Defense Carries Red Wings Past Devils

Three of Detroit’s four goals on Friday came from their defense as the blue line led the Red Wings to a 4-2 win over the New Jersey Devils.

Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith and Niklas Kronwall all scored for the Red Wings. Johan Franzen had the lone forward goal for the team.

Kindl got Detroit on the board with 1:05 left in the first period. His shot from the blue line deflected off New Jersey defenseman Adam Larsson and past goalie Cory Schneider for a power play goal.

Just 33 seconds later, Smith took a drop from Joakim Andersson and stepped in near the slot to snap a shot past Schneider.

With 8:19 left in the second period and the Red Wings on another power play, Franzen cut through the left faceoff circle, stepped around defender Bryce Salvador, and put a shot in behind Schneider.

Kronwall rounded out the team’s scoring with 2:21 left in the period when his shot wide of the net bounced off the back boards, then off Schneider and into the goal.

Former Red Wing Jordin Tootoo made it 4-2, scoring for the Devils at 2:26 of the final frame, putting the rebound of a Marek Zidlicky shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard.

Steve Bernier had opened the game’s scoring for New Jersey at 3:18 of the first period. Perched at the top of the crease, Bernier picked up the rebound of a Salvador shot and tucked it around Howard.

Howard finished the night with 15 saves on 17 shots against. Schneider stopped 20 of 24 Detroit chances in the first two periods before giving way to Kevin Kincaid in the third period. Kincaid stopped all seven shots he faced.

The Red Wings went two-for-four on the power play. New Jersey was scoreless in three tries with the man-advantage.


Center Pavel Datsyuk was a late scratch for the Red Wings, with Joakim Andersson taking his spot in the lineup… Tomas Jurco was a healthy scratch… Kyle Quincey was also out injured.

On Red Wings Veterans Earning a Roster Spot

Okay, this is old news by now but I was thinking tonight about the idea that Daniel Cleary will supposedly have to earn his roster spot and decided to look into some history around that kind of decision.

I think it’s safe to say you don’t give a guy a $2.5 million contract with the intent of dumping him in the minors. Cleary is going to be on the opening night roster, barring injury. So Ken Holland and Mike Babcock (and Cleary himself) saying he has to earn it… Just talk.

But lets say it wasn’t. Lets say the Wings were bringing back Cleary but that Tomas Jurco had just as much of a chance to make the final roster. Would that be as groundbreaking as it seems?

It turns out, yes.

In the Ken Holland era, no veteran has ever been waived at the start of the season in favor of a younger player who could be sent to the minors without passing through waivers.

Okay, yeah Cory Emmerton lost his roster spot to Joakim Andersson last fall but Andersson was out of waiver options. Patrick Eaves and Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson were all sent to Grand Rapids but not at the start of the season.

Derek Meech was waived and sent to GR in 2010 but not in favor of a player who wouldn’t have to pass through waivers.

Kyle Quincey was lost off waivers in 2008 but that was so the team could keep Meech and Chris Chelios.

Before that, we go back to the waiver draft era. Chris Osgood was lost in 2001 when Dominik Hasek was signed to replace him. Brent Gilchrist was lost and then re-acquired in 1998. In 1997, Tim Taylor was lost but because he was out of options, not because someone beat him out.

Not that it’s a surprise but history shows that veterans haven’t needed to earn a roster spot since Holland took over the team.

Revisiting “Trust But Verify”

I had a post with a big hypothetical scenario half-finished but I’m scrapping it in favor of being more to the point.

Over at Winging it in Motown today, Graham Hathway has a bit comparing the Red Wings’ situation going into the summer of 2014 to that of 2012. It made me realize that what I was trying to say was tied to something I said at the end of July 1, 2012.

I trust Ken Holland to make the right moves for the team. That said, I don’t blindly believe everything he does is perfect. I question these moves and I want to see how they’ll work out.

Trust, but verify.

When Ken Holland signed Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson and Jonas Gustavsson, I thought it was a little weird but I trusted that Holland had a plan. Having seen how things worked out, though, I’ve come to a conclusion.

I don’t trust Ken Holland anymore.

Okay, that might be a dramatic way of putting it but the point stands.

In 2012, I was willing to look at those signings and put aside my own misgivings. Flash-forward to this year’s trade deadline and my immediate dislike of the trade that brought David Legwand to Detroit. Though some will probably attribute the Red Wings making the playoffs and extending their streak of doing so to Legwand’s acquisition, I still argue it wasn’t worth it.

I’m not saying that Holland should be fired. I’m not even saying that he’s a bad GM. It’s not like he’s out to ruin the team, as some seemingly think.

