Operation: Bobblehead – The Larry Aurie Write-In Campaign

The Red Wings announced today that, following the success of last year’s fan voting to determine what players would be made available as bobbleheads during the 2011-12 season, they would do it again for the coming year.  The twist this time around is that voting will be for Red Wings alumni, with an impressive list of players on the ballot.

From the press release…

The first bobblehead to be distributed as part of this special Edition will depict former captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Steve Yzerman. As part of Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition, the remaining five former Wings to be featured in the promotion will be determined by an impending multi-week online voting campaign, which will be conducted through a formspring page accessible via DetroitRedWings.com.

Hockeytown Heroes appearing on the ballot for Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition include Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuck, Ted Lindsay, Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, Joe Kocur, Kirk Maltby, John Ogrodnick, Luc Robitaille, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Mark Howe, Igor Larionov, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Chris Osgood, Scotty Bowman and more. Write-in candidates are also encouraged. Voting will begin on Tuesday, July 31, at one minute past noon and will be conducted on a week-by-week basis, closing at noon every Sunday. The following day (Tuesday) at 12:01 p.m., voting will begin anew with the winning player being removed form the ballot. No votes cast the previous week will count towards each player’s total. There is no limit on how many votes fans are able to cast each week. Twitter users, meanwhile, are invited to champion their favorite player’s bobblehead by using the hashtag #HockeytownHero throughout the duration of this campaign.

As seemingly always, when it comes to the Detroit organization acknowleding the team’s history, an important name is missing from that list: Larry Aurie.

I’ve ranted about lack of recognition for Aurie before.  It’s a shame that his number isn’t in the rafters and it’s even more of a shame that the Red Wings organization won’t explain why.

That said, the Wings control those rafters and they can do what they want there.  If Operation: Bobblehead really is about letting the fans decide, then this is the opportunity to get the team’s first real star honored.

The Wings say they encourage write-in votes.  When voting opens on Tuesday, cast yours for Larry Aurie.  It won’t get his #6 to the rafters where it belongs but it’s a start.

Update, 7/31: Voting is now open on the Red Wings’ web site.

And From There, Pandemonium

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since the infamous “Brawl in Hockeytown” that inspired the Red Wings to make their 1997 Stanley Cup run and really kick-started what was briefly the NHL’s fiercest rivalry.

It’s kind of funny that the game is so celebrated, as removed from the emotion of it all, it really was a dirty affair. Darren McCarty jumping Claude Lemieux, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Vernon teaming up on Patrick Roy and Adam Foote. In today’s NHL, I have to think we would have seen suspensions galore.

But at the time, it was a kind of catharsis. Until then, the league knew that the Wings were a soft team that wouldn’t stand up for themselves. The league’s two-game suspension to Claude Lemieux for breaking Kris Draper‘s face in the 1996 playoffs was light and there was almost an unspoken mandate that if the Red Wings didn’t like it, they’d have to do something about it themselves.

That they did, with McCarty playing the hero with his fists and his stick.

Fifteen years removed, I won’t say it was good hockey but it was what the Red Wings needed and it’s still fun to go back and re-watch.

Holmstrom Leads Red Wings Past Flames

Tomas Holmstrom scored twice on the power play Wednesday night, helping the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-3 win over the visiting Calgary Flames.

The goals lifted Holmstrom into a tie with Brendan Shanahan for fifth place all-time in Red Wings power play goals scored.

Holmstrom opened the game’s scoring at 6:14 of the first period, deflecting a shot intentionally fired wide of the net by Nicklas Lidstrom past Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff midway through a Detroit power play.

Jarome Iginla evened things back up just 44 seconds into the second, getting the puck on the right wing on a three-on-two and wristing a shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

Brendan Morrison put the Flames up 2-1 2:12 later, getting into the left faceoff circle untouched and blasting a shot past Howard.

Former Flame Ian White, appearing in his first game since blocking a shot with his face on November 12, tied things back up at 7:38 of the middle frame. White drifted from the high slot to the right wing boards with the puck, finally flinging a shot on net that found its way through past Kiprusoff.

Holmstrom’s second of the night put the Red Wings back into the lead. At 2:42 of the third he took a Pavel Datsyuk pass at the edge of the crease and spun around, backhanding a shot past Kiprusoff from in close.

Calgary’s Olli Jokinen replied 2:24 later, snapping a shot from the left faceoff circle past Howard for a power play goal.

