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.

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.

Red Wings Add Forward de la Rose

The Red Wings announced on Wednesday that they have claimed forward Jacob de la Rose off waivers from the Montreal Canadiens.

de la Rose is likely a depth forward, but given that the Red Wings are already scratching Martin Frk and sometimes-forward Luke Witkowski, one has to question what adding yet another forward get them.

My guess?  This gives the team some added depth if they decide to send Michael Rasmussen back to juniors.  Evgeny Svechnikov is hurt and Filip Zadina seems to need more time in Grand Rapids.  de la Rose gives them a body who they can let sit in the press box if that’s all they need.

Retired Numbers: Who’s Next?

There’s been buzz over the last couple seasons about Sergei Fedorov‘s #91 being retired by the Red Wings, something that Jim Devellano seemed to put the kibosh on during the somewhat-surprising announcement on Thursday that Red Kelly‘s #4 would head to the rafters later this season.

But if not Fedorov, and with the team seemingly looking to its more-distant past for numbers to honor, who might be next?

Devellano tells us that, in order for your number to be retired by the Detroit Red Wings, you have to win a Stanley Cup in Detroit. We’re also told that Larry Aurie’s number is not retired because he’s not in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Additionally, you have to not have offended the Ilitch family and they don’t have to explain who has offended them, so that’s a bit of a wildcard that I’ll ignore here.

There are 23 players who fit those requirements for Detroit. As of February, eight of them will be in the rafters. That leaves 15 remaining.

Do they all qualify? Well, Luc Robitaille is one of those and I think you can eliminate him, so lets put a couple more limits on it.

No player with a currently-retired number had fewer than three Stanley Cups with Detroit. I think it’s safe to drop that down to two. Sid Abel’s 570 games played with Detroit is the lowest of those whose numbers have already been retired but it was across twelve seasons. As such, I think we can go with a limit of nine seasons or 600 games played, which helps us cover a few different eras.

That eliminates Robitaille, Dominic Hasek, Brett Hull, Igor Larionov, Larry Murphy, and Viacheslav Fetisov from the modern era. Marty Barry, Glenn Hall, and Harry Lumley are also out – though Hall’s only Cup with Detroit was as a spare goalie without playing a game, so he probably should have been eliminated even earlier.

That leaves us with six. Fedorov is out for now, per Jimmy D, but they’re clearly holding his number since Brad Richards couldn’t have it. Brendan Shanahan and Chris Chelios both have had their numbers given out multiple times since they left the team, so I would assume they’re out, or at least not immediately under consideration.

Ebbie Goodfellow won two Cups with the Red Wings in the 1930s while playing 557 games across 14 seasons, so he’s an option. His #5 is now retired for Nicklas Lidstrom, though, so there probably wouldn’t be quite so big of a ceremony to retire a number that’s already in the rafters.

Syd Howe only played 515 games with Detroit but did so across 12 seasons, winning three Stanley Cups while wearing #8.

I think the most likely option of the group, though is Marcel Pronovost and his #3, with 983 games played across 15 seasons and four Stanley Cups. A two-time first team All-Star and two time second-team All-Star, he – along with Kelly – was the a cornerstone of the blueline for the 1950s Stanley Cup teams.

All of that said…  I don’t think we’ll see any of these retired.  What is the one thing that Red Kelly has over the three other old-timers?  He’s still alive.  It looks a lot more like you’re actually honoring the player and not just trying to get people to buy tickets if the player can actually show up to the event.

Of course, we still don’t know why the Red Wings are retiring Kelly’s number after so long, so maybe there’s more here that we don’t know.

On Jersey Number Retirements

The Red Wings announced yesterday that they will retire the #4 of Leonard “Red” Kelly prior to their game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 1, 2019.

Kelly won four Stanley Cups as a defenseman with the Red Wings in the early 1950s, was the team’s captain later in the decade, and then was traded to the Maple Leafs during the 1959-60 season (as punishment for disclosing that he had played on a broken ankle, something Detroit general manager Jack Adams was keeping secret).  He switched to playing center with Toronto and won four more Stanley Cups.

After retiring in 1967, Kelly was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.  The Maple Leafs honored his number on October 4, 2006, and fully retired it on October 15, 2016, in a celebration of the team’s 100th anniversary.


Retiring Red Kelly‘s number makes sense but I still can’t shake a cynical feeling about it.

It’s an honor that should have happened in the early 1990s.  The Red Wings retired Ted Lindsay‘s #7 and Alex Delvecchio‘s #10 in 1991, Terry Sawchuk’s #1 in 1994, and Sid Abel’s #12 in 1995.  Kelly would have fit perfectly into that group as the core of the team’s early 1950s Stanley Cup Championships.  That his number wasn’t raised to the rafters then seemed to show that it wouldn’t be.

Since then we’ve seen Steve Yzerman‘s #19 and Nicklas Lidstrom‘s #5 raised, with much pomp and circumstance leading up to the events.  The dates were announced before the start of the season and ticket packages were sold around them.

So to see Kelly’s number retired now, with the announcement tucked into a pregame press availability, gives me a bad vibe.  It feels to me like a ploy to get people to come down to a game between a bad team and a very good team.

That said, as I Tweeted last night, the timing makes more sense than the Wings usually give to jersey retirements.  Toronto is the perfect opponent to raise Kelly’s number against, while history shows the team preferring to do so against a lesser draw on a weeknight to boost their ticket sales.  So if there’s a reason to give the team the benefit of the doubt, it’s that.

