Pregame: Predators @ Red Wings – 10/21

Coming off a 2-1 win over the Rangers in New York that probably wasn’t deserved, the Red Wings are changing things up tonight as they host the Nashville Predators.

Steve Ott is back in the lineup for the first time since the season opener, with Andreas Athanasiou swapped out.  On defense, Ryan Sproul gets his first look of the season and only his second career game with Xavier Ouellet out.

This comes as no surprise, but I’d prefer to never see Ott in the lineup again, so, whatever, we’ll see what happens.  I’ll say forever that I don’t see how you can bring back Darren Helm as a free agent because of his speed, but then sit Athanasiou for anyone.

Something I find interesting with Sproul coming in…  No one is giving updates on Niklas Kronwall anymore.  The Wings had hoped he’d be ready for the start of the season but, obviously, he wasn’t.  A week later and we don’t know if he’s any closer.  I’m gonna float a conspiracy theory right now: Kronwall is done and his LTIRed cap space will be how the Red Wings manage to fit in Cam Fowler.  I’d rather it be Jacob Trouba, but Winnipeg is asking too much.

Petr Mrazek will be back in goal for the Wings after Jimmy Howard got the win on Wednesday.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

Stupid Stat of the Day:  Okay, this one’s a long one, so I dropped it to the bottom of the post.  Several years ago I wrote about the Red Wings playing in Nashville on Saturday on no rest.  Looking at a Friday night game with Detroit hosting the Predators, my first thought was, “Wow, that never happens.”

Turns out I’m wrong.  Of the 55 times they’ve hosted the Predators, seven have been on Friday, just less than you’d expect with an even distribution (but good luck playing 7.8 games on a day).  The Wings have hosted the Preds five times on Sunday, four on Monday, nine on Tuesday, twelve on Wednesday, eight on Thursday, seven on Friday, and ten on Saturday.

The weird thing is that it took nine seasons (one of which was lost to the lockout) for the Red Wings to host their then-division-rival on a Friday night.  Nashville’s first visit to the Joe on a Friday was November 10, 2006.  Through the Predators’ first ten seasons, it was the only visit.  The remaining six have all come in the nine years since.

So it turns out that Friday night games hosting Nashville are common enough, but they used to be rare

On Hope and Excitement, and Lack Thereof

I’m not excited for the start of the Red Wings season.

I’m not saying that I won’t watch the opener tomorrow or I won’t be at the Joe for the home opener on Monday.  I just wouldn’t feel an absence in my life if those games weren’t happening.

I’m also not saying that I don’t care what happens with the team.  Quite the opposite.

At the end of last season, even with the Wings bowing out so early in the playoffs, there was hope.  General Manager Ken Holland spoke about giving opportunity to the team’s prospects, about revamping the defense, about ways to make the team better.

In June Pavel Datsyuk left but Holland managed to unload his contract.  It came at a high cost but was necessary given what the team was trying to do.  There was still hope.  I still had hope

As free agency approached, the Red Wings had money to spend and roster spots to fill, as well as prospects like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi and Tomas Nosek ready to challenge for a role.

Then the Wings brought back Drew Miller, the penalty-killing specialist who missed most of the season with a pair of injuries.

Then the Wings brought back bottom-six forward Darren Helm on a five year deal.

On July 1st, the Red Wings signed Frans Nielsen to replace Datsyuk and Thomas Vanek to replace the soon-to-retire Brad Richards and Steve Ott…  For some reason.

Suddenly those open roster spots were filled and the hole in the team’s defense hadn’t been addressed.  Holland reassured us that the glut of forwards gave him pieces to use in trade for a defender.

Training camp approached and there was no trade.  News broke that Jacob Trouba, Michigan-native and right-shooting defenseman, exactly what the Wings were coveting, was demanding a trade.  But those pieces that Holland had assembled wouldn’t be enough.  So there was no fix for the blueline and there was no battle for forward spots.  Athanasiou beat out Teemu Pulkkinen – waived off to Minnesota – but it was for the 13th forward spot, relegated to the press box.

This season’s roster is last season’s roster.  From opening night to the end of the season to today, Johan Franzen became Pavel Datsyuk who is now Frans Nielsen.  Brad Richards became Thomas Vanek.  Landon Ferraro was replaced by Darren Helm – re-signed due to a need for speed.  Drew Miller became Joakim Andersson who became Drew Miller again.  Teemu Pulkkinen became Andreas Athanasiou who became Steve Ott – despite that supposed need for speed.  Jakub Kindl and Kyle Quincey became Alexey Marchenko and Xavier Ouellet.

The team that backed into the playoffs and only made it there because they got help from the Ottawa Senators on the last day of the season is much the same as the team that begins this season.

I expect this team to miss the playoffs.  I expected that this would be a losing season last May.  But in May, I had hope that this losing season would feature learning experiences for the next generation of Red Wings.  Instead, they’re going to lose with the same guys that lost last year.

So I’ll watch and I’ll root for the Wings, but I’m not getting my hopes up.  I’m not getting excited.

Thoughts on Jacob Trouba’s Trade Demand

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba has demanded a trade.

Given that the Red Wings have been looking to upgrade their defense and that Trouba is from Rochester, it seems like this would make a lot of sense for Detroit, but a lot of teams are going to be interested in him and the Wings might not be able to offer enough.

This one’s hard for me to hear.  For years Wings fans have been told that there was nothing Ken Holland can do, the player they were targeting just didn’t want to come to Detroit.  Zach Parise and Ryan Suter wanted to go home.  Steven Stamkos wanted to stay in Tampa.

Now there’s a player who they could use, who wants to go somewhere that he’ll be used, who hails from the area and played college hockey at Michigan.  From what we’ve been told, this is exactly the kind of player the Red Wings should have no problem bringing in.

But this isn’t an unrestricted free agent.  It’s not a matter of finding a contract that works for both sides, it’s a matter of doing that and finding something of value to send back to the Jets, too.

As Holland has told us, trades are hard.

I don’t think Trouba is coming to Detroit.  I think the Wings have too many defensemen, too little cap space, and not enough to offer the Jets in return.

But there is this: