The regular season is just a week away, as teams are finalizing their opening night rosters. The Detroit Red Wings have already seen their fair share of injuries, and the season hasn’t even started.
A couple of defensive prospects have impressed coach Mike Babcock in the preseason: Could we see them playing on opening night? And will the 23-year playoff streak be snapped this year?
Find out these and other questions below in this edition of Twitter Talk with Tom. If you have a question you’d like to have answered, tweet me @tom_mitsos.
— Josh VanDyke (@JVanDyke24) October 3, 2014
Unfortunately, not out of the gate.
Babcock has been impressed with Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet and Nick Jensen thus far this season, as the three have outperformed Brian Lashoff and Jakub Kindl. However, the Red Wings would need to trade Kindl or waive Lashoff to open up a spot for the youngsters. Ryan Sproul was recently sent back to Grand Rapids, so his chances of making the Red Wings are non-existent.
I can’t imagine a whole lot of teams looking to acquire Kindl. He’s a bottom-two defenseman at best. He looked like he was making strides during the lockout year but regressed last season.
It would be silly to keep a prospect as the team’s seventh defenseman. If he gets called up to the big club, he will play every game.
The only way I see these guys making the team is if there is a major injury, whether it’s before the regular season starts or once the season begins.
@tom_mitsos what impact do you imagine babcocks contract status having on the on ice product?
— Micah Rahn-Tiemeyer (@_HorseloverFat) October 3, 2014
Babcock has said he will not negotiate during the season, so I don’t see it being a factor should he not sign before the regular season starts Oct. 9. Scotty Bowman worked on one-year deals for the majority of his career with Detroit, and his on-ice product certainly didn’t suffer.
From a fan’s point of view, you obviously would like to see Babcock locked up before the season starts, but it appears the odds of that happening are slim to none.
Babcock has said he would like to return, and the Red Wings want to keep him, but the two sides have yet to work out a deal. Whether it’s the two not seeing eye-to-eye on a contract or Babcock possibly wanting to see what he could get on the free agent market, who knows.
I think a deal will get done, we just might have to wait until next summer to see it get done.
I don’t think so.
If the Red Wings do improve their backline, it would be an in-house improvement by way of calling up Marchenko, Ouellet or Jensen.
A trade would be hard for the Red Wings because A) They don’t want to give up their top prospects like Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, etc. and B) No one is exactly looking to trade for Kindl or Lahsoff.
The Red Wings won’t find a team that wants to give up a top-four defenseman without getting a top prospect in return. Plus, Babcock has stated Lashoff’s job is safe, which makes a trade that much harder.
Babcock insists he will try to upgrade the blue line, but I don’t see it happening, barring an injury.
— Scot Ottusch (@Ottusch) October 2, 2014
I don’t think it sticks, at least to start the season. I think the team is dead-set on having Stephen Weiss being their second-line center. He was brought in for that very reason to replace Valtteri Filppula.
I think Weiss being lower on the depth chart during the preseason is more about easing him into actual game play rather than Riley Sheahan getting more playing time. Weiss hasn’t played competitive hockey since December, so it’s imperative he not rush back into physical play and take it easy while the games don’t count.
However, should Weiss struggle again, I could see Babcock moving Sheahan ahead of Weiss on the depth chart. Sheahan had a breakout season last year and will be a staple on this Red Wings team for years to come. Weiss has something to prove, and if he doesn’t produce, he could see some time on the fourth line instead of the second line.
Around the NHL
The first question depends on if Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets can work out a deal. If not, I think the Blue Jackets don’t make the playoffs this season. If they do work out a deal, I think they make it for a second consecutive year.
As of 24 hours ago, the two sides haven’t agreed to a deal, but are “inching closer.”
As far as the rest of the Eastern Conference goes, I think Philadelphia is the team that slips from playoff contention this year. They lost Kimmo Timonen, Scott Hartnell, Steve Downie, Adam Hall and Erik Gustafsson and only added R.J. Umberger and Michael Del Zotto. Not exactly an offseason to be proud about. The blue line is weak, and Steve Mason hasn’t had a great season in net since his rookie campaign in 2008-09.
The New York Islanders made some good offseason moves and will be a borderline playoff team. Kyle Okposo had a breakout year, and the Islanders finally have an above-average goalie in Jaroslav Halak.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, simply with the addition of Brenden Shanahan running the show, could put the team back in the playoffs. They didn’t add key pieces in the offseason but did shed a lot of dead weight in management positions. Also, goalie Jonathan Bernier took a stop forward last season and will look to build on that this season.
As far as the playoff streak ending for the Red Wings: No, I think they reach the playoffs for the 24th consecutive time. We all know the offseason was a forgettable one for the Red Wings, but they shed some dead weight in Mikael Samuelsson, Cory Emmerton, Jordin Tootoo, David Legwand and Todd Bertuzzi. It’s addition by subtraction.
The Red Wings also had Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg out for half of the season, and Weiss was a non-factor. I expect Weiss to improve this season. The forward prospects like Nyquist, Tatar and Sheahan are steadily improving, and Mantha will no doubt see some time with the big club should they need extra scoring punch.
The Florida Panthers, with the additions of Roberto Luongo and first-round pick Aaron Ekblad, should be a better team than last year. Probably not a playoff team, but they have a lot of young talent in Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau that they will be a dangerous team in the coming years.
The Buffalo Sabres, like the Panthers, also have a lot of young talent. But I think they might be looking to grab Connor McDavid with the first pick in next year’s draft and could be taking this year off. They did re-acquire Matt Moulson, but they lost defenseman Christian Ehrhoff and goalie Ryan Miller. Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth cannot replace Miller.
With all the top picks the Edmonton Oilers have gotten over the years, they should have been in the playoffs more times than not. However, I see them near the bottom of the Western Conference yet again this year.
If you want to see your name in the next edition of Twitter Talk with Tom. Send me a question @tom_mitsos.
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.