Coach for a Day

The Red Wings have some real obvious problems on defense– but a lesser mentioned problem seems to be that the Wings have scored just 4 goals in three games.

 

The Top line is doing most of the damage; Pavel Datsyuk has three points in as many games, and Brunner and Zetterberg have combined for 28 shots thus far.

After that it really starts to tail off in productivity (Franzen and Cleary combine for 22 PIMS for whatever that’s worth).

 

Not that the lines have been fluid in these first few games anyway, but I think there is a real obvious way to make your first two lines truly potent.

 

Everybody’s heard about the magic Brunner and Zetterberg created over in Europe during the lockout, but if you can harken back to last spring there was another budding bromance on this team:

Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist.

 

The two should be sewn together at the hip for the remainder of Datsyuk’s career here in Detroit. 

 

Remember Nyquist’s first NHL goal?

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MuNm0wQTFQ

 

Nyquist started the season out in Grand Rapids, and as I’ve mentioned before, excelled in the “Super AHL.” He has speed that many potential line mates of Datsyuk sorely lack and an apparent “click” with Pavel to boot. The Red Wings of old would let him get over ripe, but this team lacks speed so much it hurts. Adding a guy like him brings a skill set consistent with the NHL in 2013, and not what the game was in 2008. Keep him up in the NHL and these could be your top two lines:

 

 Franzen,Datsyuk, Nyquist

 

This line would be a tough combo to go into corners with and come out with the puck. When confidence is up, Franzen would have plenty of open ice to take over a game. Not the strongest as a whole defensively, but Datsyuk’s faceoff ability and general puck magnitism should keep them out of trouble.

 

Zetterberg,Filppula, Brunner

 

Filppula and Zetterberg are obviously two very gifted two way forwards. I don’t know a ton a bout Brunner’s defensive prowess, but I have seen him shoot the puck (and skate to the penalty box). This combo screams versatility.   depending on how opponents are matching up this line could be counted on as a shut down line or be leaned on for goal scoring.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zXkgNU2LE8

 

As for the bottom six forwards, they’ve all pretty much been a lump of useless aside from Tootoo. Whether you liked the addition or not, he has played his energy role effectively and most importantly hasn’t turned his zealous into any major PK time.

 

I’ve been picking on Dan/Danny/Daniel Cleary for his constant name changes and lack of production for a while now, but one thing is clear early on this season: Cleary is a step slow and it is causing him to take penalties. I am not a doctor, so I can’t really say if he’s still feeling the effects from his offseaon surgery, just rusty because of the lock out, or bottoming out from the slide he’s been on since his 26 goal season. I’m not sure how the line-up shakes out when everybody is healthy, but if I had to pick one person to sit for sure (granted, three games in) it would be Daniel Cleary.

 

Nobody asked me, but here is how I’d go with the bottom-six based on three games (That seems fair, right?)

 

Eaves/Samuelsson, Helm, Bertuzzi

 

If you’ve ever played “Ice Hockey” on the NES, this is the classic “Medium, Skinny, Fat” combo. Eaves has looked OK in his return, and of the Drew Miller clones has shown the best hands of the bunch. This skews more toward a checking line, but still has an explosive play element to it.  Rotate in Samuelsson for Eaves and you have a pretty formidable third tier scoring line, but you’ve suddenly lost a lot on defense. I am not convinced Samuelsson will be healthy enough to stay put here.

 

 Eaves/ Cleary/Miller/,Abdelkader, Tootoo

 

Abdelkader and Tootoo hit things and provide energy. The other emphasis here should be defensive liability and for that I prefer Drew Miller here. Miller isn’t a dazzler, but is typically pretty safe with the puck. If Dan Cleary gets his legs he could be pretty effective on this line as well. Just make a couple hits, ramp up the energy and get off the ice.

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End of the Year Top 10 List of Doom

What am I counting down? WHAT EVER I WANT TO COUNTDOWN!

10. The Lions Madden Controller was cute, but I couldn’t laugh at it because it misspelled “Weird” as w-i-e-r-d. I understand the “I” before “E” except after “C” should have come into play with this one, but it didn’t.

9. Tim Tebow and the New York Jets… Read: Back-up/3rd string QB and the second fiddle major market team or Publicity Stunt and the Guy who has a foot fetish.

8.Clear Channel is to Radio what Hostess is to the Twinkie.

7.Tomas Holmstrom still hasn’t announced his retirement.

