Posts tagged “Valtteri Filppula”

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.

Filppula Participates in Drills

Update (1:18 PM): MacLeod’s update to the below linked post: No Fil tomorrow (as expected) but Saturday’s likely, if cleared. Also, the lines probably won’t remain as listed since Ritola hasn’t played center in years. - Matt

Bruce MacLeod reports that Valtteri Filppula participated in drills with the fourth line this morning. He skated and took part in some drills last week, but it sounds like he was more seriously involved this time. That’s a good sign that he’s on schedule for a return next week.

By the way, Ritola rotated in on the fourth line. It seems he’ll be the center of that unit tomorrow night. A lot of pressure for the guy coming in for a look to play a different position.

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!

5/16 Notes

Bruce MacLeod reports that Valtteri Filppula did not practice today. That’s something that has become more frequent lately as Fil deals with late season and playoff injuries. Ansar Khan says he’s expected to play tomorrow.

… MacLeod also says Johan Franzen also did not skate. No surprise there, as he was only cleared for off-ice conditioning on Wednesday.

… Speaking of those two, MacLeod has an interesting piece up on his blog about the Wings’ sudden lack of secondary scoring.

To be sure, that is a concern, but certainly not the end of the world. The Wings’ top line is the most complete in the League and will be extremely difficult for their prospective Finals opponent, Pittsburgh, to stop.

That said, goals from other sources would be great. I’m with Nick Lidstrom on that.

George Sipple reports that the Wings told him today that the Finals will be played on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays only. It’s possible that the round could start Thursday if both teams wrap up their series this weekend, but Saturday is probably more likely in that case.

… Steve at Kukla’s Korner has the information you need if you’re concerned that Game 5 tomorrow will go into overtime and conflict with the Preakness. Basically, if you’re in a Detroit or Dallas coverage area, NBC will stay with the game. If you’re not, you’d better hope you have Versus.

… Alanah at Kukla’s Korner has the transcripts of media Q&A’s with Mike Babcock, Tomas Holmstrom, and Nick Lidstrom.

According to Mike Heika, Bill McCreary will officiate Game 5. Heika’s concerned that there will be repercussions for comments made by Brenden Morrow in which the Dallas Stars captain accused McCreary of anti-Mike Fistric bias in Game 1. Whatever. McCreary has not been kind to the Wings in the past, so I’m sure it will all “even out.” Evening things out is what the NHL is about, right?