Thoughts on the 2021 Season

The Red Wings’ 2021 campaign wrapped up on Saturday night in Columbus, a 5-4 overtime loss to the  Blue Jackets.

With that, the strangest season on record ended with perhaps the most predictable result.  The Red Wings having slightly improved, still finishing in the bottom third of the league, still missing the playoffs.

While the team was competitive on many nights, which was good to see, there still wasn’t a lot to be excited about over the season.

Oh, sure, it was good to see Thomas Greiss right himself after a slow start, giving the Red Wings two solid goalies after spending the 2019-20 campaign with only Jonathan Bernier able to win.

Michael Rasmussen took a big step forward in his development.  Adam Erne – mostly due to one very hot streak – matched a career high in points despite the shortened schedule.  Filip Zadina put up 20 points in a top-six role.

These are all good things.  But they’re small steps forward.  They’re necessary for the rebuild that the Red Wings are going through.  Perhaps more importantly, for the most part, they were expected.  And as I said off the top, this team did what was predicted.

Perhaps the least-predictable thing was Steve Yzerman‘s trade deadline deal of Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals.

Dealing Mantha, who – while only 26 – is at the older end of Detroit’s rebuild core, makes a lot of sense.  Especially when the return is considered.  Richard Panik is a throw-in for salary considerations but the younger Jakub Vrana put up a point per game once coming to Detroit, plus a first- and second-rounder.  That’s a lot of options for the continuing rebuild.

But the Mantha deal was the lone bit of meaningful excitement from the season.  Yes, Vrana’s four-goal night was fun to watch, as was Sam Gagner‘s hat trick, but what impact did those performances have on the season as a whole?  Little, if any.

The season always had a “lets get through this and see what we can do when we come out the other side” feel to it.  And now we’re on the other side.

So what’s next?

It would appear that the coaching question will be answered first.  Jeff Blashill‘s contract is up.  The Wings haven’t performed well under him but he hasn’t exactly had much to work with, either.  I can see Yzerman bringing him back and I can also see him bringing someone else in.  It really depends on whether Yzerman thinks any of the other coaches available would do better under the circumstances.

I’m not sure they would.  So, right now, my guess is that Blashill is back on a short-term deal.  Perhaps with a revamped coaching staff surrounding him.

After the coaching question is answered will come the expansion draft, as I’m assuming the Red Wings won’t move to lock up any of their unrestricted free agents if it means expending an expansion draft protection slot on them.  There are lots of ways Detroit could go in their protection strategy but, of note, I expect to see Evgeny Svechnikov and one of Dennis Cholowski or Gustav Lindstrom made available.  Richard Panik will be available.

Like Vegas – who selected Tomas Nosek from Detroit – before them, Seattle will be picking from kids who haven’t fully cracked the lineup yet and overpriced veterans.  I would love to see them take Panik off of Detroit’s hands but I don’t see it happening.  I could see them taking Givani Smith in the same vein as the Golden Knights’ pick of Nosek.  My expectation, though, is that they’ll swing for the fences and take Svechnikov, hoping they can give him the opportunity the Wings never seemed to be able to.

Either way, whoever the Kraken take from Detroit, it’s likely to be someone who would be disappointing to lose but whose departure doesn’t drastically impact the rebuild.

Beyond the expansion draft is free agency, which is so far away that I’m not going to bother trying to predict anything.  That, though, is where we’ll see if we should expect more of the same next year, as the new Wings’ roster is assembled.

Post Trade Deadline Thoughts

I started mentally putting this post together just as today’s NHL trade deadline passed but held off on actually writing it for a little bit, knowing how trades often aren’t announced until well after the actual deadline.

That was somewhat fortuitous, given that the Red Wings’ biggest deadline deal wasn’t officially announced until 45 minutes post-deadline, when the team confirmed that Anthony Mantha had been traded to the Washington Capitals for Jakub Vrana, Richard Panik, a first-round pick this year, and a second-round pick next year.

As I said in my write-up of the deal, I can’t stand Panik.  I hope he’s made available in the expansion draft and, for some reason, the Kraken take him and his contract.  But I’m curious about Vrana in a top-line role with this team.  I also think the Wings’ rebuild probably won’t work with third and fourth round picks alone so getting the first and second from Washington is important.

Detroit’s previous deals were to send Jon Merrill to the Montreal Canadiens, Patrik Nemeth to the Colorado Avalanche, and to help facilitate the Columbus Blue Jackets’ trade of David Savard to the Tampa Bay Lightning.  These were all players on expiring contracts or just salary cap space and, while fourth and fifth rounders aren’t sexy (and, as I said, probably aren’t enough on their own to facilitate a rebuild), they’re essentially free picks and you take those every time.

It’s the deals that didn’t happen that bother me about this deadline, as they have with every deadline since the Red Wings became sellers.

