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.

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.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Rangers – 4/9

“Red Wings Back Into Playoffs.”

That was the headline I thought about running instead of just doing my usual postgame thoughts formula. Double-meaning, eh? For the 25th consecutive year, they’re back into the playoffs. And they certainly backed into them.

Needing a win to control their own destiny, following a woeful loss against the Bruins on Thursday in a game in which they could have clinched, the Red Wings came out relatively flat against the Rangers. Sure, they kind of scored first, with call-up Joakim Andersson banging a loose puck in behind Antti Raanta on a play that was deemed to be offsides upon review, but they weren’t pressuring the Blueshirts at all for the first twenty minutes and ended the period down a goal.

They got better as the game continued, so that’s a positive. In the end, Jeff Blashill pulled Jimmy Howard for the extra skater at a ridiculous time, they gave up and empty-net goal, scored with an empty net to pull back within one, then completely blew twenty seconds of a six-on-three opportunity to lose the game.

And a few minutes later, the Ottawa Senators finished blowing out the Boston Bruins, giving the Red Wings the third seed in the Atlantic Division and a second-consecutive first-round matchup with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I’ve said repeatedly that this team does not deserve to make the playoffs. I still think that’s true. Thankfully, though, enough other teams didn’t deserve to make them that the Wings got in anyway.

The Lightning will be without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman and possibly Tyler Johnson. Aside from a blowout in their last meeting, the Wings played them close all season. It could be a good matchup. I don’t think it will be, given the Red Wings’ play in the last six weeks, but we’ll see.

Jensen, Tangradi Called Up as Andersson Demoted

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Sunday that defenseman Nick Jensen and forward Eric Tangradi were called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins. To help make room for the pair, forward Joakim Andersson – who cleared waivers at noon on Saturday – was sent to the Griffins.

Jensen gives the Red Wings seven defensemen on the roster with Niklas Kronwall recovering from knee surgery. The extra blueliner may be required, as Brendan Smith left Saturday’s game late in the third period and has been dealing with an unspecified injury.

Originally Detroit’s fifth round selection (150th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Jensen, 25, has eight goals and 36 assists over the last three seasons with the Griffins. He has yet to make his Red Wings debut.

Tangradi, signed as a free agent by the Red Wings last summer, is the Griffins’ heading scorer with 31 points in 36 games. He was called up to Detroit earlier this season but did not make an appearance in the lineup. In 143 career NHL games, Tangradi has five goals and ten assists for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, and Montreal Canadiens.

Andersson will rejoin a Griffins team for whom he scored 38 goals and 63 assists in 189 career games. In 25 games with the Red Wings this season, he has one goal and two assists in a fourth-line role.

Jensen and Tangradi could be in the lineup for the Red Wings on Monday when they visit the New York Islanders.

Andersson Clears Waivers

Detroit Red Wings forward Joakim Andersson cleared waivers on Saturday.

Andersson, 26, had been placed on waivers on Friday to give the Red Wings flexibility to call up a defenseman with Niklas Kronwall recovering from knee surgery. Teams had 24 hours to make a claim on him. Unlike with Landon Ferraro – who was claimed by the Boston Bruins earlier this season – none did.

Andersson will remain with the team for now but could be sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins if the defensive call-up ends up being necessary.

Red Wings Place Andersson on Waivers

The Detroit Red Wings placed forward Joakim Andersson on waivers on Friday.

Andersson, 26, has one goal and two assists in 25 games with the Red Wings this season, used mostly in a fourth-line role. In 201 career games he has 15 goals and 21 assists.

Teams have until noon on Saturday to place a claim on Andersson, who will be in the Detroit lineup tonight as the Red Wings visit the Buffalo Sabres.

The waiving of Landon Ferraro by the Red Wings earlier this season seemed to assure Andersson’s spot on the Detroit roster. The team stated that Andersson’s waiving was for salary cap reasons.

Should Andersson clear waivers he will be assigned to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

Selected in the third round (88th overall) by the Red Wings in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Andersson has played 189 games for the Griffins, scoring 38 goals and 63 assists.

Pregame: Penguins @ Red Wings – 12/31

It’s Detroit’s traditional New Year’s Eve home game tonight as the Red Wings host the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jonathan Ericsson returns to the Detroit lineup, with Jakub Kindl the odd-man out on the blue line. Joakim Andersson will sit in favor of Tomas Nosek on the fourth line.

Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal for the Wings.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are unbeaten all-time against Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve in games where the Penguins wear black and gold. Detroit’s lone NYE loss to the Pens came in 1978 when they still wore blue and white.

Game time is 6:00 PM on FSD.

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.

Miller, Pulkkinen Out At Least Six Weeks

Detroit general manager Ken Holland announced on Friday that both Drew Miller and Teemu Pulkkinen are each expected to miss at least six weeks due to injuries suffered in the Red Wings’ 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

Pulkkinen dislocated his shoulder while being boarded by the Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal and could be out up to eight weeks. Hanzal received a two-minute minor on the play.

Miller suffered a broken jaw from a hit by Klas Dahlbeck. Dahlbeck was not penalized.

With the pair out, Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson will rejoin the Red Wings’ lineup for their Saturday matchup against the Nashville Predators. Holland said that the Wings would call up at least one forward prior to Detroit’s stretch of three games in four nights next week.

Red Wings Waive Ferraro

The Detroit Red Wings placed forward Landon Ferraro on waivers on Saturday.

Ferraro, 24, is coming off a knee injury suffered two weeks ago against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With no room in the Detroit lineup, it’s expected that the Red Wings would assign him to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League should he clear waivers. This move spares Joakim Andersson, who was the other player likely to be waived to make room.

Teams have until noon on Sunday to place a claim on Ferraro.

In ten games with the Red Wings this season, Ferraro has no points. In 17 career games across three seasons he has one goal and no assists.

Selected in the second round (29th overall) by the Red Wings in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Ferraro has played 270 games for the Griffins, scoring 75 goals and 65 assists.