On the Red Wings’ Next Alternate Captain

With Pavel Datsyuk having departed, the Red Wings are left with an open spot among their contingent of captains.  I brought this up on Twitter a month ago and WiiM did a post on it a couple weeks ago.  I went back through the team’s recent history to see if anything can be gleaned from it to show us who might be picked.

The 2015-16 season was unique for the Red Wings in that captain Henrik Zetterberg and alternates Datsyuk and Niklas Kronwall were the only players to wear letters for the team all year.  That doesn’t mean there wasn’t opportunity – both Datsyuk and Kronwall missed significant time due to injury – it means that there were 34 games where Detroit didn’t even bother sewing an “A” on anyone else’s sweater.

Captains are the only players who can speak to on-ice officials but the Red Wings’ going with fewer than the allowed number of captains shows how unimportant that rule.  Of note: Teams may have no more than three lettered players on the roster but there is nothing saying that they have to have that number.

We have to go back to the 2015 season to find replacement captains used by the Red Wings.  Despite ten games with only two captains dressed, seven players still managed to wear a letter throughout the year.  The injured Johan Franzen wore it for ten games, Jonathan Ericsson and Daniel Cleary each wore it for three, and Darren Helm wore it for one.

If he were healthy, I think Franzen would get the A, but he’ll never play again.  Cleary may very well return to the organization and get a letter in Grand Rapids, but I think he can be ruled out in Detroit.  That leaves Ericsson and the recently-re-signed Helm.

Going back one more season to 2014 adds no new names to the list, as the now-retired Daniel Alfredsson was the most-frequent extra alternate, wearing an A for 36 games to Franzen’s 31 and Cleary’s 8.  Five games were spent with only two captains.

The lockout-shortened 2013 – Zetterberg’s first as captain – featured three games with only two captains but no replacement alternates.  It was also the first season since the 2007-08 campaign, when Datsyuk was given an A along with Zetterberg and Kris Draper, that the team had only three captains.

Even with four captains on the books in 2012, Tomas Holmstrom wore the A for eight games.  The team dressed three captains for every game.

Going back further, we see the names of long-departed defensemen Brian Rafalski and Chris Chelios…  Clearly players who won’t be options now.

In the last seven years there have been ten players to wear the C or A with the Red Wings.  Two of them – Zetterberg and Kronwall – still do.  Only two of the remaining eight are still with the team: Ericsson and Helm.

At three games to one, Ericsson has more experience wearing the letter than Helm.  Maybe that gives him an edge.

So can anything be pulled from these numbers?  I think the only thing they show is that it’s time for someone new.  The old standbys are gone.

While newcomers Frans Nielsen, Thomas Vanek, and Steve Ott have all worn letters elsewhere in their career – Nielsen had an A with the Islanders last season while Vanek and Ott co-captained the Sabres back in the 2013-14 season – the Red Wings haven’t given the alternate captaincy directly to a newcomer since trading for Brendan Shanahan in 1996.

By my count, the Wings haven’t had two defenseman with letters since before the Steve Yzerman era, which would seemingly rule out Ericsson or any of the other blueliners, so long as Kronwall wears the A.

Jeff Blashill is not Jacques Demers.  I don’t think Dylan Larkin gets the available letter by virtue of being the team’s best player.

I think – almost from lack of better options – that we’ll see Justin Abdelkader get the A.

Of course, that could change if the mythical “trade for a top defenseman” ever emerges.  We’ll see.

How Will the NHL Honor Gordie Howe?

Earlier today, Twitter user @KevinParker12 posted (and Winging it in Motown later ran with) that shop.nhl.com was offering up Detroit Red Wings jerseys for new signee Steve Ott carrying the number nine.

I joked that this is the NHL’s promised tribute to Gordie Howe, letting Ott take his retired number.

It’d be easy for the NHL’s online store to ignore retired numbers.  I know because I’ve already written code for that.

It’s a mistake that has already been fixed.  Ott is no longer listed with a number.  It can be assumed he’ll go with #29 as he’s worn it for much of his career and it’s available in Detroit.

