Prince Fielder

Softballs

Not that Press conferences are ever the place to go to get real answers to hard hitting questions, but today’s press conference was a rough listen. I wasn’t looking for Prince to be grilled or anything like that, but I thought he’d get a few more serious questions.

Also, it was apparent who was out of place at that press conference.

Salary Cap? Can Jayden say something? Asking Dombroski a line up question?

There are some good sports reporters in this town that are also women, but those were none of them.

Not that the men did much better, though one of the better questions did have Lynn Henning calling Prince Fielder “husky” which I thought only applied to fat  eight year-old children.

Just Prince Fielder

Most of what has to be said about Prince Fielder  has been said about Prince Fielder. I’m not worried about his 9 year deal, I’m not worried about all the money he’ll make, and I am not worried about Miguel Cabrera playing third base. What I am MOST not worried about is Prince’s relationship with his dad. It’s nice that Prince grew up here, I know he hit home runs into the upper deck at Tiger Stadium when he was 12,  but truth be told I don’t care about any of that. I like Prince fielder coming to Detroit because he is a great hitter.

If I were the guy who needed a great feature story on those two, I would be digging there too.

But I’m not, so I don’t care.

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Red Wings: What’s Best in the Bottom of the West?

We’re still a ways out from the NHL trade deadline, but the way the standings are working out so many  teams are going to be in the hunt at the end,  odds are when deadline time rolls around the list of teams to purge will look similar to what it does now.

With so many teams in the hunt, it should be a very good sellers market. The teams out of it are actually chalk full of talent, and there are quite a few expiring contracts teams will want to get something for. It will be a great deadline to get some pieces to revamp your organization.

That leaves six or seven teams for the rest of the league to purge.

Making things even more interesting is that some of the top tier teams in the league have lots of room  to spend at the deadline day. Today we look at teams that appear all but out of it in the Western Conference.

Here is a look at the teams out of the race in the West, and some players the Red Wings may want to look at, and others they should stay away from.

Columbus

A small market team that spent money for a roster that looked formidable on paper. It LOOKS like they have a lot of guys stuck for the long term, but with results on the ice getting players to waive no trade clauses shouldn’t be too tough. That being said patience may payoff if they find the right coach for this unit. I don’t think they blow it up completely, but obviously a few tweaks are due.

Most likely available: Vinne Prospal, Kristian Huselius, Samuel Pahlsson

These guys could be great additions to a lot of teams, but If I were the Wings I wouldn’t bother with any of them.  All these players are long in the tooth secondary scoring.  With the emergence of  Val Filppula and Jiri Hudler this season and a revamped Todd Bertuzzi, there is no reason to go get older or less productive versions of them. The Wings are looking for a major addition so unless Rick Nash or James Wisniewski become available, don’t expect a deal between these teams.  (It should be noted however, that because its a small market team spending a ton of money and getting worse results than when they don’t spend, it is not out of the realm of possibility for Columbus to have a fire sale.)

Anaheim

Not only a talent laden team, but a proven winner in the past. I don’t think anyone can explain why they are where they are, but fighting the jackets for most futile in the west isn’t where  this group of veterans should be. Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, and Selanne are still great talent, and just about all of the supporting cast will be free agents come summer time. If I were the Ducks I’d keep my core of Perry, Ryan, and Getzlaf, and find some better supporting cast through trade and free agency, but it would also be a great market to blow the whole thing up.

It’s my guess the entire roster could be had. Lots of talent. Selanne seems like the most sure fire.

Proven playoff winners, highly skilled gritty forwards, and veteran talent. Any of these guys are welcome in Detroit, despite their harsh words of the past.  Selanne bolsters the powerplay and has managed to put lead his team in points. A good rental and the best hash mark standing, open net finding player his age. Could he play nice with Nik Kronwall?

Edmonton 

The Oilers are a young up and coming team, so its hard to say they’ll move much. Ryan Smyth is a player on a one year contract with playoff value, but it’s possible he just goes right back to the Oilers. The Wings probably wouldn’t mind, Ryan Smyth definitely falls under the blanket of “hungry veteran.” He could be the Dallas Drake factor the Wings had in 2008. He’s a good guy to have on your playoff roster and  a guy you can plug in on a second line that will go to the nasty places on the ice. Having the top two net front presence in the playoffs would make you a tough out against any team. This could be a great opportunity for Smyth to take his shot at the cup, then head back to Edmonton where they are still a couple years away from being a contender.   Ales Hemsky was/is overrated and overpaid. He will probably end up somewhere else by next fall, wouldn’t put him in a Wings jersey even as a rental.

Your Thoughts: Zetterberg Still a Top-10 Forward?

It doesn’t seem like anybody has noticed…but Henrik Zetterberg is having his worst statistical season since his rookie year.  With Eight Goals and 24 assists through 44 games it certainly looks bad on paper.

