Postgame Thoughts: Panthers @ Red Wings, 2/20

I’ll start with something I said via Twitter that wasn’t appreciated: I don’t like Anthony Mantha challenging Aleksander Barkov for Barkov’s hit on Dylan Larkin late in the third period today.

Part of it is that bad things happen when Mantha plays that role.  The guy’s hands are glass.  If someone needs to step up, it should not be him.

More controversially, I don’t think the hit was that bad.  I know there are a lot of people saying Barkov stuck his leg out, even saying that it was a (or was at least an attempted) knee-on-knee hit.  I see an awkward hip check.  Barkov’s hip went backwards, his leg went out sideways, and his hip is what made contact.  I’m sure we could say that he stuck his hip out to cover for the fact that he was sticking his leg out but I just don’t see it.

I could see the argument that it was late, maybe.  But I just don’t see that as one that someone should be made to answer for.

Anyway…

Going into the game I was unhappy to see the Red Wings going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen with Evgeni Svechnikov left out of the lineup.  I was going to say that, as much as I didn’t like it, much like the healthy scratch of Mantha earlier this season, it would probably work.  I should have hit send.

After so many missed chances this season, it was great to see Mathias Brome get his first career NHL goal.  It’s also funny because he’s had better chances than that one but that’s the one that went in.  I didn’t realize until he scored that goal that he didn’t even have a point yet this season.  Eye-test-wise, he’s played way better than that.

Despite the Brome goal and the outcome, this didn’t feel particularly fun to watch.  Wings games rarely have over the last couple seasons. so that’s not a surprise, but it makes it feel like wins aren’t as earned.

On the aesthetic side, man, I love those Panthers’ Reverse Retro jerseys.  I thought for sure that the Red Wings would use an opportunity when they were already wearing white at home to break out their own Reverse Retro set but they didn’t.  Part of me wonders if the Wings will try to slide through the season never wearing theirs.

Speaking of Reverse Retros, that’s what all four teams are wearing in this weekend’s Outdoor Games at Lake Tahoe.

Seeing media coverage of the event via Twitter has been difficult for me.  As I noted earlier today, it seems like there are a lot of journalists or other media personalities praising the visuals at Lake Tahoe, calling for more events like that.  And I applaud the NHL for giving this a shot, even though the first game is currently paused after one period because of ice issues, because it is a gorgeous setting.

But there are no fans there.  This season, that’s not a big deal.  But you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that, in a normal season, we should be doing made-for-TV events that only media actually get to go to live.  I get that these events (hell, even normal games) have gotten so expensive that a lot of fans are unable to attend in person.  But crossing the line to events that no fans can attend in person seems like too much.

Especially as the line between “fan” and “journalist” seems to dissolve further and further.  In the bad old days of the blogosphere, one of the knocks against bloggers was our fandom, our partiality.  Now there are credentialed media who feel a lot like cheerleaders on Twitter.  So to see those journalists calling for more events without fans, which would be open to them, while they act more and more fan-like…  It rubs me the wrong way.

Thoughts on the Red Wings’ 2021 Roster

The Red Wings made a series of assignments to their taxi squad and to the Grand Rapids Griffins yesterday and, with that, their roster for the 2021 season is pretty much confirmed.

I qualify that because the Red Wings are starting with Bobby Ryan, Darren Helm, and Christian Djoos out of the lineup. So, while this might be the roster on opening night, it’s probably not exactly the one they’d hoped for, nor is it the expected roster on a nightly basis.  Even if they are small changes, we’re probably going to see a bunch of adjustments to this roster over the first month of the season.

Right now the taxi squad consists of Michael Rasmussen, Givani Smith, Dennis Cholowski, Gustav Lindstrom, Kevin Boyle, and Calvin Pickard.  You can bet that, once the Grand Rapids Griffins’ season gets going, five of those players will be in GR.  The Red Wings won’t want any of their youngsters sitting in the press box (or wherever the NHL has mandated that taxi squad players sit) when they could be playing in the AHL. They’ll keep one of the goalies up, as required, then swap out everyone else who isn’t playing for guys like Turner Elson and Dylan McIlrath.

Meanwhile, on the playing roster, we’re seeing these lines:

Obviously we’ve got some taxi squad guys in there but they’re not in positions we need to worry about. Rasmussen and Smith on a “fifth line” with a no-contact Bobby Ryan isn’t a real line and while Lindstrom may very well effectively be the Red Wings’ eighth defenseman right now, they’re not going to roll four pairings in a game so his play alongside Alex Biega in practice doesn’t matter.

The top line has been virtually set in stone since last season so there are no surprises there.  Vladislav Namestnikov with Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina is somewhat unexpected but likely influenced by Ryan’s injury.  Mathias Brome got some buzz in camp and seemed likely to get some NHL playing time once Helm and Ryan were out.  The fourth line looks a whole lot like a “and everyone else” line as I don’t see a reason for Frans Nielsen to be there.

