Posts tagged “Dallas Drake”

The shaking-out

Update (10:18 PM): Of course, as soon as I write that I’d like to see Mac take a two-way contract, the Windsor Star comes out with a report indicating he may not be willing to do so. Come on, Mac! I thought you loved GR. – Matt

Updated @ 10:00 PM – see end of post – Matt

The Lilja, Stuart, Conklin, and Hossa signings raise questions about the final makeup of the Wings’ roster. Here’s how I’m hoping it all shakes out:

To start, the Valtteri Filppula question. If anyone offers him $3+ million and he takes the offer, the Wings’ can’t stop him leaving. However, I like to think Fil would relish the thought of playing for the Cup again, particularly with a winger like Hossa. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see a problem there as long as he’s willing to accept $2.5 million or less from Detroit.

On the way out should be Dallas Drake, who ought to retire in order to make way for others. All indications seem to be that he’s going to hang them up while he’s on top. It’d be great to have him back, but there’s not a lot of room.

I’d love to see the Wings convince Darren McCarty to take two-way contract. It would be a move aimed at bringing in a physical presence if needed for the playoffs and would go a long way in boosting the popularity of hockey here in West Michigan. Mac can still bring it and would be valuble to have available.

I’d prefer they keep Aaron Downey around the main squad, but if it’s he who goes to GR, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. By all accounts, the guy is so good in the lockerroom that I don’t hesitate to overstate his role in the Cup win when I talk about the guy. If nothing else, I think they should make Downey Director of Team Morale or something.

Assuming Fil re-signs, Drake retires, and the enforcers split as outlined above, the Wings would end up with 12 forwards with settled statuses: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Marian Hossa, Dan Cleary, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Mikael Samuelsson, Jiri Hudler and Aaron Downey/Darren McCarty (with this guy sitting out more often than not).

I’ve seen a lot of reports stating they want to carry 13 forwards, so there’s a spot up for grabs. Personally, I’d love to see Darren Helm take it over Tomas Kopecky. The kid certainly earned it during the playoffs and would make the fourth line killer once again. However, his ability to return to the AHL without having to clear waives could mean he’ll be headed back to GR, unfortunately.

Another option for this spot is Ville Leino. Apparently, they want to bring the Finn over this season and not to play for Grand Rapids. He would face the very difficult proposition of beating out a Babcock favorite (Helm) and a good, skilled grinder (Kopecky). I can’t see that happening.

I’ve seen some talk about Justin Abdelkader, but I can’t see him cracking the lineup. He should go to Grand Rapids and get acclimated to professional hockey before he makes the leap. He’s going to be really fun to watch in GR this year, if that’s where he ends up.

On the defensive side, as I stated in the Hossa post, I think Kyle Quincey’s days as a Red Wing are over. There are a lot of fond memories of the kid from the 2007 playoffs floating around, but the fact is he’s not a very good skater and is not much on the offensive side. In other words, he’s not the prototypical Red Wings defenseman. He lacks the size to make up for those skill deficiencies in the way that Andreas Lilja does. He’s also got an apparent attitude problem. He’s got to be the odd man out in this situation. If they can’t swing a trade for picks or something, waive him.

As for Chris Chelios, as I wrote before, he’s going to have to decide for himself whether or not the very reduced role he’s facing will be acceptable. I’d love for him to come back because he brings so much to this team, but he’s certainly slowly being ushered out. I have a hard time seeing him doing anything but come back, though.

I know many fans can’t stand Lilja, but I’m a little more “eh” about the guy. He’s got an upside as a shot blocker and PKer. The guy is not here to carry the puck and make two-line passes. He’s not your typical Red Wing defenseman, but his size and physicality are meant to compensate. Obviously, his downside is that he has all-too-frequent and very visible gaffes. Still, I’m inclined to buy the argument of his few defenders that these mostly happen when he’s left out to dry by his more offensively-minded partners. If anything, he needs to improve his recovery skills. Anyway, unless he’s majorly beaten out in camp and the Wings look to trade him, Lilja’s one half of the third pairing, with Brett Lebda likely making up the other half.

I think Jonathan Ericsson is ready for an NHL job, but it won’t be this year unless he “pulls a Filppula” at training camp and forces his way onto the roster by being so good. The potential for him to be a hugely dominate AHL defenseman and the confidence that would arise from that makes sending him back to GR an attractive idea. I think he’s stronger mentally than Quincey in that it doesn’t seem likely he’ll have an off year as a result of coming down from the high of being a part of a long playoff run.

With Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Stuart, Lebda, and Lilja under contract and assuming Chelios signs, the Wings would be up to seven defensemen with an apparent interest in carrying eight. Unless Ericsson tears it up in camp, that spot should go to Derek Meech. Meech is NHL-ready and is out of options. I’d hate to see him forced off the team, so I hope they make a point of keeping him around. He, like Ericsson, is the future of the Detroit blueline.

Now to goaltending. Chris Osgood is the starter at this point, there’s no question. He’s arguably playing the best hockey of his career, so it’s his job to lose. The job of back-up is a little more up in the air, though not too high. Jimmy Howard is going to have to be stellar in camp to pass Ty Conklin in the depth chart. Or Conklin will have to be awful.

Personally, I’d rather Conklin be the guy on the bench recording faceoffs while Jimmy gets actual ice time in Grand Rapids. Howard needs to have at least one strong year in the AHL before he’ll be ready for the NHL and if he can play the majority of the season with the Griffins, he should have the stability necessary to do that. Conklin is a great insurance policy, as his record this past season for Pittsburgh indicates.

So to me the 2008-2009 Wings roster would ideally look something like this:

Samuelsson-Hudler-Helm ( or, more likely, Kopecky)







That’s my take on the situation. We’ll see how much of it happens!

One last question that obviously needs addressing at some point is who is going to replace Todd McLellan.

In any case, the Wings are poised to have another great season. Like last summer following the loss to the Ducks, I’m fully confident in their ability to go all the way. They appear to have all the tools in the right places once again.

Update (10:00 PM): I should add here that I think the chances of a Red Wings post-Cup hangover are slim. This team is too well-coached and too focused for that. They certainly aren’t counting their chickens before they’re hatched, you can bet on it.

So, my fellow fans, feel free to do some harmless counting of poultry while the team takes care of business like group of professionals they are. There’s no harm in our being excited about their chances. – Matt

I really can’t wait for hockey to start up again!

4/7 Notes

… The Wings wrapped up the 2007-2008 regular season with a 4-1 win over Chicago yesterday afternoon. There isn’t much to say about the game. The Hawks put up a fair fight, but were too shorthanded to do much, and the Wings were too businesslike to let the game get out of hand.

… We can hope that Jiri Hudler’s goal is a sign of more to come in the post-season. Darren McCarty’s feed on the goal may not become a regular event, but it looks like he’s rounding into form. Dominik Hasek’s performance also helped put to rest some doubts about his readiness for the playoffs.

… Two defensemen with minor injuries, Brian Rafalski (neck) and Chris Chelios (groin), sat out the game for rest purposes. Derek Meech filled in for Rafalski and Jonathan Ericsson was called up late to fill in for Chelios.

… Dallas Drake also had the game off, though apparenly not because of an injury. Justin Abdelkader subbed for the elder Wings forward.

… Tomas Holmstrom returned from a groin injury but wasn’t overwhelming.

… The Wings won the Jennings Trophy for fewest team goals-against, though not without some controversy. George Malik covers that here.

… Pavel Datsyuk finished with the best plus-minus in the NHL at +41. He still wasn’t mentioned during the NBC broadcast as a possible Selke candidate. The old stereotype of Pavel Datsyuk, the typically offensive Russian forward, persists.

Nick Lidstrom finished +40, by the way.

… is launching a re-design this week. It sounds like it’ll be pretty good

1/14 Notes

Update (11:05 PM): Be sure to read Pete’s well-thought-out followup post on the Trade Question. Nonetheless, I remain unenthusiastic about trade possibilities.

I guess part of my reluctance in this is due to my belief that too much tinkering (read: any tinkering) would mess up what’s already a good thing. The Wings can always try to “trade up,” I suppose, but why? I’m in basic agreement with HockeyTownTodd on this (from the comments):

I am reluctant to play wannabe GM, and think the Wings should stand pat. The girl should dance with the guy who brought her to the prom.

As long as the Wings are healthy, why would they want to risk screwing up team chemistry for what may only be marginal potential gain? – Matt

Update (10:40 PM): I feel I should clarify my position on the Blake/Lebda/Meech thing. As I said below, I think the argument that the Wings will look to improving their defense at the deadline makes sense, given the consequences of injuries last post-season. That said, I don’t know that a move is really all that necessary.

