Looking at the 2017-18 Red Wings

With the trade deadline having passed, we can start to get a look at the contracts the Red Wings will likely carry into next season, and from that see what the team might look like.

The bad news: It’s a lot like this one.

The only unrestricted free agents in the Wings’ lineup right now are Drew Miller and Mitch Callahan.  Assuming they don’t return (or end up in GR, where Callahan was recalled from yesterday), Detroit’s roster is as follows:

Forwards
Justin Abdelkader, Andreas Athanasiou, Luke Glendening, Darren Helm, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Henrik Zetterberg

Defensemen
Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, Mike Green, Nick Jensen, Niklas Kronwall, Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul

Goaltenders
Jared Coreau, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek

That’s 11 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies.  It’s a $67.7 million cap hit, not counting new contracts for restricted free agents Tomas Tatar and Xavier Ouellet.  It’s a pretty full roster.

So where does that leave the Red Wings as far as options for getting better?

With all of the picks they grabbed at the trade deadline, there’s the draft, but unless they manage to win the draft lottery I don’t think you can expect anyone Detroit selects this summer to be NHL-ready next fall.

The Wings could call up players from the Grand Rapids Griffins to rebuild from within.  Maybe they give Matt Lorito a chance or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That’s what a truly rebuilding team would probably do.

There are trades, which Ken Holland has spoken a little bit about over the last couple days.  That said, Holland’s plan late last summer was to trade the team’s forward depth for defensive talent and those deals weren’t there.  The market will be different this summer and the expansion draft may impact things as well but if the Wings’ history is any indicator, this path can’t be relied on.

Finally, there’s Detroit’s tried-and-true method: Free agency.  Go back to that list of players, though, and pick the one(s) you see being exiled from the lineup in favor of a newcomer.  Unless the Wings are willing to bench a player like Luke Glendening or Riley Sheahan, there’s only one spot on the roster for adding players.

As I said, there is the expansion draft to make things interesting.  If I’m Ken Holland, I hope for Vegas to claim Jimmy Howard, freeing up cap space and solving the goalie logjam.  That doesn’t open a spot anywhere that they’d want to sign a free agent, though.

Holland is going to have to get creative.  Maybe that means trading a player like Sheahan to the Golden Knights in return for them agreeing to claim Howard, which would given them cap space and an extra roster spot to add forward help.

Without that creativity, though, we’re already looking at next year’s lineup, and we know that’s not good enough.

Wings Deal Forward Ott to Canadiens

Late Tuesday night, the Detroit Red Wings traded forward Steve Ott to the Montreal Canadiens for a sixth-round draft pick in 2018.

I’ve been very vocal about not liking the Ott signing when it happened in July and thinking that there were younger players who should have been playing instead of him over the season.  That the Wings were able to get anything at all for him as the trade deadline nears is fantastic to me.

Ott joins Tomas Jurco and Brendan Smith as upcoming free agents Detroit has traded away with the NHL’s trade deadline approaching.  Thomas Vanek remains their biggest name in play, though there have also been rumors about Riley Sheahan and – to a much lesser extent – Drew Miller.

Red Wings Trade Smith to Rangers

The Detroit Red Wings made their first real move a sellers at this season’s NHL trade deadline on Tuesday, sending defenseman Brendan Smith to the New York Rangers for a second round draft pick and a third round draft pick.

McKenzie later corrected that the second-round pick will be in 2018, as the Rangers gave up their 2017 pick trading for Eric Staal last season.

The Wings had previously sent Tomas Jurco to the Chicago Blackhawks, but he wasn’t playing in Detroit anyway so it didn’t mean much.

With the Red Wings far out of the playoff picture and the trade deadline just over a day away, this move isn’t entirely unexpected.  That said, there was some buzz about the Wings re-signing Smith, though that would have given them a glut of defensemen heading into next season.

I like the move.  A second rounder plus “something else” was about the most the Wings could have expected for Smith and I like the “something else” being a usable pick (and a decent one at that) rather than a warm body for the rest of the season.  Additionally, I was wondering earlier today if the Wings might go for 2018 picks given how the 2017 draft is regarded as shallow.

With the Smith deal done, forwards Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, and Riley Sheahan remain tied to the rumor mill.

Nyquist, Ott, and Random Numbers

Earlier today, Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press posted a piece about how, once the Wings get healthy, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, and Riley Sheahan need to be benched because they’re not producing as expected.  She then engaged readers via Twitter, repeating her argument while also stating that Steve Ott has been a great signing for the Red Wings.

I Tweeted a little bit about it but I want to sum it up here.

As far as Nyquist (and probably Tatar and Sheahan) goes, I won’t deny that the Wings probably had higher hopes for him, especially with the contract that they gave him.  That said, Prashanth Iyer of Winging it in Motown does a great job of explaining that Nyquist’s production is solid by certain metrics.

Read his whole thread. Seriously.

When asked about Steve Ott, HSJ said the following:

I’m not an Ott fan. I was confused by his signing on Day One.  Last week the beat writers were all over how great Ott is for his fight sparking the Red Wings to a win, which is confusing correlation with causation.

