On Ken Holland Joining the Oilers

As I write this, former Red Wings’  General Manager and short-time Senior VP Ken Holland is being announced as the new GM of the Edmonton Oilers.

This news does not come as a surprise, having been broken over the weekend and rumored since Holland graciously stepped aside and allowed the Red Wings to hire Steve Yzerman in the role that used to be his.

There’s been a lot of talk about how Holland will be remembered in Detroit.  About what his legacy is.  About how we, as fans, should make sure we remember the good times.

Yes, Holland is due credit for his role in Detroit’s Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008 (and other accomplishments along the way).  He should also be accountable for Justin Abdelkader‘s contract and the trades for Kyle Quincey, David Legwand, and Erik Cole.  Don’t pick and choose the good or the bad, remember it all.

So I guess that’s my take on his departure.  Holland did great things for the Red Wings organization.  He also flamed out at the end and got fired for it, no matter how they worded it.  And now he’s going to an Edmonton team where a lot of the problems he’ll face are similar to the ones he’s leaving Yzerman with.

It’s not existential.  It’s not dramatic.  Holland was the face of the Red Wings’ business and that’s all this is: business.

Thoughts on the Red Wings’ Trade Deadline

I was feeling pretty good about the Red Wings’ efforts in the lead up to the NHL’s trade deadline this morning.  Then the Thomas Vanek trade happened.  Those who follow DH.N on Twitter know I am less than happy about that but I’ll look at each of the Wings’ moves piece-by-piece here.

Tomas Jurco
The Red Wings traded Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks last Friday.  An upcoming restricted free agent, Jurco never really latched on with the Red Wings.  Detroit got a third-round pick in the deal, which is more than I would have expected.

I don’t think Jurco was ever used properly in Detroit so it hurts to see him go to Chicago, but if the Wings weren’t going to use him, at least they got some value for him.  This is a pretty solid deal.

Brendan Smith
The first of Detroit’s pending unrestricted free agents, the team tried to sign him to a contract extension but the trade offer from the New York Rangers was too much to turn down.  Smith netted the Red Wings a third-round pick in the upcoming 2017 NHL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in 2018.

This was Detroit’s best move of the week.  I probably would have been happy with a second or a third, to get both feels like larceny.  That said, like Jurco, perhaps Smith just needs a change of scenery.  It’s not that he was particularly bad this year in Detroit, but he’s weighed down by the expectations and the memory of bad performances.

Steve Ott
I never liked Ott’s signing, that’s no secret.  I don’t know why the Canadiens thought they needed him, either.  He wasn’t horrible in Detroit by any means, I just think his role could have been filled by one of the kids in Grand Rapids, namely Tyler Bertuzzi or Tomas Nosek.  Getting a sixth-round pick for Ott seems like a near-miracle.

Thomas Vanek
I’m going to need more space for this one.

Nick Jensen
Not a trade, the Red Wings locked up Jensen for two more years at around $800,000 each.  Jensen has stepped onto the Wings’ blue line and seemingly leapfrogged both Ryan Sproul and Xavier Ouellet (and definitely Alexey Marchenko, now in Toronto).

I like this signing for multiple reasons.  One, it’s only two years, unlike the ridiculous four-year deal that Brian Lashoff got after serving in a similar capacity back during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.  Two, it can entirely be buried in the minors if Jensen ends up being a bust or if the Wings acquire a legitimate top defenseman at some point.

Mitch Callahan
With Ott off to Montreal, the Red Wings called up forward Mitch Callahan to take his place.  I’m okay with this but I’d rather have seen Bertuzzi get the nod, as I mentioned above (Nosek is currently injured and wouldn’t be called up).

Drew Miller
The trade that didn’t happen.  I don’t know if anyone was interested in Miller but he’s the one upcoming unrestricted free agent that Holland was unable to unload.  Part of me thinks that if you can unload Ott, you can unload Miller.  But maybe the Habs were the only team interested in a guy like that.

Thomas Vanek
Okay, let’s try this one again…

Vanek had to be dealt.  He’s been one of the Wings’ best players this season and is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so it was assumed that he had significant value.  At the end of the day, it sounds like there weren’t that many teams interested, though, and he only fetched a third-round draft pick (plus AHLer Dylan McIlrath, minus retaining some salary).  That the Wings got the best deal they could get is good.

