Thoughts on the Opening Night Roster

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.

The roster that the Wings will open the season with has pretty much been set since the July 1 signings of Patrik Nemeth and Valtteri Filppula.  Once Adam Erne was acquired on August 14, the idea of Filip Zadina or Joe Veleno or Evgeny Svechnikov challenging for a roster spot in camp was put to bed.

I’ll admit, part of why I was hopeful that the Red Wings would claim Josh Ho-Sang off of waivers is that at least it would be a surprise and give something to follow.

I’m not saying there’s nothing exciting about the Detroit lineup.  It’s just most of that excitement is centered around six or seven players.

Yes, I want to see what the line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi can do together over an entire season.  I want to see if Taro Hirose is the real deal after the hot start to his pro career last spring.  I want to see if Filip Hronek takes another step and if Dennis Cholowski can stick in Detroit.

And I always want to watch Andreas Athanasiou.

That’s a third of the team.

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.

That’s not much to get excited about.

2019 Training Camp Jersey Number Notes

With the Red Wings having claimed the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup as champions of the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, the team is ready for their main training camp to begin, and with that comes the release of their training camp roster.

The roster includes 67 players.  Only two players who were on the Prospects Tournament roster will not be appearing in the main camp – Elmer Soderblom and Gustav Berglund.  No NHL free agents will be appearing with the Red Wings as pro try-outs.

There are no surprise jersey number changes revealed by the roster announcement.

Evgeni Svechnikov, who missed the entire 2018-19 season, will keep the #37 he was scheduled to wear last year.  He wore that number for his debut in 2016-17 before switching to #77 for the 2017-18 campaign.

Finnish free agent signing Oliwer Kaski claims that #77, after having worn #7 with Pelicans last season.  Kaski taking #77 would explain why Taro Hirose, who specifically was looking for a number with seven in it, took #67 instead of #77.

I had speculated that #26 might have gone to Thomas Vanek on a PTO but that ended up going to Grand Rapids Griffins’ captain Matt Ford, who was assigned #77 last fall.  Similarly, I thought that #50 might go to someone on a try-out but, instead, it’s been assigned to Dominik Shine, with Ryan Kuffner having taken the #56 that Shine wore in camp last year.

Goalie Calvin Pickard, the Red Wings’ only remaining free agent signing to not have a number announced, has taken #31.  He’s worn #30 in the past but Detroit has that semi-retired for Chris Osgood, it would seem.

The #3 worn last season by Nick Jensen has been assigned to defenseman Jared McIsaacLibor Sulak‘s #47 has gone to Marcus Crawford of the Griffins.

Any other changes are related to camp invitees and/or were already confirmed.

The full training camp roster is as follows:

Forwards

Num. Name
8 Justin Abdelkader
11 Filip Zadina
15 Chris Terry
23 Dominic Turgeon
26 Matthew Ford
27 Michael Rasmussen
37 Evgeny Svechnikov
39 Anthony Mantha
41 Luke Glendening
42 Mathieu Bizier
43 Darren Helm
46 Chase Pearson
48 Givani Smith
50 Dominik Shine
51 Valtteri Filppula
54 Matt Puempel
56 Ryan Kuffner
57 Turner Elson
58 David Pope
59 Tyler Bertuzzi
61 Jacob de la Rose
62 Cody Morgan
64 Josh Kestner
67 Taro Hirose
70 Christoffer Ehn
71 Dylan Larkin
72 Andreas Athanasiou
73 Adam Erne
75 Troy Loggins
76 Jarid Lukosevicius
78 Gregor MacLeod
79 Thomas Casey
81 Frans Nielsen
82 Tyler Spezia
88 Chad Yetman
89 Owen Robinson
90 Joe Veleno

Defensemen

Num. Name
2 Joe Hicketts
3 Jared McIsaac
17 Filip Hronek
20 Dylan McIlrath
21 Dennis Cholowski
22 Patrik Nemeth
25 Mike Green
28 Gustav Lindstrom
29 Vili Saarijarvi
32 Brian Lashoff
47 Marcus Crawford
52 Jonathan Ericsson
53 Moritz Seider
63 Alec McCrea
65 Danny DeKeyser
74 Madison Bowey
77 Oliwer Kaski
83 Trevor Daley
86 Charle-Edouard D’Astous
87 Marc-Olivier Duquette
94 Alec Regula
98 Owen Lalonde