But I want to go back to that promised tribute.  On June 16, in the aftermath of Howe’s passing, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the league would “come up with something that’s an enduring testament to Gordie.”  He later called it “special and enduring and permanent.”

Specifically, that was in response to the idea of retiring Howe’s #9 league-wide, an idea that had been circulating and gained the support of none other than Wayne Gretzky, the only NHL player who currently has that honor.

The statement seems to shoot down the idea of a league-wide number retirement.  As someone who doesn’t think #99 should be retired, either, I agree with this.  It does, however, raise the question of exactly what honor the league will bestow.

The words from that statement that stick out to me are “enduring” and “permanent.”  I think it leads to two options.

One is renaming a conference or division after him.  The divisions were just renamed three years ago and the inclusion of the awkwardly-named “Metropolitan” Division (which includes Columbus and Carolina) and an Atlantic Division that extends inland to Detroit was met with derision.  Renaming the conferences and divisions after legends of the game would get around the issues that arise from geographically naming a division that stretches from Montreal to Miami.

That said, the NHL had the opportunity to eschew the geographical division names when they realigned in 2013 and opted not to.  They were the last major league in North America to go to geography-based names in 1993 and seem to have no desire to give them up.

<troll> Besides, the awkward names of the Eastern Conference can be resolved by relocating the Carolina Hurricanes to Quebec City, moving them and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the current Atlantic Division, moving the Florida teams to the current Metropolitan Division, then renaming the Atlantic to the Northeast and giving the Metropolitan the Atlantic name.  </troll>

I think the more-likely honor is renaming one of the league’s current awards after Howe.

There’s been a push on and off over the last several years for renaming the awards after more relevant personalities.  In most cases it has faced strong backlash as yet another example of the league choosing to ignore its own history.  I know that I’ve said the league should focus on educating its fans on who James Norris was rather than removing his name from its award for best defenseman in favor of Raymond Bourque or Bobby Orr.

However, if the league wanted to put Gordie Howe’s name on the MVP award, I think even those of us who prefer to preserve the historical names would have a hard time arguing against it.  Similar to the NHLPA’s renaming of the Lester B. Pearson Award after Ted Lindsay, I think the most-negative reaction you’d see is begrudging acceptance.

Of course, thinking cynically, by picking players like Lindsay and Howe to start, you get people used to the idea of renaming awards.  Then when it comes time to change the Frank J. Selke Trophy after Guy Carbonneau, then do it again for Patrice Bergeron ten years later, there’s less room for complaint.

If the league is going to honor Gordie Howe in a truly meaningful way, I’d be willing to bet they rename an award after him.  I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

2016 Free Agency Day One Recap / Notes

Oh man, midway through the afternoon today, I was thinking that when I got around to writing this post, I’d start at the beginning.  Given how the day ended, though, how do you not skip straight to Steve Ott?

After a series of signings that were, if not smart, at least acceptable, the Red Wings went out and chased the mythical fourth-line grit that will supposedly put their team over the top and signed Steve Ott away from the St. Louis Blues.

I hate chasing veteran grit when Tyler Bertuzzi is waiting in the wings and I don’t like Ott as a player.  I’ll let Winging it in Motown’s J.J. from Kansas say it.

Ott’s value is entirely contained within intangibles in which I don’t necessarily believe.

The good news is that he signed for $800,000 on a one-year deal, which can be buried in Grand Rapids if needed.


The day had started with the Wings bringing back Darren Helm.  Five years is too long but $3.85 million is a hometown discount.  Especially with the other signings, I don’t think Helm needed to come back.  I don’t love this deal.


Restricted free agent Alexey Marchenko signed a bridge deal for two years at $1.45 million per year.  It a great deal.  A significant raise from the $666,666 AAV he had in his previous contract but not the ridiculous money previous RFA defensemen have gotten in Detroit.


