Nyquist, Ott, and Random Numbers

Earlier today, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press posted a piece about how, once the Wings get healthy, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan need to be benched because they’re not producing as expected.  She then engaged readers via Twitter, repeating her argument while also stating that Steve Ott has been a great signing for the Red Wings.

I Tweeted a little bit about it but I want to sum it up here.

As far as Nyquist (and probably Tatar and Sheahan) goes, I won’t deny that the Wings probably had higher hopes for him, especially with the contract that they gave him.  That said, Prashanth Iyer of Winging it in Motown does a great job of explaining that Nyquist’s production is solid by certain metrics.

Read his whole thread. Seriously.

When asked about Steve Ott, HSJ said the following:

I’m not an Ott fan. I was confused by his signing on Day One.  Last week the beat writers were all over how great Ott is for his fight sparking the Red Wings to a win, which is confusing correlation with causation.

If Ott was brought to Detroit to fight and provide a spark, here’s what we know:  Ott has fought five times this season.  The Red Wings are 2-2-1 in those games.  In the minutes played after his fight in each of those games, the Red Wings have scored 13 goals and allowed 13 goals.

In short, the impact of a Steve Ott fight on the outcome of a game this season is completely neutral.  You could argue it’s a negative, even, if you take that overtime loss as just a loss.

But if we’re going to take salary into account, let’s say that instead of Ott, the Wings had a guy who was making just over $800k and put up at a 15-goal, 15-assist pace last season while playing about 11 minutes per night.  Would you say that’s the kind of guy you could play in the bottom six or you could bump up to the top six if you felt like you need to cut the minutes of Nyquist/Tatar/Sheahan?  I think so.

Of course, those numbers belong to Teemu Pulkkinen, abandoned by the Red Wings and now skating for the AHL’s Iowa Wild.

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.

Postgame: Lightning @ Red Wings – Game 4

I’m not sure if the Red Wings deserved better than a 3-2 loss last night in Game Four against the Lightning, but I can’t shake the feeling that Tampa deserved worse.

The Lightning controlled the first ten minutes of play and scored their first power play goal in that time. But after that, they really didn’t threaten much outside of the power plays. The Red Wings started to come on, also didn’t threaten a whole lot, but it felt like they controlled the puck more (I’m not looking up the stats to back this up, this is eyeball analysis only). That carried through the second period and then the Red Wings turned it on to start the third and seemed to be in control until Tampa’s third and final power play goal, the eventual game-winner.

It was the penalty kill that doomed the Red Wings. On the three tries with the man-advantage where the Lightning scored, they moved the puck at will. The Wings just looked lost out there. And you just can’t do that. If you’re going to concede so much on the PK you’d better be making up for it on the power play and, once again, they didn’t.

With so much emphasis on special teams, you’re going to get some focus on the reffing standard, which was pretty atrocious. Tampa Bay scored during a penalty to Justin Abdelkader that was deserved, but then plays that were just as bad in the following minutes were allowed. The goalie interference call to Gustav Nyquist in the second period was an absolute joke. Then you have the cross-checking penalty to Jonathan Ericsson on which the Lightning scored the game-winner. Soft. Technically the right call, but in the context of what had been allowed all game, surprising. It’s hard to believe that the refs chose the final minutes of a tied playoff game to put their foot down and say “Enough is enough” about that play. Of course, it doesn’t matter if the Wings’ PK wasn’t a disaster.

So they’re left having to win three in a row, two on the road, against a team they’ve won one of four against so far. It’s a tough spot to be in. I don’t think they’ll do it.

Red Wings Rally for Stadium Series Win

The Detroit Red Wings rallied from down 2-1 entering the third period on Saturday for a 5-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche in their Stadium Series matchup at Denver’s Coors Field.

Gustav Nyquist‘s scored just 1:27 into the third period. Nyquist lifted a no-look backhander from the left faceoff circle past Colorado netminder Semyon Varlamov to tie the game, 2-2.

With 6:32 left in the period, Darren Helm fed Justin Abdelkader from behind the goal for a quick shot from the side of the crease past Varlamov for a 3-2 lead, Detroit’s second of the night.

The lead was short-lived, as Alex Tanguay blasted home a rebound over sprawling Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek just 14 seconds later.

The game seemed to be headed to overtime until Brad Richards banged the rebound of a Niklas Kronwall shot from the point off Varlamov’s pad, through the air, and into the net for a 4-3 win.

Helm added an empty-net goal to wrap up the game’s scoring.

Tomas Tatar had opened things up 5:07 into the first period. After a brief scramble around the side of the net, Tatar collected the puck and snapped a shot from the bottom of the left circle through a screen by Nyqyust,

Nathan MacKinnon tied things up at 7:44 of the period, rifling a shot from the left wing past Mrazek on a rush.

With 5:22 remaining in the first, Tyson Barrie lifted a shot over Mrazek to make it 2-1. The Red Wings challenged the goal, saying Carl Soderberg interfered with Mrazek, but the call stood.

The Red Wings went scoreless on five power play tries while the Avalanche didn’t score on either of their chances with the man-advantage.

Mrazek finished the night with 24 saves on 27 shots. Varlamov stopped 23 of 27 chances.


