ramsey had worn with the Red Wings up to that point.

Stacy Roest had the number next, before being selected by the Minnesota Wild in the expansion draft and wearing #22 for them.  While Roest was with Minnesota, Todd Gill had his second stint with the Red Wings and took the number up after – like Ramsey – having previously worn #15 for Detroit.

Roest returned to the Red Wings for the 2002-03 season and, with Gill wrapping up his career in Chicago, retook #23.  That didn’t last long, though, as the Red Wings acquired Mathieu Schneider at that season’s trade deadline and gave him the number, with Roest switching to #39.

Another trade deadline acquisition was next to have #23, as Brad Stuart took it in 2008.  Upon his departure in 2012, it was quickly snatched up by Brian Lashoff, who had worked his way from #32 to #25 to #23 during training camps.

Lashoff eventually ceded #23 to Dominic Turgeon, switching back to #32.  Despite the switch, Turgeon actually debuted wearing #45 as the team was on the road when he was called up and his #23 jersey wasn’t available.  Turgeon also briefly lost the number to Scott Wilson but never had to pick another number as Wilson’s entire Detroit tenure coincided with Turgeon being in Grand Rapids.

Thoughts on the Captaincy

Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill announced today that the team would go a second consecutive season without naming a captain.

The move comes contrary to rumors that flew all summer about Detroit star Dylan Larkin being named as the successor to Henrik Zetterberg, whose playing career is over due to back issues but will remain under contract with the club for two more seasons.  While Larkin may indeed be the Red Wings next captain, that won’t happen this season.

While a new captain will not be named defensive specialist Luke Glendening was added to the rotation of alternate captains (alongside Larkin, Justin Abdelkader, and Frans Nielsen), giving the Red Wings four players wearing the A.

The captaincy is something that is very tradition-heavy in the NHL.  Steve Yzerman‘s retired jersey banner includes the C in recognition of his tenure as Detroit’s captain.  Joe Sakic’s does as well, as the Avalanche have never had an original thought.

It was a big deal when the Vancouver Canucks named goalie Roberto Luongo as their captain in 2008, skirting NHL rules to do so.  Similarly, it was something of a shock when, just five years ago, the San Jose Sharks stripped Joe Thornton of their captaincy.

Now, it seems that some of the gravitas behind the captaincy is gone.

Per the NHL rulebook, only players with letters are allowed to talk to the referees.  That rule is ignored on a nightly basis.  If any player can talk to the refs, there’s no in-game reason to designate one as captain.

The Red Wings showed how unnecessary on-ice captains are during the 2015-16 season.  For 34 games that year they dressed two or fewer captains due to injury, opting not to name replacements on a game-by-game basis, knowing there was no need to.  A season earlier they did that ten times, while also using four alternate-alternate captains.

Compare the current decade to the 1990s.

From 1990-91 to 1999-2000, there were six instances of a team going an entire season without a captain.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning.

There will be as many cases of teams going captain-less this season, same as last season.  There will be 25 instances of teams not naming a captain between 2010-11 and 2019-20.  Three of those were the first seasons of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

Teams are instead opting to name a “leadership group,” as the Golden Knights called it in 2017 and the Canucks did in 2018 and the Red Wings have seemingly done this year.

It may just be that the captaincy doesn’t carry the importance it used to.  If a letter isn’t required on the ice, and if leaders make themselves known in the dressing room regardless of whether or not they’re a captain, then why name one at all?

2019 Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

With the Red Wings having claimed the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup as champions of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, the team is ready for their main training camp to begin, and with that comes the release of their training camp roster.

The roster includes 67 players.  Only two players who were on the Prospects Tournament roster will not be appearing in the main camp – Elmer Soderblom and Gustav Berglund.  No NHL free agents will be appearing with the Red Wings as pro try-outs.

There are no surprise jersey number changes revealed by the roster announcement.

Evgeni Svechnikov, who missed the entire 2018-19 season, will keep the #37 he was scheduled to wear last year.  He wore that number for his debut in 2016-17 before switching to #77 for the 2017-18 campaign.

Finnish free agent signing Oliwer Kaski claims that #77, after having worn #7 with Pelicans last season.  Kaski taking #77 would explain why Taro Hirose, who specifically was looking for a number with seven in it, took #67 instead of #77.

I had speculated that #26 might have gone to Thomas Vanek on a PTO but that ended up going to Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain Matt Ford, who was assigned #77 last fall.  Similarly, I thought that #50 might go to someone on a try-out but, instead, it’s been assigned to Dominik Shine, with Ryan Kuffner having taken the #56 that Shine wore in camp last year.

Goalie Calvin Pickard, the Red Wings’ only remaining free agent signing to not have a number announced, has taken #31.  He’s worn #30 in the past but Detroit has that semi-retired for Chris Osgood, it would seem.

