Smith gets 8 games

"I'm going to make someone's head bleed for super fan #99 over here."

It was judgment day for defenseman Brendan Smith today. Following a devastating hit to the head of Chicago’s Ben Smith on Wednesday, the Red Wings prospect has been anxiously awaiting his sentence from new dean of discipline Brendan Shanahan.

After reviewing the video and meeting with Smith (who opted out of an in-person meeting, instead having a hearing over the phone on Thursday), Shanahan has handed down his punishment. Brendan Smith has been suspended for the remainder of the pre-season (three games) and five regular season games.

Under the collective bargaining agreement, Smith will have to serve his suspension at the NHL level — meaning, even if he’s sent down to the Griffins (which, as we learned, is very likely given his play in the pre-season), he won’t be eligible to play for the Red Wings until his games have been served. The AHL will likely independently review the play and decide if he faces additional discipline in the form of suspension from the Griffins.

But, the Red Wings have options. Thanks to the big cap space they have after a summer of retirements, they’re able to keep Brendan Smith up in the NHL until his punishment is served. The problem had been roster spots, but with Mike Commodore, Dan Cleary, and Brad Stuart ailing; and Jan Mursak out with a long-term injury, the Wings can likely place one on Short-Term Injury Reserve, allowing Smith to stay on the roster until he’s served his penalty.

Short-Term Injury Reserve opens up a roster spot temporarily — while both the injured player and any call-ups are both counted against the salary cap, unlike Long-Term Injury Reserve, which requires a player to miss 10 games or 30 days and removes the injured player’s cap hit.

Yesterday, Winging it in Motown put the Over/Under at six games. Our Christopher J. Hollis took the over, or — more accurately — a push. But yours truly? I took the under. Looks like I’m doing the company’s taxes next year…

UPDATE — 12:18pm

Brendan Smith will be assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins, meaning he’ll be forced to serve his suspension at a later date when / if he’s called up to the Red Wings.

Photo Credit: The Canadian Press

Brendan Smith’s NHL career will start with a suspension

Whoops... still learning

Much had been made this summer about Brendan Smith potentially making the Detroit Red Wings’ NHL roster after only one (injury-shortened) season in the AHL. He’s as highly touted a prospect the Wings have had in nearly a decade; coupled with the fact that there was a bit of turnover on the blue line, there might be a place for him in the bigs.

Things haven’t gone quite according to plan for young Mr. Smith — appearing to be over-thinking and underplaying. He’s seemed out-matched on most nights, and — despite the clear promise he’s shown — he’s not quite ready to make that jump and another season in Grand Rapids should do wonders for his game. Rest assured, he’ll be a Red Wing.  Just not in October.

Things went from bad to worse on Wednesday night. At the 5:26 mark of the third period, with the game recently tied at three by Chicago’s Ben Smith, Brendan Smith laid an absolutely vicious hit to the head of his aforementioned Smith counterpart. Ben Smith laid on the ice for a few moments, and needed help getting to his feet and walking down the tunnel.

Smith, the Red Wing, was give a five minute major and a game misconduct for a hit that certainly caught the attention of new discipline czar Brendan Shanahan. Even though Shanahan is doing a fantastic job and has been as transparent as possible, it’s difficult to predict what kind of suspension Brendan Smith is in for — but one thing is for certain: there’s no way he’ll play for the Red Wings again anytime soon.

There are three exhibition games left, and nearly all of the suspensions handed out so far have been for the remainder of the pre-season (and a few egregious ones have earned a few regulation games in addition). Smith hadn’t played well enough to even be considered for a roster spot — and, frankly, may have played his way out of being the top call-up this season — and it’s fair to assume that the Wings would rather he stay in Grand Rapids, play big minutes, and prepare for a chance to be a regular a year from now. No sense in calling up a guy to be the 7th defenseman when a veteran like Doug Janik can fill that role.

So, Brendan Smith’s NHL career starts with a whimper — instead of the roar many of us were expecting. He’ll certainly be suspended for his hit and will be forced to serve supplemental discipline before even dressing for a regular season game in the big leagues.

Stay tuned for details.

