Postgame Thoughts: Panthers @ Red Wings, 2/20

I’ll start with something I said via Twitter that wasn’t appreciated: I don’t like Anthony Mantha challenging Aleksander Barkov for Barkov’s hit on Dylan Larkin late in the third period today.

Part of it is that bad things happen when Mantha plays that role.  The guy’s hands are glass.  If someone needs to step up, it should not be him.

More controversially, I don’t think the hit was that bad.  I know there are a lot of people saying Barkov stuck his leg out, even saying that it was a (or was at least an attempted) knee-on-knee hit.  I see an awkward hip check.  Barkov’s hip went backwards, his leg went out sideways, and his hip is what made contact.  I’m sure we could say that he stuck his hip out to cover for the fact that he was sticking his leg out but I just don’t see it.

I could see the argument that it was late, maybe.  But I just don’t see that as one that someone should be made to answer for.

Anyway…

Going into the game I was unhappy to see the Red Wings going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with Evgeni Svechnikov left out of the lineup.  I was going to say that, as much as I didn’t like it, much like the healthy scratch of Mantha earlier this season, it would probably work.  I should have hit send.

After so many missed chances this season, it was great to see Mathias Brome get his first career NHL goal.  It’s also funny because he’s had better chances than that one but that’s the one that went in.  I didn’t realize until he scored that goal that he didn’t even have a point yet this season.  Eye-test-wise, he’s played way better than that.

Despite the Brome goal and the outcome, this didn’t feel particularly fun to watch.  Wings games rarely have over the last couple seasons. so that’s not a surprise, but it makes it feel like wins aren’t as earned.

On the aesthetic side, man, I love those Panthers’ Reverse Retro jerseys.  I thought for sure that the Red Wings would use an opportunity when they were already wearing white at home to break out their own Reverse Retro set but they didn’t.  Part of me wonders if the Wings will try to slide through the season never wearing theirs.

Speaking of Reverse Retros, that’s what all four teams are wearing in this weekend’s Outdoor Games at Lake Tahoe.

Seeing media coverage of the event via Twitter has been difficult for me.  As I noted earlier today, it seems like there are a lot of journalists or other media personalities praising the visuals at Lake Tahoe, calling for more events like that.  And I applaud the NHL for giving this a shot, even though the first game is currently paused after one period because of ice issues, because it is a gorgeous setting.

But there are no fans there.  This season, that’s not a big deal.  But you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that, in a normal season, we should be doing made-for-TV events that only media actually get to go to live.  I get that these events (hell, even normal games) have gotten so expensive that a lot of fans are unable to attend in person.  But crossing the line to events that no fans can attend in person seems like too much.

Especially as the line between “fan” and “journalist” seems to dissolve further and further.  In the bad old days of the blogosphere, one of the knocks against bloggers was our fandom, our partiality.  Now there are credentialed media who feel a lot like cheerleaders on Twitter.  So to see those journalists calling for more events without fans, which would be open to them, while they act more and more fan-like…  It rubs me the wrong way.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle

Red Wings Re-Up Mantha on Four-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday the signing of restricted free agent forward Anthony Mantha to a four-year deal.

Financial terms were not announced, of course, but Elliotte Friedman reports that the deal carries a $5.7 million salary cap hit.

Getting Mantha for less than $6 million is a fantastic deal for the Red Wings.  I also really like the four-year term.  We’ll know a lot more about this team in four years.  Maybe it’ll make sense to pay Mantha again at that time, maybe it’ll make sense to walk away, maybe it’ll make sense to flip him earlier and focus on a younger core.  The term gives Detroit flexibility as we see what the rebuild looks like.

Red Wings Sign Forward Namestnikov

The Detroit Red Wings signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov on Sunday, continuing the rebuild of their roster.

Namestnikov is a familiar face for Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, who drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for Tampa Bay.

Financial terms were, of course, not officially announced, but the deal reportedly carries a $2 million salary cap hit, with annual amounts of $1.5 million and $2.5 million.  Like Thomas Greiss‘ deal, more money is in the second year.  Whether as escrow protection for the player or expansion draft protection for the team, we’re seeing that become more common this year.

Namestnikov gives the Red Wings another option at second-line center, should Robby Fabbri not work out there.  Theoretically, the team could roll lines looking something like this:

Anthony ManthaDylan LarkinTyler Bertuzzi
Filip Zadina – Vladislav Namestnikov – Robby Fabbri
Dmytro Timashov – Sam GagnerBobby Ryan
Darren HelmLuke GlendeningValtteri Filppula
Adam Erne
Frans Nielsen

That’s a completely rebuilt middle six since the start of last season, done entirely on the cheap.  They’re not world-beaters by any means but that’s not a bad accomplishment for Yzerman.  Perhaps most importantly, that’s a lineup where you can clearly see a top nine and then a fourth line, rather than a top line and then a bunch of other players slotted in wherever they can.