It’s kind of hard to see that for multiple reasons, though.  There was a lot of buzz about Vanek in the lead up to the deadline and Minnesota made a massive deal for Martin Hanzal, a player deemed to be somewhat comparable to Vanek.  You don’t trade buzz, though.  The best player the Red Wings had to offer simply wasn’t enough to generate that much interest.

Winging it in Motown’s JJ from Kansas has been talking about getting caught up in the hype about Vanek.  Take a look at Detroit’s history as buyers, though, and it’s hard not to.

In 2015 the Wings gave up a solid prospect in Mattias Janmark, a questionable prospect in Mattias Backman, and a second round pick for Erik Cole and a third rounder.  In 2014 Detroit traded Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves, and a third round pick for David Legwand.

In my mind, 2017 Thomas Vanek is better than 2015 Erik Cole or 2014 David Legwand, so I would expect 2017 Thomas Vanek to bring in more than 2015 Erik Cole or 2014 David Legwand.  But that’s not what this year’s market supported.

So it’s disappointing that costs are high when the Wings are buyers but they’re low when they’re sellers.  It’s hard to swallow.  It feels like if the Wings should have to sell, they should get to sell for the same prices that all the teams that profited from them got to sell at.

Overall
All of that said, the Wings did the best that they could with what they had.  In sheer volume of picks, the last week has been a pretty impressive haul.

I’m not as excited about the upcoming draft as Ken Holland is, though.  Holland has spoken about having so many picks to work with, more than they’ve had since 2002.  This draft is shallow and none of those picks are particularly high.  As such, I don’t see this sell off as sparking a rebuild.  Barring some big changes this summer, I don’t think the assets gained in the last week are going to turn things around next year.

Red Wings Select Six on Second Day of Draft

Following their selection of Michigan native Dylan Larkin in the first round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, the Detroit Red Wings picked an additional six players in the remaining rounds on Saturday.

The Red Wings missed out on the second round, having sent that draft pick to the Nashville Predators in the David Legwand trade in March. To help make up for it, they moved up in the third round, sending their original third-rounder (76th overall) and a third-rounder in 2015 to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 63rd overall pick, which they used to select Dominic Turgeon.

Turgeon, the 18-year-old son of former NHL star Pierre Turgeon, is a two-way center who scored ten goals and added 21 assists in 65 games for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL in 2013-14.

At 106th overall in the fourth round, Detroit went with another center, Christopher Ehn of Froluna Juniors in Sweden. The 6’2″ 18-year-old scored four goals and seven assists in 45 games 2013-14.

The Red Wings turned to a goalie in the fifth round, selecting Thomas “Chase” Perry of the NAHL’s Wenatchee Wild. Perry, 18, had a 2.34 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage in 35 games last season. The Andover, MD, native is commited to play for Colorado College next season.

In the ninth round Detroit selected 19-year-old winger Julius Vahatalo of TPS in Finland. Vahatalo is 6’5″ but only 191 pounds and had previously been passed over in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He had 18 goals and 21 assists in 33 games for the junior TPS squad, adding three goals in 18 games for the main club.

Two seventh-round selections closed out the draft for Detroit.

At 186th overall, the team selected Swedish center Axel Holmstrom. Holmstrom – who is not related to former Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom – had 15 goals and 23 assists in 33 games for Skelleftea. He turns 18 on Sunday.

At 201st overall the Red Wings went with center Alexander Kadeykin of Russia. Kadeykin, 20, went unselected in both 2012 and 2013. He scored eight goals and fifteen assists in 54 games for the KHL’s Atlant Mytishchi.

Revisiting “Trust But Verify”

I had a post with a big hypothetical scenario half-finished but I’m scrapping it in favor of being more to the point.

Over at Winging it in Motown today, Graham Hathway has a bit comparing the Red Wings’ situation going into the summer of 2014 to that of 2012. It made me realize that what I was trying to say was tied to something I said at the end of July 1, 2012.

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.

When Ken Holland signed Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson and Jonas Gustavsson, I thought it was a little weird but I trusted that Holland had a plan. Having seen how things worked out, though, I’ve come to a conclusion.

I don’t trust Ken Holland anymore.

Okay, that might be a dramatic way of putting it but the point stands.

In 2012, I was willing to look at those signings and put aside my own misgivings. Flash-forward to this year’s trade deadline and my immediate dislike of the trade that brought David Legwand to Detroit. Though some will probably attribute the Red Wings making the playoffs and extending their streak of doing so to Legwand’s acquisition, I still argue it wasn’t worth it.

