Red Wings’ lack of boldness again on display at trade deadline

There’s never been a lot of riverboat gambler in Ken Holland.

Holland, the Red Wings’ GM since 1997, has done a lot of things in his 19 years on the job, but making the bold, daring, blockbuster move hasn’t really been one of them.

Holland’s M.O., in the pre-salary cap years, was to open Mike Ilitch’s checkbook every July 1 and hold a press conference a few days later, showing off the newest star to slip on a Red Wings sweater.

Since the cap took effect in 2005, Holland has been the architect of a few signings, but mostly the work has consisted of deadline deals in which the Red Wings give up a prospect and get a veteran in return.

No Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre-type stunners. No multi-team deals involving six players.

Holland has never traded a star for a star. It’s not his style.

This isn’t a complaint, necessarily. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups since 1997.

It’s also not just a Ken Holland thing. Big trades in the NHL—those involving high profile players swapping jerseys—have gone the way of drive-in movie theaters and personal accountability.

But if there was ever a year in which Holland should have explored an outside-the-box way of thinking, it was this year.

But alas, as expected, the NHL trade deadline came and went yesterday with no activity from the bowels of Joe Louis Arena—not even a stinking minor deal.

The easiest thing to do, of course, is stand pat when you’re up against the cap, which the Red Wings mostly were. They shed a little more than $2 million by trading defenseman Jakub Kindl to Florida on Saturday, but that’s not a lot of dough if you want to do something significant to the roster.

Unless you consider something bold.

Last year, the Red Wings went up against the high-scoring Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs, and everyone wondered how a rookie goalie would do against such an explosive lineup.

Petr Mrazek tossed two shutouts in the Lightning series, and the reason the Red Wings lost it in seven games had little to do with goaltending and their suspect defense.

De-TROY-it couldn’t put the puck in the net—plain and simple.

The Lightning didn’t score very much, either, but they managed just enough offense to escape.

The Red Wings this season, once again, are offensively challenged. They’re again prone to scoring droughts. A 19 year-old rookie is their leading goal scorer.

It doesn’t get easier to score in the playoffs, you know.

It’s not the Red Wings’ style, but if ever there was a time to consider trading a top-six forward for a top-six forward, it was this year.

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As expected, Holland was quiet on trade deadline day.

It’s going on eight years since the last Stanley Cup was hoisted in Detroit. With our other teams, eight years is like a blink of an eye. But with the Red Wings, who have a different standard, eight years is cause for restlessness.

I can hear some of you now.

Why make a trade for the sake of making a trade?

Hey, why not?

Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to take the snow globe, shake it up, and see what happens.

Look, when I say top-six forward, I’m really only talking about a few guys.

The Red Wings wouldn’t be expected to trade Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk or Justin Abdelkader. Brad Richards, while valuable, is too old to garner much of a return. And The Kid, Dylan Larkin, is as untouchable as they come.

So I’m looking at you, Gustav Nyquist. And you, Tomas Tatar. And you, Riley Sheahan. I might even cast a glance at Darren Helm.

Yes, I know that’s more than six forwards. But with the Red Wings, top-six is a misnomer, because coach Jeff Blashill juggles lines frequently.

One of the reasons he juggles is because the Red Wings are always sniffing for goals.

It would have been out of character for Holland, but it would have been nice to see a trade designed to do nothing other than shake things up.

What have you got to lose?

If you catch lightning in a bottle and you bring over a guy from another organ-eye-ZAY-shun who gets hot wearing the Winged Wheel and keeps it going in the playoffs, wouldn’t you take that?

Yes, that means giving up an everyday player but that’s why they call it bold and risky.

Again, not the Red Wings’ style.

The concerns on the blue line—the lack of a true stud being one of them—is something to be addressed this summer.

But in the playoffs, you shouldn’t worry about keeping the puck out of your own net as much as pumping them past the other team’s goalie.

The Red Wings have trouble scoring on too many nights, and the playoffs aren’t the time or the place to get relief in that area.

The Red Wings played it safe on deadline day. They’ll tell you that nothing came across Ken Holland’s desk that made sense. They’ll say that they didn’t want to disrupt their core guys.

Sigh.

It would have been fun to see the snow globe given a good shake.

Sometimes you have to be bold.

