Like many games last season, Detroit didn’t look particularly good in their season-opening 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s entirely the same, though.
The Wings never really got going last night, and most of the opportunities they did get came from the top line of new captain Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi. That’s a familiar look. But (eye-test only, maybe the stats don’t back this up) I thought the third line of Valtteri Filppula, Sam Gagner, and Mathias Brome also generated some chances and on a team starved for secondary scoring, that’s important to see.
Specifically, I really liked the play of Brome in his NHL debut. I don’t recall him looking out of place at all. On Twitter I called out one specific play in the second period where he powered through the Hurricanes’ defense to get to the front of the net, even though nothing came of it.
On defense there was a bit of a bright spot in that, after giving up the opening goal early in the first period, the Red Wings did not collapse, as they did so many times last season. Carolina didn’t score again until a long power play in the third period before adding an empty net goal. The Hurricanes still managed to take 43 shots but (again, eye-test), it seemed like they were less-dangerous opportunities.
Of course, that’s a low bar for the team to clear.
Thomas Greiss looked good in his first start for the Red Wings. It seems ridiculous to say but he managed to make a 40-save night look quiet.
It’s one game. And Detroit certainly had games like this one last year. If the Wings rattled off a string of games like this one, it would probably be an upgrade over last season’s disaster. Eventually they’re going to need something better, though.
Ryan’s #54 was previously worn by Matt Puempel, who the Red Wings did not re-sign over the offseason. Stecher’s #70 was worn last season by Christoffer Ehn, who was unsigned and returned to Europe. Greiss’ #29 was worn in last year’s camp by Vili Saarijarvi before being taken by early-season acquisition Brendan Perlini (with Saarijarvi traded away a few weeks later anyway), who was not re-signed by Detroit. Staal’s #18 had been assigned to Albin Grewe at the 2020 Development Camp.
Barber’s #26 was worn in camp last season by Griffins captain Matt Ford, who is not in Detroit’s camp this year. Criscuolo’s #42 was worn by Mathieu Bizier. Boyle’s #34 had been assigned to Victor Brattstrom at the start of last season and temporarily given to Eric Comrie for the few games he spent in the Red Wings organization.
The only returning player to change jersey numbers is try-out goalie Pat Nagle, who will wear the #68 that the team usually reserves for goalies who aren’t actually in the Red Wings’ system. In that role last year, he wore #60, while Sean Romeo wore #68.
Criscuolo isn’t a returning player but has been in a Red Wings’ camp before, wearing #74 in 2016 before spending that season with the Griffins.
Bertuzzi will be a restricted free agent again after the deal expires.
The Red Wings had reportedly asked for a $3.15 million salary while Bertuzzi went for $4.25 million. Obviously, the arbitrator agreed more closely with the team’s argument.
The salary commitment to Bertuzzi was never going to be a problem with regards to the Red Wings’ salary cap constraints. On a one year term, the actual number was only important for setting the scene for his next deal.
Prashanth Iyer of Wings for Breakfast recently tweeted about the Wings’ disastrous season over-inflating the value of some players. I agree with that concern. Bertuzzi could be Detroit’s third-best forward, but where would he slot in on a good team and how would he get paid relative to that?
The bottom line is that you don’t want Bertuzzi to be the next Justin Abdelkader, so it’s important for the Red Wings to delay having to make a decision on paying him top dollar until they’re sure he’s worth it. Is there a risk that, in the next year, Bertuzzi could earn a bigger contract than he had up to this point? Of course. Personally, I haven’t seen enough from Bertuzzi to think that risk outweighs the reward, though.
The only really interesting thing about this is that, due to arbitration having been required, a second buyout window will open for the Red Wings. Theoretically, they could now buy out Frans Nielsen.
That said, I don’t think they should. They can overpay Nielsen this year and look at buying him out next summer, even if they decide to bury him in Grand Rapids for the year (or somewhere else, at least, depending on what the AHL’s schedule looks like). Of course, I also wouldn’t have bought out Abdelkader this year, so what do I know?
Not much is known about the NHL’s new fourth jersey program. Supposedly, every team will participate, regardless of whether or not they have a third jersey. Additionally, the rumor is the program has been driven by the league and adidas, rather than the individual teams, and as such has some rules to be followed.
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ leaked design, for example, takes their mid-1990s road (black) set, flips the colors to become a white jersey, and the switches the athletic gold to the “Vegas gold” the team introduced in 2000. The Philadelphia Flyers, meanwhile, use a version of their orange jersey introduced in 1982 with the black and white swapped. Vegas’ design is taken from the Las Vegas Thunder of the International Hockey League, with the Golden Knights’ colors and logos swapped in.