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images

Easy… Like Tuesday Evening


(The title is the first, but certainly not the last Commodores reference we’ll use this season)

For the first time, the Detroit Red Wings have a player that is active on social media sites like Twitter. It’s an exciting time to  be a fan, since our newbie often takes the time to answer questions or respond to comments. Having access to a player in his own words? What a fantastic world we live in.

Of course, there are downfalls.

Mike Commodore, who was not in the lineup for the Red Wings Red & White Game taking place in Grand Rapids on Tuesday night, spent the hours during which his teammates were in action live-tweeting his walk around Somerset Mall in Troy, highlighting stores that he’d never take a woman into.

Twitter is for inane bullshit. We all indulge. No one can claim my tweets are always coherent and worthy of an audience.

Some people don’t see a problem with Commodore’s behavior, saying that it wasn’t even a pre-season game — it was just a scrimmage among teammates. And that’s a fair argument. It was just a scrimmage, and they weren’t offensive tweets (at least, not to me… a man) and it is the kind of access we’ve been craving for years. Perhaps I’m just bitter that he’s taken the time to answer every single question or comment on his Facebook page except for the ones referring to an appearance on TP:60.


But maybe it was poorly timed, in even poorer taste, and disrespectful of the guys he’ll be sharing a locker room with all season. Everyone’s entitled to a day off, and to spend it how he or she sees fit. But don’t you think that if you were a newcomer, you might make a bit of effort to be “one of the guys” before taking a sharp left turn off of I-75 during a team event? At the risk of sounding like a fist-shaking old man, it struck me as a tiny bit troubling.

But I’m mostly shocked at how quick people are to defend him. And, worse yet, to think he deserves to play above Jakub Kindl — who has, in short order, proven he belongs in the lineup and has become a very reliable defender on this team.

Maybe it was Commodore’s spectacular play in the AHL last season. No, that can’t be it…

Perhaps it’s the beautiful past relationship he has with Coach Babcock. Probably not…

I can’t help but think it’s simply because he’s active on Twitter and makes an effort to be personable. And, again, there’s nothing wrong with his socializing — frankly, I’m hoping he’s as approachable and open with fans all season as he has been in the early going. I just wish he had waited to share those updates for a time when his teammates weren’t literally on the ice entertaining fans in the old fashioned way: you know, by playing hockey.

Compounding the issue a touch was Brendan Smith acknowledging that he and Cory Emmerton had just finished a few games of NHL ’12 on XBOX. No one’s asking these guys to be alter boys, but I can’t be the only one that has an issue with the timing.

And that’s where the NHL’s new social media policy comes in. In short, players will not be allowed to tweet or update their Facebook pages beginning two hours before game time and ending after all of the players have completed their post-game media obligations. I don’t think Mike Commodore will get into any trouble during the real season. I’m nothing if not confident that he’ll be a good soldier, a wonderful teammate and a stand-up social media guy.

He’s already made fans of many of us. I just hope he isn’t cut any slack if and when he makes a boneheaded play on the ice simply because he makes an effort to be approachable in cyberspace.

Photo Credit: Tony Ding, AP Photo

Roster spots on the line tonight

Four games remaining in the exhibition season — and chances are good we’ll be seeing the guys that are fighting for a roster spot in at least three of them. Tonight’s lineup against the Blackhawks features only a handful of regulars — but quite a few guys worth keeping an eye on in light of Jan Mursak’s injury.

Abdelkader :: Helm :: Conner
Miller :: R Johnson :: Eaves
Nyquist :: Emmerton :: Brunnstrom
Tatar :: Andersson :: Ferraro

Ericsson :: Kindl
Janik :: Smith
Ehrhardt :: Commodore


In limited pre-season television viewing, I’ve got the in-the-hunt players ranked THUSLY:

13 Mursak — Very fast. Very competent. Very unfortunately timed injury.
14 Tatar — Really beginning to show he might belong in the NHL, but probably won’t be because he CAN go down.
15 Nyquist — The most exciting prospect in years. He’s not far off, but — like Tatar — he can play big minutes in GR.
16 Emmerton — Good, but not exceptional. Kind of a “default” insertion into the lineup. May get the Ritola treatment.
17 Brunnstrom — Could certainly use some getting accustomed to the system in Grand Rapids, if signed.
18 Conner — I was looking forward to him, but I’m underwhelmed so far. Not pushing the guys above him.
19 R. Johnson — Doesn’t sound like he’s interested in the AHL, and hasn’t proven he belongs in Detroit. Buh bye.
20 Andersson — A far shot off of the rest of the pack. Not even sure why he’s still in camp.