Pavel Datsyuk put the Red Wings in front yet again with 7:21 remaining. With the Red Wings on a two-man advantage, Datsyuk sent the puck to the front of the net and it deflected off the skate of defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, bouncing through Kiprusoff’s pads.

Valtteri Filppula made it 5-3 1:14 later when his backhand attempt deflected off the stick of defenseman Chris Butler and past Kiprusoff just three seconds after the close of a power play chance.

The Red Wings finished the night three-for-four on the power play. The Flames scored on one of their four tries with the extra attacker.

Howard made 19 saves on 22 shots against while Kiprusoff stopped 25 of the 30 Detroit chances he faced.

The Red Wings, winners of three in a row, next play in Boston in the inaugural Thanksgiving Showdown on Friday.


With Ian White’s return to the Detroit lineup, Brendan Smith was a healthy scratch. Smith was kept in Detroit in case Brad Stuart was unable to play but with both White and Stuart healthy, Smith was returned to the Griffins after the game… Fabian Brunnstrom was sent to the Griffins for the night to make room for Smith on the roster. He returned to Detroit when Smith was sent down… Patrick Eaves and Mike Commodore were healthy scratches for the Red Wings.

Postgame: Flames @ Red Wings – 11/23

Tonight’s win wasn’t the cleanest the Wings have had this season but it had a lot of good points, including the two points in the standings that the team will take regardless of how they played.

I said after the first period that it was a bit slow but that the Red Wings had managed to limit Calgary’s chances so it was good. To start the second period, Detroit continued to play slow while the Flames came out with jump and took advantage. Detroit can’t expect to coast and it could have bit them in the ass tonight.

Jarome Iginla‘s goal was textbook execution of an odd-man rush, aided by the fact that there seemingly was miscommunication on whether Nicklas Lidstrom or the backchecking Detroit forward would be covering him. Brendan Morrison’s goal was in part a rookie/lazy mistake by Jakub Kindl, who ended up covering no one on the play. The Wings need to make sure they don’t make a habit of plays like those.

That said, three out of four on the power play (and one just after the expiration of the man-advantage) is a very good thing to see from special teams that haven’t been great this season. Tomas Holmstrom had a dominant night in front of Miikka Kiprusoff, with his two power play goals moving him into a tie with Brendan Shanahan for fifth place all-time in Red Wings power play goals.

I said that Calgary’s third goal came off them taking advantage of the opportunity given to them when Darren Helm lost his stick. The Wings returned the favor with their fourth and fifth goals. Stupid penalty by Curtis Glencross put the Wings on the five-on-three and they made it work.

Smith Suspended, Sent to Griffins

Defenseman Brendan Smith has been suspended for the remainder of the preseason and five regular season games after his hit to the head of Chicago’s Ben Smith. According to the Freep’s Helene St. James, he will be assigned to Grand Rapids, leaving his suspension to be served later.

On the suspension… I think it’s fair. I’d guessed it would be three and three but I don’t think three and five is too much. I’d rather see the NHL be overzealous than underprosecute.

That said, I’m very interested in seeing Brendan Shanahan‘s video explaining the suspension.

I was initially surprised to see that Smith will be sent to the Griffins to start the season but I don’t think I should have been.

Smith can’t play in the NHL until he serves the suspension. The Wings plan on carrying 14 forwards and 7 defensemen this season, so they have no room to let Smith ride out the suspension right now.

If they send Smith to GR today, he can’t be called up and play if an injury happens. But if an injury happens, they already have a seventh defenseman, they don’t need Smith to be ready to jump in. Instead if, say, Jakub Kindl gets hurt a month from now and goes on the IR, Mike Commodore steps into the lineup and Kindl’s roster spot is open. Smith gets called up with no intention of him playing as he burns off games from his suspension.

That’s how I see it, at least. We’ll see.

Postgame Thoughts: Red Wings @ Blackhawks

Well, let’s do this in two parts.

The Good
Fabian Brunnstrom showed that he wants Jan Mursak‘s spot in the Detroit lineup. Two goals by being in the right place at the right time, keeping his stick on the ice, and having soft hands. Overall, a really strong effort.

Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar want it, too. They were all over the ice. I think either of them could take Mursak’s spot, but it’s Brunnstrom’s to lose because he’ll be harder to send down to Grand Rapids right now, having to clear waivers.