Derek Meech has played in a grand total of nine games for the Wings this season. In those nine games, he put up zero point. So the kid hasn’t dazzled offensively. But what do you expect? He’s a rookie in the NHL with a precarious spot on one of the deepest teams in the game. It’s perfectly understandable if he plays a conservative game in his position. Heck, it’s probably demanded of him.

He’s minus-2 and that may not be impressive, but this is: he’s taken zero penalties. For comparison’s sake, Kyle Quincey had zero penalty minutes through six games with the Wings in the regular season last year, and just two through 13 playoff games. I’ve frequently seen Quincey touted as a rock-solid young defenseman and part of the reason for that was his conservative play. Why doesn’t Meech get the same credit?

When Meech has been in the lineup, I generally only notice him the first time I see his #14 and think “Shanny…” In my experience, hardly noticing a young defenseman is a good thing. I don’t think Meech is an exception to that rule. There’s no need for him to be flashy or to “show anything.” He just has to do his job, and I think he’s done it pretty well for someone relegated to a practice drone.

There are far worse things than having Derek Meech as a seventh defenseman. A way to improve the situation would be to get him in the lineup more often in the second half. Give Chris Chelios a rest more often. Bench Andreas Lilja after a bad game in order to motivate him. Another “conditioning stint”(I’m told Derek has been “awesome” in his brief return to Grand Rapids, by the way. He should re-join the team late this week.). Whatever it takes to get him some playing time. Then Meech will gain the confidence he needs to stand out more. He’s not going to put up huge numbers, but he’s more than capable of being a solid, steady depth defenseman.

That said, I did write below that, “The team may be better off including Derek Meech in such a trade.” Of course, there I meant relative to trading Brett Lebda, whose upside is greater than Meech’s. I certainly didn’t mean to imply I think they should trade Meech. I’m not a fan of the idea of trading either of them, though if I had to choose, Meech would be the one to go.

My point is this: The Wings can go get a veteran (such as Keith Carney, as suggested by Todd below) if they feel they must and that they can get a good deal. It probably can’t hurt (they’re generally good at finding players that fit with team chemistry). But they also can stick with what they have and probably do okay as well, assuming everyone stays healthy. – Matt

Bruce MacLeod, George Sipple, and Ansar Khan report that Dallas Drake missed practice today due to a knee injury sustained on the same collision in which Ottawa’s Dany Heatley separated his shoulder. The collision happened around the 3:42 mark of the third period Saturday night and was the last time Heatley saw the ice.

Drake, however, was able to play two more shifts before hitting the bench for the final time at 11:21, finishing with just under seven and a half minutes. Drake has started to get less time since the return of Kirk Maltby, so the low TOI wasn’t necessarily due to his knee. He is, however, questionable for the game against Atlanta tomorrow night, though Mike Babcock told Sipple that he thinks Drake will be available.

… All three beat writers also note that a possible replacement for Drake in the lineup, Aaron Downey, hurt his knee in practice when he fell and hyper-extended it. He  did return, though, and seemed none the worse for wear. According to MacLeod, he shared time with Matt Ellis skating on the fourth line.

… According to MacLeod, the team “spent significant time” practicing their power play today. That’s good news as they’ve been pretty ineffective with the man-advantage for a while now. MacLeod has a good piece on that topic here.

… Ansar Khan addresses the Trade Question by claiming Rob Blake would be a better acquisition than Mats Sundin. He presents a good argument, though I wonder if Blake isn’t at the end of the road at 38. He would, as Khan points out, be cheaper than Sundin, though. He’d also fill in an actual need (making the defensive corps an experienced seven), whereas the Swede would be somewhat extraneous on a team already full of forwards.

Pete at yzerman is god is all for Blake and outlines a possible trade scenario involving Brett Lebda.

I have to say that I’d hate to see that happen. As Pete points out, that would probably result in a third pairing of Andreas Lilja and Chris Chelios. Whereas Pete considers that an upgrade over Chelios/Lebda, I’d call it a nightmare. The two slowest defensemen in the same pair? One of the reasons Chelios remains so effective is that he has a smooth skating partner in Lebda. The same goes for Lilja with Lidstrom.  Put them together and they’ll both be relegated to pylon status.

Sure Lebda doesn’t have the size. Sure he’s not producing offensively like he should be. But his speed and skating ability alone makes him worth keeping.

