Archive for January, 2010

Game Day Notes: @ Pittsburgh

This game obviously carries with it a lot of baggage. It’s hard not to think about it. I’m sure the Wings are. But that baggage needs to not get in the way of making the most of this one. The Wings need two points today, not for revenge or payback, but to continue the fight to get to the playoffs. Revenge and payback can come with that, but the focus needs to simply getting the two points, somehow.

I guess the good thing about the Wings’ opponent today being the Penguins is that of all teams in the NHL, they won’t take them for granted, surely.

That’s all I have to say for now. We won’t be able to watch the game live, but will catch it on DVR later today (so I won’t be tweeting the game, Twitter folks).

Cap Talk

Update (8:17 PM): Just realized I left a hole in this post: if Lilja can’t make it back in a meaningful way, the Wings will only be about $650,000 over the cap, which means Leino’s the most likely odd-man out. The question becomes much, much easier in that case.

Easy’s good, but I can’t hope for that. I want Lilja to get back to hockey. Weber’s fists can’t be the way he goes out. - Matt

So, according to Ken Daniels last night, the Wings will be about $1.9 million over the cap assuming everyone comes back with no further injuries to anyone else.

That may be a big assumption on Lilja’s part, as he still has to prove he can take the daily grind of being a hockey player again. The projected conditioning stint in Grand Rapids is going to be hugely important and the Wings are going to have to make a decision based on a scant two weeks. Not a whole lot to go on.

Just for fun, let’s assume Lilja’s going to be healthy and everyone else is going to come back. No more injuries. Isn’t that a fun fantasy?

The Wings need to ship off some cap space, either through waivers or a trade. And I tend to agree with Daniels’ analysis that they won’t be looking to move defensemen. You can’t have too much depth at D and the guys everyone talks about, Lebda and Meech, are dirt cheap. That means two things: their movement won’t mean much and they’re a steal.

And we have a couple guys in Drew Miller and Patrick Eaves that no one wants to see shafted. So we’re looking at forwards, but, I hope, not those two.

May’s a given, I would think. But he’s only pulling in $481,865. More guys have to go. Some possibilities:

Scenario A:

May ($481,865) + Maltby ($883,333) + Leino ($800,000) = $2,165,198. (Roster: 22)

This one bothers me. I don’t care about May and Leino, who have been busts by just about any definition. Leino’s upside would normally make dumping him tough, but he’s shown so little promise in delivering that upside that I’m not attached to him in any way. I like May on a personal level and thing he’s great in front of a camera with a mic in his face. But other than that, he’s dead weight on this team. So no problems there.

It’s, predictably, the Maltby part of the equation that gets me. Maltby is a shadow of his former self. He’s no longer so integral on the PK and is nowhere near the SHed threat he once was. He’s a fourth liner at best these days. But he’s Kirk Maltby and he’s put in years of service for an organization that values that above little else. I would hate to see his career ended on anyone’s terms but his. And it should end with him as a Red Wing.

The math may work here, but if that’s not bad math, I don’t know what is. I know this is a business, but I don’t want to see the Wings become the Tigers and make decisions like that with so little regard for loyalty and character. They’ve painstakingly built a reputation as a team that takes care of its people. I think they value that reputation quite highly, given the return on investment they’ve seen, so I’d be fairly shocked if they unceremoniously dumped Maltby off.

On a tangently-related sidenote, some of my attitude over the Osgood/Howard situation comes from being surprised an organization with such a reputation of even-handedness in the veteran-to-new-guy transition has been so heavy-handed in this scenario. Anyway. Update: By the way, I’m not trying to start another Osgood/Howard debate here. My focus is the cap situation. Unfortunate toss-away comment on my part. - Matt

Scenario B:

May ($481,865) + Jason Williams ($1.5 million) = $1,981,465 (Roster: 23)

This would slide the Wings in just under the cap, presumably. And at first glance, isn’t likely. Williams is meant to be a top six guy on this team, you say. True. But they went without him for nearly half a season. You might respond that the Wings didn’t exactly tear it up in his absence, so maybe they need him. I’d say I doubt the absence of Jason Williams is the reason the Wings haven’t done better this season.

Think about it: which of the injuries was the biggest, accounting for talent and length (so, not Zetterberg)? Franzen, followed closely by Kronwall. So maybe the Wings win a few more games with Williams around, but I wouldn’t call him critical like those two. Maybe it’s highly unlikely, but this scenario has the benefit of the Wings already seeing how they might do without one of the guys. Not very well, you’d think, until you remember Franzen and Kronwall are back in the picture.

