Red Wings sign trio of prospects?

Note: This is all speculation at this point, but I’ve sent a note to the Red Wings, hoping for confirmation of any of the following, and will post it as soon as I receive a response. Likewise, I’m going to search for their agents and pull a Hollis/Diamond move and ask them if their clients have been snapped up by an NHL team…

Update: I received a response from the Red Wings’ director of public relations Rick Bowness, who basically confirmed the speculation of Malik and I (in the comments): those guys were free agent invitees and haven’t been signed to contracts. In fact, Evan Mosher has also attended Montreal Canadiens development camp this summer, so he’s likely showcasing his portfolio for anyone that’s interested in seeing it.

We’ll keep a close eye on the developments, but it is unlikely, as Malik suggested, that anyone would be signed prior to main camp and the prospect tournament simply because they don’t have to be.

A funny thing happened when I was flipping through NHL.com’s store, looking at Wings’ jerseys with the new players and their numbers on them. On the drop down customization menu, you can select any roster player or draft pick to see what their name and number will look like on your sweater… but there were three names that aren’t draft picks and haven’t been signed — at least, not officially.

Dartmouth forward Adam Estoclet, Kelowna forward Zach Franko, and PEI goaltender Evan Mosher are all available for purchase.

The three gentlemen were all prospect camp invitees in Traverse City, and we all know how much Mr. Holland likes to stockpile “bonus draft picks,” players that he can scoop up that won’t cost any assets. He’s done the same with Willie Coetzee, Brian Lashoff, and Francis Pare — to name a few.

Again, there’s no indication that they’ve actually been signed, but it’s certainly odd that they’d appear on the list if they hadn’t been. None of the other camp invitees were on the list, prompting me to think that there’s something different about these three.

According to our good friend George Malik, who did some stellar reporting from the camp, Estoclet has excellent hands but isn’t very strong, Mosher is technically brilliant but predictable, and Franko is a smart, hard-working puck-mover. Estoclet had a cup of coffee with the Providence Bruins of the AHL last season, after finishing his four years of eligibility at Dartmouth. The other two play Canadian Juniors and are free to sign contracts with whomever they please. Mosher can turn pro immediately, since he’s over 20, but Franko will have to return to Kelowna (where he played with Wings prospect Mitchell Callahan last season).

Stay tuned for updates…

Photo Credit: DSPics

Playing Catch Up

It’s July. There are lulls in the action. Even though it’s been a fairly eventful summer, as Red Wings’ summers go, we all fall off the map from time to time. With my two partners in crime back in action, I thought today might be an appropriate time to play a little bit of catch up with my e-mail inbox, which is half-populated by Red Wings press releases. The other half? Much less exciting.

  • First, the Jordan Pearce re-signing has officially been confirmed by the team.
  • In the same release, it was announced that Francis Pare has also been re-signed. He was the last restricted free agent whose fate hadn’t yet been decided. CapGeek has the NHL cap hit at $557,500. See the chart below for an updated list of Wings free agents.
  • For the sweater junkies, DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose tweeted the newest Wings’ jersey numbers. Ty Conklin will be in his familiar #29; the newest Griffins Garnet Exelby and Chris Conner will be in #3 and #41, respectively, if they ever suit up for the big club; Ian White will don Kirk Maltby’s #18; and Mike Commodore mercifully passed up #64 and will wear his #22.
  • FAR overdue, but definitely check out the third installment of the Red Wings Roundtable, hosted by our bestest buddies at Winging it in Motown.
  • The Wings are looking for help in deciding which six players will be featured as Bobble Heads this season.

Without being too much of a tease (you know… like last summer), we’ve got some changes in store for TPL, so please bear with us while we put the finishing touches on the plans!

[table id=32 /]

An Issue of Commitment

(Ed. note: I’m well aware that this isn’t directly related to the Red Wings, but you’ll just have to deal with it. Also, I’m back from my self-imposed blogging hiatus. Buckle up. -C)

There’s a good chance that a fair number of you out there reading this right now probably don’t really have a strong opinion going one way or another on NCAA hockey. Frankly, that’s not surprising. College hockey has always been one of those sports that’s seen as “niche” and “regionalized,” much in the way the NHL was viewed coming out of the disastrous lockout that cost fans and players alike a full season of hockey. Contributing to the misunderstanding is the fact that “major” conference names like “Big 10” or “Big East” don’t exist in the ranks of the college game. Monikers like “CCHA” and “WCHA” may mean something to those who regularly follow their squads, but winning a Central Collegiate Hockey Championship doesn’t hold weight on paper when the other major sports find themselves competing for Big Ten Championships with mega-rivalries in the vein of Michigan and Ohio State. UM vs. OSU hockey is just another Saturday night in December, while Michigan and Miami (OH) is the series that has all of the meaning. It’s like being transported to a strange galaxy where nobody cares about conventional tradition and the meaningless becomes meaningful.

Over the past few years, though, it’s seemed as if college hockey was beginning to inch itself more towards the limelight of relevancy, finally emerging from the dark cave of indifference. The first step came all the way back in 2001 when Michigan and Michigan State took to the ice for an outdoor hockey game, eventually throwing the doors open for ideas like the NHL’s Winter Classic and Canada’s Heritage Classic. Nine years later, the largest football stadium in America hosted a hockey game and it looked like college hockey was ready and poised to take yet another step forward. With momentum moving in the right direction, a number of traditional power programs in the game decided to finally come together under the Big Ten banner, forming a six team conference that would finally share the name and rivalries of their football and basketball counterparts, as well as a lucrative network contract and shared branding. While not everyone was pleased with this outcome, it was inevitable for the game once Penn State was granted a Division 1 program and it was needed in raising awareness of college hockey as a whole. Branding is key, and the Big Ten is a brand that almost everyone college sports fan across the country understands. I’m sure that there are plenty of folks out there that don’t agree with this assessment, and their reasons are probably pretty valid. I’m not here to debate those opinions, though.

I’m writing because college hockey has a problem. In the midst of all kinds of excitement and progress across the game, there’s a new trend that is quickly becoming disturbing and troublesome for programs across the entire college hockey landscape: the CHL and the idea of honoring a commitment.

Before you get all ‘OH NO YOU DIDN’T” on me here, let me be clear and say that this is no kind of indictment against the CHL and the product they offer. Personally, I enjoy watching a number of teams from the leagues they are attached too, and I think the hockey is exciting and entertaining. There’s a place for the CHL just like there’s a place for the NCAA. The problem is that these kids don’t seem to understand what a commitment to a team means when it comes to their NCAA allegiances, and the trend of committing to a university just to backtrack and speed off to the CHL is becoming a growing problem for NCAA institutions across the country. This week alone, three top prospects who were “solid” commitments to Universities decided to flip the script and head off to the CHL. Do they have the right to do that? Sure. But for the teams that now find themselves down a player with only a couple of months before the start of a season, what recompense is in store for them? What are they entitled to after a prospect decides that the CHL is a better fit?

Right now, it doesn’t really matter. The NCAA has a game on it’s hands that just isn’t equipped to stack up to the premier junior league in North America, and they know it. When top prospects hit the draft board every spring, major junior players dominate the proceedings. Sure, there’s plenty of talent in the NCAA pool, but the network is nowhere near as vast and well-connected as what the CHL puts out. More teams, more fans, more talent: the CHL experience appears to be the better tool to future NHL success both on paper and in practice. Yet there’s still so much talent and competition within the college ranks, but more and more players are walking away from it, simply because they can.

