Steve Yzerman

What is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook?

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Detroit Red Wings.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

This is kind of an odd situation at the moment because the players with the longest contracts and biggest financial commitments are players that probably do not actually fit in with the long-term direction of the team.

For example, here is the list of players that are actually signed to contracts beyond this season: Dylan Larkin, Filip Zadina, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Patrick Nemeth, Alex Biega, Danny DeKeyser, and Jonathan Bernier.

Out of that group, Larkin and Zadina (who is still on an entry-level contract) are the only ones that are under the age of 28.

Nemeth (who is 28) is the only other player under the age of 30.

Mantha, Bertuzzi, and perhaps Fabbri all figure to stick around for a while and are still under team control as restricted free agents this summer, but they are not technically signed yet.

All of that leaves general manager Steve Yzerman with a fairly clean slate to build from. He also has a couple of really interesting building blocks in Larkin, Mantha, and Zadina.

Larkin and Mantha may not be superstars, but they are still very good top-line players in the prime of their careers, and in Larkin’s case signed to a long-term deal. Mantha will need a new contract this summer but has blossomed into a potential 30-goal, possession driving power forward. Zadina is still a bit of a mystery, but he probably has the most potential of any young player in the organization and has flashed the ability that made him one of the most sought after goal-scoring prospects in his draft class.

Long-Term Needs

When you miss the playoffs four years in a row and are having one of the worst seasons in the modern history of the sport it is safe to say that you have a lot of needs at pretty much every position.

That is the case with the Red Wings.

More specifically, they need impact players.

They need a superstar forward they can build around and make the centerpiece of this entire thing. Maybe they will get some draft lottery luck and get the top pick, which is always a good place to start. It would also be helpful if Zadina blossomed into the top-shelf goal-scorer he was projected to be (and you should not give up on that possibility).

They also need a lot of long-term help on defense.

Moritz Seider, the No. 6 overall pick in 2019, is their best defense prospect, but he is probably a ways away from contributing as a top-pairing player.

Perhaps the biggest long-term hole in the organization though is in net. Howard and Bernier are both over the age of 31 and neither is likely to be standing in the crease for the Red Wings’ next playoff team. That goalie is also probably not in the organization right now.

Long-Term Strengths

It might just be the simple fact that they have a very successful and very good general manager that has a lot of resources to work with.

The salary cap situation is not perfect, but it is also not as bad as it looked a year or two ago. They have a couple of contracts they might like to shed (Nielsen, Abdelkader, DeKeyser) but it is nothing that is crushing them at the moment and there is some long-term flexibility there.

Along with having the best odds for the top pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, they also have 18 draft picks over the next two years, including seven in the first two rounds (two first-round picks, five second-round picks) in those classes.

That comes after making 11 selections in the 2019 class, including four in the first two rounds.

The best way to find NHL talent in the draft is to give yourself more chances at finding a player (more picks) and the Red Wings are overflowing with them. That helps increase the odds in your favor a bit.

Larkin and Mantha should also be viewed as strengths because both players are good enough and young enough to stick around in Detroit and play in meaningful games for the team. Larkin is one of the league’s fastest players, has great underlying numbers, and has become a 60-point player every year. The only thing that has stopped Mantha from being a 30-goal player the past two years has been injuries. There are a lot of positions that need to be addressed, but they have the right person in charge to do it and some pieces to work with.

More:
• Looking at the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings
Biggest surprises and disappointments 

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking at the 2019-20 Detroit Red Wings

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Detroit Red Wings.

Detroit Red Wings

Record: 17-49-5 (71 games), eighth place in Atlantic Division
Leading Scorer: Dylan Larkin 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

  • Acquired Brendan Perlini from Chicago Blackhawks for Alec Regula
  • Acquired Robby Fabbri from St. Louis Blues for Jacod De La Rose
  • Acquired Eric Comrie from Arizona Coyotes for Vili Saarijarvi
  • Acquired Kyle Wood from Carolina Hurricanes for Oliwer Kaski
  • Traded Mike Green to Edmonton Oilers for Kyle Brodziak and a conditional 2020 fourth-round draft pick
  • Traded Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner to Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner, 2020 second-round draft pick, and 2021 second-round draft pick

Season Overview

Everyone had to know this was going to be a tough season for the Detroit Red Wings.

They are in the middle of a complete teardown and rebuild and had already missed the postseason three years in a row. The roster was already short on impact talent and depth when the season began, and it was a given that even more talent was going to be traded away during the season.

But it was still difficult to imagine things being this bad.

The Red Wings not only have the worst record and worst goal differential in the league this season, they were on track to be one of the worst teams in the modern NHL era.

They have won just 17 out of their first 71 games, putting them on pace to win only 19 this season. Since 1990 there have only been 11 teams that failed to win at least 20 games in a season (excluding lockout shortened seasons), and out of that group most of those examples were early expansion seasons for teams like Ottawa, Atlanta, and San Jose.

