Griffins 2012-13 Jersey Number Changes

With twenty-two players having been sent to Grand Rapids by the Red Wings in advance of the expected NHL lockout, the Griffins web site has updated the team’s roster with all the new player jersey numbers. Here’s a look at the changes we’ll see for the 2012-13 season.

Incoming netminder Petr Mrazek picks up the #34 worn last season by Ty Conklin during his AHL demotion, making him one of two Griffins wearing the same number as they are assigned by the Red Wings.

Nathan Paetsch takes the #4 vacated by Travis Ehrhardt. Adam Almquist switches from the #6 he got at the end of last season to the #5 that had been worn by Riley Sheahan, who takes the #19 from outgoing Mike Thomas.

Luke Glendening gets Jamie Johnson‘s old #10. Chad Billins claims the #14 last worn by Chris Minard after having shared #23 with Ryan Sproul last year, with #23 going to Triston Grant.

Fabian Brunnstrom‘s #17 goes to Max Nicastro and Chris Conner‘s #25 goes to Damien Brunner.

Tomas Jurco claims #28 from Alan Quine, making him the second Griffin with the same number he’s currently assigned with the Red Wings, pending Carlo Colaiacovo‘s number selection. Colaiacovo wore #28 with the St. Louis Blues and could request it in Detroit.

Finally, Brennan Evans will wear the #44 of the deceased Bryan Rufenach.

Red Wings Assign 22 to Griffins

In advance of the NHL lockout expected to begin this weekend, the Detroit Red Wings assigned 22 players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, their afflilate in the American Hockey League.

The complete list of players assigned is as follows:

Adam Almqvist
Joakim Andersson
Louis-Marc Aubry
Damien Brunner
Mitch Callahan
Willie Coetzee
Landon Ferraro
Gleason Fournier
Tomas Jurco
Brian Lashoff
Thomas McCollum
Petr Mrazek
Andrej Nestrasil
Max Nicastro
Gustav Nyquist
Francis Pare
Trevor Parkes
Jordan Pearce
Brent Raedeke
Riley Sheahan
Brendan Smith
Tomas Tatar

Of those, only Pearce and Pare had needed to clear waivers, having done so earlier in the week.

How Signing a Forward Could Have Helped the Wings’ Defense

With the news today that forward Alexander Semin had signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and the report that the Red Wings are out of the running for Shane Doan, much has been made of Detroit general manager Ken Holland‘s summer inactivity.

I’m on record as saying that I don’t think you can call a summer in which you sign Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo and Jonas Gustavsson and have $11 million in cap space remaining a successful summer.  Reasonable, perhaps, as it appears the available players just didn’t want to come to Detroit.  Not successful.

There is an argument that going after Semin or Doan is counterproductive because the Wings’ holes are on defense, not forward.  As of right now, the team has six defensemen on the roster and 15 fowards, before signing restricted free agent Justin Abdelkader.

Let’s take a look at a possible set of forward lines…

Gustav NyquistPavel DatsyukJohan Franzen
Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergDamien Brunner
Danny ClearyDarren Helm – Mikael Samuelsson
Drew Miller – Justin Abdelkader – Todd Bertuzzi
Jan MursakCory Emmerton – Jordin Tootoo
Patrick Eaves

More important than actual lines here is where each player fits in the depth chart.  That’s why I’m throwing a healthy dose of optimism in there, with both Nyquist and Brunner panning out and fitting into the top six.

Send Brunner to Grand Rapids and slide Samuelsson up if you want, either way I think this shows that the Red Wings have about six forwards that you can actually define as “top six” and not just “players who happen to play on the top two lines.”

Signing Semin or Doan would give Detroit one more of those.  Why is that a good thing?

There are no more top defensemen on the free agent market.  Detroit already has enough bottom-pair defensemen, adding one more of them doesn’t help.  As Holland has already suggested, if the Wings want actual help on their blue line they’ll need to trade for it.

Dealing forward depth for defensive help seems like a perfect fit for this team.  The problem is that you’re not going to see a deal of Emmerton and Miller and Mursak for a Keith Yandle.  No one is going to deal a top defensemen for a bunch of third- and fourth-liners, even a whole line of them.

To make a deal for a top-four defenseman, you’ll have to include a top-six forward.  Do that with this lineup and suddenly you’re pretending that Todd Bertuzzi belongs next to Pavel Datsyuk again, and I say that as someone who likes Bertuzzi.

Signing a top-six forward gives the Wings the option of including Johan Franzen or Valtteri Filppula in a deal for their new defenseman.  It gives them flexibility that they don’t have right now.

The Wings’ forward depth in its current form does not help them in bringing in a defenseman.  All it does is push Brunner and Nyquist to Grand Rapids because they can be sent there without losing them, and then you have both Bertuzzi and Samuelsson in the top six and still no addition on defense.

Maybe the new CBA will make certain players available but as of right now, with no top-six forwards available to sign and the free agent market dried up, I don’t think the Wings have what teams will want for a top-four defenseman.

Brunnstrom Signs with Frolunda

Forward Fabian Brunnstrom has signed a three-year contract with the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Elite League.

Brunnstrom was unlikely to be offered a contract by the Detroit Red Wings after playing in their organization last season.  The team had said they were happy with his performance in five games with the Red Wings and 45 games with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins but the signing of Swiss forward Damien Brunner made Brunnstrom redundant.