Detroit’s healthy scratches were Brendan Smith and Teemu Pulkkinen… The game was briefly interrupted in the third period as wind lifted fake snow into the air, dumping some of it onto the playing surface.

Red Wings’ Fall in Shootout to Capitals

Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season and Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 38 of 40 shots but it wasn’t enough for the Red Wings, as they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.

The Red Wings blew yet another third period lead en route to the loss, as Alexander Ovechkin banged home a loose puck at the edge of the crease on the power play with 9:09 left in the third to tie the game, 2-2. The Red Wings challenged the goal, claiming that T.J. Oshie interfered with Howard while crashing the net, but the call on the ice stood.

Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov would go on to score in the shootout while neither Gustav Nyquist nor Pavel Datsyuk could beat Washington’s Braden Holtby.

The Capitals had opened the game’s scoring just 43 seconds into the game. After a Detroit turnover in their own end, Kuznetsov got a shot off that Howard stopped but Justin Williams dove to poke the rebound past Howard, off the post, and in.

With 4:20 left in the period, Henrik Zetterberg tied things up. Off a faceoff win in the Capitals’ end, Dylan Larkin controlled the puck on the right wing boards and threaded a pass through traffic to Zetterberg for a tip-in from the slot.

Jurco gave the Red Wings the lead at 3:16 of the second period. Off a dump in, Joakim Andersson won a battle for the puck behind the net and sent it out front to Jurco all alone to make a quick move and lift a shot past Holtby.

Holtby finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots.

Ovechkin’s tally was the only power play marker of the game. Washington had five chances with the extra attacker to Detroit’s one.

The Red Wings will return to action on Thursday when they host the Montreal Canadiens.


Andersson’s assist on Jurco’s goal was his first point of the season. Every skater who has appeared in a game for the Red Wings this year now has at least one point.

Red Wings Rout Coyotes for 5-1 Win

The Detroit Red Wings earned a point in their ninth consecutive game Thursday night with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced to earn the win – his fourth in a row – and five different players scored for the Red Wings.

The game could have been very different, as the Coyotes thought they had opened the scoring just 1:22 in. Klas Dahlbeck scored on a play that Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill challenged. Video review revealed that Connor Murphy was offside and the goal was wiped out.

Instead, it was Justin Abdelkader‘s goal with 7:30 left in the opening frame that got things started. Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin forced a turnover behind the Arizona net and chased it up the side boards, then worked the puck to Abdelkader in front of the net for a backhander past goalie Mike Smith.

Niklas Kronwall made it 2-0 with 42 seconds left in the period on a blast from the slot off a feed from Tomas Tatar. Just 18 seconds later, Gustav Nyquist bounced a shot from the neutral zone past Smith to give the Red Wings a 3-0 lead.

The period would end with Kyle Chipchura laying a hard hit on Brendan Smith. Smith replied with a slash to Chipchura, then the two fought.

Arizona got on the board at 5:52 of the middle frame. Jordan Martinook snapped a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle through traffic and past Howard off a feed from behind the net by Steve Downie.

Danny DeKeyser replied for the Red Wings just 1:26 later with a blast from the blue line past Anders Lindback, who replaced Smith in the Coyotes’ net to start the second period.

Darren Helm would round out the game’s scoring with his first of the season. Lindback lost the puck behind the net and it came out to Helm, who put it in before Lindback could get into position.

Lindback finished the night with 26 saves on 28 shots while Smith stopped 13 of 16 chances he faced.

The Red Wings lost both Teemu Pulkkinen and Drew Miller to injury in the first period. Pulkkinen was boarded by Martin Hanzal and Miller took a shoulder to the head from Dahlbeck.

Kronwall Scores in OT to Lift Red Wings Past Oilers

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall scored 26 seconds into overtime on Friday night, lifting the Detroit Red Wings to a 4-3 win over the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

Five of Detroit’s last six games have been decided in the extra period, with the team going 3-2 in that set.

After Kronwall gave the puck away to Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins right in front of the Detroit net, he took Nugent-Hopkins down and joined Dylan Larkin on a rush going the opposite way. On a two-on-one against Oscar Klefbom, Larkin fed Kronwall for a snap shot through Klefbom’s legs and past goalie Cam Talbot for the win.

The Red Wings had opened the scoring at 5:11 of the second period, as Gustav Nyquist pounced on a loose puck at the edge of the crease during a scramble and knocked it past Talbot. Tomas Tatar made it 2-0 6:56 later, snapping a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle past the Edmonton netminder.

Two quick goals near the end of the period would erase the Detroit lead. Iiro Pakarinen took a feed from Anton Lander and beat Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard from the slot to make it 1-0 with 4:43 left in the second. Just 2:27 later, Andrej Sekara scored a power play goal on a one-timer from the high slot to even things up.

Larkin restored Detroit’s lead with 36 seconds left in the middle frame, racing in on goal off a feed from Henrik Zetterberg and beating Talbot from in close.

Pakarinen tied things back up at 8:45 of the third period, capitalizing on a Detroit turnover to lift a shot past Howard from the left faceoff circle.

Each team had two chances on the power play with Sekara’s tally the only goal scored.

Howard finished the night with 21 saves on 24 shots. Talbot stopped 28 of 32 Detroit chances.

The Red Wings are next in action on Sunday afternoon when they host the Florida Panthers.