Goalies

Num. Name
31 Calvin Pickard
35 Jimmy Howard
36 Kaden Fulcher
38 Filip Larsson
45 Jonathan Bernier
60 Pat Nagle
68 Sean Romeo
80 Anthony Popovich

2019 Free Agency Thoughts: Day One

I noted my thoughts about each of the Red Wings free agent signings yesterday as they were announced.  Since then, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman has spoken and explained some of his plan.

I’m not sure I buy it, so I’m going to revisit those thoughts a bit.

Calvin Pickard

Yzerman confirmed that Pickard is bound for Grand Rapids, not competing with Jonathan Bernier for the backup role in Detroit, as was suggested when rumors of the deal broke on Sunday.  That makes significantly more sense.

My only concern is how Pickard (along with Curtis McElhinney) was claimed on waivers at the start of last season, leaving the Toronto Marlies without any goalies.  That said, veteran goalies make it through waivers every year, it’s last year that was the outlier.  I think it’s safe to blame my concern on recency bias.

Patrik Nemeth

I honestly don’t know much about Nemeth.  At first glance he seems like a good fit for the Red Wings.  Yzerman specifically mentioned that he could play with either Mike Green or Filip Hronek.  I imagine that whichever of those two doesn’t pair up with Nemeth gets Danny DeKeyser and, while not great by any means, that could be a solid top four.

The problem is the ever-present logjam.  Assuming a third pair of Trevor Daley and Jonathan Ericsson with Madison Bowey as the seventh defenseman, that means there’s no room for Dennis Cholowski or Oliwer Kaski or anyone who might surprise in training camp.

I’ve seen a lot of people saying that it’ll be okay because there will be injuries, which was the case to start the season last year.  In all likelihood, yes, players will get hurt.  If you are counting on that, though, you have to count on someone getting hurt badly enough that they go on injured reserve, otherwise their roster spot isn’t cleared and no one can be called up to fill in.  So to get significant time for anyone outside that top seven, you have to hope for significant time lost due to injury to someone, which doesn’t sit well with me.

By the end of the season things might be different.  Ericsson and Daley and Green could all be gone.  Of course, there’s most of a season to play between now and the trade deadline and the last time the Wings expected to see a veteran defenseman moved in February, he got hurt and ended up signing an extension.

Valtteri Filppula

Oh, here’s the big one.  Yzerman says that Filppula was brought back to give the Red Wings depth at center, allowing them to shift Andreas Athanasiou back to his natural position at wing.

Obviously the organization thinks Athanasiou’s try-out as second-line center to end last season didn’t go well enough.  That’s fine.  I don’t think it was enough time to tell but I’m willing to accept their conclusion.  The issue is that I don’t accept that Valtteri Filppula is a second-line center.

The Wings now have a top line center in Dylan Larkin and bottom-six centers in Filppula, Frans Nielsen, Luke Glendening, Christoffer Ehn, and Jacob de la RoseDarren Helm can fill in at center and Yzerman mentioned Justin Abdelkader as well, which I think would be awful.  Helm and Abdelkader can be ignored anyway, though, because that’s six centers for three lines, none of which is the second line.

If the choice is between playing Athanasiou out of position and seeing how it goes or playing Filppula up a line, I’d pick Athanasiou.

I have nothing against Filppula as a third line center.  If Yzerman were to find a way to move Nielsen and slot Filppula in there, I’d be all for it.  Especially with Filppula coming in cheaper than Nielsen.  But that’s not the move that’s happening.

Red Wings Bring Back Filppula on Two-Year Deal

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Monday the signing of center Valtteri Flippula to a two-year deal.

Financial terms were not immediately available, because of course they weren’t.  According to MLive’s Ansar Khan, who still has us blocked on Twitter, the deal is worth $3 million annually.

