Four of Russian Five to Return

This afternoon, the Detroit Red Wings announced a few more participants for this upcoming Winter Classic’s Alumni Game. Viacheslav Fetisov, Sergei Fedorov, and Vladimir Konstantinov have committed to representing the Wings at Comerica Park, adding a touch more nostalgia to the game that will already be rife with it. Their Russian Five “linemate” Igor Larionov had already committed.

As you’ll recall, the Wings famously put five Russian players together for the first time in North American hockey history, and magic was created. Unfortunately, Vladimir Konstantinov’s career was cut short following a limousine accident just a few days after the 1997 Stanley Cup victory — his role was not specified, but I’m sure he’d love to play if he could.. The fifth Russian to make up the famous unit, Vyacheslav Kozlov, is not included on the roster update.

The trio of Russians join the already-announced participants Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, Mickey Redmond, Larry Murphy, Dino Ciccarelli, Chris Chelios, Mike Vernon, John Ogrodnick, Mark Howe, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Kirk Maltby, Joe Kocur, Jiri Fischer, and Chris Osgood.

Wings hire Renney

Hmmm... I wonder what we could get for Franzen. TO HFBOARDS!

So, scratch all of the names I explored a little while back. The Wings went off the board and made an excellent hire in Tom Renney. Mike Babcock’s newest assistant (actually dubbed “associate coach” by the Detroit Red Wings) has signed a three-year deal to join the Wings bench.

He was the Oilers’ coach the last two seasons (his contract was not renewed) and has been behind the Rangers and Canucks benches during his career. In nine (chunks of) seasons, Renney’s head coaching record is 260-255-68-9 (back when ties were cool, yo) and has three appearances in the post-season — all with the Rangers.

In Vancouver, he was fired and replaced by Mike Keenan 19 games into the 1997-98 season. A few years away from the bench, he returned in Madison Square Garden as director of player personnel before becoming their coach in 2003 when Glen Sather preferred to play GM instead of coach. Once again, he was fired (and replaced by John Tortorella) in 2009.

In Edmonton, he did what he could with a weak team. They improved by 12 points from his first season to his second, but it still wasn’t enough to garner a third from the organization who has been rebuilding for a decade. He also coached the 1994 Canadian Olympic team that earned silver — as well as a variety of roles within Hockey Canada for World Championships.

He’ll step in to replace Jeff Blashill and run the power play. Very exciting news indeed.

UPDATED: The official press release via the Detroit Red Wings

RED WINGS NAME TOM RENNEY ASSOCIATE COACH

… Veteran Brings Over 15 Years of Coaching Experience to Detroit’s Staff …

Detroit, MI… Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland today announced that the club has hired Tom Renney as associate coach.  Renney fills the vacancy created when former Assistant Coach Jeff Blashill accepted the head coaching position with Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.  Renney has agreed to a three-year deal with the club.  As per team policy, additional terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Renney, 57, spent the past three seasons with the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.  He joined the Oilers’ staff as an associate coach prior to the 2009-10 season.  After just one season, Renney took over the reigns as the 10th head coach in franchise history on June 22, 2010.  In his first campaign as head coach, the Cranbrook, B.C., native led the rebuilding Oilers to a 25-45-12 record.  In total, Renney compiled a 57-85-22 record over two seasons as the bench boss of the young Edmonton squad.

Prior to his time in Edmonton, Renney spent nine seasons in various roles with the New York Rangers.  During his first two seasons in Manhattan, Renney served as Director of Player Personnel where he oversaw the team’s amateur scouts and provided assistance to New York’s professional scouting department.  Renney was promoted to Vice President, Player Development in 2002 and joined the Rangers’ coaching staff as an assistant coach in 2003.  After a brief stint as interim head coach at the end of the 2003-04 season, Renney was officially named the 33rd head coach in Rangers history on July 6, 2004.  He led the Blueshirts to three consecutive 40-win seasons and guided the team to a 164-121-42 record over 327 games from 2005-08.

Renney first broke into the NHL as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks in 1996-97.  He spent parts of two seasons with the Canucks, compiling a 39-53-9 record over 101 games.  Renney made the move to Vancouver following his two-year tenure with Hockey Canada, serving as the head coach of the Canadian National Team that went on to capture a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Renney began his coaching career behind the bench of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League in 1990.  In two seasons with Kamloops, he led the Blazers to a 101-37-6 record, back-to-back WHL titles and a Memorial Cup championship in 1992.

Photo Credit: Neil Miller, NY Post

Tick Tock: Time to Change Course?

At the beginning of this offseason, the normally reserved Ken Holland said something that many of us had been waiting to hear for a long, long time: “We’ve going to be active and aggressive in free agency.” Really, he had no choice. Nick Lidstrom’s retirement and Brad Stuart’s need to be with his family meant Holland was down two top-pairing D-men, with a third becoming a RFA in Kyle Quincey. The answer, of course, was supposed to be Ryan Suter. Ken Holland would march right in there, lay down the most compelling offer the Wings had ever thrown at a defenseman not named Lidstrom, bring him back to Motown and sit him at a table where he could declare to everyone that he was a Red Wing and the best was yet to come. And of course, let’s not forget Zach Parise. Sure, the Wings didn’t really need him, but if Ken Holland was feeling lucky, perhaps he could just flip the switch and convince him to tag along in Motown. That’s what big time players do, right? They work their way up through the ranks of the “lowly” teams in the NHL, just to eventually sign with the mystique-laden and history-rich Detroit Red Wings.

We already know how this story ends. Ryan Suter and Zach Parise both spurned Detroit to go to the Minnesota Wild, with one player returning to his hometown and another getting the quiet lifestyle he craves. If it feels like a slap in the face, well, it’s because you’ve been living under the same rock that Ken Holland has been under since 2002. To be fair, there’s plenty of things that Holland did right in this process. They secured the elusive in-person meeting with Suter, they made the competitive offer and they bent over backwards sending coaches and former players to ensure that the Wings organization was represented well at all times. But at some point during this process – especially after the in-person meeting with Suter – how did Ken Holland not realize that this thing wasn’t coming together and that Suter and Parise were a package deal with only one real destination in mind? I mean, Ken, if you’re REALLY reading Twitter, it only took one pass through Michael Russo’s feed last night to get the educated idea that maybe you’ve done all you can on these guys and it’s time to get to work elsewhere.

The fact is, though, that the Wings find themselves at a crossroads in terms of how they promote this team to the outside world, and especially to free agents. I’ve beaten this horse dead a number of times, but the shtick about this being an elite destination for the elite talent of the hockey world is now old and dead. The Wings haven’t been truly elite since 2002, and found their way to a Stanley Cup in 2008 and the Final in 2009 with very, very good squads. Not elite squads, but very good ones. So why, then, does Holland continue down this path? He lowballed Ryan Suter, frankly, with 13 years at $80 million, and had to come up to $90 million just to stay in the conversation. Except Suter ended up signing for 13 years at $98 million. How the hell is that being aggressive in free agency? No, we’ve seen this before. That’s the move where Holland throws out a number but reminds you that “Hey, we’re Detroit, remember?” No, Ken, nobody remembers. These kids don’t care about that.

What Zach Parise and Ryan Suter care about are the following: their lifestyles, their family, being the top dogs on the team and making some money. But when Ken Holland’s “increased” offer falls $8 million short of a defenseman they “desperately” need – and one they’ve probably tried to sell the whole “mystique” argument to – there’s a real big problem in the room, and quite frankly it’s not Suter or Parise. Call me crazy, but when you lose out to both of these guys after supposedly being in it – and then lose out to your protege in Tampa for the enigmatic Sami Salo – perhaps it’s time to take a look in the mirror and figure out if you really understand how this thing works anymore. Sure, you’ll always have those guys – Jaromir Jagr – that go where the money is. Some guys will also want to go to a market rich with history and play for an organization that is steeped in tradition and prestige. But others, well, others just want to be made to feel that they are important and that a life-changing decision for them is a life-changing decision for the organization too. Minnesota afforded that opportunity to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Detroit? I’m not so sure. My gut tells me the Wings made their pitch, sold Suter on playing for the “premiere” organization in the NHL, and probably didn’t really read between the lines on his needs.

Maybe I’m just sour grapes over this whole thing. Heck, that’s probably a really logical explanation. Maybe this thing was over before it even started and Parise and Suter were just taking us all on a huge joyride. But the fact is that free agency has become an instrument of torture for Red Wings fans over the past few years and this year is no different. Ken and Co. are now scrambling to piece together a free-agency period that includes more than just Jonas Gustavsson, Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo, but now that the big fish are off the line, everything feels small. And instead of scooping up the big talent for alot of money, the only way that big talent ends up in Detroit is if we ship out some of our own in return.

Aggressive in free agency? That begins by getting out of that ivory tower we call Red Wings legacy.

Happy 4th of July everyone. Go drink a beer.

Photo Credit: The Detroit News

How Much Is Too Much?

As #SuterWatch clears Day 3 without any answers, seemingly more questions have begun to arise around the financial factors weighing on the 27 year-old defenseman. We now know that both Detroit and Minnesota sent representatives to Suter Farms in Madison, WI today, and the report from Helene St. James is that the Wings elevated their offer to $90 million over 13 years – a cap hit of roughly $6.9 million per season. At first blush, I thought that number was a bit low, but it appears it’s a $10 million increase from the Wings opening salvo.