He’s just burned through the faith I’ve previously had in him. My initial analysis is no longer geared towards “How awesome is this thing that Kenny did?” but rather “How could this end up going bad?”

Every good deal has a downside. Even bad trades can be justified. Eventually you should see both sides.

It’s just odd going into a summer without that faith to fall back on.

Red Wings Waive Tootoo for Buyout

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Wednesday that they have placed forward Jordin Tootoo on waivers. If he goes unclaimed by noon on Thursday, the team will use their remaining salary cap compliance buyout on him.

Tootoo has one year at $1.9 million remaining on the three-year contract he signed during the summer of 2012.

In 42 games during the shortened 2013 season, Tootoo scored three goals and added five assists while racking up 78 penalty minutes. He spent most of the 2013-14 season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, appearing in only 11 games for Detroit with one assist and five penalty minutes.

The Red Wings used their other compliance buyout last summer on fellow 2012 signee Carlo Colaiacovo.

Looking at the Red Wings’ 2014-15 Roster

We’re all of three days into the offseason but it’s never too early to start looking at next year. I’ve had a lot of side conversations about what I think the Red Wings’ roster will look like next year and what it should look like (which aren’t the same thing) so I figured I’d post my “ideal” opening night roster and go from there.

Henrik ZetterbergPavel DatsyukGustav Nyquist
Tomas TatarRiley SheahanTomas Jurco
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmDaniel Alfredsson
Drew MillerDavid LegwandLuke Glendening
Mitch Callahan
Landon Ferraro

Niklas KronwallDanny DeKeyser
Jonathan EricssonBrendan Smith
Ryan SproulXavier Ouellet
Adam Almquist

Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

You’ll notice there are some names missing, and that’s why this may be my “ideal” roster but it’s also pretty much impossible.

The forward lines are build out from the second line. If the Red Wings are really going to embrace the youth movement, even when healthy, I want the Kid Line skating as Detroit’s second line again. It might not be the best possible lineup to start the year but I think it will be by the end of the season and for seasons beyond.

With the Kid Line in place, you can load up on the first line, with both Eurotwins and Gustav Nyquist.

On the third line you’ve got Darren Helm centering Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson. I bring back Alfredsson if he wants to come back and put him on the third line to keep his minutes down and add some scoring. It also gives flexibility for the inevitable Line Blender, as you could bump Abdelkader to the top line as Mike Babcock loves to do, drop Nyquist down to the second, and play Tatar on the third.

The fourth line brings back David Legwand simply because I think he has to be re-signed or it makes the deal to trade for him look even more ridiculous. I wouldn’t bring back Glendening but Babcock loves him so he’s going to be in the lineup on opening night.

Callahan and Ferraro are out of waiver options, they stick with the big club out of camp.

Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson? All free agents, all allowed to walk.

Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, Joakim Andersson, Jordin Tootoo? That’s where this gets messy, as I don’t have a spot for any of them or any player they might bring back in trade and there’s only one compliance buyout left.

The easy answer is that Alfredsson and Legwand don’t return and Franzen and Weiss take their spots. Tootoo gets bought out and Andersson gets the Cory Emmerton treatment. That makes the Legwand trade look awful but is that better than finding a way to unload Weiss (who’d probably just have to be waived with the hope that someone claims him)?

Franzen… Oh Franzen. There are going to be a lot of words written about him between now and the draft. I’ll try not to write too many of them. I say the draft because I think if he’s going to be traded, it’ll be then. He won’t be bought out. It’s not that Franzen necessarily is bad or overpaid (his cap hit is great for his potential). When he’s good, he’s among the best. When he’s bad, he looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there. Combined with his comments about not being paid to score goals, there’s a perceived attitude problem there. The negatives outweigh the positives to me.

On defense, I don’t think the top four are all that controversial. Kyle Quincey is gone. The UFA defense pool is shallow this year and Quincey is going to get absolutely paid by someone.

The third pair, though, is where the youth movement kicks in. Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul looked ready in their limited opportunity this season. I give them the chance to start next year.

I’d like to have a veteran seventh defenseman to back them up but – like Ferraro and Callahan – Adam Almquist is out of options so he stays up by default.

Brian Lashoff? Jakub Kindl? They’re in Franzen/Weiss/Andersson territory. Under contract but I don’t have a spot for them. Lashoff can be buried in Grand Rapids if necessary, the only “easy” decision available.

In goal we’ve got Howard back (of course) and Petr Mrazek making the jump to be his backup. Some (maybe even within the Wings organization) will argue that Mrazek is better served getting starts in GR than as backup, I disagree. A 50/30 split would get Howard some rest and get Mrazek into games.

