Friday, February 22, 2013

Franzen: Detroit's MVP?

Every team needs a scapegoat. When a team plays sloppy or lackadaisical explanations are warranted, and those explanations frequently come in the form of accusations from the fanbase that so-and-so was mailing it in and didn't come to play. Sometimes those accusations are lobbied against a scapemule, not a scapegoat. 

Johan Franzen has been Detroit's resident if-only-he-could-tap-into-that-talent-and-stop-being-lazy (feel free to use that label in your own writing) forward for the past eight seasons. But is he really as lazy as people accuse him of being? Does he deserve the ire that he typically draws from the fanbase? In a word, no.

I tried to dig a little deeper into this subject last season and it seems like now is the right time to re-post what I found. My post delves into the mumbo-jumbo voodoo of advanced statistics that some people loathe and others love, so if you think stats are for dorks you might not want to read on. One thing worth noting; I didn't see a reason to update the post for this season because there simply isn't enough data to draw conclusions yet. 

Lazy Mule or Workhorse: Inside Franzen's Numbers

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Damien Brunner, Red vs. White, and Shameless Self-Promotion

Tonight's Red vs. White game provided a much-needed dose of hockey-like activities to a famished Hockeytown. Other sites have gone into depth about what happened, and though I'd love to screen cap all of the goals and do a GBGA I can't because, quite frankly, my Masters program and other hockey writing obligations are killing me at the moment. Instead, I'll direct your attention to some things I think are worth taking a look at.

Excellent Options for Filling Your Free Time

First, in the "OMG PANIC oh wait the headline is scarier than the story" category we have this article from the  Detroit News' Ted Kulfan about Pavel Datsyuk's desire to play in Russia.

George has everything you could ever want about both the announcement of Zetterberg as captain (congrats,  Z) and the scrimmage over at his blog. Go there now because he is awesome and whatnot.

The Detroit News has a great photo gallery that recaps the Zetterberg press conference and scrimmage.

The Part of the Post Where I Shamelessly (Shamefully?) Self Promote

Damien Brunner looked great in tonight's game, further cementing the feeling that I had when he signed that Detroit had found yet another diamond in the rough. Technically I guess he was more of a free agent in Europe, but you get the idea. In all seriousness he looks like the perfect complement to Dats and Z. I can't wait to see the Euro Triplets rolled out in game action.

I wrote a post about Brunner when he signed that's turned out to be one of my most popular and now seems like as good a time as any to link to it again. Check it out here.

My most recent piece for Hockey's Future is a mid-season update on all prospects in the AHL and ECHL. You can give it a read here, and I very much appreciate if you do. My article for this month will be about how prospects from the 2008 draft have fared, and the article for February will be an updated Top 20 prospects list.

I had an idea for a megapost about how points and ice time correlate between the AHL and NHL, but the AHL doesn't keep ice time stats. Boooooo AHL stats. Anyways, I'll be writing/doing my beloved GBGAs as frequently as time allows. Thanks for sticking with me.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

It's Back, and So Am I

You know the old saying "the more things change, the more they stay the same"? Yeah, that's not really true. Between the last time the Detroit Red Wings took the ice in an official NHL game and now I got married, got a puppy, got a job where someone actually pays me to write (about hockey!), and started down a new career path. It's been a good few months.

At the same time, it hasn't been a good few months for the NHL and those associated with it. As you can tell from my post dates, I decided that I wouldn't write on this blog again until after the lockout. I consider myself about as fervent a fan as there is, and I'll admit that I felt the most apathetic towards the league that I've ever felt. Was my groom's cake a winged wheel? Yep. Did my wife get me cuff links made from game used pucks? Yep. Did I get a bunch of Wings books for Christmas? Yep. Did I feel strange, like the passion I had for this franchise had slipped away, lost among a never-ending barrage of on-the-table off-the-table proposals and marathon bargaining session? Yep.

Consider that apathy cancelled. I'm excited again about Detroit Red Wings hockey, excited to see my favorite players compete at the highest level against the best players in the world. Hockey never really left, but today it sure feels like hockey's back.

Remember that puppy I mentioned earlier? This is Pasha. Yep, he's named after that Pasha. He's a Border Collie/German Shepherd mix and I swear I'm gonna teach him how to dangle dangle. I think he's already half way there, because when we're playing with his tennis ball and he's cornered he throws the ball through my legs, runs around me, and grabs it from behind me.

These are the cuff links that my wife got me as a wedding gift. For a game used equipment junkie like myself these are pretty awesome.

And this awesome awesomeness was my groom's cake. Red Wings logo outside, carrot cake inside. 