The problem is that this leaves no room for Evgeny Svechnikov, who is basically on a “last chance” one-year deal and would have to clear waivers to be reassigned elsewhere.  Maybe this means the Wings let Zadina stay overseas for another year.  Maybe it means they dump a contract.  I don’t know.

Jersey number geek notes: Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career, save for a stint as #65 as a rookie. Will the Red Wings let him take #90 from Joe Veleno? If not, I bet Namestnikov goes with something like #60 or #95. It certainly blocks Bobby Ryan from following in the footsteps of Mike Modano and Stephen Weiss, though, and turning his #9 into #90.  Outside chance?  Namestnikov wears #13 in honor of his uncle, Vyacheslav Kozlov.

Free Agency Day One Recap

It’s probably safe to say that Day One of NHL free agency is done and the site was down for a big part of the day so let’s do a recap.

Ryan and Merrill

The Red Wings started their day by signing forward Bobby Ryan to a one-year, $1 million deal.  As I said at the time, I love it.  Is it possible that Ryan ends up injured and/or worthless?  Absolutely.  At $1 million for one year, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

The one funny thing about the Ryan deal is that, in an interview after signing, Ryan said he might want to wear #17 because it was Brett Hull‘s number in Detroit, apparently unaware that it belongs to Filip Hronek now.

As far as Merrill goes, well, everyone expected a hometown defenseman to be signing with Detroit today, right?  The Merrill signing signals to me that the Wings expect some of their young guys to not be available this season.  Mortiz Seider in Sweden, for example.  They need veteran guys to fill in for a season in the meantime.  Merrill can burn minutes on this team cheaply.

Talbot, Markstrom, Turris and Shattenkirk

Coming into the day, the Red Wings were linked to both Cam Talbot and Jacob Markstrom to fill their gap in goal.  I would have liked Talbot in Detroit but he got three years for $11 million from Minnesota.  I actually don’t dislike that cap hit but wouldn’t have wanted to give three years.

Markstrom was never going to sign that cheaply so I was glad to see him go to Calgary just to get him off the board, just in case Steve Yzerman did something ridiculous.  I think the six-year, $36 million he got from the Flames is ridiculous, too, but I don’t have to care what they pay.

Kyle Turris was linked to Detroit if for no reason other than his chemistry with Anthony Mantha playing for Team Canada.  He seemed like a prime candidate to want to sign with a contender for cheap, though, and that’s pretty much what he did, going to the Oilers for two years and $3.3 million.  Not a bad deal and I’d have been happy to see him sign it in Detroit, but the Wings aren’t a contender.

In the middle of the day, news broke seemingly out of the blue that the Wings were in on defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.  Just as quickly, he signed a three-year, $11.7 million deal with the Ducks.  So much for that.

Depth Signings

The Wings’s last move of the day was around 5:00 PM with a trio of AHL-level deals, bringing back forward Kyle Criscuolo, a former Griffin from the 2017 Calder Cup run, and adding goalie Kevin Boyle and forward Riley Barber.

If the AHL actually has a season, the Griffins will need bodies.  Even more so if some of the Wings’ kids are in Europe to start the year.  I’ve got no complaints about any of these moves.

The one thing I find interesting is that Detroit brought in a minor-league goalie even with Cal Pickard, Filip Larsson, and Kaden Fulcher all signed, plus Pat Nagle on an AHL deal.  I don’t think it means that Pickard has been tabbed as Jonathan Bernier‘s backup in Detroit but it could.

Torey Krug

The big late-night news was Torey Krug signing with the St. Louis Blues for $45.5 million over seven years.  For months we’ve heard about the possibility of him coming to Detroit but that was from a lot of people ignoring his exit interviews with the Bruins.  He made it clear that his top priority was getting paid, not coming back to his hometown team, and he got his money.

Tyler Johnson

To close out the night was a weird rumor from Frank Seravalli:

So the theory behind this is that Lightning tried to trade Johnson as a salary dump but he has a no-trade clause and would have used it to block a move to any team who could take his salary.  Unable to trade him, the Lightning instead waive him, which he can’t block.  Nominally, it’s for the purposes of a buyout, in which case they’d be on the hook for part of his cap hit but not all of it, so it’s a small win.