As I tweeted after the game, a youth-heavy Detroit lineup played a pretty solid 60 minutes. I’d go as far as to say that was the best pure effort the Wings have put forth this preseason. Not the results they’ve gotten in some of the games, but better effort.

The Bad
Brendan Smith’s hit on Ben Smith. Brendan Shanahan is going to have something to say about that one.

There needs to be a suspension. It was a clear hit to the head, which is a Very Bad Thing in the NHL right now. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the rest of the preseason and three games. I could see it being more if Ben Smith has a lingering injury.

That said, I could also see it being less. Ben Smith is breaking in on goal and Brendan Smith lines up his hit. Ben Smith lets up, causing Brendan Smith to miss his intended hit and go straight into Ben Smith’s head. That’s one way of looking at it.

Either way, Brendan Smith screwed that hit up. Was it that he aimed high for a dirty play or that he failed to adjust and missed an intended clean hit? I’d like to think the latter but I don’t like either option. If he was so close to making the NHL, he shouldn’t be missing hit like that. If he’s so dirty, he should be playing a more effective physical game in general.

For curiousity’s sake, I’m looking forward to what punishment will be handed out and can only hope it won’t hurt the Wings too much.

New Red Wings Numbers

I’m getting to this a little late, but yesterday Bill Roose tweeted the sweater numbers for the newest Red Wings.

This marks the second year in a row that I didn’t get my number predictions out before the actual news was released. I feel a little bad as a jersey number geek but at least this way I don’t have to deal with the fact that I would have been wrong.

The biggest news is that Mike Commodore will wear #22, not the punny #64 that had been suggested. I’m not one of the people who thought him wearing #64 would have been the end of the world but I do think it brought extra distraction, so I like him going with his usual number.

What I think is the biggest surprise is that Ian White will wear #18. White had previously worn #7, #3 and #9 in his NHL career, and with #3 available in Detroit I thought he’d go with that. As fans, it’s another sign that we’ll have to come to terms with some important numbers being made available for future use.

As Malik points out, Brendan Shanahan‘s #14 and Chris Chelios‘ #24 have already been handed out so Maltby’s number being available is just a fact of life. It’s probably only a matter of time until #33 and #30 are worn again. Brian Lashoff has already worn #25 in camp.

Speaking of #24, I expect Logan Pyett to take it this year, with the #22 he wore at camp last year now belonging to Commodore.

With White not taking #3, it goes to Garnet Exelby, who is likely to spend the entire season in Grand Rapids anyway. Griffins-bound forward Chris Connor with take the #41 abandoned by Ilari Filppula. I’d expected him to go with #15.

Rounding out the new acquisitions, Ty Conklin will return to the #29 he wore in his first stint with the Wings.

No number changes for current Red Wings were mentioned. I don’t expect any this year but I always wonder about Justin Abdelkader switching to the #89 he wore at Mona Shores. I heard a rumor he was set to switch a couple years ago and don’t know what happened to change that.

Great Calls in (Recent) Red Wings History

Jamie Samuelsen has a piece in the Freep today about the lack of great sports calls in Detroit history, relative to the great announcers.

Nowadays, and Samuelsen touches on this, the availability of video highlights kind of negates the effect of the related call. As he puts it, “We still listen to the games, but when the big moments come up, we make sure that we’re sitting at the game or sitting in front of the TV.”

Nothing against Ken Kal and Paul Woods but when I think of the Red Wings announcers, I think of Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond. That’s just how it is. I watch the games on TV, I don’t listen on the radio unless I have to.

That said, just because the TV guys have the benefit of video to accompany them doesn’t mean their words are any less powerful. There are still plays that I saw on TV, I know the video of, but just the sound is enough to bring back memories.

As a counter to Samuelsen suggesting that Detroit sports doesn’t have any great calls, I’m posting my top three for the Wings. Unfortunately, none of them come from Detroit’s own broadcasters, all coming from ESPN/ABC’s Gary Thorne. In no particular order…

“Here’s Holmstrom. Dropped it, Larionov in, Larionov for the game-winner, Larionov shot, score! Igor Larionov! The Detroit Red Wings, three; the Hurricanes, two.

Larionov’s triple-overtime game-winner to put the Red Wings up 2-1 on the Hurricanes in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals. The way it all runs together, puncuated by Larionov’s name and the final score… Just fun to listen to.