There’s no doubt there’s going to be some big numbers flying around over the next day or so, but it’s doubtful that’s the only thing influencing Suter’s decision. That said, one would hope the Wings are willing to up the ante as much as necessary to secure Suter. Which is where you come in.

Simply: How much is too much for Ryan Suter?

Some will argue that there’s mountain (of cash) too high for landing Suter’s talents, while others may be more pragmatic with an eye towards the future. At any rate, there’s bound to be a plethora of opinions. So as you crack open that first beer of Independence, take a second and let us know in the comments how far your wallet would stretch for Mr. Suter.

Hell, I’ll even get the party started: Anything north of $8.5 million per season, and I’m starting to pucker up.

The floor is yours.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Joey MacDonald requests trade

In light of yesterday’s acquisition of former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, the incumbent number two netminder in Detroit has asked the Red Wings to trade him to a team where he’ll be able to play NHL minutes. Joey MacDonald stepped in very admirably when Jimmy Howard went down with an injury last season (and Ty Conklin proved ineffective), and he’s on a one-way deal this season, meaning he’ll make the same salary if he plays in the NHL or in the AHL.

But it also means is that he’ll have to clear re-entry waivers to be recalled from Grand Rapids, and the Red Wings don’t like to take those kinds of risks since another team can claim MacDonald and the Wings would still be on the hook for half of his salary and cap hit without the use of the player. So it’s unlikely that he’d be recalled all season.

Andy Strickland of TrueHockey.com broke the story this morning via Twitter:

The acquisition of Gustavsson made it clear that the Wings wanted a reliable backup to Howard and they were concerned that MacDonald’s back (bulging disc) wouldn’t be well enough to carry that load, should he be needed for more than a few games. Making matters even stickier is that the Wings have four goaltenders that are slated for Grand Rapids next season: MacDonald, Jordan Pearce, Thomas McCollum, and Petr Mrazek. Pearce is entering the final year of his second deal with the Red Wings and will likely pursue medical school if he can’t make the jump to the NHL (which no one is expecting of him). McCollum is entering the final year of his deal with the Wings and has had a heck of a time even sticking in Grand Rapids (instead, playing bigger minutes in Toledo of the ECHL). Mrazek is turning pro this season and is the best goaltending prospect the Wings have had in a long time (so he belongs in Grand Rapids playing as much as he can).

Hopefully Joey MacDonald and the Red Wings can find a mutually agreeable destination for Joey Mac’s services and we wish him nothing but the best. He’s been a great Red Wing and hope he has a chance to play in the big leagues somewhere in 2012-13. Of course, there’s a chance that he plays himself into the #2 position (again) in training camp and that he doesn’t go anywhere, but the crease is getting a little clogged in both Detroit and Grand Rapids…

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller, Getty Images North America

Here’s The Plan…

With 18 hours to go before the Detroit Red Wings change the course of a franchise that needs some new direction, there’s only one thing to do.

Drink.

No seriously, start drinking. It’s the only way you’ll get through a night with whoever you decide to hang out with without completely pissing them off. Dinner with the wife/husband? I guarantee they’ll call you out for staring wistfully at that 20 ounce margarita on the menu. First date? They’ll send you packing because it’s really “weird” how often you mention the number 9.

So do yourself a favor. Crack open a can of something good. Pop the cork on the nicest bottle of wine you’ve got. Pour yourself a tall one and let the nerves melt away. Me? 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. It’s a gorgeous summer day here in San Francisco, so why not drink something light and refreshing, but still manly enough to feel like I could pick up the Brinks truck that the Wings should be backing up to Parise and Suter’s front doors.

And if the night goes well, maybe I’ll find myself in a perfectly tailored suit (who knows why, but hey, does it really matter?), knocking back a Woodford Old Fashioned and puffing on a Lucky Strike.

The OTHER "Drapes"

Here’s the key: I’ll have enough social lubricant coursing through my veins to completely forget about my concerns on the eve of one of the most important days in Red Wings hockey history. That is until I see my buddy Zach, who then introduces me to his friend Ryan.

Garcon, bring me another.

Tomorrow’s gunna be a fucking crazy one. Don’t worry though: we got this.

*Disclaimer: If you’re going to drink away your worries, don’t fucking drive. Also, drink some water and some Gatorade before bed. Gotta be up in time for the TPL Live Free Agent Chat.

2012 TPL Free Agent Day Live Chat!

If the chat client (which is directly below these few sentences) is slow to load, please re-load TPL. We’re experimenting with a new format. The chat will begin at 11am Eastern as we prepare for the news to start flowing at noon (if we’re lucky).