As a side note, you can check out my work at Hockey's Future here (a new article of mine should be up in the next day or two) and my work at here

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Exclusive interview with Red Wings Equipment Manager Paul Boyer

Boyer, left, with former captain Nick Lidstrom (Photo credit Dave Reginek)

Back in May, I alluded to something cool that may be happening on this very site in the near future in my post about the Wings' equipment sale. Today, I'm thrilled to be able to post the end result.

Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer is well known by diehard Detroit followers, having spent almost two decades behind the bench. He graciously agreed to do an exclusive interview for The Octopi Garden during the equipment sale at Hockeytown Authentics. We spoke at length, and I would like to thank Mr. Boyer again for making this happen. Enjoy.

Walk us through what a typical home gameday is like for you and your staff.
Depends on what happens the night before. If it’s a practice day and I got the skates sharpened, I won’t have to be in til 8 or 8:30 AM. If I don’t, I get in there about 6 AM and start sharpening for morning skate. Then I wait for players to get in and start handling the needs of the players when they get in. Normally the salesmen that come in like the Bauer rep, the Warrior rep, the Easton rep I deal with them and react to whatever they need. If there’s any big emergencies I’ll stick around and do it, if not I sneak out for a quick bite to eat, pick up my kids from school and I’m back around 4 PM.

That’s the best time to meet, the afternoon before a game. With players, the reps, as equipment manager I’m in charge of handling what the reps need.

I’ve always said there’s three days in hockey; gameday, practice day, and a day off. Your routine depends on what kind of day it is.

Could you discuss the challenge that back-to-back games pose for an equipment manager?
It’s just two games, depends on whether it’s two home games back-to-back, which is pretty rare. It depends on how many games you go for. It’s a routine, like waking up in the morning. You just know that after the game you have to line up the sticks…the players know the routine. They know the routine. We’re in constant communication with them. We’ll tell them it’s this many games, you need this many sticks. My staff will pull the duffel bags, and the guys come in and drop their stuff right in the bags. Then we load them onto the truck and it’s off to the airport.

Who is the most superstitious about their equipment, and in what way?
I do not speak about players and their superstitions (laughs). You can quote me on that.

What challenges does an outdoor game like the Winter Classic pose to you and your staff?
We were lucky at Wrigley Field because the weather cooperated. The weather’s been the biggest hurdle. If you get a rainy day like they had in Pittsburgh that year that hurts. I heard a league official say that shouldn’t have even been played. It’s dangerous for the guys. We were lucky it was cold and overcast [in 2009], and that’s what you’re looking for. You just keep talking to your weatherman and hope it will line up that way. The league has done it so many times they’re very organized and easy to work with. I remember a lot of stuff from our last game. Just keeping the guys warm, and Reebok does a good job of that. You make sure you have some eye black, grab some handwarmers, and we know we can use tinted visors now.

A great deal of debate about equipment has taken place in light of the NHL’s commitment to reducing head injuries.  What, if any, changes do you feel need to be made to enhance player safety?
Not many. The stuff we’re using is very protective. Bauer, Warrior, Easton, all the companies have great helmets. The manufacturers are all up to date on the technology. The equipment provided to us and approved for use by the NHL is good, quality equipment. As equipment managers we’re looking for anything we can to keep players safe. Mouth guards have really come a long way. Under Armour’s bite guard technology has helped, with that bite lock technology so players can breathe easier,  that with a good helmet is great. Everyone is better educated, and we know better how to keep our players safe. The players know too. 

Being on the bench, you have a vantage point that few share. Any interesting Scotty Bowman or Mike Babcock stories you can tell us?
None. I’ll let Dave Lewis tell those. Lewie’s a better story teller than me. Working with Scotty Bowman, Mike Babcock, Jacques Lemaire; you really see the passion these guys have, they love coming to work every day. That’s what makes the difference

What do you see as the single greatest advancement in equipment since you started working in hockey?
The composite stick. It has to be the composite stick. It allows players to pass faster, harder. It’s brought everything to a new level. Off-ice it’s guys being educated. The players are bigger, stronger, faster. That’s a change nobody really sees. You can’t wrap your hands around a workout. You most certainly can see what it’s doing to the guys. They’re bigger, stronger, faster, and they move easier. I see guys working with skating coaches here in Detroit. You can see they want to get better.