I don’t like this move.  At this point in his career, Filppula is a bottom-six center and the Wings have enough of those.  Maybe they’ll shift him (or someone else) to wing and play him on the third line.

I could have been okay with it if it were a one-year deal, giving Evgeny Svechnikov time in Grand Rapids to recover from his lost season and Joe Veleno a year to adjust to the professional game.  Now Filppula will be taking up a roster spot past that timeline.

Pre-Free Agency Thoughts

NHL Free Agency opens in about 6 hours and the Red Wings are already expected to be active.

The league’s free agent interview period reduces some of the drama of July 1.  We already know that Detroit has a verbal deal with Jonathan Bernier after calling on Carter Hutton and having Robin Lehner visit Detroit.  We know they’ve talked to former Red Wings Thomas Vanek and Valtteri Filppula.  We know they have interest in Carolina center Derek Ryan.

Filppula and Ryan come with a somewhat unexpected connection: According to Craig Custance of The Athletic, the Red Wings are interested in centers in case Henrik Zetterberg is unable to play this season.

That’s a bit to unpack so I want to break it down bit by bit.

Goaltending

This is the easy one.

I think I would have preferred 26-year-old Lehner over 29-year-old Bernier, as Lehner still has time to turn his career around and possibly become what Petr Mrazek was supposed to be for the Red Wings.  That said, Bernier has stats that are similar to Jimmy Howard‘s over the last several seasons and, with Howard a free agent next summer, it gives the Red Wings the option of trading him at next spring’s trade deadline if they’re out of playoff position.

Zetterberg

This is a complicated one.

When his contract was signed, I don’t think anyone expected him to play it out.  Then the CBA was rewritten to punish teams who had signed back-diving contracts.  Since then, LTIR has been abused to circumvent that punishment.

If Zetterberg’s back is hurt again, it would be very easy for him to go on LTIR for the rest of his career.  That said, when the Red Wings packed up for the summer, he said he expected to play in the fall.  What could have happened between then and now that would change that?

Filppula or Ryan could just be an insurance policy, but it seems expensive and premature unless there’s something the team isn’t telling us at this point.

Bottom line is I wouldn’t want to see the Red Wings sign a Zetterberg replacement without knowing for sure that Zetterberg would be out.

Vanek

Sigh.

I like Thomas Vanek.  I don’t want the Red Wings to sign him.

Custance made the point that Vanek seems to make Andreas Athanasiou better.  I agree.  But I also think Athanasiou isn’t long for the Red Wings, so signing someone to make him better doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Maybe you sign Vanek for a year and Athanasiou for a year and try to flip them both at the deadline?  I don’t know.

The larger point is that Vanek takes up a roster spot.  I already wrote about Mike Green‘s re-signing leaving little room for “the kids” on the Wings’ blueline.  If Vanek is signed, that gives the Red Wings 13 forwards on the roster (including Tyler Bertuzzi, who was in Detroit to end last season).

Yeah, they could send Luke Witkowski to Grand Rapids.  Or Martin Frk.  But all that does is open a spot on the fourth line or in the press box.  Where’s the spot that Michael Rasmussen is supposed to compete for.  Or Filip Zadina?  Or Evgeny Svechnikov?

Vanek’s signing would only take one spot and they need a lot more open than that to get the kids playing time, but it would seemingly show that, once again, the organization is only giving lip service to the idea of a youth movement.


So what will we see when noon rolls around?

Bernier is the only “confirmed” signing.  backup goalie is also the only position the Red Wings actually need to fill.

Vanek wouldn’t surprise me, based on the buzz and the fact that they wanted to bring him back last year.  I hope not, though.

Anything beyond that would unnecessary, so I hope it’s a quiet day for Detroit.

Red Wings Fall to Lightning, Series Even at 1-1

The Detroit Red Wings dropped a 5-1 decision to the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game Two of their Atlantic Division Semifinal matchup on Saturday.

The defense and goaltending that led Detroit to a win in Game One wasn’t there to save them in Game Two, leading to the series now tied at a game apiece.

Tyler Johnson opened the game’s scoring just 3:05 in on a Tampa Bay power play. Johnson picked up the rebound of a shot off the goal post in the circle to Detroit netminder Petr Mrazek‘s left and snapped it back into the net.