5 Kindl — Remarkably good given the small chances he’s gotten to play big minutes.
6 Ericsson — Looks steady (when compared to the scrubs who dress for the pre-season).
7 Commodore — I haven’t noticed a single second of his on-ice play. His mall tour, on the other hand…
8 Janik — It’s pretty clear he’ll be in Grand Rapids, but he’s not at all a bad option for a 7th/8th defenseman.
9 Smith — Needs some more seasoning in the AHL. Didn’t push for a spot the way Tatar and Nyquist have up front.
10 Lashoff — Really interesting prospect. Will he ever be an NHL kind of guy? Maybe… but not this year or next.
11 Exelby — Meh.

Photo Credit: Dave Chidley, AP/The Canadian Press

Sixteen cut, 39 players remain


On Tuesday morning, the Detroit Red Wings cut sixteen players from their training camp roster — either assigning the players to the Grand Rapids Griffins, or releasing them outright.

Louis-Marc Aubry, Mitchell Callahan, Willie Coetzee, Gleason Fournier, Jamie Johnson (who was on waivers yesterday), Thomas McCollum, Andrej Nestrasil, Francis Pare, Trevor Parkes, Sebastien Piche, and Brent Raedeke were assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins — the AHL affiliate of the Red Wings.

Greg Amadio, Adam Estoclet, and Bryan Rufenach were also assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins. The three men are on AHL-only contracts, meaning they are not able to be called up to the Red Wings.

Nick Oslund, a former Red Wings draft pick like Rufenach, was also assigned to the Griffins. He is not under contract to either club, but will attend Griffins training camp and compete for a spot on the AHL team’s roster.

Goaltending tryout Ramis Sadikov was given his outright release and is free to sign with any club he wishes.

The following players remain in camp and in the fight for a Red Wings roster spot. The club may carry 23 players, but there may be 24 spots available since Jan Mursak is slated to miss three months with a fractured left ankle.

29 Ty Conklin (one-way)
31 Joey MacDonald
35 Jimmy Howard (one-way)
36 Jordan Pearce

2 Brendan Smith
3 Garnet Exelby
4 Jakub Kindl (one-way)
5 Nicklas Lidstrom (one-way)
18 Ian White (one-way)
22 Mike Commodore (one-way)
23 Brad Stuart (one-way)
25 Brian Lashoff
27 Travis Ehrhardt
32 Logan Pyett
37 Doug Janik (one-way)
52 Jonathan Ericsson (one-way)
55 Niklas Kronwall (one-way)

8 Justin Abdelkader (one-way)
11 Dan Cleary (one-way)
13/24 Pavel Datsyuk (one-way)
14 Gustav Nyquist
15 Fabian Brunnstrom (TRYOUT)
17 Patrick Eaves (one-way)
20 Drew Miller (one-way)
21 Tomas Tatar
26 Jiri Hudler (one-way)
39 Jan Mursak (one-way, injured)
40 Henrik Zetterberg (one-way)
41 Chris Conner
42 Ryan Johnson (TRYOUT)
43 Darren Helm (one-way)
44 Todd Bertuzzi (one-way)
45 Chris Minard
48 Cory Emmerton
51 Valtteri Filppula (one-way)
57 Landon Ferraro
63 Joakim Andersson
93 Johan Franzen (one-way)
96 Tomas Holmstrom (one-way)

The Curious Case of Tomas Jurco

Coming to an NHL rink near you. Sooner rather than later, apparently.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Lindenau and The Left Wing Lock. Thanks, Sarah!

On Monday, the Detroit Red Wings sent a few kids home from camp.

Among the first cuts were goaltender Petr Mrazek, forward Brooks Macek, and 2011 Draft Picks Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, and Alan Quine — to name a few. All of the players were Juniors-bound, and typically these are the first ones cut. They get to return to their teams in the CHL, train a bit, and start the season. The rule states that any player that was drafted from a Canadian Junior League (the OHL, the WHL, or the QMJHL), and is under twenty years old, must be returned to their Junior team if they don’t make the NHL team. In other words, you can’t be assigned to your team’s AHL squad until you’re twenty.