Frans Neilsen‘s signing was the Plan B the Wings had to resort to when Steven Stamkos opted not to test free agency.  Six years for a 32-year-old is pretty brutal.  $5.25 million is probably high, too, but not as bad.  I’d rather have had three years at $6 million each than this deal.  But, as I said last night, someone was going to give him that term.


I like the signing of Thomas Vanek to a one-year, $2.6 million deal.  The Wings have the cap space, so worst-case scenario they pay him too much this year and then just walk away from him.  It’s an overpayment if he only does what he did last year but this Wings team could use what he did last year, let alone any improvement.


At 11:59 AM, I wasn’t happy.  By 4:15 PM, I was pretty content with what the Wings had done.  By 4:45 PM I was outright pissed off.

There’s still a lot to fall out here.  I think the Vanek signing means that one of Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar is gone in trade for a defenseman.  This team has far too many forwards and not enough blueliners, so we know the lineup as it is now just can’t be the opening night lineup.  I’m willing to hold off on judging too much until we see how it all falls out.

Except for the Ott signing.  That’s a joke.


Lost in all the signings for the big club were three two-way deals for guys headed to the Griffins.  Forwards Matt Lorito and Ben Street and goalie Edward Pasquale.

There’s a lot of change coming to Grand Rapids this year.  Andy Miele signed in Philadelphia and captain Jeff Hoggan won’t return.  Some guys with AHL experience will help fill the holes.

Wings Go Searching for “Grit” and Sign Steve Ott

Well, the beat writers have been talking about the Wings looking for some fourth-line grit all week, and it looked like we had all dodged a bullet when Matt Martin signed in Toronto, but no…

There is one small bit of good news.

That salary can be buried in its entirety in the AHL should the Wings snap out of it and decide to punt this jackass down to the Griffins to hang out with Daniel Cleary.

Red Wings Rally For 3-1 Win over Sabres

The Detroit Red Wings trailed after the first period on Sunday but scored the game’s final three goals, rallying for a 3-1 win over the league-worst Buffalo Sabres.

Johan Franzen had a goal and an assist in the third period to help his team to the win.

Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson opened the game’s scoring at 7:47 of the first period. Darren Helm turned the puck over to Drew Stafford as he attempted to exit the Detroit zone and Stafford sent it down to Hodgson, who was all alone to draw out Red Wings’ netminder Jonas Gustavsson and stuff a shot around him from the side of the net.

Helm would make amends just thirty seconds into the second period, taking a pass from behind the net by Daniel Alfredsson and spinning in the slot to throw a backhander past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, tying things up.

With 8:17 left in regulation and Detroit on a power play, Franzen threw a shot from the left faceoff circle on net. The puck deflected off defenseman Alexander Sulzer and past Miller to give the Red Wings the lead.

Franzen nearly iced the game in the closing minute but his shot towards the empty net from the left wing went off the post. He tracked down the puck, though, and worked it back out in front for Alfredsson to bury, finishing off the scoring.

Detroit finished the game one-for-three on the power play. The Sabres were scoreless on two tries with the man-advantage. Buffalo captain Steve Ott also missed on a second-period penalty shot.

Gustavsson, unbeaten in regulation this season, stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced. Miller made 31 saves on 33 shots.


The Red Wings were without Pavel Datsyuk, who remained in Detroit after suffering a possible concussion in Saturday’s game against Ottawa… Daniel Alfredsson returned from his groin injury to take Datsyuk’s spot in the lineup. Alfredsson also wore the alternate captain’s A normally assigned to Datsyuk… The Sabres debuted their controversial new alternate jerseys for the game.

NHLPA Charity Game Rosters Announced

Per the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff, rosters for Saturday’s “Rock Out the Lockout” NHLPA charity game in Windsor have been announced.

