Kronwall’s Knee: The Saga Continues (And Ends?)

MONTREAL- NOVEMBER 21:  Niklas Kronwall #55 of the Detroit Red Wings is helped off of the ice after being tripped by Georges Laraque #17 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game on November 21, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Coming off of a season where injuries were the major story line, it’s no surprise that Wings fans everywhere were holding their breath when defenseman Niklas Kronwall reported that he was having pain in his knee. We all remember Georges Laraque’s kneejob on Kronwall last season up in Montreal, which put Laraque on the suspended list for five games and Kronwall on the shelf for 30 games with a sprained MCL. With the Wings counting on a healthy roster this year, state,emts like these from Ken Holland are not what Wings fans need to hear, especially before the season starts.

Khan (!):

“They suggested we do a minor scope to explore, to look and see what’s going on,” Holland said.

Goodie. At any rate, Kronwall went under the knife today so the doctors could take a peek, and lo-and-behold, the cause of the achy knee was found and remedied:

(More) Khan(!):

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall had athroscopic surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning. Doctors discovered a lateral meniscus tear. Kronwall is expected to be idled for two weeks but should be ready to skate at the start of training camp Sept. 18 in Traverse City.

Thank Jeebus.

That said, I’m still hedging my bets on how much contact Kronwall sees at camp this year, especially given the fact that his recovery from the original MCL sprain dragged on well past the initial timeframe that doctors placed on it. If we’ve learned one thing from watching Kronwall over the past year or so, it’s that his knees are one of the most important parts of his entire game, and the slightest tweak can become the ultimate disruptor in his overall mojo. I’d rather have Kronwall log a little extra time in preseason game situations, than get into training camp with the knee not feeling 100% and have Justin Abdelkader blow him and the blue line up with a meaningless check in the corner.

At the end of the day, Kronwall is still a young-ish guy who showed great resilience in coming back last season and fighting through the pain to play. But at the same time, his game was severely hampered because he rushed himself back, and it was evident to everyone around the league, not just the Red Wings. For a guy who took some scoff this week about “not doing the right thing” in terms of resting the knee and letting it heal properly, I hope Kronwall and the Wings take their time with this one. Otherwise, we’ll be busting out the Kindl before you know it.
CAMPBELLSVILLE, KY - JULY 10:  Amazon's new Kindle DX 9.7' Wireless Reading Device is ready for shipment at the warehouse on June 10, 2009 in Campbellsville, Kentucky.  The reader can hold thousands of books and has text-to-speech capability among other features. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Uh, let’s try that again…
DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 26:   Jakub Kindl #46 of the Detroit Red Wings skates in a pre-season game against the Boston Bruins on September 26, 2008 at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. The Bruins defeated the Red Wings 2-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Better. Just gotta drop that “6”.

At any rate, it’s still pretty discouraging that the NHL hasn’t taken a stronger stance on the kind of plays that originally forced Kronwall to the injured reserve last season. Yes, I know I’m beating on the dead horse here – especially since today’s meniscus repair wasn’t a result of the Laraque hit – but it’s still disenfranchising to watch GM’s battle so hard to get head shots addressed, while these kinds of plays are still up for some debate in some circles about being “dirty.” I remember watching the game when the injury happened, and my buddy sitting next to me remarking about how “it’s a penalty, but that’s a clean play.” If that’s a clean play, then Tonya Harding and Co’s whack job on Nancy Kerrigan should have only fetched them two minutes in the sin bin for tripping (although Kerrigan could have easily served two as well for diving, IMO.) Nonetheless, it still shocks me that Laraque only sat for five games while Kronwall goes out for 30. If you’re scoring at home, that’s just over 16% of Kronwall’s injury time that Laraque missed.

Am I one of those proponents for “eye-for-and-eye/game-for-a-game” punishment? Absolutely not. Injuries happen and they take time to heal, but more often than not they are accidental and undeserving of punishment. Additionally, guys could milk the hell out of an injury for any number of personal reasons, so it makes no real sense to penalize the guy who hit a rut in the ice, tripped and blew up someone’s knee (obviously that’s not the case here.) In fact, I don’t have a ready-made solution for these types of plays. Unfortunately for all of us, it doesn’t seem like the league does either, settling instead on the rudimentary and completely temperamental “Wheel of Justice” that hangs on Colin Campbell’s wall.

Whatever. Laraque has found a new arena for his talents and I, for one, am glad he won’t be out on the ice blowing up people’s knees anymore. Although, if you’re not a member of the Green Party in Canada, I’d watch yourself when you see the “gentle green giant” coming toward you.

The Brand, The Brand, The Brand

With college football only days away, I thought it would be fitting to evoke the mantra of the late, great Bo Schembechler (albeit altered ever so slightly.) Yes, your friends over here at TPL also enjoy the college football from time to time, unless of course said team smokes wears Green and snorts White and whose players beat up defenseless women and hockey players and go to jail, only to be welcomed back to the football team with open arms  hails from East Lansing (Go Blue!) I digress…

Despite the new site being extra spiffy and awesome, there’s still some empty walls that need filling and some final touches to be incorporated before we can finally call this thing “home”. And who better to make this thing a home than you, the readers. Allow me to present a couple of ways that you can leave your imprint on the new TPL:

  • Banners: As you can see, our new banner is ridiculously awesome (Thanks Sara!) and there is another one that we are holding on to that is just as cool. That said, we know we have alot of talented and artistic friends and readers out there, so we want to open it up to all of you as well. Have a cool design for a banner for the site? Send it to us and we’ll toss it up on the site throughout the season, while also giving you props and a link in one of the posts. Seriously, send us whatever you come up with and it may wind up on top of the site.
  • TP:60 Logo: This one’s a double dip for you guys, but don’t feel like you have to do both. As we prepare to launch the TP:60 podcast this season, we want you guys to submit logo drafts and then ultimately decide which logo will end up representing the show. That’s right, YOU will decide the winning logo for the show. We’ll be collecting submissions all the way up until September 24th, at which point we’ll head into a tournament style competition for the winning design to be chosen. The winning logo will be debuted in time for the regular season opener in October. Again, get those submissions in.
  • TP:60 Music: In addition, for our musically inclined friends, we are looking for some new theme music for the show and would love to hear what you can do. Feel free to send us a track that is at least a minute long, and you may find yourself being broadcast to all of our listeners on a weekly basis. We’ll also give you a shout out on the show and will link to your band info/record info on the TP:60 site.