But what if a team, such as Detroit, claimed him?  His full cap hit would be gone from Tampa and Johnson would have no recourse to stop the transaction.  And if Tampa then just happened to complete a deal with the Red Wings to send something of value in to Detroit in return for peanuts, well, that’s a totally separate thing, certainly not a handshake deal to send Johnson (and his salary) to the Red Wings, circumventing Johnson’s no-trade clause.

That’s a lot of conspiracy theory talk for me, and I like sports conspiracy theories.  I can’t see Yzerman going for a move that would likely be subject to a grievance if there was any chance of it being perceived as less than legal.

That said…  I want the Wings to take bad cap dollars on to gain other assets but Johnson’s deal is really bad.  Four more seasons at $5 million per year for a guy whose numbers dropped off dramatically during the Bolts’ Cup run.  That side deal would have to be extremely impressive to make that move.

What’s Left?

As free agency moves on, the Red Wings still need a goalie, probably at least one defenseman, and maybe some forwards.  I’d hold off and save some of those roster slots for potential salary dump deals but that’s just me.

In goal, Thomas Greiss is still on the board, and he’d probably be my top choice.  As I write this, Corey Crawford signed with New Jersey for less than $2 million per season, which seems to be a sign that goalie contract numbers are getting back to sane after Markstrom’s ridiculous deal.

I wonder about Tyson Barrie on defense.  Coming off a relatively bad season in Toronto, a “show me” deal could work.  I still think I’d prefer a trade candidate, though.

Red Wings Jersey Number Dominoes

I’ve noted before that I’m a jersey number geek.  Part of that includes a desire to see players get to wear “their” numbers.

Often a player is assigned a number in his first camp with no input.  Sometimes high picks get to choose: For Detroit, Moritz Seider got his favored #53, Filip Zadina got #11, and Joe Veleno got #90.  On the other hand, Michael Rasmussen was assigned #27, Dennis Cholowski was given #21, and Dylan Larkin never could have had his #19, bouncing from #25 to #71.

Awhile ago I was wondering what it would take to get the most players to “their” numbers and realized that the first domino that needed to fall was Justin Abdelkader.  Had he changed to #89 – as I was told he was going to do early in his career – it would have caused a conflict with Sam Gagner upon Gagner’s acquisition.  Now that Abdelkader has been bought out, though, it – theoretically – opens up #8 to start a series of dominoes falling.

As I write this, the second day of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is taking forever, so I’m going to follow those dominoes a bit.

With #8 open, Anthony Mantha could claim the number he wore through juniors and with the Grand Rapids Griffins.  This would make #39 available for Dylan Larkin, with Larkin having worn it with the USNTDP when #19 wasn’t available.

That leaves #71 for Filip Hronek, who wore that number with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.  Hronek could also go with the #79 that he wore in the Czech Republic, regardless of changes by Mantha and Larkin, which would leave #17 available.  That number goes to Tyler Bertuzzi. who wore it with the Guelph Storm of the OHL.

A second chain reaction starts with Dmytro Timashov taking the #88 he wore in the QMJHL.  This leaves #15 available for Rasmussen as he claims the number he wore for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.

With Rasmussen switched, #27 is available for Dennis Cholowski, who wore it at St. Cloud State and both of his WHL stops.  Christoffer Ehn then takes the #21 made available by Cholowski’s switch, as Ehn wore that number with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, though he seems set to not be with the team much longer anyway.  Ehn also wore #26 in Sweden but we’ll save that for Lucas Raymond.

All of this could happen, but it probably won’t.  For a jersey number geek, though, it’s fun to look at.

Red Wings Bring Back Forward Fabbri

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of pending restricted free agent forward Robby Fabbri to a two-year contract extension.

Of course, financial terms were not officially announced, but Craig Custance of The Athletic reports that the new contact carries a $2.95 million salary cap hit.

With Fabbri signing, two of Detroit’s ten pending RFAs are set to return, as Evgeny Svechnikov signed a one-year deal earlier this month.

Fabbri was acquired by Detroit from the St. Louis Blues for center Jacob de la Rose on November 6, the biggest “win” of GM Steve Yzerman‘s first season with the Red Wings.  He went on to score 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points, good for fourth on the team over the season.

I think the $2.95 million AAV is solid for the Red Wings.  It won’t hurt too much for too long if it turns out Fabbri’s first season with the club was an outlier and it helps set a baseline for Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, though they may be looking at longer-term deals which will be framed differently anyway.

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.

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.

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