Posts tagged “Opinion”

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:

Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Holmstrom
Franzen-Filppula-Hossa
Cleary-Draper-Maltby
Samuelsson-Hudler-Helm ( or, more likely, Kopecky)
Downey

Lidstrom-Rafalski
Kronwall-Stuart
Lilja-Lebda
Chelios
Meech

Osgood
Conklin

GR:

Leino
McCarty

Ericsson

Howard

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!

From Rule 85

85.1 Puck Out of Bounds (PDF):

… Should the puck strike the spectator netting at the ends and the corners of the arena, play shall be stopped and the ensuing face-off shall be determined as if the puck went outside the playing area. However, if the puck striking the spectator netting goes unnoticed by the on-ice officials, play shall continue as normal and resulting play with the puck shall be deemed a legitimate play. Players must not stop playing the game until they hear the whistle to do so.

My emphasis.

Discussion added (01. Mar, 12:28 AM): So that’s the rule. Fine. That doesn’t make it a good rule.

As Bruce MacLeod wrote, the key to the whole thing was the lack of noise. How four officials missed the lack of any sound such as the puck hitting glass is beyond me.

How is it that the puck is deflected high, over the glass so that it bulges the netting, falls back to the ice, and gets put in the net while four on-ice officials stand apparently oblivious to what’s going on around them?

Actually, the referee in the corner (I did not catch his number) was apparently not quite oblivious: he actually brought his whistle halfway to his mouth before letting his hand drop as the puck returned to view. If he intended to stop the play, wasn’t that puck dead under the accepted interpretation of Rule 32.2? Why didn’t he follow through on the motion? Was he not surprised that the puck fell to the ice after a noticeable delay?

The fact that both referees were experienced officials makes their blunder all the more disappointing. According to the NHL Officials Association website, Tom Kowal is an seven-year veteran with over 321 NHL regular season games under his belt. Paul Devorski has been officiating since 1989 and has appeared in over 1041 NHL regular season and 116 playoff games. That both missed the puck hitting the net is inexcusable.

I don’t want to get too hung up on a goal in a game in which the Sharks by and large dominated. However, what happened on that goal is shameful and an embarrassment to the NHL. It’s analogous to an NFL running back going out of bounds and then back in bounds on a touchdown play and every official on the field somehow missing it. Tell me people wouldn’t be justifiably upset.

What makes it worse is that there is no review on a play like that. As the rule says, any play following the striking of the netting by the puck that goes unnoticed by the referee is legitimate. That has to change when it leads directly to a goal. How can it still be considered a legitimate goal when the puck technically left the playing area?

In my opinion, the NHL should allow for the review of suspicious goals. Make it the job of the old goal judges to determine if a goal was scored under suspicious circumstances. If not the goal judges, allow the coaches of the team to challenge the goal.

Set up a checklist that includes looks at offsides, goaltender interference, high sticking, kicking motions, whistle blowing (intended or actual), the possibility that the puck went under the net or through the side, and possibility that the puck hit the netting. If any of those things occur during the offensive zone attack leading to the goal, it should be disallowed.

Giving the officials an out like Rule 85 currently does is just silly. Blowing a rule interpretation on goaltender interference is one thing. If they make a mistake on something such as rink boundaries or clearly definable lines, that’s another. That sort of thing is not open to interpretation. It’s pretty cut-and-dry, and video evidence can correct a mistake.

It’s easy to complain about the goal as the reason the Wings lost. However, they had plenty of time to stage a comeback and wouldn’t have been in that position had they not allowed the Sharks to dominate them in their own zone all night. Although the goal turned out to be the game winner, it’s not the real reason the Wings lost. They were outplayed, once again.

However, I point the goal out because I believe the League should make the easy rule change. Use modern technology. Eliminate cheap goals like that. Give your officials some support so they don’t have to bear the brunt of the fans’ ire for blowing a call that could be overturned by video evidence.

Hartnell suspended two games

This isn’t strictly Wings-related, but I had to point it out: all-around goon/punk Scott Hartnell (my fellow Central Division fans know what I’m talking about) has been suspended a mere two games for this vicious hit on Boston’s Andrew Alberts:

I’m sorry, but two games? What a joke. What is it going to take for the NHL to take this stuff seriously? Maybe when some minor league call-up forth-line three-minute-a-game Neanderthal destroys Sidney Crosby’s career. Maybe when Alexander Ovechkin gets decapitated on one of his high-speed rushes. Who knows? Let’s all pray no one gets killed one of these nights.

How long are we fans going to tolerate this crap? The League seems to think that just because a guy like Alberts isn’t an “A-list” superstar that it’s okay to give the perpetrator a slap on the wrist. Is it okay? I don’t think so. I love the game and I love the NHL, but if the League doesn’t take measures to more severely punish players who take liberties with their peers such as Hartnell did, I’ll have a hard time remaining a fan.

