Four of “Russian Five” to Appear at Alumni Showdown

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday that four members of the famous “Russian Five” will appear at the Alumni Showdown on December 31 at Comerica Park.

The Russian Five was the first group of five Soviet-trained players to play as a unit in the NHL.  Assembeled by coach Scotty Bowman – who will be behind the bench at the Alumni Showdown – in 1995, the line consisted of Sergei Fedorov, Igor Larionov, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Viacheslav Fetisov.

All but Kozlov will be at the outdoor game against alumni from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In addition to the four Russians, the Maple Leafs announced six new players who will appear: Gary Leeman, Russ Courtnall, Bill Derlago, Bob McGill, Vincent Damphousse, and Dave Ellett.

Confirmed participants for the two teams are now as follows, with more to be announced:

Detroit
Chris Chelios, Dino Ciccarelli, Alex Delvecchio, Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov, Viacheslav Fetisov, Mark Howe, Joe Kocur, Vladimir Konstantinov, Igor Larionov, Ted Lindsay, Kirk Maltby, Darren McCarty, Larry Murphy, John Ogrodnick, Chris Osgood, Mickey Redmond, Luc Robitaille, Mike Vernon

Toronto
Dave Andreychuk, Johnny Bower, Wendel Clark, Russ Courtnall, Vincent Damphousse, Bill Derlago, Dave Ellett, Ron Ellis, Doug Gilmour, Curtis Joseph, Gary Leeman, Kevin Maguire, Bob McGill, Jim McKenny, Mike Palmateer, Felix Potvin, Darryl Sittler, Darcy Tucker, Rick Vaive

Operation: Bobblehead – The Larry Aurie Write-In Campaign

The Red Wings announced today that, following the success of last year’s fan voting to determine what players would be made available as bobbleheads during the 2011-12 season, they would do it again for the coming year.  The twist this time around is that voting will be for Red Wings alumni, with an impressive list of players on the ballot.

From the press release…

The first bobblehead to be distributed as part of this special Edition will depict former captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion Steve Yzerman. As part of Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition, the remaining five former Wings to be featured in the promotion will be determined by an impending multi-week online voting campaign, which will be conducted through a formspring page accessible via DetroitRedWings.com.

Hockeytown Heroes appearing on the ballot for Operation: Bobblehead – Alumni Edition include Sid Abel, Alex Delvecchio, Terry Sawchuck, Ted Lindsay, Darren McCarty, Kris Draper, Joe Kocur, Kirk Maltby, John Ogrodnick, Luc Robitaille, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Larry Murphy, Mark Howe, Igor Larionov, Brendan Shanahan, Brett Hull, Chris Osgood, Scotty Bowman and more. Write-in candidates are also encouraged. Voting will begin on Tuesday, July 31, at one minute past noon and will be conducted on a week-by-week basis, closing at noon every Sunday. The following day (Tuesday) at 12:01 p.m., voting will begin anew with the winning player being removed form the ballot. No votes cast the previous week will count towards each player’s total. There is no limit on how many votes fans are able to cast each week. Twitter users, meanwhile, are invited to champion their favorite player’s bobblehead by using the hashtag #HockeytownHero throughout the duration of this campaign.

As seemingly always, when it comes to the Detroit organization acknowleding the team’s history, an important name is missing from that list: Larry Aurie.

I’ve ranted about lack of recognition for Aurie before.  It’s a shame that his number isn’t in the rafters and it’s even more of a shame that the Red Wings organization won’t explain why.

That said, the Wings control those rafters and they can do what they want there.  If Operation: Bobblehead really is about letting the fans decide, then this is the opportunity to get the team’s first real star honored.

The Wings say they encourage write-in votes.  When voting opens on Tuesday, cast yours for Larry Aurie.  It won’t get his #6 to the rafters where it belongs but it’s a start.

Update, 7/31: Voting is now open on the Red Wings’ web site.

Partial Rosters Announced for Red Wings – Maple Leafs Alumni Game

In a Comerica Park press conference on Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs announced a handful of the players who will participate in the Alumni Showdown in December.

The Alumni Showdown will consist of two games to accommodate all of the players interested in appearing.  No details on how the games will be broken down are known at this time.

The confirmed Red Wings’ alumni are as follows:

Chris Osgood
Mike Vernon
Dino Ciccarelli
Alex Delvecchio
Ted Lindsay
Joe Kocur
Kirk Maltby
Kris Draper
Darren McCarty
Mickey Redmond
John Ogrodnick
Luc Robitaille
Larry Murphy
Mark Howe

The team will be coached by Scotty Bowman.

