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.

Free Agency 2012: Day 4

So far since the NHL’s free agency season opened, we’ve had a day where the Wings brought players in, a day where players left Detroit, and a day when the team was quiet.  Today we had the day the team was left out.

Things started with defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise – both Red Wings’ free agent targets – choosing to sign with the Minnesota Wild around noon.  About ten hours later, Detroit’s supposed Plan B – defensman Matt Carle – signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

I’m not going to fault any of the players for signing where they did or taking the time they needed to sign.  You become one of the top hockey players in the world and hit free agency, you get to decide things like that.

I’m not happy with the Wings’ organization, however.

I said on Twitter that I didn’t like comments that GM Ken Holland made after the Suter/Parise signings were announced.

“At the end of the day, we feel good about our offers. It was in the ball park of what they signed for.”

To me, that sounds like Holland is fine being close but not finishing on top, which sounds a lot like when Mike Babcock talks about winning forty minutes of a game after a loss.

It’s easy to look at the deals that Parise and Suter signed and say Minnesota overpaid.  It’s also easy to extend that and say we wouldn’t have liked Holland making those deals.  I don’t think it’s true, though.  I think Wings fans would have been thrilled to have the pair for that price and we’re only shaking our heads at the amount or the term because it’s another team that spent it.

“There’s also got to be an opportunity for some of our kids and the guys we’ve just signed to play. It’s not a high profile, big-star team that we’ve had in the past. We made our pitch the last three days and it didn’t fall in our favor.”

Quite honestly, that quote pisses me off.  After all the “we’re going to be very agressive” we heard from Holland, now we’re getting “We don’t need free agents, we’ll let the kids play.”

That means that we’ve got something like a top pair of Niklas Kronwall and Kyle Quincey with Ian White and Brendan Smith next and Jonathan Ericsson and Jakub Kindl on the third pair.  Quite honestly, I’m not okay with that.  Maybe I’m spoiled but I expect better from this team.

And something tells me that if the Wings roll into the 2012-13 season with a $60 million payroll instead of the expected $70 million, season ticket holders won’t be getting 1/7th of what they paid back.

The summer isn’t over and the Wings aren’t done.  I’m not going to write them off.  The buzz now is that they’re looking to make a trade and/or sign Shane Doan, who won’t make a decision about his future until July 8th.

Things could still happen for Detroit, I’m just not happy with how the organization has handled it thus far.

Sharks Rebound to Take 2-1 Series Lead over Red Wings

The San Jose Sharks scored twice on the rebound Monday night, helping them rebound from a Saturday afternoon loss to the Detroit Red Wings to take a 2-1 series lead with a 2-1 win.

Jonathan Cheechoo gave the Sharks the win with 6:41 remaining in regulation on a power play. Kyle McLaren‘s blast from the point was stopped by Detroit netminder Dominik Hasek but the rebound was picked up by Cheechoo, who skated around a flopping Hasek and avoided a poke-check to flip a shot into the net.

Ryane Clowe had gotten the Sharks on the board with 7:17 remaining in the second period, taking the rebound of a Matt Carle shot and just poking it past the outstretched glove of Hasek.

Detroit scored the game’s first goal with 8:47 remaining in the first when Nicklas Lidstrom blasted a shot from the top of the left circle past Evgeni Nabokov.

San Jose finished the night with 27 shots as Hasek made 25 saves. Nabokov stopped 29 of 30 Detroit shots.

The Sharks went one-for-five on the power play. The Red Wings scored on one of their four chances with the extra attacker.

The two teams meet again on Wednesday for game four of the series.

Sharks Blank Red Wings to Open Series

The San Jose Sharks took an early 1-0 series lead over the Detroit Red Wings Thursday night, picking up a 2-0 victory in game one of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup.

The Sharks rode two quick first period goals to the victory and the Red Wings were never able to make up the difference.

Matt Carle got San Jose on the board on the Sharks’ lone power play at 9:45 of the first period. Joe Thornton got the puck down low near the right faceoff circle and sent a pass across the ice to a streaking Carle, who put a one-timer from the left circle past Detroit goalie Dominik Hasek.

The Sharks extended their lead just 24 seconds later on a broken play. As the teams fought for the puck in the left circle, it squirted out into the skates of Mike Grier in the slot. Grier spun and whacked the puck on net, getting it past Hasek.

Detroit would dominate the play from then on out but couldn’t get on the board. After allowing ten San Jose shots in the first period, the Red Wings held the Sharks to only nine for the rest of the game. The Wings would end up with 34 shots but goalie Evgeni Nabokov stopped them all, as well as getting help from his team with 18 blocked shots.

The Red Wings look to even up the series on Saturday when they host the Sharks in game two.


Detroit was without forward Tomas Holmstrom (eye) and defenseman Brett Lebda (concussion/ankle). Neither player has set a return date.