At the time of the NHL’s season pause they had a minus-122 goal differential for the season, by far the league’s worst. The next worst team? The Ottawa Senators at minus-52. That minus-122 mark is among the 20-worst marks in NHL history through the first 71 games of a season.

For the season they are 31st in goals scored, 31st in goals against, 31st in shots on goal per game, 31st on the penalty kill, 31st in total shot attempt share at even-strength, 29th on the power play, and 27th in shots on goal against per game.

In other words, this particular version of the Red Wings has performed at a level that is comparable to some of the worst expansion teams in NHL history. They are not an expansion team.

That is not to say that the entire situation is hopeless long-term. They do have some intriguing young players to build around, they have stockpiled draft picks, they will have the best shot at landing the top pick in this year’s draft lottery, and Steve Yzerman is one of the most respected executives in the league. He helped turn the franchise once as a player. Now he has a chance to do it as the general manager.

Highlight of the season so far

There are actually a couple! If you wanted, you could point to Anthony Mantha‘s four-goal game against the Dallas Stars back in early October. But we are going to go with their two — TWO! — different wins over the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins are the NHL’s best team this season and running away with the Presidents’ Trophy. They have lost just 14 games in regulation. Two of those losses have come against a Red Wings team that has won just 17 games.

This is why they play the games.

More:
Red Wings biggest surprises and disappointments
What is the Detroit Red Wings’ long-term outlook?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

Hockey legends like Brady leaving Patriots Orr Howe Hull Brodeur
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As mind-blowing as it is to type this, it’s true: Tom Brady said goodbye to the Patriots on Tuesday. It’s something that’s difficult to process, even if you’re not a Patriots or even a football fan. Yet, as Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra chronicles for baseball, legends donning strange uniforms late in their careers is no new phenomenon, and certainly not limited to the land of pigskins. So what about hockey and the NHL, then?

Hockey fans have been treated to quite a few one-team legends, including Mario Lemieux saving the Penguins more than once.

Even so, there are plenty of legends who ended spent time in jerseys that just felt wrong. Let’s ponder the hockey answers to Brady leaving the Patriots, Johnny Unitas on the Chargers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards, and Babe Ruth on the Boston Braves.

Orr down hockey Brady comparison
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque leave Boston with very different results

At least with Brady, Boston-area fans couldn’t reasonably ask for more. Meanwhile, Bobby Orr’s career concluded with questions of “What could have been?”

Knee injuries ravaged his later career, and after 10 seasons, Orr left the Bruins for the Blackhawks. Between two seasons, Orr could only appear in 26 games for Chicago.

In something of a sequel, the Bruins traded Ray Bourque during his 21st season with the team, setting the stage for Bourque to eventually win a Stanley cup inspiring enough to essentially demand a parade in Boston.

Brodeur Blues Brady leaving Patriots hockey comparison
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Brodeur finishes with the Blues

If Orr on the Blackhawks isn’t the Brady comparison you think of for hockey, then it’s probably Brodeur appearing in seven games for the Blues after winning three Stanley Cups, four Vezinas, and setting the all-time wins record over 1,259 games with the Devils.

(That contrast still makes me chuckle, to be honest.)

As awkward as Brodeur’s brief Blues stint was, it lacked the angst of how Orr’s career ended. That might make it closer to a 1:1 hockey comparison for Brady, although the QB could easily prove that his tank isn’t empty.

Much of this list shows examples of players trying to prove that they could still play, with most sputtering out after running on fumes.

(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hull of a change, and Howe

Bobby Hull already experienced quite a journey going from the Blackhawks to the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets (scoring 303 goals in the WHA alone). Hull’s final hockey and NHL season was especially odd, though, starting with 18 NHL games for the Jets before being traded to the Hartford Whalers, playing nine games for The Whale. Gordie Howe ended up being a Whalers teammate of Hull, which is … yeah, pretty mind-blowing. Bobby Hull also attempted a comeback with the Rangers.

(Howe’s legendary career featured quite the second [and maybe third?] acts after his Red Wings days, including playing with his sons, and somehow managing 15 goals and 41 points with the Hartford Whalers at age 51.)

Bobby’s son Brett Hull experienced a journeyman career of his own. Brett convinced the Coyotes to unretire Bobby’s number 9, but that story ended with a whimper (five games) as Brett realized he couldn’t adjust to the post-lockout style of play in 2005-06.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Random Red Wings

If you’re playing trivia and “This player finished his career/briefly played for this team …” comes up, blurting out Detroit Red Wings isn’t the worst bet.