But the Red Wings haven’t done that in over 20 years, so why would they start now?

Where are hockey’s riverboat gamblers?

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With offense inconsistent, Red Wings should kick the tires on Stewart

Gustav Nyquist kept the puck on his stick for 28 seconds, which in hockey is an eternity. It’s the world’s fastest team sport—a game predicated on moving the puck quickly and in tic-tac-toe fashion.

Yet here was Nyquist, the puck seemingly glued to his stick, literally skating circles around the Ottawa Senators and his own teammates on Saturday night in overtime, in the Senators’ zone.

Nyquist made three revolutions around the perimeter of the Ottawa zone, hogging the puck. He was a one-man, ice rink version of the Harlem Globetrotters. All that was missing was “Sweet Georgia Brown” blaring from the arena sound system.

It was overtime, so there was more ice with which to work, since the NHL plays 4-on-4 for the extra session in the regular season. And Nyquist used the extra ice to glide around with the puck as if he was a man playing among boys.

I have never seen one player keep the puck for as long as Nyquist kept it on Saturday night. Not even a video game player keeps it for nearly 30 seconds.

The solo puck possession was impressive enough in its length, but Nyquist finished the display by rifling a shot past Senators goalie Craig Anderson from the top of the right circle. Game over. Red Wings win, 3-2.

Just call him Gustav “Curly Neal” Nyquist.

Nyquist’s overtime goal was much needed, as it meant that the Red Wings would avoid the shootout, which is like Superman avoiding Kryptonite.

It’s also no secret that the Red Wings’ offense comes and goes without warning. First they’re popping four and five goals into the net per night, then it takes them a week to score that many.

The NHL isn’t sprinkled with the liberal amount of snipers that used to grace the ice as recently as 10 years ago. Like baseball, which is going through an offensive malaise, the NHL hasn’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard with any consistency for a number of years.

Pure goal scorers don’t grow on trees. This is true. Gone are the Brett Hulls of the world—at least for now.

The Red Wings have raised some eyebrows this season among the so-called experts, as they are sitting in the elite tier of the Eastern Conference and have been almost since the season began in October. The pre-season prognosticators didn’t give the Winged Wheelers much love.

Unlike the Stanley Cup-winning years of 1997 and beyond, today’s Red Wings have to scratch and claw to put every puck they can past enemy goalies. That’s why you see fits of scoring closely followed by bouts of sparseness, and vice-versa.

The Red Wings’ goal-scoring chart, if you spread the games played from left to right, would look like an EKG.

There may not be a true sniper available within the league, but the Buffalo Sabres have made it known that RW Chris Stewart could be had in a trade.

The Red Wings should place a phone call.

Stewart is trade bait because he is a pending, unrestricted free agent next summer and it’s doubtful that the small market Sabres want any part of a long-term, expensive deal with the 27-year-old. He is in the final year of a contract that pays him $4.15 million this season.

Stewart has only scored 20+ goals twice in his career (and hasn’t done so since the 2010-11 season), but he’s certainly a 15-20 goal guy who shoots right and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty. He’s a Justin Abdelkader type but with maybe a little more skill.

Stewart isn’t having a great year so far (just five goals and a minus-14) but he likely would perk up if traded to a team that has a chance to actually do something, which the Sabres are not, despite their recent stretch of solid play.

So far there have been no indications that the Red Wings are in on Stewart, but they should be.

Buffalo’s Stewart is on the trading block. The Red Wings ought to be interested. (Getty Images)

Stewart will be 28 when next season starts, which should be the start of the prime of his career. He’s already played on some good teams in Colorado and St. Louis, so he knows a little about winning. With the Red Wings, he should get a healthy dose of that culture of success for many years to come, should he sign with them long-term next summer.

Watching the Red Wings on a nightly basis, you get the feeling that the team is still one goal scorer away from being a serious Stanley Cup contender. Even with the return of the oft-injured Stephen Weiss, who has been effective, there’s still a missing je ne sais quoi.

The inconsistent offense is a reason why coach Mike Babcock feels it necessary to occasionally pair Henrik Zetterberg with Pavel Datsyuk to jump start things. If the coach had his druthers, he’d play those two veteran stars on different lines to spread the wealth.