Team Red
Justin Abdelkader, #8 (Detroit Red Wings)
David Clarkson, #23 (New Jersey Devils)
Johan Franzen, #93 (Detroit Red Wings)
David Legwand, #11 (Nashville Predators)
Jamal Mayers, #22 (Chicago Blackhawks)
Steve Ott, #29 (Buffalo Sabres)
Mikael Samuelsson, #37 (Detroit Red Wings)
Drew Stafford, #21 (Buffalo Sabres)
Thomas Vanek, #26 (Buffalo Sabres)
Kyle Wellwood, #13 (Winnipeg Jets)
Kevin Westgarth, #19 (Los Angeles Kings)

Jonathan Ericsson, #52 (Detroit Red Wings)
Niklas Kronwall, #55 (Detroit Red Wings)
Jordan Leopold, #3 (Buffalo Sabres)
Nick Schultz, #55 (Edmonton Oilers)
James Wisniewski, #21 (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Jonas Gustavsson, #50 (Detroit Red Wings)
Michael Leighton, #49 (Philadelphia Flyers)

Team Black
Todd Bertuzzi, #44 (Detroit Red Wings)
Adam Burish, #37 (San Jose Sharks)
Dan Cleary, #11 (Detroit Red Wings)
Matt Ellis, #37 (Buffalo Sabres)
Cory Emmerton, #48 (Detroit Red Wings)
Darren Helm, #43 (Detroit Red Wings)
Shawn Horcoff, #10 (Edmonton Oilers)
Matt Martin, #17 (New York Islanders)
Brenden Morrow, #10 (Dallas Stars)
James Neal, #18 (Pittsburgh Penguins)
Sergei Samsonov, #14

Trevor Daley, #6 (Dallas Stars)
Mike Komisarek, #8 (Toronto Maple Leafs)
John-Michael Liles, #24 (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Jeff Petry, #58 (Edmonton Oilers)
Ian White, #18 (Detroit Red Wings)
Ryan Wilson, #44 (Colorado Avalanche)

Jimmy Howard, #35 (Detroit Red Wings)

All players will be available for a free autograph session in the WFCU Centre concourse from 4:45 – 5:30 PM. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 PM.

Update, 12/8 – 10:10 AM: Event co-organizer Steve Ott tweeted a full roster including jersey numbers this morning. There will be overlapping numbers in some cases. On Team Red, Drew Stafford and James Wisniewski will wear #21 while Niklas Kronwall and Nick Schultz will wear #55. For Team Black, Todd Bertuzzi and Ryan Wilson will both wear #44, Shawn Horcoff and Brendon Morrow will both wear #10, and James Neal and Ian White will both wear #18.

Wings’ Cleary Among Organizers of Windsor NHLPA Charity Game

Detroit Red Wings forward Danny Cleary is one of three NHLPA members organizing a charity game at Windsor’s WCU Centre.

Buffalo forward and former Windsor Spitfire Steve Ott and Edmonton forward Shawn Horcoff are also organizing the event, scheduled for December 8, unless the NHL and NHLPA can come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement before then.

The game would be the latest of several organized by locked-out players, all benefitting local charities.

In addition to the three organizers, the following players are tentatively scheduled to appear:

From the Red Wings, Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, Jimmy Howard, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White, Cory Emmerton, Darren Helm and Jonas Gustavsson.  From the Colorado Avalanche, Windsor-native Ryan Wilson.  From the Oilers, Eric Belander and Jeff Petry.  From the Chicago Blackhawks, Jamal Mayers.  From the Pittsburgh Penguins, James Neal.  From the Phoenix Coyotes, Keith Yandle.  From the Dallas Stars, Brenden Morrow.  Former Carolina Hurricane, Boston Bruin, and Detroit Viper Sergei Samsonov.

Thoughts on Steve Ott’s “Goal” and the Detroit – Dallas Game

So here’s the recap…

Steve Ott slips a shot between Jimmy Howard‘s pads. It trickles to the goal line before Howard gets to it and the near ref says no goal. Patrick Eaves gets ready to shoot.

But wait… We’ve got video review. A lengthy video review proves inconclusive so the call on the ice stands. The problem is that during the review one ref and one linesman who were further away from the ref who made the initial call say that they conclusively saw the puck go over the goal line. Two outvote one, the call on the ice is overturned, it’s a goal.