But there’s one name left on the Red Wings roster that — in theory — belonged in that group: the Wings’ top pick in June, Tomas Jurco, 18.

The Junior team that holds Jurco’s rights, the Saint John Sea Dogs, have begun their season without him. As of this writing, they’re 1-3, good enough for last in the league but it’s early. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock hasn’t been shy in heaping praise onto the youngster, and it’s evidenced by Jurco’s continued inclusion on the roster.

It gets a little weirder.

Tonight, when the Red Wings take the ice in their second exhibition game, Tomas Jurco will be in the lineup. That, in itself, isn’t all that odd. A lot of 2011 Draft Picks are getting their first taste of NHL action during the pre-season. What’s odd is that there are several players bound for the Grand Rapids Griffins that will be sitting out. And didn’t play last night. Players that, you’d think, are higher up the depth chart at this very moment.

Players like Andrej Nestrasil, Mitchell Callahan, Trevor “Coffbanger” Parkes, Jamie Johnson, former Penguin and Oiler Chris Minard, and the Wings’ top pick two years ago, Landon Ferraro.

All are signed to pro contracts. Tomas Jurco is not.

All are slated to play in Grand Rapids this season. Tomas Jurco cannot.

All hope that they get a call-up to sniff the NHL soon. Tomas Jurco won’t.

Not to make a bigger deal out of something than it is, but Tomas Jurco may be closer to making the Detroit Red Wings than anyone thought he would be three short months after being drafted. It’s still incredibly unlikely, considering that the Wings have 14 forwards on one-way contracts, and a couple of guys that are battling to make those decisions difficult for the braintrust — namely Chris Conner and free agent tryouts Fabian Brunnstrom and Ryan Johnson.

No one thought that Tomas Jurco would be making things difficult as a teenager. The situation is different than Tomas Tatar two seasons ago, who joined the Griffins at 18. Tatar wasn’t drafted from a CHL team (even though his rights were held by Kitchener, and traded to Plymouth), so he didn’t have to make the Red Wings to stay within the organization’s reach.

The fact is that Jurco can still be returned to Saint John, and in all likelihood he will be… as soon as this evening. But to be the last Junior-aged player left at Red Wings camp is nothing to sneeze at… and being a Junior-aged player playing above a half-dozen Griffins is even better. And maybe he’s only playing because he missed a few opportunities to show off during Prospect Camp with a hip flexor injury.

But wouldn’t it be something if our newbie bucked the trend?

Give Jurco a follow, @Jurky13.

About Last Night: Quick Thoughts from 3-2 Loss

Hockey is back, and although it’s only preseason hockey, that’s as good of a reason as any to dust off the cynicism and overanalyze the hell out of the 3-2 Wings loss to the Penguins last night. OK, I’m not ACTUALLY going to overanalyze anything because – as we mentioned – this was just a preseason game, but I’m sure there are some out there who feel that this many words about a meaningless split-squad game is way too much analysis considering the circumstances. Your patience will be rewarded.