The solution to all the NHL’s problems?

Slate‘s Nate DiMeo has it: a European soccer league-style team promotion/demotion system involving the NHL and minor leagues such as the AHL, ECHL and WHL. One problem (among many): hockey’s minor leagues are not like European lower leagues.

Let’s say the League institutes this policy, demotes the Chicago Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues and promotes the Grand Rapids Griffins to the NHL. Those same Griffins that conceivably would propell their team to the NHL are also members of the Detroit Red Wings. Can you see the problem there?

Even if there is a minor league team that could compete on the NHL level (a debatable point), such a team would be composed of players owned by a team against which they’d be competing. How, exactly, would that work?

For an outsider like DiMeo to walk up and suggest to say that the NHL could rotate out the bottom feeders in favor of the best teams from the minor leagues is all well and good. But such a suggestion ignores the realities of the system already set up and the fact that implementation would require a massive overhaul of the League’s feeder system. This idea is even less likely than straight contraction and we all know it’ll be a cold day in a very hot place before that happens.

One last point: it was a lockout, Mr. DiMeo, not a strike.

Cheaptshots 101: Brought to You by the Calgary Goons…er, Flames

This is another joint post by Sarah and Megan.

If you missed this game, you missed one of the most exciting and at the same time bizarre games in recent history. In this series, as well as in the regular season, games in Detroit have followed a pattern. The Wings score first, and Calgary loses their composure. This is what we expected tonight, and Calgary did not disappoint. In fact, they went further than anyone expected. The Wings resolved their special team woes in the second period, with two shorthanded goals and a PP goal. This did not sit well with the Calgary Flames. So they went into the locker room and devised a master plan: Take out everyone in a Red Wings jersey, and then win the came by forfeit. As least, that’s the way it kind of seemed. The unraveling really began with an encounter between Lebda and Langkow. Lebda delivered a low hipcheck to Langkow, which caused Langkow to flip over Brett’s back, sending both of them to the ice. Langkow rolled over, lifted up Brett by the back of his jersey and sucker punched Lebda in the face. This was not a weak little love tap. He pulled back and hit Lebda with all the force he could muster. It was reminiscent of Tootoo’s gloved punch to Robidas. Lebda suffered a concussion as a result of the cheapshot, and was also assessed a minor penalty for clipping. When the camera first went back to the play, Langkow looked seriously injured. Upon replay, we see that he was able to lift Lebda up, punch him, and hold on to him before he curled up in the fetal position. Also, Langkow finished the game and did not receive a penalty for the play. If there is any justice in this league whatsoever, Langkow will be suspended for this disgusting display of cowardice and goonery.

Langkow was not the only Flame worthy of suspension. In fact, the most worthy candidate played only 18 seconds in the game. The Wings scored their fifth goal at 15:42. At this point, we were wondering why they wouldn’t just pull Kipper to give the guy a break. After all, he does have to play tomorrow and he had just given up five goals. In fact, they left Kipper in for another minute, until Primeau took a slashing penalty. Apparently, they weren’t pleased with Primeau’s technique, so the sent out McLennan to show us all how the pros do it. As soon as the first unsuspecting Red Wing (Franzen) was within reach, he began slashing. He delivered two slashes to the back of Franzen’s legs, for which the Referee immediately signaled a delayed penalty. As soon as the whistle blew, he slapped at the puck in anger, and then delivered a nasty two-hander to Franzen’s midsection as he coasted by.

“It doesn’t belong in hockey,” said Franzen, who said the slash shocked him more than it hurt. (via AP)

Franzen fell to the ice as the jaws of the entire audience (including us) collectively dropped. McLennan was given the original two minutes for slashing, five minutes for intent to injure, and a game misconduct. Pretty impressive for 18 seconds of play. We’ve all heard of sending out the goons in the closing minutes of a losing game. We never expected this goon to come in the form of a back-up goaltender. There is little question in our mind that McLennan will receive a suspension. When you look at the situation, he kind of looks like a fall guy. Whether he sits on the bench or not really has no impact on the Flames. So why not send him out as the goon? This whole move is very suspicious. If they were gonna pull Kipper after the fifth goal, why didn’t they do it right away? Why did they wait a full minute, until they had handed the Wings another PP? It seems to be the consensus among Wings fans, as well as hockey media, that McLennan was sent out there with a mission. We are told that he was out there to send a message to the Wings to stay out of their crease. If this is the case, he should have gone after his own defensemen. Apparently the Flames are blind to the fact that every time a Wing was in the crease or made contact with Kipper, it was because he had been shoved there by a Flames defenseman. Case in point: Maltby. Kirk was avoiding the goaltender, then got sandwiched between two Flames who pushed him into their goaltender. Matlby was slapped with goaltender interference and a goal was wiped out. Luckily, we scored a lot more, so this incident kind of fades into the background.

