On the Blueline Logjam

It feels like this is a topic that comes up every year.  Throughout the entire Red Wings organization, there is a logjam at defense.

It’s been this way for several seasons.  The initial answer was that the team would trade defensive depth for help at forward but those trades never materialized.

Other moves have happened.  They did lose Alexey Marchenko on waivers to Toronto last season and then traded Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers.  Nathan Paetsch and Conor Allen chose to leave the Griffins for Rochester.  They also added Trevor Daley and sometimes-defenseman Luke Witkowski in Detroit while Filip Hronek and Vili Saarijarvi graduated from juniors to Grand Rapids.

This led to last night, where Hronek and Saarijarvi, two of the organization’s top prospects, couldn’t even crack the lineup for the Griffins’ home opener.

Some of that is politics, I’m sure.  You don’t send Ryan Sproul to Grand Rapids to have him sit there and the other five guys all played on the Griffins’ championship-winning team last year, so of course you dress them for the banner-raising.  But that you have to deal with issues like that shows a bigger problem.

When healthy, the Red Wings expect to be playing Danny DeKeyser,
Daley, Jonathan EricssonMike GreenNiklas Kronwall, and Nick Jensen.  Xavier Ouellet slots in as the seventh defenseman, and he filled in on opening night with Kronwall hurt, while Witkowski is your thirteenth forward or eighth defenseman (depending on injuries).

That pushes Ryan Sproul down to Grand Rapids, where he, Brian Lashoff, and Dylan McIlrath are the vets on the blueline.  That’s three spots out of six taken up by players who are legitimately no longer prospects.  Dan Renouf and Robbie Russo, who both made it into games in Detroit last season, come next, followed by Joe Hicketts.  Hronek and Saarijarvi have nowhere to play.

Oh, sure, there will be injuries.  And players will rotate in and out of the lineup.  But is that how you want these guys to start their pro careers?  Slotting in irregularly, hoping someone else gets hurt so they get a chance?

The organization has made no move to fix this.  In fact, they’ve only added to it by bringing back players such as Lashoff and McIlrath, opting for veteran leadership in Grand Rapids over a chance for their prospects to play.  In fact, if the rumored Riley Sheahan for Derrick Pouliot trade had gone through, it would have only made the situation worse.

This has been an issue for several seasons.  I can’t help but think that this is the year it becomes a big problem.

Red Wings Prospect Tournament Number Notes

The Detroit Red Wings announced their roster for the 2017 NHL Prospect Tournament on Friday and we’ve got some returning players who will be changing their jersey numbers.

Summer numbers can be somewhat volatile, so who knows what of these will stick for main camp.

Evgeny Svechnikov, who’s been wearing #37 with the Red Wings, is now shown wearing #77.  This matches the switch that he made with the Grand Rapids Griffins last season.  Dan Renouf had been assigned that number last season and is not appearing in the prospect tournament so we don’t know what change he might be making.

Dominic Turgeon has gone from #78 to #23.  This is somewhat interesting as veteran Brian Lashoff is still with the Red Wings’ organization and that number had been assigned to him.  Turgeon has traditionally worn #23 in honor of his sister.

Filip Hronek and Givani Smith, who wore numbers in the 80s in camp last summer, will wear #24 and #48, respectively.  Griffins captain Nathan Paetsch had worn #24 last year while Ryan Sproul abandoned #48 in his summer switch to #62.

Vili Saarijarvi, who lost his #28 to Luke Witkowski, switches to #29.  That will be his third camp number, having started with #71.

Axel Holmstrom, who had previously (and humorously) worn the #96 that formerly belong to Tomas Holmstrom, is now assigned #49.  Eric Tangradi had been assigned #49 so, like Lashoff, we’ll see if there’s a coming change there.

Dennis Cholowski is wearing #53 after wearing #2 at this summer’s development camp and #95 at last summer’s.  Jordan Sambrook, who had been wearing #95 after Cholowski, switches to #63.