6. Calvin Johnson’s record (Formerly Jerry Rice’s) should be no less respected than Barry’s. Hearing Detroit sports radio callers say it was easier made me wish Clear Channel owned both sports stations in town.

5.When the NHL returns it will be without Nick Lidstrom and you’re still mad he won’t take a hometown discount. Think we can convince him to be motivated play 50 some odd games?

4. Maybe I’ll just take a knee here.

3. Will the NHL or Fiscal Cliff get solved? Which do you think happens first?

2. The Ilitches are still filthy rich. Detroit and its government are just lousy at running a city. (duh)

1. The USA and Canada play Sunday Morning at 4:30am EST on NHL Network and NHL.com, and I plan to wake up/ stay up to watch. Your move lock-out.

0. That’s how many more Piston games I am going to watch this year.

Reasons I want the NHL back (I Tried a Lions Blog)

I started a Lions blog.

It turned into incoherent babbling.

So instead here is a list of reasons I need the NHL back.

I’ve lost interest in the NFL and the Lions…

The NFL is king, and being a hardcore puck-head I am reminded of this constantly. I gotta admit, in the fall months it has held me over….but now that we’re in December with the Lions making football painful to watch again and my fantasy team out of the running I am pretty much over the NFL.

Sure, I’ll watch the playoffs.

But what else is on?

Please, Bring back the NHL!

I like college bowl games…

BUT unless it’s a prime match-up or I have a rooting interest, I like to have options.  Please forgive me, San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl for not being able to sit through the entire game not wishing  the Blues and Wild were on NBC-SN/VS/OLN.

My Grandma is a HUGE Wings fan!

As much as I hate seeing the NHL locked out, my grandma hates it 10x more. Sure, she has other hobbies: crosswords, word searches, Sudoku, watching Charlie Sheen movies, Two and a Half Men ,or Anger Management on FX..But she REALLY loves her some NHL, and most particularly the Red Wings.

It’s always been our thing. Since I was little I would go over (I used to live next door to her) to my grandma’s and watch the Red Wings… I don’t make it over there as much anymore, but I do make an effort to  watch with her as often as I can. She’s just as feisty as ever and boy does she get into the games. Old lady swearing is always funny… so please- Bring back the NHL!

I have a new LED TV to watch on…

In my opinion no game has benefited more from HD from a broadcast standpoint than hockey. The audio they pick up now is amazing and in crystal clear HD, it’s hard to believe we ever needed a glow puck. Now, I have my own place and a new 39″ LED screen of my own to watch it on…the only thing missing is the NHL.

Other Hockey is good…

but it’s just not the NHL. On Saturday, in the absence of the NHL I visited Yost for the first time since 2005 (the last lockout and when it was still made of wood). The atmosphere there makes it a fantastic place to take in a hockey game. Unfortunately, the game on the ice (while it has dramatically improved through the years) just isn’t at the level of some of the other leagues out there. Luckily I have the OHL in my backyard as well, and though the upper talent level there is high…it’s still not the NHL.

I co-host an NHL Podcast..

I really love the NHL and talking about the NHL… So last season with two members of the Detroit media’s underbelly, we formed the “End-to-End” Podcast ( a spin off of Doug Todd’s hockey blog “End-t0-End,” hosted on WDFN.com)…and talked everything from trade deadline, to draft, and playoffs…and while we’re all very in tune with what is going on in the lock-out, it just doesn’t make for very good chatter… Especially since we all seem to agree on what has to happen for it to end.

Red Wings Could Use Some Depth

OK, so you’re the Red Wings, It’s game 5 and you’re down 3-1 on the brink of elimination.

Time for a change in the line up to shake things up!!

We’ll put in the gritty veteran for a little desperation….Oh, we don’t have one…

OK, Not a problem…Let’s put in the speedy kid for some energy!….What do you mean he only has one good arm!?

Well let’s go with a better PK guy who has a little bit of a scoring touch…..oh ya, concussion..

Well that leaves a rookie defenseman, a 32 year old AHL veteran, and a guy who has played 9 playoff games….

You forgot about Jakub Kindl..

NO T A CHANCE.

I guess we’ll go with what we’ve got.

Needless to say the Wings are in a tough spot, and its even tougher that they won’t be able to make any kind of a line up switch that it appears they could use.

