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: Red Wings @ Lightning – Game 1

Though they may not deserve it, the Red Wings open their 25th consecutive trip to the playoffs in Tampa tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

These two teams met in the opening round last year, with Tampa Bay rallying from down 3-2 in the series to win in seven games, but there are some differences this year.

For the Red Wings, Jimmy Howard has reclaimed the starting role in goal. Forward Brad Richards – who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs with the Lightning during their Stanley Cup run in 2004 – joined Detroit in the offseason. Mike Green is in on the blueline with Marek Zidlicky having moved on to the New York Islanders. Landon Ferraro is now in Boston. Rookies Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou will be making their playoff debuts.

For the Lightning, a powerhouse team has been crippled by injuries. Forward Steven Stamkos is likely to miss the entirety of the playoffs with blood clots. Anton Stralman is out on the blue line. Tyler Johnson – who the Red Wings couldn’t contain last year – is questionable for Game One. Victor Hedman is returning from injury.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are a perfect split 17-17 all-time in Game One of the playoffs coming off a loss in their last game of the regular season.

As previously mentioned, Jimmy Howard gets the start for the Red Wings opposite Ben Bishop of the Lightning. Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Brendan Smith will be healthy scratches for Detroit.

Game time is 7:00 on FSD and NBCSN.

Red Wings’ Fall in Shootout to Capitals

Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season and Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 38 of 40 shots but it wasn’t enough for the Red Wings, as they dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.

The Red Wings blew yet another third period lead en route to the loss, as Alexander Ovechkin banged home a loose puck at the edge of the crease on the power play with 9:09 left in the third to tie the game, 2-2. The Red Wings challenged the goal, claiming that T.J. Oshie interfered with Howard while crashing the net, but the call on the ice stood.

Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov would go on to score in the shootout while neither Gustav Nyquist nor Pavel Datsyuk could beat Washington’s Braden Holtby.

The Capitals had opened the game’s scoring just 43 seconds into the game. After a Detroit turnover in their own end, Kuznetsov got a shot off that Howard stopped but Justin Williams dove to poke the rebound past Howard, off the post, and in.

With 4:20 left in the period, Henrik Zetterberg tied things up. Off a faceoff win in the Capitals’ end, Dylan Larkin controlled the puck on the right wing boards and threaded a pass through traffic to Zetterberg for a tip-in from the slot.

Jurco gave the Red Wings the lead at 3:16 of the second period. Off a dump in, Joakim Andersson won a battle for the puck behind the net and sent it out front to Jurco all alone to make a quick move and lift a shot past Holtby.

Holtby finished the night with 21 saves on 23 shots.

Ovechkin’s tally was the only power play marker of the game. Washington had five chances with the extra attacker to Detroit’s one.

The Red Wings will return to action on Thursday when they host the Montreal Canadiens.


Andersson’s assist on Jurco’s goal was his first point of the season. Every skater who has appeared in a game for the Red Wings this year now has at least one point.

Miller, Pulkkinen Out At Least Six Weeks

Detroit general manager Ken Holland announced on Friday that both Drew Miller and Teemu Pulkkinen are each expected to miss at least six weeks due to injuries suffered in the Red Wings’ 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

Pulkkinen dislocated his shoulder while being boarded by the Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal and could be out up to eight weeks. Hanzal received a two-minute minor on the play.

Miller suffered a broken jaw from a hit by Klas Dahlbeck. Dahlbeck was not penalized.

With the pair out, Tomas Jurco and Joakim Andersson will rejoin the Red Wings’ lineup for their Saturday matchup against the Nashville Predators. Holland said that the Wings would call up at least one forward prior to Detroit’s stretch of three games in four nights next week.

Jurco Assigned to Griffins for Conditioning

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Tuesday that forward Tomas Jurco has been assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins for conditioning.

Jurco, 22, has appeared in only four of the Red Wings’ 18 games this season, notching a lone assist. He has been a healthy scratch behind Joakim Andersson, Landon Ferraro, and most recently Andreas Athanasiou.