If Ott was brought to Detroit to fight and provide a spark, here’s what we know:  Ott has fought five times this season.  The Red Wings are 2-2-1 in those games.  In the minutes played after his fight in each of those games, the Red Wings have scored 13 goals and allowed 13 goals.

In short, the impact of a Steve Ott fight on the outcome of a game this season is completely neutral.  You could argue it’s a negative, even, if you take that overtime loss as just a loss.

But if we’re going to take salary into account, let’s say that instead of Ott, the Wings had a guy who was making just over $800k and put up at a 15-goal, 15-assist pace last season while playing about 11 minutes per night.  Would you say that’s the kind of guy you could play in the bottom six or you could bump up to the top six if you felt like you need to cut the minutes of Nyquist/Tatar/Sheahan?  I think so.

Of course, those numbers belong to Teemu Pulkkinen, abandoned by the Red Wings and now skating for the AHL’s Iowa Wild.

Postgame: Wings-Kings Blah Blah Blah

I’m just gonna start with this.

After their most uninspiring effort of the season the Wings respond with their fewest shots in the season (including a first period with only a pair of them and only eight through two).  What are you supposed to take away from that?


Mickey Redmond was rightfully upset about the officiating after a blatant hold on Riley Sheahan led to the Kings’ third goal.  What was telling to me is that the Wings seemed absolutely silent about it.

Come on.  You’re playing a stretch of piss-poor hockey, can you please at least act like you care about that kind of stuff?  It’s offensive.

I’ve said before that I didn’t expect this to be a good season.  This is not a good team, though there have been parts that are better than I thought would be.  I’m okay dropping a 4-1 decision and not being able to get shots through…  But act like you care while you do it.  It’s one thing to not be good enough.  It’s another to not be engaged enough.

An Alternate Red Wings Roster

After publishing my post explaining why I’m not excited about the start of this season, I went outside and mowed my lawn, which gave me more time to think.  A dangerous thing.

I started mentally re-working the Red Wings’ roster, imagining a lineup featuring none of Detroit’s summer free agent signings or re-signings.  This is what I came up with:

Justin AbdelkaderDylan LarkinRiley Sheahan
Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergAnthony Mantha
Gustav NyquistAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Tomas NosekLuke GlendeningTyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk

Those lines are based on the ones the team practiced with today, so they can be shuffled however you want.  The important thing is the 13 forwards.

Yeah, not having Frans Nielsen and needing to move Zetterberg back to center hurts, but look at the opportunity on that lineup.  That’s Mantha, Athanasiou, and Pulkkinen getting top-nine (none of this top-six, bottom-six nonsense) minutes.  That’s Glendening still centering a line of grinders, just as he is now.

Is it as likely to make the playoffs?  Well, I don’t think the current roster is going to make it, so zero percent chance is equal to zero percent chance.  That said, no, I can’t say I think this roster has as good of a chance.  I’m okay with that.

This roster also includes an effort to fix the Red Wings’ defense.  While the same blueliners make the team as did in reality (which is why I didn’t specifically note them), there is an additional defensive prospect in the system.

This roster has a low enough salary to absorb Pavel Datsyuk‘s cap hit, which means he’s never traded and the Red Wings draft Jakob Chychrun.

Chychrun made Arizona’s opening night roster but I have no expectation that he’d do the same in Detroit, given the Wings’ logjam.  That said, two years down the road you can expect there’d be room for him, the kind of player Detroit has been unable to sign as a free agent or trade for.

I know that I’m looking at it with 20/20 hindsight.  At the time Datsyuk’s contract was traded, no one could have known whether or not Steven Stamkos would hit the open market and the Red Wings felt that they had to be prepared for that.

That said, it’s hard not to look at what might have been and wonder.

Revisiting the Myth of “Playing the Kids”

It was a summer that saw the Red Wings swing and miss on a free agent signing that would have filled a massive hole in their roster.  The team’s blueline corps was looking ineffective.  Fans were clamoring to see more of the exciting forward prospects in the system but there was no room for them on the roster.

It was 2012.

I wrote then about how the team needed defense but instead had a glut of forwards.  Unlike then, now there’s actually talk of swapping some of the forward depth for defensive help.  Maybe they can actually do that, but no trade they do for a defenseman is going to clear up the logjam they have at forward.

On April 21, as the Red Wings closed out their season in Tampa with a loss to the Lightning, they had 14 forwards on the roster.  Tomas Jurco and Teemu Pulkkinen were healthy scratches.  Andreas Athanasiou was in the lineup.  So were the since-departed Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, and Joakim Andersson.

Red Wings’ brass implied that there would be a battle for roster spots up front in the aftermath of another early playoff exit.  With two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner gone, there would seemingly be plenty of opportunity.

Then, when free agency opened on July 1, the Red Wings signed two top-six forwards and a fourth-liner.