  • Do we even need to say anything about Pavel Datsyuk? Dude looked like he was in mid-season form one game into the preseason. The big key will be keeping #13/#24 healthy this year, and should that happen, it’s safe to assume that he’ll be Datsyukian Dekeing his way to one of the best seasons of his career. Fingers crossed.
  • Somebody needs to tell Jimmah that the short-side is part of the net, because he apparently forgot all about it over the summer. Two of his three goals against came on that side of the net, with the first one being particularly worrisome. Again, it’s only the preseason, but Howard was less than spectacular last night.
  • Kronwall looks like he hasn’t missed a step from the end of last season, and that is a giant +1 for this team. He was composed, pinched responsibly and found his way on to the score sheet. Frankly, it will be interesting to see what happens with him this season. He’s stepped up his game to the point that he brings consistency and spark to the lineup, but is that only because he’s in a contract year? If so, do Ken Holland and Co. hold off on an extension and encourage Kronwall to play for his money this year, or do they bag this thing up early and hope that a vote of confidence keeps #55 on his current trajectory? If it’s me, I’m holding off until 1/3 of the way into the season before I start unloading the armored truck. As previously mentioned, Kronwall has been consistent of late, but can he keep it up over the course of time?
  • Fabian Brunnstrom. Not really sure what to make of the kid, other than it really looked like he was trying too hard last night. You can’t really fault him for trying to make an impression, but unfortunately that impression doesn’t really jive with what the Wings are trying to do. He tried to be fancy, which OK, but then would get knocked off the puck too easily and seemingly give up on plays. His backcheck was worrisome, but his potential is obvious. The jury is still out on this one, but early returns suggest an AHL stint is in the cards if Fabian wants to stick in the organization.
  • On the other side of the spectrum is our old buddy, The ‘Sak. Jan Mursak looked excellent last night, doing the small things that eventually pay off with a full time roster spot, and I couldn’t be happier. If utilizing his speed and size mean we get to say “The ‘Sak” all season long, sign me up.
  • Brendan Smith looked pretty good, but it’s obvious he’s still a little green when it comes to the NHL game. He’ll get there.
  • As for Mike Commodore, well, he looked pretty “meh” to me. Played physical, but didn’t really stand out, which can be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. I know Petrella has some additional thoughts on Commodore, which – God willing – you will all get to enjoy as much as I did this morning.
  • Cory Emmerton is venturing into Mattias Ritola territory. This is not good.
  • Jiri Hudler scored a goal. I know that folks are hoping this means he’s primed for a great season, but not this guy. I see Hudler goals as increased trade value. Nothing more.
  • Tatar has some work to do, but still gets the heart pumping. The line he was on with The ‘Sak and Chris Conner had plenty of jump, which was nice to see.

The Wings are back at it tonight in London, Ontario, where they will lock horns with the Philadelphia Flyers. Quickly, a few things to watch for:

  • Nicklas Lidstrom. Enough said.
  • Todd Bertuzzi makes his return to competition after Dany Heatley’s helmet concussed him in Game 7 last year. Let’s hope he didn’t forget how to backcheck.
  • The THREE MILLION DOLLAR MISTAKE I MEAN MAN gets to tout his shit tonight. $10 says Ian White outplays him.
  • Jurco. Enjoy it while you can before the kid goes back to juniors.
  • Gustav Nyquist. Babcock has a hard-on for this kid, and it sounds like it may be for good reason. Here’s hoping he delivers.
  • The Conk-Block is between the pipes. Feel good if he looks better than Howard did last night. Worry if he looks like he did last year in St. Louis.



Poppy Montgomery wants you to feel better.

And since we all love Swedes, here’s Alexander Skarsgård.

Game photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Modano Retires, Clearly Shuns Two Duffs

A sad day for hockey, indeed.

Following a disappointing, injury-filled season with his hometown Detroit Red Wings, Mike Modano has announced via Facebook that he will be stepping away from the game. At least, in a player’s capacity:

After a long summer of thinking about my future, I’ve come to the decision that it’s time to retire as a player from the NHL. There’s way too many people to thank here at this time and too much to say, so I have a press conference scheduled for early Friday afternoon. Check back Friday late afternoon for more. What a great ride it’s been!

A great ride is putting it lightly. Drafted first overall in 1988, he would play twenty seasons with the franchise that drafted him as the Minnesota North Stars became the Dallas Stars. A Stanley Cup Champion in 1999, an eight-time All Star, and an Olympic Silver Medalist, he leaves the game the highest scoring American-born player ever, and his 1499 games played is also atop the list of American forwards.

Congratulations to Mikey Mo — The Production Line wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavors, which are sure to include a front office job with the Stars and spending more time with Willa (whom, we assume, he would not trade for Two Duffs).

Photo Credit: Brian Ekart

Increasing the Workload

A strange thing happens when the off-season boredom sets in. Fans spend our free time dreaming about which rookie blows the doors off of training camp and comes out of nowhere to make the team. Perhaps we’re all brainstorming, thinking of potential returns for “Hudler and a 2nd.” Or maybe we’ll scribble some dream lines on a cocktail napkin in an effort to speed October 7th along.