You’ve been on the bench for some the greatest moments in Red Wings history, including four Stanley Cup championships. What is your favorite memory from the past 16 seasons?
That '97 championship was great. It was the first one for everyone involved, from Mr. Illitch to Steve Yzerman to me. Growing up in Canada you see guys like Guy Lafleur holding the cup, and then once you get in the game you want to win the Cup. Like Ken Holland says, once you win it you don’t want to let it go. That’s what keeps you going. 

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Waiting for Good D: Evaluating number one defensemen and the likelihood they join Detroit

Wanted: someone to fill those skates

It's no secret that the Red Wings are in the market for another defenseman. Detroit is weak on the back end for the first time in years after losing Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, and Brian Rafalski over the span of two seasons. Ryan Suter signed with Minnesota, Shea Weber's offer sheet was matched, and just like that the available top tier d-men were locked up and Ken Holland was left looking at his roster and thinking about how Jakub Kindl isn't really that bad.

The free agent market is tapped out. There aren't any players left of the caliber that Detroit needs, but that doesn't mean all options have been exhausted. This article looks at every team's best defenseman and the likelihood that Detroit could acquire them via trade or offer sheet before or during the 2012-13 season.

Anaheim Ducks
Cam Fowler- Much like Detroit, Anaheim doesn't have a clear-cut number one defenseman. If Fowler isn't already their best blueliner he probably will be by the end of next season. He's young, talented, and about to become a RFA at the end of the season.

Chances Wings acquire: Tremendously unlikely

Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara- A perennial Norris nominee and lynchpin of the Boston rotation. Has six years left on his deal.

Chances Wings acquire: Slim to none

Buffalo Sabres
Christian Ehrhoff- Had a somewhat disappointing first season in Buffalo, but with a NMC and a modified NTC I don't see him going anywhere. Oh, and he's also signed through 2020-21. If Buffalo does tank you may see Robyn Regehr traded, though he won't do anything to help Detroit's lack of offense from the defense position.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Calgary Flames
Jay Bouwmeester- Rumor has it that he's on the block, but I don't see him as a number one guy. His salary is high ($6.68 million) relative to his production (5 goals and 24 assists for 29 points), and he isn't a shutdown d-man.

Chances Wings acquire: He's probably available for the right price, but I think that price will be too high

Carolina Hurricanes
Jamie McBain- Honestly, the Hurricanes don't really have a guy worth pursuing. McBain is young and talented, but he's not the top flight defenseman the Wings need.

Chances Wings acquire: None, as there isn't a spot for another second pairing defenseman on the roster

Chicago Blackhawks
Duncan Keith- Another Norris caliber player who's inked to a long term deal (through 2022-23). There's no reason to dump his salary at this point, and Chicago isn't in a rebuilding phase.

Chances Wings acquire: None. There's almost no reason he'll be shopped, and if this offseason has taught us anything it's that players don't move intradivisionally

Colorado Avalanche
Erik Johnson- A former number one overall pick with a wealth of talent, he just signed a new four year deal. Colorado doesn't need to move salary and definitely doesn't want to acquire it, so he's likely going nowhere.

Chances Wings acquire: Slim to none

Columbus Blue Jackets
Jack Johnson- Columbus just picked him up in the Jeff Carter deal, so he's probably stuck there for a while. He'd be a good addition to Detroit's roster and I think he'd make a good partner for Niklas Kronwall.

Chances Wings acquire: If Howson wouldn't trade Nash to Detroit then there's no way he trades them Johnson

Dallas Stars
Alex Goligoski- A point producer with a limited NTC. They're clearly going all-in this year after adding Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy, and they need talented defenders to compliment their offense.

Chances Wings acquire: Highly unlikely

Edmonton Oilers
Ryan Whitney- They're already thin on D, so no one's going anywhere in Edmonton.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Florida Panthers
Brian Campbell- A quality player, but another who isn't likely to change locations. The only consolation here is that, per, he can name eight teams he would accept a trade to. If Florida tanks and decides they'd be better served with a smattering of forwards, picks, and prospects then you know Ken Holland will be the first to inquire.

Chances Wings acquire: Unlikely

Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty- The best defenseman on the defending Stanley Cup champions, who just happens to have signed a long-term deal one season ago? Yeah, he can feel pretty comfy buying that beach house now.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter- Hey, didn't Detroit try to...oh, right. Nevermind.

Chances Wings acquire: Hahaha

Montreal Canadiens
P.K. Subban or Andrei Markov circa 2009- Markov has a modified NTC and has been plagued by injuries. Subban could be a great addition and is a restricted free agent. It's not the Red Wings way, but some real pressure could be exerted on Montreal if Subban was signed to an offer sheet. They only have $6.3 million in cap space. Nothing can be taken for granted and no assumptions can be made in an offseason like this one.