If you thought the madness was over once McLennan was thrown out, you were sorely mistaken. No way is the Flames fearless leader gonna be shown up by some backup goaltender. He also picked out the nearest man in a Winged Wheel. Iginla slashed Mathieu Schneider in the Wings defensive zone. He then followed Schneider up to center ice, where he proceeded to spear him with the butt of his stick. This did not cause Schneider to fall over, nor did it slow him down at all. So, Iggy had to take more drastic measures. How about a cross check to the lower back? Yup, that sounds like Iginla. Here’s where we would like to point out that Schneider was nowhere near the puck, nor was he involved in the play. His crime was apparently skating on the ice, which apparently belongs to Iginla. Jarome was assessed a hooking minor and a cross-checking minor.

It’s no wonder Calgary is so quick to lose their composure. And it’s no wonder they are so immature, given that they are lead by Jarome Iginla. Apparently Mr. Iginla subscribes to the Slapshot version of hockey. After game four, there was already a question of Iginla’s integrity. At the end of this game, and in his comments after the game, he showed his true colors. He was left on the ice purely and admittedly to start fights.

“It was really about getting some fights going at that point to keep our energy up and carry some anger into the next game,” Iginla said with several new stitches over his left eye. “We’re not going away.” (via TSN)

He is actually proud of the fact that his team made fools of themselves on national television. Sound like someone you want leading your team? This right here is proof that the whole thing was premeditated. Going out and trying to injure guys or just fighting just because you’re losing sends only one message: this is a team of cowards. Rather than save some dignity, they would prefer to “take some anger” into game six. Really, the only people they’ve succeeded in making angry are their own fans. Wings fans are just laughing, and Babcock is probably still trying to make sense of the whole thing. Franzen hit it on the nose when he said that this kind of play has no place in hockey.

After a display like this, the league should punish the offenders. Will they? Most likely not. At least not all of them. They will suspend McClennan if they have any sense. This is too close to the Chris Simon incident and too blatant to ignore. The popular number here is ten games, and that sounds about right to us. Langkow really, really should be suspended for at least two games. Whether or not he will be is up in the air. Iginla deserves a game in the press box because of the stick-butting and the bad cross check. It is very likely that he will not be suspended. On top of these suspensions, Playfair should be getting a hefty fine.

Overall, it was a wild game. The Wings showed that they are not only the better team, they are by far the classier team. The Wings refused to allow Calgary’s late-game antics get under their skin and kept their composure like the veterans they are. The difference between the two clubs is clearly displayed in their leadership. Lidstrom’s class and Iginla’s lack thereof. Hasek’s comment really sums it up:

“I was really disappointed. Not a little, but a lot,” Hasek said. “Their goalie, what he did and Iginla, he’s the captain of the team and should be in charge.” (via TSN)

Rosenberg on Babcock

The Freep’s Michael Rosenberg has come out from under his rock and posted a column on Mike Babcock in which he demonstrates that he, like most columnists, is all fluff and no substance, particularly when it comes to a sport they know nothing about. How else would someone be able to mention Johnny Depp, The Pirates of the Caribbean, and Edward Scissorhands (Rosenberg’s way of saying you can’t predict the future based on past performance) in something ostensibly related to hockey? Or, for that matter, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston, and Angelina Jolie (Rosenberg’s way of describing the hiring of Babcock and the firing of Dave Lewis).

Of course, the basic premise of Rosenberg’s column is strictly true: we don’t know anything about what’s going to happen in this series. Still, I think we can draw conclusions based on the Wings’ performance in the regular season and to me, the conclusion is that this team is different than last year’s. You say, “No kidding, it’s different.” I mean more than the loss of Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman. I mean the addition or increased roles of players like Kyle Calder, Danny Markov, and Johan Franzen, the committment to team defense from everyone from Pavel Datsyuk on down. This team has bought into Mike Babcock’s system much more so than last year’s and is becoming more made in his image all the time.

I don’t think I buy the notion that Babcock is done if the Wings don’t find playoff success this year. This team is still in transition and yet we can still see enormous potential. We saw last offseason how this team is changing, with the players they let go and the players they brought on. I think they can be very successful this year, but give it another season and I think that’s when we’ll really see what Babcock can do for this organization.