It was 2-0 at 7:56 of the second period when Alex Killorn beat Mrazek thanks to a fortunate bounce. Ryan Callahan attempted to pass the puck from the left wing through the high slot but Red Wings defender Alexey Marchenko got in the way. The puck bounced off Marchenko and fluttered right to Killorn, wide open at the edge of the crease. His initial shot went into the side of the net but he collected the puck and lifted it over a sprawling Mrazek.

Andrej Sustr was left wide open in the slot to take a pass from former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula and snap a shot past Mrazek with 5:12 left in the middle period for a 3-0 lead.

Johnson’s second of the afternoon made it 4-0 with 38 seconds left. Johnson broke in on Mrazek all alone after Nikita Kucherov knocked down Danny DeKeyser to turn a two-on-one into a breakaway, with Johnson faking out Mrazek in close.

Tomas Tatar scored Detroit’s only goal of the game at 5:49 of the third period, deflecting a Kyle Quincey shot past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop from a low angle.

Filppula rounded out the game’s scoring with a power play with with 4:34 remaining. Racing down the left wing, Filppula fired a shot on Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard – who replaced Mrazek to start the third period – and snapped his own rebound into the back of the net.

Tampa Bay scored two power play goals on four chances after going scoreless on seven tries in Game One. Detroit didn’t score on any of their four attempts with the extra skater.

Mrazek finished with 14 saves on 18 shots in two period of play while Howard stopped 11 of the 12 chances he faced and Bishop stopped 23 of 24 shots.

Game Three will be on Thursday in Detroit.


Detroit head coach Mike Babcock announced after the game that Mrazek will start Game Three and that injured forward Justin Abdelkader is expected to return.

Red Wings Steal Game One from Lightning

Though badly outplayed and outshot, the Detroit Red Wings earned a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, taking a 1-0 lead in their Atlantic Division Semifinal series.

Detroit rookie goalie Petr Mrazek made 44 saves on 46 shots to deliver the Red Wings the victory. Lightning netminder Ben Bishop made just 11 saves on 14 Detroit chances.

Luke Glendening scored the eventual game-winner at 5:50 of the third period. While shorthanded, Glendening chipped the puck past Tampa defenseman Victor Hedman and raced down the right wing to catch up with it. Former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula caught up with him but Glendening held up and spun to his backhand, flinging a shot between Bishop’s pads to make it 3-1.

Just 2:36 later, the Lightning would pull back to within one, as Nikita Nesterov snapped a shot from the high slot past Mrazek through traffic.

Tampa Bay would be unable to even things up despite controlling play for the remainder of the game.

Pavel Datsyuk opened the game’s scoring at 9:03 of the first period, tipping a Kyle Quincey chance from the blueline past Bishop.

With 5:29 remaining in the opening frame, Brian Boyle tied things up on a shorthanded breakaway after blocking an attempted pass by Marek Zidlicky.

Datsyuk would strike again just eight seconds into the second period, snapping a shot over Bishop’s shoulder from the slot off a feed from Darren Helm while on the power play.

Datsyuk’s second was the only power play goal of the night. Detroit had three chances with the man-advantage to Tampa Bay’s seven.

The two teams will meet Saturday afternoon for Game Two of the series.


Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader (hand) was unable to play.

Postgame: Lightning @ Red Wings – 3/30

This game was at times awesome, infuriating, and terrifying.

They’re all must-wins from here on out and Detroit played like it early, showing a lot of jump after playing less than 24 hours earlier. They controlled play for almost the first ten minutes and got the game’s first six shots. Of course, former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula got Tampa on the board with just their second shot, so it looked like it was going to be one of those nights.

The Wings responded, though. Joakim Andersson‘s backhander from down low bounced off goalie Ben Bishop to tie things up and then Gustav Nyquist‘s incredible individual effort put them up 2-1.

I think that first period really decided the game. If the Wings hadn’t rebounded then, they wouldn’t have later on.

The second and third were somewhat sloppier but with each team adding one goal, Detroit was able to hold on for the win.