Chances Wings acquire: Slight possibility

Nashville Predators
Shea Weber- Word on the street is that this guy is good at the whole hockey thing. Also, head slams.

Chances Wings acquire: Holland talked to his agents and nothing developed. Then Nashville matched Philly's offer. Thus ends all "maybe he'll slam Zetterberg's head into the glass practice next season lol" discussions.

New Jersey Devils
Anton Volchenkov or Adam Larsson- Volchenkov isn't a true number one, and Larsson is too young and skilled to be moved outside of a blockbuster.

Chances Wings acquire: Slim to none

New York Islanders
Mark Streit- An underrated number one, he'd be a great acquisition for the Winged Wheelers. His contract is up after this season, so it's possible that the Islanders may want to move him if they don't think they can get a deal done. This may be the long term target for Ken Holland, the player that could significantly upgrade Detroit's roster close to the trade deadline.

Chances Wings acquire: Very possible, depending on what is asked for in return and contract status

New York Rangers
Dan Girardi- He may not score as often as others on this list, but he might be the most consistent in his point production. A reliable 30-point player, Girardi anchors the bluline for a team that's making a push for the Cup. He's also signed for two more seasons.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson- The best young defenseman in the league. Any team would like to add him, and none will do so. Ottawa locked him up long-term and if there's anyone who's truly untouchable it's this guy.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Philadelphia Flyers
Kimmo Timonen- It's very possible that Timonen becomes available closer to the trade deadline, with an expiring contract and a GM who's not afraid to make a bold move.

Chances Wings acquire: A distinct possibility

Phoenix Coyotes
Keith Yandle- If Doan leaves, do they decide to move Yandle as well? Rumor has it that he may be available, and Detroit has to add someone of this caliber if they want to begin to patch the damage left by Nick Lidstrom's departure. Yandle is a point producer with four years left on his contract; there's nothing to not like here.

Chances Wings acquire: Very possible

Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang- His $3.5 million deal is a huge bargain for a team that's thin on defense. Too good a deal and too big a part of their team to move now.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Saint Louis Blues
Alex Pietrangelo- He's a bonafide NHLer, he's young, he's on an entry level deal, and he plays for a division rival.

Chances Wings acquire: None

San Jose Sharks
Dan Boyle- He's aging and has two years left on his contract, but he's still the best defender on a team that has a shot at the Cup. It's not impossible for him to be moved, but I don't see why he would be.

Chances Wings acquire: Slim to none

Tampa Bay Lightning
Matt Carle- He was one of Detroit's offseason targets and chose to join Steve Yzerman's squad instead. Yeah, he's not going anywhere.

Chances Wings acquire: None

Toronto Maple Leafs
Dion Phaneuf- Rebounded with a good offensive season in 2011-12. He's the captain and face of Toronto's franchise, and though his once high salary is now within reason for a good defenseman, he's not likely to be moved. If Toronto didn't implode at the end of the season they had a shot at the playoffs, but if they repeat this again all bets are off.

Chances Wings acquire: Unlikely

Vancouver Canucks
Kevin Bieksa- Not impossible to acquire, but not as likely to be moved as teammate Alex Edler (if a new deal can't be reached).

Chances Wings acquire: Unlikely

Washington Capitals
Mike Green- He just re-upped with the Caps, so it's very doubtful that he gets moved this season.

Chances Wings acquire: Slim to none

So who could Detroit add?

The most likely candidates to become Red Wings are Subban (via offer sheet), Bouwmeester, Streit, Timonen, and Yandle. I think Bouwmeester is the most overrated and overpaid of those on the list, and I don't think he's the true first pair defenseman Detroit needs.

Narrowing the list down further, there seems to be only one player listed above that could be moved before the season starts and that's Yandle. The others could be available depending on circumstance, and were included as being trade targets mostly because of their expiring contracts. Teams and agents will have the largest bearing on their future, so it's hard for a fanbase to tolerate but possible that the Wings will hold out for a player like Mark Streit at the trade deadline.

Perhaps the most intriguing possibility is signing Subban to an offer sheet. The Canadiens have just $6.3 million left in cap space, so an offer of $7 million per season couldn't be matched. That's not an outrageous salary for a semi-proven offensive defenseman like Subban. Sure, it's out of the ordinary for Holland and co. but any move should be considered at this point.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Welcome (Back) to Detroit: Mikael Samuelsson

Just...I don't know, do that again

First of all, I apologize for this being ludicrously late. I know that Jeff Hancock from Winging it in Motown was waiting on pins and needles for this, so I had to get around to writing this sooner or later. Obviously, it was later.

