10 December 2008

How much do you think they weigh?

The Red Wings received their 2008 Cup Rings this Sunday night and they're so stunning it would be a serious shame not to allow them a post of their own:

Unlike the '97, '98, and '02 rings, this one is all white-gold and covered in diamonds. The front is of course lovely, but what really impresses me is the side, and its image of all 11 of the Wings cups complete with the dates of each.

My favorite comment about the rings had to be Mike Babcock's:

"It was nice,” Babcock said. “Usually, the only one who gets that is my wife, so it was kind of nice I got some.”
Fans at tonight's game vs. Calgary will receive commemorative rings - I can't make it so if anyone finds themselves with a spare lying around....!

Don't like beer? Have some alternative hockey beverage options:

The Red Wings have joined forces with a college kid's two best friends - booze and caffeine. Granted #8 and #5's attachment is a little more classy than your average undergrad's method of indulging...

  • Recent Hockey Hall of Fame Inductee and former Red Wing great #8 Igor Larionov spent this past Saturday at two metro Nino Salvaggio locations signing bottles of wine from his Triple Overtime line. Nino's is my favorite fruit market around so of course I had to drop in, buy a couple bottles, and chat (very) briefly with the Professor. The two I purchased, the Slapshot Shiraz and the Triple Overtime Sauvignon Blanc, both look delicious, and to top it off, Igor Larionov himself (who clearly has great taste!) complimented my haircut. And all around success, I'd say! For those who didn't get to make the event I took a few pictures that you can find here. Here's to hoping the Wings win the cup again so we can celebrate in style!
  • Biggby Coffee, formerly Beaner's, which holds a dear place in my heart as the coffee shop I'd always stop at on my way in to my former job while in college at the bleary hour of 7 am (those were the days), has also decided to partner up with the Red Wings and offer a new "Number 5 Latte" in honor of the Wings' Nicklas Lidstrom. There's no word on what is actually in the drink - the closest Biggby comes to a description is the promise that "THIS ESPRESSO BASED DRINK WILL BE A SLAP SHOT TO YOUR TASTEBUDS" - but if you stop in to any Biggby location on a game day wearing Wings gear you can get a dollar off the "super cup size" and try it out for yourself! Coffee and hockey? How could it be bad?
This evening the Red Wings take on the Calgary Flames at home and hopefully the excitement of receiving their Cup Rings can inspire them to the sort of play we've come to expect - none of this come-from-behind high scoring games victory nonsense! (Although let's face it, I'll take a win however it comes.)

01 December 2008

It Begins

I'm sparing you the excuses for my absence (work work work work work) and cutting right to the chase:

Last night during NBC's Monday Night Football the NHL debuted the first big deal commercial for the Winter Classic, and it's glorious:

The commercial itself is gorgeous as a hockey commercial alone, featuring shots of players from both teams gearing up for the event, but the best part is the way the NHL seamlessly inserts Take Me Out to the Ball Game sung by Harry Caray - amazing.

I'm still involved the arduous process of getting tickets, but it's looking likely - hope to see you all there!

04 November 2008

I swear this really isn't political

For all of us State-bound, I think, no matter party affiliation, that we can agree on one thing:

Thank heaven the ads are over.

Apparently, our president thinks along the same thing: Check out the Onion's article. Not hockey related, but pertinent to the day and time...and full of the humor we all know and love from The Onion.

Happy election day everyone!

28 October 2008

It's Quincey with an "e".

Former Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey put up with a lot here in Detroit - from AHL playing time when he was certainly good enough to eat minutes in the NHL to the constant appearance of his name written "Kyle Quincy". While hardly suffering for the cause, it had to be more than a little frustrating.

Snatched up on the waiver wire (where he was placed through no fault of his own but rather because the Wings had such a logjam of defensemen that someone had to be sacrificed) by Los Angeles, Quincey has gone from a reliable call-up to a full-fledged NHL defenseman in record time. Joining the young, previously bottom-feeding Kings might not have been the most appealing idea around, but Quincey, now paired with Matt Greene, took it in stride, and has been rewarded with a huge amount of playing time (most nights he clocks in just behind Drew Doughty, with the second most time of everyone on the team). So far in 5 games he's scored 1 goal and picked up 2 assists - not bad for a self-proclaimed physical defensive defenseman.

One of those assists came last night during the Wings game against the Kings. Quincey was interviewed about the move at the time and how weird it was to go up against his former teammates:

"When I look back on all the possibilities, I'm real thankful it happened this way," said Quincey, who got caught in the Wings' logjam of talent. "It was definitely mixed emotions.

"One day, you realize part of your life is changing, you're not a Red Wing anymore, you can't put that jersey on again, you have to say bye to close friends.

"The next day, you're filled with excitement for a new opportunity, you're reunited with former buddies, it's a great spot in Los Angeles. We have a really young team. I think I fit in well here."
It's always hard to hear a favorite admit that he wanted to stay, but it sounds like he's poised to have a great time with the Kings this season, which I, being a huge Quincey fan when he was in Grand Rapids, am more than happy to hear. He was also interviewed during the second intermission last night wherein he admitted that he still looks up to Nick Lidstrom - but how could you not?

He also received big praise from Wings coach Babcock, which just goes to show how deep the Wings go, that they had to let someone go about whom they had such good things to say. The Kings picked up a pretty good thing, which I hope Connie and Marie are quickly learning! I admit I've been watching them a little more often lately to see how he's faring - always good to see one of your own succeed, even if he's not quite, anymore. Maybe Kyle Quincey can finally get some of the recognition he deserves. We miss you here in Detroit!

Breaking it Down

These late games are killing me. As a lot of you know, I work super early mornings - usually I have to get up around 4 am and be coherent enough to count a lot of money by 5, so staying up and watching games that start at 10 pm are out of the question. While I was able to watch the last two games despite their late starts thank to days off, I still find myself nearly falling asleep during them (and subsequently sleeping late enough that my "breakfast" this morning consisted of a toaster strudel and some Andy Capp's hot fries at 2 pm), so my comments about the particular games may not be quite as astute as in the past (...as if they ever were).

Coming off of two shootout wins against Chicago and the LA Kings, both of which involved a comeback on the Wings part, the Wings have improved their record to 7-1-1 on the season, not too shabby! However, not everything is smooth sailing when it comes to Wings hockey right now, as the team has more than a few struggles to go along with their strengths.