Johan Franzen drives me nuts. Jonas Gustavsson drives me nuts. The officials drive me nuts. But it’s okay if I’m nuts at the end of the night as long as the Wings come away with two points.

It should also be noted that Justin Abdelkader was pretty invisible in his return from injury, which I’ll take as a good thing given his role tonight. He slotted in on the bottom six, didn’t make any egregious mistakes, that’s good enough.

The win ends Detroit’s run of 10 games in 17 days, during which they went 6-3-1. They’ve got two days off before they finish the season with seven games in 12 days.

Trade Deadline Thoughts: “I Like Our Team”

At last season’s trade deadline, Detroit general manager Ken Holland somewhat-famously declared “I like our team” in explaining why there wasn’t a need to make any moves to either gear up for a playoff run or sell off assets in preparation for missing the playoffs.

I strongly disagreed at the time, thinking the Wings were certain to miss the playoffs or lose in the first round and that they should be sellers to maximize profit from it. To a large extent, I was wrong, as that team was good enough to come one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals. That said, a second-round loss isn’t that far off from a first-round elimination and they still lost Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner and (to a much lesser extent) Ian White and Carlo Colaiacovo for nothing over the summer.

This year it’s different. I won’t claim at all that the Wings should be sellers this time around, mostly because any of the assets I want them to sell come laden with no-trade clauses or were available for free on waivers and went unclaimed. Selling is not an option.

But we saw last night in New Jersey that this team is not poised to make a playoff run. Injuries have them decimated at center and, even when healthy, they have only three top-four defensemen.

This year, unfortunately, the problem is that prices seem to just be too high. By all accounts, every trade conversation Holland has starts with the other team asking for Tomas Tatar or Gustav Nyquist. And that’s just not a cost worth paying, even if it leaves the team shorthanded for the stretch run.

This year, I’m totally fine with the Red Wings standing pat rather than overpaying to fill the gaps. Sometimes cost is just too prohibitive. I just hope we don’t see any “I like our team” comments if that happens, because Holland really should be able to see these flaws.

Red Wings Fall to Lighting in Second Consecutive OT Loss

For the second-straight game, the Detroit Red Wings fell in overtime, dropping a 3-2 decision in the extra frame to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

They had previously lost in overtime to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.

With 1:19 remaining, Richard Panik stole the puck from Kyle Quincey behind the Detroit goal and sent a pass out to Teddy Purcell all alone in the slot for a quick snap past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard into the top of the net.

The goal gave the Lighting just their second-ever win at Joe Louis Arena, their first since 1994.

Henrik Zetterberg had opened the game’s scoring just 3:51 into the game. Pavel Datsyuk pressured Steven Stamkos in the left wing corner and Stamkos threw the puck out into the slot, where Zetterberg picked it off and whipped a shot past Tampa Bay netminder Ben Bishop.

The Lighting would tie things back up midway through the period, as Ryan Malone was left untouched on a wraparound chance off a feed from Matthew Carle. Howard stretched to stop Malone’s first attempt but Malone got the rebound and lifted it over the prone goalie at 10:11.

Immediately after killing off a long series of Detroit power plays, the Lightning would take the lead with 7:10 left in the second period. Stamkos was left alone as the Red Wings attempted to clear their zone but Victor Hedman stepped up to hold the puck in and sent it to Stamkos, who rifled a shot past Howard to make it 2-1.

Zetterberg’s second of the night evened things back up with 4:12 remaining in regulation. Danny DeKeyser dumped the puck in from the neutral zone and it wrapped around the boards. On the right wing Datsyuk let it go back to Zetterberg, who stepped up to the faceoff dot and fired a slapper off the stick of former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula and past Bishop.

Neither team scored a power play goal on the night, with the Red Wings having four chances with the extra attacker and Tampa Bay having three.

Howard finished with 31 saves on 34 shots against while Bishop stopped 25 of 27.


The Red Wings were without Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and Brendan Smith due to injury. Jordin Tootoo and Patrick Eaves were healthy scratches… Xavier Ouellet and Luke Glendening were called up from the Grand Rapids Griffins for the game, with Adam Almquist being sent back to Grand Rapids.