Red Wings Leave Mrazek Exposed for Expansion Draft

There were few surprises when the Red Wings’ expansion draft protection list was (eventually) released this morning, but the one that did come down was a big one, as the team opted to protect goalie Jimmy Howard rather than Petr Mrazek.

Available
Louis-Marc Aubry (F)
Mitch Callahan (F)
Colin Campbell (F)
Martin Frk (F)
Luke Glendening (F)
Darren Helm (F)
Drew Miller (F)
Tomas Nosek (F)
Riley Sheahan (F)
Ben Street (F)
Eric Tangradi (F)
Adam Almquist (D)
Jonathan Ericsson (D)
Niklas Kronwall (D)
Brian Lashoff (D)
Dylan McIlrath (D)
Xavier Ouellet (D)
Ryan Sproul (D)
Jared Coreau (G)
Petr Mrazek (G)
Edward Pasquale (G)
Jake Paterson (G)

Protected
Justin Abdelkader (F)
Andreas Athanasiou (F)
Anthony Mantha (F)
Frans Nielsen (F)
Gustav Nyquist (F)
Tomas Tatar (F)
Henrik Zetterberg (F)
Danny DeKeyser (D)
Mike Green (D)
Nick Jensen (D)
Jimmy Howard (G)

I’ve been ranting about this on Twitter all morning, so obviously I think this is the wrong move.  Let me touch on a couple other things first, though.

I half-expected Niklas Kronwall to be protected, even though his contract and injury history make him pretty much unclaimable, so seeing him available is good.  Similarly, the Red Wings could have left Andreas Athanasiou unprotected to protect Darren Helm but didn’t.  So there were some good choices here.

Let’s come back to the goalies, though.

Yesterday the Arizona Coyotes and Calgary Flames made waves with the Coyotes sending veteran goalie Mike Smith to the Flames for a pick and a prospect.  At the time, I wondered how Ken Holland couldn’t have gotten a deal done to send Jimmy Howard to Calgary instead, as the Wings certainly could have asked for less, with the cleared cap space being the real acquisition for Detroit.  After all, Smith is two years older than Howard, signed for more money, and had worse stats than Howard last season.

One response was that Smith is seen as more durable than Howard.  While that’s possible, it’d be somewhat ridiculous, as Howard missed significant time last season but Smith missed half the year in 2015-16.

Another idea was that Calgary GM Brad Treliving specifically wanted Smith, as he was with the Coyotes when they signed him.  That’s always possible, but I find it hard to believe that familiarity was worth the higher price paid for Smith than the Wings would have to have asked for Howard.  Either Treliving did a disservice to the Flames by overpaying for a goalie or Ken Holland did a disservice to the Red Wings by not negotiating hard enough to trade Howard.

I’m also focusing on Howard here because we know the Flames traded for Smith and Howard is more like Smith than Mrazek is.  We have no idea what kind of deal it would have taken to move Mrazek to Calgary but we can guess what kind of deal would have gotten Howard there.

If Howard gets dealt yesterday, Mrazek gets protected today, and concerns about losing a goalie for nothing are gone.

I think it could have been avoided, but regardless the reason, the Red Wings hit yesterday’s deadline with two NHL goalies on their roster and could only protect one.

With that out of the way, some thoughts on protecting Howard over Mrazek…

There’s a lot of chatter that neither will be selected because there are better goalies available.  If that’s the case, I would think you try to slide Howard through because at 33 and with a $5.29 million cap hit and coming off an injury-filled season, it’s less likely that he gets claimed, just in case.

If there’s a deal in place to “guide” the Golden Knights towards picking a certain player, it doesn’t matter who you have unprotected.  That said, Ken Holland said he wasn’t going to do that.  Kenny has lied to us before, though.

Ignoring both of those, the reason to leave Mrazek unprotected is because you don’t care if you lose him.  For a team in the Red Wings’ position, that’s a mistake.  This team needs to get younger and cheaper, even if that means worse (which I think it arguable).  Shed bad contracts and look to the future.  You do that by protecting Mrazek, not Howard.

Protecting Howard over Mrazek feels like sacrificing youth for another playoff push.  It feels like the tie goes to the veteran.  It feels like the “Red Wings Way” that led to the end of the playoff streak and no long playoff runs in nearly a decade.

Morning After: Red Wings @ Maple Leafs

This was a hard game to watch.

The Red Wings shot themselves in the foot early with a Darren Helm giveaway leading directly to a goal by Alexey Marchenko – the defenseman Detroit gave away for free via waivers because Ken Holland has such a weak grasp on the concept of asset management.

Then Niklas Kronwall takes a penalty and the Leafs score pretty quick on the power play and, ugh, it looks like it’s going to be one of those nights.

Nazem Kadri makes it 3-0 early in the second and the Toronto-based media is calling for a blowout but a strange thing happens.  Despite not managing a shot for about 15 minutes in the middle period, the Red Wings turn it on for the last five minutes and Gustav Nyquist scores.