“And a great save… The goal counts! The goal counts! The goal counts!

The “Statue of Liberty” goal by Brendan Shanahan in Game Six of the 2002 Western Conference Finals. This call sums up the confusion of the time. Patrick Roy had just made a tremendous save (two, in fact), and suddenly, somehow, the puck was in the back of the net.

“Gretzky had it, lost it, Yzerman picks it up. Yzerman moving, blueline chance, SCORE! STEVE YZERMAN! DETROIT WINS!”

Okay, I’ve said time and time again that this is my all-time favorite goal. Of course it’s on this list. I actually think Thorne’s call is better than the radio version from Kal. The eruption is just so sudden, it fits with the crowd and the scene on the ice. And Bill Clement’s later addition of “That is everything Steve Yzerman had in the bag” is about as good of a description as you can get.

May Asks for Chelios’ Sweater Number, Sparks Jersey Retirement Talk

Brad May could be switching to a new sweater number.

The enforcer was given #20 when he joined the team on a pro tryout at the end of the preseason and kept that number for his first regular season game after signing a one-year deal on Thursday. Ansar Khan reports that May has asked Chris Chelios for permission to switch to #24.

“(Chelios) was really cool,” May said. “I just figured it’s his (number). He’s such an icon, I figured I’d call him.”

“I like the number – Chris Chelios, Bob Probert. But I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I may ask, but now that I’m 20, who knows?”

May had previously worn #24 during his stint with the Anaheim Ducks.

Like May, Chelios also asked permission to wear #24. When he came to Detroit in 1999 he called the number’s previous owner – Probert – to run it by him.

George Malik asks whether or not the Wings should retire #24 for Chelios.

He mentions Brendan Shanahan‘s #14 being put back into use but Sergei Fedorov‘s #91 remaining out of circulation, as well as the #16 of Vladimir Konstantinov.

Personally, I think it’s a travesty that the #6 of Larry Aurie is not represented in the Joe Louis Arena rafters and would not raise any of those numbers before Detroit’s first real star was recognized. The Ilitch family’s refusal to honor Aurie is confusing and downright ridiculous.

At this point the only numbers I’d even think about retiring are #6 and (when the time comes) Nicklas Lidstrom‘s #5. After Aurie’s number is retired we can talk about another old-timer in Red Kelly‘s #4.

Chelios should have his number retired, just not here. Though he won two Cups and ended his career with the Red Wings (and one more Cup with Montreal) I believe he’ll always be remembered as a Blackhawk and his #7 should hang at United Center.

Shanahan and Fedorov should wait, we shouldn’t even be talking about them until they retire from playing. And as I said above, they don’t get consideration until Aurie is taken care of.

Konstantinov, as much as it pains me to say it, should not have his number permanently retired. It should remain out of circulation until all of his former teammates have left the Red Wings. Only then should it be brought back.

Wings Prep for Regular Season Continues

Following a 4-2 exhibition loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting that saw the Red Wings ice a roster made up mostly of try-outs and youngsters, Detroit is gearing up for the regular season by bringing out more of their regulars and making another round of cuts.

Ansar Khan blogs that the Wings dropped 17 players from their roster on Tuesday. Defensemen Jassen Cullimore, Jon Insana, Clive Kinley, Jamie Tardif and Scott Jackson, forwards Neil Clark and Adam Keefe and goaltender Dominic Vicari were released outright. Defensemen Jakub Kindl, Brad Ference and Garrett Stafford, forwards Mark Cullen, Carl Corazzini, Brett Engelhardt, Randall Gelech and Ryan Oulahen, and goalie Adam Berkhoel were sent down to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Clark was fresh off a fight in the loss to the Lighting while Vicari was cut for the second time this season, having been brought back only hours after being released last week when Logan Koopmans was injured.

Tonight’s lineup against the Rangers will see more NHLers, with the return of defenseman Brian Rafalski and forward Tomas Kopecky. Neither has played in a preseason game this year, meaning that tonight will be Rafalski’s Red Wings debut.

Rafalski will be making his first appearance at the Joe with Detroit but Rangers forward Brendan Shanahan will not be on the ice for New York, meaning that his return to Hockeytown as an opponent will be delayed for another season. Shanahan went to the Rangers as a free agent last year but the two teams did not meet in Detroit. This season they won’t play each other at all.