Archive for October, 2006

Griffins Report

The start of the Griffins’ season has been just as disappointing as the start of the Red Wings’ season. Like the Wings, the Griffins are used to being at the top of the division and conference all season long. With a record of 4-3-2, they find themselves in an unfamiliar position-2nd in the Division and 6th in the conference. Now, second in the division isn’t so bad, considering that the Rochester Americans are having one of their best starts ever, at 8-1-0. Let’s also remember that the Americans are affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres. The sad thing is, being sixth in the conference puts the Griffins behind the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, Iowa Stars, Chicago Wolves and Peoria Rivermen. Chicago is a bitter rival (think Colorado, here) and Omaha, Iowa and Peoria were all three expansion teams last season.

Grand Rapids also seems to be sharing the Red Wings’ offensive woes. They have 28 goals for and 27 goals against, strikingly similar to the Wings’ 29 GF and 27 GA. The Griffins top scorer is Kip Miller, with 9 points (3-6). The Wings top scorer is Nicklas Lidstrom with 10 points (2-8). A few days ago I could have compared the goaltending of the two clubs, but Ozzie and Dom have since played very well.

Jimmy Howard has been good for the Griffins, at 3-2-0, with a 2.69 GAA and a .908 Save %. I wish I could say the same for Stefan Liv. His numbers aren’t terrible, with a 1-2-1 record, 3.04 GAA, and .907 save % . Granted, they could be a lot better. But numbers don’t tell the whole story. I’ve been to two games in which he played, the last of which he was pulled from. He wanders from the net frequently, and gets in trouble doing it often. Many times, his teammates save him. I’ve seen him make a save three feet out of the crease and seemingly get stuck there. Needless to say, the other team scored on the rebound. Liv has a tendency to start games well, but fall off quickly. He appears to have trouble controlling rebounds. He’s really good up close, but put someone on the breakaway and he’s sure to give up the goal. In his one shootout loss, he gave up 4 goals on 7 shooters. One guy missed the net wide, one guy shot high, and Liv stopped one. He has made some great saves, as well, though. He’ll likely get better as the season progresses, as he gets used to the AHL.

Kyle Quincey looks to be playing well, despite his -5 plus/minus. Derek Meech has made drastic improvements over last season, earning an A on his sweater. Both defensemen show a lot of promise. Quincey could probably be playing in the NHL already, on the third defensive pairing. Meech is finally starting to show the ability that the Wings kept saying he had. Jonathan Ericsson is doing well, also, with a +/- of +4 and two assists.

Of the offensive prospects, Krys Kolanos is doing the best. He has four goals and eight points. Matt Ellis is not far behind, with four goals and seven points. Kolanos also has the best +/- at +4, tied with Ericsson. Darryl Bootland is continuing to do what he does best, with 20 penalty minutes in 9 games. I’ve seen two fights already, but they haven’t been particularly good. He does, however, have two goals and two assists. Evan McGrath has one goal and three assists, but it has been his defensive play that has impressed me. Eric Himelfarb continues to prove that he is not NHL material-giving up the puck at the blueline and virtually watching as opponents score less than two feet away from him, while scoring only one goal himself. He’s fast, but he couldn’t finish a play to save his life. His puck-handling skills are in serious need of improvement-though I’m not sure how one can improve upon something that does not exist. My biggest disappointment is Ryan Oulahen right now. Ryan was phenomenal last season, but thus far has yet to be a factor for the Griffins. He has only goal and one point, with a +/- of +1.

In their last game, Grand Rapids beat the Philadelphia Phantoms 6-2. Howard was in net, and basically solidified his position as the starter. He and Liv had been splitting games evenly, but after Howard’s strong game and Liv’s struggles, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jimmy get more games. Scoring for the Griffins were Kolanos with 2, Himelfarb, Ellis, Bootland and Matt Hussey. McGrath earned third star with three assists, while captain Ellis received second for his game-winning goal. First star went to Kolanos.