Six 2017 draft picks will be appearing on the Red Wings’ tournament roster, with none of them keeping the numbers that they wore in July.  Michael Rasmussen switches from #37 to #27, taking the number that Joe Hicketts had been assigned.  Combined with Cholowski’s switch, I wonder if Hicketts will be assigned #2 in the main camp.  Lane Zablocki goes from #67 to the #46 worn in camp last year by Ben Street.  Reilly Webb switches from #84 to #50.  Zach Gallant goes from #73 to #64.  Brady Gilmour inverts #76 to #67.  Cole Fraser gets #74 instead of #85.

Red Wings Open Preseason with OT Loss to Blackhawks

The Detroit Red Wings dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night to open their 2015 exhibition schedule.

Featuring a team made up mostly of players destined for the Grand Rapids Griffins against a large NHL contingent playing in front of their home crowd, Detroit rallied from a 4-1 third-period deficit to force overtime before Trevor Daley scored to give the Blackhawks the win.

Detroit’s trio of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Nick Jensen sustained pressure in the Chicago end on the second shift of overtime but Larkin was tripped and took down Mantha, leading to a three-on-one against Ryan Sproul – who had come on for Jensen – for the Blackhawks. Patrick Kane moved the puck to Artem Anisimov who moved it on to Daley for an easy snap past Red Wings’ goalie Tom McCollum at 1:40 of the extra period.

The Blackhawks had opened the game’s scoring 7:16 in, when Kyle Baun batted the mid-air rebound of a Ryan Garbutt chance past Jimmy Howard, who started the game in net for Detroit.

Jonathan Toews made it 2-0 just 1:08 later, snapping a shot from the top of the left circle past Howard.

Chicago’s power play gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 lead at 6:24 of the second period, as Howard stopped Toews’ initial shot was blocked aside by Howard but Teuvo Teravaninen put the puck back between the Detroit netminder’s pads from in close.

Mantha got the Red Wings on the board with 5:05 left in the middle period, beating Mark Visentin from the slot off a feed from Andy Miele. Visentin had replaced started Scott Darling midway through the period.

Garbutt restored the Chicago lead at 2:39 of the third period, capitalizing on a turnover by Brian Lashoff and a mental mistake by Sproul to step up and snap a shot past McCollum. Sproul appeared to think the play was offsides and made no move to challenge Garbutt as he jumped into the zone.

Riley Sheahan started Detroit’s comeback at 5:58 of the third, tipping a Nathan Paetsch shot past Visentin to make it 4-2.

With 7:07 remaining, Teemu Pulkkinen made it 4-3, crashing the crease to get to the rebound of a Miele chance and shovel it into the open side of the net.

Luke Glendening tied things up on a power play with just 2:05 remaining, gathering up the rebound of an Andreas Athanasiou chance and lifting it past Visentin from the edge of the crease.

Each team finished the night with a power play goal. Detroit had three chances with the extra attacker to Chicago’s four.

Howard stopped 18 of 21 shots he faced and McCollum made 14 saves on 16 shots for the Red Wings. Darling was perfect on 22 shots while Visentin stopped 12 of 16 for the Blackhawks.

The two teams will meet again on Wednesday in Detroit, with the Red Wings expected to dress a mostly-NHLer lineup and the Blackhawks icing a prospect-heavy team.


With none of their usual leaders in the lineup, Drew Miller, Riley Sheahan, and Luke Glendening wore alternate captain’s As for the Red Wings.

Red Wings Logjam Won’t Get Better On Its Own

Xavier Ouellet is back in Grand Rapids and Mattias Backman has returned to Sweden. For the time being, the Red Wings’ logjam on the blue line is resolved. Seven defensemen in Detroit, seven with the Griffins (Scott Czarnowscan was called up from Toledo when Ouellet was brought to Detroit).

That the Red Wings aren’t icing the best lineup they can right now is irrelevant. That one of their prospects is now disgruntled is as well. There is now a spot for everyone, that’s all that matters, fixing it is a problem for the future.

So let’s look at that future.

We’ll assume that the Red Wings don’t trade anyone (because they haven’t yet) and sign all of their restricted free agents. We’ll also assume that the Griffins bring back Nathan Paetsch and Brennan Evans because they’re a couple of blue line leaders in GR. None of the unrestricted free agents return.

