TPL Pregame: October 9 – Loving You Makes Life Worth Living

Editor’s Note: I miss The Production Line. You should, too. Back for one night only (unless you guys convince them otherwise), it’s the TPL Pregame.


WHAT’S ALL THIS THEN?

The Detroit Red Wings begin their 90th season in the National Hockey League, and will face off against their former coach Mike Babcock and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Puck drops at 7:30pm at Joe Louis Arena.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?

The big story will be the changing of the coaching guard. Out with the old (Babcock), and in with the new (Jeff Blashill). The excitement level among the community is higher than it’s been in several years — thanks in part to the new voice behind the bench…as well as the opportunity given to a teenager in Dylan Larkin. If you think a player like Larkin had a chance in hell at making this team with Mike Babcock running the show, you need a CAT scan.

NOW, WHERE WERE WE?

The Wings and Maple Leafs played five times in 2014-15, with the teams splitting the season series 2-2-1. The fifth and final meeting was on December 13th, wherein Detroit lost 4-1 and the Leafs won their fourth in a row. Niklas Kronwall had the first goal of the game — but the 1-0 lead lasted exactly one minute before James van Riemsdyk began the onslaught. The defense took the night off, with Petr Mrazek facing 40 shots (who lost his first contest of the season), and Dan Cleary played in the 600th contest of his career. He would go on to play nine more (and was a healthy scratch for 42 more…but was re-signed anyway).

OH, HI AGAIN

The obvious returnee to the Joe is former head coach Mike Babcock, but he also took former assistant coaches Jim Hiller and Andrew Brewer with him to Toronto, where he joined a front office led by former alternate captain Brendan Shanahan. Forward Shawn Matthias was a second round draft pick of the Red Wings in 2006, but he was traded a year later in exchange for — wait for it — 8 games of Todd Bertuzzi (obviously, Bert would sign with Detroit again a few seasons later). It never came to pass, but if Twitter was to be believed on Trade Deadline Day, Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf was AS GOOD AS a Red Wing for a few hours.

MEMBA ME

There are no former Maple Leafs on the Red Wings, because good teams don’t take leftovers from shitty ones. But if you want to get technical, the Griffins assistant coach Ben Simon once played for (and coached) the Marlies. That’s as close as we’re willing to get. –PETRELLA

BEST NAME NOMINEE

I’m going with Stephane Robidas. I’ve always been a Johnny Cash/Boy Named Sue fan, and I can’t help but see some odd connection between a guy sporting a ladies name and who spent a good chunk of his career in Texas. I feel like there’s a “Call me Caitlyn” moment coming here where, during his retirement speech, he reveals that he’s been tucking and wearing silk t-back lady thongs for the past decade. When that happens, people will call me a genius, and I’ll just sit back in my brass buttoned leather wingback, knowing I’d spotted it long ago. –DISCH

THEIR LAST GAMES

While the Red Wings were bounced by the Lightning in the first round last season (losing Game 7 by a score of 2-0), at least they had a date to the dance. The Maple Leafs’ season ended somewhere around January, but — believe it or not — they played until April 11th. They opened their 2015-16 season on Wednesday and — wait for it! — lost to the Montreal Candiens 3-1. Turns out you CAN’T polish a turd, Babs!

EXPECTED LINEUP

Gator :: Hank :: DYLAN LARKIN (!!!)
Tatar :: Richards :: Nyquist
Franzen :: TinkyWinky :: Pulkkinen
Miller :: Glendening :: Ferraro

Kronwall :: Shitbox
Quincey :: Mike Green
Smith :: Kindl

Howard
Mrazek

Injured
Pavel Datsyuk (ankle, expected back mid-November)
Danny DeKeyser (foot, early November)
Darren Helm (concussion, next weekend)

Scratches
Joakim Andersson
Dan Cleary
Tomas Jurco
Alexey Marchenko

NICKNAMES

Mike “Remember When We Held on in the Rain?” Babcock
Niklas “The Nights We Almost Lost It” Kronwall
Jiri “Once Again We Can Take the Night Into Tomorrow” Hudler
Tomas “Living on Feelings” Tatar
Gustav “Touching You, I Feel It All Again” Nyquist
Johan “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” Franzen
Luke “When Love Was All We Had Worth Giving” Glendening
Marian “The Ride With You Was Worth the Fall, My Friend” Hossa
Pavel “Loving You Makes Life Worth Living” Datsyuk
Steve “The Nights We Held On ‘Til the Morning” Yzerman
Nicklas “You Know You’ll Never Love That Way Again” Lidstrom
Jimmy “The Way You Used to Touch Me Felt So Fine” Howard
Darren “We Kept Our Hearts Together Down the Line” Helm
Henrik “A Moment in the Soul Can Last Forever” Zetterberg
Jonathan “Comfort and Keep Us” Ericsson
Jeff “Help Me Bring the Feeling Back Again” Blashill
Sergei “Didn’t We Have the Best of Times” Fedorov
Petr “When Love Was Young and New” Mrazek
Tomas “Couldn’t We Reach Inside and Find” Jurco
Todd “That World of Me and You? We’ll Never Lose it Again” Bertuzzi
Dan “Cuz Once You Know What Love Is… YOU NEVER LET IT END” Cleary
— PETRELLA