That must change. Yes, there are all kinds of issues with amateurism and contracts and what-not, but without a formal and binding signing policy (similar to college football), NCAA hockey will continue to watch recruits commit and de-commit in an effort to get to the NHL as fast as possible. Without attaching some measure of gravity to these commitments, they’ll be nothing more than a loose agreement that can be broken at any time, as opposed to an iron-clad guarantee of attendance and participation. I understand that you can’t force someone to do something they don’t want to do, but why not make it clear from the beginning that the moment you commit to a University, you are bound to be a part of that organization just as you would if you signed a contract with any other team. If you want to break that commitment? OK, but you’re going to sit out a year of juniors in order to do it. Will this ever happen? Doubt it. Would it steer some kids away from college hockey? It’s likely. But in the interests of preserving the roster sanctity of the teams within the NCAA, something must be done to firm up the gooey mess that is currently the commitment process and that could potentially cost the NCAA some higher-level talent. That’s the cost of doing business in a market that is all about getting kids to the next level. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, and you can’t guarantee stability with a slew of 18-20 year old kids making decisions on a whim. If you want stability for your clubs, it’s time to take a stand NCAA. With change imminent across the college hockey landscape, now is the time to raise the issue and now is the time to do something about it. Otherwise, college hockey runs the risk of being the eggs in the CHL omelet.

Hold the Canadian Bacon, please.

The Roundtable: Year Three

You screwin' with my head, Boyer?

Thanks to our good friends at Detroit 4 Lyfe, the Red Wings Blogger Roundtable is back for another go-around of question-and-answer-and-penis-joke. If you missed last week’s first round of questions, head to D4L and learn all about Ian White, the roster battle, and the new assistant coaches.

This week, we’re hosting the fellas and had the opportunity to posit three questions to our brethren. Continue reading for our questions and our fellow bloggers’ answers.

QUESTION 1: Chris Osgood. F’real?

:: George Malik, The Malik Report, @georgemalik
The concept’s pretty simple: There’s no better goalie out there in terms of his resume–and Marty Turco, Ray Emery and Pascal Lecalire and his perpetual status as on the IR all want to find a starter’s job, so we’re talking about Ty Conklin and/or trading for Michael Leighton as alternates-he’s got a great relationship with Jimmy Howard and he’s been very loyal to the team and vice versa.

I’m not sold on Osgood’s ability to bounce back from his surgery as what was supposed to be sports hernia surgery ended up involving major groin reconstruction, and he almost has to go through some setbacks in the forms of soreness and/or a little time missed due to pushing himself, but the real question is whether whatever injuries he happens to incur during training camp and the exhibition season lingering and requiring more surgery. He’s missed significant time over every one of his post-lockout seasons with the Wings due to groin issues, to the point that he’s starting to earn Dominik Hasek status for his groin’s fragility.

But if Holland’s sold on Osgood’s status as the best guy out there, especially given his relationship with Howard and the fact that the team was able to re-sign a viable #2B in Joey MacDonald (there’s cap space available to remedy any “lingering issues” down the line, too), it’s his choice to gamble. [editor’s note: the preceding was prior to Osgood’s retirement, an update follows]

Osgood knew that he was going to have setbacks as he recovered from his surgery, and I think it speaks to his character, big time, that he chose to not place the Wings in trouble on a repeated basis because his groin was going to remain a liability.

As soon as I’d heard that Dr. Clancy peeled Osgood open and found that there were ligaments shorn off bone, I thought he might have been done there and then.

I can speak personally about the concept that a doctor wakes you up after surgery and says, with a bizarrely cheerful level of enthusiasm, “You won’t believe what I found in there!” When that happens, man, you aren’t gonna be the same afterward and that’s that.

When he repeatedly suffered “setbacks” and couldn’t recover over the span of four, “Okay, you should have suitably recovered by now” months, that was just plain scary. In the, “Well he’s retired now” retrospect, those setbacks should have caused both Osgood and Holland to book #30 some more time on an operating table to undergo some exploratory surgery to see whether there wasn’t something else that needed to be fixed.

So in that sense, especially given that Holland was willing to bring Osgood back, I think it was downright brave of Osgood to make the call and say that he could no longer harm his team simply because he wanted to keep going till he officially broke down.

I also believe that if Conklin and MacDonald can’t replace Osgood adequately by committee, the team’s got more than enough cap space to make a halfway-through-the-season addition or three to bolster their goaltending and/or blueline and/or forward ranks, so I’m comfortable with the way the team’s going in goal because Marty Turco, Ray Emery and even the walking IR spot that is Pascal Leclaire all want to pursue starter’s jobs.

:: Zac MacRostie, The Scrappy Octopus, @Flapjack_McZap
Yeah, I am going to go ahead and blame Roloson. “Look at how well Dwayne did at his age. I could do that.” No. You couldn’t. There is a difference between a golden oldie and an olden goalie. Yes, I understand that you have had some injuries. And yes, you had to take that time off to get your head screwed on right. Are you going to guarantee me that that shit won’t happen again? Jimmy is going to need a break every now and then, and that means not worrying about coming in in the third period to bail your ass out when you get yanked.  Osmund being the back up doesn’t benefit the team.

:: Rob Rogacki, Detroit 4 Lyfe, @Detroit4LyfeRob
Despite the clusterfuck that was the Detroit media Monday night (I believe the Detroit News called him “Chros”), it sounds like Ozzie will actually retire without too much kicking and screaming. Above all, I’m glad that Ozzie has “decided” to hang them up now instead of dragging this saga out for another year or two while he chases Fuhr’s win total. I feel like Kenny Holland had to coerce him a bit, but all in all it sounds like this process is being handled fairly smoothly. Debates over the Hall of Fame and jersey retirement can (and will) happen later on. For now, I’m thankful for what Osgood brought to this organization and this city. Happy retirement, Chris. The downriver puckbunnies will be sure that you are never forgotten.

:: JJ from Kansas, Winging it in Motown, @JJfromKansas
Word. It’s not quite right to say I’m happy to see him go and it’s not quite right to say I’m sad to see him go. If we could have the Chris Osgood from as recently as 2008, I’d take that guy back in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I just don’t believe that Ozzie’s body can provide that. I know he’s got the competitive fire and I know he’d give the wings 100% to do the best he could, but I also accept that his 100% now is not as great as his 100% used to be or as great as the 100% we need from Howard’s backup.

:: Josh Janusch, Winging it in Motown, @Apocalyptic0n3
I loved Ozzy.  I have been defending him for years and the only time I ever was on the other side was when he was squabbling about Jimmy getting the starting job.  He’s one of the guys I grew up watching, one of the guys to fight Patrick Roy (that counts for more than it sounds like).  He scored a damned goal, even.  I hope that we see his jersey raised to the rafters next season and see him inducted into the hall of fame in a few years, despite what the naysayers say.

:: Matt Saler, On the Wings, @onthewings
Prior to his retirement announcement, I’d already come to the conclusion that the best thing was probably for him to retire. It was clear from his starts-and-stops comeback attempt last year that his body was becoming an insurmountable obstacle. I understand the Wings leaving the door open for him from a loyalty perspective, but also realize it was largely because if he could in fact be healthy, he could be a great value. But I’d already dealt with the probability that he couldn’t be healthy. So the announcement was no surprise. Still painful to see the end of an era of Detroit goaltending and the end of the career of the only full-blown Red Wings goalie I’ve ever known.

