Archive for October, 2008

On Henrik Zetterberg, Third Wheel

One of the commenters in the A2Y liveblog (PaulInMiamiBeach at 11:03 ET) brought up something that’s been in the back of my mind as I watch Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa play together like long-lost brothers. 

Random thought…I feel sorry for Zetterberg.  Hossa has made Datsyuk better just by being on the ice, and Z is relegated to the second line which now pales by comparison whereas last year they were more equal.

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One of the more unfortunate results of the Johan Franzen injury  is that Hank is now stuck with two of the prime underachievers on the team, Mikael Samuelsson and Dan Cleary. The guy still plays his heart out, but with Samuelsson in “scoring: off” mode and Dan Cleary still figuring out how to play with a shield, he can only do so much. 

I’m starting to wonder what a whole season of watching Pavel work magic with Hossa from the bench will do to Zetterberg’s mindset come contract negotiation time. I’ve been a fan of Hank since before he came over and so I’d like to think I can say with confidence that he’s not “that guy,” but I think it’d be good if Babock gives him and Marian some time to develop on-ice chemistry. 

Even without my irrational paranoia, it would make sense to give the two playing time together in order to shore against possible injury down the line. Wouldn’t it be better to switch things up a bit when it’s optional rather than when the situation forces it?

Of course, a healthy competition between the first and second lines when Franzen returns would be a good thing. Hank’s been acquitting himself quite well without #13 and #81 on his wing, so maybe that will be fulfilling enough for him.

On Meeting the Sharks

I’ll be part of the FanHouse panel liveblogging the Wings/Sharks game night if you want to stop by.

If you’re like me and you watched the Wings lose to the Ducks last night, you’re probably not looking forward to this one. That’s for a couple reasons.

It’s not much of a stretch to say that as well as the Wings have played offensively, they’ve played at the opposite end of the spectrum defensively so far this season. For whatever reason, what looked like the best defensive corps in hockey on paper prior to the season has not produced on the ice. The forward units also aren’t contributing defensively like they were last year and it’s led to some unnecessarily close games.

Some theories as to the cause of this are bouncing around online Hockeytown, and I tend to lean toward blaming Brad McCrimmon (and by extension Todd McClellan for leaving) when I’m at my most pessimistic. Other times, I mark it down to early season rustiness. Time will tell which it is, or whether it’s some combination of the two. The defensive issues make going up against Joe Thornton and Company less than appealing.

Compounding that out-standing issue will be the fatigue the team has to feel today after what looked like a very tiring match with a very rough Anaheim team. The game would have been hard enough to follow up had it not turned into a penalty fest, with the Wings acting as the pinata. So, because of the ridiculous NHL schedule, the Wings have to go up against their only real rival in the West with less than a day’s rest from playing the roughest team in the conference and having to kill off penalties seemingly all game.

It will be a nice test of their stamina, but don’t be too surprised if it goes badly. And don’t read too much into it if it does.  However unpleasant it may get tonight, it doesn’t matter.

If they win handily (or otherwise), the Sharks will simply get more early validation of their own inflated sense of self and the hockey world will once again be all a-flutter for the Sharks (“This year, the Sharks are the team to beat!”), as it has been every season for about a decade now. Come May, the headlines will read: “What went wrong in San Jose.”

Meanwhile, regardless of the outcome, the Wings will go on to finish their trip, return home, and right the defensive ship before going on to do what they do best: win when it counts.

Ville Leino recalled from Grand Rapids

Update (7:46 PM): It looks like the Leino call-up is on hold, at least for the time being. George Malik has the details. Basically, the Griffins jumped the gun.

Meanwhile, Leino posted three assists today in Grand Rapids’ second home game. Two of those assists helped Justin Abdelkader complete a hattrick. 

Update (2:11 PM): The Griffins’ press release on the recall is here. – Matt

Looks like we may see Ville Leino for the first time in meaningful NHL action tomorrow night in LA. The AHL transaction wire lists the Finn as being recalled by the parent club.

He wouldn’t get the call if they weren’t going to play him, so the question is: where will he get inserted? Don’t expect him to start out on the second line in Johan Franzen’s place, but if he’s in town for a while, he could move up.