I would consider putting Brendan Smith in to get him some playoff experience, and what’s the worst that could happen? Him leave Jimmy Howard out to dry? Wouldn’t exactly be a first this post season now would it?

but who do you take out?  My first thought is Kyle Quincey…but that would probably mean putting Nick Lidstrom on the PK and you don’t want to lose him blocking a shot.

The potential is still there!

So how CAN the Wings pull off a stunning comeback you ask?

I’ve heard a lot of people peg Johan Franzen as the guy that needs to catch fire, and while that will probably win you one of your next three, what really needs to happen is guys like Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Todd Bertuzzi, and Danny Cleary need to not be minuses on the ice for the Wings.

Contribute something!

The above mentioned have barely been noticeable, with the exception of Dan Cleary who has actually had a few chances to bury one but has not yet missed the goaltender’s pads. (unless you count Todd Bertuzzi’s PIMS)

If the Wings can get these guys going RIGHT NOW, this thing ain’t over. It’s now or never.

Thru Two

Heading back to Detroit tied 1-1,  things are looking up for the Wings.

No, I’m not ready to rescind my prediction of Preds in six, but we did see a lot out of the Red Wings that we haven’t seen since the end of the home winning streak.

For starters, heading into the series Nashville looked like the team that would be getting a boost from its bottom six forwards, but through two games the Wings have actually gotten the output from  guys like Tomas Holmstrom (who skated better last night than I have ever seen him skate…) and Corey Emmerton.

Pavel Datsyuk had a very good night in the faceoff circle last night, something they’ll need moving forward because Paul Gaustad has been stellar for the Predators.

Jimmy Howard wasn’t just good last night, he was outstanding.  In actuality he didn’t face a ton of shots  but it seemed like just about all of the Predators’s 25 shots were legitimate scoring threats.

Perhaps the MOST important factor is that the Wings had the swagger and determination that has been so lacking for the last month and a half, and it had nothing to do with the Bertuzzi fight and everything to do with the smart plays Drew Miller was making in tight spaces, the crisp tape-to-tape passes, and Brad Stuart bearing down and performing like his mind got back from California, where it has been the last 15 games of the season.

The Predators are still playing good hockey, if Jimmy Howard wasn’t on the ball, last night  could have been a much different story. Most noticeable to me is the play of Alexander Radulov, who looked to suffer no ill effects from playing in the KHL during his 10 game regular season stint with the Preds, but suddenly has a case of the Hudlers and looks soft in the corners and with the added tightness of playoff hockey has mostly been a non-factor.   If the Preds want to continue deeper into the playoffs Radulov needs to find time and space.

Noon!?

Nothing makes less sense to me than a noon start hockey game.  Hockey players are finely tuned athletes and starting a game at noon after an entire season of prime time starts is just bizarre.  Not to mention when the game starts in Nashville it will only be 11am in Tennessee. Both teams have to deal with it, but I find it usually waters down the first few minutes of a hockey game.

Round One Preview: Wings vs. Predators


OK, so it’s not  the match up I wanted for the Red Wings, but its the one then they earned.

A trip to the friendly confines of Jobing.com Arena in Phoenix was an option, but one Holmstrom to Datsyuk pass and score later, the Wings are off to Nashville for some sweet tea and playoff hockey.

As many of you know, and some of you don’t the Predators are the real deal this year. This isn’t the run of the mill “happy to be here” Nashville Predators. No sir, this is a legitimate,  Stanley Cup Contending hockey team that plays in the state of Tennessee.

Looking at the Nashville roster, you might say the Preds are a poor man’s Dertoit Red Wings.

Actually, the Preds may be the better version of the Detroit Red Wings this season.

Stop me when this sounds familiar:

The Preds are a team that can roll four lines, lacks a mega star but has some top end talent.  The Predators won’t beat you up with their fists, but they will make you pay on the power play. They’re deep on defense and have a goalie with the potential to back stop them all the way through the finals. Not to mention a long tenured top notch coach in the NHL.

If you look at a lot of the boring break down stats in the NHL, these two teams are often right next to each other, or very close (the biggest exception being power play with Nashville at No.1 , Detroit at No.22 in the league)

That being said, I really do think the Predators are the “team of destiny” in this year’s NHL playoffs. The team has depth where you need depth, talent where you need talent, and two of the better defensemen in the NHL.  Combine that with a lethal power play and stellar goaltending and suddenly you have yourself a real contender.

Maybe I have been dipping into the sweet tea (vodka) a little too much, but I can’t find the evidence to pick against the Predators in this series.

