On the Misguided Idea of Playing the Kids

In the aftermath of free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise having spurned an offer from the Red Wings to sign with the Minnesota Wild (and shortly thereafter, supposed Wings’ Plan B Matt Carle signing with Steve Yzerman‘s Tampa Bay Lightning), we’re hearing a lot about how Detroit should rebuild from within rather than signing free agents to replace their summer losses.

Red Wings’ GM Ken Holland himself has pushed that line of thinking.  I’ve already touched on his line of “There’s also got to be an opportunity for some of our kids and the guys we’ve just signed to play.”

That’s an idea that’s been espoused for some time by many fans.  With the constant idea that the Wings are too old and slow, there’s always a call to “just play the kids” and we’re seeing that again now.

There’s a problem with that idea this time around, though.

I’m not against playing the kids.  I want to see what Gustav Nyquist could do in a top-six role and I want to know whether or not Tomas Tatar is ready.  With Detroit’s current lineup, though, Nyquist and Tatar are going to start the season in Grand Rapids.

There are simply too many forwards on the Wings’ roster right now.  Up front is not where the kids will be given a chance.

Unless injuries happen, we’re not going to see Riley Sheahan ir Joakim Andersson.

It’s Detroit’s blueline that has holes.  Decimated by the loss of Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart, the Wings’ defense is where there’s room for someone to step up and take a bigger role.  The problem?  The Wings have no defensive prospects to do that.

Brendan Smith will make the full-time jump to the big club next year but that was virtually a given at the end of last season.  Aside from him, there are no NHL-ready defensemen in the Red Wings’ system.

Gleason Fournier?  Spent most of last year (his first in the pros) in the ECHL.  Ryan Sproul?  Has yet to play a pro game.  Same for Xavier Ouellet.  Adam Almqvist has played all of three AHL games.  Max Nicastro will make his pro debut this season.  Travis Ehrhardt is an unrestricted free agent on his way out of the organization, as is Logan Pyett.  Brian Lashoff is entering his third pro season but I’ve heard exactly no one say he’s ready.

So there are no kids for the Wings to rely on here.  It’s a bigger role for Smith or Kyle Quincey or Jonathan Ericsson or Jakub Kindl.  Or all of them.  As of right now, two of those four will be in the Red Wings’ top four.

A trade could always happen that shakes things up.  As things are right now, however, “just play the kids” is not a solution to the Wings’ problems.

Rosters Released for Red & White Game in Grand Rapids

The Red Wings announced the rosters for their Red & White game in Grand Rapids on Tuesday.

The White Team, featuring Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk clearly has the star power but the Red Team seems to have more depth, not that it matters much in an intra-squad scrimmage.

White Team
Henrik Zetterberg
Pavel Datsyuk
Tomas Holmstrom
Tomas Tatar
Justin Abdelkader
Gustav Nyquist
Andrej Nestrasil
Jamie Johnson
Willie Coetzee
Mitch Callahan
Brent Raedeke
Nick Oslund

Nicklas Lidstrom
Ian White
Garnet Exelby
Logan Pyett
Sebastien Piche
Gleason Fournier

Jimmy Howard
Thomas McCollum

Red Team
Johan Franzen
Valtteri Filppula
Danny Cleary
Jiri Hudler
Joakim Andersson
Todd Bertuzzi
Chris Conner
Louis-Marc Aubry
Francis Pare
Adam Estoclet
Landon Ferraro
Trevor Parkes

Niklas Kronwall
Brad Stuart
Travis Ehrhardt
Bryan Rufenach
Greg Amadio
Brian Lashoff

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

Ansar Khan points out that a number of players are sitting out the match, which has me disappointed. Khan’s list is as follows: Darren Helm, Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Fabian Brunnstrom, Ryan Johnson, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Commodore, Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Doug Janik, Joey MacDonald.

For a game that has been billed as a chance for West Michigan fans to see the Red Wings close to home, it’s odd to me that so many of those Wings are sitting in place of players the fans in GR will see all season.

Red Wings Announce Lineups for Opening Preseason Games

Per Ansar Khan, the Red Wings have revealed their rosters for the first two games of the 2011 exhibition season.

