Numbers Game Preview 2009

As I mentioned last year, I look forward to training camp not because it marks the start of the start of the season but because I’m a sweater numberphile and as camp rosters are released we see what players are switching numbers.

So far no news is out from the Wings camp but there are five regular players I’m keeping an eye on this season and a handful of likely Griffins, as well as one rumor.

I expected Darren Helm to switch from the #43 he’s worn for his entire Detroit career last year and I still think that’s an option this year. The #15 he’s worn in Grand Rapids is currently available and the #14 he wore in Medicine Hat of the WHL could become available if the Red Wings move Derek Meech to clear up their logjam on the blueline.

Assuming Helm doesn’t take #15, it seems a natural fit for depth defenseman Andy Delmore, who wore that number in his 2005 training camp stint with the Wings. His preferred number is #5, which no player other than Nicklas Lidstrom will ever wear again with Detroit. He wore Niklas Kronwall‘s #55 while playing in Germany for the Hamburg Freezers for the last two seasons, #5 having been unavailable.

Now that he’s assured a spot in Detroit, Ville Leino may look to move to a familiar number. He wore #89 with Jokerit and the Wings organization has never had a problem giving out high numbers, so that switch is possible.

Jonathan Ericsson will likely stay with his #52 as he’s had the opportunity to switch in the past without doing so. He reportedly was told by teammates that a big guy like him needed a big number. The #4 he wore last season in Grand Rapids is available, though, so it’s an option for him to switch to.

Jason Williams has returned to Detroit and it’s likely he’ll go back to the #29 he wore during his first stint as well as while he was in Chicago and Columbus. The #14 he wore in Atlanta could be available if Meech is moved but Helm could also be interested in it.

Patrick Eaves seems set to go with the #44 he’s worn in Ottawa and Carolina, now available with the departure of Aaron Downey. He wore the unavailable #9 at Boston College and #7 with the Binghamton Senators so he may have no attachment to #44 and could switch to something else.

That switch might be needed if the rumors of Todd Bertuzzi coming back to the Wings are true. Bertuzzi has worn #44 for most of his career, including his first stint with Detroit, but has worn #4 and #7 since then.

Doug Janik has worn #3 for most of his career but isn’t likely to take it from the injured Andreas Lilja. His fall-back #33 is also taken, as it was when he wore #21 for the Montreal Canadiens. If Leino changes, Janik could go with that number. Similarly, if Helm makes a switch we could see Janik go with the #43 he wore with the Hamilton Bulldogs. The #11 he wore with the Rockford IceHogs is unavailble.

Last on my watch list is Justin Abdelkader, who is unlikely to change from the #8 he inherited from Matt Ellis in 2008. He has previously said that he doesn’t worry about the number he wears but did choose #19 in Grand Rapids in honor of Steve Yzerman. He wore #89 in high school at Mona Shores so he could take that if Leino doesn’t. The #9 he wore in Cedar Rapids and for two years at Michigan State is, of course, unavailable, as is the #18 he wore for his freshman year at MSU.

The Red Wings’ official web site is, as per usual, no help. It has traditionally been late to add updated sweater numbers and currently lists Williams, Eaves, Delmore and Janik without numbers.

Sweater Numbers, Round Three

Assuming the full-camp roster from Red Wings Central is correct, there will be only one number change for a returning Red Wing this season.

Aaron Downey will be giving up #20 for the #44 made available by Mark Hartigan‘s departure.

Newcomer Ty Conklin will be wearing the #29 that hasn’t been worn since Jason Williams was traded to Chicago at the 2007 trade deadline, allowing Jimmy Howard to keep his #35.

The #21 worn at camp last year by failed prospect Igor Grigorenko has been given to Finnish player-of-the-year Ville Leino.

Sweater Numbers, Round Two

I just caught that RWC updated their camp roster again, this time with new player numbers.

Stephen Johnston has #71, not the #52 previously reported, so it looks like Jonathan Ericsson will be keeping that number. Free-agent tryout Kyle Deck has the #2 that appeared on Ericsson’s truck in the Stanley Cup parade.

Justin Abdelkader keeps the #8 that he inherited from Matt Ellis last season and Mattias Ritola keeps #42.

So far it doesn’t look like anyone expected to be on the Detroit roster at the start of the season will be changing. I had expected Darren Helm to switch to the open #15 but that’s been given to try-out Martin Ondrej.

Sweater Number Stuff, Camp Edition

Malik pointed out that RWC has their annual training camp report up and running and has posted Detroit’s roster for the pre-camp prospects tournament.

Being a sweater numberphile, I look forward to RWC’s training camp rosters because they show which players will get which numbers. Players typically keep the same number throughout camp and the ones expected to compete for roster spots carry their numbers into the regular season.

As of this writing, center Stephen Johnston is the only player assigned a number, the #52 worn last season by Jonathan Ericsson. This likely means that Ericsson will be switching numbers for the upcoming season.

Ericsson wore #52 when he skated onto the ice with the rest of the Black Aces after Game Six of last spring’s Stanley Cup Finals but the truck carrying him and Justin Abdelkader in the Red Wings’ championship parade bore Abdelkader’s #8 and #2. We’ll see if that switch (along with any others) is being made in the next few weeks.

Edit (10:10 PM): RWC says that the number listing was an error. We’ll see if the #2 on Ericsson’s parade truck was also an error.

More Wings Number Changes

George Malik points out this morning that Red Wings Central has their training camp roster posted. I try not to pay too much attention to camp in seasons when the roster is virtually set, such as this one, but I do like taking a look at what sweater numbers the players are assigned.

Most players will never see time with those digits on their backs (does anyone really think Dominic Vicari would show up in the Detroit crease wearing #70?) but for players that have either spent time on the Red Wings’ roster in the past or are expected to make the team out of camp, this can be the first time we see what number they will wear.

The previously confirmed number change for Tomas Kopecky (from #28 to #82) is reflected on the roster, as is the re-assignment of #28 to newcomer Brian Rafalski and #17 to Dallas Drake. We also find that Russian prospect Igor Grigorenko has been given the #21 that was to be worn last season by Greg Johnson before he was forced to retire.

Two unexpected changes are found on the blueline. Kyle Quincey (who may or may not make the lineup this season, a casualty of limited roster spots) is switching from #45 to the #4 last worn in 2006 by Cory Cross. Derek Meech, who has spent limited time with the Red Wings wearing #36 but is expected not to be sent to Grand Rapids as he would have to clear waivers, has taken on the #14 formerly worn by Brendan Shanahan.

I’m a bit surprised by the Red Wings giving out Shanahan’s number only a season after his depature to New York. It had to happen sometime, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of a push to have the #14 retired for Shanny, but it seems like the team would have waited longer.

Wings’ New Numbers

i wonder whats going to happen with the whole jersey number thing, but i dont think kopecky should have to give it up. he did earn it in my opinion.

The Wings’ site has been updated with new jersey numbers. Tomas Kopecky switches to #82 with Brian Rafalski taking #28. Dallas Drake takes the #17 vacated by Kyle Calder‘s depature, with the #28 he wore during his first stint in Detroit now taken and the #11 (Cleary) and #10 (retired for Delvecchio) he has also worn unavailable.

The players most likely destined for Grand Rapids haven’t been updated.