Further, there are rumors that the Montreal Canadiens will wear a jersey based on their current home sweater, with the blue and red swapped, and the Washington Capitals will wear a version of their mid-1990s set in red, white, and blue.
So if we’re assuming the base will be an existing jersey – rather than a totally new one – with its colors swapped, where does that leave Detroit? The team has a lot of history to work with but not a lot of different designs or colors, giving them a surprisingly limited set of options.
Detroit could wear a color-swapped version of their current home jersey, which would essentially be their road jersey without the red sleeves. The team wore this as their road jersey from 1934 to 1961, though, and if this Reverse Retro program is intended to avoid actual throwback jerseys, it would seem this would be ruled out.
They could color-swap their current road jerseys, giving them a red jersey with white sleeves. It’s a clean look that the team has never worn but others across hockey have, so it might not be an option, either.
The Wings could go back to their roots as the Detroit Cougars. Even then, though, there are issues. Their initial set from 1926-27 was the basis of those 2009 throwbacks and the color-flipped version has already been worn in the Alumni Showdown as part of the 2013 Hockeytown Winter Festival.
The Red Wings wore the 1927-28 Cougars’ sweater as part of the NHL’s 75th anniversary proceedings in 1991-92. I suggested the color-swapped version as a possible option for what was then the 2013 Winter Classic but, as I noted then, the red lettering on a white stripe seemed off to me. With a new template, I drew it up anyway, and don’t dislike it as much as I did originally. It could be an option. That’s a lot of stripes, though.
Out of sheer, morbid curiosity, I swapped out that red “DETROIT” text for the Winged Wheel and… It’s certainly something, but, again, isn’t as bad as I expected.
The 1928-29 set opens up another option. This is the sweater that the Centennial Classic jersey was based on and a color-flipped option has never been worn, though I suggested it in that Winter Classic concept series and the eventual 2014 Winter Classic jersey did take some cues from it.
The 1928-29 sweater also gives options for the crest, depending on what the Reverse Retro “rules” are for such things, as the standard Winged Wheel could be used, or it could be placed under “Detroit” text as the cougar head logo was in the original.
With the striping in the Cougars’ 1929-30 set the same as the 1927-28, there’s not enough difference there to pick one over the other. If the striping on the 1927-28 set is problematic, the Detroit Falcons’ 1930-32 sweater isn’t going to be any better, so I didn’t even try.
So these might be the options we’re looking at for Detroit’s coming “Reverse Retro” jersey. Or there could be other rules for these jerseys that we don’t know yet, opening up other choices. Maybe they’ll decide the Falcons’ brief use of black is enough to make the Red Wings’ old black fashion jerseys an official alternate. With the entire 2020-21 NHL season in flux, who knows when we’ll even see the actual designs?
Personally, I really like the color swap of the current home jersey, but I’ve always preferred the Red Wings’ white jerseys to their reds. With no other colors to balance it out, I find their current homes to just be a bit too much red. For the same reason, I like the color swap of the current road jersey.
That said, for a team with as much history as Detroit, I like to see them pull from it more. The 1928-29 Cougars’ set would be a safe place to go for that.
The usual jersey design caveats apply here, of course. These aren’t meant to be predictions, just artists renderings of possibilities. They’re not even my designs, really, just existing jerseys redrawn into a modern template with the colors appropriately swapped.
I think that lineup is an upgrade over the one they iced on opening night a year ago. The question is, how much better? Playoff contention better? Or just “not the worst team in the league by far” better? Probably somewhere in between.
There are a few players missing here, which could be a problem.
Evgeny Svechnikov doesn’t have a roster spot. Given that he’s on a one-year deal and isn’t waiver exempt anymore, he kind of needs one and a final chance to prove himself.
Maybe Filip Zadina stays in Czechia and Bobby Ryan moves up a line and Svechnikov slots in where Ryan was. Maybe Tyler Bertuzzi goes to arbitration and that opens up a new buyout window for the Wings, and Frans Nielsen gets bought out, opening up a spot for Svechnikov. There’s been interest in Luke Glendening in the past; maybe the Wings move on that sooner rather than later, Helm or Filppula move to centering the fourth line, and Svechnikov slots in there.
Similarly, there’s not a spot on defense for Moritz Seider, Gustav Lindstrom, or Dennis Cholowski. I don’t see how Seider and Lindstrom aren’t in Europe for the duration of the season but that doesn’t help Cholowski. If the AHL actually has a season, I think we’ll see Cholowski with the Griffins, getting a lot of minutes. If the AHL can’t go, we’ll have to see how the NHL adapts before guessing what happens with Cholowski.