The Griffins next four games are against their biggest division rival, the Manitoba Moose. The Moose are affiliated with Vancouver, and their backup goaltender is Drew MacIntyre-former Griffin and Wing prospect. The first two games of this series are in GR, Friday and Saturday nights. Next week Tuesday and Wednesday they play in Manitoba, followed by a Friday game against the Milwaukee Admirals and a Saturday game against the Albany River Rats.

links for 2006-11-01

10/31 Notes

Update (6:52 PM): A blogging Helene St. James reports that Andreas Lilja has a back injury and Mathieu Schneider has a groin injury, but has assurance from Mike Babcock that neither is serious. It was enough to keep them from practicing today, though, so we may hear more about it eventually.

She also notes that Filppula was the “odd forward out” today in practice, though Norton still has not come off the IR. If Norton stays out, and the Wings do decide to dress Valtteri again, it means either Tomas Kopecky or Jiri Hudler would have to sit.

Also, here’s your absurd opinion item of the day, via Off Wing Opinion. - Matt

Update (9:25 AM): Bruce MacLeod of the Macomb Daily has a good piece today contrasting the Wings’ newest defenseman, Danny Markov, with their longest-serving defenseman, Nicklas Lidstrom. Definitely worth a read. (via Snapshots) - Matt

… Both major Detroit papers have notebook sections dealing with Henrik Zetterberg’s slump today, though they each take slightly different angles.

The Freep‘s Helene St. James takes a look at Mikael Samuelsson’s return, and suggests that he could help spark his fellow countryman, being a shooting forward. She reports that the two will be on the same line on Wednesday when the Wings face Calgary at home.

Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News notes opponents have been better at shadowing Zetterberg this season and suggests this is a contributing factor. He also points out that Hank has still be great defensively, and so, despite his lack of offensive production, has been valuable to the team.

It’s interesting that no one mentions his wrist as being a possible cause, as some fans have. I don’t know if that’s because it’s not a problem at the moment or because the papers are toeing the line on injury non-disclosure. If Hank’s wrist is bothering him, I’d hate to see him play the entire season only to have it get worse in time for the playoffs. Maybe a rest would be in order.

Darryl Dobbs of The Fourth Period took a look at the Wings’ season in light of fantasy leagues in a column yesterday. He notes that though they may have a winning record, their lack of offensive production has made it rough for fantasy owners that have Red Wings on their teams. (I can attest to this)

Dobbs singles out Zetterberg as being in a particular slump, and opines that he will be unable to improve on his point total of last year (85) due to the Wings’ winning games by playing defensively. That may be true, but I’m not trading Hank away on my fantasy league, current slump or not. He will produce eventually.

… After starting the season at #1 in the TSN Power Rankings, the Wings fell to the bottom 15 after a 3-4-1 start through 8 games. Now, they’re tentatively back in the top half, at #13, above the Oilers but below the Avs. (Yeah, I know power rankings are stupid but it’s something)

links for 2006-10-31

Vancouver GM Nonis speaks out

Dave Nonis isn’t on my list of outspoken GMs (at least, not like Brian Burke was when he was in Vancouver), but he had a lot to say at a BC Chamber of Commerce meeting today, speaking out against the NHL’s free agency age and the scheduling format. When talking about free agency (and making some good points, by the way), he, of course, found a way to fit in some jealousy of the Wings:

“The Detroit Red Wings could have a five-year run if they did a good job of recruiting, trading, drafting and developing. You could keep those players together.”

What, Dave, you mean the Wings could spend a lot of money to keep guys in town while other teams stood around with empty pockets? Are you, a GM of a small market team, actually saying that was a good thing? Hmm.

And, yes, Dave, the new NHL scheduling format sucks, but wouldn’t it be a little less special for Ovechkin or Crosby to come to town if they were doing it more often?