This doesn’t answer the team’s reported interest in a top-four, right-handed defenseman (unless you want to count Sproul there). It leaves a bunch of players with contracts off the lineup. It doesn’t get anything in return for those missing players and it doesn’t utilize the cap space freed up by their absence. In short, it’s not going to happen. But it’s the starting point that I’m going to look at things from this summer.

Pre-Christmas Roster Updates

The Red Wings remain a heavily-injured team heading into the Christmas break but will have good news tonight as forward Gustav Nyquist returns from a groin injury.

This comes one game after defenseman Danny DeKeyser returned from a shoulder injury that kept him out for fifteen games.

To make room for Nyquist’s return, Jordin Tootoo was sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Justin Abdelkader is expected to return from concussion on Saturday. Darren Helm (shoulder) could return for that matchup against the Florida Panthers. Johan Franzen has been ruled out for Saturday but is hopeful for next Monday against the Nashville Predators.

Similarly, both Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard are aiming to return for returns in the game prior to the Winter Classic.

Stephen Weiss, though, will remain out through the Olympics, having undergone successful surgery for a sports hernia this morning.

Luke Glendening, Patrick Eaves, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Petr Mrazek remain with the Red Wings, called up from the Griffins to fill out the roster, remain with the club for the time being.

Reviewing the Summer of Regret

With Jordin Tootoo having been called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins to replace Mikael Samuelsson in the Red Wings’ lineup tonight – and Samuelsson returning to his place as a healthy scratch – I figured it was a good time to go back and take a complete look at the signings of Detroit’s “Summer of Regret” (copyright The Production Line), the summer of 2012.

Step back to before the end of the actual 2011-12 season and we’ve got the signing of Riley Sheahan to his three-year entry-level deal in time for the last game of the regular season. There was no expectation that he’d do anything in Detroit immediately but he’s centering the fourth line tonight.

Teemu Pulkkinen was up next at the end of May, though he didn’t even come to North America until late last season. He’s yet to get a look at the NHL level but apparently was the other option when Sheahan got the call this week.

Darren Helm signed a four-year contract extension in June, the team’s last move before the opening of unrestricted free agency opened on July 1.

Three unexpected signings were Detroit’s big splash on the first day of free agency. Goalie Jonas Gustavsson would go on to displace Joey MacDonald as the backup last season. With Jimmy Howard hurt, he’s the starter tonight. Forwards Samuelsson and Tootoo were the other two. The team also announced the signing of Swiss forward Damien Brunner, a deal that had been expected at that point.

A few days later, Marek Tvrdon and Max Nicastro signed their ELCs. Both are in ECHL Toledo today.

Kyle Quincey re-signed as a restricted free agent on July 18. By avoiding suspension for his boarding of Ryan Getzlaf on Tuesday, he remains in the lineup tonight, one of only four Wings to play every game this season.

Martin Frk and Tomas Jurco signed their ELCs in August. Jurco is with the Wings now, having scored his first NHL goal on Tuesday. Frk is with Toledo in his first pro season.

Lastly, on the day before the league’s lockout of the players began, the Wings signed defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo to a two-year deal and RFA forward Justin Abdelkader to a four-year one.

The breakdown on that…

Six entry-level deals, all of whom are still in the Detroit organization. Three are currently in the ECHL, two of whom made their pro debuts this year. The others debuted with GR last season (though one was late in the year) and two of those are up as injury replacements with Detroit now.

Three re-signed restricted free agents, all of whom are still with the Red Wings.

Five unrestricted free agent signings. Colaiacovo has since been bought out and Brunner was allowed to walk last summer. Tootoo has been buried in the AHL for most of this season. Samuelsson has been a healthy scratch and would have been bought out last summer had he not been hurt at the time. Then there’s Gustavsson, who played in only seven games last year but started this season with a nine-game streak without a regulation loss.

Is there a point to this other than “2012 was a terrible summer?” I’m not sure. Maybe this just illustrates how awful of a summer it really was.

Red Wings Injury Recap

Gustav Nyquist joined the long list of the Red Wings’ walking wounded today, as it was revealed that he is day-to-day with a groin injury.

By my count, Nyquist is the fifteenth Detroit player to miss time due to injury this season. Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss have missed time twice for seventeen total injuries.

The full list is as follows:

Player Injury
Justin Abdelkader Head
Daniel Alfredsson Groin
Todd Bertuzzi Shoulder
Pavel Datsyuk head
Danny DeKeyser Shoulder
Patrick Eaves MCL
Jonathan Ericsson Shoulder
Johan Franzen undisclosed
Darren Helm Back, Shoulder
Niklas Kronwall Head
Gustav Nyquist Groin
Brendan Smith Shoulder
Jordin Tootoo Shoulder
Stephen Weiss Groin (twice)
Henrik Zetterberg Back

The breakdown by injury type is as follows:

Injury Times Occurred
Shoulder 6
Groin 4
Head 3
Back 2
MCL 1
undisclosed 1

Read into that what you will.