Of course, depending on what the NHL schedule looks like, the trade deadline could come around the end of the season for the European leagues, so Detroit could sell at the deadline and then fill their roster spots with players coming back over. There are a lot of questions to answer with how the season will work, first.
Update, October 12, 11:30 AM: There is an option with regards to Nielsen that I failed to note above. The Red Wings don’t need to clear his cap space or his spot on the 50-man Reserve List; he could just be waived and assigned to the Griffins (or somewhere else). With buyouts on the brain, somehow I missed that.
They’d be paying him a lot of money to play in the AHL but it might serve a dual purpose. Depending on what happens with the AHL season and the various European leagues, the Red Wings might have players who would otherwise be filling roster spots in GR instead playing overseas. By sending Nielsen down, they’d get the Griffins a body that they’d otherwise have to sign.
Jersey Geek Guessing Game Recap
Every player the Red Wings acquired via free agency previously wore a number that is currently assigned to a Detroit player or prospect. Here are my guesses as to how each player’s number will work out with the Wings.
Bobby Ryan has worn #9 for much of his career, aside from #6 for a few years in Ottawa when #9 was taken and #54 as a rookie in Anaheim (and in some international tournaments). Of course, #9 is retired in Detroit and #6 is out of circulation. He said he’d like #17 because he was a Brett Hull fan, or #12, but #17 belongs to Filip Hronek and #12 is retired as well. My guess is that Ryan either pries #17 from Hronek (perhaps Hronek switches to the #79 he wore in his youth) or he goes back to #54. Longshot option: He gets Hull’s number but it’s not the #17 he wore in Detroit, rather the #16 he wore elsewhere, with the Red Wings deciding it’s time to stop keeping it out of circulation.
Jon Merrill wore #15 for three years with the Vegas Golden Knights and #7 for much of his time prior to that with the New Jersey Devils. Dmytro Timashov currently has #15 and #7 is retired. I could see Timashov switching to the #88 he wore before coming to the NHL, which would open up #15 for Merrill, or I could see Merrill wearing the #24 he wore at Michigan, taking it from prospect Antti Tuomisto.
Thomas Greiss has worn #1 for his entire NHL career but it’s retired in Detroit. It’s hard to tell if there’s a different number he prefers. By keeping #30 and #33 out of circulation, the Red Wings make it hard to work with traditional goalie numbers. I’m guessing they’ll hold off on assigning #35 for a bit but if they don’t, Greiss could take that. They could make #30 available again and give him that. They could take numbers from any of the goalie prospects. He could go non-traditional with #60 or #80 or something. If they don’t do any of those things, I’m guessing #29 goes to Greiss.
Troy Stecher wore #51 for his whole Vancouver Canucks career but Valtteri Filppula has that in Detroit. Stecher wore #2 for his college career at North Dakota and, while that’s currently assigned to Joe Hicketts in Detroit, Hicketts’ path to the Red Wings seems to be gone, so the team could let Stecher take his number. I could also see Stecher taking Jonathan Ericsson‘s #52, if the team allows it, or something like #42.
Vladislav Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career. Joe Veleno has it in Detroit but he’s not in Detroit right now. Will the Red Wings make one of their top prospects give up his number to someone who’s on a short-term deal? If so, there’s an easy answer. If not, I’d love to see him take his uncle Vyacheslav Kozlov‘s #13, but it’ll probably be something like #95 or #98. Or #60 if Greiss doesn’t go that route.
Namestnikov is a familiar face for Detroit GM Steve Yzerman, who drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft for Tampa Bay.
Financial terms were, of course, not officially announced, but the deal reportedly carries a $2 million salary cap hit, with annual amounts of $1.5 million and $2.5 million. Like Thomas Greiss‘ deal, more money is in the second year. Whether as escrow protection for the player or expansion draft protection for the team, we’re seeing that become more common this year.
Namestnikov gives the Red Wings another option at second-line center, should Robby Fabbri not work out there. Theoretically, the team could roll lines looking something like this:
That’s a completely rebuilt middle six since the start of last season, done entirely on the cheap. They’re not world-beaters by any means but that’s not a bad accomplishment for Yzerman. Perhaps most importantly, that’s a lineup where you can clearly see a top nine and then a fourth line, rather than a top line and then a bunch of other players slotted in wherever they can.
The problem is that this leaves no room for Evgeny Svechnikov, who is basically on a “last chance” one-year deal and would have to clear waivers to be reassigned elsewhere. Maybe this means the Wings let Zadina stay overseas for another year. Maybe it means they dump a contract. I don’t know.