But I’m thrilled that he’s taken a position with the organization and know he’s the perfect guy for the job of mentoring the young goaltenders. Just look what he did with Jimmy.

:: Chris Moore, Nightmare on Helm Street, @HelmStNightmare
As I discussed on NOHS, unless Osgood didn’t think he had it anymore, I’m not convinced that there are any better options out there.  There might be one or two guys who might save one or two more pucks all year than Ozzie, but no-one who was significantly better.  I think the locker room personality that Ozzie brings to the table, plus his veteran leadership and friendship with Howie more than make up for those one or two pucks he might let by.  And even that being said, when he did play last season, he played well.

Now if he doesn’t have it anymore, he doesn’t have it and we have to move on.  But if he was nudged towards the door, I’m not convinced this was the correct decision.

:: Graham Hathway, Winging it in Motown, @Amerinadian19
Since everyone else has looked back, I’ll look forward. The organization did him right by keeping him within the family, and Jimmy Howard has been vocal in the last year and a half about how supportive Osgood has been in his (Howard’s) development and demeanour. I think the continuity of having Osgood still in the dressing room and around the goaltenders will help Howard maintain some focus because he’ll have someone to turn to if things turn south. He’s one of those players that always seemed to be suited for a front office position, and I think he’ll do well in his new role. But it was time for him to hang the pads up.

:: Tyler Devereaux, The Triple Deke, @TheTripleDeke
Chris Osgood was f’real alright. He was a pretty candid guy when it came to providing quotes and discussing every turn of his career. This was both a good thing and a bad thing, but I’ll always look back on it as my favorite thing about him. There was no grey area when he spoke. It was either, “Hey, that’s cool that he said that” or “Fuck me walking — did he really just say that?”

When I was a kid Steve Yzerman was my favorite player, as he was to just about everyone else, but the first Wings jersey I owned was #30’s. I really thought I was going to be a goalie someday so I was naturally drawn to the goalie on my hometown team. While Yzerman was a god among mortals, Ozzie was the mortal-iest of those mortals. He was flawed. At times extremely flawed. Yzerman was the guy you wished you could be but there was zero chance of that ever happening; On the other hand, you at least felt like you had a .001% chance at becoming Chris Osgood. When you’re an awkward 12 year old kid who wants to be a goalie, who’s easier to relate to than an occasionally calamity-prone goalie who looks like he’s 12 years old?

This is far from the end of us talking about, perhaps, the most talked-about Red Wing of the last 20 years. Hall of Fame and jersey retirement discussions will be had, as they’ve been going on for ages already. I’m in the “no” camp on both of those and I’m sure I’m lesser of a fan in the eyes of some, but whatever. Eat my ass. I’ve had my fair share of Interweb Ozzie battles with enemy fans, as we all have defended him at some point. I’ll remember him as a battler with a little bit of that “I don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude that spurred him on through the latter half of his career. I’ll miss him.

:: Jeff Hancock, Winging it in Motown, @JeffHancock41
Christopher J. Osgood.  F’real?  Yes.  Enjoy retirement.  It’s been a great 17-year ride.  Now please, find your way behind a microphone on Red Wings TV or in the broadcast booth.  I’ve always enjoyed Ozzie’s commentary.

:: Captain Norris, The Winged Wheel, @captnorris5
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I don’t care how awesome Jimmy is, or how amazing his career will be, nothing will ever be as cool as the crowd erupting into “OZ-ZIE OZ-ZIE OZ-IE” after a big save in the playoffs. Now that Ozzie’s hung them up, he no longer needs to be a “love him or hate him” type player – we can all just focus on the love, right? He’s stopped more rubber for the Wings than any other goaltender ever. He’s brought home 3 cups, 2 as the starter. He’s scored a goal. He’s punched Patrick Roy in the face. Multiple times. Dude’s given us a whole lot, including some supreme mentoring for young Jimmy Howard. Mentoring Jimmy will likely rely on in a few years when Wings fans all inevitably turn on him and try and run him out of town by MFing him at every opportunity.

:: Michael Petrella, The Production Line, @mpetrella
Everything I need to say about Chris Osgood, I said yesterday. It’s no secret that I wasn’t a fan, but the man deserves some respect. 401 wins and 3 Stanley Cup rings don’t come by accident, and they’re the exclamation point on a stellar career. But, like most punctuation, it signals the end and it’s time to move on. That the Red Wings were even considering bringing him back was flabbergasting, but now is a time for reflection before the Hall of Fame Will He Won’t He shit becomes too much to bear (we may already be there).

Question 2: Last season, team defense was a real issue. Obviously, you don’t replace a guy like Brian Rafalski, who suddenly retired, but how do you think the blueline (and goal line) will fare this season? Minus Rafalski, Salei, and McCrimmon… plus White, Commodore, and new coaches. Better, worse, or lateral?

:: Malik
I think it depends on what Blashill and Peters bring to the table. The Wings’ system needs some tweaks–it’s become particularly vulnerable to back-door passes to pinching defenders and cycling plays where pucks were sent out parallel to the goal line or from behind the net to players lurking near the faceoff dots for one-timers, and even with Rafalski on the blueline, things weren’t pretty, especially against the Sharks.

White’s mobile enough and defensively sound enough to get the job done and put up 30-40 points as a PP specialist and/or #3 guy (it seems that Niklas Kronwall will get a promotion to the #2 spot, power play time with Lidstrom included, and Stuart and Ericsson will be expected to put up more points), and while Commodore, despite his issues with Scott Arniel, adds some snarl and fists, provides a little more insurance should Jakub Kindl continue to have ups and downs, and I’ve never seen a player get away with more obstruction penalties than Commodore does on regular basis.

:: Zac
As long as Ericsson is playing defense for the Red Wings, the Red Wings team defense doesn’t get better.  Actually, I think that the forwards will play better defensively this coming season.  I think Ian White can come close to putting up Rafalski type numbers. Also bringing in White washes out the Rusty factor. I do realize that I am trying to kill two birds with one White stone, but I really do think it will work out that way.  And I can’t wait for that Commodore hit that makes us all go, “Booyah motherfuckers.”  I really want to say ‘better’ but I keep thinking of Jonny, and I just can’t do it.

:: Rogacki
There’s a ton of evidence that points the other way, but I think the defense will be better next season than it was last year. Rafalski, bless his beautiful bald dome, struggled on the defensive end last season and always had difficulty defending bigger forwards. Overall, I think we’ll miss Rafalski more on the power play than on the defensive end. The development of guys like Kindl and Ericsson (*ducks as Petrella throws a heavy object at his head*) will go a long way towards answering this question furreal. If Shitbox cuts down on the stupid penalties and defensive lapses, we will have a top 4 to rival any defensive corps in the league.

