Posts by Matt Saler

On Legwand, Jarnkrok and Hope

The Wings addressed to some degree the injury-induced hole at center yesterday by acquiring David Legwand from Nashville. Legwand has 41 career points against the Wings in 69 games and so is a bit of a Wings killer (though his 61 in 70 against Chicago make him more of a Blackhawks killer). Here’s hoping he can convert some of that magic to the right side. He had an NTC with Nashville, so he wants to be here, but the fact his contract ends this summer makes him a rental.

So we have to look at the price of that rental period. He comes at the cost of Patrick Eaves, a conditional pick (2nd if the Wings make the playoffs, 3rd if they don’t) and the Wings’ top center prospect Calle Jarnkrok. As attached as I was to Eaves, I have to admit he’s interchangeable with a lot of guys in the league so I’m not hugely torn up about that. Legwand is on paper an upgrade. Where I do have an issue with this deal is the other two components: the pick and Jarnkrok.

First, the pick. Ken Holland calls this a shallow draft, which I’m sure is true. Still, I’m not as comfortable throwing picks at rentals as I once was. The Wings no longer have the main roster quality they used to have. In the good old glory days, throwing picks around was no big deal—with a roster full of deservedly entrenched veterans or direct-to-NHL younger dudes, prospects were more like something other teams used than anything the Wings needed in the short term.

Now, though, the main roster is not nearly as deep. The Wings have lost more franchise-best players in the past few years than they’ve gained potential follow-ups. Maybe that pick turns into a big nothingburger, but I still have to ask if David Legwand is worth throwing a potential second round pick away like it’s nothing. The Wings are a playoff bubble team right now so maybe it’s a more pessimistic calculation than we’d like to think, but still.

Then there’s Jarnkrok. Twitter was abuzz with word that he was already getting squirrelly despite only being 57 games into his first full season in North America at the AHL level. There are some clear entitlement issues there. But entitlement issues and organizational pipeline hopelessness issues are not mutually exclusive.

That same situation mentioned above, the good old glory days of a log-jammed roster of quality, has led at times to the Wings having kids get overripe and wither on the vine. Clearly, so early in his North American career, Jarnkrok could have been more patient, but we all know the Wings have that problem at times. This season, with the injury plague as it is, we’ve seen the Wings necessarily lean on young kids, but the key word there is necessarily. There’s no way Riley Sheahan would have spent so much time in the NHL without those injuries, but apart from the fact of those lost man-games to some of the more important players on the team, do we really regret that?

The Wings have put guys like Samuelsson, Cleary and Bertuzzi ahead of their younger players and it has for some guys created an apparent sense that they don’t have a real shot at the NHL. Not everyone has the patience of Tomas Tatar and nor should they. They’re in this to play at the highest level and for those that have the talent, they need to see a road ahead of them to that goal or it’s a serious morale killer.

It seems like the Wings still need to make the adjustment themselves to this new era, where youth is more important than it used to be, even if raw. Maybe Jarnkrok could have gotten a game in the NHL due the injury situation—maybe he would have realized he didn’t have what it takes yet and it would have sparked him to work harder at the AHL level. Who knows.

Obviously, the Predators think they can convince him to stay. He seems to be the main goal of that deal for them. If they can offer him a path to the NHL, I have to wonder why the Wings couldn’t have.

Another Old Timer Leaves the Scene

Bill’s hanging them up after nearly 9 years at the helm of A2Y.

It’s difficult to imagine a Wings blogosphere without A2Y, even without the reduced presence it’s had in recent seasons. I remember when Bill started up—he changed the game in the early ‘sphere. His writing brought together a community of the most dedicated fans you’ll find anywhere. Through that community and its offshoots, many people have formed lasting friendships they otherwise never would have had (I mean, H2H never would have happened—can you imagine?). A2Y has been a big deal in the lives of so many. I’m sad to see Bill make official what’s been sort of telegraphed for a while—but changing the game to the degree he did means leaving a lasting impression. That won’t go away any time soon.

Thanks for a lot of great years, Bill—stay safe and stay in touch.

A maybe relevant side note regarding this blog’s status: I’m not done yet, though it may feel that way with multiple months between posts. Life has just not allowed room for posting like I used to or for following the team like I used to so far this season. I’m working my way back into the groove, though, and hope to get back to regular posting (and game tweeting) soon.

Wings Make Big Free Agent Push

The Wings signed Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss on the first day of the open free agent market yesterday, upgrading their forward corps even while letting Valtteri Filppula, and likely Daniel Cleary and Damien Brunner, walk.

The Alfredsson signing has the potential to be a more offensively-oriented Dallas Drake acquisition, as Alfredsson is highly motivated to win his first championship in the final days of his career. Not highly-motivated enough to take a more minor cap hit, perhaps, but still—I don’t have him pegged as a Mike Modano redux.