Then again, the Wings haven’t been struggling and secondary scoring has certainly taken the burden off the superstar, but should Wings fans be worried about Zetterberg’s numbers? Is the 31-year old in what is essentially a lifetime contract still a top-10 forward in the NHL? Do you care if he’s considered a top-10 forward?

By the way Zetterberg hasn’t recorded a single point in the last three games (this was written before the Buffalo game, where he is almost certain to get a hat trick now).

It should also be noted that Valteri Filppula is finally having that break out season everyone has been calling for  his entire career, So could it just be a case of there just isn’t enough puck to go around?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Time for a New Back-Up Goalie in Detroit?

Following Tuesday’s game there was some banter on twitter about trading to find a new back up goalie. To be perfectly honest such thoughts crossed my mind as well, but I don’t think the Wings need to do that.

Granted there are a lot of very good tandems in the NHL this year: Backstrom-Harding, Rinne-Lindback, and Luongo-Schneider to name a few.

The Red Wings are in a different of a situation. Jimmy Howard has proven to thrive in the “workhorse” roll. The last two seasons he’s played 63 games and based on his play in last season’s playoffs, that wasn’t too much. He didn’t lead the team into the conference or cup finals, but he played well enough to. The team in front of him had too many flaws. (Jiri Hudler demolishing Dan Cleary in game-seven didn’t help.)

(Not that he is Marin Brodeur, but check out the GP stats on him in his prime)

That’s not to say the Wings wouldn’t mind resting Howard a few more games without chalking up the game as a loss ahead of time.

Before you really know if the Wings have a need for a back up goalie, give Conklin a couple more starts, if he falters–toss him aside. He has a very good back up goalie’s resume, but points are too valuable to throw away in the NHL so the Wings can’t wait too long to decide if he is the guy. A larger and slightly more frequent sampling will tell a more accurate story. Thursday and Saturday were the first of Conklin’s starts that were less than 17 days apart since Oct. 22,25 (both losses) . A back up has to be able to perform after sitting a long time between starts and Howard has been tough to sit, but I have the feeling most goalies would find it tough to be up to par on that schedule. Even on the pace of Howard playing 63, Conklin should have 2-4 more starts thus far.

Should you find that Conklin will not work out; instead of wasting any kind of a resource (a draft pick or roster player) on getting a Nabokov or another goalie outside of the system, why not take another look at Joey MacDonald? He was good for the Wings last year when called upon, and he is down in Grand Rapids sucking up time that could be used for Jordan Pearce and Thomas McCollum development.

If you recall, there were even people saying that maybe Joey Mac should start in the playoffs over Howard (I chalk that up to Detroit being a more ignorant “Hockeytown” than it lets on”). Let’s be clear, MacDonald doesn’t need to be the man he– would just need to be solid enough for Mike Babcock to rest Howard when needed down the stretch (say 10-15 games). If Howard gets injured, its hard to imagine any goalie backstopping this team to a cup anyway. Gone are the days where a Detroit goalie sees just 15-20 shots a game and Howard has patched a lot of holes the Wings have defensively.

Ken Holland has been too good with late round picks to just give them away, and depth was an issue for this team in the playoffs last season. Plus, you want to save all the resources you can when the Wings go and spend that 5.2 mill they have laying around for Deadline day.

What do you think? Comment below, it’s easy!

Five (plus) Things the Lions Didn’t Do When They Lost to the Saints

Ya, it is my “keys of the game.”

How did I not mention tackling in said keys to the game? Either way, Whomever is letting Louis Delmas teach the fundamentals of tackling should be slapped silly. He doesn’t wrap up, and neither does most of the Lions defense.

The Lions got beat by a better team, no excuse here, but there has to be something said about the officiating. I’ll let you say it below in the comments.

I’ll say nice things about them tomorrow….for now, here is a list of things the Lions didn’t do well.

5.  Matt Stafford has to be Matt Stafford:

Matt Stafford still looked good, but his back foot desperation heave was not exactly playing it cool, and it helped unravel the game. Not a failure, but not good enough to compete with Drew Brees….yet. Reminder: He’s 23 and a top 5 QB.

I am least worried about this one, but the times Stafford has struggled are the times the Lions have looked hapless.  Stafford has had the team on his back (sharing some of the weight with Calvin Johnson of course) all season and has looked nothing but comfortable with it. He came up big in Oakland when the Lions needed that win and he was superb in Green Bay. Sure he threw the interception at the end sealing the brutal loss at Lambeau, and a similar scenario could easily happen in a game with the Saints, but its hard to get down on a guy that threw five TDs for not throwing a sixth. In case you haven’t notice, he’s been a top 5 QB in the league.

4. Guys on offense have to catch the ball:

Calvin Johnson caught the ball…a lot. Will Heller got a TD? and nobody else was particularly good. Titus Young could of made a touch catch and didn’t, Pettigrew only having 4 catches is a shame.