Maybe I like this scenario because I’m not a Williams fan. And maybe I like it because they’ve already traded him in the past. They may just do it again.

Scenario C:

May ($481,865) + Leino ($800,000) + Lebda ($650,000) = $1,931,865 (roster: 22)

I’m sure this is one a lot of people could get behind. Not my wife, who’s a big Lebda supporter, but all of his detractors. This one may be the most likely, which is unfortunate for those of us (Megan and I, and some others) who believe Lebda can be a strong third pairing guy given the right partner (i.e. not a rookie). I think Daniels is right and that the Wings will try not to move a defenseman, but if they are, Lebda’s salary may make bring him forward in Holland’s mind.

Scenario D:

May ($481,865) + Leino ($800,000) + Eaves ($500,000) + Miller ($413,472) = $2,195,337 (Roster: 21)

Yeah, this one’s a mixed bag, eh? Two players we’d love to be rid of and two players we’ve all grown attached to over the course of this screwball season. Two guys who’ve been bright spots through the crap. I hate this option. As I’ve already said, I want to be talking about Helm and Eaves for years to come. And Miller has really shown himself to be a great combination of incredible work ethic and surprising hand-eye coordination that has serious potential for some big goals over a career here. I really don’t want to see either of them traded or waived. Someone would claim them on the wire.

Scenario E:

May ($481,865) + Leino ($800,000) + Meech ($483,333) + Miller ($413,472) = $2,178,670 (Roster: 21)

If, as I hope, Holland finds Eaves too valuable, here’s a possibility. Of the two, Miller’s likely more expendable. And if Holland decides Lebda worth of sticking around, Meech could get the nod. I’ve felt for a while that Meech is a bit of a deadman in the organization as his development’s seemingly been mothballed and he’s been relegated to spare part status when he could have been a Quincey-level player. But he does come at a bargain-basement price and that makes him a handy asset to have.

Scenario X:

Chances are, Holland’s going to figure something out no one else thought of. That’s how he works. So in some days, this is a pointless exercise. But it’s definitely an interesting one.

Of course, it may turn out that Lilja’s can’t make it work.

What do you think?

(numbers via CapGeek).

Wings 4, Predators 2

Big Win: Yeah, this was huge. Sad that a regular season over Nashville has this kind of importance, but it does. They needed two points and they got them. Obviously, there were some things left to be desired in the execution, but hey, two points.

Jimmy: His outing had a lot of similarities to that famous LA game in that he made a crap load of saves but this time the bailing out was done by the posts rather than his teammates. That’s because, with the exception of Stuart on one play, they weren’t bailing anyone out defensively last night. But that’s another talking point for later.

So, anyway, there were what seemed to be like 6-7 post/puck interactions behind Jimmy Howard last night. And here’s where my takeaway from that differs from what I felt about the LA game: it’s my opinion that shots that hit the post are usually like 90% of the goalie’s positioning being such that the shorter had nowhere else to put it. I’m not sure how much that rule applied last night, because it seemed like a couple of them were a whole lot of Nashville incompetence, but the point is I feel Jimmy played better this time around.

I will say he was slow to get across on the Preds’ first.

Some folks are not doubt thinking today, “haha, Osgood couldn’t-a done that.” No kidding. Neither could Jimmy Howard cica. December 20, 2009. Jimmy’s able to put on shows like that because he’s been playing.

D: Would this be an appropriate grade to give the blueline for that effort? I think so. Can’t give them an F because of the win, but wow were there some serious moments of fail. The Wings as a team had a registered 18 giveaways to go with 6 Nashville takeaways. I don’t know the zone breakdown of those, but I would be shocked if the vast majority of them weren’t in their own end. Really poor defensive zone effort.

With the exception of Stuart, who managed to save a goal on the line the same time Jimmy was being majorly interfered with, just after Kronwall nearly had his face cut off by the guy’s skate.

Williams: I didn’t notice him all that much, but he scored a goal by showing a surprising nose for the net. Not a bad first game back after missing nearly half the season.

Miller: I thought he really made a case for himself last night with a strong game. He was right there on Williams’ goal and then had one of his own. Sad thing is, he might be making a case for himself to other teams. I hope the Wings can manage to keep him for sure.

Big Guns: Good to see Nick continue to roll offensively and it’s great to see Hank score like that, too.