Whatever the reason, a deserving number is going to the rafters, righting the wrong of it not having been up there already.


But if I’m talking about wrongs, I have to mention Larry Aurie.  The franchise’s first star player, Aurie led the Red Wings in their early days, including when the team was known as the Cougars and the Falcons.

Jack Adams thought enough of Aurie that his #6 was retired in 1939, when Aurie hung up his skates.  It was later brought back into circulation so that Aurie’s cousin, Cummy Burton, could wear it, then put back into retirement.

Gordie Howe‘s #9 later joined Aurie’s #6 as unavailable, but in old arenas like The Olympia, teams rarely raised numbers to the rafters.

That changed with the team’s move to Joe Louis Arena and Mike and Marian Ilitch buying the team from the Norris family.  Howe’s #9 was the first number given a banner.  Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuk, and Sid Abel would follow.  Aurie did not.

At some point, the team’s story became that the core of the 1950s Cup Championship teams were all Hall of Famers and that only those in the HHOF would get banners.  Aurie never made it to the Hall, so his number would be retired but not honored.

Then the 2000-01 NHL Guide and Record Book came out, with Aurie’s #6 no longer listed among the team’s retired numbers.  Suddenly it was not only not honored but not even retired at all.

Despite this seeming lost of status, #6 was not assigned between 2000 and 2010, when Mike Modano signed with Detroit.  Modano – unable to get his usual #9 due to it’s retirement for Howe – asked about #6.

“I wanted No. 6, but they told me about Larry Aurie,” said Modano, referring to Aurie, who played between 1927-39, and had his number retired by former Wings owner James Norris.

“I thought it would be easy to just flip 9 to 6,” Modano said. “I would have loved 6, but maybe 90.”

If the all-time leading American scorer can’t have the number, that sure sounds to me like it’s retired.

They may not have raised banners to celebrate that in the 1930s, but we do now, and it’s time for Aurie’s number to have that honor.


And then there’s Sergei Fedorov.

There was buzz over the summer that Fedorov’s #91 might be retired this season, something that didn’t come to happen.  Chris Ilitch commented on that when Kelly’s number retirement was announced.

“Obviously Sergei was an outstanding Red Wing. He was a big part of bringing three Stanley Cups to Detroit. He’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame,” Ilitch answered. “The subject of number retirement, it’s an important subject, it deserves a lot of conversation, a lot of thought. We’re continuously evaluating that with our organization. Related to 91 and 40 (Henrik Zetterberg), let’s see what the future holds.”

It wasn’t what Ilitch said, though, that really explained where Fedorov stands with the organization.  That was Jim Devellano.

“There are other things that I’m not going to get into,” Devellano said. “Do you realize that he wanted out of the Red Wings (organization) on two occasions? Are you familiar with that? Did you know he turned the owners down on a 5-year, $50 million contract? Did you know he signed an offer sheet with the Carolina Hurricanes and we had to match with a $24 million signing bonus?”

What this makes clear is that this is an organization that holds grudges.

You buy a team, you get to run it how you want, and that means you don’t have to honor any players you don’t want to.  We’ve seen that with Aurie (for whatever reason) and we’ll see that with Fedorov.  We’ll probably see it with Pavel Datsyuk.

Seats and Such

Yesterday, Ilitch Holdings announced that the red seats at Little Caesars Arena will be replaced by black ones in a project starting in December.

The bright red seats – and the lack of people in them – have been a point of discussion since the arena opened a year ago.

Neither the Red Wings nor the Pistons are particularly good right now and the arena was designed with “gathering places” that keep ticketholders out of the arena bowl.  This leaves large groups of empty bright red seats clearly visible to the TV audience.

Ilitch Holdings – who owns the arena – did not cite this perception as a reason for making the change, however.

“We evaluated every aspect of arena operations during the inaugural year and after numerous discussions with the Pistons and other stakeholders, we have made the decision to install black seats at Little Caesars Arena,” said Chris Granger, group president of Sports & Entertainment for Ilitch Holdings.

If there hadn’t been so much talk about how bad the empty red seats looked, it would be easy to take this statement at face value.  With the arena originally designed just for the Red Wings, after the first year this issue for the Pistons was found and so they’re fixing it.  We do have that context, though, so we can’t ignore it.

As a fan, it’s easy to say that one would rather see the organizations working to put people in those seats rather than masking the fact that they’re empty.  As I Tweeted this morning, Mike Ilitch famously gave away cars to get fans in the doors of Joe Louis Arena while he worked to rebuild the franchise.  That his son chooses to cover up the problem rather than actually fill the seats feels wrong.

That said, there are levels where it makes sense.

The cost of replacing the seats is reportedly $3.5 million.  If you applied that money to discounting tickets, over roughly 18500 seats and 80 home games between the Red Wings and Pistons, you’d get about a $2 discount per ticket per game.  It’s not enough to get those seats sold and it doesn’t account for future seasons.

Additionally, even if you find a way to make sure every ticket to every game is sold, the arena was designed with those aforementioned “gathering places.”  There’s nothing stopping people who bought tickets from hanging out somewhere other than their seat.  It’s too late to argue about whether or not the arena should have been built that way or why anyone would buy tickets to a game just to sit somewhere else to watch it but what can be changed is how it looks when that happens.

If Ilitch Holdings is trying to fix the optics of a bunch of empty seats, this isn’t a bad way to do it.  But as a fan, it still leaves me with a bad feeling.  It’s a reminder of just how much these teams are a passion for their fanbases but a business to their owners.