We have a few items to catch up on today as I suffer through the dog days of summer, desperate for the backyard rink. My hockey withdrawals kick in about this same time every year.
Hello and welcome to Dear Red Wings
My 4-year-old son wanted to watch hockey on TV the other night. Obviously, I explained to him it’s not quite hockey season. But he knows I pay extra for the “hockey channel,” otherwise known as NHL Network. There was no hesitation to oblige on my end. And so we watched a 1987 playoff game between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders.
Think Ron Hextall, Pat LaFontaine, Peter Zezel, Rick Tocchet, Mark Howe, Mike Bossy, Brent Sutter and so on. It was a blast from the past, and it was a blast to watch. He had a lot of questions. His eyes were wide when I said “this is what hockey looked like when I was a little boy like you.”
A lot has changed since 1987, but a lot has stayed the same, too. Those teams were much faster than I think we give them credit for today. What I really appreciated was the respect everyone had for the front of the net. There were some gruesome battles near the crease. You really had to earn your place out front. It is a little bit different in today’s league because you don’t necessarily see players go hard to that area the way they were in this particular 1987 playoff game. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, I really miss those greasy goals. It’s why Hextall was so mean. He had to protect himself.
On Friday night we watched the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship. If you have access to the NHL Network, I suggest checking that out. The stacked U.S. team faces Finland on Sunday night -- 9:30 p.m. I don’t think we’re staying up to catch this one, but we’ll be watching when we can this week. U.S. and Canada face each other on Thursday -- 6 p.m. The tournament is being held in Calgary. Here is the full U.S. schedule.
I hope Detroit gets a serious bid for a National Women’s Hockey League team. I would be an immediate diehard fan, as would my kids.
This is no surprise. I’m not sure why I am seeing “surprised” takes on this one. Steve Yzerman has no space for a 37-year-old forward who is a shell of the player he used to be. I know that’s harsh, but it’s reality.
Nielsen is far from the dynamic two-way forward he once was with the New York Islanders. He brought that to the Red Wings in 2016, and for much of his time with Detroit he was a very skilled forward. For a couple seasons he definitely did his best to try to keep this team respectable.
But as the Red Wings fell further into the basement, so did Nielsen. He mustered just 15 points over his past 89 games with Detroit. It has been tough watching a player’s career end during this rebuild. I wish it didn’t have to be this way but that’s how it goes. People get older. Nielsen clearly doesn’t have the speed he once had. There are still flashes of his elite mental capacity for the game, but without the timing he’s ineffective in the NHL.
To make matters worse, the one-time wizard in the shootout has gone 1 for 10 in his past three seasons. His shootout prowess was a redeeming quality he couldn’t afford to lose.
Now the final year of his six-year contract with the Red Wings will be paid over the next two seasons. This is much less about the money and more about the open roster spot. Yzerman can now slot in younger blood, as he’s explained will be more of a focus this season -- younger players with bigger responsibility.
Svechnikov’s new contract
Svechnikov, 24, will not be one of those players. That became common knowledge when the Red Wings did not tender a qualifying to him earlier this summer. He became a free agent.
Now here’s where I am little surprised: No one else offered him a NHL contract. I thought for sure someone would take a chance on the 19th overall pick in 2015. He did post 8 points in 21 games with the Red Wings this past season. And that was with limited ice time -- 11:49 average time on ice. I expected someone, anyone, might consider him an option for a 3rd-line spot.
Instead he’ll settle for a one-year deal with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, affiliates to the Winnipeg Jets. Maybe if everything goes his way we’ll see him get his NHL contract before the season’s end. He’s had a tough go the past several years with injuries. Maybe, just maybe, a change of scenery will help him become an effective forward in the NHL, something we all kind of thought he would be by now. If not, there’s always Europe or Russia.
Pat Verbeek has yet another job
I found this a bit humorous this week. Yzerman has decided his righthand man can do even more. Assistant GM Pat Verbeek, who came back to Detroit from Tampa with Yzerman, will now assume the role of GM of the Grand Rapids Griffins. This is on top of his job as assistant GM in Detroit.
Basically, the Yzerman regime now controls everything, which is what made me chuckle a bit. Yzerman couldn’t trust someone else in Grand Rapids the way he trusts Verbeek through this rebuild. That’s what I gather, at least. As I’ve said before, I expect a ton of player movement between Grand Rapids and Detroit this season. They couldn’t do it last year due to the pandemic. Now it’s game on.
Red Wings tickets on sale
Tickets to the games at Little Caesars Arena went on sale this week. The season is right around the corner, guys. We can taste it despite the blistering, very uncomfortable weather we’re experiencing in southeastern Michigan. I hate this heat. There I said it. It’s this time of the summer where you’ll find me saying things like “Well, we have to move further north.”
Anyway, I’m looking forward to the end of September when the preseason gets underway. The Red Wings will host the Buffalo Sabres on Sept. 30 for an exhibition. The regular season will open against none other than the two-time Cup defenders the Tampa Bay Lightning on Oct. 14 at LCA. I have the full schedule posted here.
Training camp will be back at Centre ICE Arena in Traverse City from Sept. 16-28.
Here is the 2021-22 preseason schedule:
- 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29 vs. Chicago Blackhawks @ United Center
- 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 vs. Buffalo Sabres @ Little Caesars Arena
- 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets @ Little Caesars Arena
- 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins @ PPG Paints Arena
- 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4 vs. Chicago Blackhawks @ Little Caesars Arena
- 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets @ Nationwide Arena
- 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins @ Little Caesars Arena
- 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 vs. Buffalo Sabres @ KeyBank Center
Around the league
Free agency moves recap:
Pre-free agency moves recap: