What Went Wrong: Detroit Red Wings

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Much like with the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, it’s tough to hammer on a team that went seven games in a series, especially after rallying after being down 3-0 in the series to start, but for the Detroit Red Wings, there’s enough to pick on. So just what went wrong for Detroit against San Jose? We’ve got a few things to pick on.

1. The Obvious
You can’t get into a 3-0 hole in a series and expect to win. It sounds simple enough but last year’s Flyers managed change people’s perceptions and leave the glimmer of hope open that things can change. As this year’s playoffs have shown, dreams don’t always come true and the miracle doesn’t always come to fruition. Asking any team to win four games in a row whether it’s in the regular season or the playoffs is asking a lot of them.

While the Wings did well to do their part, it just didn’t pay off. In a series as close as this was with six games decided by one goal, they were about as close as they could to pulling off wins in four games but just didn’t get the breaks.

2. No secondary scoring threats
The play of Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, and Henrik Zetterberg in this series was outstanding. Datsyuk led the way with nine points (2 goals, 7 assists), Zetterberg had eight points (3g, 5a), and Lidstrom was the top goal scorer with four goals and two assists. The next best? Not so good.

Detroit had six different players finish the series with three points and while that’s a good spread out amount of help, not getting that little bit extra from any of Dan Cleary, Tomas Holmstrom, Todd Bertuzzi, or Valtteri Filppula hurt. As dominant as the Wings’ top three were, the rest of the gang was doing their part to pick their moments. Getting that kind of production is great, but ultimately it just wasn’t enough.

3. Jimmy Howard got hot too late
It’s tough to get upset with how Jimmy Howard played in this series. A lot of Detroit fans might want to blame the goalie since that’s the usual way things go. This time around, Howard was great in the last four games of the series but his first three just weren’t the same sort of dominating level of play.

With Antti Niemi playing out of his mind on the other side of the ice, Howard had no room for error and in the first three games of the series he just wasn’t on the same level. You can’t quite hold that against him, it’s just a bit of bad luck on the part of the Wings. Howard could’ve used some better help in front of him early on from guys like Ruslan Salei and Brad Stuart, but things tightened up later on. Early mistakes ultimately cost Detroit a shot at the Western finals.

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Detroit had a tremendous playoffs. Sweeping Phoenix out was impressive and having to deal with an equally as impressive San Jose team in the second round proved to be all that it was meant to be.

Detroit will be back next year. Mike Babcock is one of the best coaches in the business and Ken Holland will get to work in the offseason trying to convince Nick Lidstrom to come back for one more year while getting Dan Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi healthy. They’ll need to sign a goalie to backup Jimmy Howard and figure out what they’re going to do elsewhere on defense. Niklas Kronwall’s emergence in the playoffs as a big time blue liner gives the Wings hope there, but if there’s one thing we learned in these playoffs and over the years it’s to never count out the Detroit Red Wings.

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey:

Which NHL teams face toughest, easiest schedules in 2017-18?

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For NHL schedule nerds, Tuesday felt a bit like Christmas.*

On the Forecheck’s Dirk Hoag is mostly retired from hockey blogging, but he still puts out his beloved “super schedule,” and he combined with Alex Daugherty to do a 2017-18 version, which you should absolutely check out here.

Hoag and Daughtery listed all 31 teams’ total miles traveled and also their number of back-to-back games for next season.

Here are the top five teams for most miles:

1. Avalanche – 48,639
2. Flames – 47,931
3. Blackhawks – 47,926
4. Coyotes – 46,856
5. Oilers – 46,815

Note: the Panthers are the sixth-ranked team and face easily the most travel among East teams with 44,395, up from 41,891.

Now, here are the bottom five for travel time:

31: Penguins – 34,041
30: Devils – 34,052
29. Sabres – 34,175
28. Red Wings – 34,759
27. Maple Leafs – 35,689

The Los Angeles Kings tend to be frequent flyers, but not here; they face the least travel of any West team with 39,915.

That’s not the entire picture, however. These teams face the most back-to-back sets:

1 (tied) – Penguins and Senators with 19
3. Hurricanes – 18
4 (tied) Blackhawks, Blue Jackets – 17
6 (tied) Blues, Islanders, Sabres, and Devils – 16

While these teams face the fewest.

1. Jets – 9 (Winnipeg faces 43,296 miles of travel.)
2. Canucks – 10
3 (tied) – Avalanche, Oilers, Predators, Ducks, and Rangers – 11

Oh, and in their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights travel 42,128 miles and must endure 12 back-to-back sets, so they deal with a pretty middle-of-the-road haul.

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As you can see, plenty of teams see their low travel rates balanced out by high back-to-back game totals. The Penguins are a good example of that.

Then again, some teams just suffer tough draws. As much as conspiracy theorists love to harp on the Blackhawks, they face the third-most travel miles and deal with 17 back-to-back sets.

On The Forecheck’s full list can be seen here, yet they are not the only outlet to do some interesting schedule analysis. Hockey Viz’s Micah Blake McCurdy put together a list of rested/tired games for each team:

Though he also narrowed it down in a way that might make the biggest difference: a rested home team facing a tired road opponent.

Long story short, it’s difficult to really boil down who has the toughest schedule based on one metric. It’s a subjective matter, as you can weigh these “rest/tired” factors, go broad with sheer back-to-back sets, and even lean on jet lag more than anything else.

Still, if you’re the type to wear a tin foil hat, the lists above could really help you cook up some theories about the bad hand your team allegedly drew.

(Opinion: it does seem like Chicago faces more than just salary cap challenges next season, however.)

* – Or whatever holiday resonates. So, Festivus?