It’s been easier to overlook this season than in years passed because Detroit did win 10 games, but there have been some absolutely brutal drops from the Lions receivers this season. First on that list is Brandon Pettigrew. Make no mistake about it Pettigrew is a huge part of the Lions “running game,”  so when he drops that wide open dink-n-dunk pass in the middle of the field, its very likely the Lions drive will stall.Despite having a case of the dropsies Pettigrew has been pretty reliable and he is a tough guy for defenses to take down when he makes catches.  Titus Young will be in a tough place to play as a number two rookie receiver. He hasn’t had a huge problem with drops but his emotions got the best of him last time out in the Superdome, so he might feel more pressure than he should coming into this one. Nate Burleson has proved he can catch the ball, but he runs with it so carelessly I worry he’ll fumble just about every time. Kevin Smith has had a hard time catching as of late it seems, so he would be a bonus.

3. Keeping penalty yardage to a minimum:

7 penalties for 64 yards isn’t bad by the Lions standard, but the Saints only had 3 for 18. Maybe that’s why they call them the Saints?

I am not optimistic on this one but that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. Obviously the last time these two teams played the personal foul problem came to a head, and since then it really hasn’t been much of an issue. The penalty issue however, is still there and the Saints are going to get plenty of yardage on their own without the Lions help. Keep it under 50 yards and the Lions can win this game.

2. The secondary need takeaways, and to just be visible on the field:

Mostly a giant failure. Four dropped picks, and the secondary in the second half was just absent.

Alphonso Smith was noticeably the worst player on the defense last week, and lets face it when he has a bad game he does it big (See New England game 2010). He also grabbed an INT for the Lions last week and has been reasonably anonymous the rest of the season (which is a good thing). With Aaron Berry going back on Saturday he’ll see reduced playing time but  Berry hasn’t had an interception thus far.  Normally I would give up interceptions for better coverage and in this case I have to assume they’ll spell one another, but the Lions defense  won’t be able to STOP Drew Brees, so they should be be trying to take the ball away from him.  Nobody stops Drew Brees.

1. The D-Line needs to have an influence on the game:

The D-Line had its moments, but just wasn’t good enough. Drew Brees had plenty of time to launch the ball 3 miles down field.

Heading into the 2011 season, there was talk of giving the defensive line a nick name. At the end of the season I must say there were games where I couldn’t name a player on the D-line that influenced the game. That can’t be the case this week, and I think everybody knows.  The Saints are said to have the best offensive line in the league,  but in the first five games of the season there was talk of the Lions D-line being of a very high caliber too. Well the stats don’t exactly back it up, but this group IS special. If the Lions get pressure on Drew Brees, that increases the odds he makes a mistake or two and that could be all the Lions need to out shoot the Saints in what is destined to be a shoot-out.

All hands are on deck for the playoffs, which means with the deep rotation the Saints O-Line won’t see much of a break. Nick Fairley had a great first half last time out against the Saints, and has basically disappeared since (he did re-injure his foot. Cliff Avril has quietly been the most consistent guy and if he has a stellar playoff he could sack himself into an even bigger payday than he is due. Ndamukong Suh has been a big name in 2011, but it hasn’t really been his play on the field… this could be a big stage for him to change that.

To beat Giants, Falcons must be in ‘Cruz’ control

A look at the OTHER NFC Wildcard playoff, thanks to BreslinSports.com

Breslanta


I’m only going to say one thing regarding this whole “ESPN New York vs. the City of Atlanta” thing that happened today with writer Rob Parker bashing Atlanta fans.

The article that has been placed at the top of every Atlanta sports fan’s bulletin board was done entirely to get you to click on the link and get cheap page views. He wanted to enrage you enough to read the article and leave a comment. Nothing more, nothing less. He can say he stands behind what he said, but there are holes all over the emotional piece he wrote, and we all know the Falcons and their fans deserve a victory Sunday as much as the Giants and their fans do.

He doesn’t really believe what he said. But you clicked on the link and read his story, and I’m willing to guarantee you’ve never done that with a Rob…

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Mike Tice Promoted To Offensive Coordinator

The Chicago Bears ditch the Greatest Show on Turf for the Love Boat. TheChicagosportblog has the story.

thechicagosportsblog

Mike Tice

The Chicago Bears have promoted former offensive line coach Mike Tice to become the Bears offensive coordinator.  Lovie Smith stated, ” We want to be a strong running team with a big-play pass attack. Mike will call plays for us and continue to have an active role with our offensive line.”  If the Bears want to be a strong running team they better give Matt Forte the money that he deserves.  Lovie also said the bears will be hiring a passing coordinator that will work with the quarterbacks.  To complete the bears coaching staff they will need to find a new offensive line coach which was Mike Tice’s former job.

In my opinion I am not sure about this move, only time will tell.  I do believe that Jay Cutler can thrive off of any offensive system as long as he has time to throw the ball.  Getting better receivers would help…

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