2019 Free Agency Thoughts: Day One

I noted my thoughts about each of the Red Wings free agent signings yesterday as they were announced.  Since then, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has spoken and explained some of his plan.

I’m not sure I buy it, so I’m going to revisit those thoughts a bit.

Calvin Pickard

Yzerman confirmed that Pickard is bound for Grand Rapids, not competing with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit, as was suggested when rumors of the deal broke on Sunday.  That makes significantly more sense.

My only concern is how Pickard (along with Curtis McElhinney) was claimed on waivers at the start of last season, leaving the Toronto Marlies without any goalies.  That said, veteran goalies make it through waivers every year, it’s last year that was the outlier.  I think it’s safe to blame my concern on recency bias.

Patrik Nemeth

I honestly don’t know much about Nemeth.  At first glance he seems like a good fit for the Red Wings.  Yzerman specifically mentioned that he could play with either Mike Green or Filip Hronek.  I imagine that whichever of those two doesn’t pair up with Nemeth gets Danny DeKeyser and, while not great by any means, that could be a solid top four.

The problem is the ever-present logjam.  Assuming a third pair of Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson with Madison Bowey as the seventh defenseman, that means there’s no room for Dennis Cholowski or Oliwer Kaski or anyone who might surprise in training camp.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying that it’ll be okay because there will be injuries, which was the case to start the season last year.  In all likelihood, yes, players will get hurt.  If you are counting on that, though, you have to count on someone getting hurt badly enough that they go on injured reserve, otherwise their roster spot isn’t cleared and no one can be called up to fill in.  So to get significant time for anyone outside that top seven, you have to hope for significant time lost due to injury to someone, which doesn’t sit well with me.

By the end of the season things might be different.  Ericsson and Daley and Green could all be gone.  Of course, there’s most of a season to play between now and the trade deadline and the last time the Wings expected to see a veteran defenseman moved in February, he got hurt and ended up signing an extension.

Valtteri Filppula

Oh, here’s the big one.  Yzerman says that Filppula was brought back to give the Red Wings depth at center, allowing them to shift Andreas Athanasiou back to his natural position at wing.

Obviously the organization thinks Athanasiou’s try-out as second-line center to end last season didn’t go well enough.  That’s fine.  I don’t think it was enough time to tell but I’m willing to accept their conclusion.  The issue is that I don’t accept that Valtteri Filppula is a second-line center.

The Wings now have a top line center in Dylan Larkin and bottom-six centers in Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening, Christoffer Ehn, and Jacob de la RoseDarren Helm can fill in at center and Yzerman mentioned Justin Abdelkader as well, which I think would be awful.  Helm and Abdelkader can be ignored anyway, though, because that’s six centers for three lines, none of which is the second line.

If the choice is between playing Athanasiou out of position and seeing how it goes or playing Filppula up a line, I’d pick Athanasiou.

I have nothing against Filppula as a third line center.  If Yzerman were to find a way to move Nielsen and slot Filppula in there, I’d be all for it.  Especially with Filppula coming in cheaper than Nielsen.  But that’s not the move that’s happening.

Shifted Lines Help Red Wings Rally Against Flames

The Detroit Red Wings started Wednesday night’s matchup with the same lines they had used all season but a change midway through the game sparked a comeback to earn a 4-3 overtime win over the Calgary Flames.

Coach Mike Babcock had the team practice with different sets of lines all week so that he could see what worked after trying to switch things up on Saturday against Chicago and being unhappy with the results.

Marian Hossa – usually on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Holmstrom – skated with Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Cleary. Johan Franzen left Zetterberg’s line to join Datsyuk’s. The updated lines generated two third period goals as the Red Wings forced overtime.

Down 3-1 midway through the third period, Zetterberg put the rebound of a Cleary chance past Calgary netminder Curtis McElhinney to pull the Wings to within a goal.

Brian Rafalski rifled home a shot from the right point with 6:17 remaining in regulation to tie the game.

Nicklas Lidstrom scored the game-winner in a similar fashion, blasting a long shot past McElhinney with Datsyuk screening.