  • Goals for. The Wings certainly aren't short on firepower, as they lead the league in goals scored. Even better, the scoring is coming from across the board. Twelve players have notched goals thus far, and the team certainly doesn't need to be worried about secondary scoring.
  • Marian Hossa, after starting the season not poorly but slowly, has stepped it up. The most talked-about addition to the team put up a goal and two assists in Saturday's game against the Blackhawks and then scored the winning shootout in the shootout as well, curiously enough with a slapshot that blew right past Hawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Hossa now leads the team in points (12) and +/- (+7) and the chemistry between he and Pavel Datsyuk that seemed absent early in the season is really heating up. Don't worry though, Hank, I'm sure you're still Pav's favorite.
  • Brian Rafalski is second in points (10) and started off the season with a 7-game point streak (h/t to Gorilla Crouch for that link - what a neat Yahoo feature!) that set a club record. There isn't much else to say - he's been awesome. How's that defense of yours doing over there, New Jersey?
CONS: (Please note the first time I typed that it read, "CONKS")
  • Goals against. Usually a strong point for the Wings, this season the all-star defensive lineup has look just a little bit shaky. The team is 18th in the NHL for goals against, allowing an average of 3.11 per game - not a very pretty statistic. Not only that but the team who boasted a huge chunk of players in the top 10 league +/- this season has nine players in the red, lead by Brett Lebda who boasts a gaudy -7. Goaltending needs a little work as well; neither Chris Osgood nor Ty Conklin have been particularly bad, and both are racking up wins, but neither looks all that stellar, either. Osgood's save percentage is only .884 and he's 21st in the league in GAA. With the defense looking a tad wobbly, Osgood's going to need to step it up as well. Faultering defense and goaltending is a recipe for disaster. The Wings have been winning games, yes - close games. The defense needs to buck up and start playing like we all know it can, and should, be, or sooner or later these numbers are going to catch up with the Wings.
  • Johan Franzen's knee injury could put him out for 3-4 weeks. The Mule came into his own last season, breaking a Gordie Howe record for game winning goals in a month near the end of the season, tearing it up in the playoffs, and starting strong this year as well. with 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games played. Unfortunatley Franzen took a knee-on-knee hit from Brent Sopel in Saturday's game against the Blackhawks and is expected to miss a month with a left knee sprain. The Wings have looked okay without his firepower so far, but Franzen was a key piece to last year's success and will be missed. Luckily for the Wings, they have a substantial amount of talent in Grand Rapids - Finnish Ville Leino will probably get the call-up if it becomes necessary.
Overall, the Wings look better than they do worse - but there are still a few question marks. While I'd like to let their record do the talking, it's also tough to watch a team play below what you think its real abilities are. It's early on in the season though and hardly time to get worried. Tomorrow night's game against the penalty-prone Ducks will hopefully be a good time for them to break out the devastaing powerplay, and Thursday's romp with the Sharks (which has a 10:30 pm start and which I will definitely see on a delay) should be an extremely good measure of how good the team is. (Don't get worried yet, the answer is "very!")

25 October 2008

Final Verdict on the Hossa Signing (DET 5, ATL 3)

It might have taken ten games, but nothing says it better than this goal, Hossa's first from this past game against his former team, the Atlanta Thrashers:


22 October 2008

Hossa Gets it Done

Last Saturday a group of coworkers and I headed down to the Joe to catch the Wings take on the Rangers - it seems like ages ago, having a three-day break in between games like this.

The game was fantastic one to see live, especially, from the quick start the Wings had out of the gate (Mikael Samuelsson scored 28 seconds into the first period, and Johan Franzen picked one up around three minutes in), to the sketchy third period where the Rangers not only tied it up but skated to a 4-2 lead on two goals by Aaron Voros. The real fun began with Jiri Hudler tied it up on the powerplay, but it was the ensuing overtime that was the icing on the cake.

After mentioning new Wing Marian Hossa's struggles to make a serious impact so far this season and jokingly swearing to my boss every time he fell short on an opportunity, it was Hossa who tapped in Pavel Datsyuk's shot to beat Henrik Lundvist and win the game in overtime for the Wings and also to notch his 300th career goal. So is Hossa ready to step up? Maybe, maybe not - after all, a tap-in is hardly proof of a sudden chemistry between the two, and more likely a happy coincidence. But you have to think Hossa's feeling better about, well, just about everything, scoring the goal that won a dangerous game against a team with one of the current best records in hockey. He'll be one to watch in tonight's game against the Blues (for the number one spot in the division - how weird is that!). About that goal, Hossa replied:

"It doesn't get any better than this, the 300th, the first goal as a Red Wing and the game winner in overtime."
I hope it does get better - let's see 301, 302, etc. With luck, that victory was an eye-opener to the team, who has seemed to be playing down to its opponents a little bit, as well as a jump-start to Hossa's season. Either way it was a fun thing to see live, and the Joe's reaction was awesome.

We'll see tonight in a game that promises to be interesting - Henrik Zetterberg will be back, along with Brad Stuart, but Andreas Lilja will be sitting out after undergoing an appendectomy. Also out will be Darren Helm, who was returned to Grand Rapids, but Darren McCarty, who cleared waivers today, could make his debut soon.

18 October 2008

What's the Best Cure for a Hangover?

Okay, I know, the Wings have played four games already and I'm off to a very bad blogging start - the fact is, I have to get up for work at 4 am most days, and when the game ends I'm usually crashed mere minutes afterward. However, I promise to make a better go of it starting now!

It's been an odd start to the season so far, but nothing to panic about yet. The unexpected 3-2 season-opening loss to the Maple Leafs caught us all off guard, but the Wings bounced back against the Senators and Hurricanes before dropping yesterday night's game against the Canucks in overtime. While the Wings haven't looked all bad, they haven't look all good, either - here's a few observations I've made since the beginning of the season.

  • For a team that preaches puck-possession, the Wings have made a lot of awfully bad turnovers thus far. From minor to downright cringe-worthy, it's something the team for sure has to work on in the upcoming games if they hope to regain the dominance of the past season.
  • We haven't seen a whole lot of what's expected out of Marian Hossa so far - he hasn't looked bad, per se, but his chemistry with Pavel Datsyuk leaves a bit to be desired. However, coach Babcock remains insistant that we won't see the Eurotwins back together again to save the day, even on the powerplay. Personally I miss seeing them on the ice together, and I think it could be of some help, given the way the top line has performed so far, but what do I know?
  • Ty Conklin looks fairly good in his debut - he scared me a little at first, with his flailing around (and has anyone else noticed his propensity for just falling over when making saves?), and his decision to cavort around the net especially against Carolina of all teams had me desperately hoping there would be no repeat of this debacle, but he did well to prove himself.
  • It's been, so far, a season of weird bounces (take Thursday night's game against Vancouver, for example) - but the Wings, and Chris Osgood, though he's looked solid so far, can't use that as an excuse. Many were created by poor execution on the players' part as well, and the team as a whole needs to ramp it up a bit. They've looked a little like they've been playing down to their opponents lately, and if they don't step it up, the hangover label is going to come back in full force.

Things won't get easier yet, as both Henrik Zetterberg and Brad Stuart will be out tonight against a scary Rangers club, but Darren Helm, who was called up to fill in for Zetterberg, and Derek Meech, who will see his first action of the season tonight, are more than capable replacements. I'll be at the game - my first of the season - hopeful that we'll see the effort this club is capable of. Go Wings!! (PS the best cure I've found? Greasy McDonald's hashbrowns. Ask my lovely friends in DC. But don't try that, boys, it can't be good for you.)

End Notes:
Former Wing and NPI favorite Kyle Quincey suited up for his debut with the LA Kings last night. I was only able to catch the first period of the game, but he looked good paired up with Matt Greene, was given time on the PK to showcase his self-professed stay at home defenseman skills, and showed that despite the Wings lack of room for him, he is in fact an NHL-ready defenseman. He also, according to the Kings recap, was part of a scoring chance that helped to set up Anze Kopitar's game-tying goal, and took a slapshot seven minutes into the second period that caused Hurricanes' Frantisek Kaberle to leave the game with a leg injury. While you of course don't want to applaud another player getting hurt, congrats, Kyle, keep it up and all our best!

08 October 2008

Getting Down to Business

The season starts (for real, nevermind those odd European games) tomorrow. The Red Wings look to defend the Stanley Cup and the Penguins (to be and equal opportunist to both blog authors) are out for revenge. Nevermind all this draft, trade deadline day, training camp business - tomorrow, hockey is really, truly, back.