The Red Wings will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night with the following lines:

Jiri HudlerPavel DatsyukDanny Cleary
Fabian BrunnstromCory EmmertonPatrick Eaves
Drew MillerRyan JohnsonJan Mursak
Tomas TatarChris ConnerTomas Holmstrom

Niklas KronwallBrad Stuart
Brendan SmithMike Commodore
Garnet ExelbyLogan Pyett

Jimmy Howard
Joey MacDonald

On Thursday Detroit will be in London, Ontario, to play the Philadelphia Flyers. Their lineup for that game will be as follows:

Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergJohan Franzen
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmTodd Bertuzzi
Gustav NyquistJoakim AnderssonWillie Coetzee
Tomas JurcoBrent RaedekeFrancis Pare

Nicklas LidstromIan White
Jonathan EricssonJakub Kindl
Brian LashoffDoug Janik

Ty Conklin
Jordan Pearce

No lineup has been announced for the Wings’ preseason home opener on Friday, where Detroit will host the Flyers.

Numbers Game 2011 – Wrap Up

With Saturday’s release of the Red Wings 2011 Training Camp roster by Sarah Lindenau of the The Left Wing Lock, the final changed jersey number for the upcoming season is known.

As Mike Commodore has taken the #22 that Logan Pyett wore in camp last season, Pyett switches to the vacant #32.

The numbers for Detroit’s newest players have been known for awhile and I covered the prospects on Friday but here are the highlights now that everything is known.

Outgoing
Brian Rafalski – #28 (now assigned to prospect Tomas Jurco)
Chris Osgood – #30
Kris Draper – #33
Derek Meech – #14 (now assigned to prospect Gustav Nyquist)
Ruslan Salei – #24

Incoming
Mike Commodore – #22
Ian White – #18
Chris Connor – #41
Garnet Exelby – #3
Ty Conklin – #29

Switching
Logan Pyett – from #22 to #32
Joakim Andersson – from #62 to #63

New Red Wings Numbers

I’m getting to this a little late, but yesterday Bill Roose tweeted the sweater numbers for the newest Red Wings.

This marks the second year in a row that I didn’t get my number predictions out before the actual news was released. I feel a little bad as a jersey number geek but at least this way I don’t have to deal with the fact that I would have been wrong.

The biggest news is that Mike Commodore will wear #22, not the punny #64 that had been suggested. I’m not one of the people who thought him wearing #64 would have been the end of the world but I do think it brought extra distraction, so I like him going with his usual number.

What I think is the biggest surprise is that Ian White will wear #18. White had previously worn #7, #3 and #9 in his NHL career, and with #3 available in Detroit I thought he’d go with that. As fans, it’s another sign that we’ll have to come to terms with some important numbers being made available for future use.

As Malik points out, Brendan Shanahan‘s #14 and Chris Chelios‘ #24 have already been handed out so Maltby’s number being available is just a fact of life. It’s probably only a matter of time until #33 and #30 are worn again. Brian Lashoff has already worn #25 in camp.

Speaking of #24, I expect Logan Pyett to take it this year, with the #22 he wore at camp last year now belonging to Commodore.

With White not taking #3, it goes to Garnet Exelby, who is likely to spend the entire season in Grand Rapids anyway. Griffins-bound forward Chris Connor with take the #41 abandoned by Ilari Filppula. I’d expected him to go with #15.

Rounding out the new acquisitions, Ty Conklin will return to the #29 he wore in his first stint with the Wings.

No number changes for current Red Wings were mentioned. I don’t expect any this year but I always wonder about Justin Abdelkader switching to the #89 he wore at Mona Shores. I heard a rumor he was set to switch a couple years ago and don’t know what happened to change that.

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.

Numbers Game 2010

Red Wings Central has published Detroit’s training camp roster, meaning I moved too slowly getting my annual sweater number predictions made. It turns out I was right on a couple of my unpublished guesses and wrong on some others.

Mike Modano, as widely-reported, will wear #90 rather than switching to #89 with his usual #9 unavailable.

Free agent signee Ruslan Salei will keep his usual #24, inheriting it from Brad May.

Jiri Hudler will be making no change upon his return from the KHL, picking up the #26 he left behind a year ago.

This will not be the year that Justin Abdelkader takes the #87 he reportedly asked for last year. He’s back with #8.

Like Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey before him, Jakub Kindl is changing his number for his full-time jump to the big club. The #5 he wore in Grand Rapids is – of course – in use with the Red Wings so he’s switching from #46 to #4. This was one of my predictions.