Nyquist adds another just 36 seconds into the third and suddenly it’s a game.  But not really because most of the rest of the period is just the two teams fumbling around with each other.

We end with controversy, as Henrik Zetterberg gets high sticked – with a significant amount of blood drawn – and there’s no penalty.  Not that I want to have games relying on the Red Wings’ power play, but that could have made a massive difference.

After an earlier marginal goalie interference call on Nick Jensen, the missed high stick just adds to the “hard to watch” aspects of the game.  Yes, missed calls always go both ways and over a season they probably even out, but combined with the “Toronto Maple Leafs: Team…  Of…  Dessssstiny” narrative, it feels like the ice is tilted.

In the end, it wasn’t all bad.  Most of the losses this season haven’t been.  They just haven’t been good enough.  Late start, comeback falls short, blah blah blah.

On the plus side, Robbie Russo didn’t look horrible in his NHL debut.  A beat too slow in his decision making, probably (Mickey Redmond was harping on Russo taking too many hits), but his skating looked good.

Nyquist and Zetterberg also looked good.  Like the game mattered to them more than it did to some others.  There’s been some talk about not losing the culture of winning that the Red Wings have had and how Zetterberg is carrying that on even as the team misses the playoffs and I think you could really see that last night.

Morning After: Red Wings vs. Blue Jackets

We know that refs aren’t perfect.  Calls get missed and bad calls are made.  However, I have a serious issue with what the officials from last night’s Red Wings/Blue Jackets matchup told Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg after the game, when a slash from Brandon Dubinsky broke Zetterberg’s stick and directly led to Seth Jones’ game-winning goal in overtime.

They saw it. They just deemed it to not be a penalty.

For reference, here’s the play:

And, for comparison’s sake, here’s a stick-breaking slash that was called a penalty in the Montreal/Colorado game last night:

I’ve ranted before about refs being treated as infallible. It’s simply not true and we’ve got video proof of that from last night.

Either the slash in the Detroit/Columbus game was correctly called – no penalty because doing that is not a penalty, or the slash in the Canadiens/Avalanche game was correctly called – breaking the stick with a slash is a penalty, or the slash on Zetterberg was simply missed – in which case the ref was covering his ass by saying what happened wasn’t a penalty.

My guess is that the last one occurred. And that happens. I’d feel a lot better, though, if the refs owned up to it.

Red Wings Call-Up Bertuzzi, Put Vanek on LTIR

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday that Tyler Bertuzzi was called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins, with Thomas Vanek placed on long-term injured reserve to make room for him.

Vanek’s LTIR stint is back-dated to October 25th, so he’s eligible to come back late next week.

The interesting thing is that, with a player like Bertuzzi, you’d think he’d be called up so a guy like Steve Ott could sit.  Ott’s signing last summer essentially took away Bertuzzi’s spot on the fourth line.  But then there’s this:

If Bertuzzi was slated for the fourth line in Philadelphia tomorrow, wouldn’t he be practicing on that line while the 13th forward fills in for the missing Henrik Zetterberg?  Is Bertuzzi the spare, called up just in case Zetterberg can’t go against the Flyers?

If Bertuzzi was called up as insurance, it’s really interesting that the Red Wings didn’t go with Anthony Mantha.  A top-six spot opens up and they don’t go with the supposed top-six guy?  I don’t know.

Apparently Zetterberg will be ready to play tomorrow.  In that case, Bertuzzi taking his spot in practice confuses me.  I guess we’ll see tomorrow.


Update, 12:20 PM: MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has me blocked on Twitter, says that Bertuzzi will play in a top-six role.

I really don’t get why they didn’t go with Mantha here and I’m confused as to what they want from him.

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.

Red Wings Name Abdelkader Alternate Captain

Justin Abdelkader will make his first appearance of the preseason in Chicago tonight and the Red Wings didn’t wait any longer than they had to before naming him as the team’s new alternate captain.

Yeah, they used the word “assistant.”  Whatever.

Abdelkader takes on the ‘A’ left behind by Pavel Datsyuk‘s trade to the Arizona Coyotes and subsequent departure for his native Russia.

It’s the first time the Red Wings have named a new alternate since Niklas Kronwall replaced Kris Draper in the three-man rotation for the 2011-12 season.  When Henrik Zetterberg ascended to the captaincy in 2014, the team simply went back to two alternates instead of replacing him.

The Red Wings did not assign an extra ‘A’ in cases of injury throughout the 2015-16 season.  The only players on the active roster to have previously worn a letter for Detroit in a regular season game were Jonathan Ericsson (three games) and Darren Helm (one game) during the 2014-15 campaign.

I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone.  The buzz surrounding the ‘A’ had been focused on Abdelkader all summer and he’s really the most logical choice, after accepting Dylan Larkin wasn’t going to get it.


Update, 11:30 AM: The Red Wings deleted their original announcement tweet and replaced it with one using the word “alternate” instead.  Small victory.