10/30 Notes

Update (7:50 PM): … Helene St. James reports in a blog post that both Brad Norton and Mikael Samuelsson are ready to return to the ice. Samuelsson expects to play Wednesday against the Flames, and Norton just needs to be cleared by some doctors. Norton still has not been taken off the IR, but when he does, the Wings will be over the 23-man active roser limit, meaning Valtteri Filppula’s stint in Detroit will probably soon be over. That is, of course, unless the Wings decide to send someone else down, which would most likely be Norton, if anyone.

… The Calgary Sun has a piece by Randy Sportak today that provides more details on Darren McCarty’s bankruptcy. For anyone thinking Darren brought this on himself by throwing money away, there’s this:

“It sounds as if I blew $6 million, which isn’t the case. A lot of it had to do with a couple of properties that we owned and I signed my name to. It’s not as if I was blowing the money.”

Apparently, it was more a case of being stabbed in the back by a business partner than anything else. (via Snapshots)

… When Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Fedorov both went down with injuries, I was in need of a center on my fantasy team so I traded Kari Lehtonen for Marc Savard and David Aebischer. It was probably a dumb trade then, but I feel really stupid now, after reading this. - Matt

… In the Freep’s Wings Corner today, George Sipple focuses on Chris Chelios, who will tie Wayne Gretzky in games played on Wednesday when the Wings play the Flames at home. Gretzky currently holds 12th place on the all-time list with 1,487 games (over 20 seasons) while Chelios obviously has 1,486 games (over 22 seasons).

Cheli will be able to pass Gretzky (how unlikely does that sound?!) on Thursday when the Wings travel to Chicago to play the Blackhawks.

… In his Red Wings Notebook, Ted Kulfan writes on the contrast between the Wings’ three game slide during their West Coast trip, and their three-game win-streak since. They’re making mediots like Damien Cox look pretty dumb, though, granted, it is a long season and they’ve only been able to string three together so far. However, I think they’ve got it together now, and I wouldn’t expect any more three-game losing streaks.

… Kulfan also has a quote from Mike Babcock on why the Wings’ power play went 0-for-5 Saturday night:

“We wouldn’t shoot the puck. We passed it around, passed it around, passed it around and wouldn’t shoot. I don’t know why that happened.”

Well, Mike, it was that, and the fact that the guys seemed to revert back to the power play strategy of last season. You know, the one that didn’t work any more and the one you had the players work on last week? Why does the PP focus on the defensemen at the point again?

… Mathieu Schneider, a popular player around here, was interviewed by The Sporting News’ Ray Slover this weekend. It’s not very long but definitely worth a read.

I like this part:

SN: Tomas Holmstrom scores from the dot. Did you guys about fall over on that one?

Schneider: He never ceases to amaze me. He finds different ways to score all the time. He still gets heck. I think he had a goal like that in the Olympics, but most of them are obviously inside the crease. But he’s just a great presence in front of the net. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being able to handle the puck and move it outside the top of the circles.

Link via Snapshots.

… Ansar Khan looks at the coming roster problem in an article for Booth Newspapers today.

As far as I’m concerned, I think they should keep Valtteri Filppula up and send Norton down, but only if Babcock is able to give Filppula an appropriate amount of ice time. The problem is, that will be difficult once Mikael Samuelsson returns and picks up the 15-16 minutes in ice time he was getting before injuring his shoulder. If Valtteri were covering for just Norton, it would be no question, but with Mikael coming back soon, it may not be the best thing for him to stay with the Wings. I know the Griffins could use him.

Sending Norton down isn’t the Wings’ only option if they’re looking to keep Filppula on the roster. According to Khan, Brett Lebda is a player the Wings could send down to make room for Valtteri since he wouldn’t have to clear waivers. Haha, very funny, Ansar (to be fair, he does say it’s unlikely). Another option would be sending extraneous third goalie Joey MacDonald for a two-week conditioning stint.

… The Wings aren’t the only team that is proving the hockey media wrong. The Colorado Avalanche, who also have been picked to fall by the columnists, have won four in six, including a big one over the Minnesota Wild last night.

links for 2006-10-30