That means that Niklas Kronwall is back. And Jonathan Ericsson. And Kyle Quincey. And Danny DeKeyser, and Brendan Smith, and Jakub Kindl, and Brian Lashoff. Ouellet and Ryan Sproul and Alexey Marchenko and Nick Jensen. Evans and Paetsch and Backman. Richard Nedomlel, currently in Toledo.

Joe Hicketts, who just made the Canadian World Junior team? He’s probably turning pro. Marc McNulty? Mitch Wheaton? Ben Marshall? James DeHaas? Not under contract yet but very well could be by next year.

The Red Wings have zero unrestricted free agents on defense next summer. Their two RFAs are Smith and Jensen, both of whom will return. In short, there are exactly as many roster spots available throughout the organization next year as there are right now. And in all likelihood there will be even more players fighting for them.

Without the Red Wings making a trade – dumping one or more players – their current roster crunch isn’t getting any better until at least the summer of 2016. That’s one more full season before there’s even a roster spot in Detroit available, which means another full season before there’s even a spot in Grand Rapids available, which means the Wings are dumping their prospects straight to the Walleye.

Or back to Sweden, in the case of Backman, ’cause why should he stick around for that?


I’ve been among the crowd clamoring for the exit of Jakub Kindl (and, to a lesser extent, Brian Lashoff) as a means to clear up the logjam. At varying points the Red Wings have said they’re trying to move Kindl but just how hard they’re trying is up for debate, as the Carolina Hurricanes just managed to get a sixth round pick back for Jay Harrison while Kindl remains in Detroit.

I see three possibilities: The Red Wings see value in Kindl and want a return that reflects that. Teams are interested in Kindl but not given his current contract. No one is interested in Kindl.

All three of these reflect poorly on Detroit.

If the Wings want more for Kindl than anyone is willing to give, then they’re overvaluing him and are no better than the Buffalo Sabres asking for Anthony Mantha for Tyler Myers. This is an addition by subtraction move, stop worrying about the return.

If the contract is the issue, it means the Red Wings gave him a contract that no one else would have.

If no one is interested, then Detroit continues to employ a player that no other team wants.

On Trading Quincey

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press posted an interesting article yesterday, positing that the Red Wings should trade defenseman Kyle Quincey when Danny DeKeyser returns from injury.

This isn’t a new idea by any means. Quincey has been a scapegoat among the Detroit fanbase since about a week after he returned to the team in a trade deadline deal in 2012.

What’s interesting is that, this time, the suggestion was put forth by a member of the mainstream media. Traditionally (and for whatever reason you want to blame), the writers on the Red Wings’ beat don’t publish anything that could be considered controversial. Suggesting that a current roster player be dealt – and not taking it from the perspective of “this is what it might take to bring in Player X” – is something that hasn’t often been done. Especially damning is that St. James specifically calls Quincey’s play “mediocre.”

It could be the Red Wings brass speaking through the media. It could be that things are changing and the beat writers have a little more freedom than they previously seemed to. Given the team’s history with the media, though, this seems to carry some weight.

That said, the mainstream media-types were reporting that the Wings were looking to deal Jordin Tootoo all summer. Patrick Eaves‘ name came up. Those players, though, were pretty clearly the odd-men-out with Detroit’s cap (and roster space) crunch. Quincey isn’t quite in that boat, so it’s not quite the same thing to see his name in print.

For the record, I don’t see how any Quincey trade would be anything other than a salary dump. Detroit isn’t going to be able to flip Quincey for a prospect or high picks or anything like that. A probable deal – as St. James notes – would be Quincey for a late pick or a cheaper, older defenseman, with the Wings keeping some of Quincey’s contract. As Detroit already has Nathan Paetsch on an AHL-only deal with Grand Rapids, I’d rather see them get the late pick and the open spot on their 50-man reserve list, with the option to sign Paetsch if need be in the future.

We’ll see what happens. It’s all conjecture at this point but given the source, I’d be willing to be there’s substance there.

Red Wings Assign Eight to Griffins

One day after sending seventeen players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings assigned eight more to their American Hockey League affiliate.