:: JJ from Kansas
I’m trying to do this in a way so as not to blaspheme Rafalski, but I kind of don’t want to replace him. Rafalski has always been the same piece of a machine that’s needed an overhaul for a little bit. I’m starting to think that having too much of the Red Wings offense come from the blue line is part of the reason the overall team defense has been struggling. Keying on the points creates odd-man rushes. Blocked shots up high lead to breakaways. Turning the puck over between the cycle down low and the man up high gives the forwards that half-step delay that’s often the difference between a fantastic (and mostly invisible) backchecking job and the opposition turning transition into goals, time in zone, and momentum. Rafalski individually brought more good than harm to the Wings throughout his tenure in Detroit, but I’m very comfortable trading him for a defenseman who brings a bit less offense but also a bit more defense. I just hope White can live up to that set of expectations. As for Salei, I thought he played well enough over the first half to build up enough good feelings to last him through almost the entire second half. Unfortunately, he had none left over for the playoffs and he kind of sucked in the postseason. I don’t have ill will towards him or anything, but I’m glad he’s gone.

:: Josh
If Lidstrom can play as he did last year, we will be better.  We actually have too many good defensemen now.  We have 4 guys competing to be Lidstrom’s partner out there (I think Kronwall should be it with White and Stuart on the second pairing, for those wondering) and three guys competing just to make the final spot.  I think the competition, along with our new assistants, will help our defense tremendously.  Last year, everyone knew who they were and where they were going to be.  This year… only one person knows that.

:: Saler
With Rafalski gone, I don’t think there’s any doubt the Wings’ blueline production will take a hit unless Kronwall flips a monster switch. But I like to think that the combination of new voices on the bench, more defense-first-style guys on the blueline and the overall dip in blueline skill should mean a tighter defense. I don’t know much about the new coaches, but it was clear that there was some measure of staleness that had developed under MacLean and Macrimmon, so new voices should mean a new direction. White and Commodore will help weigh the defense toward a defense-first posture that should help their work in their own zone. And no longer having Rafalski’s skilled outlet passes may help force the forwards to be more thoughtful in their integration with the defensive corps.

:: Chris Moore
Detroit had a very passive, non-physical defense these past (few) seasons.  This type of defense works by intercepting passes and positioning.  Mostly however, this works when everyone is in position, at all times.  Basically, when the team was on their game, such as almost the entire 07-08 season.

Now they have a little bit of an edge, a little grit.  The skill isn’t exactly as high, but it doesn’t need to be.  To get around Detroit, you no longer have to just sauce a pass perfectly around their stick, you have to sauce that pass while remembering that there are four (or five, depending on if E-52 ever decides to use his size) defensemen on the team who are waiting to kill you.  This sort of defense doesn’t require as much skill and I think it will make them more consistent, and lately, that means better.

:: Graham
To me, White+Commodore is a slight downgrade from Rafalski+Salei offensively, but is a bigger upgrade defensively. The Wings have had problems in their own zone the last 2-3 seasons, so tightening up the back end while not losing anything offensively (in terms of forwards) was a big priority. White had been on the “Mike Sillinger” career plan prior to signing a 2-year deal with the Wings, and the stability will allow him to focus on his game without worrying about whether he’s on the verge of being traded yet again. Commodore is a physical presence with something to prove, and if there’s one thing the Wings have done a good job of in the past few years, it’s taking a guy who many thought didn’t have much left to offer and allowing them the chance to prove their detractors wrong. A motivated Commodore will also push guys like Kindl and (please God) Ericsson to be better.

:: Tyler
I’m thinking lateral. My general thought on this is that you’re looking at the 5th or 6th straight season in which this core group has been together. They’re now so used to their roles (Pav and Hank as the two top dogs; Fil as the poor man’s Hank to anchor the 2nd or 3rd line; Mule as the when-he-feels-like-it power forward; Hudler as the guy who always asks if you think the red spot on his balls is curable) that they have to fight an uphill battle with complacency as well as 29 other teams. That’s just the way the team was built. It’s been a winning formula, obviously, but when you play for a Cup-or-bust franchise every season, that asset of team continuity can lead to mid-season apathy. You’re around the same guys day in and day out for years on end, all knowing that you’re going to have to turn up the intensity ten fold once April comes around. It’s only natural that these guys are going to let team defense slide (the area of the game that complacency damages the most). Of course I’m just addressing the regular season, but we were dead-even with a very good Sharks team in a 7 game series decided largely by home ice. Having the final game at the Joe might have helped a wee bit.

And as for Mike Commodore, I’m just as interested in how long the Wings front office is going to let him tweet things such as “Barry Zito is getting his tits lit” as I am in how he’ll play. What an image that is.  Frankly if I can get through life without my nipples catching fire I’m going to consider it a roaring success.

:: Hancock
For now, I’m going to say lateral.  Defensively the blueline could potentially be better.  Offensively the blueline will be worse without Rafalski.  My hope is the new guys elevate their game and show they belong wearing the Winged Wheel and the new coaches voices light a fire under the team’s ass.  It really just comes down to whether Brendan Smith plays….I kid.  The names White and Commodore don’t scream improvement, but we might be pleasantly surprised by what they can bring to the table.

:: Norris
We should not be too quick to overlook Ken Holland’s biggest signing of the summer, a towering offensive-defenseman, only 27 years of age, who is pulling in a cool $3.25 million. Oh. Shit.

Overall, I’d say we’re at a wash from where we were last year as far as the actual roster is concerned. That’s only because Raffi had been back and forth to the DMC so often that he was basically being held together by duct tape and dental floss for the last couple of years. I think that hindered his performance a bit. We’re nowhere near 08 form, but we filled the gaps as best we could.

Beyond the roster, I’d like to say we’ll be better off defensively.  One simple reason: the departure of McCrimmon. There’s absolutely no excuse for a team featuring Lids, Raffi, Kronner, Stewie, Z, Pasha, Drapes, Helm, Abby, Miller, and Eaves to be as horrendous defensively as we’ve been since Todd the Traitor jumped ship to teach dive classes on the left coast. I’m excited to see what Babs’ new recruits can bring to the table. It’s gotta be better than the last couple of years, right?

:: Petrella
It hurts to say, but I think this defense is worse, in theory. Minus Rafalski and Salei, plus White and Commodore? I wouldn’t trade Brian Rafalski alone — even the version we’ve had the last few years — for those two guys, no offense intended. I’m just hopeful that the shakeups behind the bench make a difference because the talent is there… the execution was not. Losing Brad McCrimmon may have been the best move the blueline made all off-season, and I’m cautiously optimistic that the Wings can be an elite defensive team again.

Question 3: There won’t be many changes up front, as nearly everyone was re-signed and it’s time for a few guys to make the jump up to the big club. Mike Babcock didn’t get his wish for another top six forward, but there’s still time before the rosters are set. Do you foresee a trade or a shocking free agent signing between now and mid-September, or can we expect a similar lineup to last season? Bonus question: if you could select one remaining free agent… or REALISTIC trade target… who would it be, and what would it cost to get them onto this roster? Extra credit if your answer isn’t “Hudler and a 2nd.”

:: Malik
I would never rule out a trade, but between the fact that there are free agents out there and that the UFA market was so skewered that “Hudler and a 2nd” might not get you anything but a 2nd round pick in return (something tells me that asking prices for competent players are crazy right now), I think that it’s highly likely that we’re going to see the Wings stand pat, see what Mursak and Emmerton can do and hope for some internal surprises until the market opens up and/or there might be someone who can be plucked off the waiver wire, or traded for during the second half of the regular season.