Among the confirmed Maple Leafs players are former Red Wings Curtis Joseph and Wendel Clark, Felix Potvin, Darcy Tucker, Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk.

Datsyuk Announced as Selke Finalist

The National Hockey League announced on Monday that the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk is one of three finalists for the Frank J. Selke Trophy.

David Backes of the St. Louis Blues and Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins are the other finalists.

The Selke Trophy is awarded annually to “the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” as selected by the members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Datsyuk has previously won the award in three consecutive years, from 2008 to 2010. He was unseated last season by Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks.

No other current Red Wings have won the Selke Trophy. Detroit’s Sergei Fedorov (1994, 1996), Steve Yzerman (2000) and Kris Draper (2004) had won it before Datsyuk.

The winner will be announced on June 20 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

And From There, Pandemonium

It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifteen years since the infamous “Brawl in Hockeytown” that inspired the Red Wings to make their 1997 Stanley Cup run and really kick-started what was briefly the NHL’s fiercest rivalry.

It’s kind of funny that the game is so celebrated, as removed from the emotion of it all, it really was a dirty affair. Darren McCarty jumping Claude Lemieux, Brendan Shanahan and Mike Vernon teaming up on Patrick Roy and Adam Foote. In today’s NHL, I have to think we would have seen suspensions galore.

But at the time, it was a kind of catharsis. Until then, the league knew that the Wings were a soft team that wouldn’t stand up for themselves. The league’s two-game suspension to Claude Lemieux for breaking Kris Draper‘s face in the 1996 playoffs was light and there was almost an unspoken mandate that if the Red Wings didn’t like it, they’d have to do something about it themselves.

That they did, with McCarty playing the hero with his fists and his stick.

Fifteen years removed, I won’t say it was good hockey but it was what the Red Wings needed and it’s still fun to go back and re-watch.

Red Wings Name Kronwall Third Alternate Captain

Just hours before their regular season opener, the Detroit Red Wings announced today that defenseman Niklas Kronwall will serve as the team’s third alternate captain for the coming season.

He joins Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk as team captain Nicklas Lidstrom‘s alternates. The two allowed As are expected to rotate among the three alternate captains.

Kronwall replaces Kris Draper, who was in the alternate captain rotation with Zetterberg and Datsyuk for the past four seasons.

Draper Ends an Era

The Grind Line era of the Detroit Red Wings officially ended on Tuesday, as the famed line’s final member retired.

Kris Draper announced his retirement after seventeen seasons with the Red Wings, finishing his career as one of only five players to play more than 1,000 games in Detroit.

“I never thought I was gonna last this long,” Draper admitted at a Joe Louis Arena press conference, at which he thanked seemingly everyone he came into contact with as a Red Wing.

Draper was acquired by Detroit from the Winnipeg Jets for one dollar on June 30, 1993. En route to the 1997 Stanley Cup Championship, he joined with Kirk Maltby and Joey Kocur to form the Grind Line, a fan-favorite group that also included Darren McCarty.

Draper finished his career with 1157 games played, all but 20 with the Red Wings. He scored 161 goals and 203 assists. He also represented Canada at the World Junior Championships in 1990 and 1991, the World Championships in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2005, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and the 2006 Olympics.

He will take a currently-undefined front office role with Detroit.

Wings’ Site Indicates Draper Retirement

Great catch by the Winging it in Motown guys, who caught that the Red Wings’ web site posted a Kris Draper photo gallery with a caption indicating he will retire.

The gallery has since been removed but I grabbed a screen shot of it.

New media has tripped the Wings up before, with a third-party provider sending out the false announcement that Steve Yzerman would return from retirement in the fall of 2006. That said, while this clearly wasn’t supposed to be released yet (hence its removal) I don’t think the information is incorrect.

Red Wings Free Agency Week in Review

We’re one week into the NHL free agency season and the Red Wings have seemingly made all the moves they expected to make, aside from signing a backup goaltender. Let’s take a look at each signing.

Jonathan Ericsson
Ericsson’s three-year term and $3.25 million annual salary rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way when this deal was announced the night before free agency opened. Detroit is clearly paying for potential here, as they have more faith in Ericsson’s continued development than the fanbase does. If Ericsson develops as the team hopes, this is a good deal given the market. If not, this is a rare mistake for Ken Holland.

Patrick Eaves
The Red Wings kept one of their top penalty killing forwards by signing Eaves just before free agency opened. $1.2 million doesn’t break the bank and the three-year term is nothing to be afraid of. It’s a very Kris Draper-like deal for a Draper-like player.