I’m not saying that Holland should be fired. I’m not even saying that he’s a bad GM. It’s not like he’s out to ruin the team, as some seemingly think.

He’s just burned through the faith I’ve previously had in him. My initial analysis is no longer geared towards “How awesome is this thing that Kenny did?” but rather “How could this end up going bad?”

Every good deal has a downside. Even bad trades can be justified. Eventually you should see both sides.

It’s just odd going into a summer without that faith to fall back on.

Looking at the Red Wings’ 2014-15 Roster

We’re all of three days into the offseason but it’s never too early to start looking at next year. I’ve had a lot of side conversations about what I think the Red Wings’ roster will look like next year and what it should look like (which aren’t the same thing) so I figured I’d post my “ideal” opening night roster and go from there.

Henrik ZetterbergPavel DatsyukGustav Nyquist
Tomas TatarRiley SheahanTomas Jurco
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmDaniel Alfredsson
Drew MillerDavid LegwandLuke Glendening
Mitch Callahan
Landon Ferraro

Niklas KronwallDanny DeKeyser
Jonathan EricssonBrendan Smith
Ryan SproulXavier Ouellet
Adam Almquist

Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

You’ll notice there are some names missing, and that’s why this may be my “ideal” roster but it’s also pretty much impossible.

The forward lines are build out from the second line. If the Red Wings are really going to embrace the youth movement, even when healthy, I want the Kid Line skating as Detroit’s second line again. It might not be the best possible lineup to start the year but I think it will be by the end of the season and for seasons beyond.

With the Kid Line in place, you can load up on the first line, with both Eurotwins and Gustav Nyquist.

On the third line you’ve got Darren Helm centering Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson. I bring back Alfredsson if he wants to come back and put him on the third line to keep his minutes down and add some scoring. It also gives flexibility for the inevitable Line Blender, as you could bump Abdelkader to the top line as Mike Babcock loves to do, drop Nyquist down to the second, and play Tatar on the third.

The fourth line brings back David Legwand simply because I think he has to be re-signed or it makes the deal to trade for him look even more ridiculous. I wouldn’t bring back Glendening but Babcock loves him so he’s going to be in the lineup on opening night.

Callahan and Ferraro are out of waiver options, they stick with the big club out of camp.

Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson? All free agents, all allowed to walk.

Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, Joakim Andersson, Jordin Tootoo? That’s where this gets messy, as I don’t have a spot for any of them or any player they might bring back in trade and there’s only one compliance buyout left.

The easy answer is that Alfredsson and Legwand don’t return and Franzen and Weiss take their spots. Tootoo gets bought out and Andersson gets the Cory Emmerton treatment. That makes the Legwand trade look awful but is that better than finding a way to unload Weiss (who’d probably just have to be waived with the hope that someone claims him)?

Franzen… Oh Franzen. There are going to be a lot of words written about him between now and the draft. I’ll try not to write too many of them. I say the draft because I think if he’s going to be traded, it’ll be then. He won’t be bought out. It’s not that Franzen necessarily is bad or overpaid (his cap hit is great for his potential). When he’s good, he’s among the best. When he’s bad, he looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there. Combined with his comments about not being paid to score goals, there’s a perceived attitude problem there. The negatives outweigh the positives to me.

On defense, I don’t think the top four are all that controversial. Kyle Quincey is gone. The UFA defense pool is shallow this year and Quincey is going to get absolutely paid by someone.

The third pair, though, is where the youth movement kicks in. Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul looked ready in their limited opportunity this season. I give them the chance to start next year.

I’d like to have a veteran seventh defenseman to back them up but – like Ferraro and Callahan – Adam Almquist is out of options so he stays up by default.

Brian Lashoff? Jakub Kindl? They’re in Franzen/Weiss/Andersson territory. Under contract but I don’t have a spot for them. Lashoff can be buried in Grand Rapids if necessary, the only “easy” decision available.

In goal we’ve got Howard back (of course) and Petr Mrazek making the jump to be his backup. Some (maybe even within the Wings organization) will argue that Mrazek is better served getting starts in GR than as backup, I disagree. A 50/30 split would get Howard some rest and get Mrazek into games.

This doesn’t answer the team’s reported interest in a top-four, right-handed defenseman (unless you want to count Sproul there). It leaves a bunch of players with contracts off the lineup. It doesn’t get anything in return for those missing players and it doesn’t utilize the cap space freed up by their absence. In short, it’s not going to happen. But it’s the starting point that I’m going to look at things from this summer.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Sabres – 4/8

It had to be exciting right down to the end, but the Red Wings moved to within a point of clinching a playoff spot tonight with their 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Okay, maybe exciting is the wrong word. Stressful? This was certainly not the most exciting game, certainly not the best game, but the two points that came out of it are all that matter.

