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.

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.

Pregame: Avalanche @ Red Wings – 3/6

I’ll be heading down to Detroit for Lidstrom Night shortly so I figured I’d throw together a whole bunch of stupid notes leading into it…

The Red Wings are 3-2 all-time on nights that they formally retire a player’s number. They lost, 3-2, when Gordie Howe‘s number was retired. It was a 6-4 win twenty years later when Alex Delvecchio and Ted Lindsay were honored. In the only other March 6th jersey retirement, they dropped a 3-2 decision as Terry Sawchuk’s banner was raised. When Sid Abel’s number went up, they won, 4-2. Most recently, they won, 2-1, for Steve Yzerman Night.

The only players in the Detroit lineup tonight who dressed for Yzerman Night are Niklas Kronwall and Johan Franzen.

Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson and Henrik Zetterberg all played on Yzerman Night but are out of the lineup now.

Pavel Datsyuk is the only player to have been hurt for both ceremonies.

This is only the second jersey retirement in team history to come after the NHL’s trade deadline. The other was Abel’s during the lockout-shortened 1995 season.

Ceremony time is 6:30 PM on FSD. Game time is 8:00 PM.

Samuelsson Clears Waivers, Assigned to Grand Rapids

Veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson cleared waivers at noon on Sunday and has been assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings announced.

The move clears a roster spot for Johan Franzen‘s return from injury, as he re-enters the lineup with Detroit hosting the Florida Panthers Sunday evening.

As Samuelsson is on an over-35 contract, only $100,000 of his $3 million salary cap hit will be buried by his demotion to the American Hockey League. This won’t be an issue for the Red Wings until Stephen Weiss comes off of long-term injured reserve at the end of the Olympic break.

Samuelsson was a healthy scratch for 25 games this season. In 26 games of mostly fourth-line action, he has one goal and two assists and a -4 rating.

Red Wings Place Forward Samuelsson on Waivers

The Detroit Red Wings placed forward Mikael Samuelsson on waivers on Saturday, paving the way for Johan Franzen‘s return from injury in Sunday’s matchup with the Florida Panthers.

Sameulsson is not expected to be claimed and will be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins upon clearing. He has been a healthy scratch in 25 games this season

The move would open up a roster spot for Franzen, who has missed the past 15 games with a concussion. It would not, however, clear much salary cap space, as only $100,000 of Samuelsson’s $3 million cap hit would be saved by assigning him to the Griffins.

The Red Wings won’t face a salary cap crunch until Stephen Weiss returns from long-term injured reserve, expected to happen after the Olympic break.

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.

Postgame: Bruins @ Red Wings – 11/27

Delayed postgame thoughts…

Obviously the Bruins weren’t on last night. A certain amount of Detroit’s dominance can be attributed to that and some lucky bounces. Hardly all of it, though, as the Red Wings were clearly clicking and did a great job of taking advantage of the opportunities given to them.

As I said repeatedly, I can’t believe Boston left Tuukka Rask in for all six goals. That makes no sense to me.

My favorite goal of the night was Gustav Nyquist to Henrik Zetterberg just because that was a play that Nyquist could have easily quit on after missing the open net. He didn’t, he helped keep the play going and got the puck to Z for the goal that should have come earlier.

Darren Helm between Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson looks like a legitimate second line. How weird is that?

I’ll be shocked if Mikael Samuelsson isn’t waived before Danny DeKeyser returns from injury. He’s got a no-trade clause but not a no-move clause. Sending him to Grand Rapids wouldn’t save the Red Wings any cap space. If a team were to claim him it’d be a huge help to the Wings. For that same reason, a team probably wouldn’t claim him, but it’s worth a shot at this point.

Similarly, it looks a lot like the Wings recognize bringing Daniel Cleary back was a mistake. He’s been buried on the fourth line with Samuelsson and could be on the chopping block when DeKeyser returns.

After his awful year last year, I never thought I’d be saying this: I wouldn’t mind seeing Jonas Gustavsson brought back next year. Buy Petr Mrazek more time in GR. What a great turnaround he’s had.

Pregame: Stars @ Red Wings – 11/7

The Red Wings are back home after a 3-1 Western Canadian road trip, hosting the Dallas Stars tonight.

Winning three of four on the road would normally be a good thing but the lack of effort in their 4-2 loss to close out the trip in Winnipeg should be a concern. It was a standard trap game and the first game back home is one as well so we’ll see what kind of team comes out tonight.

Jimmy Howard gets the start for the Wings with Jared Coreau backing him up, having switched places with Petr Mrazek earlier in the week as Jonas Gustavsson remains injured.

Mikael Samuelsson swaps in for Patrick Eaves on the fourth line. Johan Franzen remains out with a mystery injury and Jordin Tootoo, who cleared waivers earlier in the day, will be the healthy scratch.

On defense, with both Brendan Smith and Jonathan Ericsson still hurt, Adam Almquist makes his first home appearance.

Kari Lehtonen gets the start for Dallas.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are .500 all-time on November 7 with a 11-11-6 record.

Bonus stupid stat: The Red Wings have met the Stars organization exactly once on November 7, a 5-2 win over the Minnesota North Stars in 1968.

Game time is 7:30 on FSD.

Helm Scores, Mrazek Blanks Oilers as Red Wings Win 5-0

Rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek stopped all fourteen shots he faced for his first career NHL shutout and Darren Helm scored in his first game of the season, leading the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

It was Mrazek’s first appearance of the season, having been called up to replace injured Detroit backup Jonas Gustavsson. He is now 2-1-0 in three career NHL starts.

Helm was in the lineup for just the third time since March 17, 2012, having recovered from a series of injuries that ended with back and groin issues. In just his second shift of the night, he scored what would be the game-winning goal, snapping a shot from the left side of the slot past Edmonton goalie Richard Bachman on a breakaway.

Tomas Tatar made it 2-0 just 27 seconds later, knocking the rebound of a Joakim Andersson chance past Bachman from the slot.

Jason Labarbera replaced Bachman in the Oilers’ crease midway through the first period when Bachman left with an injury but things didn’t get better for Edmonton.

At 6:55 of the second, Jakub Kindl took a feed from Daniel Alfredsson and rifled a shot from the right wing through traffic and past Labarbera.

Andersson made it 4-0 at 7:54 of the third period, banging a loose puck at the edge of the crease past Labarbera after a wrap-around attempt by Drew Miller.

Todd Bertuzzi closed out the game’s scoring at 9:43 of the period, beating Labarbera from the right faceoff circle off a feed from behind the net by Henrik Zetterberg on a Detroit power play.

The Red Wings finished the night with one goal on five chances with the extra attacker. Edmonton had three tries with the man-advantage.

Bachman took the loss for the Oilers, stopping seven of the nine shots he faced in 13:52 of play. Labarbera made 19 saves on 22 shots in relief.

The Red Wings will look for the sweep of their four-game Western Canadian road trip on Monday when they visit the Winnipeg Jets.


Johan Franzen missed the game due to illness… In addition to Helm returning, Mikael Samuelsson swapped back into the lineup, replacing Patrick Eaves. Jordin Tootoo was the other healthy scratch… Detroit placed defenseman Jonathan Ericsson on long-term injured reserve to make room for Helm on the roster.