They even have the added motivation of “WIN NOW.”

This is the best team the Predators have ever put on the ice, but it seems pretty sure to be broken up in the off-season.

I predict Nashville gets to the Western finals at least. Obviously that means they take out the Wings in the first round, and I’ll guess six games.

I would love to be wrong though.  The Wings have an edge in experience and that can’t really be measured in a preview like this. I’ve overvalued it in the past to be quite honest and I may be under-valuing here. The Wings were also at one point running on max efficiency, but that team hasn’t been on the ice since the home winning streak was broken. Could they put it together and win this series? Absolutely. We’ve all seen them flip that “switch” before, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Wings this out of sync heading into the playoffs.

The Wings clearly have the better talent in this match up, but I am very nervous about its depth beyond two lines. The scoring punch seems to have one arm tied behind its back. If the Wings do pull it off it will be because Datsyuk, Franzen, and Zetterberg carried the scoring burden.

With the Wings getting healthy, there is a pretty good chance of me headlining something in the near future “I was dead wrong.” Darren Helm’s return will mean a lot to a team lacking a “goin’ to work” Detroit hockey kind of attitude, but I don’t get the feeling his return will put the Wings over the top.

Feel free to call me a genius or an idiot below or on facebook.

And that is the end to my objectivity. GO WINGS!

Check Up!

As many will tell you, I am not a doctor, but here is a quick check up on Detroit sports.

Tigers

Opening day is Thursday already!?  It’s easy to get excited about the new look Detroit Tigers. The bats? The starting pitching? Heck even the bullpen looks poised to be improved.

Drew Smyly  has been named the Tigers’ fifth starter out of spring training after finally beating out Duane Below (Be-low) for the spot left open when the Tigers decided not to bring back Brad Penny (who went 11-11 and I contend did an adequate  job).  It is my prediction that he will not hold onto it for very long, though I am certainly OK with him getting the chance. It’s obvious to me whomever is in the fifth spot is just keeping the seat warm for Jacob Turner anyhow, but before you see Turner, I think you’ll see Below there.

It was also mentioned today, unfortunately not in the form of an April Fools day joke, that Brandon Inge could start the season on the DL. Inge has been out the last few days with a groin injury, which is ironic because a blunt force groin injury is exactly what it would feel like to a player replaced on the Tigers’ roster by Inge, if that in fact does happen. Inge is the serial killer in those slasher movies that will just not go away, or the Undertaker popping up when you think he’s down for the count.  Either way its a nightmare.


Pistons

While I openly admit that I haven’t sat and watched an entire Pistons game this season, I have been flipping over a lot more lately and I have to admit I like what I am seeing. I thought the season was going to be a complete disaster but it appears maybe, just maybe, Joe Dumars has a finger closer to the pulse of this team than we thought.

It’s clear to me that Tayshaun Prince needs to be the first one out the door at season’s end because he is not interested in the team.

Lot’s of talk about the Pistons playing themselves out of lottery balls, but I think they did the right thing by putting effort into this season, even if it did hurt their draft standing. When you have a team that is young like the Pistons are, asking them to tank is a good way to poison whatever future a player might have.

A very rare kudos from me to the Pistons.

Red Wings

Friday was a disaster, but Sunday’s victory over the Florida Panthers put the Wings fate back in their own hands. With three games to go the Red Wings lead Nashville by one point and Chicago by two (all three with the same amount of games remaining). That’s the good news.

The bad news is the sixth defenseman spot seems to be up for grabs, even after the position appeared to be filled when the Red Wings acquired Kyle Quincey for a first round pick at the deadline.  Quincey didn’t do himself any favors by getting called for a 5-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct on Sunday either. The hit could also draw a suspension from the league, which would give Kindl at least one more game to try and impress his way into a starting gig in the playoffs. Quincey is presumably the favorite to start on the third pairing when the playoffs start, but with the recent benching of “presumed starters” its hard to say anything is for sure.

Nothing to do with the Red Wings, but the Flyers and Penguins are on a collision course for the first round of the playoffs and things just got more interesting. Also, they still have one more to play!

 

Detroit Lions

Still dominating headlines and they haven’t played a a game since January. We long wondered what a winning football team would be like in the age of constant media coverage, and this is our answer. The Draft is coming up, but for once the Lions are too far to really venture a guess at a pick. This should be a year where they draft by need and not best player available, with focus on filling holes in the secondary, and freshening up that O-line.