Nyquist could be a 20-goal guy (at least) every year, for sure. He has 15 goals this season in 36 games, and he popped in 28 goals in 57 games last season.

But one more sniper-type guy—just one—and the Red Wings could make this a special season after all.

The defense doesn’t have the lapses it has had in the recent past. The younger guys back there are maturing. Goalie Jimmy Howard is enjoying a nice bounce back from a checkered 2013-14 season. There’s some toughness and grit up front, with forwards who often outwork their opponents. Their coach is still among the best in the league.

The Red Wings of 2014-15 can’t throw their sweaters with the famous logo on it, onto the ice every night and chalk up two points. Those days are long gone. This squad can’t be outworked or it will lose. But it has something going, and if they can add one more guy who can put the puck into the net, the sky’s the limit.

Easier said than done, I know. But isn’t that why GM Ken Holland makes the big bucks?

Nyquist’s Penchant for Scoring Just May Lead the Red Wings into the Playoffs

They say defense wins championships, but last I checked, nobody won the Stanley Cup by tossing shutouts every game. You still have to have pucksters who can bury a goal now and again.

Or in Gustav Nyquist’s case, again and again and again.

Nyquist is a typical Red Wings forward: skilled, Swedish and unearthed. Somehow 120 players were selected ahead of Nyquist, who went to the Red Wings as the 121st choice in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

The 24-year-old Nyquist is yet another find of Red Wings’ European Scouting Director Hakan Andersson, a former fishing tour guide who clearly still knows how to catch them.

The Red Wings’ roster is filled with guys whose NHL success belies where they were selected in their respective drafts.

Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen, to name just three, are stars who you would think were first round picks. After all, what scout worth his travelogue could have missed on these guys, eh?

But Zetterberg, the Red Wings’ Swedish captain, was a seventh round selection in 1999. The Russian Datsyuk was taken in the sixth round in 1998. And Franzen, another Swede, was a third round pick in 2004.

Now here comes Nyquist, who’s popping in goals like the opposing goalies are pylons, drafted by the Red Wings only after 120 players—six teams’ worth of nightly skaters—ahead of him were snatched up.

The Red Wings don’t draft players, they pan for them.

The name of the game is to score more than the opposition, and by that standard, Nyquist is the quintessential NHL player, because pretty much every puck he shoots these days finds the back of the net.

Nyquist didn’t join the Red Wings until November 21, from Grand Rapids of the AHL. In his first game this season, he scored twice. It seemed like a harbinger, because of Nyquist’s heroics in the 2013 playoffs, which included a game-winner in overtime in Anaheim in the first round.

But after that two-goal debut in November, Nyquist’s scoring stick fell asleep, and on January 18, he had just five goals.

In 29 games since January 18, Nyquist has 23 goals.

That’s Crosby and Ovechkin-ish.

With Zetterberg and Datsyuk felled by injuries for much of the 2014 portion of the season schedule, it’s been Nyquist to the rescue. When he scores a goal, the Red Wings are 16-6.

It seems as if every Nyquist goal has some sort of importance attached to it. He’s either giving the Red Wings the lead, tying the game, or winning the game.

Nyquist is a Bruce Martyn kind of player: He shoots, he scoooooores!

The brilliance of Nyquist is that he scores from everywhere on the ice, and from any position—skating, falling, sliding, what have you. All that’s left is for him to beat a goalie from the third row of the stands—and that might be coming.

If you miss a Red Wings game on any given night, you might want to just flip on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” because one of Nyquist’s goals is likely going to end up there as an evening highlight of the most pretty.

So much have Nyquist’s exploits in 2014 been talked about around the league, that some NHL observers have suggested that Nyquist should garner some Hart Trophy (MVP) consideration. Now, that’s likely Sidney Crosby’s award to lose, but to even be mentioned is something else, given Nyquist’s paltry five goals in mid-January.

Part of Nyquist’s hockey genius lies in his speed. Even Franzen, Mr. Streaky himself, marvels at his fellow Swede.

“He’s faster with the puck than without it, and that’s pretty uncommon,” Franzen told the Detroit Free Press after Friday night’s 3-2 win over Buffalo—a game in which Nyquist, strangely enough, didn’t score.

But this goal scoring stuff isn’t unique to Nyquist’s NHL career. Everywhere he’s played, he’s been a goalie’s nightmare.

Nyquist has been beating goaltenders like mules since he was 16 years old and scoring nine goals in just 14 games playing for the Malmo Redhawks in a Swedish under-18 league.

After being drafted by the Red Wings, Nyquist went to the University of Maine and in three seasons he scored 50 goals in 113 games.

Then it was time to turn pro, and in two seasons in Grand Rapids, Nyquist deposited 45 goals past AHL goalies.

Nyquist first endeared himself to Red Wings fans when he won Game 2 of the Anaheim series last spring in overtime, a huge tally that tied that series, 1-1. The Red Wings went on to win the series in seven games.

But so prolific is Nyquist this season, that his shooting percentage (goals divided by shots on goal), is 19.9%, which is more than twice the league average. The Red Wings as a team have a shooting percentage of 8.8%.

That means, basically, that Nyquist scores a goal for every five shots he takes. That’s some deadly stuff.

Apparently not content with scoring goals in every way imaginable, Nyquist himself is thinking of different ways to score.

“You look at Pav (Datsyuk) and Z (Zetterberg), they have two guys hanging on their backs and they’re still so strong on the puck,” Nyquist told the Free Press. “That’s something I can learn from.”

I’m sure opposing goalies are just thrilled to hear that. The guy who has 23 goals in his past 28 games wants to start scoring with guys hanging on his back.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty much the only way you can stop Nyquist from scoring in 2014—so far.

So the next time you see two defenders draped over a player, and all you can see of that player is the puck leaving his stick and eluding the goalie, you’ll know who that player is.

No. 14 in red and white.

 

“My Three Sons” Providing Jolts of Energy, Scoring for Red Wings

It all started with the Kraut Line.

That’s the first time that an NHL line was given a nickname.

It was Boston’s tag for Bruins forwards Woody Dumart, Milt Schmidt and Bobby Bauer, who played together for most of the 1940s.

The Production Line soon followed.

That was, of course, the identifier of the Red Wings’ trio of, from left to right, Ted Lindsay, Sid Abel and Gordie Howe, who first started playing together in the late-1940s.

Others followed, slowly but surely.

The GAG line (Goal a Game)—the Rangers’ line of the late-1960s, early-1970s: Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert.

The Red Wings had the Production Line II: Frank Mahovlich, Alex Delvecchio and Howe, from 1968-1970.

The French Connection—Buffalo’s lethal 1970s threesome of Richard Martin, Gil Perreault and Rene Robert.

The Red Wings, in the 1990s, even had an entire quintet with a nickname—the Russian Five.

To name a few.

Lines don’t have nicknames as much anymore. Maybe because the modern NHL coach likes to shuffle trios like decks of cards on a nightly basis.

I’d like to change that, with today’s Red Wings.

How does My Three Sons grab you?

The Red Wings have an exciting line going now of LW Tomas Tatar, C Riley Sheahan and RW Gustav Nyquist. Coach Mike Babcock has been granting ice time to this young line (average age of 23) at a more liberal rate, and the coach has been rewarded with hard work, nifty passing, quality scoring chances and a trio that is hard to play against.

How long Babcock chooses to keep the kids together is anyone’s guess, but on a team where injuries have hit hard and goal scoring is at a premium, My Three Sons have been carrying their share of the water lately, and then some.

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(from top to bottom: Tatar, Sheahan, Nyquist—My Three Sons)

Sheahan is the newest of the three, having played in just 16 games this season. But the team’s no. 1 draft pick of 2010 has already chipped in with three goals and seven assists, mostly playing with Tatar (13/11/24) and Nyquist (13/10/23).

It’s been fun watching these youngsters skate circles around opponents, dig pucks out of the corner, and set each other up for goals and near goals.

As an opposing coach, you now have a decision to make. Do you match MTS with your fourth line, or do you grant the Red Wings’ young trio more respect than that?

Going further, the line’s speed, skill and puck instinct makes for a headache as well. All three players seem to exhibit a pretty high hockey IQ.

Nyquist, for one, has eight goals in his last seven games. Many have been assisted by either Tatar or Sheahan.

The silver lining to the cloud of injuries and unexpected lack of production from many of the Red Wings’ veteran forwards is that more ice time has been available to so many Grand Rapids Griffins.