So, getting down to some blog business:

  • I recently signed on as a guest blogger at Rumor Me This, representing the Red Wings for the duration of the season. Several others whose blogs I love, respect, and frequent, such as Marie, Cat, Tracy, and Jennifer, have joined as well, so be sure to check us all out. My first post, a Wings season preview, is viewable there, and I'll be updating at several points throughout the season with team status news.
  • The start of the season always means a site overhaul - in my case the last time I tried to make a new Pens/Wings playoffs layout during the finals last season I crashed my computer, so the chances of that happened are slim. However, it is in fact time to update the blogroll again! So, if you would like yourself added to or (hopefully not) removed from, or have suggestions of any blogs you think belong there, feel free to comment and let us know!
  • Finally, on a bit of a personal note, I made this post about Wings tickets prices recently and received far more feedback than I'd expected on the topic. One in particular was an e-mail from a reader, fellow fan, and season ticket holder named Dave who apparently took pity on my plight and who offered to let me purchase tickets from him to select games at prices that put Ticketmaster to shame. Having now increased the number of games I'll be at this season by three, I just want to say a huge thanks and comment on how awesome I think it is to see fans doing things like this for each other. I genuinely hope someday I'll be in the position to do something similar for a fellow blogger or fan. Thanks again, Dave!!
That looks to be about it - happy hockey season and GO WINGS (and...Penguins) from those of us here at NPI!

07 October 2008

It's not you, it's us.

There's been a lot of discussion this summer about the defensive logjam the Wings had going into training camp this season - with the resignings of Andreas Lilja and Brad Stuart as well as Chris Chelios, once again there wasn't a lot of wiggle room for the kids (even with Chelios out the team is only around $450,000 under the cap) - most of whom aren't really kids anymore and are ready for their own legitimate chance to perform in the NHL. The summer closed out with the defensive roster looking like this:

Obviously not going anywhere: Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart, Chris Chelios.

Maybe going somewhere: Andreas Lilja, Brett Lebda, Derek Meech, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson.
However, Mike Babcock determined that the start of the season would see Lilja/Lebda as the third defensive pairing, as it was during the Stanley Cup Finals this past season and this afternoon Ericsson was sent to Grand Rapids as he can still freely move between teams without being subject to waivers, making the likelihood of his being traded nearly nothing. The moves left the final spot a battle between Meech and Quincey, and it appears that Meech has won as the team is trying to shop Quincey around.
The club likes the 23-year-old Quincey's size (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) and the physical element he brings, but believes Derek Meech, a better skater and puck-handler, has a bigger upside.

Meech, who also can play forward in a pinch, has outplayed Quincey in training camp and the preseason. The Red Wings likely are seeking a mid- to late-round draft pick for Quincey, who can't be assigned to Grand Rapids (AHL) without clearing waivers.

It has seemed a little bit inevitable since the start of the summer, but I personally was holding out hope that perhaps it wouldn't come to this. Having lived in Kalamazoo for the past four years, I caught a lot of Griffins games and Quincey quickly became one of my favorites. However, aside from a chance during the Cup Semi-finals agains the Ducks in 06-07, Quincey never really got a chance to break into the big leagues - the Wings are just too deep a team with too much talent to make it easy. During that run, all that was asked of Quincey was that he not mess up - a feat that he accomplished admirably. His attempts to join the team last season were stymied by an injury and the first part of his season with Grand Rapids was mediocre, but he bounced back after another short stint with the Wings to end the season on a high note.

In the end, Derek Meech may be the better fit for the Wings' puck possession style of play - but Kyle Quincey shouldn't be overlooked. He's proven himself to be an NHL-ready stay at home defenseman and even studied this summer under fellow Wing Aaron Downey to improve his enforcer-type skill set in attempt to fit himself into a niche and help the team.

I had the chance to meet Quincey at a signing at Gibraltar Trade Center recently - of the three signers (Quincey, Jimmy Howard, and Brett Lebda), Quincey's ticket cost the least, and when I stepped up to purchase one the lady behind the desk told me she'd sold less of his than the others by far. Quincey, however, was gracious - he signed my glossy and even took a few moments to chat. I told him I'd followed him in Grand Rapids and hoped to get to see more of him with the big club this year and he replied that he really hoped he'd be sticking around and would get a chance to do just that. Throughout the whole event his name was misspelled 'Quincy' everywhere it appeared - poor kid. (And incredible failure on the part of the staff - really? How authentic do you think a certificate that "Kyle Quincy" signed your item is?)

I'll be sad to see him go - I've always seen him to have a valuable skill set and a lot of dedication. But perhaps, not unlike the way Kerri at Some Like it Blue suggest about the Rangers and Petr Prucha, it's time for he and the Wings to part, in the hope that he can flourish somewhere where he has a better chance - and not to knock the Wings or their fans, only to lament the circumstances - to flourish. It can't be easy on a star-studded team that never seems to lose anybody, and there are likely many teams in the league that would take on a big, young, tough, fairly responsible defenseman with the sort of personality Quincey possesses.

Therefore if you go, Kyle - and it looks like you will - know that someone here in Detroit really did appreciate you and will miss you. All the best wherever you end up, hopefully somewhere that's a good fit - and thanks for not being too creeped out when I spent a good chunk of Griffins warm up time with my camera focused on you.

29 September 2008

Ice cream and hockey

What's better than hockey camp after a long summer? Hockey camp that's in the Green Mountain state. The Bruins have been training here among the leaf peepers for a few days, and tonight they will be at the main Ben and Jerry's factory in Waterbury, signing autographs and basically reaching out to a Vermont community that loves their hockey, and their 'home town' boys on the Bruins. The University of Vermont has housed a few NHL-ers in it's time, Tim Thomas being one of them (honorable mention goes to Mighty Mouse St.Louis and John LeClair), so this autograph session should be a nice touch to the Bruins stay and organization.

So B's fans, if you're in central Vermont at around 8pm tonight, you should check it out. I recommend the Phish food and a handshake from Patrice Bergeron.

(thanks to Teka for the heads up)

27 September 2008

Pack up your tents and macaroni art, camp is over.

That's right, kids, camp is over and the preseason is in full swing. The Penguins, who have topped the Atlantic in the preseason (which as we all know, means about jack in the long run, but it's still nice to see the Flyers below the Pens) seem to be getting their lines together and working pretty well, but with some changes coming into their (last?) season at the Mellon.

-Departures are always bittersweet, but Ryan Malone will be missed on the top line. Apparently SATAN and his ex-Islander counterpart are making their new homes there, and easing the ache left by he of the wonderfully tattooed arms. We will miss you, Malone! Enjoy sunny Florida and the Lightning.

Honorable mentions go to Ruutu and Laraque, who are going to missed for the character they brought to the ice...and the neverending intimidation and irritation to the opponent. Who is going to annoy the crap out of visiting teams and lead the Pens faithful in confusing chants that sound like booing? 'Coooooooke' doesn't have the same ring to it.

Hossa doesn't get a full sentence.

-Malkin is the new pointman? Apparently until Gonchar is healed (get well soon!) Malkin will take point on the power play, sounding excited about the prospect. Is it me or is he talking without the aid of a translator in his Trib interviews lately?

-A sign of the times: the Penguins have their own Facebook page.

A couple odds and ends here, but has anyone checked out the model for the women's t-shirts? Pretty, yes. Nice figure, yes. Vacant expression like someone drugged her? Yes. Come on, you're posing a nice looking lady in hockey clothing for oodles of cash and you can't do a smile?