THE FIVE HOLE

  1. GOALIES! Both goaltenders — Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek — played very well in the pre-season in what what Coach Blashill called an open competition for the role of starter. Jimmy Howard always had the inside track because he slid out of Mrs. Howard before Pete cartwheeled out of Mrs. Mrazek, but I’d be shocked if three weeks go by before the entire planet realizes that Petr Mrazek is the better goalie.
  2. NEW BODIES! The Red Wings finally got their right handed defenseman in Mike Green. He’s able to contribute some points, and is able to move the puck out of the zone efficiently, which is a prerequisite for the style of play in Detroit. Brad Richards, who either follows success, or whom success follows, adds another option up the middle, and will allow Zetterberg and Datsyuk to be paired together, if the time comes.
  3. TEENAGER! Waterford native Dylan Larkin forced the organization to buck their trends and has made the opening night roster, and it looks like he’ll get a chance to man the first line. That’s very exciting for all involved, included the fans, who get a young local to cheer for, and who has every bit of talent needed to inject some youthful exuberance onto an aging core. And Dan Cleary was waived on Wednesday. Jasper succinctly sums up our feelings on the matter.
  4. HEALTH! Hey, whattaya know, the Red Wing start the season with a bunch of regulars on injured reserve. Pavel Datsyuk will be out until mid-November, Danny DeKeyser is supposed to be out until early November, Darren Helm might be set to return next week, assuming his concussion and shoulder calm down. What, you didn’t think we’d be able to get rid of a drill sergeant coach, a once-useful knee-less veteran, AND Piet Van Zant all at once, did you?
  5. YOUTH! We say it all the time, but the young players really opened some eyes in the pre-season. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that wouldn’t agree that Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, and even Anthony Mantha did quite a bit to make some other guys expendable in the coming months and years. Obviously Zetterberg and Datsyuk aren’t going anywhere, but there will have to be some decisions made with some of the other guys, thanks to the guys below Larkin on the depth chart.

Red Wings Sign Prospect Bertuzzi

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Friday the signing of prospect forward Tyler Bertuzzi to a three-year entry-level contract.

As per club policy, financial terms were not announced.

Bertuzzi was drafted by the Red Wings in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, 58th overall. In an injury-shortened 2013-14 campaign with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, Bertuzzi scored nine goals and added 25 assists in 29 games. He added five goals in Guelph’s four-game Memorial Cup run, which saw them lose in the final to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

The 19-year-old is the nephew of former Red Wing Todd Bertuzzi.

Postgame: Bruins 3, Red Wings 2 (SO)

The word out of the Red Wings dressing room after their 3-2 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday was that goalie Jimmy Howard stole the team a point, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree.

As a whole, Detroit’s skaters spent much of the game on their heels, with Howard bailing them out. Howard especially came up huge in the final minutes of regulation, with several key stops to force overtime and get Detroit a point in the standings.

Of course, Howard looked relatively awful in the shootout, but considering he’s the reason the team got there it’s hard to fault him for the failure in the tiebreaker.

Speaking of the gimmick… Is Andrej Nestrasil an AHL shootout specialist and I just don’t know it? I get that with the team down Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi and Daniel Alfredsson they’re missing a lot of their shootout regulars, but I’ve got six guys (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Johan Franzen, Riley Sheahan, Henrik Zetterberg) that I go with before Nestrasil. First coaching decision I’ve questioned this season.

So far we’ve seen two games the Wings played well enough to win and one they deserved to lose, and they’ve got a 1-1-1 record. Not bad, not great. We’re not going to see the team get blown up for this loss, nor should we. Even if the Jeff Petry rumors are intriguing.

Red Wings’ 2014 Development Camp Sweater Number Stuff

I write about possible sweater number changes every summer and with Monday’s release of the Red Wings’ 2014 Development Camp roster, we’ve got the first opportunity to take a look at some possibilities.