Pretty cool stuff, no? BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

As Petrella and I have been sorting through the mailbox over the first weekend of TPLUS existence, we’ve received a ton of e-mails asking us if we are going to do shirts or other kinds or TPL apparel. Honestly, we had no intention of doing anything of the sort, but it looks like some of the other Wings blogs are offering up some gear which in turn has our inbox flooded with “OMGSHIRTUZZIPLZKTHXBAI” mails. So Petrella, Rob and myself gathered ’round the campfire to discuss and decided that, while we won’t be doing a full store or anything, we’d be willing to design up a “replica” Shirtuzzi for you guys to order. It probably won’t look anything like the original Shirtuzzi that debuted at H2H, but it’ll be complete with the Shetuzzi and other pieces of TPL awesomeness that’ll be worthy of the Shirtuzzi moniker. We don’t have a timeframe in place just yet, but stay tuned to the main page and we’ll let you know when it’s ready to go.

So there you go. Get the creative juices flowing and get those submissions in, while simultaneously preparing to clothe yourself in pure TPL awesomeness.

Blogger Roundtable Goes Bombay

The glorious Detroit Red Wings blogger roundtable that we were happy to host last week has made another stop, this time at The Triple Deke. Click that little link there for your favorite bloggers answers to questions such as “who makes up the ass of the Wings’ Mount Rushmore” and “isn’t it weird Bertuzzi didn’t gang rape the Red Wings?”

Paraphrasing, obviously. Though not by much.

Also, anyone else think it’s weird that new Red Wing Mike Modano shared a scene with Gordon Bombay? I feel like Tyler might have some ESP or something. Next week: Basil McRae signs with the Red Wings.

Also worth noting is that The Scrappy Octopi hath returned. It’s only been three months since their last post, but we’re super glad to see them back in action. Alas, one of the best out there is back where they belong: the interwebz.

The Problem with Bonii

Thanks to @Whoabot, who gave me full permission to use "ASS" with association with the Blackhawks

I’m a big fan of the Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei signings. Let’s just get that out of the way right off the top. I’m very pleased with the additions of a local legend and a legit top six guy that will keep two potential defensive liabilities from being on the ice together.

You can’t hate that they’re one-year deals (both guys are over 35, which means any additional years beyond a one-year deal would be guaranteed to be held against the cap, even if they retired or were forced off the ice due to injury). Hell, even the dollar amounts were fair. Mike Modano’s salary is a very manageable $1.25M — which is a reasonable dip from the $2.25 he made a year ago (his cap hit was $3.45M, however). Ruslan Salei will be making $750,000 — more than a 77% drop from his salary in 09-10.

Where the trouble — for me — begins is with the bonuses. Of the 24 players on one-way deals this upcoming season, they are the only two with bonus clauses in their deals. The reasons, obviously, are that you may go over the salary cap on player bonuses — and, if necessary, defer “paying” them until the following season (for salary cap purposes). Only three types of players are eligible for bonuses: entry level players, players returning from major injury, and players over 35 years of age.

So, in theory, you could have a handful of players on the roster that reach all of their performance bonus benchmarks, putting the team over the $59.4M payroll allowed by the league, but not have to worry about the numbers until next summer. That’s not the case for the Red Wings, since bonuses for 35-and-over players may exceed the salary cap by 7.5% without penalty, but let’s take a look at how bonuses can affect a team in the long-term. For examples of how bonuses can jailsex the everloving bejesus out of a roster, see: Blackhawks, Chicago; 2010, Summer of.

The Blackhawks are forced to play $4.1M under the cap because of deferred payments to players. For reference, that’s a whole Johan Franzen, Milan Lucic, or Brendan Morrow. Or three Kris Drapers. Or four and a half Darren Helms.

Obviously, Tick Tock wouldn’t throw a monkey wrench into the Wings plans the way that Dale “Genius” Tallon did into Chicago’s, so as long as the bonus contracts aren’t the beginning of a slippery slope, I’ve got no beef. I’m just wary.

Modano’s $500,000 in bonuses include $150k for playing in 40 games, another $100k for playing in 55, $125k for a first round victory, and another $125k for a second round victory. Nothing too drastic in those caveats, so it stands to reason that they’ll be reached – especially the first two. I couldn’t find anything concrete about Salei’s $350k in bonuses, but will keep an eye open.

Obviously, both players in question took reduced salaries in exchange for these easily attainable performance bonus clauses. And that’s commendable. I just hope I’m not alone in praying it doesn’t become a trend in the Wings locker room. Like mentioned above, bonuses for players over 35 aren’t really the culprit, so there’s no reason to get in a twist yet. Further, the Red Wings often make entry level deals with bonus incentives on the off-chance that prospects make the NHL within those deals (like Justin Abdelkader did last year — the Wings are forced to be aware of $50,000 worth of bonuses paid to Gator due to the team’s need to use him as much as they did last season), so the team needs to be wise with who they offer bonus incentives to.

Six current prospects have bonus-laden deals. Jordan Pearce has as much chance of making the NHL as I do in the next year. Who knows where the hell Dick Axelsson will be by June. Logan Pyett and Cory Emmerton are guys that are not definite future Red Wings at all, let alone by the time their bonus deals expire (next summer).

Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar are the two guys that are worth watching. Their current deals, with bonuses attached, are in play until 2013. The best part? The absolute most they could make — bonuses included — is $875,000. Fucking brilliant.

On the other end of that spectrum is — SURPRISE! — the Chicago Blackhawks. They have eleven guys currently under contract that are bonus eligible, many of them prospects that aren’t close to the big squad (I assume… I don’t care enough to study them all). Guys like Nick Leddy, however, will instantly cost the team $1.4M in cap space as soon as they’re Big Boy Blackhawks. Wah wahhh.

