Tag: Detroit Red Wings


Red Wings’ biggest question: goaltending


Jimmy Howard is getting paid like he’s the Detroit Red Wings’ starting goalie, but by no means is that role guaranteed for him.

There’s a solid chance that the Red Wings will enjoy good-to-great goaltending in 2015-16, yet there’s enough uncertainty surrounding the duo – will it be Howard, Petr Mrazek or a platoon scenario? – that the position stands as a question mark.

With about a $5.3 million cap hit that runs through 2018-19, the Red Wings likely hope that Howard can at least play well and often enough to drive up his trade value.

The 31-year-old boasts a respectable career save percentage of .916, yet the last two seasons have been marred by inconsistency and injuries. In both years, he played a bit more than 50 games, managed a so-so .910 save percentage and aroused some doubts along the way.

Meanwhile, it seemed like Mrazek jumped in line a bit, especially when he snared the No. 1 duty during Detroit’s tight first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 25-year-old put up great numbers in the regular season and postseason, prompting GM Ken Holland to declare open competition after players cleared out their lockers back in May:

“My message to those guys today was professional sports is about competition and the competition begins again in September,” Holland said, according to NHL.com.

“If you didn’t like the way the season ended, then get in the gym and do the work and be ready to be better next season. If you liked the way it finished, then get in the gym and make sure things keep going your way.”

Again, this situation could in fact be pretty lucrative for the Red Wings, as both goalies have shown flashes of brilliance. Still, it’s at least something to ponder as training camp approaches.

It’s Detroit Red Wings Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Detroit Red Wings.

After Detroit just barely managed to squeak into the playoffs in 2013-14, it seemed reasonable to wonder if its longstanding postseason streak dating back to the 1990-91 campaign was drawing to a close. However, the Red Wings’ efforts to rebuild on the fly continued and at first it looked like they would far exceed expectations.

Detroit got off to a 17-6-5 start, prompting Red Wings coach Mike Babcock to call the ’14-15 squad their best team since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2009. The following day Detroit began a six-game losing streak and while that wasn’t the start of a collapse for the Red Wings, it did illustrate that this was an inconsistent team.

Further complicating matters was the decline of goaltender Jimmy Howard, who posted a 2.99 GAA and .896 save percentage in 21 games after the all-star break. That prompted Detroit to lean on 23-year-old Petr Mrazek instead. The young netminder helped keep Detroit above water in the playoff race as its 43-25-14 record secured the squad a postseason berth by a four-point margin.

That set up a first round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning with Mrazek starting between the pipes. Detroit held its own against the eventual Stanley Cup finalists and Mrazek certainly had his moments as he posted two shutouts and turned aside 15 of 16 shots in Game 7. The one shot that got by him was all it took though as Lightning netminder Ben Bishop denied all 31 of the Red Wings’ shots on goal.

And with that, Detroit suffered its second straight first-round exit.

Off-season recap

The Detroit Red Wings’ playoff appearance streak started well before Babcock took over as the Red Wings’ bench boss, but he kept that legacy going for another decade and now he’s gone. Following Babcock’s decision to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit appointed Jeff Blashill to serve as the team’s second bench boss since the start of the salary cap era.

He’s inherited a team with some talented young players, but also two superstars in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk that are in the twilight of their careers. On the plus side, GM Ken Holland has provided Blashill with some reinforcements to aide in his rookie campaign.

Detroit signed offensive defenseman Mike Green to a three-year deal, $18 million deal and added veteran center Brad Richards to a one-year contract. Both could prove to be valuable additions with Green aiding Detroit with the man advantage and providing them with a right-handed shot from the blueline while Richards might serve on the second-line, allowing Datsyuk (once he’s healthy) and Zetterberg to play together.

With those additions, Detroit will attempt to build on its 2014-15 run and win its first playoff series since 2013.

What does Jack Eichel mean to the Buffalo Sabres?

Jack Eichel

It takes a special type of player to dramatically alter the perception of your franchise and the mood of the fanbase before playing a single minute in the NHL, but Jack Eichel is not your typical high-end draft pick.

He’s the reason over 17,000 fans in Buffalo wanted to see a prospects scrimmage in July. By extension Eichel is the primary source of the optimism surrounding the team despite the fact that the Sabres are coming off of a 23-51-8 record.

In fact, that might even been underselling his impact because as an American he has the potential to accomplish things that no other U.S.-born talent has done before.

That’s what he is to the fans, but just how important was taking him to the Buffalo Sabres? What would it have meant to this franchise if it had missed out on the rare opportunity to draft a player of Eichel’s potential?

