On Andersson’s Call-Up and Playing the Kids

Last summer I wrote a bit about the myth of “playing the kids” as it pertains to the Red Wings lineup. I said at the time that defense, where Detroit’s prospect pool is shallow, is where the most opportunity for a young player to step in. Without injuries to the forward corp, there simply wouldn’t be room for players like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson or Riley Sheahan.

Well, injuries have happened. With Tatar already up (and Nyquist having been given a shot in the third game of the season), Andersson has gotten the call after it was revealed that Todd Bertuzzi would miss (at least) this weekend’s games with a bad back. The kids, it would seem, are getting their shot.

So why does this sit wrong with me?

Lets start by jumping back to Nyquist’s call-up on January 22. With Mikael Samuellson out of the lineup, a top-six forward spot opened up. The Red Wings had previously said that was exactly the type of opportunity that would be given to Nyquist and Tatar, as they’re skill players who are better served on Grand Rapids’ top line than Detroit’s bottom two lines. Nyquist got the call in this case, practiced on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, and began the game there. After two periods of what would be a 2-1 loss, though, head coach Mike Babcock juggled the lines and dropped Nyquist to the third line with Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller, Daniel Cleary having been bumped up to the second line. The next day, Nyquist was back in Grand Rapids, his shot in the Detroit top six having lasted forty minutes.

Bertuzzi, who had been expected to start the season on the third line, returned from the flu to take over the open spot in the top six in the Wings’ next game, with Cleary back down with Abdelkader and the also-returning Darren Helm. He held onto it until Tatar was called up for the February 5 game against Calgary. Like Nyquist before him, Tatar practiced on the second line (now consisting of Filppula and Pavel Datsyuk) and started the game there. Unlike Nyquist, Tatar lasted only 20 minutes in the top six before he and Bertuzzi swapped places. Also unlike Nyquist, Tatar got to stick around for a second game (and soon, a third), which he played entirely on the third line.

My problem is the disconnect between what we’ve been told about the team’s strategy and what we’ve actually seen. Mike Babcock and Ken Holland tell us that Nyquist and Tatar are ready for the NHL but that their games are suited for top-line play, so they’ll stay in the AHL until the opportunity arises. When said opportunity presents itself, they’re given less than a game to take advantage of it.

Some will say that they just need to take advantage of whatever opportunity they’re given. To a certain extent, that’s true. If these guys are scorers, however, you’re limiting their potential by having them play a bottom-six role. Nyquist or Tatar while centered by Datsyuk will be a vastly different player than while centered by Abdelkader, much as Datsyuk himself would be more limited on a line with Abdelkader and Miller rather than one with Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

Now Bertuzzi is out of the lineup and Andersson gets the call. It’s early so we don’t know how Andersson fits into the Wings’ plans for tomorrow against Edmonton. If Tatar is back on the second line and Andersson slots in on the third line, I’ll actually have no problem with the move. My issue, though, is that Cleary practiced on the second line today, seemingly indicating that he’ll be bumped up and Tatar will remain on the third line.

For eight games there has been a hole on the second line, an opportunity that is seemingly made for Nyquist or Tatar. Combined, the pair has had one game to take advantage of that opportunity. That rubs me the wrong way.

For the record, I don’t believe that roster space is the reason not to have had Nyquist or Tatar up the entire time, as the team had no problem making Patrick Eaves a healthy scratch on Thursday against the Blues.

Talking to one of my co-workers the other day, he brought up an interesting point. Why do we talk in terms of a top six and a bottom six? If Nyquist and Tatar and Andersson are all so good and so ready, bring them up as a unit and think of it as a top nine and bottom three.

Yeah, it’s difficult because the Wings are absolutely overloaded at forward, especially “bottom six” forwards, so it’s not going to happen. It is interesting to think about, though, because it shows how much our thinking about the forward units has changed in the last ten years. Some of that is the salary cap but when did it become that both the third and fourth lines had to be checking lines?

Looking ahead to next season, this logjam at forward won’t get any better. Lets say next year will be the year that Nyquist and Tatar finally jump to the top six in Detroit. Barring a trade or a buyout and assuming everyone is healthy, the only way there’s even the roster space for that to happen is if Filppula and Damien Brunner don’t return next year.

Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen and Samuelsson are all under contract for next year. Filppula and Brunner are unrestricted free agents.

If you want to enable the top nine / bottom three idea next year, that’s not much easier. Of the current bottom six, only Cleary, Miller, and the currently-injured Jan Mursak are free agents.

Counting only from the 15 forwards who started the season with the Red Wings (in other words, excluding Nyquist, Tatar and Andersson), ten are already under contract for next year. There will only be room for opportunity if the team opts to let people walk.

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.

Wings’ Prospect Sheahan Arrested

Peter Wallner of MLive reports that Detroit Red Wings’ prospect and current Grand Rapids Griffins forward Riley Sheahan was arrested in October for drunk driving.

Sheahan was stopped going the wrong way on Ottawa Avenue, near Pearl Street, in Grand Rapids just before midnight on October 29.  He was recorded as having a blood-alcohol content of .17 – more than twice the legal limit.  He also gave officers false information.

In a November 6 hearing, Sheahan pled not guilty to the charges.

The twenty-year-old Sheahan was Detroit’s first selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.  This is his first full professional season, having played seven games with the Griffins and one with the Red Wings to wrap up the 2011-12 campaign.

In 2010, during his freshman year at Notre Dame, Sheahan was charged with public intoxication and minor alcohol consumption.

Griffins 2012-13 Jersey Number Changes

With twenty-two players having been sent to Grand Rapids by the Red Wings in advance of the expected NHL lockout, the Griffins web site has updated the team’s roster with all the new player jersey numbers. Here’s a look at the changes we’ll see for the 2012-13 season.

Incoming netminder Petr Mrazek picks up the #34 worn last season by Ty Conklin during his AHL demotion, making him one of two Griffins wearing the same number as they are assigned by the Red Wings.

Nathan Paetsch takes the #4 vacated by Travis Ehrhardt. Adam Almquist switches from the #6 he got at the end of last season to the #5 that had been worn by Riley Sheahan, who takes the #19 from outgoing Mike Thomas.

Luke Glendening gets Jamie Johnson‘s old #10. Chad Billins claims the #14 last worn by Chris Minard after having shared #23 with Ryan Sproul last year, with #23 going to Triston Grant.

Fabian Brunnstrom‘s #17 goes to Max Nicastro and Chris Conner‘s #25 goes to Damien Brunner.

Tomas Jurco claims #28 from Alan Quine, making him the second Griffin with the same number he’s currently assigned with the Red Wings, pending Carlo Colaiacovo‘s number selection. Colaiacovo wore #28 with the St. Louis Blues and could request it in Detroit.

Finally, Brennan Evans will wear the #44 of the deceased Bryan Rufenach.

Red Wings Assign 22 to Griffins

In advance of the NHL lockout expected to begin this weekend, the Detroit Red Wings assigned 22 players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, their afflilate in the American Hockey League.

The complete list of players assigned is as follows:

Adam Almqvist
Joakim Andersson
Louis-Marc Aubry
Damien Brunner
Mitch Callahan
Willie Coetzee
Landon Ferraro
Gleason Fournier
Tomas Jurco
Brian Lashoff
Thomas McCollum
Petr Mrazek
Andrej Nestrasil
Max Nicastro
Gustav Nyquist
Francis Pare
Trevor Parkes
Jordan Pearce
Brent Raedeke
Riley Sheahan
Brendan Smith
Tomas Tatar

Of those, only Pearce and Pare had needed to clear waivers, having done so earlier in the week.

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.

Hockeytown Shifts Gears To Watch Worlds: Americans Discover Yearly Hockey Tournament

Five games into the post season (one game short of my playoff tickets) and the Detroit Red Wings have done the unthinkable.

Started their golf season early – just not as early as the Leafs, Blue Jackets, etc.

The Detroit Red Wings have become the first team to be eliminated from the playoffs; which means no more hockey for Detroit fans to enjoy (well other than if the Flyers beat the Penguins).

All of the Detroit stars and done, gone, no more hockey until the fall right. Well maybe, but adds are that is not true either.