Red Wings World Cup Jersey Numbers

Yahoo Sports’ Sean Leahy sent out a batch of Tweets earlier today with rosters and jersey numbers for each team in the World Cup of Hockey.

With Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall out for Sweden, the Red Wings have representatives on five of the eight teams.

For Team USA, Justin Abdelkader will wear #89 – his old high school number – which he wore while captaining the Americans at the World Championships in 2014.  The #8 he wears in Detroit is taken by team captain Joe Pavelski.

Dylan Larkin will keep #71 with the “Young Guns” team, Team North America.

Oddly, Alexey Marchenko will wear his now-old #47 for Team Russia. He just switched to #53 with Detroit and wore that number – which is available – with the Russians at this year’s World Championships.

Team Europe features Tomas Tatar in #21, which is slightly weird because he usually wears #90 in international competition. Thomas Vanek gets the #26 that’s not available to him in Detroit while Frans Nielsen gets his usual #51.

For Czechia, goalie Petr Mrazek gets his regular #34.

Zetterberg Out of World Cup

Team Sweden announced on Thursday that Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will miss the upcoming World Cup of Hockey.

Detroit general manager Ken Holland later clarified that Zetterberg suffered a knee injury while training.  He has yet to have an MRI but the injury does not appear to be serious.

Zetterberg, who was to serve as team captain for the tournament, is the second Swedish Red Wing to withdraw.  Earlier this summer, Niklas Kronwall was replaced in the lineup by Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm.

Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames will take Zetterberg’s spot.

It marks the second time that Zetterberg has been named Sweden’s captain only to not finish the tournament.  At the 2014 Winter Olympics, Zetterberg played one game wearing the C before suffering a back injury.

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.

On the Red Wings’ Next Alternate Captain

With Pavel Datsyuk having departed, the Red Wings are left with an open spot among their contingent of captains.  I brought this up on Twitter a month ago and WiiM did a post on it a couple weeks ago.  I went back through the team’s recent history to see if anything can be gleaned from it to show us who might be picked.

The 2015-16 season was unique for the Red Wings in that captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternates Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall were the only players to wear letters for the team all year.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opportunity – both Datsyuk and Kronwall missed significant time due to injury – it means that there were 34 games where Detroit didn’t even bother sewing an “A” on anyone else’s sweater.

Captains are the only players who can speak to on-ice officials but the Red Wings’ going with fewer than the allowed number of captains shows how unimportant that rule.  Of note: Teams may have no more than three lettered players on the roster but there is nothing saying that they have to have that number.

We have to go back to the 2015 season to find replacement captains used by the Red Wings.  Despite ten games with only two captains dressed, seven players still managed to wear a letter throughout the year.  The injured Johan Franzen wore it for ten games, Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary each wore it for three, and Darren Helm wore it for one.

If he were healthy, I think Franzen would get the A, but he’ll never play again.  Cleary may very well return to the organization and get a letter in Grand Rapids, but I think he can be ruled out in Detroit.  That leaves Ericsson and the recently-re-signed Helm.

Going back one more season to 2014 adds no new names to the list, as the now-retired Daniel Alfredsson was the most-frequent extra alternate, wearing an A for 36 games to Franzen’s 31 and Cleary’s 8.  Five games were spent with only two captains.

The lockout-shortened 2013 – Zetterberg’s first as captain – featured three games with only two captains but no replacement alternates.  It was also the first season since the 2007-08 campaign, when Datsyuk was given an A along with Zetterberg and Kris Draper, that the team had only three captains.

Even with four captains on the books in 2012, Tomas Holmstrom wore the A for eight games.  The team dressed three captains for every game.

Going back further, we see the names of long-departed defensemen Brian Rafalski and Chris Chelios…  Clearly players who won’t be options now.

In the last seven years there have been ten players to wear the C or A with the Red Wings.  Two of them – Zetterberg and Kronwall – still do.  Only two of the remaining eight are still with the team: Ericsson and Helm.

At three games to one, Ericsson has more experience wearing the letter than Helm.  Maybe that gives him an edge.

So can anything be pulled from these numbers?  I think the only thing they show is that it’s time for someone new.  The old standbys are gone.

While newcomers Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott have all worn letters elsewhere in their career – Nielsen had an A with the Islanders last season while Vanek and Ott co-captained the Sabres back in the 2013-14 season – the Red Wings haven’t given the alternate captaincy directly to a newcomer since trading for Brendan Shanahan in 1996.

By my count, the Wings haven’t had two defenseman with letters since before the Steve Yzerman era, which would seemingly rule out Ericsson or any of the other blueliners, so long as Kronwall wears the A.

Jeff Blashill is not Jacques Demers.  I don’t think Dylan Larkin gets the available letter by virtue of being the team’s best player.

I think – almost from lack of better options – that we’ll see Justin Abdelkader get the A.

Of course, that could change if the mythical “trade for a top defenseman” ever emerges.  We’ll see.