And then an even stranger thing happens. Guys make their way into lineup spots that they don’t necessarily belong. No matter how much I’d love it, Todd Bertuzzi isn’t a fourth line kind of guy. Patrick Eaves has taken a few spins on Pav’s wing… and it just seems wrong. Darren Helm, as awesome as he is at nearly everything he’s thrust into, isn’ t a top six forward.

And that’s okay.

Darren Helm is a monster on the penalty kill, and does amazing things with limited ice time. Could he survive an increase in responsibility and icetime? Maybe. Patrick Eaves does a whole lot with very little ice time, and has proven he’s a viable scoring option when he’s relied upon. Does that mean he can be one of the two human beings who gets to play with arguably the most dynamic center on Earth? Hey, perhaps.

But it isn’t as easy as simply jotting it onto a napkin. Why, yes! I do have anecdotes!

When I played in college, I got very few minutes. I was an “end of the bench,” 4-8 minutes a night kind of player. There were some games that I, literally, only saw one shift. On every stage, there are guys that are big minute players, and there are complimentary players that have found a niche or play a certain role well.

I played on the fourth line, occasionally bounced up to the third. My linemates changed on a near-daily basis. That kind of depth role doesn’t afford the luxury of allowing chemistry to form, and you were sort of expected to make due with what little time you had to prepare together, which — frankly — didn’t bother any of us. Our top line consisted of three unbelievable hockey players who played nearly every minute together, and none of us would have changed that, even if it meant a handful more minutes to be spread around. In the bottom six, where I was firmly entrenched, guys would swap in and out of the lineup, a la the Drew Miller/Kris Draper/Jiri Hudler rotation from last season.

One weekend, in the middle of the season and right before our Thanksgiving break from school, we took the one trip that required a flight (we flew commercial, Modano would have hated it). In the third period of the first game of a back-to-back weekend 1,800 miles away from home, the second line’s center took a chop on the wrist. It was ugly, purple, and swollen. We would learn that he wouldn’t be able to play the Saturday matinee.

Like he always did before a game, Coach comes into the locker room with a piece of paper and runs through the night’s lines. The top line went as it always had, with our three superstars’ names said all in a row. He would continue, “line 2, centered by Petrella…”

Wait, what?

The night before, I played on the fourth line — maybe five or six minutes of ice time. The norm. But today, I was going to be getting top six minutes, which meant somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen. To say I was ill-prepared to hear that would be an understatement. If there was a camera in the locker room, it would have caught a bewildered look on my face, with wheels turning as if I was holding back from asking, “are you sure you don’t mean… anyone else in this room?”

The increased workload was staggering. On most nights, I was expected to give our top six a minute to catch their breath, maybe beat out an icing call, and generally not do anything stupid that my team would have to pay for. That day, however, my job was to line up against some of the other team’s top players (a team, by the way, that came into the weekend ranked 7th in the nation) and be counted upon to contribute to the narrative in a game like I’d never done before.

I did admirably, in that I didn’t do anything overtly stupid to prove to the world I didn’t belong there. Oh, except maybe this (yeah, that’s 8 seconds of actual audio from that game). It wasn’t a role I relished in. And it wasn’t a role that I felt I could do for more than a game at a time. After the break, we were nearing full health and I was relegated back to the bottom six. You know… where I belonged.

Can someone like Justin Abdelkader, Patrick Eaves, or Darren Helm overcome the magnificent jump in responsibility and talent that they’d see bouncing from the fourth to the second? Maybe they can — they’re all capable hockey players and nothing seems to bother them: whether it’s a healthy scratching or a game where they see fewer minutes than usual.

Some players relish in their roles. Other guys succeed in whatever role they’re thrown. Others still take some time to get used to new ones. On the Red Wings, guys have been fortunate to develop at their own pace (like Zetterberg seeing fourth and third line minutes in his first years) to eventually become what we all hope they can. If Darren Helm is your second line center, it won’t be all of a sudden — it’ll start in the third period of a blowout game… or rotating in when someone gets injured and has to leave the game… or as an emergency fill-in when two guys get hurt on a road trip. I’d like to see him get the chance, but I hope no one bails on him if it’s proven that he’s more useful to the team as a third or fourth line guy.

You can’t win without some killer fourth liners.