Lightning round, sometimes involving Lightning

  • Mats Sundin stunned Maple Leafs fans by joining the Canucks. There was some Alfredsson-like logic of linking Sundin with fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, yet the experiment lasted just 41 games.
  • Brian Leetch playing for the Maple Leafs was a little strange, but Leetch in a Bruins sweater will never look right.
  • Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens legend, as a Quebec Nordique? Yes, that happened. Jacques Plante bounced around quite about post-Habs, too, including eight games with the (gasp) Bruins.
  • Like Plante, Grant Fuhr pinballed around the NHL quite a bit after parting ways with the Oilers, but joining the Flames? Wow. Fuhr didn’t just play for the Calgary Flames, either, as he suited up twice for the Saint John Flames.
  • File Ed Belfour and Igor Larionov under “people you might not have known played for the Panthers.”
  • Olaf Kolzig was persistent in Washington as Godzilla could be in Tokyo, playing 711 of his 719 games for the Capitals. The eight other games came with the Lightning. (Vincent Lecavalier playing for the Kings was strange, but softened by his years with the Flyers.)

Feel free to mention other fish-out-of-water memories in the comments. Also, if you had to guess, which hockey legend will Brady mirror the most?

(Hopefully we won’t ever get that “Halloween Olajuwon as a Raptor vs. Patrick Ewing with the Magic” feeling from Brady’s final act.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Trade: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Oilers trade for Mike Green Red Wings
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Nostalgia seems to be in the air during NHL trade deadline eve. After Ilya Kovalchuk was traded to Washington, the Detroit Red Wings sent defenseman Mike Green to the Edmonton Oilers in a trade on Sunday.

To the Oilers: Mike Green

To the Red Wings: “A conditional pick in 2020 or 2021” plus Kyle Brodziak. Red Wings retain 50 percent of Green’s $5.375M salary.

MORE: PHT’s Trade deadline live blog

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector reports the salary retention, and also the conditions of that pick:

Assessing the Mike Green trade for both teams

Overall, this seems like a no-brainer for the Red Wings. They need to stockpile picks, so getting a fourth that could become a third — especially in 2020 — is pretty nifty. That’s especially true because, frankly, Green’s perceived value has never been lower.

So far in 2019-20, the 34-year-old only has three goals and 11 points in 48 games.

That’s a far cry from his days as a near-Norris-winning high-scorer. If the knocks on Green’s game were unfair back then, they feel more accurate now. Consider, for instance, his poor showings by Evolving Hockey’s RAPM Charts:

Mike Green RAPM chart trade to EDM

He’s very limited overall, but as a specialist who can potentially boost the Oilers’ offense? That makes him more interesting. There’s no denying that Ken Holland approves of Green’s game, being that he was his GM in Detroit and now Edmonton.

What do you make of the Oilers’ decision to trade for Mike Green? Was the price right or a little too rich? Again, I think Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman did very nicely with this one.

The Athletic’s Jonathan Willis is very much plugged into what the Oilers need, and he provided pretty effusive praise. At worst, it’s not much of an investment for Edmonton, although I’d still argue it’s solid work by Detroit.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Alex Ovechkin passes Mark Messier for eighth all-time with 695th goal

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If it weren’t for winning a Stanley Cup, this might have stood as the most memorable week* of Alex Ovechkin‘s career. Ovechkin tied and then passed Mark Messier for eighth all-time in goal-scoring on Friday. Ovechkin scored two goals to reach 695 for his career as the Capitals beat the Senators 5-3.

Ovechkin ties Messier with goal 694

Ovechkin extended his current goal streak to five games during the second period. Rather than being the Ovechkin goal you can picture in your sleep, he scored this from the opposite faceoff circle.

Ovechkin passes Messier, stands alone at eighth with goal 695

The Ovechkin didn’t need long to break that tie with Messier. He iced Washington’s win with an empty-netter. Watch both goals below:

Again, this caps quite a week for Ovechkin. Ovechkin mourned Kobe Bryant’s passing on Wednesday by wearing number 24 during warm-ups. During that same game, Ovechkin tied then passed Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time in scoring.

Yzerman provided some fun fodder following Ovechkin pushing him down the ranks, asking to be invited to the party if Ovechkin breaks the all-time goals record (894 by Wayne Gretzky, of course).

Messier praised Ovechkin’s skill in spirit in congratulating “The Great 8” on moving to eighth.

People get tempted to only look in the past when a player piles up milestone like Ovechkin is right now. Yet, Ovechkin’s sniping remains relevant in the present. His two goals push him to 37 on the season. Being that David Pastrnak came into Friday with the league lead at 37, Ovechkin also eyes another possible Maurice Richard Trophy. When you consider the past and present, is there any sense in doubting Ovechkin?

Beyond that race, Ovechkin also eyes 700 goals and Mike Gartner at seventh (708). The Capitals have 30 regular-season games remaining in 2019-20, so don’t be shocked if he reaches both of those marks this season.

* – Then again, Ovechkin might not remember much from that time, considering how hard he partied.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.