Posts filed under “The Team”

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.

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.

On Last-Minute Goals Against

We were with non-Wingnut family during the game yesterday so we only caught the last few minutes.

It was enough to see Joakim Andersson nearly stop the tying goal from behind Jimmy Howard. My initial reaction to the replay was of course disappointment that the break had gone the Kings’ way. Then it hit me: “why was Andersson out there?”

I’ve checked the play-by-play and there wasn’t a faceoff that I forgot about. Andersson was sent over the boards at 18:45 in live play, closing in on the final minute of a one-goal game. He was replacing Valtteri Filppula and joining Abdelkader and Miller, who had already been out there 43 seconds by that point. The Kings were pressing.

This is a kid with 7 NHL games under his belt. A good kid, who has done pretty well for himself with the Griffins. But not a kid who has any business being on the ice in the final minute of a one-goal game.

Guys like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg had been off the ice for nearly 1:20 at that point. That’s who you send out if you can manage a one-player swap when the opposition is pressuring.

These are the moments where I don’t understand Mike Babcock. I understand his interest in testing people in higher pressure situations, which is why you put Brian Lashoff on the penalty kill pretty much right off the bat after he gets called up. But the final minute of a one-goal game is when you put out guys that can hack it. It’s not the time to test a rookie.

That Jonathan Ericsson won the game with a trickle-through with 4 seconds left does not validate this strategy. That’s just luck.

Thank You, Homer

By now, you have to have seen the Tomas Holmstrom retirement presser. If not, here it is. It’s definitely the best of the recent Red Wings retirement press conferences.

It’s just not going to be the same without Homer around. I consider him to be one of the most important Wings of his era, despite the fact that he wasn’t a great skater or of much value on the defensive side of the puck. He was the focal point of the offense for years and we’ll be talking about who will be replacing him on the power play for years, I’m sure. It won’t happen, but I would not argue if his number were to be retired.

Because nobody’s going to come close to what he did every night. No one will be able to match the commitment and tolerance level he showed out front. Nicklas Lidstrom wasn’t the only once-in-a-generation player the Wings have lost to retirement, even if he was on a whole other level. I wonder if Homer was able to have such an unemotional presser because he truly knows he left it all on the ice.

Thank you a great career, Homer—good luck going forward!

1/20 Injury Update

Correction (9:31 PM): Per Chuck Pleiness, Ericsson’s injury is from practice, not the game, and Gustavsson’s injury is more of a typical early-season thing for him. - Matt

Ansar Khan has info on injuries from last night that go beyond Jan Mursak’s shoulder: Jonathan Ericsson and Jonas Gustavsson both suffered injuries of their own.

Gustavsson has a sore groin and is out two games. Thomas McCollum has been recalled. I hope that’s simply as a goaltender bench ornament because probably falls short of his potential even in charting faceoffs. Here’s hoping Jimmy doesn’t pull his groin, too.

This kind of thing is bound to happen with the short camp and non-existent pre-season. Another thing to thank the Lockout for.

Meanwhile, Jonny stepped on a puck, fell into the boards and tweaked his shoulder. Can’t blame that on the Lockout; that’s just Jonny. He calls himself questionable for the game tomorrow.

On the plus side, Jakub Kindl declared himself ready to go if necessary, though how true that is of course does not depend on him. The Wings may just have Jonny suck it up.

Khan does have an update on the result of Jan Mursak’s trip into the boards courtesy of David “Hit-In-The” Backes: it could have him out for a few weeks.

That opens up a spot for Patrick Eaves, who hasn’t played since November 2011, which is great for Patrick, but not so much for fans hoping for a Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar recall.

One Swede Steps Forward, Another Recedes

Reports by Captain Obvious masquerading as various Detroit media personalities indicate that Henrik Zetterberg will be the next captain and that Tomas Holmstrom will retire.

Z getting the C has been the assumption since Lidstrom retired months ago. Still, it’s nice to get this semi-official (but unsourced) confirmation, even if it’s a reminder of strangeness of two formerly embattled sides coming back together like nothing happened. Congrats, though, Hank. Lead on!

As for Holmstrom, it’ll be a sad day for the organization when the official announcement is made. I’ll always consider him to have been a major cog in the Big Red Machine and a key to its success over the years. He’s been the point of the spear for so long, even if he’d gotten a little duller recently, so his absence will be felt. Formal goodbyes to come when the day comes, Tomas.

Fortunately, Mike Babcock and Co. have had a lot of time to prepare for this.

By the way, anyone notice anything mission from the media reports on these two stories? Nothing about anonymous sources in the organization…just reported as fact. A little different.