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.