Maybe I’m just crazy and Babcock will be gone much the same way Lewis was after two playoff attempts. I just think the situation with Lewis was different, as the team seemed to come to the conclusion that familiarity had bred contempt and what the players needed was someone from outside. I don’t think Babcock will ever have the players feeling as comfortable as Lewis did, and so I think he’ll really have to screw up to be ousted.

I said above that I don’t think Babcock is done if the Wings don’t go deep into the playoffs, but I will admit that if they lose in the first round, his job is in jeopardy because that would fall under the category of “really screwing up.” I suppose that’s all the Babcock Doom-and-Gloom party is saying and it must be my confidence that they’ll make it out of the Quarterfinals that causes me to leap to his defense.

Jordin Tootoo: Exciting or Dangerous?

Jordin Tootoo has always left a bad taste in my mouth, but previously, he was just an annoyance. However, after last night, I see him in a new light. It could be a little bias, as he tried to take out Mathieu Schneider twice. Why does any team feel they need a guy who can go out there and lay on nasty hits and pretty much just put the other team in danger? I’m all for hitting/checking and even fighting–but there’s a right way and a wrong way. Leaving your feet to try to lay a huge hit is not acceptable. I have no doubt that if Schneider had not jumped out of the way, he would have been injured. And when fighting, generally you want to square off first and then fight–which I’m sure is what Bootland would have expected.

The only thing Tootoo brings to his team is this type of rough play. He generally would be put in the same category as a Kirk Maltby or Sean Avery. However, those two players have other benefits. Avery has 32 points this season, including 12 goals. While Maltby has a mere 8 points this season, his defensive game has been valuable to the team for years. You’ll always see Maltby out on the PK. So what does Jordin Tootoo bring along with his antagonistic style? With 2 goals, 6 points, 98 PIM and a +/- of -12, not much. His +/- is the worst on the team by 6. Last night, he had two shots. Most of what he did on the ice was simply going from hit to hit. And his hits are not standard hockey hits–they are risky.

The way that Tootoo plays seems to be evidence of something very disturbing going on in the NHL today. There is a lack of respect among opposing players. There was the Bertuzzi attack on Moore, the McSorley incident, the McLaren hit on Zednik, the cheap shot Janssen laid on Kaberle, and most recently, the Simon incident. These are the most wide-known of the past few years. But there are also a lot of hits that go unpenalized and unpunished. Take, for instance, the Raffi Torres hit on Jason Williams earlier this season. It was obvious charging on a guy with his head down, but there was no call made and no action taken by the NHL. The League is more interested in making the game exciting than protecting its players. If these types of hits continue to go unpunished, they will not stop. Even when the NHL does hand out suspensions, they are almost laughable. A 20-game suspension for Bertuzzi when Moore will never play again? A 25 game suspension for Simon when, had his stick been 1 inch or so lower, he could’ve easily killed Ryan Hollweg? No penalty, fine or suspension for Torres, when Williams had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher? Here’s a reminder of what Bobby Orr said after the hit on Williams:

“I don’t want to see hitting taken out of the game, I love hitting in hockey, but if someone puts his shoulder into a player’s face, if he puts anything — an arm, an elbow, a glove — I think that player should get a penalty. Definitely, it should be a penalty. We are having players getting knocked unconscious before they even hit the ice and carried off on stretchers. How can that be legal? When did hitting someone in the head with your shoulder or any part of your body become part of the rules? Anything above the neck, it’s wrong.

“Hey, I got hit a lot when I played and I didn’t get hit in the head with checks. Players didn’t always hit like that. To me, that’s not part of bodychecking. I mean, don’t you have to be responsible for your actions? If you hit a guy in the face with your stick by accident, you’re going to get a penalty. Two minutes, four minutes, five minutes, something. If you go to bodycheck a guy and you hit him in the face or head, and injure him, that’s legal? That’s fair? That’s not a penalty? I’m sorry, I don’t think that is right. It should be a penalty.”

The high-stick penalty has forced players to always be aware of where their stick is and what it is hitting. Why do they not have to have the same responsibility for their shoulders? In the NFL, if you hit a player in the head, it’s a penalty. It doesn’t matter if it was on purpose or not, it’s a penalty.

The NHL needs to take a serious look at what’s going on in the League and do something about it. This means harsher punishments for these types of hits. With some of these hits, the officials did not see it. Perhaps they need to be able to go to a replay every time something like this happens, and if they see it there, to be able to asses a penalty. Maybe it would help to institute post-game handshakes after every game.

The general population already has the Slapshot view of hockey. Incidents like Bertuzzi-Moore and Simon-Hollweg just increase this perception, especially when the NHL doesn’t do much about it. We all know that is not the image the league wants. But as long as there are guys like Tootoo, whose sole purpose is to run around and hit as many people as hard as possible, that is the image the NHL will have.