As always, the official disclaimer from Detroit is that these numbers mean nothing. As I always say, however, history doesn’t show that. Usually if a number is assigned to a player in camp, it won’t be worn by a roster player in the coming season.

Last year was the first year since I’ve been tracking that players in development camp were assigned numbers already worn by roster players, as Petr Mrazek‘s #34 went to free agent try-out Andrew D’Agostini. Tomas Tatar‘s #21 was given to Luke Glendening but there is evidence that Tatar was going to switch to #90 before Stephen Weiss got it. Phillippe Hudon getting the #63 previously worn by Joakim Andersson was the first sign of Andersson taking #18.

This year we have no obvious changes as all of the players wearing numbers that were taken last season have the numbers that belonged to departing free agents.

There are some oddities and humorous assignments, though.

For the first time I can remember, numbers in the 90s are in use. One of those is Axel Holmstrom being assigned the #96 formerly worn by the unrelated Tomas Holmstrom. Similarly, returning camp invitee Dean Chelios wears the #24 previously worn by his father, Chris Chelios. Dominic Turgeon will don a number one higher than that of his dad, Pierre Turgeon, having been assigned #78. The team missed out on one more such opportunity, as Tyler Bertuzzi keeps his #59 rather than taking his uncle’s #44, with Todd Bertuzzi now out of the Red Wings’ plans.

For the record, I expect the #44 to go to Colin Campbell in the main camp.

Only one returning player who isn’t a free agent tryout is changing his number from last season, as David Pope drops down from #64 to the #63 vacated by Hudon.

Numbers for players making their first appearance at development camp are as follows (again, with free agents excluded):

Player Name Number
Christoffer Ehn 92
Axel Holmstrom 96
Dylan Larkin 25
Ben Marshall 51
Mike McKee 58
Dominic Turgeon 78
Julius Vahatalo 94

Larkin takes the #25 vacated by Cory Emmerton, Marshall gets the #51 assigned in training camp to Brennan Evans last year, and Mike McKee gets the #58 previously assigned to Max Nicastro, who was not giving a qualifying contract offer by Detroit.

Looking at the Red Wings’ 2014-15 Roster

We’re all of three days into the offseason but it’s never too early to start looking at next year. I’ve had a lot of side conversations about what I think the Red Wings’ roster will look like next year and what it should look like (which aren’t the same thing) so I figured I’d post my “ideal” opening night roster and go from there.

Henrik ZetterbergPavel DatsyukGustav Nyquist
Tomas TatarRiley SheahanTomas Jurco
Justin AbdelkaderDarren HelmDaniel Alfredsson
Drew MillerDavid LegwandLuke Glendening
Mitch Callahan
Landon Ferraro

Niklas KronwallDanny DeKeyser
Jonathan EricssonBrendan Smith
Ryan SproulXavier Ouellet
Adam Almquist

Jimmy Howard
Petr Mrazek

You’ll notice there are some names missing, and that’s why this may be my “ideal” roster but it’s also pretty much impossible.

The forward lines are build out from the second line. If the Red Wings are really going to embrace the youth movement, even when healthy, I want the Kid Line skating as Detroit’s second line again. It might not be the best possible lineup to start the year but I think it will be by the end of the season and for seasons beyond.

With the Kid Line in place, you can load up on the first line, with both Eurotwins and Gustav Nyquist.

On the third line you’ve got Darren Helm centering Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson. I bring back Alfredsson if he wants to come back and put him on the third line to keep his minutes down and add some scoring. It also gives flexibility for the inevitable Line Blender, as you could bump Abdelkader to the top line as Mike Babcock loves to do, drop Nyquist down to the second, and play Tatar on the third.

The fourth line brings back David Legwand simply because I think he has to be re-signed or it makes the deal to trade for him look even more ridiculous. I wouldn’t bring back Glendening but Babcock loves him so he’s going to be in the lineup on opening night.

Callahan and Ferraro are out of waiver options, they stick with the big club out of camp.

Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Mikael Samuelsson? All free agents, all allowed to walk.

Johan Franzen, Stephen Weiss, Joakim Andersson, Jordin Tootoo? That’s where this gets messy, as I don’t have a spot for any of them or any player they might bring back in trade and there’s only one compliance buyout left.

The easy answer is that Alfredsson and Legwand don’t return and Franzen and Weiss take their spots. Tootoo gets bought out and Andersson gets the Cory Emmerton treatment. That makes the Legwand trade look awful but is that better than finding a way to unload Weiss (who’d probably just have to be waived with the hope that someone claims him)?

Franzen… Oh Franzen. There are going to be a lot of words written about him between now and the draft. I’ll try not to write too many of them. I say the draft because I think if he’s going to be traded, it’ll be then. He won’t be bought out. It’s not that Franzen necessarily is bad or overpaid (his cap hit is great for his potential). When he’s good, he’s among the best. When he’s bad, he looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there. Combined with his comments about not being paid to score goals, there’s a perceived attitude problem there. The negatives outweigh the positives to me.

On defense, I don’t think the top four are all that controversial. Kyle Quincey is gone. The UFA defense pool is shallow this year and Quincey is going to get absolutely paid by someone.

The third pair, though, is where the youth movement kicks in. Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul looked ready in their limited opportunity this season. I give them the chance to start next year.

I’d like to have a veteran seventh defenseman to back them up but – like Ferraro and Callahan – Adam Almquist is out of options so he stays up by default.

Brian Lashoff? Jakub Kindl? They’re in Franzen/Weiss/Andersson territory. Under contract but I don’t have a spot for them. Lashoff can be buried in Grand Rapids if necessary, the only “easy” decision available.

In goal we’ve got Howard back (of course) and Petr Mrazek making the jump to be his backup. Some (maybe even within the Wings organization) will argue that Mrazek is better served getting starts in GR than as backup, I disagree. A 50/30 split would get Howard some rest and get Mrazek into games.

This doesn’t answer the team’s reported interest in a top-four, right-handed defenseman (unless you want to count Sproul there). It leaves a bunch of players with contracts off the lineup. It doesn’t get anything in return for those missing players and it doesn’t utilize the cap space freed up by their absence. In short, it’s not going to happen. But it’s the starting point that I’m going to look at things from this summer.

Red Wings Eliminated in 4-2 Loss to Bruins

Much like in the previous week of games, the Detroit Red Wings had no answer to the Boston Bruins on Saturday, leading to a 4-2 loss in Game Five of their Atlantic Division Semifinal matchup.

It was the fourth-straight loss for the Red Wings, who were eliminated from the playoffs after only managing to win Game One in Boston.

Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, making his second consecutive start in place of the flu-ridden Jimmy Howard, made 29 saves on 32 shots in the losing effort for Detroit.

The Bruins opened the game’s scoring just 3:27. On a power play, Dougie Hamilton carried the puck down the right wing and threw a pass from the corner into the slot. The puck bounced off Darren Helm and right to Loui Eriksson, who cut to the right faceoff circle and backhanded a chance under Gustavsson’s glove.

Pavel Datsyuk tied things up at 5:19 left in the second period. With Detroit on a power play of their own, Henrik Zetterberg fired a long shot that was knocked down by Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. Johan Franzen was on the doorstep to sweep the puck to Datsyuk, who was driving in from the left wing to snap a shot into the back of the net.

Boston captain Zdeno Chara put the Bruins back out in front with just four seconds left in the period, blasting a shot from the top of the right circle past Gustavsson on another power play.

Milan Lucic made it 3-1 at 4:27 of the third. Torey Krug picked off an attempted outlet pass by Franzen at the Detroit blue line and carried it down low on the left wing before sending it to the front of the net where Lucic was wide open to knock a shot past Gustavsson.

Zetterberg would give the Red Wings hope with 3:52 remaining, fighting off Chara and getting to a loose puck at the bottom of the left faceoff circle, then lifting a no-angle shot into the far corner past Rask to make it 3-2.

With 16 seconds left, Jarome Iginla would close things out with an empty net goal.

Rask finished the night with 31 saves on 33 shots.

The Red Wings scored on one of their seven power play tries while Boston scored with the man advantage on two of six attempts.


Defenseman Xavier Ouellet made his NHL playoff debut, replacing Jakub Kindl in the Detroit lineup… Goaltender Jake Paterson was a healthy scratch as Howard was well enough to back up Gustavsson… Daniel Alfredsson returned after missing two games with a back injury, replacing Todd Bertuzzi.

Pregame: Bruins @ Red Wings – Game 4 – 4/24

The Red Wings are expected to get a boost tonight as they host the Boston Bruins in Game Four of their Atlantic Division Semifinal series, with team captain Henrik Zetterberg slated to return to the lineup after being out since the Olympics with a back injury.

Zetterberg participated in full practices yesterday and today and will replace Joakim Andersson in the lineup if he gets clearance from team doctors today.

The Wings are going with one other lineup change, as Todd Bertuzzi swaps in for Tomas Jurco.