So, I guess the moral of the story is — as long as players don’t begin to expect deferred-money deals, there’s definitely no harm in offering bonuses to the 35+ crowd (since they’re not deferred anyway). The way that the Red Wings bring along their prospects, there’s no reason to assume that their draft picks will demand such things, and even if they do — rest assured they’ll likely live out their bonus-incentive contracts in Grand Rapids. Even Brendan Smith, the most likely “kid” to make the jump to the NHL before his AHL eligibility is up, doesn’t have bonuses built into his entry-level deal, meaning he’ll make $875k flat — and Wings fans don’t need a separate spreadsheet to forecast the future cap.

The TPLUS User’s Manual

If you’re anything like me, getting something new to play with is still one of the best feelings in the world. Despite Power Wheels being replaced by TV’s, there’s still nothing better than busting open a box of pure consumer goodness, then marveling at the majesty of your new piece of property.

It’s at that point that one of the most famous questions ever to cross man’s lips finds it’s way up your vocal cords and off your tongue…

“How does it work?”

At age 10, you didn’t care. You just turned it on and went after it. Nowadays I find myself paying a bit more attention to those user’s manuals that come with the things I buy though. Why? Well, because I probably spent good money on it and don’t want the thing to self destruct if I put Piece A into Slot B, instead of sliding Slot B over Piece A. You know what I’m talking about. (IKEA is the clear exception to this rule, right Chief?) At any rate, I just like my stuff to work properly the first time around, so it just makes sense to reference the manual and get it over with faster.

So with that in mind, I present to you the user’s manual to the new Production Line. I hinted at it yesterday, but we’ve incorporated a number of different features and widgets into the new site, so it probably makes sense for me to explain how each of them works and what their purpose is on the site.

Let’s get down to business.

Disqus

Maybe the most underrated part of any blog is the comments section. Some of the best dialog and discussion happens after the fact, and many blogs are still stuck with a system where you leave a comment, wait for somebody else to comment and then comment back again before taking that discussion over to Twitter and Facebook to vent about the comment that someone just made about your comment. It gets confusing, especially when nobody even has a clue what site you are talking about after you post your 140 character rant that has no links to the offending material.

That’s where Disqus comes in. You’ll notice that you can just type your comment, then click the “post as” button, at which point you enter an e-mail address and go on your merry way. But you’re missing the fun. If  you hover over the Disqus logo above the comment box, you’ll see that it offers you a number of different login options. You can use your Disqus account (if you have one), or use Twitter, Facebook (still wonky. we’re working on it), OpenID or even Yahoo. Personally, I rock the Twitter login. At this point you can comment away, and then right before you click “post”, go ahead and click the “share on twitter” icon. Then post.

BOOM.

You’ve now commented on the actual post, while at the same time utilizing the power of the interwebz to post that same comment on Twitter, while also including a link to the post your comment is referencing. It’s like a mini-blog for you, the reader. You’re welcome.

Tweet/Share/Like Buttons

Pretty self-explanatory. “Tweet” tweets. “Share” shares. “Like” likes. Be sure to click all three after each post.

Links Menu

There’s plenty of other good blogs out there and we’re committed to making sure they get their props here on the site. But if you look closely, there’s 19 blogs on the links menu, and that is very much by design and very much how it will be kept moving forward. 19 slots for 19 blogs. That said, if you don’t see yourself on there, it’s most definitely not a knock against you. Petrella, Disch and I just agreed beforehand that we wanted to keep the sidebars tidy and clean, and one of the easiest ways to do that was to limit the number of blog links we posted.

HOWEVA, that doesn’t mean we won’t be updating the links on a regular basis. Got a new Wings blog? Let us know. Putting out sweet content? Shoot us a mail. We know for sure that we’ll have a pair of links opening up now that BDS is on hiatus and Snapshots is soon to be Malik-less, and we bet your blog would look good on our list. So if we should be reading you, let us know.

The Donate Button

Petrella touched on it, but we’ve thrown a donation button on the site. For the record, YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO USE THIS.

That said, we are putting some money towards the podcasts and hosting and all that stuff, so if you feel like we deserve a couple of bucks and you want to support our blogging habit, feel free to do so.

The bigger point of the donation button is for the work we have planned around charities and other charitable efforts this season. We wanted to ensure that there was an easy way for you guys to contribute to the numerous causes we will be supporting, and the ol’ PayPal button seemed to fit the bill. Our only ask is that when you do make a donation, please be sure to specify what exactly it is for. We like to make sure your money goes to where you intend it to go, and that’s a super simple step to help us out.

Twitter Feeds

You’ve got one feed that updates tweets from myself, Petrella, Disch and TPLhockey (as well as mentions) and another that is Mike Serven’s RedWingsFeed. Both of them are the best at keeping you update don what we are doing and what the Wings are doing. They refresh automatically every 60 seconds.

Polls

We ask a question. You answer. Got something you want as a poll question. Hit up the e-mailz.

The Tabs (Navigation Bar)

Home: Well, it takes you to the home screen. /roll credits

Pages: You can learn all about us, ways to spend money with us, or you can click on the most underrated page in the TPL domain: NTC/NMC. The resulting click explains it all.

TP:60: Links to the archives and main page, which will include info about the most recent shows, as well as upcoming episodes.

So there it is. Your guide to the TPL universe. I expect that things will continue to change as the site continues to evolve, so we’ll be sure to let you know when we add things for you to play with. In the meantime, click around and enjoy the site. As always, shoot us an e-mail if you have any questions.

And don’t forget: You break it, you buy it.

There, by the grace of Griff, goes Kyle

We were happy to share the festivities of Abdelkader.Hudler.Delvecchio with Babcock’s Death Stare‘s big news: that Kyle will begin an internship with the Grand Rapids Griffins. We literally couldn’t be happier for the man — and while we’re very sad to see him go (he is a guy that does quality work on the regular), we’re sure this is an opportunity that will lead to great things for his great hockey mind. TP:60 won’t be able to replace him, and he’s always welcome to drop in, say hello, and jailsex some noobs on the topic of prospects and whatnot.

