Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mid-Season Report Card

Since the All-Star break essentially marks the half-way point for the season, I'm assigning grades to the Red Wings. I may assign grades to some of the other teams later this week.


Pavel Datsyuk- A. He has essentially been almost perfect this season. He leads in points and assists and continues to be one of Detroit's strongest defensive players... all while centering the top line and generating buzz about the Selke, Lady Byng, and Hart trophies.

Henrik Zetterberg- A-. Has struggled to adjust to playing without Datsyuk, though his rotating wingers may have something to do with this. He's looked a lot better since Hossa was bumped down to the second line.

Marian Hossa- A-. He's had some pointless streaks, but he also carried the team earlier in the season when the Stanley Cup hangover was very obvious.

Johan Franzen- B+. He needs to figure out how to stay healthy, but last I heard he was leading the team in game winning goals and has adjusted well to playing on both the first and second lines.

Jiri Hudler- A-. Some bad defensive play, but he's having a career season for points- he's already passed his record for goals in a season. I'd be more impressed if he could maintain that level of play for longer than 12 minutes or so per game.

Valtteri Filppula- B. I really wish I could give him an A, because he's my favorite Red Wing, but he just hasn't earned it yet. He needs to shoot the puck more. However, his defensive play has been excellent, and his point totals are decent considering that he's centering the checking line.

Mikael Samuelsson- B. He is SO streaky, but he gets the points when it really counts. I feel like he won't be around next year due to salary cap issues.

Tomas Holmstrom- A-. He's essentially still fulfilling his same role on the team, and has been an instrumental part in the power play this year. I wish his defensive play was stronger, but since he usually plays with Datsyuk his +/- is decent.

Dan Cleary- B+. He'd probably get a higher grade if he wasn't switching lines so much. I think his production will increase a lot in the second half if he stays with the same line for several games.

Tomas Kopecky- B. Plays decently well, but his hits haven't brought the same energy Drake's did. He's another player I expect to see traded or lost to free agency.

Kris Draper- B-. Still wins a lot of face offs, but has a horrific +/- and 2 of his 3 goals were empty netters. Overall the fourth line's defensive play needs to pick up a lot before the playoffs.

Kirk Maltby- B-. Basically the same issue as Draper- he doesn't usually produce offensively, but he doesn't need to. If he can tighten up the backchecking he'll be fine.

Darren McCarty- C. Has barely played, but has provided some much-needed grit when he does dress.


Nick Lidstrom- A. "The Perfect Human" has lived up to his label. He had a slow start due to a preseason puck to the face, but he's looked Norris-esque lately.

Brian Rafalski- A-. He's third in the league for points by a defenseman. His passing could use some work, but he's been really consistent.

Niklas Kronwall- B+. Has been consistent, but it'd be nice to see some of those big hits from last year's playoffs.

Brad Stuart- B+. Brings a lot of energy and hitting, but his passing could use a little work. He and Kronwall seem to have communication issues sometimes.

Andreas Lilja- B+. I've actually been very impressed with him this year, his defensive play has been MUCH better and he looks great on the PK.

Brett Lebda- B-. He's looked great on the breakout, he's passing well, and he's one of the best skaters on the team. However, he takes penalties at the worst times.

Derek Meech- B+. I almost threw him in with the forwards because he's played more games there, but Babcock and Holland seem to want him to play defense. He's looked really solid, especially given his inconsistent playing time and linemates.

Chris Chelios- C. Hasn't had much effect, good or bad, other than pushing Detroit right up against the cap. I sincerely hope that he retires this summer.


Chris Osgood- B. Extremely inconsistent, but he's had some issues with injuries. His playing has improved as he's had to compete with Conklin.

Ty Conklin- A. I would almost argue that he was a bigger signing than Hossa. He's played extremely well, very consistently. I would like to see him resigned.

Coaches and Management

Mike Babcock- A. I firmly believe that Babcock is one of the best, if not the best, coaches in the league. He's done an excellent job keeping the team focused and has found good line combinations through all the crazy injuries.

Ken Holland- A. Kept last year's team, added Hossa and Conklin, and is apparently very close to resigning Zetterberg. In Ken Holland we trust.

Mike and Marian Illitch
- A. The rings are beautiful, and it was very classy of them to bring Aaron Downey and Darren Helm to the presentation ceremony.