For years we’ve been told to just wait for some of Detroit’s players to hit the final year of their contracts and we’d see them flipped at the deadline.  Mike Green, Jimmy Howard, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson.  Of them, only Green netted anything, and that was on his second expiring contract with Detroit after everyone passed the first time around due to him being injured.

This year was supposed to be the year for flipping vets for picks.  Bobby Ryan, Jon Merrill, Patrik Nemeth, Marc Staal, Sam Gagner, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Jonathan Bernier.  All on expiring deals.  But then, like Green before him, Ryan got hurt.  Like Howard, no market developed for Bernier.  Merrill and Nemeth were moved but no one called on the league’s leading faceoff man in Glendening, playoff performer Helm, or versatile veteran Gagner.

As I said in 2019, “I get that you can’t trade for things that other teams don’t want to give you.”  If there wasn’t a trade to be made, then there wasn’t a trade to be made, and that’s that.  But as I also said then, “I think that’s the part that’s depressing to me. Not that the Wings were sellers. Not that the team is in a rebuild. That they’re sellers with not much to sell, so they can’t get big pieces back for the rebuild.”

The Red Wings sold Mantha because he was the only piece anyone wanted, much like when they moved Tomas Tatar in 2018.  Both the Mantha and Tatar deals were good deals but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to look at the big picture and think it wasn’t enough.

Especially when, back in the final years of the Red Wings’ playoff streak, a Glendening or Helm or Gagner or Staal is exactly the kind of player then-GM Ken Holland would have paid a hefty price to acquire for a postseason push.  Is Staal really that different from Marek Zidlicky or Gagner that different from Erik Cole?  Squinting a little, are Glendening or Helm that far off from the David Legwand the Red Wings acquired (rather than the one he had been for years up to that point)?

Nine years ago, Paul freakin’ Gaustad fetched a first-rounder when he was sent from the Sabres to the Predators.  Now no one wants Glendening.  And you know what?  That’s smart.  Gaustad never was worth that much and Glendening isn’t, either.  But it’s hard to see buyers giving up that much when the Red Wings were buyers but now that the Wings are sellers, the market has changed.

Blame the flat cap, blame Detroit just not having good enough players to sell.  Whatever it is, it doesn’t make it easy to see.

Red Wings Trade Mantha to Capitals

As the NHL’s trade deadline came and went on Monday, it looked like the Red Wings had remained relatively quiet, until the late-breaking news that they had sent forward Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals, first reported by Kevin Weekes.

The “more” ended up being a first round draft pick in 2021 and a second round draft pick in 2022.

As I mentioned on Twitter, the longer the Wings went without moving some of their depth pieces, the more it was looking like the 2018 deadline, where Detroit had to sell Tomas Tatar just to get anything of value back.  And Mantha was primed to be this year’s Tatar, so this doesn’t come as a complete shock.

I’ll be honest, I can’t stand Richard Panik.  I pulled up CapFriendly to see how long he’s signed for and audibly sighed: Through 2023 with a $2.75 million salary cap hit.  My hope right now is that Seattle claims him in the expansion draft this summer but I’m not expecting it.

Jakub Vrana is a restricted free agent this summer.  He’s 25 so the Wings get a little younger there.  With 25 points, he immediately slots in as Detroit’s top scorer.

It’s clear that the picks are the big win for Detroit, though.

I’m not okay with how the rest of the deadline went, and I’ll write about that later, but this is a good deal for Detroit.

Postgame Notes: Red Wings @ Blackhawks

Just a few thoughts on the Red Wings’ 4-3 loss to the Blackhawks tonight.

First off, I’ll drop this here:

And another tweet to note:

But as far as actual game thoughts go…

That was a really good second period by the Wings and a not-terrible third.  The first?  Not so good, but not bad enough that they couldn’t overcome it.

I like that they didn’t give up.  They never really dominated stretches of play but they kept grinding it out.  That’s what a team with a lack of talent needs to do.

That said, while there’s a lack of talent, part of that is also because of the lack of power plays for Detroit.  Look, the calls that were made against the Red Wings were pretty justifiable.  But the Blackhawks simply weren’t held to the same standard.

The Red Wings got called for chintzy hooks that Chicago got away with.  Justin Abdelkader gets a cross-check to the back of the neck from Richard Panik and there’s no call.  Then Abdelkader goes into the corner with Niklas Hjalmarsson in the closing seconds of regulation and comes out with a boarding penalty, which leads to the overtime power play on which the Blackhawks win the game.

I don’t know how the officials can justify it but they won’t have to publicly so…  Whatever?

Final note: No matter how many signs they put up, United Center is not the Madhouse on Madison.  Chicago Stadium was the Madhouse on Madison.  It’d be like calling Little Caesars Arena “The Big Red Barn” or something.

Red Wings Drop Third Straight with Loss to Leafs

A 4-1 loss to Toronto Saturday night gave the Detroit Red Wings their third consecutive loss and second in four nights to the Maple Leafs.