The #3 worn last season by Nick Jensen has been assigned to defenseman Jared McIsaacLibor Sulak‘s #47 has gone to Marcus Crawford of the Griffins.

Any other changes are related to camp invitees and/or were already confirmed.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
8 Justin Abdelkader
11 Filip Zadina
15 Chris Terry
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Matthew Ford
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Mathieu Bizier
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
50 Dominik Shine
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Matt Puempel
56 Ryan Kuffner
57 Turner Elson
58 David Pope
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
61 Jacob de la Rose
62 Cody Morgan
64 Josh Kestner
67 Taro Hirose
70 Christoffer Ehn
71 Dylan Larkin
72 Andreas Athanasiou
73 Adam Erne
75 Troy Loggins
76 Jarid Lukosevicius
78 Gregor MacLeod
79 Thomas Casey
81 Frans Nielsen
82 Tyler Spezia
88 Chad Yetman
89 Owen Robinson
90 Joe Veleno

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Jared McIsaac
17 Filip Hronek
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
25 Mike Green
28 Gustav Lindstrom
29 Vili Saarijarvi
32 Brian Lashoff
47 Marcus Crawford
52 Jonathan Ericsson
53 Moritz Seider
63 Alec McCrea
65 Danny DeKeyser
74 Madison Bowey
77 Oliwer Kaski
83 Trevor Daley
86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous
87 Marc-Olivier Duquette
94 Alec Regula
98 Owen Lalonde

Goalies

Num. Name
31 Calvin Pickard
35 Jimmy Howard
36 Kaden Fulcher
38 Filip Larsson
45 Jonathan Bernier
60 Pat Nagle
68 Sean Romeo
80 Anthony Popovich

2019 Prospects Tournament Jersey Number Notes

With the Red Wings having released their roster for the 2019 Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, we have a chance to take a look at how the jersey numbers assigned have changed since the team’s development camp in June.

The short answer: Not much.

The Red Wings are bringing many of the same players who were at development camp to Traverse City and most of them are keeping the numbers they had last time around.  That said, there are some changes of note.

Two players will skate with the Red Wings in Traverse City who weren’t at development camp.  Goalies Sean Romeo and Anthony Popovich, both free-agent try-outs, have been assigned the Red Wings’ standard “random goalie prospect numbers,” with Romeo getting #68 and Popovich getting #80.  Try-out Drew DeRidder had been assigned #68 while Keith Petruzelli wore #80.

Given Detroit’s history assigning numbers, these changes are virtually meaningless.

Three players returning from June have new numbers.

Thomas Casey, who wore #50 at development camp, switches to #79, which had been assigned to try-out Samuel Bucek.  No one is assigned #50 for the prospects tournament.

Similarly, Marc-Olivier Duquette switches from #26 to #87, with #26 not assigned.  Charles-Edouard D’Astous, who’d worn #87 at development camp, drops to #86, which was worn by Seth Barton in June.

This could indicate that players wearing #26 and #50 will be in the Red Wings’ main camp.  Those numbers weren’t included when the team announced new numbers for players next season, which would suggest that anyone wearing them in camp would either be a try-out or otherwise not expected to make the Detroit roster.

With that in mind, I’m going to make a couple guesses.

Thomas Vanek remains unsigned and has a good relationship with the Red Wings’ organization, though it was under Ken Holland rather than Steve Yzerman.  As such, the open #26 could be Vanek on a try-out, reclaiming the number he wore last year.

Similarly, #50 could be defenseman Dan Girardi, who usually wears the #5 that is retired in Detroit.  Girardi, coming off of two seasons in Tampa Bay with Yzerman as his GM, might be of interest to Detroit if they were moving one of their current veteran defensemen prior to the start of the season.  Without such a deal, adding Girardi would just contribute to the ever-present blueline logjam throughout the Wings organization.

Of course, it’s “just” the Prospects Tournament, and the players changing are all try-outs, so these number changes could mean nothing.

The full roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
42 Mathieu Bizier
79 Thomas Casey
67 Taro Hirose
56 Ryan Kuffner
75 Troy Loggins
76 Jarid Lukosevicius
78 Gregor MacLeod
62 Cody Morgan
46 Chase Pearson
89 Owen Robinson
48 Givani Smith
85 Elmer Soderblom
90 Joe Veleno
88 Chad Yetman

Defensemen

Num. Name
97 Gustav Berglund
86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous
87 Marc-Olivier Duquette
98 Owen Lalonde
28 Gustav Lindstrom
63 Alec McCrea
94 Alec Regula
53 Moritz Seider

Goalies

Num. Name
36 Kaden Fulcher
38 Filip Larsson
80 Anthony Popovich
68 Sean Romeo

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