Now, while my camp councilors this summer, a nice set of people in white coats that told me that making angry pictures with flying wheels and then burning them was a bad thing to do, recommend that I not talk about the damn Red Wings, it looks like the dirty rat bastards Wings will be hosting a rock concert for their opening banner raising ceremony on October 9th. Tickets are 35-45 bucks, which seems rather reasonable for the Wings. Congratulations to them and their win this past spring. Jerks.

So now that the Penguins are leaving for Europe this afternoon, the preseason is winding down and the 2008-2009 season is a week away, what are fan expectations for their favorite team? Anyone else think Tampa might be more of a challenge than expected? Capitals make a run for the Cup? Flyers fail horribly and cry themselves to sleep in April?

Either way, go Pens.

22 September 2008

Time Out

Preseason is rearing into full swing and there is blessedly more hockey coverage appearing by the day. However, as exciting as all that may be, there's always something to come along and remind us all about the things in life that are really more important.

Fellow HLOGger Bethany just texted me with some absolutely tragic news regarding former Oiler Jussi Markkanen:

Jussi Markkanen's son Oli-matias (4) fell out of a window in the goalie's apartment in Moscow yesterday and died almost instantly ... the CSKA goalie brought his family to join in him in Moscow just a couple of weeks ago ... it seems Oli-Matias was playing with his younger brother, climbed on the window sill and fell.

Unsure whether Jussi will stay or will require a break, the team has called up a spare goalie [...] The entire team went to Markkanen's place after the [last] game, to spend time with him and his family.

Of course an incident like this is always a tragedy, but Jussi has always been a favorite here at NPI - in fact, Jussi was one of the biggest part of 06 Oilers Cup run that brought Elly and I together as fans. I speak for both of us in saying that we would like to extend our deepest sympathy and condolences to Jussi, his family, and everyone else affected by this loss. Whether or not Juicy returns to the CSKA lineup or takes a well-justified break, he will be always be missed as an Oiler in our hearts here, and our support will always be with him.

We love you, Jussi - all our best to you and your family.

17 September 2008

Bobble the Vote!

The Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit's AHL affiliate, announced their promotional schedule recently - most of the promos were the standard hockey cards, dollar beer nights, team posters and the like, but it was the picture at the top of the page that really caught my eye:

This is the sort of thing that makes me wish I still lived out on the west side of the state, where I used to catch Griffins games all the time. For those, like me, curious about just what is going on here, the blurb about this particular promo is as following:

"The Griffins’ early-season promotional schedule will be highlighted by “Bobble the Vote ‘08” on Saturday, Nov. 1 -- three days before Election Day -- with a giveaway of John McCain and Barack Obama bobbleheads that depict each candidate in a Griffins jersey. One thousand bobbleheads of each candidate will be available to fans, who will select their favorite upon entering the arena. The first candidate to run out of bobbleheads wins!"
While 'bobble' doesn't quite have the same ring to it as 'rock', props for coming up with such a ridiculous and yet excellent slogan as well as promo. I wonder how hockey mom Sarah Palin feels about her glaring omission? (Sorry Becca - the photoshop was too good not to toss up.)

For more information about Griffins schedule, tickets and promos - I can vouch for the games myself, they are cheap, a TON of fun and a great alternative to driving 4.5 hours from Grand Rapids to Detroit, a feat that gets a bit pricey for those living on the west side - see their website. Other particular notables include limited edition figurines of Darren McCarty (Dec. 20) and Valtteri Filppula (Jan. 10). For some reason the figurines have been given names, of sorts - McCarty's is referred to as "Hat Trick" for obvious reasons (WOW do I not vouch for that Griffins...themesong) but Filppula's is the slightly more obtuse "Superman". I can only imagine - and hope - that it has something to do with this.

14 September 2008

Needs more Red Sparkles

As it seems I'm stuck with the mantle of dispersing the Ty Conklin news and as he is now, in fact, a Wing (I'm still not over this, it makes me laugh every time I see it), here would appear to be the first look at his Red Wings mask, though he hasn't (yet, anyway) been using it in practice:

Rather matte for Conks, although it does seem to be in a similar vein as his Pittsburgh mask - quite a bit less shiny than what he wore in Buffalo.

Ticket Woes

There's been lots of good Wings news lately - the team wins the Cup, they resign almost all of their players to contracts that work for both the players and the team (the most recent being another year for Chris Chelios and two for Kyle Quincey - the article also includes a great bit about him working with Aaron Downey at fighting; it's always great to see a player putting for extra effort to find a niche that allows them to truly benefit the team, and as Quincey is NPI's Griffins favorite, this was especially promising news for me.), they secure at least one year of Marian Hossa to bolster their firepower...the list goes on.

However, there's always a dark side to things. Red Wings tickets, fallen in favor this past season due to the economy woes of much of Detroit and potentially even the team's habit of falling just a little (or a lot - see the 05/06 playoff exit) short of the big prize (the season opener last year against the Ducks didn't even sell out), are once again a hot commodity. Winning the Cup set the tone for the coming season - prices could, and would, raise.

Of course, back in July we were collectively told that several upper bowl seats were actually going to drop in price - and for good reason:

Violetta said lowering the prices for some of those upper-bowl seats -- which basically run from goal line to goal line -- was done after research from this past season. Many of those seats were unsold as fans simply went to the next section up and bought $22 tickets.
Makes sense - in fact, I did exactly that last season, especially when it came to playoff time. Make no mistake, I'm a poor recent college graduate, then college student, and of course I was looking for the filthiest of dirt cheap - but even so, it sounded like a good idea to get more bodies in the Joe - after all, I'm not the only poor college student who loves her team.

Well, then the price chart washed up from the depths of the internet and lo and behold, the season ticket holders were the only ones really benefitting from these recent price drops. The rest of us saw across the board price raises from, according to James Malik, $4-$65 per ticket. Of course, it's not completely unreasonable to see a team jack up prices, even in a job-draught town like Detroit, after a Cup win. The really good part is what comes next - the team quietly, and by quietly I mean without any notice at all, introduced the sort of 'premium game' ticket pricing some teams (like the Buffalo Sabres, for example) have. Imagine my surprise when yesterday morning at noon I logged on to Ticketmaster with the futile hope of getting tickets to the season opener, and the more likely one of nabbing a few to see the Rangers on October 18th, and the Oil on at least one of the two dates. After a thorough round of fighting with Ticketmaster's website, I realized that the ticket prices for the two games were substantially different - to the Rangers game you could pick up seats in the upper bowl, row 18, for $55 apiece. The Oilers? Row 17 for $48. Let Malik explain:

In addition to boosting the prices of single-game tickets in a state that continues to lose jobs at an astonishing race based upon a Stanley Cup win, they've also introduced "premium" game pricing. If you want to go see the Wings raise their Stanley Cup banner against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 9th, you pay from $45-125 in the upper bowl, and from $125-235 in the lower bowl.

Want to see the Wings play an Original Six rival in the Rangers on Saturday, October 18th? It'll cost you from $35.00-$95.00 in the upper bowl, and from $95-195 to sit in the lower bowl.

Sneaky, very sneaky. Other games that are effected and considered 'premium' are the Original Six rivalries, the Penguins game on November 11, and the home game against the Blackhawks directly before the Winter Classic. The $9 tickets from last season still exist for purchase at the box office, going on sale in two month increments, but from the picking around I did it looks like the next step up - the $25 tickets - are practically unacquirable.