The Detroit Red Wings Overall

I'll give them an A-. They look strong, but they've lost some key games and need to regain focus between now and the playoffs, especially if they come up against San Jose in the Western Conference Final.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Live Blog: Sabres at Red Wings, 1/10/09

So, I've decided to live blog this game, because, well, I can. :-)

6:41- The FSN broadcast team is ridiculous. Larry Murphy is wandering the Joe today instead of broadcasting from between the benches. Expect some interviews with terrorized hockey fans who only wanted a beer.

6:42- A commercial break, so I'll give you some preview. Both the Red Wings and the Sabres are on win streaks. DRW goalie Ty Conklin is also riding a shutout streak. I haven't actually watched the Red Wings play since last Saturday (stupid college) so I have no idea how this game is going to go.

6:44- Zetterberg just informed Ken Daniels that he didn't get voted into the All Star Game because he isn't playing well enough. I have no idea how he thinks he can be playing better, but whatever. Incidentally his contract is up this year- currently we're paying him just under $3 million. Obviously he'll be getting a large raise.

6:48- Hakan Andersson (the DRW director of European scouting) is absolutely adorable. He's also very good at his job: our only current European that we drafted in the first round is Niklas Kronwall (D). Tomas Holmstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jiri Hudler, Valtteri Filppula, and some others were all later round picks.

Supposedly after the WJC this year he claimed that he wouldn't recommend Tavares as a draft pick. I don't know if that's actually true, but he brought up an interesting point in his interview just now that the Red Wings play a very European style of hockey and some players just don't fit. I have a very firm belief that Sidney Crosby's style of play wouldn't work in our current system, regardless of his (obviously high) level of talent.

6:53- Just saw the footage of the Ruutu biting incident for the first time. The whole thing is just ridiculous.

6:54- Chelios just said that he bit someone back in the day. And by "back in the day" he probably meant the 1970s.

6:55- Apparently Kronwall isn't playing and Meech is?

7:00- The Kenny Cam? Seriously? But Mickey Redmond looks nice and cozy by himself in the broadcast booth.

Kronwall is not playing tonight for an unknown reason- presumably a health issue, since he had three assists on Thursday.

7:02- Larry Murphy, I would strongly recommend that you do NOT stand there for the beginning of the game, as you will be blocking a lot of views. You also might get hit by a flying octopus.

7:07- Zetterberg just won the first face-off of the game. I usually take that as a good sign. Interesting that Meech is paired with Stuart, rather than moving up Lilja or Lebda and putting Meech on the third pairing.

7:11- Lots of hitting in this game. Filppula and Lebda (two of my favorite players) have both been absolutely laid out only five minutes into the first period.

7:12- Roy just scored. Conklin made a great save on Vanek and the defense failed to clear it. Really bad play by Detroit.

7:13- Roy going to the box on a hooking call. Hopefully we can even things up.

7:16- Sabres successfully killed the power play. Meech played the point on the 1B power play unit. Interesting choice by Babcock.

7:18- Beautiful play by Lebda and Hossa, followed by another scoring chance for Zetterberg. I can't believe we didn't score there.

7:19- I can't believe THEY didn't score there! Conklin comes out to the circle to poke check, three Red Wings rush to the net to try to keep the puck out, fail to clear the puck, and Conklin scrambles back to make the save of a life time. We look sloppy.

7:21- Another good scoring chance for Detroit as all three forwards rush the net.

7:26- My contact at the game tells me that someone just proposed on the jumbotron during the TV timeout.

7:27- She said yes. :-)

7:30- Finally an icing. There's only been maybe five whistles so far this game, so lots of changing on the fly.

7:32- A couple of great plays by Lebda, but nothing.

8:10- Took a break to go get food and missed the first intermission and the first five minutes of the second. Sabres are still winning 1-0 so apparently I didn't miss much.

8:18- Lots of back and forth, not much time in either zone. Meech just shattered a stick on a one timer.

8:24- Jiri Hudler ties it on a one timer after a beautiful play by Brett Lebda to get the puck in deep.

8:26- Hudler just passed his previous record for goals in the regular season (he's at 16- two years ago he had 15). He's an RFA next summer so he scheduled his breakout year nicely- unless you're Ken Holland trying to retain your team.

8:29- Second period ends with the game tied at one. The Red Wings are outshooting the Sabres 25-10.

8:50- Three minutes into the third, and Detroit looks great.

8:51- Detroit getting a power play on a delay of game penalty. Mental mistake by Rivet.

8:53- Power play over. So much for having the best power play in the league... though the Sabres are ranked very high in penalty killing.

8:56- Former Red Wing Brendan Shanahan apparently signed today with the New Jersey Devils. Good for him.