Sunday: They need to finish this week with a win in Pittsburgh. Really. Do it.

Game Day Open Thread: vs. Nashville

So yeah, big game tonight. The Wings can move up to 8th with a win as the Flames are idle, and can move into a points tie with the Predators with a regulation win, though they’ve played more games and thus won’t take 7th. We’ve considered the other two games this week must-wins, but here’s one that is more quantifiably so.

Unfortunately, the Predators have lost their last four and you know what that means. Here’s hoping the Wings’ most annoying-ever trend doesn’t hold tonight, eh?

I’m not sure what’s going on with Detroit goaltending now. Babcock seemed understanding of Osgood’s less-than-stellar statistical output Wednesday and thus seemed possibly poised to give him another shot, but we’re going to see Jimmy tonight. Maybe it’s a rotation?

Good news: Brad Stuart’s okay and is expected to play. Bad news: even with Williams coming back, we still have to deal with May or Leino tonight, though (good news) it may only be for one more game. Worse news: Williams is back, which means no more Abdelkader. Good news: we now have someone else to frag in our commentary, which should mean less Bertuzzihate.

Again, big game tonight. The Wings should know that. Here’s hoping they act on it.

Also, be sure to stop by the hot new Herm 2 Hockeytown site today. Looks good, doesn’t it?

Wings Not Enough, Wild A Crap-load Too Many

Between work bleeding over into my lunch hour and a post-lunch staff meeting across town, I’m short on time. So this’ll be brief. Also, given the Wings’ effort last night, I’m not inclined to spend a lot of brain wattage on this one.

I wonder if I shouldn’t do my reaction headlines this way going forward. I’m caring a lot less about numbers as these things meld together. Getting numb.

Osgood: The Detroit media chose to single him out with headlines and body copy so I guess I’ll start there.

First off, I’ll say I’m glad he didn’t spout off afterwards. The “just gotta keep plugging away” nature of his comments would normally piss me off, but as they’re a step down from his attack-ad worthy crap from earlier, I’m okay with it.

Second, the implication from headlines written by editors at Booth Newspapers and the News that Osgood was responsible for this loss is idiotic at best. Let’s be clear: this was a crap effort all around, from the whole team. Osgood was hung out to dry by his teammates on at least three of five goals. Even Babcock admits that.

I will say I feel he was slow to move across the crease on the final two, but even those smacked of defensive breakdowns and poor support. The Wild had a strong gameplan based around quick puck movement and to the Wings’ uncredit, they did nothing to disrupt it.

Top line: Yeah, they were the best on the ice for the Wings. I shouldn’t have to highlight that. Or qualify it this way: “good” last night was relatively relative. They didn’t kick it into that extra gear the team needs from them. I’ll put an arbitrary number on it: they played at 90% of their dominance capacity. Not good enough at this stage in the season.

Stupid: This is a small matter in the events of last night, but I hate the target Bertuzzi wears on his jersey. Oh, you don’t see it? You must not be a ref. I used to think that 90% of his penalties were because of his own stupidity. After watching him this season, I’ve found that while he’s no hockey genius, he’s not a stupid hockey player. Rather, he gets jobbed by the refs’ unethical interest in calling him for every little thing he does and in turning a blind eye to everything done to him.

Whatever you and I as outsiders might think, Todd Bertuzzi paid the price for what he did as set by the NHL. It’s not up to the NHL’s men in black-and-white to make him pay every night for it. It’s sickening.

But remember, the Burrows incident told us nothing if it didn’t reinforce the fallacy that the refs are completely objective and completely infallible. Todd and whatever team has him will need to deal with that handicap for however long he plays.

It’s just still horse manure on the NHL’s part.

Stuart: So, it sounds like things may not be so bad with him after all, as Stuart was pulled out of the game as a precautionary measure when the game went out of reach in Babcock’s judgement. Implications of that sort of read on a game aside, we may be looking at some less negative news than usual.

Break: I said this on Twitter last night, but I’ll say it again: I really wish the Olympic Break was for everyone. The leaders on this team are the guys not getting it done right now and it’s clear to me that they need something like the sabbatical granted to Osgood last year. The guys that are getting it done, the Eaves, Helms, Millers, etc. of the team, don’t have the talent to take this team places. And they don’t need the break. The guys that do have the talent to take this team somewhere clearly aren’t in this season yet. What’s it going to take?

So: One of eight needed points has been obtained thus far this week. What’ll happen with the next four?