Detroit had chances early, plenty of power play time in the first period, but it was Buffalo getting on the board first on a deflection in the second period and suddenly things look worrisome. Brendan Smith ties it on a really nice shot from the high slot, but 1-1 after two still doesn’t look great for the Wings given the chances they’d blown.

Off a Sabres turnover, Darren Helm drives to the net to get Detroit the lead and the Wings go into a pretty solid lockdown. When David Legwand makes it 3-1 in the closing minutes, it looks a lot better. Nothing is ever safe in the third for Detroit, though, as Zemgus Girgensons makes a nice move around Niklas Kronwall and it’s a one goal game again. Pavel Datsyuk chucks the puck down ice from his own blue line and into the empty net in the closing seconds to wrap things up.

Not perfect but two points.

That, combined with Columbus’ win, Toronto’s loss, and Carolina’s loss means that Ottawa, Toronto, and Carolina were all mathematically eliminated tonight. Washington stayed alive with a win over St. Louis and the Blue Jackets kept pace with Detroit, one point back. The Eastern Conference’s wild card spots are down to two of Detroit, Columbus, New Jersey and Washington. Columbus and Detroit both play tomorrow.

Postgame: Penguins @ Red Wings – 3/20

It’s been awhile since the Red Wings finished off their slightly-incredible 5-4 OT win over the Pittsburgh Penguins and I’m still not entirely sure where I want to start my postgame notes.

I guess let’s get David Legwand out of the way. His butt-ending penalty in the closing minutes of regulation is one of the stupidest things we’ve seen from a Red Wing in a long time. He absolutely deserved the penalty and probably deserves a couple games of suspension as well. It’s just a stupid, stupid play that there’s no need for.

On a happier note, the game winning goal… This is the kind of goal that has killed Detroit so many times before. Ill-timed, wacky bounce, cannot believe that just happened kind of stuff. But it really summed up the entire game, as with two goals already having gone in off the Pittsburgh defense, a third almost was just appropriate.

But there never would have been a chance for that if not for the fantastic penalty kill effort late in regulation and early in overtime on Legwand’s major penalty. Luke Glendening in particular was a beast.

With the win, at least for now the Red Wings are back in the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. I’ve written the team off but they refuse to give up.

Postgame: Avalanche @ Red Wings – 3/6

Much like with the Winter Classic, there are two stories to last night: The event and the game.

Actually, the game was two stories, as well. Through the first two periods, the Red Wings controlled play. The Avalanche didn’t even have a scoring chance in the first period, even having the only power play of the game to that point. In a game that was supposed to be about Colorado’s great young players, it was Detroit’s kids keeping the Avs bottled up for shifts at a time.

Unfortunately, a 2-1 lead for the Wings after two periods went the way of so many third-period leads this season. Colorado took control and tied things up. The Wings never looked like they were really in it for the rest of the night. Then a defensive miscue in overtime left a wide-open net and a 3-2 loss.

Given Detroit’s recent track record in “event” games, an overtime loss isn’t that bad. That said, their fighting for their playoff lives, they need as many points as they can get, and they left one on the table.

One major positive is that the first line looked better with trade deadline acquisition David Legwand than it did with Joakim Andersson, who was bumped down to the fourth line. Actually, Legwand looked pretty good, it was Johan Franzen who looked like he was coasting (which, given his historic streakiness and the fact that he’s coming off a run as the league’s first star of the week, you could say might have been due).

As for Nicklas Lidstrom‘s jersey retirement, it was nearly perfect, as you would expect. Steve Yzerman should have been there. More importantly, as Lidstrom himself noted, Brad McCrimmon should have been there. Chris Illitch should have acknowledged that this is Detroit’s eighth retired number, as the Ilitch family needs to stop trying to ignore Larry Aurie.

I have a little rant about not raising the banner straight up to where it belongs next to the others but part of that is a rant about the banners being wrong at the Joe in general, which I’ve made before.

That said, all of the speeches were fantastic. Having so many former teammates there was awesome. The current Wings in their #5 jerseys was a nice (if over-used) touch. It was a fitting send-off.