On a more personal note, Kyle was extraordinarily helpful when we were launching The Production Line (the first time, I mean…) — always had good advice, was the first site to link to us and send some traffic our way. Disch and I owe him a debt of gratitude because without him to lean on for a few weeks, we may not have done this at all. We tip our hat to him yet again, reading  his final post and seeing the kind things he has to say about us and our site. We’re truly honored to be included in that group — and any group that’s included Kyle.

I already owe Kyle several beers at H2H2 (he knows why…), but add this to the tab. Cheers, brother! Best of luck kicking ass and taking names in Grand Rapids.

If you haven’t already (who am I kidding? Of course you have), head over to his farewell post at Babcock’s Death Stare and wish him luck.

You Deserve the Truth

Before we go any farther, let me give credit where credit is due.

Chief: You called it. Well played sir.

Call me a bitch. Call me “Favre.” Call me whatever you want. The fact is that I am indeed back and am feeling incredibly solid about joining forces with two guys that have come to be just like brothers over the past 8 months or so. I will admit that I enjoyed my month long break from the writing scene though. It was an interesting experience watching things like the Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei signings happen and not have to immediately jump on my computer and start banging out thoughts about it. You know what I did when the Modano news broke? No seriously, do you know? Because I sure as hell don’t. That’s some serious relaxation right there folks. I’d like to think I was out on a bike ride with the lady or busy knocking back a shot or two of Jameson, but I don’t think we’ll ever know. The point is, folks, that I was living it up and not worrying about a thing. It was nice.

Why was relaxation so easy you ask? Because I knew this was coming for a long, long time. That’s right kids, this whole plan has been in the works for months. That picture in Petrella’s post? Yea, that’s from H2H. We took it knowing full well exactly when we wanted to use it and what it was going to be for and we did it right under your noses. Just like we dangled out the teaser tweets from TPLhockey, basically handing all of you the name of the site months before it even went live. And yes, some of those tweets came from me as well.

“But what about leaving Motown Wings?”

Great question. There’s a reason we chose today’s date for the announcement and it’s not just because “Abdelkader.Hudler.Delvecchio” sounds awesome. For those that didn’t know, I was under contract with MW up until yesterday, 8/25. Being a man of my word, I was prepared to finish it out, until the folks over at Fanball said “Hey, we’ll pay you early and we have someone prepared to take over for you.” Boom. Sold. Fare-thee-well friends. You’ll notice, upon further review, that I never actually said I was “retiring” or “never writing again,” just that I was taking a bit of a break from things to focus on other aspects of my life. Which is absolutely true. I’ll still be focusing my efforts on real-life work, family, friends, etc. but that becomes much easier to do when I have two other guys on my team that I know will be churning out superb content on a regular basis. This was simply the best situation for me and that’s why I took it.

So i’m sorry for pulling the wool over your eyes a bit, but what had to be done was done. Now that everything’s out in the open, we can get down to enjoying the shenanigans, analysis and overall good times that you’ve come to expect from TPL, all on this brand spanking new site. Speaking of the site, I’ll be dropping a larger post on all of the new features and toys sometime tomorrow, so stop back by to check it out. The three of us have put a ton of time and effort into making this thing awesome, and we did it for all of you to enjoy. We’ve also got a ton of fun things planned for all of you, and the three of us will be rolling those out in the coming days, weeks and months. For the record, both Disch and I wanted to host a huge launch party in Detroit today, complete with booze, music and autograph/assault sessions with Todd Bertuzzi. Unfortunately, Petrella decided to get crazy and blow all of our savings on some fancy ritual that involves him getting a ring soldered onto his finger for the rest of his life. I’m just sayin…

At any rate, It’s good to be back and it’s great to finally let all of you in on what we’ve been working so hard to accomplish. I have to offer up huge amounts of gratitude and thanks to both Petrella and Disch for extending me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I hope that my presence here doesn’t wreck the site forever.

I’ve missed all of you, but that’s enough emotion for one day. So consider this our “hug it out” moment before we crank this thing up. This should be one heck of a ride folks, so let’s  get it going.

LGRW.

Welcome to the new home of The Production Line!

Oh NOW that photo makes sense…

Welcome to the new home of The Production Line — complete with our own non-blogspot domain! Maybe now we’ll stop having our posts eaten as we’re just about to bitch about getting jailsexed by the Shetuzzi or making up Las Vegas Lebda stories. Please take a few minutes to update your bookmarks, blogrolls, RSS feeds, and Google Reader subscriptions. The feed – and home page – will continue to have the full content, because nothing pisses me off more than having to “click here to read more.” I have officially exhausted my vast vocabulary computer lingo.

You’ll find us at www.TheProductionLine.US — NOT .com. Trust us, we wanted .com. But the clown who owns it (and is just sitting on it) wanted four grand for it. So… we tried. It just wasn’t going to happen.

We’ve got a lot of exciting news to share, so I’ll cut right to the chase. We’re beyond thrilled to announce we’ve added a third member to our little cabal here. Our real-life good friend (nay, brother) Chris Hollis will be joining us as of today after having done an incredible job at Motown Wings — and Winging it in Motown before that. The Production Line is extremely lucky to have such an incredible writer, brilliant hockey mind, and world-class man on its team. Both “original members” of TPL (or “classic gangstas”) had an instant connection with Hollis and within minutes of meeting him knew that there was an opportunity for something special if the three of us put in the effort.

We also have Hollis to thank for this wonderful new site. He built many of the elements (some that we’ll explore in a little bit) to make it far fancier than the old TPL was (Blogger Templates FTW!). The banner, however, is courtesy of our good friend Sara — you may know her as @thetinnishflash — and she did an AMAZING job. In fact, she’s designed more than one for us and we couldn’t decide which one we loved most so we’ll be rotating.