Henrik Zetterberg, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, and Frans Nielsen are locked in as four of the top six forwards.  One of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar might be traded but probably not both, so there’s five.  Darren Helm or Tomas Vanek likely makes the sixth, with the other dropping to the third line with Riley Sheahan.  Your fourth line is the returning Drew Miller, the extended Luke Glendening, and the recently-signed Steve Ott.

That’s one roster spot on the third line open.  Athanasiou.  Pulkkinen.  Jurco.  Anthony Mantha.  Tyler Bertuzzi.  Tomas Nosek.  Martin Frk and Mitch Callahan have to clear waivers.  Hell, throw Eric Tangradi and Louis-Marc Aubry in the mix.  That’s ten players (okay, realistically five to seven) fighting for one roster spot.  That’s not even mentioning Dylan Sadowy or Evgeny Svechnikov.  That is not opportunity.

Opportunity would have been letting Helm walk.  Letting Miller go.  Not signing Ott.  Not extending Glendening.

Vanek takes the second line spot.  The third line is Sheahan with Mantha and Pulkkinen or Jurco.  The fourth line is Athanasiou with Bertuzzi and whichever of Pulkkinen or Jurco that’s not on the third line.  Some combination of Glendening (who, without that extension, isn’t as cemented into the lineup), Nosek, Frk, and Tangradi provide your depth/healthy scratches.


Let’s go back to the trade for a defenseman plan.  This is not going to be a fantasy hockey quantity-for-quality deal.  No one is going to take Jurco and Pulkkinen and Frk for a top-pairing blueliner.  This theoretical deal starts with Nyquist or Tatar.  Maybe another prospect forward gets included but more likely Ryan Sproul or Xavier Ouellet or Nick Jensen.

That deal would help solve the Wings’ defensive problems but it does not suddenly clear up the logjam at forward as well.

Pregame: Sharks @ Red Wings – 11/13

Pavel Datsyuk returns to the Detroit lineup tonight as the Red Wings host the San Jose Sharks. Datsyuk has missed all 15 games this season recovering from offseason ankle surgery. He’ll slot in on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and – fresh off his seven year contract extension – Justin Abdelkader. The full forward lines are as follows:

Abdelkader – Zetterberg – Datsyuk
Tomas TatarDylan LarkinGustav Nyquist
Riley SheahanAndreas AthanasiouTeemu Pulkkinen
Drew MillerLuke GlendeningDarren Helm

Jimmy Howard gets the start in goal for the Red Wings against Martin Jones.

Stupid stat of the day: This is Detroit’s ninth Friday the 13th game all-time. The Red Wings are 4-3-1 in the previous eight.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD.

Red Wings Win Second Consecutive Game with 2-1 Victory over Lightning

With 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night, the Detroit Red Wings have consecutive victories for the first time since winning three games in a row to start the season.

Detroit rookie Dylan Larkin‘s early third period marker stood up as the game-winner, the second of his career. Breaking down the right wing, Larkin dropped the puck to Justin Abdelkader as he gained the Tampa Bay zone and immediately got it back, then drove towards the net and fired a shot that deflected off the stick of defenseman Braydon Coburn and under goalie Ben Bishop‘s elbow.

After a scoreless first period, Riley Sheahan had opened the game’s scoring for the Red Wings at 2:02 of the second. Gaining the Lightning zone with speed, Sheahan split the defense and snapped a shot from the high slot past Bishop for the 1-0 lead.

Tampa Bay would tie things up while skating on a five-on-three with 4:02 left in the middle period. Steven Stamkos‘ initial shot rang off the post and Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard slid into position to block Tyler Johnson‘s rebound chance, but the puck went right to Nikita Kucherov to bang into the open side of the net to make it 1-1.

The Lightning finished the night one-for-four on the power play while the Red Wings went scoreless on three tries with the extra man.

Howard made 29 saves on 30 shots. Bishop stopped 27 of the 29 chances he faced.

The Red Wings will look to make it three in a row on Friday when they visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Flames – 10/23

Riding a three-game losing streak, the Red Wings will shake up their lines as they visit the Calgary Flames tonight.

Part of that shakeup is due to a back injury for Brad Richards, who will miss the final two games of Detroit’s road trip through Western Canada. With Richards out and Pavel Datsyuk not yet back from injury, rookie Dylan Larkin will switch from wing to center the team’s second line.

The expected lines are as follows:

Justin AbdelkaderHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist
Tomas Tatar – Dylan Larkin – Teemu Pulkkinen
Darren HelmRiley SheahanLuke Glendening
Drew MillerJoakim AnderssonLandon Ferraro

Niklas KronwallMike Green
Kyle QuinceyDanny DeKeyser
Brendan SmithJonathan Ericsson

On defense, all three pairs are changed up, with Brendan Smith swapping in for Jakub Kindl in an effort to both spark offense and plug a porous blue line. Kindl joins Tomas Jurco as a healthy scratch.

Jimmy Howard gets the start in net for the Red Wings. Petr Mrazek will get the nod to close out the trip in Vancouver.

Game time is 9:00 PM on FSD.