The Flames had taken a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on goals by Craig Conroy and Daymond Langkow. Valtteri Filppula tipped a Kris Draper shot past McElhinney to make it 2-1 after two periods. A power play goal by David Moss made it 3-1 at 8:51 of the third.

Ty Conklin stopped 29 of 32 shots in the Detroit net. McElhinney made 35 saves on 39 chances for Calgary.

Red Wings – Flames Pregame Notes

The Red Wings wrap up their four-game homestand tonight, hosting the Calgary Flames.

For the Flames it will be there third game in four nights, meaning that backup goalie Curtis McElhinney will likely get the start. Ty Conklin will make his second start in a row for Detroit after picking up a 5-4 shootout win over the Blackhawks on Saturday.

Mike Babcock juggled the Red Wings’ lines in practice this week but will sticking with the combinations used on Saturday for Wednesday’s game. The lone change is Kirk Maltby‘s return to the lineup, leaving Derek Meech as a healthy scratch.

Datsyuk Leads Red Wings over Flames

Pavel Datsyuk scored two highlight-reel goals Tuesday night, leading the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-3 win over the visiting Calgary Flames.

Datsyuk finished the game with three points, adding an assist on a Tomas Holmstrom goal to his two goals. Holmstrom and Nicklas Lidstrom contributed to a pair of goals.

Robyn Regehr put Calgary on the board first putting a quick wrister through a screen and past Detroit goalie Chris Osgood with 8:59 remaining in the first.

Datsyuk responded for the Red Wings with 4:11 remaining in the period. Datsyuk took a Holmstrom pass while cutting across the Calgary blue line, then stepped around defenseman Cory Sarich and ripped a shot into the top of the net.

The Wings took the lead just 23 seconds later when Kris Draper scored a rebound goal. The goal came just minutes before Draper would leave the game with a leg injury, suffered after fighting for the puck along the boards with Owen Nolan.

At 4:36 of the second and with Detroit on a five-on-three, Holmstrom scored to put the Red Wings up by a pair. Datsyuk got the puck in the left faceoff circle and Holmstrom moved out from his usual spot at the top of the crease into the slow. Datsyuk got him the puck and Holmstrom threw it through Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff.

Rookie Curtis McElhinney replaced Kiprusoff in the Calgary net after the Holmstrom goal. Moments earlier, Kiprusoff blocked a shot with the side of his mask and complained of jaw soreness.

Dion Phaneuf pulled the Flames to back within a goal on a five-on-three with 5:57 remaining in the second, blasting a shot from the high slot past Osgood.

The teams traded goals early in the third period, with Datsyuk adding his second and Alex Tanguay closing the gap for the Flames.

Only 37 seconds into the period, Datsyuk carried the puck from the Detroit blue line and into the Calgary zone. He skated through a group of three Flames and picked the puck back up on the other side before roofing a backhander over McElhinney.

Tanguay’s goal came at 3:02 on a two-on-one with Jarome Iginla. Andreas Lilja was caught up-ice, leaving Lidstrom back to cover Iginla and Tanguay. Both Lidstrom and Osgood moved to face Iginla coming down the right wing and he passed off to Tanguay to score into the open side of the net.

Valtteri Filppula wrapped up the game’s scoring 3:10 later. A Phaneuf giveaway sprung Mikael Samuelsson down the right wing. Samuelsson gained the Calgary zone and passed up top to Jiri Hudler, who faked a shot and dropped the puck to the trailing Filppula to put past McElhinney.

With just over seven minutes left in the game, Phaneuf laid out Hudler with a high open-ice hit. Hudler remained on the ice for a few seconds but went off under his own power and later returned. Lilja fought Phaneuf in retaliation.

Osgood finished the night with 19 saves on 22 shots against. Kiprusoff stopped 12 of 15 shots while McElhinney stopped 18 of 20.

Each team scored once on the power play, both goals coming on five-on-threes. Detroit had seven power play chances and the Flames had five.

The Red Wings will be back in action on Thursday when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit Joe Louis Arena.


Draper drove himself to the Detroit Medical Center for an MRI on his injured leg. The results are expected to be known on Wednesday.