Back to business… not only are we merging our site with Hollis’, we’re proud to announce that the Red Wings podcast — formerly known as The Obstructed View — has also found a new home. You’ll still have the show you’ve grown to love, but it’ll live right here at the Production Line so there’s no need for a second bookmark to keep track of. The podcast has been re-branded as The Production Hour (despite the fact that it’s NEVER just an hour, but  “happy hour is longer than an hour, and no one seems to mind.” Touche, salesman.) The format is going to be switched up a little bit, too, but I’ll let Hollis pass along those details, as he’s still your host and point man for that project.

If you haven’t already, please take a second and follow @TPLhockey on Twitter and fan us on Facebook. Not quite sure what we’re going to do with the social media, but that’s where all the kids are hanging out. Fret not, all three of us will continue to tweet from our personal accounts, but only the TPL Twitter will be sending the post’s feed. Because it’s uber-annoying to get four tweets in a row with the same link. You know who you are.

Anyway, to access our Twitter and Facebook pages — as well as the RSS feed — click those nifty buttons in the upper right hand corner. Directly below them thangs is a tabbed box. Ask Hollis how badly I wanted that. I almost blew the whole partnership on my crazyperson obsession with it. But it worked out, because it’s FULL OF WIN. The first tab is our blogroll, the second is the categories the posts will be filed under, and the final is a direct link to a PayPal account. Under no circumstances should you feel obligated to use this button, but Hollis ain’t cheap… that was a paying gig we tore him away from, and we had to promise him a decent petty cash account.

All joking aside, we’re hoping to find a handful of sponsors for The Production Hour — and the site as a whole. If you’d like to send a few bucks to help cover hosting fees for the massive podcast files, we’d graciously accept it. But the exciting part of this kick-ass button is that periodically we’ll be hosting fundraising events — like the H2H pledge drive last February. Rest assured, we’ll still be your home for the H2H2 pledge drive — just like last year. Boom, built in PAY UP SUCKA! button for when Bertuzzi goes all December ’09 on that ass.

Below the banner on the LEFT side of the page, you’ll find a few more tabs. You can use the About Us page to send us individual e-mails (fan-mail and hate mail equally accepted and expected) or a question/comment for podcast. We’ll be having some guests on the show from outside of the Wings blogging community, and I’m sure they’d be happy to answer some questions and engage in discussion.

So look around. Make yourself at home. Take off your shoes, stay awhile. We’ve been excited about making this announcement for months, and we know you’ll enjoy all the fun new developments at TPL.

So, with that, I’d just like to welcome Chris Hollis into the fold — we’re unbelievably lucky to have acquired a free agent of his stature. Boogaard (6.6 lol) be-damned, this is the best move of the summer.

Sparty on, Gator

For realz, dude. She’s sitting in the second row right there…NO DON’T LOOK NOW. 

And with that, the Red Wings have made their final roster move of the summer. Theoretically. I suppose it’s POSSIBLE Willie Mitchell takes Derek Meech money, but methinks that ship has sailed. Justin Abdelkader signed for two years, at an incredible cap hit of $727,500 — making a salary of $750k the first year and $825k the second. He’ll continue a hockey career that has taken place (as a home player, anyway) entirely in the state of Michigan.

Excluding Mattias Ritola, there are now fourteen forwards on the roster and 24 players signed altogether — one more than the NHL roster limit, meaning — SURPRISE! — Derek Meech is likely to be traded before the end of training camp.

Gator is expected to play on the fourth line with Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm — with Kris Draper and Drew Miller rotating in or enjoying cheese fries, dollar hot dogs, and several dozen cold ones with Budd Lynch and Murph.

The Red Wings are in no way obligated to shed salary prior to the start of the season, so they’ll likely hang on to all of their assets throughout training camp, in case of injuries, before making any tweaks. But it appears the opening day roster is just about set — and it looks a little something like this:

Z — Pav — Buns
Mulo — Flapjacks — Voldemort
Loins — Mr. Willa — Scuttles
Gator — Danger — Eaves
(SNP / Drapes)

Shiny Nickel — Dearborn
Kronwall — Stuart
Rig — Salei
(Amazon / Meech)

Tiberius
Five Hole

And since we received some e-mails from folks who didn’t know who we were talking about with our oft-ridiculous nicknames, the Rosetta Stone:

Zetterberg — Datsyuk — Holmstrom
Franzen — Filppula — Bertuzzi
Cleary — Modano — Hudler
Abdelkader — Helm — Eaves
(Miller / Draper)

Lidstrom — Rafalski
Kronwall — Stuart
Ericsson — Salei
(Kindl / Meech)

Howard
Osgood

Including the bonuses that are potentially due to newly signed players like Mike Modano and Ruslan Salei (about which I’ll have a post soon — because I’m a tad uneasy about those kinds of contracts), we’re looking at a little more than $775k over the cap. $850k of that can be deferred to next season (I’m shaking my fist…you can’t see it, but trust that that’s what I’m doing right now), and Derek Meech’s $500k will likely be removed from the equation. I’m not sure if you can pay SOME bonuses (and have them count against the cap this season) and defer the rest — so I’ll be on the lookout for a CBA Nerd to explain it to me (NOT found at Best Buy).

If ALL of the bonuses are deferred until next season — and Meech is put on a bus to Atlanta — the Wings will have a comfortable cushion for injury call-ups and the like. That’s a wrap on the off-season. Let’s lace them up already.

Photo Credit: Harry How, Getty Images

Another Day at the Table

Well, hello world!

I’m finally back in New York, attempting to get back to a normal pace of life after a very successful Operation: Matrimony campaign. I’d like to thank everyone for their very kind comments on Twitter, via e-mail, on Facebook, and even in the comments ’round these parts.

Anywho, it’s our turn to host the jailsexing awesomesauce of the roundtable, and we were honored to be a part of it again after a very entertaining run last summer. We’re coming hot on the heals of posts at Winging it in Motown and Snapshots — and make sure to tune in to the next round by The Triple Deke, who posed possibly the most humorous question I’ve ever had the pleasure of answering. Speaking of Snapshots, congratulations to George Malik, a good friend of ours, who will be jumping over to Kukla’s Korner, first at A2Y and then to an as-yet-unnamed blog. I’m sure he’ll kill it and the rest of the hockey world will know what we’ve known for years: Malik’s the bomb.