Jersey number geek notes: Namestnikov has worn #90 for virtually his entire career, save for a stint as #65 as a rookie. Will the Red Wings let him take #90 from Joe Veleno? If not, I bet Namestnikov goes with something like #60 or #95. It certainly blocks Bobby Ryan from following in the footsteps of Mike Modano and Stephen Weiss, though, and turning his #9 into #90. Outside chance? Namestnikov wears #13 in honor of his uncle, Vyacheslav Kozlov.
Awhile ago I was wondering what it would take to get the most players to “their” numbers and realized that the first domino that needed to fall was Justin Abdelkader. Had he changed to #89 – as I was told he was going to do early in his career – it would have caused a conflict with Sam Gagner upon Gagner’s acquisition. Now that Abdelkader has been bought out, though, it – theoretically – opens up #8 to start a series of dominoes falling.
As I write this, the second day of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft is taking forever, so I’m going to follow those dominoes a bit.
With #8 open, Anthony Mantha could claim the number he wore through juniors and with the Grand Rapids Griffins. This would make #39 available for Dylan Larkin, with Larkin having worn it with the USNTDP when #19 wasn’t available.
That leaves #71 for Filip Hronek, who wore that number with the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit. Hronek could also go with the #79 that he wore in the Czech Republic, regardless of changes by Mantha and Larkin, which would leave #17 available. That number goes to Tyler Bertuzzi. who wore it with the Guelph Storm of the OHL.
A second chain reaction starts with Dmytro Timashov taking the #88 he wore in the QMJHL. This leaves #15 available for Rasmussen as he claims the number he wore for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.
With Rasmussen switched, #27 is available for Dennis Cholowski, who wore it at St. Cloud State and both of his WHL stops. Christoffer Ehn then takes the #21 made available by Cholowski’s switch, as Ehn wore that number with Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League, though he seems set to not be with the team much longer anyway. Ehn also wore #26 in Sweden but we’ll save that for Lucas Raymond.
All of this could happen, but it probably won’t. For a jersey number geek, though, it’s fun to look at.
With Fabbri signing, two of Detroit’s ten pending RFAs are set to return, as Evgeny Svechnikov signed a one-year deal earlier this month.
Fabbri was acquired by Detroit from the St. Louis Blues for center Jacob de la Rose on November 6, the biggest “win” of GM Steve Yzerman‘s first season with the Red Wings. He went on to score 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points, good for fourth on the team over the season.
I think the $2.95 million AAV is solid for the Red Wings. It won’t hurt too much for too long if it turns out Fabbri’s first season with the club was an outlier and it helps set a baseline for Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, though they may be looking at longer-term deals which will be framed differently anyway.
Over the weekend, those handful of players proved that, at least in the small sample size of two games, they could provide enough excitement for the whole team.
The Red Wings’ top line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi accounts for eight of the team’s nine goals thus far and is dragging the rest of the lineup kicking and screaming towards respectability.
Again, the small sample size has to be stressed. Additionally, the schedule has favored the Wings to start things off; opening the season in Nashville, where they’ve had success of late, and then catching a Dallas team mired in a surprisingly slow start.
There were problems, too. Detroit let a 2-0 lead disappear against the Predators and let the Stars jump out to a 2-0 lead the next night. Those are the kinds of things I expected to see.
I didn’t expect the top line to be so dominant right out of the gate, though, and that’s been fun to watch.
I’ve struggled to put together words about what I think of the Red Wings’ expected lineup on Saturday in Nashville.
Some years you can look at the lineup and there’s something odd about it, either good or bad, that makes things interesting. An unexpected missing player or a prospect who had a breakout camp to make the team.
Maybe you could say the absence of Niklas Kronwall is the former but, given the fact that his retirement was kind of telegraphed and the glut of defensemen on the Red Wings’ roster, I don’t really think so.
There are a lot of players on the Red Wings’ roster for whom my hope going into the season is simply that they don’t regress. Or, in some cases, don’t continue to regress. My expected best case scenario for them is for me to not notice they’re out there.
This is not going to be a good team. Yeah, some of the players have to talk about just getting in and then surprising people. Aside from that, no one is predicting Detroit to finish outside of the bottom five in the league.
This is a rebuilding team. We should expect them to be bad. It’s beneficial, to a certain extent, for them to be bad, as it should help their draft position.
It is not, however, an exciting team. There may be some exciting players but it is not an exciting team.
This team is built to lose, but hopefully not embarrassingly. A big part of the roster is there to just not screw up so badly that the remaining players can’t make something of it.