So what happened is two people who were further away saw something that no video could corroborate. They so firmly believed what they saw that they refused to accept the near ref’s call and overturned it.

I firmly believe that the wrong call was made. Which means that those two officials weren’t just wrong. They were so certain about seeing something that didn’t happen that they overturned the correct call. That is a gross abuse of power.

I’ve heard the arguments about how it shouldn’t matter. The Wings gave up a two goal lead to get to this point. “They should have scored more goals if they wanted to win.”

That’s a flawed point and the people making it know it. The team scoring the most goals wins, not the team that scores more goals than the other team plus an arbitrary number of additional goals that may or may not be awarded by luck.

There’s also the argument that Patrick Eaves still could have scored to tie it. Which, of course, ignores that any goal of his would have been a game-winner.

In the end, what can you say to it? No one of consequence will admit to the wrong call being made. That wouldn’t fix things anyway.

Campbell Admits Holmstrom is a Marked Man

The Vancouver Sun (found via George Malik) has a quote from NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell where Campbell admits that refs have been instructed to watch Tomas Holmstrom closely.

“Babcock said we were watching for it. Listen, we’d be fools if we didn’t meet before games to talk about Holmstrom. He crowds the crease. You don’t have to be Sam flippin’ Pollock to figure that out,” the NHL’s senior VP of hockey operations, Colin Campbell, said in a telephone interview with The Vancouver Sun.

The Sun didn’t push further, choosing to focus on the need for video review in plays like the one we saw Wednesday.

He’s my question for Campbell: Who else is marked? Is Ryan Smyth watched just like Holmstrom? Are the officials on the lookout for slashes by Marty Turco or elbows from Chris Pronger or holds by Steve Ott?

Yes, Holmstrom crowds the crease. But when Pronger plays a highly-physical game it’s praised and referred to as playing on the edge. Holmstrom plays on a different edge but it doesn’t mean he should be treated any less leniently.

Wings Win with Third-period Comeback

The Detroit Red Wings scored three goals in the third period to come from behind and defeat the Dallas Stars Monday night in the final game at Joe Louis Arena before the start of the playoffs.

Detroit had allowed goals in the late in the first period and early in the third to fall behind, 2-0, but scored three times in the game’s final seven minutes to erase the deficit and pull into the lead.

With 6:59 remaining in regulation, Johan Franzen deflected a shot from the blue line by Niklas Kronwall past Dallas goalie Marty Turco to put the Red Wings on the board.

Just 2:12 later, Andreas Lilja scored on a rush into the Stars’ zone led by Henrik Zetterberg.

Zetterberg carried the puck along the right wing boards and cut into the right circle, sending a crossing pass to Lilja in the left circle to redirect the puck into the net.

With the Red Wings on the power play and 45 seconds remaining in regulation, Tomas Holmstrom tipped a Zetterberg shot past Turco to put Detroit out in front.

Even with Kirk Maltby in the penalty box for the final half-minute of the game, the Red Wings were able to hold off a Dallas comeback.

Jason Arnott had opened the scoring with 4:50 remaining in the first period.

After Detroit netminder Manny Legace kicked aside a long shot by Philippe Boucher, Arnott dove to poke the puck back under Legace and into the net.

An apparent Stars goal was called off shortly after that thanks to a quick whistle but Dallas scored again at 3:22 of the third period, when Jere Lehtinen deflected a centering pass from Arnott past Legace for a power play goal.

Between the Dallas goals, the game’s main excitement came from a fight between Steve Ott and Cory Cross with 8:45 remaining in the second period. It was just Detroit’s sixth fight of the season.

Legace finished the game with 28 saves on 30 shots while Turco stopped 29 of 32 shots against.

Both teams went one-for-five on the power play.

The Red Wings will be back in action on Tuesday night when they visit the Nashville Predators to close out the regular season.


Detroit was without Steve Yzerman, Pavel Datsyuk, and Mathieu Schneider… With Don MacLean sent back to Grand Rapids, Valtteri Filppula was called up to fill in on the Red Wings’ lineup.