The changes come as Detroit looks to spark their offense, having scored only twice in the series and now facing a virtual must-win at home, already down 2-1 in the series and heading back to Boston for Game Five on Saturday.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings have won Game One of a series and then lost Games Two and Three eight times. They have a 5-3 record in Game Four of those series.

Bonus stupid stat: This is only the third of those games to be played at home. They are 1-1 in those cases.

Game time is 8:00 PM on FSD and NBCSN.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Blues – 4/13

There was something ridiculously frustrating about the Red Wings’ regular season-ending 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues on Sunday: The question of “Where was this team on Friday?”

Two days after dropping a 2-1 decision to the lottery-bound Carolina Hurricanes, the Red Wings – minus the resting Daniel Alfredsson, Johan Franzen, Niklas Kronwall, and Danny DeKeyser and starting third-string goalie Petr Mrazek – smacked down the Blues in a game in which St. Louis could have claimed the Central Division.

Okay, some of that is the Blues’ complete implosion. They had maybe two good scoring chances all game. Without Ryan Miller, it would have been even worse. In fact, Detroit’s goals required a bit of luck (two deflections by Justin Abdelkader and a snipe by Riley Sheahan that redirected off former Red Wing Carlo Colaiacovo), so it’s not like the Wings’ offense was entirely clicking. Detroit carried the play, though, and did it missing some big names.

And if they’d gotten a single point against Carolina, they’d be playing the Pittsburgh Penguins this week instead of the Boston Bruins.

But speaking of missing big names, defenseman Ryan Sproul did a fantastic job of stepping up in his NHL debut. I feel like I heard his name every minute or so. Aside from a rookie mistake early and maybe committing early on a St. Louis three-on-one, he looked like he belonged. Moved the puck well on the power play, good positionally, even threw a big hit. Based on one game, I’d say put him in instead of Brian Lashoff, but it’s too small of a sample size to actually make that call.

I didn’t hear Xavier Ouellet‘s name as much but in that good way that means he didn’t make any mistakes. Sproul got the flashy power play time, Ouellet got the penalty-kill time.

Of the other fill-ins, we may have seen Todd Bertuzzi and Joakim Andersson as Red Wings for the last time. Bertuzzi is a free agent who probably won’t be brought back this summer and Andersson has been replaced by Luke Glendening, making him a tradeable asset (not that I expect him to actually be dealt).

Mrazek ends up with a strange stat line this season, as both of his wins were by shutout (and were both on the road, against teams wearing blue). He looked confident, coming out to cut down angles. He made a big stop on the three-on-one I mentioned earlier, where Sproul may have gone down early, getting his leg up to knock down a shot after sprawling out to take away the bottom of the net.

Now it’s on to Boston.

Postgame: Red Wings @ Devils – 3/4

Well, that was heartbreaking but not entirely unexpected.

Detroit spent the entire third period running around looking lost, aside from the power play on which they scored their third goal. It was like after Daniel Alfredsson lost his teeth, so did the Red Wings.

Some things were good on the night. Johan Franzen is playing like a man possessed. Todd Bertuzzi looked good. Brendan Smith really did make a smart play to jump up on Detroit’s second goal.

Many things weren’t good, though, and those stick out. Two goals against due to defensive miscues and another due to the ridiculously bad break of Jonathan Ericsson knocking the puck out of Jimmy Howard‘s glove. The game-winner was the only goal that wasn’t entirely set up by a Detroit failure.

In all, the bad outweighed the good. It was a pretty ugly effort and the Wings probably didn’t deserve to win.

And as I mentioned on Twitter, this marks the Red Wings’ first-ever regulation loss at Prudential Center.

Red Wings Injury Recap

Gustav Nyquist joined the long list of the Red Wings’ walking wounded today, as it was revealed that he is day-to-day with a groin injury.

By my count, Nyquist is the fifteenth Detroit player to miss time due to injury this season. Darren Helm and Stephen Weiss have missed time twice for seventeen total injuries.

The full list is as follows:

Player Injury
Justin Abdelkader Head
Daniel Alfredsson Groin
Todd Bertuzzi Shoulder
Pavel Datsyuk head
Danny DeKeyser Shoulder
Patrick Eaves MCL
Jonathan Ericsson Shoulder
Johan Franzen undisclosed
Darren Helm Back, Shoulder
Niklas Kronwall Head
Gustav Nyquist Groin
Brendan Smith Shoulder
Jordin Tootoo Shoulder
Stephen Weiss Groin (twice)
Henrik Zetterberg Back

The breakdown by injury type is as follows:

Injury Times Occurred
Shoulder 6
Groin 4
Head 3
Back 2
MCL 1
undisclosed 1

Read into that what you will.