Drew Miller
Miller had said he was intent on testing the free agency waters but re-upped with Detroit a short time into free agency with a two-year deal worth $1.675 million. I have to think he could have gotten more on the open market – at least $1 million per year – so I wonder if the two years is what sold him on returning to the Wings.

Mike Commodore
Commodore hasn’t had good things to say about Mike Babcock in the past so this move seemed like it came out of nowhere to me. Add in the fact that he’s slotted to be a #5 / #6 defenseman, which the Wings already have several of (Ericsson, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Doug Janik) and it’s that much more of a surprise. That said, Smith could use another season in Grand Rapids playing top-pair minutes and Janik may have never really been an option, even with the one-way contract he’s on this year. Commodore provides size and grit on the blueline and might be able to teach Ericsson a thing or two. After being bought out by the Blue Jackets, he has a chip on his shoulder.

Ian White
I like the White signing. As two years with a cap hit of $2.875, it’s a good deal for a replacement for Niklas Kronwall, who moves up to replace the retired Brian Rafalski. With no real replacement for Rafalski available via free agency, the Wings chose to promote from within and then replace the promoted Kronwall. White’s a solid puck-mover with a right-handed shot who should fit in nicely on the now-complete Detroit blueline.

Garnet Exelby
A big body for Grand Rapids, I liked Exelby when he broke into the NHL with the Atlanta Thrashers but he really hasn’t done much in his career. He should never see time in Detroit but he’s a good depth signing just in case.

Logan Pyett
Pyett seems to be going nowhere in the Detroit system but he fits in Grand Rapids. Another blueliner unlikely to see time with the Wings.

Chris Conner
Brought over from the Penguins, Conner is signed to a two-way deal and expected to push Cory Emmerton for the last forward spot in Detroit. He’s small and fast and works hard in the corners, something the Wings organization likes. He’ll have to clear waivers to go to Grand Rapids, but so will Emmerton so one of those two could be lost.

Jordan Pearce
Nothing has been confirmed but there are reports that Pearce was re-signed for two more years. He outplayed Thomas McCollum at the end of the Griffins’ season last year and was apparently convinced to keep playing hockey rather than pursue his medical degree.

Free Agent Preview 2011

We’ve got under four hours until the NHL’s 2011 free agency season kicks off, so I’m going to take a quick look at the Red Wings’ roster, where they stand with their own free agents, and who they might be looking at on the market.

Forwards
Four forwards who were with Detroit last season are set to become free agents.Mike Modano won’t be back with the Wings but he’s not ruling out playing another year somewhere. His departure seems to have been a mutual decision as the team doesn’t have room for him and he didn’t have a particularly fun year in his hometown.

Kris Draper wants to return but has been told he won’t be offered a contract immediately. If the team can replace him they will.

Patrick Eaves is supposedly close to a deal to stay in Detroit but little is known about that. Reportedly, his concern is more about playing time than money.

Drew Miller has an offer on the table from the Wings but wants to test the open market. Like Eaves, he supposedly is looking for a place where he won’t have to worry about being a healthy scratch on a nightly basis.

Defensemen
The Red Wings kept Jonathan Ericsson in the fold, signing him to a (some might say ridiculous) three-year, $9.75 million deal last night. I don’t agree with the money but it gives Detroit six defensemen signed to NHL contracts for next season.

Detroit will look to replace the retired Brian Rafalski via free agency but their options are becoming limited. Christian Ehrhoff signed with Buffalo yesterday and James Wisniewski – long believed to be the Red Wings top target – seems to be set to sign a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tomas Kaberle is available as a third option from the top-tier talent but the Wings may have to look for a cheaper, less-talented player to round out their blueline corps. The name most mentioned to that extent is Ed Jovanovski.

If the Wings are looking to go cheap and roll the dice on defense, I’ve got a feeling about Sheldon Souray. Assuming a low contract, he’s the kind of low-risk, high reward guy Ken Holland likes to go after.

Of the team’s own free agents, neighter Ruslan Salei nor Derek Meech will be offered deals.

Goaltenders
Like Kris Draper, Chris Osgood won’t know if he’ll be back until the Red Wings are done shopping elsewhere. After injuries the last two seasons, the team is worried about Osgood’s health. With a relative glut of goalies on the market, he could be easily replaced. Former Osgood backup Ty Conklin is a possibility, among many others.

Joey MacDonald will not return to the Detroit organization. He’s looking for a one-way deal in the NHL or he’ll head to Russia. The Wings wanted him on a two-way deal so he could continue mentoring Thomas McCollum in Grand Rapids and be called on in Detroit if needed.