He has four goals and two assists in four games at the AHL level and had a solid pre-season. If he can adjust to regular season NHL hockey quickly, Dan Cleary will be under more pressure to produce at his new spot on Henrik Zetterberg’s wing.

TSN: Franzen to miss 3-4 weeks with knee sprain

Megan and I didn’t get back from the Griffins’ home opener* until the start of the third period of the Wings/Hawks tilt, so we missed the knee-on-knee collision between Chicago’s Brent Sopel and Johan Franzen. Needless to say, we were less than thrilled at the news that the play had resulted in the Mule having to leave the game. 

The news from TSN comes as a relief, however. A month is a fair result when it could have been six or more. What’s unfortunate is Franzen had been picking up where he left off in the post-season. With Henrik Zetterberg feeding him the puck, I wouldn’t think he’ll have any trouble continuing to put the puck in the net when he returns, but you never know.

* On the Griffins: they looked pretty good in the first period last night, putting up four goals on the Bulldogs before letting the Montreal affiliate come within one over the course of the rest of the game. They may actually put up a decent record this year. 

On some of the Wings’ main prospects: Justin Abdelkader looked good in his “hometown debut,” though a boarding penalty tarnished that a bit. He stood up for himself in a fight just after that hit, and I thought he was solid in both ends when he wasn’t getting jumped. Ville Leino looked good as well, as did Jonathan Ericsson. Jimmy Howard wasn’t bad, but will have to be better. Matthias Ritola was the rink’s #1 star of the game.

OtW favorite Aaron Downey wouldn’t have been too noticeable except for the fact that there was one donkey in the crowd near us who took it upon himself to scream insults at Downey every time he was on the ice. This went on for a while early on until the “fan” got a couple beers in him and quieted down.

Hossa Ascendent

From Friday’s home game versus Atlanta:

From Saturday’s game in Chicago:

I’m not sure which play excites me more: Hossa’s owning Mathieu Schneider and Kari Lehtonen, or the visual evidence of a developing chemistry between Hossa and his linemates. They’re both good signs, that’s for sure.

#81 is warming up offensively while not sacrificing his responsibilities when without the puck and in his own end. You come to appreciate his size and skating ability when he’s backchecking just as much as you do when he’s scything through three defenders with the puck on a string.

I get the feeling he’s just getting started.

Season opener

Tonight’s the night we’ve been waiting for all summer: the 2008-2009 season opener. In addition to being the first game, tonight’s the night they raise the Stanley Cup championship banner. So, be sure to tune in by 7:00 PM.

I’m very busy today, so I don’t have time to say more, but believe me I want to.

Helm demoted, Downey waived

Update (2:50 PM): MacLeod now reports that Leino and Ericsson have been demoted. Quincey is sticking around while the team looks for trading partners.

This leaves the Wings with a 22-man roster, with three players (Chris Chelios, Darren McCarty, and Jimmy Howard) on the IR. They slide in just under the cap, but could pick up some space by trading Quincey. When Mac and Cheli return, they’ll have to make another move or two to stay below the limit. – Matt

Update (1:00 PM): MacLeod has another post on the roster situation up. Apparently, Quincey has a meeting with the front office at 1:30 pm today, and there is a 2:00 pm press conference scheduled. He was held out of practice despite the fact that he’s healthy.

MacLeod talked to Ericsson, and he suspects he’ll be headed to Grand Rapids soon. – Matt

Bruce MacLeod reports that the Wings have sent Darren Helm to Grand Rapids and waived Aaron Downey, presumably to send him down as well.

Neither move is really a surprise. Helm was impressive in the pre-season, but would be better served to get significant playing time and that can only happen with the Griffins. Downey never really had a shot of making the regular season roster with all the talent above him. Darren McCarty will start the season in Detroit, but that’s more due to the fact that he’s got a groin injury and can go on the IR than anything else.

MacLeod also reports that Kyle Quincey was not on the ice with the team. That to me cements the idea that his time with the organization is done.

Ville Leino, by the way, skated on the top line with Marian Hossa and Pavel Datsyuk in lieu of the injured Tomas Holmstrom. He and Jonathan Ericsson seem headed to GR by 3:00 tomorrow.