Detroit scored the game’s first goal but Toronto took over the scoring from there, potting four goals of their own.

Niklas Kronwall‘s blast from the blue line with 4:33 left in the first period found its way through traffic to beat Maple Leafs’ goalie Jonathan Bernier. The power play goal came off a quick pass from Johan Franzen.

Toronto would even things up just one minute later on a power play of their own, with Phil Kessel‘s shot from the left wing deflecting off of James van Riemsdyk in front and past Red Wings’ netminder Petr Mrazek.

The Leafs took the lead with 2:10 left in the second period, as a bad line change by Detroit let Richard Panik get in behind the defense and take a stretch pass from Korbinian Holzer. Panik beat Mrazek five-hole to make it 2-1.

Just 1:42 into the third period, Morgan Reilly made it 3-1. During a line change, Reilly streaked down the left side all alone and snapped a shot past Mrazek.

Nazem Kadri added an empty-net goal to round out the scoring.

Mrazek finished the night with 37 saves on 40 Toronto shots. Bernier stopped 27 of 28 Detroit chances.

The Red Wings were one-for-two on the power play while the Maple Leafs scored once on five tries with the man-advantage.

After three games in four nights, Detroit is now off until Tuesday when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets.


Detroit remained without forward Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Danny DeKeyserStephen Weiss was also out for the Red Wings, having suffered a shoulder injury on Friday night against the Florida Panthers. Daniel Cleary took his spot in the lineup… Jakub Kindl was a healthy scratch, replaced in the lineup by Brian Lashoff.

Red Wings Fall to Lighting in Second Consecutive OT Loss

For the second-straight game, the Detroit Red Wings fell in overtime, dropping a 3-2 decision in the extra frame to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

They had previously lost in overtime to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

With 1:19 remaining, Richard Panik stole the puck from Kyle Quincey behind the Detroit goal and sent a pass out to Teddy Purcell all alone in the slot for a quick snap past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard into the top of the net.

The goal gave the Lighting just their second-ever win at Joe Louis Arena, their first since 1994.

Henrik Zetterberg had opened the game’s scoring just 3:51 into the game. Pavel Datsyuk pressured Steven Stamkos in the left wing corner and Stamkos threw the puck out into the slot, where Zetterberg picked it off and whipped a shot past Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop.

The Lighting would tie things back up midway through the period, as Ryan Malone was left untouched on a wraparound chance off a feed from Matthew Carle. Howard stretched to stop Malone’s first attempt but Malone got the rebound and lifted it over the prone goalie at 10:11.

Immediately after killing off a long series of Detroit power plays, the Lightning would take the lead with 7:10 left in the second period. Stamkos was left alone as the Red Wings attempted to clear their zone but Victor Hedman stepped up to hold the puck in and sent it to Stamkos, who rifled a shot past Howard to make it 2-1.

Zetterberg’s second of the night evened things back up with 4:12 remaining in regulation. Danny DeKeyser dumped the puck in from the neutral zone and it wrapped around the boards. On the right wing Datsyuk let it go back to Zetterberg, who stepped up to the faceoff dot and fired a slapper off the stick of former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula and past Bishop.

Neither team scored a power play goal on the night, with the Red Wings having four chances with the extra attacker and Tampa Bay having three.

Howard finished with 31 saves on 34 shots against while Bishop stopped 25 of 27.


The Red Wings were without Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith due to injury. Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves were healthy scratches… Xavier Ouellet and Luke Glendening were called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins for the game, with Adam Almquist being sent back to Grand Rapids.

Griffins Claim Calder Cup, Tatar Named MVP

The Grand Rapids Griffins claimed their first-ever Calder Cup Championship on Tuesday night, defeating the Syracuse Crunch 5-2 to complete a 4-2 series win.

Forward Tomas Tatar was named the Most Valuable Player of the playoffs. He scored twice in the final game for a total of 16 goals and five assists for 21 points in 24 playoffs.

Richard Panik opened the game’s scoring with 2:45 remaining in the opening period, jamming a rebound chance past Petr Mrazek with the Grand Rapids netminder out of position.

The Griffins tied things back up at 2:23 of the second when Mitch Callahan whacked a shot from the inside edge of the right faceoff circle past Syracuse goalie Cedrick Desjardins.

Tatar’s first of the night put the Griffins up with 7:19 remaining in the middle frame. On a Grand Rapids power play, Tatar found open space on the far side of the crease and banged the rebound of a Gustav Nyquist chance past Desjardins.

Andrej Sustr would pull the Crunch back into a tie at 5:14 of the third but Brennan Evans snuck a shot from the left point through traffic and past Desjardins at 9:54 for the eventual game-winner.

Tatar and Joakim Andersson each added late-game empty-net goals to confirm the victory.