The team may be better off including Derek Meech in such a trade. It would go a long way in clearing the logjam and would give the kid an actual chance to play in the NHL.

Who knows, though, whether the Wings will actually look to Blake to fill out their defense? It stands to reason that they’d want to shore up against injuries this time around, as losing Mathieu Schneider while already down Niklas Kronwall was probably the single biggest reason they were eliminated, but Blake may not be their man. Holland likes to go for guys few people were expecting and the more I hear the Blake rumor, the less I’ll believe it.

… Lastly, the Thrashers are pumped to be visiting Detroit tomorrow night.

11/6 Post-practice Update

Bruce MacLeod, Ansar Khan, Helene St. James, and Ted Kulfan all report that Chris Osgood will be the starter tomorrow night against the Predators while Dominik Hasek will make his return from an aggravated hip Friday versus the Blue Jackets.

… MacLeod is the only one of the beat writers to go beyond the goalie story and report on other items of interest from practice. First of all, he reaffirms that Niklas Kronwall won’t be back Wednesday. Good to know (and to be reminded yet again of how injury prone Nik is).

He then suggests that Jiri Hudler could be a healthy scratch tomorrow, given that he’s been working with the first and second lines all week and hasn’t had reps with the fourth line, to which he was supposedly demoted Sunday. MacLeod’s suggestion is given added weight by the fact that Aaron Downey, Dallas Drake, and Matt Ellis have been the first group of forwards to represent the fourth line in drills lately, and that at the expense of Tomas Kopecky.

Assuming MacLeod’s speculation is correct, it looks like Babcock is gearing up for a physical showdown with the Predators by dumping some offense in exchange for toughness. I still think Hudler’s getting the shaft because he’s shown himself capable of playing against physical teams, but it does make sense to put the biggest and grittiest guys in there against a Nashville team that no doubt will be running and gunning for the Wings’ top line.

If Babcock does make these changes, it’ll be one of those rare instances in which the Wings throw down the gauntlet on physicality. I like it, despite the fact that I think it’s grossly unfair to Hudler.

10/29 Injury Update

I was wrong in my assessment yesterday: both Ansar Khan and Helene St. James report that Johan Franzen and Dallas Drake will return to the lineup tomorrow night in Edmonton. Their return will come at the expense of Matt Ellis and Aaron Downey, who Babcock told Khan would be scratched. Sucks for those two, but their positions on the team are replacements, so I guess it isn’t really that big a surprise that they’d get pushed out once everyone’s healthy. Apparently, Franzen will center the fourth line with Drake and Tomas Kopecky on the wings.

Neither Niklas Kronwall (groin) nor Dominik Hasek (hip) practiced so they won’t be back tomorrow night.  So, Chris Osgood should get another start, and Derek Meech will get another game under his belt.

10/22 Drake Update

Helene St. James reports that Dallas Drake will miss at least the next two games with a broken cheekbone. He’ll be checked out again on Friday, but it looks like he’ll be available for the road trip next week. It looks, then, like this will be the week for Igor Grigorenko to find a way into the lineup, probably over Aaron Downey. As soon as Drake returns, there’ll only be one open spot and Matt Ellis has that one pretty well locked down. Personally, I’d rather Downey continue to dress until Drake returns, but that’s just me.

10/19 Injury Update

Update (4:55 PM): This isn’t an injury per se, but Helene St. James, in her post about Drake and Rafalski, mentions that Henrik Zetterberg took a puck to the eye during warmups. Apparently, one of his shots rebounded off Osgood into his face. So, if you’re wondering why he has a black eye and stitches, that’s the reason. – Matt

Update (4:45 PM): Bruce MacLeod’s post on the subject has an important corrective to Khan’s in it: he reports that Drake’s cheekbone is broken. Evidently, the checkup on Monday will be to determine his playing status, not whether or not he has a fracture. – Matt

Ansar Khan reports that Dallas Drake has been sent back to Detroit, where he’ll rest up for the weekend before undergoing tests on Monday to determine the status of his cheekbone, which may be broken. Mikael Samuelsson (groin) will return to the lineup Saturday in Phoenix to fill in the gap left by Drake.

Khan also says that Rafalski is “fine.” Apparently, he sat out the end of the game because of a knee-on-knee hit by Joe Thornton. If he really is fine, he’s fortunate, as is the team.