If the Wings are in the mood to further roll the dice in the depth category with somebody like Mike Grier, Brad Winchester, Marek Svatos, Patrick O’Sullivan, John Madden or somebody who might actually be a good fit in Ryan Johnson, sure, there are free agents out there that could be had at a bargain price, but there aren’t many (and if somebody suggests a nut-job like Jarkko Ruutu, well he’s a penalty and/or suspension waiting to happen).

My gut tells me that Holland’s going to keep working the phones because that’s what he does, but I think that aside from figuring out what happens with the team’s goaltending and Kris Draper’s fate, the team’s done for the summer.

I just don’t see anything happening, and I’m seriously not a fan of the Semin rumors–Jiri Hudler, in theory, should be able to post as many points and as much frustration that Semin does at half the price.

:: Zac
No deals.  The Wings dangled Hudler out there on draft day and didn’t get a sniff and I don’t see him going in a package. At least, any sort of package that doesn’t piss everyone off.  A Hudler package deal is like going somewhere cool as a teenager, but on your parents one condition that you bring your Keebler-like littler brother.  So I think the roster will pretty much look the same as last year.

:: Rogacki
Something tells me that Alexander Semin is going to be a Wing within the next three months. Maybe that “something” is a tingling in my balls (which goes well with the “Semin” jokes), but I think there’s too much smoke coming from this rumor for there to not be a small fire starting in Ken Holland’s <strike>pants</strike> office. I think we’ll see a package of Hudler, Filppula and a couple draft picks sent Washington’s way. Happy will light it up in the capital, turning uneducated fans into the same brainless morons wondering why we traded Ville Leino, while Wally will struggle away from the Wing system he’s succeeded in (if not spectacularly). Whether Semin can buy into the Wings system remains to be seen, but adding him to the current lineup is a scary proposition to the rest of the Western conference.

I don’t want to say this is a preference of mine, but I’m terrified that we’re going to end up with Marty Turco as a backup goaltender. Thankfully for my gut (which is often wrong, especially after late night Taco Bell) all signs point towards us announcing the return of the Conk as early as Wednesday morning. Maybe I’m just stressed out from apartment hunting (which, in DC, is about as enjoyable as reading a Ryan Lambert column). I’m firmly in the ABT (Anyone but Turco) column for our backup goaltender in 2011-12.

:: JJ from Kansas
Pending the signing of a backup, the wings have approximately a drug mule’s assload worth of cap space left over. I like the concept of the Wings holding some of that back to give them more deadline flexibility, but I think Kenny told us that to shut us all up and he’s just waiting for a GM to crack and send us a top six guy for a wry smile and a promise to give him a high-five in front of everybody at the next GM conference (as everybody knows that being in with Kenny automatically grants a GM access to the cool kids’ table when they all meet). I make no bones that I want them to get Semin and I think he’s realistically obtainable with a package involving Hudler, Emmerton, and some picks. If McPhee asks for Filppula in return, I take that off the table. I’m not interested in trading a center for a winger right now.

:: Josh
Looking around at various sites and even guys like Wyshynski, I think Alex Semin may be a realistic target.  For Hudler and a 2nd… oh, right.  For those of you who think Hudler and a 2nd can get us Semin… shove off.  Semin will cost us at least 2 early round picks, Tatar or Mursak, and Filpula.  Is Semin worth that?  I’m not sure.  If he can commit to signing an extension, I think so.  Can you imagine the sheer destruction that would befall opposing teams when playing against a Zetterberg-Datsyuk-Semin line?  It would be a sight to behold.

As for remaining free agents, I have had two in mind for the last week.  Unfortunately, Brendan Morrison re-signed with Calgary over the weekend.  That leaves just one: former Viper Sergei Samsonov.  Given that he has not found a home yet and seems hesitant to return to Russia to play in the KHL, I think he could be signed for $1-1.5 million.  If Holland does manage to trade away one or two of our forwards, I truly hope we give Samsonov a good, hard look.

:: Saler
I do not expect a trade that will add to the roster as it stands now, and don’t see them signing anyone. I anticipate them going to camp as-is and coming out carrying Emmerton and Mursak. The only trade I see as a possibility is shipping out Hudler for a couple picks.

:: Chris Moore
I would be really surprised if there is a change.  You can tell that Babcock and Holland like their forwards.  I’m not convinced 100% yet, I think we need one more forward who can score.  I’m totally anti-trading Happy Hudler (you don’t sell when prices are down, plus his potential is way too high), but I think if Wolski is bought out by NY, which looks possible, he’d be a great addition.  He’s young, has un-lived up to potential, and seems like a hard worker.  If this happens, the Wings should get it on it ASAP.

:: Graham
Shea Weber……oh, you said “realistic”. I don’t foresee the Wings doing a lot, especially considering for the first time since the dawn of the new millenium they actually have some cap space to work with. The top 6 is about as good as any other in the NHL, and I could see the Wings starting the season with the status quo and seeing how the young guys like Mursak and Emmerton (if they both make the team) fare early on. The Wings could use that cap space to possibly go after a rental player for a Cup run at the trade deadline. The cupboards have been pretty much stripped bare in terms of free agents, but a guy who could do well in the Wings’ system would be Steve Bernier. He’s only making around $2M per season, so he’d be cheap. He’s an younger guy who has bounced around a little early in his career and not lived up to his offensive promise that he showed in junior (think the Quebec version of Dan Cleary). He’s good on the PP and if given the right set of linemates, could put up some decent numbers at a reduced price.

:: Tyler
I would be shocked if a major move happens. I don’t want to sound too trendy but other than a deal for Semin I can’t think of another realistic target. I sort of like the idea of there being a bunch of cap flexibility heading into the season so there’s an option for a big move, if available.

:: Hancock
Status-quo…UNLESS the Rangers buy-out Wojtek Wolski.  Malik mentioned it in the past and I actually think Wolski could be a good fit/project.  He’s a big body (6’3”) and would have the chance to put up 20 goals and 50-60 points with the Wings talent around him.  With all the players the Rangers have going to arbitration, he might become a cap casualty.

:: Norris
I doubt much will change from our current roster this calendar year. I’ll just be happy if we can get through free agency without signing a backup whose first name ends in “ty.” [editor’s note: timing lol]

Still, I don’t think this is the roster that will win #12. Without another addition, I don’t think we’e deep enough at forward to withstand the inevitable injuries that will come throughout the season. Not to mention the injury risks of any potential Game 7 situation that Hudler clearly has money on. I’d put good money (if I wasn’t in debt up to my eyeballs) on Kenny making a trade for a top 6 guy before the deadline. I doubt it’ll happen much earlier unless a need is super apparent by Thanksgiving. I’m betting Kenny will give plenty of time for Mursak and Emmerton to show what they’re made of and for Hudler to rebound in a contract year to get the biggest bang for our respective buck.

I’ll pass on every free agent still out there, minus Teemu which would never ever happen. Like I said, I’m guessing deadline trades. Though, looking at 2012 impact free agents that are on teams likely to be sellers, the best available is Shane Doan and that’s just straight up silly. Though, Patrick Sharp is on that list as well. I love fantasizing that Chicago will be sellers come February. In an absolute fantasy world, I’d love to trade Fil and a few picks for Sharp. Right handed power forward who can score goals and guarantee all sorts of inappropriateness out of TPLatina? Yes please.