I don’t know a ton about Stephen Weiss, but the expert consensus seems to be he’ll be the quality second line center the Wings were looking for with Filppula’s departure. He was their main target on the market, so whatever you think of that emphasis over, say, Mikhail Grabovski, it’s cool to see them actually achieve a goal (in contrast with last summer).

Losing Filppula hurts—I’m always more attached to former Griffins. But he’s been a bit of a disappointment. The Wings were definitely a better team when he was in the lineup, but he seemed to have plateaued. I’m not sure what Yzerman is thinking indulging his financial demands, especially given his former position as a Red Wings exec on the inside track of Fil’s development. I feel a bit like this is another Lapointe departure and that’s a bummer.

On the other hand, the Wings made big veteran free agent moves that summer and it turned out pretty well, if you recall. So it may not be all bad.

And losing Brunner hurts a little too. I would have been happier if he’d kept his demands reasonable and stuck around. But I just need to remember that he couldn’t crack the top six consistently on this team, so it may not be a great loss. I have serious doubts about his ability to produce elsewhere. We’ll see.

Cleary’s still being pursued by the Wings, but I’m not entirely sure why. He’s been one of my favorites for years, but he’s so beat up his effectiveness has taken a nose-dive. If he wants to continue playing, he’s a warrior, but I’d rather his lineup spot go to someone not about to fall apart. So if the Wings don’t make a deal, it’ll be okay.

So, two big forward signings and the Wings’ D is unchanged. That’s not great, but there’s a chance some of the forward moves necessary to get under the roster limit could help with that. The signings boost the Wings’ chances in the Flortheast Division and could set them up for a trade deadline final piece-type move, but upgrading the defense somehow has to be a goal of this off-season.

Three More Years of Datsyuk

On top of the year remaining on his current contract. Pavel announced today that he and the team have come to an agreement on a three-year extension. He can’t put pen to paper until July 5th, but this is the next thing to officially official.

It’s reportedly worth $22.5 million, $10 million of which would be his in the first year. At a team-high cap hit of $7.5 million, it is a vote of confidence in Datsyuk, who will be 38 when this deal runs out. But barring an injury that turns him into a shadow of himself, I wouldn’t expect his play to drop off so far in that span that it wouldn’t have been worth going with this deal in 2013.

So, as far as gambles go, this is a good one, though there is certainly room for criticism. But I’m not personally worked up over it. While this is a higher-than-usual (likely) last contract, Pavel Datsyuk is not latter-days Steve Yzerman, where his value is measured mostly in legacy overhead and leadership rather than production.

If he takes a completely unexpected nosedive or blows up his knee or something, we can all ream Ken Holland for not foreseeing the future of one of the league’s current best players.

But that would be kind of ridiculous, because if everybody operated under that level of suspicion of the future, there would be no deals longer than a year in sports. All Holland can do is factor his age into the “Datsyuk = really freaking good” equation. It should surprise no-one who’s watched his career the outcome is “still likely to be.”

Still, the future finance question is there.

Which is why we can thank the owners for putting a cap-shaped shadow on what should be a day of unfettered celebration: the Wings have the core locked up through 2017. That’s not quite enough, as this year’s failed (yet valuable from an experience standpoint) run demonstrated, but it’s a very good start.

Oh, and I wonder if any of the Griffins playing in the Calder Cup Finals will get to benefit from three additional years of Datsyuk.


This team, with this run, is making me a believer in Mike Babcock again. After a season where I wasn’t sure what to think about this group, except kind of depressing thoughts, and where I was (unfairly) pretty sure Babcock’s time had maybe run out, I’m now stunned to find them up 3-1 on a Blackhawks team that looked like an unbeatable juggernaut before the series.

This group doesn’t quite have the buy-in to the system that the 2008 team had, but this is coaching. It’s Babcock. He has them playing with an edge that is driving the Hawks nuts and they’re keeping their cool that’s exemplified by Z’s complete non-reaction to Toews’ slashing start to that Penalty Trick. There are gaps, but as long as they continue to drive opponents crazy, this could turn into something really good.

If I were anybody on another NHL team, I wouldn’t want to face the Detroit Red Wings right now.

I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Babs.

Jekyll, Hyde

Last night was another of the Wings’ upswings this season, a game where they demonstrate that when they’re determined, they can be very hard to beat. It’s the kind of game that makes their downswings incomprehensible.

Contrast the absurdity of Game 3 with last night’s third period and overtime. It boggles the mind that we’re talking about the same team. Saturday night, the Wings were hapless suckers that looked like they didn’t belong in the playoffs. Last night, after a couple meh periods, they had the Ducks playing with a kind of ridiculous desperation as they poured on the puck possession, and had non-Wings fans on Twitter buzzing about how great the game was.

It’s kind of infuriating. Where’s that determination on a consistent basis? I love the upswings, but I want more of them.

Which team will we see tomorrow night? Jekyll or Hyde?

You know the pattern—here’s hoping they break it.