The questions I posed to the group — and their well thought-out answers are as follows:

QUESTION THE FIRST!
Second-year players often fall victim to a sophomore slump — and that’s especially true of goaltenders. How likely is it that Jimmy Howard can keep up with the expectations he set from a season ago, and how will the Red Wings fare if he DOES falter slightly?

Matt Saler (On the Wings)
I think there’s a reasonable chance Jimmy takes what’ll be perceived to be a step backwards this year. But I say “perceived” because I think he rose to the occasion, hitting a level above himself last year. This year, we may see more where Jimmy actually is at this point in his career. It may not be bad, but if he’s not winning games the same way he was last year, it wouldn’t be surprising, or the end of the world. Osgood’s likely to be a better backup this year, as he’s always been slated to be the second guy in this  year of his contract. Assuming Babcock deals out the starts a little more evenly this year, the Wings should be alright even with Jimmy playing less spectacularly. My wife points out that even if Jimmy doesn’t play as well, the team will hopefully make up the difference this time around.

If they both can’t get it done, say hello to Joey MacDonald. I’m not sure how they’d swing that without an injury, but Joey could likely step in competently if needed.

Tyler Devereaux (The Triple Deke)
It would be too awesome for Jimmy to repeat a rookie season that saw him 5th in the league GAA, 4th in SV%, and 8th in wins. That’s me being pessimistic, or realistic maybe. Is he THAT good already? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. I figure I’m just playing the odds here. The team can deal with him slipping slightly in the regular season because they now have the offensive depth to make up for it.

Casey Richey (Winging it in Motown)
Like I posted on WIM, Howard’s going to have a tough act to follow because those numbers that he posted were great for anyone–not just a rookie. I think he’ll be able to keep it at about the same level because of the way he progressed during the 2009-10 season. I think he showed that it’s not going to be a fluke year and that he really does have the makings to be a full-time NHL goalie. I would imagine he’s worked on rebound control and the soft goals that he allowed will probably go away over time. If he does falter, the Wings have a lot better team in front of him this year with Hudler and Modano adding some more defensive skills to the forward position (and making the assumption of a non-injury-plagued-season-from-hell). But, I also believe Howard could be setting himself up for an even better year than last year.

Chris Hollis (The Obstructed View)
I don’t think we’ll see too much of a slip up from Jimmah as he heads into his second season, but it is hard to imagine that he’ll be as stellar as he was during the Wings run to the playoffs last season. That said, a lot of his success will be determined by the guys he has playing in front of him. With the Wings looking like they now have three viable scoring lines to go with an aggressive forechecking fourth line, some of the scoring pressure that Howard had to deal with last season may be eased a bit. Along those same lines, the defense will be key to Howard’s success and a healthy blue line may be what makes or breaks Jimmah’s sophomore campaign. The biggest thing Howard will have to overcome though is the mental challenge of not trying to do too much and just playing the game he knows how to play. If he makes the saves that he should make and has a steady presence between the pipes and between the ears, he’ll do just fine this season and so will the Red Wings.

Drew (Nightmare on Helm Street)
If Jimmy Howard is too old to win rookie of the year, then he’s too old to suffer the sophomore slump. Goalies are usually fragile creatures mentally, but the long road that led Jimmy to Detroit certainly toughened him up. The fact that he has Chris Osgood – the league’s toughest goalie, mentally – backing him up certainly helps as well. I fully expect Ozzie to rebound from last year’s stinkfest as well. So we’ll have two internally savvy men between the pipes next year in total support of one another. We’ll be fine.

George James Malik (Snapshots)
I’m not too worried about Howard for two reasons: first and foremost, he’s a 27-year-old sophomore, and second, he has Chris Osgood to mentor him along and Jim Bedard to keep his technical game on the straight and narrow. Howard really started the 2009-2010 season playing a modified style thanks to Bedard, holding his glove and blocker a little higher and not splaying his legs out as much as he did previously while in his stance, and those tweaks paid off in terms of stopping first shots and being prepared to snag rebounds as well, especially as he finally learned how to position himself by conserving momentum and motion instead of charging out every time the puck bounced away. No more over-committing to the first shot or letting dekes beat him (save the shootout, where he’s still shaky), and as a goalie, once you get your technical game finally mastered, your fundamentals carry you, even when your opponents think they’ve got a book on you.

It took Howard about six years for Bedard to take a raw, athletic butterfly goalie and turn him into an incredibly efficient hybrid goaltender, but he’s finally got the position down in a manner that allows him to play efficiently and I really do believe that the combination of Bedard’s tutelage and Osgood’s insistence that Howard take the Dominik Hasek-like empty-headed approach to goaltending, worrying about stopping the next shot and making the next save, not buckling under the weight of expectations and embracing pressure instead of folding under it…

I just think that Howard’s a mature young man, and that places him miles ahead of the Steve masons of the hockey world.

If he falters, I sure hope and pray to the Hockey Gods that Osgood rebounds from his terrible 2009-2010 season (I wonder if he was more seriously injured than he let on) and regains his form. A little work with Bedard couldn’t hurt Osgood, but I do think he’ll get back to being himself this year.

Kris (Snipe Snipe Dangle Dangle)
Goaltending is my biggest concern for the season. I don’t really know what to expect, so I’ve spent the summer avoiding thinking about it. I don’t think Jimmy’s going to crash and burn, but I think it’s giong to be hard to keep up the level of play that he showed during stretches of the regular season last year. I also choose to imagine that Chris Osgood will look better this year than he did last year. He’s had some time to adjust to the backup role and hopefully he’s gotten his head straight. If Jimmy ends up struggling, having a veteran goalie like Ozzie to fall back on is mildly reassuring, but there’s no way of knowing which version of him we’re giong to see this sesaon. I’m sure we’ll be having endless discussions/arguments about this on Twitter and the blogs all season long.

QUESTION THE SECOND!

With the addition of Ruslan Salei to the blueline, it’s fair to say that Jakub Kindl is the de-facto seventh defenseman heading into the season. How many games do you expect Kindl to play, and how important are quality minutes in the upcoming season if he’s to blossom into the blue-chip defenseman the Red Wings hope he is?