I think once Ryan returns, we’ll see Nielsen drop out of the lineup (unless he’s rebounded strongly from last season but there’s been no camp chatter to say we should expect that) and Brome drop down a line.  Namestnikov could also move to the third line to make room for Ryan with Fabbri and Zadina.

Helm’s return (which I’m assuming would come later as he’s not even skating right now) would then seemingly push Adam Erne off the fourth line, unless Brome is shown to need AHL time to adjust to the North American game and he is the one who comes out of the lineup.

On defense, the big thing left to see is Djoos’ role on the team.  He’s sticking in the Detroit lineup as he would otherwise have to clear waivers and the Red Wings didn’t claim him just to be a tradable asset as they also can’t trade him without first waiving him.  Does he bump Marc Staal or Troy Stecher off that third pairing or is he just here as another depth guy, effectively replacing Lindstrom alongside Biega?

Assuming what I’ve suggested, a healthy lineup would need one more change, though, as the Red Wings would have 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies, putting them over the 23-man roster limit.  The easy answer there would be to drop Brome down to the Griffins as he wouldn’t need to clear waivers.  That said, I’ve already advocated for keeping Brome in the lineup over Nielsen and Erne, so a more interesting option would be to waive Nielsen and (assuming he’s not claimed) put him on the taxi squad.  The Red Wings have the salary cap space to eat his contract and the one-season taxi squad gives a place for Nielsen to go where he can’t take a spot with the Griffins from one of the kids who needs it.

Given that the Red Wings just re-confirmed that Nielsen will be an alternate captain under new captain Dylan Larkin, I can’t see them punting him to the sidelines so easily, though.

Obviously further injuries could change this quickly but I think this is an approximation of what we could be looking at under ideal conditions.

Griffins Jersey Number Notes

The Grand Rapids Griffins updated the roster on their website yesterday, adding jersey numbers for new players and reflecting a change for one returning player.

Goalie Kaden Fulcher is shown as switching from #33 to the #36 worn last season by Kyle Wood.  Fulcher has worn #33 for most of his career but appears to have switched to make room for Kevin Boyle, who takes over as the new #33 in Grand Rapids and gets his usual number.  Fulcher is also assigned #36 in Detroit.

Mathias Brome has been assigned his usual #86, as he was in Detroit.

Kyle Criscuolo picked up the #51 he wore during his first stint with the Griffins, which had been worn in the interim by Trevor Yates for two games during the 2018-19 campaign.

Riley Barber, assigned #26 in Detroit, gets the #45 that he wore last season in nine games for the Montreal Canadiens.  It was last worn for the Griffins by Colin Campbell.

The #21 most recently worn by Chase Pearson and Michael Rasmussen during the 2018-19 season has been assigned to Max Humitz, who wore that number during his college career at Lake Superior State.

Finally, #11 has been assigned to Patrick Curry.  Curry wore that number at Boston University.  It was made available by Filip Zadina‘s promotion from the Griffins to the Red Wings.

Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

The Red Wings kick off their training camp for the truncated 2021 season tomorrow, announcing the camp roster and schedule today.

With the roster announced, I can do one of my favorite things of the season: Look for oddities surrounding jersey numbers.

The team is only taking forty players to camp, so there aren’t as many numbers to look at, and most of those were known already.

The team’s offseason free agent signings – Bobby Ryan, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jon Merrill, Troy Stecher, and Thomas Greiss – were all previously known to be wearing #54, #92, #24, #70, and #29, respectively.  Additionally, trade acquisition Marc Staal was already known to be wearing his usual #18.

Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason.  Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe.  Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit.  Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.

European free agent signing Mathias Brome has been assigned #86, his usual number.  It was worn in last season’s camp by Charle-Edouard D’Astous.

Depth signings Riley Barber, Kyle Criscuolo, and Kevin Boyle have been assigned #26, #42, and #34, respectively.

Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year.  Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier.  Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.

The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system.  In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.

Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
11 Filip Zadina
14 Robby Fabbri
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Riley Barber
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Kyle Criscuolo
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Bobby Ryan
57 Turner Elson
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
67 Taro Hirose
71 Dylan Larkin
73 Adam Erne
81 Frans Nielsen
86 Mathias Brome
89 Sam Gagner
92 Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Alex Biega
17 Filip Hronek
18 Marc Staal
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
24 Jon Merrill
28 Gustav Lindstrom
32 Brian Lashoff
65 Danny DeKeyser
70 Troy Stecher

Goalies

Num. Name
29 Thomas Greiss
34 Kevin Boyle
36 Kaden Fulcher
45 Jonathan Bernier
68 Pat Nagle