On Trading Quincey

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press posted an interesting article yesterday, positing that the Red Wings should trade defenseman Kyle Quincey when Danny DeKeyser returns from injury.

This isn’t a new idea by any means. Quincey has been a scapegoat among the Detroit fanbase since about a week after he returned to the team in a trade deadline deal in 2012.

What’s interesting is that, this time, the suggestion was put forth by a member of the mainstream media. Traditionally (and for whatever reason you want to blame), the writers on the Red Wings’ beat don’t publish anything that could be considered controversial. Suggesting that a current roster player be dealt – and not taking it from the perspective of “this is what it might take to bring in Player X” – is something that hasn’t often been done. Especially damning is that St. James specifically calls Quincey’s play “mediocre.”

It could be the Red Wings brass speaking through the media. It could be that things are changing and the beat writers have a little more freedom than they previously seemed to. Given the team’s history with the media, though, this seems to carry some weight.

That said, the mainstream media-types were reporting that the Wings were looking to deal Jordin Tootoo all summer. Patrick Eaves‘ name came up. Those players, though, were pretty clearly the odd-men-out with Detroit’s cap (and roster space) crunch. Quincey isn’t quite in that boat, so it’s not quite the same thing to see his name in print.

For the record, I don’t see how any Quincey trade would be anything other than a salary dump. Detroit isn’t going to be able to flip Quincey for a prospect or high picks or anything like that. A probable deal – as St. James notes – would be Quincey for a late pick or a cheaper, older defenseman, with the Wings keeping some of Quincey’s contract. As Detroit already has Nathan Paetsch on an AHL-only deal with Grand Rapids, I’d rather see them get the late pick and the open spot on their 50-man reserve list, with the option to sign Paetsch if need be in the future.

We’ll see what happens. It’s all conjecture at this point but given the source, I’d be willing to be there’s substance there.

Franzen Scores Twice but Red Wings Fall to Capitals in Shootout

Johan Franzen scored twice and added an assist on Friday night but it wasn’t enough for the Detroit Red Wings, who dropped a 4-3 shootout decision to the Washington Capitals.

It was Detroit’s fifth loss in a row and their seventh consecutive home loss. Their last five home losses have come in overtime or the shootout.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the only goal of the tiebreaker to give the Capitals the victory. Washington goalie Braden Holtby stopped Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi while Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard stopped Mikhail Grabovski and Alex Ovechkin before Backstrom won it.

The Red Wings had carried a 3-1 lead into the third period but couldn’t hold on.

Just 3:19 into the period, Ovechkin snapped a shot from low in the right faceoff circle between the legs of defender Niklas Kronwall and past Howard to make it 3-2.

Michael Latta tied things up with 8:06 remaining when Howard got spun around after coming out to stop a John Carlson chance. The puck came to Latta on the far side of the crease and he shoveled a backhander into the vacated net.

Before they closed out the scoring, the Capitals opened it at 5:50 of the first when Brooks Laich swatted his own rebound past Howard on a partial breakaway after a Detroit turnover in the neutral zone.

Franzen would get the Red Wings on the board with 4:08 remaining in the period. On a power play, Franzen carried the puck along the left wing boards and cut into the faceoff circle, snapping a shot off the post and into the top corner through a screen by Tomas Tatar to make it 1-1.

Before the period was out it would be 2-1, as Franzen took a crossing feed from Tatar to put a shot off Holtby’s pad and into the back of the net from the bottom of the right circle with 1:50 remaining.

With 18 seconds remaining in the second period, Danny DeKeyser would give Detroit their 3-1 lead. Franzen fed DeKeyser in the left circle for a shot into the open side of the net on a Red Wings’ power play.

Detroit finished the night with two goals on five power play tries. Washington was scoreless on for attempts with the extra attacker.

Howard made 30 saves on 33 shots while Holtby stopped 34 of 37 chances.

The Red Wings are right back at it on Saturday when they visit the New York Islanders.


The game marked the return from injury of defenseman Jonathan Ericsson… To make room for Ericsson under the salary cap, Patrick Eaves and Luke Glendening were sent to the Grand Rapids Griffins, joining Jordin Tootoo and Xavier Ouellet, who were sent down on Thursday… Daniel Alfredsson missed the game with a groin injury, causing the Red Wings to play with only 17 skaters.