But so many of the Griffins-turned-Red Wings are proving that they’re not borderline NHLers—they’re legitimate and are to be reckoned with.

My Three Sons.

What do you think?

GM Holland: Nyquist Will Play Saturday, Is Staying with Red Wings

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It’s official: Gustav Nyquist will be a Red Wing for the remainder of the season, at least.

GM Kenny Holland told the media, as reported by George Sipple of the Free Pressthat the RW Nyquist will play on Saturday against Ottawa at Joe Louis Arena. This is significant because once Nyquist plays one more NHL game, he can no longer be sent back to the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins without first clearing waivers.

“He’s playing tomorrow night, so he’s here for the year,” Holland said.

Given his skill set and his two-goal game Thursday in his season debut, it’s highly unlikely that the 24-year-old Nyquist would make it through waivers, so Holland’s announcement that Nyquist will suit up on Saturday was essentially the same as announcing that Nyquist will be a Red Wing the rest of the season and beyond.

Holland also gave an update on the Red Wings’ two summer free agent signees who are both battling groin injuries. Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson are “close” but won’t return to the lineup in either weekend game (Ottawa at home on Saturday and at Buffalo on Sunday).

Game 23: Red Wings-Carolina Enotes

So that’s what the Red Wings needed? A shot of Nyquist?

Gustav Nyquist, making his season debut, wasted no time making his mark on the game, scoring 17 seconds into it, then added a breakaway goal late in the third period that ended up being the game-winner, and the Red Wings finally skated off the ice with two points in their back pockets, beating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 at JLA.

It wasn’t easy. Breaking a seven-game losing streak (and eight straight at home) never is.

Nyquist banged home a rebound on the game’s first shift, and even when Darren Helm gave the Red Wings a 2-0 lead about five minutes into the second period, you knew that there was going to be hand-wringing before the night was through.

Sure enough, the Canes scored twice in the second period to tie the game. It was looking like so many games in the losing streak: early promise, late heartbreak.

A two-minute 5-on-3 power play seven minutes into the third period provided the Red Wings with a chance to go ahead, and even though it took them 1:45, Niklas Kronwall was credited with a goal when Jordan Staal accidentally kicked Kronwall’s rebound a puck’s width past the goal line. 3-2 Detroit.

Then the Swede Nyquist, blocked from the Red Wings out of training camp because of depth and salary cap concerns, squirted loose at center ice, took a deft pass from Henrik Zetterberg off the boards, skated in alone on Carolina goalie Justin Peters and deked into a backhand, slipping the puck between Peters’ pads for a 4-2 lead. The goal came at 15:58.

Even with a power play and a two-goal lead with less than a minute to play, the Red Wings still managed to give the crowd a scare.

Andrej Sekera scored a shortie with 16 seconds to play, his second goal of the game.

But the Hurricanes couldn’t get set up in the Detroit zone after the ensuing face-off, and the Red Wings (10-6-7) survived.

Nyquist, if he plays one more game, cannot be sent back to Grand Rapids unless he clears waivers, which is highly unlikely. He’s got a scorer’s knack of being around the puck and depositing said puck into the net, and other NHL teams know that. So it looks like Nyquist is with the Red Wings to stay.

Nyquist was called up due to the placing on long-term IR of D Danny DeKeyser with a separated shoulder, which freed up cap space. DeKeyser is expected to miss 3-6 weeks.

Nyquist skated on a new no. 1 line with Zetterberg and Danny Cleary, as coach Mike Babcock split up Z and Pavel Datsyuk.

The Red Wings fired 47 shots at Peters, and even though they blew a 2-0 lead, they never lost composure nor did they cough the puck up very much, even when the Canes pressed after falling behind 3-2.

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BOTTOM LINE: It was amazing how much the insertion of one different player (Nyquist) made the Red Wings look more confident and more crisp.

THE WINGED WHEELER SAYS: Jonas Gustavsson started in goal for Detroit, and was quite competent, as he’s been whenever he’s seen spot duty this season. He found himself out of position on Sekera’s second goal, but for the most part Gustavsson was sharp. Babcock shuffled his lines like a deck of cards, and for one night, he drew mostly aces.