While I think it's very unfortunate to have this sprung on the fans, and it does truly suck that it's this hard and this expensive to get tickets to see the team you love, it's hard not to be happy that perhaps the team will be able to fill the Joe's seats again, following this victory. And besides that, it's something special to be a follower of a team like this in a city like ours. I can't say how many times I've thought it would be unbelievably nice to live in a city that didn't care, where you could walk up to the arena on the day of a game and pick up decent tickets from the box office a few hours before the game - but the more I've considered it every time I've realized I would hate to be in a town that didn't care, convenience or not.

It's a tough line to walk - on one hand, the price-gouging, especially in a city going through what Detroit is right now - is making it almost impossibly hard for some fans to attend games at all. How spectacular is having Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Hossa, Lidstrom, when you can't afford to see them live? On the other hand, being able to call this successful, this dynamic a team your own and to live in a city that bleeds for them, a real hockey city, often makes it feel worth it.

However, I ended up buying tickets to only two games, rather than the handful I would have liked, at least for now - and that sucks. While I'm not mad at the team per se, it's hard not to bear a little resentment at how thin my pocketbook is at the moment. So, what do you think? Worth it or not? Rip off, or okay? Would you rather life somewhere tickets cost spare change? I think in the long run, I like it here - unfortunate as it is. We'll always have FSN.

04 September 2008

Pavel & Henrik, sittin' in a tree...

For all Mike Babcock says about Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg agreeing to be split up because both wanted to play center, Datsyuk appears a little broken up over it, when asked about his feelings on the matter:

"My reaction?" Datsyuk said Thursday after an informal skate at Joe Louis Arena. "I start crying. I can't sleep two days. But now everything is fine."

Datsyuk and Zetterberg were a dominant one-two punch when they played together last season.

"I help Hank, Hank helped me," Datsyuk said.

Datsyuk is taking a wait-and-see approach with the proposed break-up with Zetterberg.

"Every year we start like that (on different lines)," Datsyuk said. "It's not new. It's a long season. Nobody knows. I'm happy we're still on the same team. I hope we finish on the same team."
It seems Pavel is as skeptical as the rest of us about whether or not the move will last. It's great to see the comradery and chemistry between those two (as D-Mac said last year, "they're together"), as well as Datsyuk's always entertaining humor. (Okay, I admit, that was the real reason I wanted to post this.)

03 September 2008

"We can still be friends."

Coach Mike Babcock has confirmed - "not maybe, for sure" - that the Eurotwin superstars Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk will be broken up for the upcoming season. Says Babcock,

"They're not playing together. It would be crazy to play them together. They both want to play center anyway."
While I've never heard anything on Zetterberg professsing the desire to play center rather than wing, they were both natural centers, told by Babcock when they were put together to decide amongst themselves who was going to play what, if I remember the story right, it certainly makes sense.

Adding Marian Hossa over the summer, and the breakout performance of Johan Franzen last season are the number one reasons the move is possible - and it's impossible to argue that with the new depth of the team, breaking up the stars isn't smart. Earlier in the summer the rumbling was that perhaps the big line would stay together, allowing for a second line of Hossa, Valtteri Filppula, and Franzen, but the plan for now is that Datsyuk will open training camp on a line with Hossa and Tomas Holmstrom, while Zetterberg will play with Franzen and Jiri Hudler, squashing all speculation of a Franzen-Filppula-Hossa line.

It's an amazing thing to see the team have enough depth to make a move like this, but questions remain. Will the new lines gel in the same way that last year's top line did? Not only that, but will Babcock stick to his guns? It's hard to doubt the man, but Babcock has tried on many occasion to split up the two and still, the standard philsophy these past few seasons has been whent he team struggles, put the Eurotwins back together and things will fall into place. While I hope the new lines succeed, seeing Datsyuk and Zetterberg playing together is something pretty special:

I for one am certainly torn - you always want to see the team succeed however possibly, and creating this much depth and allowing your best forwards to improve those around them is a great way to cement future success. With the talent the Wings have developing, it probably is crazy to put all your eggs on one line. But still, you have to love to see the sort of chemistry the Eurotwins possess. As usual, speculation is practically useless - everyone will have to wait until at the very least training camp to see the new lines, and the new Wings, at work for now.

27 August 2008

More on McCarty

The Grand Rapids Press reports this morning that McCarty has received a two-way (as predicted) offer from the Red Wings to return this upcoming season, which he is confident he will soon sign.

"We're just trying to work out some intricacies," he said. "I think there's some collective bargaining things in there that we're trying to get clarification on, but I'd say it's 99 percent that I'll be back in the organization."
The two-way contract means McCarty may return in 08-09 for a second stint Grand Rapids, much to the delight of the Griffins and their fans many of whom remember watching his home-debut hat trick this past season. Earlier in the week there were reports that McCarty's agent was looking elsewhere in hopes that the 36 year old free agent could perhaps garner a one-way contract from a team looking to add his brand of veteran grit. McCarty himself had stated many times that he would much rather have a one-way contract that would seal his season in the NHL, which received mixed reactions from Wings faithful - sure people love D-Mac, but is he necessarily still NHL material, especially given the sacrifices the Wings will already have to make to stay under the cap ceiling? Luckily for us, it looks as though we won't have to worry, as when asked about returning to GR McCarty responded:
"Who knows, I'll probably be down here for a bit. I love playing in Grand Rapids. If the call for me is to put my Griffins jersey back on, I'm all for it."
One of the things that impressed me the most this past season was D-Mac's attitude about playing wherever he found himself - which is probably one of the major reasons he made it as far as he did at all. Needless to say, Wings fans should once again be impressed with Holland & Co., persuading McCarty to stay under terms that suit the team's needs, keeping a fan-favorite under contract in a manner that clearly has the team's best interests at heart.

Last season McCarty posted a rather unremarkable 1 G 1 A in 17 playoff games (1 A in his three regular season outings) - but as he's shown, the scoresheet isn't necessarily where he proves his worth on the ice. Personally I look forward to seeing McCarty wherever he ends up and am glad to have him back in the fold especially in this manner. Hats off to the organization again for another good move - that is, assuming he does in fact sign, and we haven't jumped the gun!

22 August 2008

Summer High-(and Low)-lights

It's been 22 days since the last time I made a post here - so long that blogger has messed with settings and managed to confuse me - which I think is a testament to the long summer. Fortunately for me, some of the other Wings bloggers out there have kept up a little better with what few and far between notes of import there have been. To highlight:

  • The Wings, while maintaining their roster from the past season, have lost a whole lot of personnel. The team is now down two members of the coaching staff, a scout, and the assistant equipment manager. And of course, Scotty Bowman is a pretty big name to lose. I have to admit I share Christy of Behind the Jersey's fears (to exaggerate a little) that this could impact the team, but also her belief in Ken Holland and Mike Babcock. Still, it's a big question heading into the season.
  • Speaking of the roster, the Wings' is still too large - the team has yet to resign defensemen Chris Chelios and Kyle Quincey and forward Darren McCarty and with the recent resigning of grinder Aaron Downey to a one year, two-way contract that pays him $575,000 in the NHL, $100,000 if he's relegated to the minors, has only around $400,000 left in cap space. While it's impossible to argue that this logjam should have been a deterrence to the Wings when it came to signing Hossa, this September may get a little bit interesting. McCarty in particular has been looking into other teams who may be willing to make an offer, as he would prefer a one-way contract that the Wings are not in position to offer him. The news on Chelios and Quincey has been rather quiet lately.
  • The Ace of Sports is hosting a "Detroit Athlete of the Decade" competition, now down to the final four: The Lions' Jason Hanson, the Pistons' Chauncey Billups, the Tigers' Magglio Ordonez, and the Wings' own Nicklas Lidstrom. The contest involved bloggers from across the Detroit Sports blogosphere writing in their arguments as to why their athlete is the all-around MVP, and Lidstrom's well-penned plea was written by the Wing's blogosphere's own Dave of Gorilla Crouch. While all four athletes are a kind apart - clearly, given the honors they're up for - the stats that Dave gives for Nick's career are stunning. So go vote for the Captain!
  • Wings' preseason tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10:00 am, starting at just $9 - it will be interesting to see how quickly they go, even as preseason games. I personally intended to go to the Wings/Leafs game, but as it turns out I'll be in Toronto that day, which will make it difficult. Preseason lacks the glitz and glamour of the regular season but it is a great chance to see the potential future of the team, depending on which night you go and what roster you see. Having moved back to the east side of the state, my chances to see the Grand Rapids Griffins this season are going to be slim, and thus a preseason game that many of them will play in will be a great way to see the developmental strides the boys have made over the summer.
The season looms ever closer - thankfully. While the Wings have had nearly the shortest summer in the entire NHL, it's still seemed like an eternity.

30 July 2008

Flippin' Awesome...Mostly.

The Red Wings avoided arbitration with center Valtteri Filppula (his hearing was scheduled for Friday), signing him to a 5 year, $15 million contract this afternoon. This is great news, as the Finn racked up 19 goals and 17 assists in 78 games last season and is only 24 years old. Filppula filed for arbitration at the beginning of the month after rumors began flying around that he might receive an offer sheet, which the Wings may have been hard-pressed to match, having only around $4 million in wiggle room at the time - a move that relieved many fans, confident that a deal would be reached, as it meant Fil would be sticking around one way or another, and was out of offer-sheet reach.

In and of itself, with no concern for where the deal puts the Wings with regard to the salary cap, the deal is a great one. Fil is expected to be a 30 goal scorer in the near future, and given his success on a line with Mikael Samuelsson and Johan Franzen, and the talent he's also shown playing with Pavel Datsyuk, who he may get time with next season if the Marian Hossa signing splits up Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, that's not unlikely. Of Filppula, Holland says,

"We love everything about him because he's a complete player with great character, and we think he can get even better. He plays hard, he plays hurt. He's got great speed and talent along with versatility because he can play left wing or centre.
The contract makes Filppula the highest-paid Red Wing forward after Datsyuk and Hossa, which shows how much faith the Wings are putting in the kid's potential. Given his performance last season, despite various slows in production throughout the year, and in the playoffs where he played through a groin injury, it seems the organization's expectations are well founded. After all, who remembers this goal? Pretty good for a kid who looks much too pretty to play hockey.

On the downside, Fil commanding $3 million pushes the Wings right up against the salary cap. The team has yet to resign defenseman Chris Chelios (whose deal was expected to wait until after Fil was resigned), forwards Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey (both of whom the Wings are now interested in signing only to two-way deals), and defense prospect Kyle Quincey - and this is where things start to get dicey. With only $977,667 left in cap space, the Wings will have to make a move before the season starts. The team will carry ten defensemen into the preseason, as Holland states that they're most likely not to make a trade until it is over, only one of whom is not required to clear waivers (Jon Ericsson).

The likeliest trade candidates, therefore, are recently resigned defensemen Andreas Lilja, Brett Lebda, and Quincey, once his contract has been settled. While none of these would be horrendous losses to the Wings, it would of course be nicer to keep them. Personally I find myself worrying over the future of Quincey, NPI's favorite Grand Rapids Griffin, given that despite his performance in the 06-07 playoffs, Ericsson has leapfrogged him as the number one defensive prospect in 07-08. Of the defensive logjam, Holland told the media,
"We'll have to make a decision based on the 23-man roster, the salary cap and age. We'll have to be prepared to trade some players. I would expect there would be interest in some of our players.''
Ominous words, and an even more ominous little letter 's' on the end of 'player' there - scary. You almost never want to see players moved, especially players with potential, but if Wings fans have learned anything through these past couple seasons, it should be to trust Ken Holland to make the right decision and get it done. Until he does, here's to painful waiting and hoping for the best - and congratulations to Val Filppula on signing a great contract and staying with a great team for the next five years.

25 July 2008


Inexplicably (but totally cool!) AT&T has decided that 2.5 million Oakland and Wayne County editions of the new AT&T Real Yellow Pages directory will feature the Detroit Red Wings on the cover. The shot of the team on the ice post-Cup victory, says the president of AT&T, is featured because, "It is our goal to keep our customers connected, but nothing connects communities like a championship team and we applaud the Wings for their accomplishment."

Cheesy, for sure, but it's certainly sort of neat to pick up the Yellow Pages and see the boys - and this time of year, it's the little things.

In honor of the recognition (or in recognition of the honor?) Wings grinder Darren McCarty was at Hockeytown Authentics signing autographs. Having missed him in Taylor and being in the area to begin with, I decided to stop by:

D-Mac, decked out in full support of Detroit and the Tigers (who would be playing across the street two hours from the end of the signing) - seemed like he was having a good time.

Freshly D-Mac-signed hat and the event-causing mini-phonebook.

Hockeytown Cafe was bustling (I proceeded to eat a panini - A+!) with the pre-Tigers game crowd, but McCarty - who looked like he was enjoying himself as much as someone writing their name for two hours straight could be, and who was very friendly - drew a fair amount of attention as well. The best thing about the event was that it was completely free, making it pretty irresistible after seeing prices charged at some other venues. The slight downside was that, compared to some other signings, the Cafe had only its own merchendise to work with, and thus your options for things to buy and get signed were a bit limited (they did, however, have the new red version of the Wings Locker Room hat - classy) - but most people (including me) had their own anyway. And hey, there was always the phone books!

20 July 2008

Of hockey and fashion.

A while back, the NHL announced that they were partnering with actress Alyssa Milano to create the hockey version of her women's clothing line full of frilled up, rhinestone-studded, "trendy" shirts, formerly featuring the logos of various MLB teams. Don't get me wrong, they were hardly all absolutely awful - but they weren't all good, either. When the idea of an NHL-based line came up, there were a few prototypes through out into the mix - a handful of 3/4 sleeve shirts emblazoned with the All Star Game logo, a girly red something and a more ice-rink-inclined vest (thanks Tracy for making that post!) but not much more. Certainly not on the scale of the MLB designs. And then the project seemed to fade away.

Until yesterday when I stepped into a new store at Lakeside Mall called "The Hook Up", specializing in sports apparel, knick-knacks, etc. I was checking out the Wings Cup Champions merchandise when I saw these:

Both (excuse the poor quality cell phone pictures) feature a small (although at least centered, in one) Wings logo and proclaims them the "Stanley Cup Champions" - which must make the logo a heck of a lot harder to work into the intended "cute" designs. The one on the right, like the earlier vest, seems at least like decent rink-wear, for those ladies who don't get cold too easily.

Apparently the NHL "Touch" line isn't dead after all - and in fact wants you to know exactly who won the Stanley Cup this year. Personally I (like Tracy) would think that winning the Cup especially would result in wanting the logo to be as big, obnoxious, and proud as possible, but these are far from as bad as (upon further investigation) they could be. And oh can they be. It seems a little odd that the NHLNHL seems to be at such a distance from the whole business though - even the Wings' online store features only a couple of the "Touch" designs - and none of the Cup Champs ones.