I had wondered how they would make it different from Steve Yzerman’s jersey retirement and a big part of it seems to be that they had the alumni seated to start rather than walking in when they were introduced. I think this shows how much Yzerman’s ceremony was about him as the leader of an entire era of Red Wings while Lidstrom’s was more about him. It was appropriate.

I’ve got a batch of photos from the ceremony and the game that will go up on the site eventually. As with the Winter Classic photos, I expect they’ll be a little delayed.

Trade Deadline Thoughts: Offense vs. Defense

I’ve already written my thoughts on the Red Wings’ trade for David Legwand so I won’t go into that right now, but Bill Roose has a piece about today’s transaction that piqued my interest. Specifically, the opening paragraph:

Late Tuesday night, general manager Ken Holland scrapped his original plans to enhance the Red Wings’ defense as the league’s Wednesday trade deadline approached.

I wrote earlier (and was a little more outspoken about it throughout the day via Twitter) that I thought defense should be Detroit’s first priority. Specifically, I was concerned that the current Red Wings lineup has only three real top-four defenseman, with the fourth spot taken by whoever happens to pair up with the odd-man-out of Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson and Danny DeKeyser. By paycheck that really should be Kyle Quincey but, while he’s been better of late, he hasn’t really seized that role.

It’s great to see that the Wings’ brass thought a defensive upgrade was the top priority, too. It’s also understandable that, upon learning of Darren Helm‘s injury, the team would decide to add some depth at center. Those were clearly the holes in the lineup heading into the NHL’s trade deadline.

What’s shocking to me is that the team considered it a “one or the other” situation, and that they chose to fill the gap at center over the one on defense; that fixing both issues was not an option.

By adding Legwand, the team has partially addressed their needs at center. Legwand, at this point in his career a second- or third-line center, will center the top line until Pavel Datsyuk returns from injury. Rookie Riley Sheahan will take the second line while rookie Joakim Andersson has the third and rookie (sensing a theme here?) Luke Glendening has the fourth line. It’s a band-aid but it prevents the team from having to shift Johan Franzen or Justin Abdelkader to center or use Cory Emmerton.

But they still have a big hole on defense. In adding the band-aid up front, they neglected the problem they had in the first place. Is it worth fixing the forward issue if you don’t resolve the problem on defense?

For me, the mid-term repercussions are the damning ones. If you accept that the team was going to have to – and is able to – make the playoffs with either a weakness at center or on defense, then you’ve also got to assume that the Red Wings will be playing in the postseason with a healthier lineup. Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be back, as will Helm and Stephen Weiss. Suddenly Legwand is your third- or fourth-line center… And you’re still missing a number four defenseman because no amount of return from injury is going to make one of those appear on this lineup.

Trade Deadline Thoughts: Snap Judgement

Okay, the Red Wings’ only move of the deadline was to acquire David Legwand for Patrick Eaves, a conditional third-round draft pick (it becomes a second-rounder if the Wings make the playoffs), and Calle Jarnkrok. I’ve been ranting on Twitter but I’m going to put it all in one place here.

I wouldn’t have traded Jarnkrok for Legwand straight-up. I hate this deal.

As I said earlier, I can justify a deal. I don’t like losing a guy like Patrick Eaves but he’s expendable and the Preds were going to ask for a roster player back, so it’s not a big loss. He’s also an unrestricted free agent this summer so he was gone anyway. The third-rounder is what I would expect to deal. I really don’t like that it’s conditional but that’s not too bad. Jarnkrok… TSN is reporting that he’s considering returning to Sweden this summer so the Wings might have lost him anyway.

In that optimistic view, it’s a second-rounder to rent Legwand and that’s not too bad. Especially if maybe Legwand re-signs with Detroit, his hometown team, this summer.

I don’t think that’s the case, though.

First off, even with injuries to Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm, forward was not Detroit’s biggest problem. Eventually they’ll get healthy up front. No amount of returning from injury will help their defense and they did nothing to augment it.

Secondly, I think you have to look at things in relation to other trades. The Montreal Canadiens acquired Thomas Vanek today for a second-rounder and a prospect. The Wings essentially spent more to get Legwand.

Third, if Detroit is healthy next season, as should be expected right now, they don’t need Legwand so re-signing him becomes unnecessary.

So best-case it’s a second rounder and two players the Wings would have lost anyway, who weren’t going to help them much this season. Worst-case, it’s a second-rounder and the fourth-best prospect in the Detroit organization (Eaves is a wash either way).

I dislike the deal. I think it has the potential to be the worst Ken Holland has made. But if things work out perfectly, I can justify it.