9:00- The FSN broadcasters are RIDICULOUS. They just showed Mickey Redmond on the jumbotron singing "Piano Man" by Billy Joel.

9:03- Red Wings on the power play on a goaltender interference call. It was actually a terrible call, same kind that keeps happening Detroit- a defenseman shoves someone into the goalie and they get called for interference.

9:05- Power play over, no goal. Which is really just as well since we didn't deserve it anyway. Detroit is now outshooting Buffalo 39-18.

9:12- Miller has faced 87 shots over the past two nights, and tonight isn't even over yet. He has to be exhausted.

9:15- Samuelsson! And assisted by Hudler. I can't really blame the Sabres for allowing that goal, the play made absolutely no sense. Yay for the Red Wings being telepathic and doing ridiculous things with the puck.

9:17- Hossa! Assisted by Zetterberg, I think. This goal is very important because it gives me fantasy points! Also, with only a couple minutes left in the third, being up 3-1 puts Detroit in a comfortable position.

9:18- Filppula got the second assist on the Samuelsson goal. Rewatching the play he did a great job getting the puck into the zone. Flip is my favorite Red Wing and he hasn't been scoring much lately- but I am totally okay with him being playmaker. :-)

9:19- Zetterberg did get the assist on the Hossa goal.

9:21- And Detroit wins 3-1, despite a flurry of shots in the last 30 seconds with Miller pulled for the sixth attacker. This was a really great game, very intense.

My stars are Miller, Lebda, and Samuelsson.

Whoever picked the stars went with Franzen, Miller, and Samuelsson. I was close.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

These are a few of my favorite teams...

I have a confession to make: I cannot be a casual observer of a sporting event. It doesn't matter if it's my favorite team playing a championship game or whatever re-run they're showing on The Big 10 Network, I have to take a side.

That said, here are a few of my favorite teams that I'll go out of my way to watch, cheer for, research, and bemoan.


-Detroit Red Wings. Hockey has always been my favorite sport to watch and the Red Wings have always been my favorite team. This is mostly because I'm a homer like you wouldn't even believe. Also, since TV coverage of the NHL sucks, they're the only team I see on a regular basis. And I idolized Steve Yzerman as a child. Yes, I'm aware that a lot of people hate them; just don't hate me for loving them.

-University of Notre Dame. You can blame my brother for this one. There's no real logic behind it, I just like them.

-Saginaw Spirit (OHL). They're my home team, I have too!

-Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL). I've never actually seen any of their games, but they're the Red Wings developement team and I really like some of our prospects. Plus they have a cool name.


-Detroit Lions. I know, it makes me cringe too. But it's not Thanksgiving without the Lions, and now that Millen's gone we may actually do something with that first overall pick.

-Ohio State University. My mom's side of the family are the variety of Buckeye fans that think Bo Schembechler died on purpose. I don't take it that far, but family loyalty demands that I worship the Horseshoe.


-Detroit Pistons. Seeing a theme here? But I'm still angry at them for trading Chauncey Billups away and will admit to watching very few games this season.

-Michigan State University. My mom went to MSU. I wanted to go there for a long time. I don't know.


-Detroit Tigers. I actually hate baseball; I find it boring and slow. But tradition demands that I cheer for the Tigers anyway.


-I don't actually follow soccer, but I played for 10 years and love watching it on the rare occasion that it's actually televised, so it's on here.


I cheer for Team USA in all forms and variations, from the Olympics all the way down to Can-Amera. It's that blatant homerism thing again.

And thus, a blanket disclaimer for Michigan Sports Central: while I will (usually) attempt to keep my writing unbiased, I obviously like some teams more than others. I hope you'll forgive me.


Michigan Sports Central: A Preview

The purpose of this blog should be pretty obvious- it's a way for me to write about the Michigan sports teams.

Of course, this has to come with a few disclaimers:

1) I'm biased. All sports fans are. It happens.
2) Not all of my favorite teams are Michigan teams, so the "Michigan" part of the title is a little misleading. In fact, the "Michigan" part of the title exists because Sports Central was already taken.
3) I'm a college student, so posts may be few and far between.
4) I'm a perfectionist, and also a sports writer for my college's newspaper, which may also lead to a lack of posting. However, since this is just for fun, I'm going to try to cut down on the perfectionism. Plus, I'm not getting paid for this.

I've been planning this for a while and actually have a couple posts mostly written, so expect a minor flood of posts tonight.

Happy New Year!