Thoughts? Opinions? Pitchforks? Obligatory Milano is hot comments?

18 July 2008

Jimmy Howard: Still the Future of Red Wings Goaltending

Okay, panicky Sabres fans everyone, the Miller-to-Detroit rumors can now officially cease:

The Buffalo Sabres signed goaltender Ryan Miller on Friday to a five-year contract extension through the 2013-2014 season.
See, I told you he didn't love Lansing - even given its status as a bastion of delicious greasy college-type food, being the point of origin for Biggby [then Beaner's] coffee, Gumby's pizza, and Menna's Joint - as much as you all thought.

17 July 2008

Happy Schedule Day!

Today is a beacon of light in the seemingly long, hot, endless summer that is the offseason. My car thermometer informed me we were seeing weather in the mid-90s as I left work this afternoon - muggy enough to literally fog up my glasses. Hockey, despite the fact that I spent several hours this week in an ice rink, seems years and years away on days like this. But with the release of the schedule, basically arbitrary and somewhat useless as it is, comes a breath of cool air and hope. Here are some notables regarding the 2008/2009 Wings schedule:

  • The Wings will ring in opening day at home in the Joe, raising their 11th Stanley Cup banner on October 9th. The game will be against the Toronto Maple Leafs, who the Wings play twice (a home and home) in preseason and afterward will not see again until next season. Nice touch setting up an Original Six rivalry game for opening day, NHL.
  • The three Eastern conference teams that the Wings will play both home and away this season, as per the new schedule structure, are Pittsburgh (woo!), Buffalo (kay), and Atlanta (...woo). It's a great idea to pit the two past-season Stanley Cup hopefuls at each other twice on the season and give the fans in both cities the opportunity for a rematch, but forgive my lack of enthusiasm about the Atlanta Thrashers. (And at the exact moment I type this I discover that former Oiler and NPI favorite Marty Reasoner has signed with the Thrashers and am suddenly more interested.)
  • By now it's common knowledge that the Wings will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks at Wrigley Field in this year's Winter Classic. The game will be held in Chicago at 1 pm on January 1st, forcing the Wings to forgo their usual New Year's Eve game, but they will host the Hawks at the Joe on December 30th. I for one am excited about the game and do intend to go - while I, like others, was hoping for a Detroit/Toronto outdoor game somewhere closer to home, the fact that it's an Original Six matchup, and that the Hawks are poised to be a much bigger threat this coming season than in the past, should make it a fun game to see, as will the locale. It will be interesting to see how the NHL adapts a ballpark into a venue for hockey, and hopefully the event can lure in more fans in Chicago. It was a huge shame to see the hockey market there fall into such shambles, but an outdoor game against the Red Wings can only serve to help. I do, however, hope they rename the event - whether it becomes standard operations to have one outdoor game per year, a game hardly seems 'classic' if it's effectively being referred to as the 'Winter Classic II'.
For those interested, although ticket information has not be released yet, Wings GM and mad genius Ken Holland has put in a request to have "a fairly substantial number" of tickets available for Red Wings fans to purchase, and the NHL has assured their compliance. More information as it becomes available!
Another notable mention related to the schedule is that the Wings have adjusted some of their ticket prices for the upcoming season. Of note for poor recent graduates like myself, 1,869 upper bowl tickets have dropped to $33 from last season's $44 after studies indicated that many people, rather than forking out the $44, simply moved back a few rows and purchased $22 tickets, thus contributing to the plague of empty seats. Also affected were the first three rows off the glass, the prices of which have jumped from $85 to $125 per ticket.

Blogroll Updates!

With all these rumbling about the outdoor Wings/Hawks game, it occured to be the other day that we at NPI had absolutely no Blackhawks blogs on our blogroll. Coincidentally, I happened to check our linkbacks that very afternoon to see that we had in fact been linked to by both my fellow HLOGger Amy's My Tribe, and Clare's All Hawks Hockey. Make sure to check them out for some excellent divisional rivalry coverage!

16 July 2008

Dallas Drake Calls it a Career

Some people questioned Ken Holland last season when he brought Detroit draftee Dallas Drake back into the fold for his 15th season in the NHL.

Those people should know never to question Ken Holland.

While Drake made his way through the regular season looking relatively average, his gritty play stood out in the playoffs and made a huge impact on the Wings eventual Cup victory. The guy threw punches, delivered massive hits (My personal favorite being his apparent vendetta against no-name Toby Petersen during the Stars series; three times in one game Drake sent the former Oiler to the ice. That's what you get for standing out against our big Eurotwins line, Toby.) and genuinely seemed to enjoy every bit of his limited ice time. It was predicted at the end of the season that Drake would retire, but the official announcement came yesterday. Drake, who received the Cup second, directly from Nicklas Lidstrom on the ice the night of the victory, and who is now enjoying his time with it in Rossland, BC, said that mentally he has more hockey in him, but his body disagrees:

"Mentally, I want to play," Drake said. "I love the game as much as I ever have. But my body's not recovering as well. The years have worn me out."


"I played a long time and had a lot of fun," Drake said. "After winning the Stanley Cup, there's not a better way to go out."

Earlier in the season I made a post about being invested in each and every player on this year's team's specific quest for the cup, and Drake was one of the frontrunners. After fifteen seasons, he finally got to not only reach the Cup Finals, but to hold Lord Stanley high - and there's not a better way to go out than that. Plus, he takes a jab at Green Bay Packers' Brett Favre, and how can you not love that?

"I'm a little disappointed in Brett right now," Drake said of the Packers quarterback who retired in March but now says he wants to continue playing -- for another team. "You don't have to worry about me doing that."

Best of luck to you, Dallas, in all your future endeavors, whether they be hockey-related or not, and thank you for being a big part of a wonderful Red Wings season.

03 July 2008

In Case You Didn't Get Enough...

...about free agency and the Red Wings in my last post, I also guested on the I'm Not a Puckbunny Podcast again this week to discuss the Wings and the Kings with Connie of A Queen Among Kings this week, which you can listen to here. I also touch on the Wings' draft picks and the various adventures with the Stanley Cup so far.

The podcast just underwent a shift in operations, and I'll now be appearing as a guest the first week of every month (other regular guests include Finny from Girl with a Puck, Sherry from Scarlett Ice, and Cat from Untypical Girls as well as a rotating guest to fill out the last week of the month) to talk about updates both for the Wings and the rest of the league, so be sure to check it out! You can download each episode from the website above or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and I've added the convenient little embeddable player to the sidebar as well - so you have no excuse!

02 July 2008

Ken Holland is a Mad Genius (I Hope)

Wow. WOW. It's days like these you're happy to be a Red Wings fan. While a multitude of other teams out there are frantically racing around buying and selling and freaking their fans out, the Wings have sat back and made a few careful, smart, slightly shocking, deals. The other teams I follow frequently (the Leafs and the Oilers and to a lesser extent the Capitals - thanks Capschick) as well as many other teams in the league have made drastic roster changes, lost players unexpectedly, gained players unexpectedly, and set the fans on edge for what will be very different teams next year. Not so with the Red Wings, who once again have given us every reason to continue being confident in everything from the team to the management to the owners - and anything you can imagine inbetween.