Saler (OTW)
How many games Kindl plays depends on Jonathan Ericsson and team health. If Jonny’s lights out, it’ll be hard to get Kindl in, as I can see a Babcockian dependence on Salei developing where the PK is concerned. If the defense has any injuries, Kindl’ll be in however long he’s needed, obviously.

In general, they’ll need him to play 20+ games to make having him here worth it (though it’s not like they have choice, thanks to stupid waiver rules). I hope Chelios can mentor him somehow for when he’s not in the lineup. But that can’t beat on-ice experience. This season’s probably going to be like a redshirt for Jakub.

Tyler (TTD)
Blind hunch: Kindl is the 6th defenseman at the start of the playoffs, and Ericsson will be in the Eastern Conference.

Casey (WIM)
I expect Kindl to play about 20 games in all. I tihnk he’ll be called on to fill in during times of injury or times of crappyness from Ericsson/Salei. That being said, I think he could see some time as high as even the second line so that he would get some playing time alongside Kronwall or Stuart. I think, for me, it’s tooe arly to speculate on his playign time and ability at the NHL level. We only saw him in a handful of games so far and the gap between Grand Rapids and Detroit is pretty big.

Hollis (TOV)
I’ll say we’ll see Kindl in about 30 games this year, and he’ll average somewhere around 8-10 minutes a game when it is all said and done. Of course, that is all dependent on the overall healthy of his teammates and those numbers could go up if someone goes down with an injury. However, I don’t expect we’ll see him eating up tons of quality minutes at this point, rather, his minutes will be focused around getting him to play the position in accordance to Babcockian system of hockey, as well as learning the responsibilities of being a two-way player. Seeing him out there with Jonathan Ericsson is a bit of a scary prospect, especially if Ericsson is still going to crash the net at ill-advised times, so here’s hoping he gets paired up with Ruslan Salei more often than the Big Rig.

Drew (NOHS)
Kindl’s minutes will depend on how the rest of the defense performs this season. I doubt Kindl will beat out Salei for his spot on the third pairing. But if Jonathan Ericsson can’t get his footing, then perhaps Kindl will get thrown into the mix. We had big hopes for Kindl – so it’s a little disturbing to hear that his progression isn’t coming along at the pace we had hoped. I think that pairing a veteran bone-cruncher like Salei with either Kindl or Ericsson will help in their progression. And hopefully the new suit, Chris Chelios, will be able to help them along as well.

Malik (SnS)
I think it’s very fair to suggest that Kindl’s the #7 defenseman, and I believe that the Wings had hoped that they could sign a solid #6 guy so that they could break in Kindl slowly at the NHL level. Kindl wasn’t “champing at the bit” to play in the NHL like the over-ripe Ericsson, sophomore slump excluded, when the Wings brought him up–Kindl’s had flashes of greatness at times, but whether it’s at the NHL or AHL level, he’s played inconsistently and seems to have confidence issues at times. I wouldn’t want to force him to sink or swim and I think the Wings are going about this the right way as Kindl’s solid regular-season performances as an injury replacement last year, in my opinion, were what saved him from the, “Do we waive him to send him down? We’re really not sure if he’s ready” status that Mattias Ritola currently inhabits. Kindl needs some TLC and he needs to get used to the NHL’s pace of play and physicality as Kindl is, for his size, a remarkably un-physical defenseman, and is still quite raw in some aspects of his game. Putting him in the Derek Meech role isn’t an indication that the Wings aren’t sold on the kid–using Kindl as a Derek Meech-style part-time player allows the Wings’ coaches and trainers to get him up to speed, bulk him up a bit, let him practice with the team, get comfortable at the NHL level and get some games in because he’s a player whose inconsistencies belie the fact that he really does have ethe skill set to at least possibly become a very solid second-pair defenseman of the Jiri Fischer-but-not-physical vein. He’s that good in terms of his vision, passing, shooting and potential, but his confidence, brain and body need another season in the AHL, and because the Wings can’t give him that extra season thanks to stupid waivers, they’re going to make sure that he breaks in slowly and surely.

I would guess that he’ll play in 20-30 games as somebody’s gonna get hurt, regrettably, and I would anticipate that Doug Janik and even Brendan Smith might get nods ahead of him as injury replacements on occasion.

Kris (SSDD)
Kindl’s playing time is going to depend a lot on injuries and how well the third pairing performs on the ice. Chances are good that we won’t be seeing a whole lot of him this season, but you never can tell. Even if he doesn’t see a lot of minutes, I think practicing with the team and just being around the locker room on a regular basis will help him grow. Prior to the Salei signing, I was a little nervous about the prospect of having Kindl as the sixth defenseman, so having him in reserve where he’s able to learn from guys like Lidstrom and step in if needed seems like a happy medium.

QUESTION THE THIRD

It wouldn’t a question from The Production Line if I didn’t get to poke fun at Todd Bertuzzi. He fell short of twenty goals last season, despite going on a tear through December. He showed some great chemistry with Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula (but seriously…who wouldn’t?), but Mike Babcock has stated that he’d like to reunite the Eurotwins – at least at the beginning of the season. Will the slightly altered top six mean more offense — or will it take a little bit of time for the new combos to click?

Saler (OTW)
If Bert can’t roll up points, at least, on a line with Franzen, there’s a problem. I wonder, though, if Fil and Bert can feed Johan the puck in the way he’ll need to really rack up the goals. I imagine the Eurotwin reunion won’t last too long for that reason. Getting Franzen going will be a big goal this year, so whatever’s needed to accomplish that will be done. If that’s true, who knows where Bert will fall in the lineup? I’m not expecting big things from him this year.

Tyler (TTD)
It will take all of 10 seconds for Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to click and commence with the offensive love-making. That’s “offensive” like the production of goals and such, not “offensive” like Todd Bertuzzi’s toe nail gunk.