Numbers? Numbers!
  • In 2008-09, his last season in Detroit, Samuelsson had 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points. He departed for Vancouver during the 2009 offseason and saw his offensive numbers balloon to 30 goals and 23 assists for 53 points. Last season he split time between Vancouver and Florida, and netted 14 goals and 17 assists for 31 points
  • Looking at things through a wider lens, Samuelsson has a five-year even-strength HARO+ of 0.895, a HARD+ of 1.107, and a HART+ of 1.001
  • Samuelsson has a five-year power play HARO+ of 1.343, and a five-year penalty kill HARD+ of zero, because he hasn't been used on the penalty kill. Ever. Over five seasons. 
  • As far as Corsi goes, Samuelsson's Corsi Quality of Competition was 0.914 at even strength in 2011-12 and his relative Corsi was 5.4.
  • He takes 0.7 penalties per 60 minutes, but draws 0.9 per 60. Not a huge difference, but always good to be in the positive here.
  • The Panthers averaged 2.3 even strength goals per 60 minutes with Samuelsson on the ice and while allowing 2.04, compared to 1.95 for and 2.16 against without him on the ice.
  • On the powerplay, the Panthers averaged 7.98 goals per 60 with Samuelsson and allowed 0.44 per 60. Without Samuelsson on-ice, the Panthers scored 3.27 power play goals per 60, while allowing 1.23 per 60. It's clear that Samuelsson had an impact on the Panthers' power play.
So what's the verdict?
I won't be at all surprised if Samuelsson fills in for Hudler and puts up similar numbers. That may be a bit optimistic, but I think he'll fit in nicely on the third line and on the second power play unit. He's got size and is a right-handed shot, which will benefit the Wings when they have the man advantage. Of course he's going to shoot high and miss the net, but he may also hit it with some frequency, and combining that with some physical play is all he has to do for his contract to be a good deal.

According to the stats from Hockey Analysis, Samuelsson is an average NHLer over the past five years, and actually has better defensive numbers than offensive. The stats from Behind the Net show that he played against fairly good competition and was able to create more shots for his team when he was on-ice compared to on the bench, which fits nicely with Detroit's system. He had a moderate impact at even strength last season, and a much greater one on the powerplay.

The usually complimentary video corner

I like these two goals more than almost anything else he did in a Wings uniform

Maybe this happens if we put him on a line with Datsyuk or Zetterberg

Like I said, he should step in and pick up right where Hudler left off

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Potential Red Wings Alumni Showdown Roster

Hey look, one of our old-timers is also the best defenseman in the world. Good luck, Toronto.

Lost amidst the craziness surrounding free agency and development camp was the news that on Wednesday the Red Wings would release the roster for the Alumni Showdown, the headlining event of Hockeytown Winter Fest. I'll let Toronto bloggers take care of their own business, but I decided to take a stab at what I think (and hope) Detroit's roster might look like.

My roster was created using the current Wings alumni team as a base, then adding players that I thought still had a reasonable chance of being able to skate. I'd love to see Mr. Hockey and Terrible Ted suit up for just one shift, but is that truly reasonable? Maybe. According to tweets from former Wings beat writer (and current Yahoo! sports NHL writer) Nick Cotsonika, Mark Howe mentioned after the alumni game in Philly that Mr. Hockey would like to take an alumni game shift himself. Cotsonika also tweeted that  Ted Lindsay looked great and would probably play in the alumni game.

The biggest news regarding alumni rosters was the Detroit News article that reported Steve Yzerman doesn't expect to play for the Detroit alums. I have a hard time believing this. Let's read between the lines here.
"At this time I don't plan on participating in the alumni game but hope to watch the (Winter) Classic on TV."
"At this time..." leaves a lot of wiggle room for a change of heart in the future. Kris Draper is trying to convince Yzerman to play, and undoubtedly dozens of other former Wings have done so over the past few months. While I understand that Stevie Y hasn't skated since he retired, I'd be perfectly fine with him taking just one shift. The point of the alumni game is the history of the franchise, the history behind the infamous winged wheel. Seeing Yzerman in a Detroit sweater one more time is a nod to that history, and him playing in the game is more about this than any contribution in terms of goals or assists.






Also, pencil S. Kozlov in somewhere. It's not likely that Fedorov will play, so Kozlov may be able to fill that spot on the roster.






And yes, you can expect Hasek to talk to Ken Holland about a PTO for the 2013-14 season if he plays well in his one period between the pipes. Just kidding. Not really.

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