BUT, you said to be realistic, so fine. I’ll go with a three way trade between the Caps, the Wings, and the Devils where we get Parise and Semin for Ericsson, a Modano sign-and-trade, and Dave Coulier’s loyalty as a fan. (e5)

:: Petrella
I do think that the Wings have tried to unload Hudler, and since there weren’t any takers, it wouldn’t be a pleasant trade from Detroit’s perspective. Think Ville Leino: he was fairly useless at the time of his trade, despite his promising European career, and the Flyers gave up only a dude that they had no intention of playing (Tollefson) and a late-round draft pick. Now, think of that deal again… but add two million dollars to the cap hit. No one’s going to want Hudler, but there’s a little bit of hope that some team that’s swimming toward the cap floor will need an extra two bills on the roster, and may be offering a mid-level prospect.

If there was a single player I could poach, it would be Shea Weber of the Predators. I know I’m not alone in that, but I do think there’s more to the story than either party is letting on. Nashville wanted a long term deal and Weber’s people said he’d prefer a shorter one. He’s heading to arbitration (unless the two sides can agree beforehand) and the most that an arbitrator can rule is two years of complete awkwardness in the locker room after hearing your boss say horrible, horrible things about you. If he wants to move on, and the Predators are dumb enough to deal him within the division (at least… the current division), I’d offer anyone on the roster except for Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom, and Howard. Franzen, Filppula, any defensive prospect and a 1st for a year of Weber and the opportunity to sign him long-term? You betcha.

Confirmed: The 23rd Red Wing: Ty Conklin

*UPDATED*
The rumors have been confirmed by the Detroit Red Wings, who have announced that they have, in fact, signed Ty Conklin to a one-year deal. Per team policy, no other contract details were released.

About twelve hours after news of Chris Osgood’s retirement became official, rumors began swirling that the Detroit Red Wings have signed their backup goaltender for the 2011-12 season, and it’s the guy we’ve all expected to be Howard’s tandemmate: former Wing Ty Conklin.

If the speculation is correct, Conklin has been signed for one year at less than a million bucks, a great price for a suitable backup. We’ll await official word from the team and be sure to pass those details on as they become available. He made $750,000 in his first go-around in Detroit, but averaged $1.3M over the last two seasons in St. Louis.

This should be the last roster move, barring a trade or other unforeseen signing. If the numbers are right, the total payroll comes in around $58,200,000 — a full six million below the cap, allowing for any necessary movement between the parent club and the Griffins, or a trade deadline deal to improve the ranks.

Conklin, 35, was a 25-game winner in 2008-09 serving as Chris Osgood’s backup, and had a stellar 2.51 GAA. In exactly 200 NHL games, he has a respectable stat line of 91 wins, 61 losses, 4 ties, 16 overtime losses, 16 shutouts, 2.56 GAA, and .908 save percentage. In addition to the Blues and Wings, he’s suited up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Edmonton Oilers.

Ty Conklin and the Wings’ third goaltender (Joey MacDonald) have a combined 26 minutes of playoff experience, so it’s pretty clear that they’ve comfortable with Jimmy Howard to carry the load.

Your 2011-12 Detroit Red Wings are as follows (ignore line combinations):

40 Henrik Zetterberg — 13 Pavel Datsyuk — 93 Johan Franzen
44 Todd Bertuzzi — 51 Valtteri Filppula — 96 Tomas Holmstrom
11 Dan Cleary — 43 Darren Helm — 26 Jiri Hudler
17 Patrick Eaves — 8 Justin Abdelkader — 20 Drew Miller
(39 Jan Mursak — 48? Cory Emmerton)

5 Nicklas Lidstrom — 55 Niklas Kronwall
23 Brad Stuart — 52 Jonathan Ericsson
22/64 Mike Commodore — 3? Ian White
(4 Jakub Kindl)

35 Jimmy Howard
29 Ty Conklin

Photo Credit: Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images

Chris Osgood hangs ’em up

Found: also known as the "silver lining" to cleaning out an old closet

Long-time Red Wing goaltender Chris Osgood has retired from the National Hockey League after seventeen seasons, 401 wins, 50 shutouts, 74 post-season wins, 15 post-season shutouts, three All-Star games, two Jennings Trophies, one goal, and three Stanley Cup victories. He leaves the game as the tenth winningest goaltender of all time. He has accepted a position within the organization, working with the team’s young goaltenders in a mentor-like role.

The announcement will be made via conference call at noon today, as General Manager Ken Holland joined the goaltender from their adopted hometown of Vernon, BC.

Originally drafted 54th overall in the third round of the 1991 Entry Draft, Chris Osgood spent much of his career as the Little Engine That Could — always facing detractors (yours truly included) despite always finding a way to win, particularly when it counts: in May and June.

He’ll be the subject of years worth of Hall of Fame talk — is he worthy of induction, was he just a bystander on a great series of Red Wings teams, are wins and titles enough to merit induction when he was never the best player at his position? This isn’t a time for those conversations — this is a time to reflect on the man we watched grow up from a fresh-faced youngster who wept after turning over a puck that led to a crushing first round loss… to a tough-as-nails jokester that has been a solid locker room influence on a new generation of pro’s pros in the Detroit locker room.

Speculation has been rampant since he last played in January, losing more than half the season following hernia surgery that proved too difficult to bounce back from. In fact, since 2009, Osgood has played in only 34 games — necessitating the use of a third goaltender to pick up the slack. Joey MacDonald — last year’s third goalie — was re-signed to a two-year deal last Monday. The Red Wings are still in the hunt for a backup netminder, with the odds-on favorite being former Winged Wheeler Ty Conklin. Other available goaltenders include Ray Emery, Marty Turco, Pascal Leclaire, and John Grahame. Ken Holland has also hinted that a goaltender has been offered in a trade, very likely Michael Leighton in Philadelphia.

Congratulations, Mr. Osgood. It’s been a wild ride, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of your labors in the future when Thomas McCollum, Petr Mrazek, Jordan Pearce, and whoever else is lucky enough to follow in your footsteps, finally take to the blue paint — the hardest position to play of any sport in Detroit.

CHRIS OSGOOD IN NUMBERS:

  • 0 :: Goalies left wearing the two-piece mask.
  • 1 :: Goals scored. March 6th, 1996 in Hartford.
  • 1 :: Fights. April 1, 1998 against Patrick Roy.
  • 1 :: Trades. March 11, 2003, the Islanders traded Osgood and a 3rd Round Pick to St. Louis for Justin Papineau and a 2nd Round Pick.
  • 2 :: All-Star Games Played. 1996 and 2008. A third, 1997, he was held out of due to injury.
  • 2 :: William Jennings Trophies. 1996 with Mike Vernon and 2008 with Dominik Hasek.
  • 2.49 :: Career goals against average, 24th best of all-time just ahead of Glenn Hall and Ed Belfour.
  • 3 :: Stanley Cups. 1997, 1998, and 2008 — the latter two as the starting goaltender.
  • 10 :: Years apart between Stanley Cup victories — the most since Terry Sawchuk went twelve between 1955 and 1967.
  • 14 :: Tandemmates during tenure in Detroit: Tim Cheveldae, Ty Conklin, Bob Essensa, Dominik Hasek, Kevin Hodson, Jimmy Howard, Peter Ing, Manny Legace, Joey MacDonald, Norm Maracle, Bill Ranford, Vincent Riendeau, Mike Vernon, Ken Wregget
  • 15 :: Playoff shutouts, fourth all-time; one behind Curtis Joseph and one ahead of Belfour, Hasek, and Jacques Plante.
  • 24 :: Combined regular season and post-season assists.
  • 54 :: Overall draft position in 1991, six behind Jamie McLennan.
  • 56.3 :: Regular season winning percentage.
  • 60.2 :: Post-season winning percentage.
  • 74 :: Post-season victories, eighth all-time.
  • 137 :: Penalty Minutes.
  • 401 :: Regular season victories, tenth all-time; two behind Grant Fuhr for ninth, and six behind Glenn Hall for eighth.
  • 2035 :: Combined regular season and post-season goals against.
  • 19779 :: Shots kept out of nets.