First and foremost, Andreas Lilja

The Wings resigned Andreas Lilja to a two year contract worth $2.5 million. Lilja hasn't always been perfect, but despite all the grief he's gotten for a few boneheaded moves, he honestly hasn't make a substantial amount more mistakes than a lot of other defensemen, especially for the level of play expected from him - and it's easy to look bad when you're playing next to Nick Lidstrom, right? It's just unfortunate for Lilja that his mistakes always seem to wind up in the spotlight as gamebreakers. Nevertheless, he's been around the Wings for a while, understands the team philosophy, and can contribute as a fifth/sixth defenseman. He's also very affordable, and is receiving only a small raise over the 1 million he made for the past two season. The only problem with this signing in my mind, considering the next move the Wings made, is that it perpetuates a huge logjam of defensemen and creates the potential for a promising young kid to be lost.

Bringing Back B-Stu
After the Lilja signing, the chances of the Wings resigning UFA Brad Stuart, acquired from LA at the trade deadlline this past season, seemed slim. By the morning of trade deadline day, he was still unsigned and it seemed likely that he'd hit the free agent market where he could possibly make quite a bit more than Detroit was willing to offer. And then, just before noon, the news hit that he had indeed agreed to come back. The contract is for four years averaging $3.75 million per season - a little more than the Wings wanted to give and a little less than Stuart wanted to make. TSN reports the deal also includes a no trade clause for the first two years and a limited no-trade clause in the last two:

Stuart has moved around a fair bit in recent seasons, getting traded from San Jose to Boston in 2005 (as part of the Joe Thornton trade), from Boston to Calgary in 2007 before signing in Los Angeles as a free agent last summer.
It will be nice for Stuart, after all that, to get to settle down for a while. I had thought he was more than likely lost, so it was a great surprise to see that he'd decided to stay after all - and a testament to the environment surrounding the Wings that he chose to accept less to play for a team that seemed to tap into his potential. After struggling with the Kings (21 points and a minus-16 in 63 games) he clicked with Niklas Kronwall on the Wings (2 points and a plus-6 in 9 regular season games and 7 points and a plus 15 in 21 playoff games wherein he averaged over 21 minutes of ice time per night) and became an integral, top four part of the Wings' already stunning defense. He clearly liked his time here, and the way the Wings treated him (letting him travel back to LA for the birth of his second child comes to mind) and with Rafalski, Stuart, Kronwall and Lidstrom (because lets face it, even when his contract is up he isn't going anywhere unless he retires), our top four defense is locked up for a good long time. And in fact it was both family and his partnership with Kronwall, as well as tasting Stanley Cup victory, that brought him back:
“It’s been a tough couple of years from having a family and having to move around a bit, spending a lot of time a part,” Stuart said. “To be able to stick in Detroit for four years, I’m real happy about that. It’s not just about you anymore. It’s about the family and some times you have to make sacrifices to make everyone happy.”


“It was a pretty big factor. I really enjoy playing with him,” Stuart said of Kronwall. “We seem to have a pretty good chemistry. That's not always easy to find, so that was pretty important to get a chance to continue that. I'm excited to get going next year.”
Unfortunately the resigning of both of them does have it's downfalls in that the Wings now have a surplus of defensemen. Outside of the top four and Lilja, Brett Lebda will be back as well as Chris Chelios (though he's accepted a much lesser role and won't be playing as often as in the past) and then there are Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey, neither of whom can move back and forth between the AHL without clearing waivers any longer - and neither of whom aren't likely to be snatched up should they have to. On a personal level, Quincey is my favorite Griffin and I worry for his future with the organization - not because they want to lose him, but because they may have to. And then of course there's Jonathan Ericsson who's leaped from Mr. Irrelevant to the number one Wings prospect and could easily play in the NHL this season - but is stymied by not having to clear waivers and will likely remain dominating the AHL instead. Still, it's hard to find fault with either of these signings, even if they do have a small downside.

Jimmy Howard: Conkblocked
Since Dominik Hasek announced his retirement, it's been one of the biggest questions in Detroit - will Jimmy Howard, the "Red Wings goaltender of the future" for so many years, finally get his NHL chance? The answer appears to be probably not quite yet, as the Wings signed former Penguins backup goaltender Ty Conklin to a one year, $750,000 deal. It's a one-way contract which means the likelihood of Conks being sent down to the AHL in favor of Howard is slim. Holland's opinion:
"Ty Conklin has the inside track, but if Jimmy Howard is the obvious No. 2 guy (in training camp and the preseason), we'll reassess,'' general manager Ken Holland said. "Do we carry three (goaltenders)?''
Despite his rocky past with the Oilers, Conks looked incredibly solid with Pittsburgh last year when Marc-Andre Fleury was sidelined by an ankle sprain (18-8-5, with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage, which ranked second in the NHL last season). Aside from that, he and the number one guy Chris Osgood should get along well as both possess seemingly very casual demeanors, and it'll also be interesting to see how a goaltender like Conklin plays behind the sort of stellar defense Detroit possesses - look for some gaudy numbers. Another good decision by Holland.

Free agency had slowed down a little. Day One was pretty predictable as far as the Wings went, and aside from hearing that management had been looking into both Leafs captain Mats Sundin (which seemed unlikely given the offers he'd received from other teams) and at bringing back Todd Bertuzzi, it seemed as though perhaps the Wings would be done. And then, as I was pulling out of the Tim Horton's parking lot at 12:43 pm when I received the following text from a friend who'd been updating me all day:
"Hossa: 1 year, 7.4 million. DETROIT."
I stopped, stared, processed, and replied, eloquently, "WHAT?" Yes. Marian Hossa signed with Detroit, one year, $7.4 million. This sort of signing is what really puts into perspective how good your team really is. Hossa was offered nearly as much over five years by the Penguins and $9 million by Edmonton for a multi-year deal as well, and instead opted to come to Detroit for only one year, where the likelihood of him resigning after the season is virtually nil, as the Wings must then resign Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen. This effectively underlines what pretty much everyone already knew: Hossa wants to win a cup, and Hossa wants to win it now.

Brilliant. Hossa scores goals, plain and simple - and while he's not quite the two-way player most of Detroits forwards are (frankly the only downside I could possible see to this signing is if he doesn't mesh well with the team and upsets chemistry - but Detroit has a habit of bringing out the best in players), goals are never a bad thing. The team had some extra money lying around for the upcoming season and they managed to negotiate their way into becoming a heck of a lot more dangerous. How, we might never know - but is anyone complaining?

Here's another thing I like about Detroit's management of their players: Hossa was offered 7.4 million because, reportedly, it was the most Detroit would pay any UFA. No one was allowed to come in and make more money than captain Nick Lidstrom. While it's not a big deal or anything, that sort of loyalty shown to a player who deserves it as much as Lidstrom is just another example of why players stick with this team.

Finally, one hilarious bit from the Wings report of the signing:
The Red Wings’ inability to get secondary scoring last season was constantly scrutinized in the media.


Landing Hossa, who has scored 299 goals and 349 assists with a plus-85 rating in 701 career games, should address secondary scoring.
Only with the Detroit Red Wings could Marian Hossa be considered secondary scoring!

Last but not least
Are the Wings done with free agency yet? Not quite, as they have to deal with making offers to Darren McCarty and Aaron Downey, should the pair be brought back (they're expected to) and Valtteri Filppula, an RFA, whose deal will likely not come until further down the road. And who knows what else may await - Hossa was certainly unexpected, there could always be more, however unlikely. But rest assured, already the team has shown the rest of the league that it is ready to come back bigger, sharper, scarier, and more devastating than before. Congrats, Ken Holland, and thank you!