Forwards Riley Sheahan, Triston Grant, Landon Ferraro, Louis-Marc Aubry and Luke Glendening were sent down as the Griffins begin their training camp in Grand Rapids. They’re joined by defensemen Nathan Paetsch and Alexey Marchenko and goalie Jared Coreau.

The Red Wings are now down to 30 players on their training camp roster. Expected Griffins still in Detroit are Teemu Pulkkinen, Willie Coetzee, Adam Almquist and Petr Mrazek. Pulkkinen is currently suspended and required to remain with the Red Wings but is practicing with the Griffins, Coetzee has been injured, and Mrazek is expected to fill in for injured Detroit backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson.

Detroit has three preseason games remaining. The Griffins play two preseason matches this weekend.

Pregame: Blackhawks @ Red Wings – 9/22

A night after dropping a 2-0 decision to the Boston Bruins in their preseason home opener, the Red Wings host the Chicago Blackhawks. Detroit lost to the ‘Hawks in Chicago last Tuesday.

The Wings will be using the following roster:

Forwards
Justin Abdelkader
Pavel Datsyuk
Gustav Nyquist
Riley Sheahan
Joakim Andersson
Tomas Tatar
Cory Emmerton
Landon Ferraro
Louis-Marc Aubry
Mikael Samuelsson
Henrik Zetterberg
Luke Glendening

Defensemen
Brendan Smith
Nathan Paetsch
Alexey Marchenko
Jonathan Ericsson
Adam Almquist
Niklas Kronwall

Goalies
Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

Game time is 5:00 PM on FSD.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Blackhawks – 9/17

Coming off a 4-1 win in Pittsburgh last night, the Red Wings move on to face the Blackhawks in Chicago tonight.

The red team gets the nod this time around, with the lineup looking as follows:

Todd BertuzziStephen WeissDaniel Alfredsson
Gustav NyquistRiley SheahanTomas Jurco
Teemu PulkkinenAndreas AthanasiouMitch Callahan
Drew MillerCory EmmertonPatrick Eaves

Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson
Nathan PaetschBrian Lashoff
Xavier Oulette – Ryan Sproul

Jonas Gutstavsson will start in goal and Jared Coreau will play the third period.

Game time is 8:00 PM. It will not be televised in either market and won’t be on the radio in Detroit but WGN will carry it in Chicago and stream the feed.

2013 Red Wings Jersey Number Wrap-Up

I’ve already touched on the sweater numbers worn by the Red Wings at their development camp in July and the fact that Joakim Andersson has (as expected) switched from #63 to #18. Since the full training camp roster is now out, I’ll take a look at some of the remaining numbers.

With Daniel Cleary accepting a PTO from the Flyers (with a three-year deal on the way as soon as they can clear the cap space by putting Chris Pronger on LTIR), there’s no conflict as Daniel Alfredsson takes #11.

Griffins defenseman Brennan Evans, having lost the #3 he wore in January’s Red and White Game to Nick Jensen, takes the departed Valtteri Filppula‘s #51. Similarly, Nathan Paetsch drops from #71 to the #24 vacated by Damien Brunner and Triston Grant takes the #28 that formerly belonged to Carlo Colaiacovo. Grand Rapids captain Jeff Hoggan goes from #73 (now assigned to Griffins’ forward David McIntyre) to the #81 worn in the development camp by Mattias Janmark.

Calle Jarnkrok gets the #70 that was worn in development camp by free-agent tryout Jaimen Yakubowski. McIntyre’s #73 came from try-out Brody Silk. Teemu Pulkkinen gets #56.

Free agent try-out Michal Plutner gets the #75 worn by James de Haas in July while try-out Cam Lanigan gets the #68 that was worn by Jake Patterson.

As per usual, most of these changes mean nothing as they relate to players not under contract with Detroit. The Red Wings do have a tendency to give players acquired in midseason the number of someone already in the organization, as those jerseys are already made up, but given the cap space this year Detroit is unlikely to be making any big deals.

Red & White Game Rosters Announced

The Detroit Red Wings announced the tentative rosters for tomorrow’s Red & White Game at Plymouth’s Compuware Arena earlier today.

Pavel Datsyuk will be a game-time decision, having arrived back in Detroit from Russia late Monday. Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson will be kept out due to injuries.