CHRIS OSGOOD AGAINST THE WORLD

  • Calgary Flames :: Aside from Chicago, the team that defeated Osgood the most (15 losses).
  • Carolina Hurricanes :: The team he had the best goals against average against, 1.50 in 16 meetings.
  • Chicago Blackhawks :: The team he faced most, a total of 50 regular season times.
  • Colorado Avalanche :: The team he incurred the most penalty minutes against (21).
  • Columbus Blue Jackets :: Four overtime victories against Ozzie — the most of any team.
  • Dallas Stars :: Along with the Blackhawks, the Stars were the team beaten the most times by Osgood (28).
  • Detroit Red Wings :: In ten games against the team he played for most, he only won once (1-7-2).
  • Edmonton Oilers :: Played his final game on January 4th, 2011.
  • Florida Panthers :: Only beat Chris Osgood once.
  • Nashville Predators :: The team that scored the most power play goals (23) and shorthanded goals (5) against him.
  • New York Islanders :: The team he faced the fewest number of times (nine), one less than the Red Wings.
  • Phoenix Coyotes :: Six goals scored into empty nets that were once occupied by Osgood, the most of any team.
  • Pittsburgh Penguins :: Aside from the Red Wings, this is the team that scored most often against Osgood (3.12 GAA).
  • St. Louis Blues :: Six ties, the most of any team facing Osgood.
  • Tampa Bay Lightning :: Destroyed by Chris Osgood — a lifetime record of 17-0-0.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs :: Played his first game on October 15, 1993.
  • Washington Capitals :: Osgood’s lowest save percentage against any team (.879)

UPDATED: Osgood’s fate announced Tuesday — Looks like retirement

"Not so fast, Ty."

***UPDATE***
Looks like you can add this to the long list of things that I’ve been wrong about… a source has confirmed to Ansar Khan that Chris Osgood will, in fact, retire from playing and has accepted a position within the organization. That leads us to believe, then, that the call is being made (in lieu of a press conference) because both Holland and Osgood are home in British Columbia.

Per an e-mail, followed by a tweet, from the Detroit Red Wings, the team has scheduled a conference call for Tuesday at noon featuring general manager Ken Holland and goaltender Chris Osgood.

Speculation is rampant, but The Production Line is confident that this signals the return of Chris Osgood for another year split between the end of the bench and the injured list. The team doesn’t generally let their players retire on a conference call — instead opting for a full scale press conference, allowing for photographs and video.

Case in point: Nicklas Lidstrom got a conference call. Brian Rafalski had a press conference.

Stay tuned for details and heads exploding.

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus, Getty

Putting aside Chicago-hate and helping some kids

As I’m sure you’re familiar, we’re no strangers to raising funds for children in need –and the Red Wings community has proven time and time again that they’re generous beyond words — even though a great deal of us don’t live within Hockeytown’s borders anymore.

Our good buddy @captnorris5 is helping a friend help some kids in Chicago who could desperately use your generosity. As you may have noticed yesterday at The Winged Wheel, he’s putting aside the juvenile Chicago hatred (JUST THIS ONCE!) and he’s giving away a signed Zetterberg jersey to prove it:

Hockeytown, you’ve got a hell of a track record when it comes to charity. In the last two years, you’ve raised just a bit over $14,000 for the Children’s Hospital in two epic events. You’ve answered the bell when it’s been rung, and despite what Mr. Lambert may think, you’ve proven yourselves the most generous fanbase in sports. You’re also all very attractive, and your genitals are significantly above average in both length and girth.

So what am I asking? Simple. Keep it up.

Here and at the bottom of this post is a link to the Learning Through Giving Cause from causes.com. Go there. At the absolute very least, join the cause and post it to your Twitters and Facebooks, Google Plusses and LinkedIns and Yelps, Tumblrs, Diggs, Reddits, and AOL “Fans of Wilford Brimley” Message Boards. You crazy kids and your internets.

But, if you can, do a bit more than that. Toss a donation their way. The money will be put to great use helping kids get their learning on in an environment where they won’t have to worry about toilet paper rationing. Don’t hold it against them that they’re from Chicago. Look, if I can put that aside – you sure as hell can.

Hockeytown, I am absurdly confident that you are more than capable of rising to this challenge. Mike’s got a goal of $10,000 by the time the Wings have brought home the 2012 Stanley Cup. It’s going to require everyone to pitch it to get there, so please, give whatever you can spare.

Head over to TWW for more details, and information — as well as photos and raffle details for the Zetterberg jersey. I’m told that your genitals will continue to grow in length and girth simply by clicking the links. Magic, that’s how.

And, just to be clear, I love Chicago. I called the Windy City home for five years and would move back in a heartbeat if it was in the realm of possibility. I do, however, always get a chuckle out of poking their fanbases, and have no intention of ending that. Duh.

Joey MacDonald builds on solid season with new contract

It started with an off-color remark. Met with a chuckle.

When I was lucky enough to travel with the Red Wings this past February, I found myself eating with the boys at their team lunch on Saturday afternoon. I joined a table that had Justin Abdelkader, Jakub Kindl, and Joey MacDonald carbo-loading in preparation for that night’s game against the Predators (that MacDonald would be starting). We exchanged pleasantries and when I mentioned I lived in New York, Abdelkader asked me if I ever get out to see some games.

I told him I catch a game or two every season at Madison Square Garden because it’s so easy to get to — but since it’s expensive, I try to hold off until the Wings are in town. Even the new building in Newark, which is lovely, is pretty easy to find via public transportation. And after admitting that I’d made the trek once, I added “but you wouldn’t catch me dead at that shithole in Long Island.”

There was laughter across the table. I glance over and it’s Joey MacDonald, who had spent 2007-09 as the Islanders goalie. Immediately, I thought I made a faux pas, apologizing to the Wings’ third goaltender. He would go on to tell me that he really loved living in the area and playing for the Islanders — and couldn’t help but think fondly of the Nassau Memorial Coliseum and the less-than-stellar condition it’s in.

Luckily for everyone involved, MacDonald escaped the dual steaming piles that are Long Island and the Islanders and, eventually, returned to the team that gave him his first shot in the professional ranks. Prior to the 2010-11 season, MacDonald signed with the Red Wings after a brief stop in Toronto. He played more than admirably as an injury replacement for Chris Osgood last season, winning over a lot of fans who hoped that he’d return — even if it meant only as a third goaltender that spent most of his time in Grand Rapids mentoring the youngsters in Thomas McCollum and Jordan Pearce.