In heading back to his native Sweden, Brunnstrom ends his NHL career with 104 games played between the Red Wings and the Dallas Stars.  He scored 19 goals and 22 assists.

Free Agency 2012: Day 1

“Trust, but verify.”

One of my co-workers loves that phrase.  So did Ronald Reagan.  Vladimir Lenin liked its Russian form.

It comes to mind because of my reaction to today’s news that the Red Wings had signed Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo as free agents.  I’m not the only one who had the same kind of reaction.

Neither player has been a favorite of late among Wings fans, so to see both of them suddenly on our team (in Samuelsson’s case, again), signed in a matter of minutes, was a shock.

I trust Ken Holland to make the right moves for the team.  That said, I don’t blindly believe everything he does is perfect.  I question these moves and I want to see how they’ll work out.

Trust, but verify.

Logically, I know that Tootoo was a pain for the Wings to play against, so having that on “our” side is a good thing.  The Wings haven’t had someone like him in quite awhile.

That said, because the Wings hadn’t had someone like that, they were able to (most of the time) play like they were above what Tootoo brings to the table.  Maybe they need to lower themselves to that level, maybe being above that is what they’ve been missing, but it leaves a bad taste.

Logically, I know that Samuelsson is a cheap replacement for Jiri Hudler, who’s bound to get $4 million or more from a team like the Canucks or Capitals or Sabres.  He plays a similar game for significantly less money.

That said, it wasn’t that long ago that he basically had his house for sale before the season ended in Detroit.  We still make jokes about how often he’d miss the net on drives from the point.  While he replaces Hudler, it kind of seems like a role that didn’t need to be replaced.

Lost in all of that are the signings of Jonas Gustavsson and Damien Brunner.  Brunner was a known – announced a week ago but not official until today.  Gustavsson’s deal I initially questioned but only for the financial side and the reality is that $1.5 million for a backup goalie isn’t that bad.

And no news on the big fronts, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise.  Depending on who you believe, any number of teams – Detroit included – are the frontrunners for either or both of those two.

Regardless of what happens with the big-names, it’s hard to ignore the math facing the Wings’ lineup right now.  There are simply too many forwards to fit into the lineup next year.

Assuming that Hudler is gone (as it seems that he is), Tomas Holmstrom doesn’t return, Brunner makes the lineup and Justin Abdelkader is re-signed as a restricted free agent, the team has fifteen forwards.  That’s with Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and a handful of others sent back to Grand Rapids, which (at least in Nyquist’s case) should not happen.

It sure looks to me (and to TPL and WIIM) like a trade is in the works.  I won’t speculate on who it could be for but I do want to look at who could be going the other way.

Abdelkader is an unsigned RFA, probably due around $2 million, which just happens to be how much the Wings brought Tootoo in for.  Given that they play similar games, it sure seems like Abdelkader was just made expendible, even if he’s the hometown kid.

Todd Bertuzzi isn’t going anywhere, he’s got a no-trade clause.  Same for Danny Cleary (and Pavel Datsyuk if you think the Wings would deal him).

Patrick Eaves could be moved but lost nearly a season to post-concussion syndrome so good luck finding a taker.

Cory Emmerton was used a lot as the fourth line center last year but that’s a replaceable position.  That said, because he’s replaceable it should mean he wouldn’t bring much in trade.

Valtteri Filppula has been labeled a future leader of the team but has an acceptable contract, is relatively young and scores a little bit.

Johan Franzen has a contract that should make it nearly impossible to move him if the Wings even wanted to.  Darren Helm also won’t be moved as he just signed his contract.

Drew Miller and Jan Mursak are in the same boat as Emmerton.  Solid bottom-six guys who are ultimately replaceable, which devalues them.

Samuelsson and Tootoo just signed (and Samuelsson got a no-trade clause) so they’re staying put.  Henrik Zetterberg is the next captain so he’s going nowhere.

Ignoring prospects (counting Nyquist and Tatar among them), that means that Abdelkader (or at least his rights) and Filppula are the Wings’ most movable, valuable forwards.

I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and the start of the season but looking at that roster crunch, I have a hard time thinking that all of those guys are going to be wearing the Winged Wheel come October.  This was just the first official day of NHL summer.  We’ve got a lot coming up.

Red Wings Confirm Brunner Signing

Via the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, the Detroit Red Wings have confirmed the signing of Swiss forward Damien Brunner to a one-year, two-way, entry level deal.

The signing had been rumored since June 22 but could not be finalized until NHL free agency opened on Sunday.

Brunner scored 24 goals and added 36 assists in 45 games for Zug of the Swiss National League A last season.

Report: Wings to Sign Swiss Forward Brunner

Swiss media – followed closely by several Detroit-based outlets – reported this morning that the Red Wings have reached a deal with forward Damien Brunner.

Brunner was the leading scorer for Zug of the Swiss National League A last season.  He scored 24 goals and added 36 assists in 45 games.

At 5’10” and 176 pounds, Brunner is small but has been described as being smooth-skating and having a good shot.

While a deal may have been agreed upon, the Wings cannot formally sign Brunner until July 1.  Additionally, he is not a lock to play in North America for 2012-13.  He has a Swiss contract for the coming season with an out clause but reportedly does not want to play in the AHL.

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