Getting Eichel, regardless of how well he does, isn’t nearly enough to guarantee the Sabres an era of long playoff runs and one or more championships. He doesn’t change the fact that Buffalo’s goaltending is an X-Factor, that they’re still dependent on several other prospects to breakout, or that they need forwards like Evander Kane to bounce back to help close the massive gap that existed between the Sabres offensively in 2014-15 and even just the league average. Buffalo still needs plenty of work and that’s true with or without Eichel.

And yet, while Buffalo might ultimately end up with little to show for the Eichel era, even if he proves to be a superb forward, he is the foundation that gives this franchise a good fighting chance at a championship in the mid-term.

He’s potentially a top-tier center, which is something most serious Stanley Cup contenders have and isn’t typically available on the free agent or trade markets unless you happen to be Jim Nill. Beyond that, he’s a potential “big-time” player and those are equally rare and near essential for success.

For much of the last six seasons, Chicago would have been a team with depth, a great defense, and significant scoring threats even if Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were simply good rather than the elite forwards they have proven themselves to be. But that one downgrade alone might have proven to be the difference between a franchise locked in a dynasty debate and one that enjoyed some deep playoff runs without ever lifting the Stanley Cup.

As Mike Babcock put it in April when talking about the aging Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, “In the end, you’ve got to have big-time players up the middle and on the back to be successful. So those are questions in our organization that we work towards, drafting good and developing good, but we’ve been winning too much (in the regular season to get high draft picks). That’s the facts.”

That’s what Eichel represents to Buffalo. Even if he lives up to the hype, he’s just a piece of the puzzle, but he’s one of the toughest ones to find.

Coyotes want long-term deal with Glendale

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Last week, the Coyotes and Glendale resolved their contentious arena lease dispute.

Now, the Coyotes want to extend the deal.

“I would like to see us structure something with the city of Glendale on an extended basis sometime over this next year,” team president Anthony LeBlanc said, per the Arizona Republic. “Because I don’t want to go into free agency next year having Don [Maloney, Arizona GM] dealing with the same uncertainty he was dealing with this year.”

That uncertainty, according to the Republic, affected negotiations with RFA winger Mikkel Boedker, who opted to sign a one-year pact rather than a long-term extension.

The Boedker negotiations, in turn, apparently played a role in the Coyotes’ decision to target long-term with Glendale, rather than wait for the renewed lease — which went from a 15-year agreement to a two-year — to expire at the end of the 2017-18 campaign.

The desire for a long-term pact isn’t surprising. Though the Coyotes were able to land free agents like Steve Downie, Anders Lindback, Brad Richardson and ex-Coyotes Zbynek Michalek and Antoine Vermette, none of them signed on for longer than three years. The Republic reports that “a number of players [were] uninterested in the Coyotes because of their drama.”

If the club is going to be a significant player in free agency moving forward, Maloney needs to sell potential targets on a number of things.

Like, y’know, where they’re going to play.

“We will begin in earnest in the month of August having discussions about what we need to see on both sides to extend this,” LeBlanc explained. “Nobody benefits from a short-term deal like this, in particular, our hockey department.”

‘I don’t want to play in the AHL next year,’ says Detroit’s Callahan


Mitch Callahan wants his name on an NHL roster this fall — be it in Detroit, or elsewhere.

“There’s always been talk that some teams would be interested if I was on waivers, but it all depends on the timing on everything — I just want to go in and try and make Detroit,” Callahan said on Tuesday, per MLive. “As much as I love Grand Rapids, I don’t want to play in the AHL next year.

“So I’m trying to do everything possible to play with them (Red Wings) or have a good enough camp for someone else to take me.”

Callahan, 24, is another intriguing Detroit prospect that’s spent extensive time grooming in the AHL. He’s played over 200 games for Grand Rapids, won a Calder Cup and was enjoying a great campaign last year — 38 points in 48 games — before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in February.

As such, his time in the NHL has been brief. Callahan’s played in just one game for the Red Wings, during the ’13-14 campaign.

This year, that might have to change.

Callahan would require waivers to get sent down to Grand Rapids and, given how things have gone in the past, there’s good reason to think he’d get claimed. Last year, ex-Red Wing Andrej Nestrasil scored seven goals and 18 points in 41 games for Carolina after getting plucked off waivers, and in June was signed to a two-year, $1.825 million extension.

(Like Callahan, Nestrasil was a solid producer in Grand Rapids, scoring 16 goals and 36 points in his only full season with the team.)

All of this puts both the club and player in tough spots. Though Callahan and new Wings head coach Jeff Blashill have a strong relationship from their time together in Grand Rapids, the forward position in Detroit is deep with a glut of guys on NHL deals.

That said, Pavel Datsyuk isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the season and there’s still no clear picture on Johan Franzen’s (concussion) health, so there could be some temporary spots available.