On Monday morning, the Wings signed MacDonald to a two-year, two-way extension, even though it seemed that he was hoping to capitalize on a strong season and play for an NHL-only contract or chase big money overseas. It must not have been in the cards, likely due to the strong goaltending class in this free agency, and the Wings snapped him up.

There was always a chance that MacDonald could return to be the #2 goaltender, based solely on how well he played in relief. But Ken Holland tells The Free Press’ Helene St. James that “[h]e’s going to be our third guy.” That leaves the door open for Chris Osgood or Ty Conklin to return, and we were told to expect news about the goaltending situation pretty imminently.

Joey MacDonald’s deal is two-way for 2011-12, meaning he will earn less money if he’s demoted to the Griffins ($105,000 compared to $550,000 in the NHL). There’s no mention of the second year, so it might be fair to assume that he becomes one-way, meaning he’d earn $550,000 no matter which team he plays for (like Doug Janik this season). Hat tip to both @georgemalik and @Lindy72 for the conversation.

Here’s a look at the remaining 2011 Free Agents within the organization:

[table id=32 /]

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

Selecting Uniform Numbers: A Memoir

When I was six years old, and had just begun playing organized hockey, it was 1988 and Steve Yzerman was the greatest thing to happen to Detroit in half a century. As a result, my coaches in Fraser, MI decided that they wouldn’t allow requests for jersey numbers because they’d probably have 23 six-year-olds asking for #19, and end up with 22 crying six-year-olds wearing some other number. Through some stroke of dumb luck, #19 ended up on my back and I was proud (although we were the Nordiques, so I suppose I was more Sakic than Yzerman).

When a rink opened closer to home a few years later, I began skating for Farmington Hills. For some reason, we only had even numbers, and while most kids were able to choose their own numbers, I was always stuck with whatever they gave me because each year, there was one small in a stack of mediums and larges. Playing organized hockey for nearly two decades, it was rare that I wasn’t the smallest kid in the locker room. And since “smallest jersey” = “smallest kid,” I wore #4. The following season, I was shoved into #34 for the same reason.

Fast forward a bunch of years to college. After six weeks of tryouts, the locker room became a smattering of 24 familiar faces, and it was time to get down to what boils down to a very unimportant part of the game: selecting a number to have on your back and to the left of your name in the program.

Our equipment manager went around the room with a clip board, asking each of us for a few numbers we’d like because there was sure to be cross-overs and they really did want to let everyone have whatever number they wanted, since hockey players are a notoriously superstitious bunch. I was hoping for #9, but noticed during tryouts that no less than five of us wore jerseys with #9 on them: whether they were practice jerseys or uniforms from our high school teams or — in the case of a few — junior programs.

Funny thing is… we wouldn’t know which uniform number we were given until we showed up to the locker room for our first game. The team manager’s son also wanted #9, so guess who didn’t get it. Instead, when I found my stall, I saw my second choice hanging above my gear. I would be wearing #11 to represent the school, and that was just fine by me. When I called my dad to tell him the news, he told me that he opted to wear #11 when he was playing collegiate soccer (for the record, he was better at soccer than I could ever have dreamed of being at hockey). #11 grew to be very important to me — and I felt that it represented me well and I did it justice.

Of course, I would have felt the same way if they had thrust a random number on me, like #58 or, even, #64.

And that, of course, is the moral of this story.

Possibly because it’s July and there’s nothing else to bitch about, Red Wings Nation is divided on whether or not new defenseman Mike Commodore should opt to wear #64 as an homage to an ancient computer that’s making a comeback for some reason. Puck Daddy is hosting a pledge drive, asking folks to donate $64 if and when Commodore makes that decision, which — for record — is actually pretty clever and I tip my hat to them for the effort. For his part, Mr. Commodore said he’s open to the idea and he’ll decide once he’s spoken to the Red Wings, who — according to a tweet from the official account — say they’re alright with it and #64 is all his if he wants it.

Putting aside my personal thoughts on the matter (which are: Mike Commodore taking #64 is supremely lame because that’s a reference that’s funny for approximately ten seconds before it becomes tedious and nerdy for the sake of nerdiness — it’s just not my thing, that’s all), I just hope that if he does decide to take #64, it’s because he finds it humorous and not because he feels the pressure of a potential charitable windfall. If that’s the kind of reference that he finds amusing, and wants to wear #64, more power to him. If he’s doing it because everyone else thinks it’s funny, well… that’s less cool. Consider for a moment that this is (approximately) his seventeenth team in the National Hockey League and we’re very likely not the first fan base to breach the subject, and it becomes, then, very likely that he hasn’t chosen to wear it yet for a reason: he’s just not that into the reference. That doesn’t make him a jerk. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still donate your $64 to a good cause. That doesn’t mean he hates nerds. It just means he prefers a different uniform number, which — as I said above — amounts to very little when all is considered. Whatever he chooses, he’ll wear with pride and he’ll make it his own, because that’s what hockey players do.

In recent Red Wings history, players are often assigned a number in their first prospect camp… and usually that number stays with the player until he outright makes the team. Examples of this include Pavel Datsyuk wearing #56 in camp, or — more recently — Jakub Kindl and Jan Mursak wearing #46 and #61, respectively, as call-ups or for their bulks of the camps they attended. Some players likely stuck with their numbers because of the success they had within them (Darren Helm’s #43, lifting a Cup; Jonathan Ericsson’s #52…playing hockey), but some players take advantage of their standing and select a number more fitting for themselves.

If you’ll recall, Valtteri Filppula wore #41 during his few games as a call-up, but the Wings put him in #15 when he became a fixture. After a game or two, he felt comfortable enough to ask for #51, the sweater number he wore in Finland.

Long story short-ish, it’s rare that a Red Wing gets to choose his own number, as silly as that sounds, and I’m sure the same is true of many hockey clubs. I’d hate for Mike Commodore to feel pressure from outside to sway a decision like that. If he prefers #22, the number he wore in Columbus or Carolina, then he should wear it and try to wash some of the Brett Lebda juju out of it. He can’t have his #44 from Ottawa, and he might have to fight Brendan Smith (and Jeff Hancock) for #2, like he wore in Calgary, New Jersey, Albany, Cincinnati, or Lowell; and something tells me that his #8 from the University of North Dakota is safe with Justin Abdelkader, but he could wear #22 if he thinks that’s a better fit.

Funny aside: Logan Pyett was given #22 in camp last season, and he was just signed to an extension, but something tells me his number is fair game at the moment.

#64, for the record, is currently being worn by prospect camp tryout Danny DeKeyser. Last season, once-draft pick-turned-tryout Stephen Johnston wore #64. In 2009-10, it was worn by Gustav Nyquist at prospect camp and tryout John Vigilante in main camp. In 2008-09, it was tryout Bryce Swan. 2007-08: Scott Jackson. 2006-07: Matt Hussey (HUGE thanks to Red Wings Central for the comprehensive training camp rosters — I’ve kept my own since ’08, but theirs go back a long way).

Good luck, Mike. Looks like you’ve become this season’s Prodano / Nodano, where 50% of fans are going to be disappointed no matter what happens… and that’s too bad, because we should all be excited for the new additions. If he has #64 on his back in October — fine, drop the puck. If he opts for #22 or something else — fine, drop the puck. The only thing that’s gimmicky is that we’re wasting breath about it.