Selected by Detroit in the second round (35th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Jurco has appeared in 103 career games with the Red Wings, scoring 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points. In 106 career AHL games with the Griffins, he scored 27 goals and 33 assists for 60 points.

Jurco’s conditioning assignment cannot extend for more than 14 days. The Griffins play six times in that span.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Maple Leafs – 11/6

Looking for their second three-game winning streak of the season, the Detroit Red Wings visit the team against whom they started their first three-game winning streak, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Detroit is coming off a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night. Toronto last played on Wednesday, a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

Petr Mrazek will get the start in goal for the Red Wings, with no other lineup changes expected. Defenseman Mike Green will not yet return from injury and forward Tomas Jurco will remain a healthy scratch.

The 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees – including former Red Wings Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov – will be honored in a ceremony at the game.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings are winless all-time in Hockey Hall of Fame Games.

Game time is 7:00 PM on FSD.

Pregame: Hurricanes @ Red Wings – 10/27

Back home from their Western Canadian road trip, the Red Wings host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

Less than a month into the season, it will be the third and final matchup between the two teams. The Red Wings won their first meeting in Raleigh while the Hurricanes claimed the meeting in Detroit.

The Red Wings will remain significantly shorthanded, as they were in Vancouver on Saturday. Blueliner Mike Green will be out two to three weeks with an upper-body injury and defenseman Kyle Quincey is out for at least a week undergoing concussion protocol. Brad Richards also remains on injured reserve with a back injury, in addition to Johan Franzen (concussion) and Pavel Datsyuk (ankle).

Detroit makes one lineup change up front, with Tomas Jurco replacing Landon Ferraro on the fourth line.

Petr Mrazek gets the start in goal.

Game time is 7:30 PM on FSD+.

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.

Pregame: Red Wings @ Canadiens – 10/17

Fresh off their first loss of the season, a 5-3 embarrassment to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Detroit Red Wings travel to Montreal to visit the unbeaten Canadiens.

The Red Wings will have some fresh faces in the lineup for the matchup. Joakim Andersson, a healthy scratch for the previous four games, will make his first appearance of the season. Joining him on the fourth line will be Darren Helm as he returns from a shoulder injury and concussion. Danny DeKeyser will skate on a blue line pairing with Mike Green, having recovered from his ankle injury.

To make room for the trio, Landon Ferraro, Tomas Jurco, and Brendan Smith will be healthy scratches.

Petr Mrazek will get the start in goal for Detroit, his second of the season.

Stupid stat of the day: The Red Wings have lost six consecutive games to the Canadiens. Their longest losing streak to Montreal is seven games.

Game time is 7:00 PM on FSD. I’ll be appearing on Montreal Hockey Talk at about 6:20 PM for pre-game coverage.

Red Wings Down Lightning in Playoff Rematch

Almost six months after the Lightning bounced the Red Wings from the playoffs, Detroit defeated Tampa Bay, 3-1, in their first meeting of the 2015-16 season.

After a scoreless first period, Gustav Nyquist got the Red Wings on the board with 2:08 left in the middle frame. Twelve seconds into a power play, Nyquist snapped a shot from the left faceoff dot over the shoulder of Lightning netminder Ben Bishop.

Henrik Zetterberg made it 2-0 at 8:25 of the third period. Dylan Larkin fed Zetterberg in the high slot for a shot through a screen by Justin Abdelkader and past Bishop to extend Detroit’s lead.

Tampa Bay cut the lead back to a single goal with 8:57 left in regulation. A set play off an offensive-zone faceoff win got the puck to Ryan Callahan at the top of the left circle to snap a shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, the first goal against Howard all season.

Kyle Quincey added an empty net goal to round out the game’s scoring and end Tampa’s comeback hopes.

Each team finished the night with three power play chances. Detroit scored on one of theirs while Tampa Bay went without a goal.

Howard made 20 saves on 21 shots. Bishop made 21 saves on 23 shots faced.

The Red Wings look to make it four wins in a row to start the season on Friday when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.


Johan Franzen was a late scratch for the Red Wings. He was replaced in the lineup by Landon Ferraro, who was going to be out of the lineup to make room for Tomas Jurco‘s first appearance of the season.