You see there is this “little” known hockey tournaments every year (well not on Winter Olympic years) called the IIHF World Championship; and guess what. NHL players are allowed to play.


Now that the Red Wings have been eliminated early there is a chance that some of them will be asked to join their native country in the tournament that is taking place split between Stockholm, Sweden and Helsinki, Finland.

Currently none of the Red Wings have agreed to join their teams; however, other than for injury reasons I am sure a few may. Especially the Swedes and the Finn.

Team Sweden has gained Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Kronwall, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Fabian Brunnstrom and Tomas Holmstrom to their potential player pool. I know Nicklas Lidstrom is a Swede, he was captain for Tre Kronor in the Vancouver Olympics; but The Perfect Human is still injured and I do not see him joining the team.

Event co-host Finland now has Valtteri Filppula available. Last year Finland won gold without Filppula; however with Mikko Koivu‘s injury during the NHL regular season and the loss of goaltender Niklas Backstrom to surgery Filppula is probably already receiving calls.

Russia has been lackluster in the international tournaments as of late and could use the help of Pavel Datsyuk; however, injury may keep the Magician off the ice.

Justin Abdelkader, Chris Conner, Doug Janik, Drew Miller, Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin have become available for Team USA. With the horrible finish in last years tournament the USA needs a strong push this time around and hopefully Miller, Howard and Abdelkader can have a better ending to their season by helping out the national team.

Hockey Canada… Detroit gives to you Todd Bertuzzi, Danny Cleary, Riley Sheahan, Garnet Exelby, Kyle Quincey, Brendan Smith, Corey Emmerton, Brad Stuart, and Ian White… if you shall choose.

To the Czech Republic Jiri Hudler and Jakub Kindl would be good additions to your team.

Tomas Tatar has seen two season end thus far but could still be a big part for Slovakia.

And Slovenia The Red Wings have given you Jan Mursak.

Now Detroit fans and National Team fans sit and wait to see who will be joining as the Red Wings clear out their lockers and scatter for what is the longest off-season they have had since before winning the cup in 2008.

Red Wings to Face Predators in Round One After Shootout Loss to Blackhawks

The Detroit Red Wings will meet the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs following the team’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.

Had the Red Wings defeated the Blackhawks, they would have at least temporarily jumped into fourth place in the Western Conference standings. A loss would have left them in sixth place. Their single point locked them into fifth place, visiting fourth-placed Nashville to start the postseason.

Pavel Datsyuk scored with just 47 seconds in regulation to pull Detroit into a 2-2 tie with the Blackhawks and force overtime. With Wings’ netminder Jimmy Howard on the bench for an extra attacker, Henrik Zetterberg worked the puck to Tomas Holmstrom at the side of the Chicago crease. With the defense collapsing in on him, Holmstrom sent a pass across the net-mouth to a wide open Datsyuk, who knocked it home.

After a scoreless overtime, Patrick Kane would score the only goal of the shootout, beating Howard between the pads after a series of fakes. Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler and Todd Bertuzzi failed to score for the Red Wings while Patrick Sharp was stopped on Chicago’s second chance.

Viktor Stalberg had opened the game’s scoring with 9:46 left in the first period when he was left uncovered to pick up the rebound of a Sharp shot from the point and throw it back between Howard’s pads.

Chicago made it 2-0 with 2:40 left in the second on a goal by Andrew Shaw just after the expiration of a power play. With Bertuzzi coming out of the box, the Red Wings left Shaw alone in the slot to take a feed from Sharp and snap it past Howard.

Johan Franzen started Detroit’s rally at 8:11 of the third period, throwing a shot on goal from the right wing that somehow found its way between the pads of Chicago netminder Corey Crawford.

Crawford finished the afternoon with 30 saves on 32 shots while Howard stopped 31 of 33 chances.

Neither team scored a power play goal in the contest. The Red Wings had two power play attempts while the Blackhawks had six.

Detroit’s first-round playoff schedule is expected to be announced on Sunday.

Detroit forward Riley Sheahan made his NHL debut wearing No. 15. He swapped into the lineup in favor of Jan MursakDanny Cleary was the other forward scratch for the Red Wings, with Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm still hurt… Jakub Kindl was the healthy scratch on defense.