Casey (WIM)
I actually think that the new top six will work quite well. Bertuzzi worked well with Franzen in the 7-1 win over San Jose, scoring off a Franzen shot and assisting on 3 of the 4 goals by Franzen. I think Fil and Bert will actually be a good combo for Franzen, who will be the go-to guy for goals on that line. Fil’s an excellent passer and Bertuzzi can make some decent passes every now and then but is always a space eater so I think that’ll clear up the room for Franzen to work. And of course, Hank-Pav-Homer will be a very dominant line and even when they aren’t they’ll be able to shut down the opposing offense.

Hollis (TOV)
I think it’s going to take some time for these lines to click into place and really start putting up some points, but the potential is definitely there for it to happen. It’ll be interesting to see how the Zetterberg/Datsyuk/Holmstrom line starts off the season, with my gut telling me it may take some time for them to really start producing points. That said, I’m much more intrigued by the Franzen/Filppula/Bertuzzi line. Personally, I don’t see how this line makes it out of training camp still paired together, especially if Jiri Hudler gets jump started and begins putting pucks into the net. However, he would most likely displace Bert, which would leave the third line with a Bertuzzi/Modano/Cleary setup, which is not exactly encouraging in the offensive end ofthe ice. Who knows though. Maybe Bertuzzi will find that spark playing alongside Filppula and Franzen and this exercise in line making will have been all for naught. Personally, I think we’ll see some mixing and matching of guys for the first few weeks until Babcock finds a setup that works.

Drew (NOHS)
I think the new combos are friggin’ sweet. I’ve long said that the best ingredients for offensive production on a line is to have 1.) a passer 2.) a shooter and 3.) a big body/grinder. The “Flying Circus” of Z-Dats-Holmer certainly has all the components. With Franzen being a sniper, Bertuzzi’s propensity for passing (they both have the big body aspect), and Filppula being somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades, I think line two will be pretty explosive. Cleary-Modano-Hudler also have all the ingredients. The great thing about having depth is that if things don’t click after a while, Babbles can shuffle things around and we’ll still have three legitimate scoring lines no matter which way to slice it. Big offensive numbers are on the way for several Red Wings.

Malik (SnS)
I don’t know how long Babs will stick to his written-on-a-napkin lines, but I don’t see Bertuzzi having a problem with playing alongside Franzen and Filppula. I would imagine that Datsyuk and Zetterberg will crank up their scoring to normal levels, and, after an adjustment period (just as you suggest), Franzen and Filppula will click relatively nicely–and I like the fact that Franzen’s presence almost forces Bertuzzi to play the net-front-man’s role as he played most effectively as a player who had to simplify his game, reduce the back-passing, dipsy-doodling and backhand-shot-taking and just get to the front of the net, screen the goalie and bang in rebounds. I actually like Bertuzzi, mind you, and thought that he exceeded expectations by a Manitoba mile because he displayed fantastic commitment to playing sound defense, worked hard every night, but I’m not too worried about him.

Kris (SSDD)
I like the idea of reuniting the Eurotwins. Every time they’re on the ice together, the ice seems to tilt in the Wings’ favor. I don’t think it will take any time at all for the top line to click. Being able to reunite the Eurotwins while still having strong centers on the second and third lines gives the Wings a dynamic element that they lacked last season. the second line might take a few games to gel, but I don’t think it’s much of an issue. These are all guys who’ve played together for at least a season.

QUESTION THE…BONUS?

For the next two minutes, you’re Mike Babcock. Which players make up your two power play units and why?

Saler (OTW)
PP1 :: Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom-Lidstrom-Rafalski
– for obvious reasons
PP2 :: Franzen-Filppula-Hudler-Kronwall-Modano
– the second power play’s where Babcock fills his forward on the blueline fetish, so why not Modano? He could probably hold it down, even with a lost step, at least to start the season.
PP3 :: Cleary-Abdelkader-Betuzzi-Lidstrom-Kronwall/Rafalski
– the Wings could really ice three viable PPs, if they split the D this way.

Casey (WIM)
PP1 :: Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Bertuzzi-Lidstrom-Rafalski
– Homer and Bert on the same PP unit? Yeah, why not? It lets Homer stay in his office and lets Bert do the dirty work along the boards.
PP2 :: Franzen-Zetterberg-Filppula-Kronwall-Ericsson
– With the bomb of a shot that Big E has he’s got to crack the power play this year and the forwards are a no-brainer.

Hollis (TOV)
PP1 :: Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Franzen-Lidstrom-Rafalski
PP2 :: Zetterberg-Filppula-Bertuzzi-Modano-Kronwall
–  Yes, I realize I broke up the Eurotwins on the first power play unit and no that’s not a mistake. The reasoning is simple: that line led the team in special teams point production in both the regular season AND the playoffs. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. As for the second unit, I flirted with the idea of slotting Hudler in instead of Bertuzzi, but I think it’ll be important for Big Bert to be parked in front of opposing goaltenders, which is clearly something we neither want or need to see happen with Hudler. However, if Modano or Filppula prove ineffective on the advantage, expect to see Hudler find his way onto the power play unit.


Drew (NOHS)
PP1 :: Holmstrom-Datsyuk-Zetterberg-Lidstrom-Rafalski
PP2 :: Franzen-Filppula-Cleary-Kronwall-Modano

Malik (SnS)
PP1 :: Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom-Lidstrom-Rafalski
– Because they’ve produced consistently on the PP since Raffy came to town two years ago.
PP2 :: Franzen-Filppula-Cleary-Kronwall-Stuart
– Cleary’s a little simpler-minded when it comes to forechecking and screening goalies than Bertuzzi and I thought that Stuart was quite honestly fantastic when the Wings had to employ him on the power play. I tihnk that Babs should stick with continuity up front and I just prefer the similar continuity on the back end, even over the temptation to place Mike Modano on the point.

Kris (SSDD)
PP1 :: Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Holmstrom-Lidstrom-Rafalski
– You’d be crazy not to.
PP2 :: Franzen-Filppula-Hudler-Kronwall-Modano
– A power forward, a set-up man, and… a short guy who likes hookers. Sounds perfect to me. Kronwall is a lock for the power play with his offensive skills. I went with Modano because I like the idea of a forward manning the point on the power play as long as it isn’t Jason Williams (Who?).