Griffin Tomas Tatar has a somewhat expected switch. With his star rising in the organization, his jersey number drops from #72 to #21. I had expected him to get the #27 he wore last season in Grand Rapids. That number went to Travis Ehrhardt, who previously wore #45.

Given his status as a high-risk, high-reward European free agent signing, I’d expected Ilari Filppula to get the cursed #21 of Igor Grigorenko and Ville Leino. He gets neither that nor the #81 he wore in Finland, instead taking his brother’s original #41.

Rookie Brendan Smith will make his first appearance at Detroit’s camp wearing the #2 formerly belonging to Jiri Fischer.

Making their second runs with the Red Wings, Joey MacDonald returns to his #31 while try-out Aaron Downey will wear #32 with his previous #20 and #44 now taken.

The following are the remaining number changes for Red Wings prospects:

Mitchell Callahan, from #73 to #65
Jan Mursak, from #39
Andrej Nestrasil, from #56 to #49
Brent Raedeke, from #62 to #47
Jamie Tardif, from #67 to #29
Gleason Fornier, from #54 to #67
Brian Lashoff, from #49 to #25
Sebastian Piche, from #58 to #54
Logan Pyett, from #60 to #22

Red Wings Wrap Up North American Exhibitions, Set Lineup for Sweden

The Detroit Red Wings finished off their North American exhibition schedule Sunday night with a 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in a game that saw both teams rest many of their star players.

Detroit was without Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Chris Osgood, Dan Cleary, Valtteri Filppula, Brad Stuart, Todd Bertuzzi and Niklas Kronwall. Pittsburgh sat Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar.

Pascal Dupuis scored the lone goal for the Penguins while Johan Franzen, Pavel Datsyuk, Jason Williams and Ville Leino all scored for Detroit. Jimmy Howard stopped 25 shots on the night, including a Jordan Staal penalty shot.

After the game the Red Wings made their final preseason roster cuts. Johan Ryno, Mattias Ritola, Andy Delmore, Francis Pare, Logan Pyett, Jakub Kindl and Evan McGrath were all assigned to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins. Brad May was released from his pro tryout but he is expected to join the Griffins. Earlier in the day the Wings had assigned Jeremy Williams, Doug Janik, Thomas McCollum, Kris Newbery and Jan Mursak to the Griffins.

The Red Wings now head to Sweden, where they will open up the regular season with a pair of games against the St. Louis Blues at Stockholm’s Globe Arena.

On Wednesday Detroit will play their final exhibition game of the season in Karlstad against Farjestads BK.

Abdelkader Gets His Chance to Impress

The Red Wings appear to be giving Justin Abdelkader every chance to impress them this preseason. The lineup for tonight’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres reveals he will be making his third appearance in as many games for Detroit.

Abdelkader has two goals and three points through the first two preseason games. He started Friday night’s game against the New York Rangers on the top line centering Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary before switching placed with Valtteri Filppula to center Jason Williams and Ville Leino.

Tonight he’ll be back between Kris Draper and Patrick Eaves, as he was on Wednesday against Philadelphia.

Tonight’s expected lines are as follows:

Johan FranzenPavel DatsyukTomas Holmstrom
Kris Draper-Justin Abdelkader-Patrick Eaves
Tomas TatarKris NewburyFrancis Pare
John VigilanteFrancis LemieuxJeremy Williams

Nicklas LidstromJakub Kindl
Logan PyettBrian Rafalski
Jonathan EricssonBrett Lebda

Jimmy Howard will get the start in goal and is expected to play the entire game. Thomas McCollum will be the backup.

Tonight’s game is the first of the preseason to be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit.

I’ll be at the game but I’ll check into the gameday thread when I can.

Helm Injured at Red Wings Training Camp

Forward Darren Helm could miss the start of the regular season after suffering a shoulder injury in the second day of the Red Wings’ training camp on Monday.

Helm sprained his right acromioclavicular joint during a drill where he got caught up with defenseman Logan Pyett and went head-first into the boards. That joint is where the collarbone connects to the shoulder.

“I was definitely looking forward to coming in here, playing well, playing some exhibition games, proving that Detroit and everyone else that I belong here,” said Helm. “I’ll just do what I can to make sure I’m ready.”

He is expected to miss two to four weeks while recovering, including spending the next few days off the ice.