Of Grand Rapids Griffins and Detroit Red Wings-related note this evening:
1. WOOD TV 8, Fox 17 and the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan took note of Griffins coach Todd Nelson’s uncertain future, with WOOD TV filing a video report…
“I’m not thinking too far ahead right now,” Nelson told reporters on griffinshockey.com after Monday’s 5-1 Game 5 first-round series loss to Manitoba. “I have to process what just happened. We have exit interviews with players, I’m sure I’ll get feedback from management to see where myself and the coaching staff is at. Once that’s done, we’ll see what happens.”
But Nelson, who was an interim coach in Edmonton in 2014-15 and drew positive reviews, would like another opportunity to coach in the NHL.
“Obviously that’s a goal of mine,” said Nelson, who has a year left on his contract with the Wings’ organization. “But if it doesn’t happen, this is a great place of work. The Grand Rapids organization is fantastic to work with, fantastic people. The Wings are fantastic to work with. I’m just going to process this.”
2. As already noted, Olympia Entertainment is selling off seats from Joe Louis Arena, first to Red Wings season-ticket holders, and then to the general public starting on May 12th. The Detroit News and WDIV posted stories regarding the sale, and the Detroit News’s David Guralnick posted both a photo gallery and video of the state of the Joe, which ain’t great:
Lessons have definitely been learned along the way. Kitchener Rangers power forward Givani Smith found that out the hard way. The Detroit Red Wings pick flipped off the Sault Ste. Marie bench after a thrilling OT win in Game 6 and that act got him suspended two games, including the pivotal Game 7 that the Soo ended up winning in double OT. Was it a crass move by Smith? Sure. Did he feel horrible, not being able to help his team in a crucial game? I’m sure he did. And while a lot of folks were upset with Smith, let’s not forget that he just turned 20; he’s still a very young man. No doubt he will move on, as should we.
Stupid? You bet. Does a suspension in a deciding game of a playoff series send home the message that one needs to grow up? Uh uh.
5. And I’m going to get a little creative here and combine some narratives.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James took note of the fact that the Griffins, Smith and Michael Rasmussen’s respective playoff runs ended on Monday night, and St. James had this to say about Rasmussen:
What happened: The Tri-City Americans lost 6-5 in overtime in Game 7 of a third-round series against Everett in the WHL. It wasn’t for lack of production from Rasmussen. The team captain had 16 goals and 17 assists for 33 points in 14 playoff games games. Among WHL league leaders, he ranked first with seven power play goals, second in points, third in goals and fourth in assists.
What’s next: Time in the gym to add more strength to his 6-foot-6, 221 pound body. Development camp with other Wings prospects in June. From people I talk to in the Wings organization, Rasmussen is penciled onto next season’s squad. He can’t play in Grand Rapids because he has a year left of junior eligibility, so it’s Detroit or Tri-City. But Rasmussen impressed with his mature play last September, and now he’ll come to camp with the confidence of having dominated at the junior level.
I’m sure that some Wings fans are discounting Rasmussen’s playoff production with the same words of caution that followed Anthony Mantha’s playoff run, and that’s fair: while the WHL isn’t as high-scoring a league as the QMJHL is, Rasmussen’s team lost because they were letting in as many goals as they surrendered, and Rasmussen’s +/- of 8 on a 33-points-in-14-games effort could easily seen as a caution flag [see also: power play production, which was the reason some draft experts thought Rasmussen was a dud a year ago at this time].
The point of the matter (to me) is that Rasmussen recovered from wrist surgery to play really damn well, and he played really damn well in front of the Red Wings’ brass as everyone from Cleary and Horcoff to Holland and Blashill took trips out to Kennewick, Washington to watch Rasmussen skate in games.
6. The same is true of the progress made by Filip Hronek, whose conditioning makes him a little less NHL-ready (as does the Wings’ relative depth on defense, at least in terms of contracts at the position).
As Hockeybuzz’s Bob Duff noted, Hronek had a superb rookie professional season, and Griffins coach Todd Nelson spoke wisely regarding Hronek’s ability to make an impact in the AHL and/or NHL next season:
Hronek, 20, picked 53rd by Detroit in the 2016 NHL entry draft, led all Grand Rapids defensemen with 11-28-39 totals. The six foot, 178-pound Hronek also posted a team-best plus-24 rating. No other Grand Rapids player was better than plus-12.
“He exceeded my expectations,” Grand Rapids coach Todd Nelson told Detroitredwings.com. “I knew he was going to be good, but I didn’t think he’d develop as quick as he has.”
Only seven AHL defensemen scored more goals than Hronek and just eight accumulated more points.
“It was a tremendous first season for him,” Nelson said. “He really put himself on the map with the organization. (Detroit coach) Jeff Blashill’s been here, (GM) Ken (Holland), (assistant GM) Ryan (Martin), they’ve been watching a lot of our games and he’s putting himself in a good opportunity to play some National Hockey League games next year. It’ll be up to him at training camp to see where he’s at.”
As Duff noted, Hronek will be able to earn more confidence as he plays for the Czechs at the World Championship, and from there, it’s up to Rasmussen, Hronek and the rest of the Wings’ top prospects to train with a purpose this summer, play well at next fall’s prospect tournament, and then have a good showing in training camp.
You and I both know by this time that the Red Wings don’t hand young players opportunities unless the players have earned them, and training camp and the exhibition season have a way of sorting out who’s ready and who’s not.
If you’re panicking or yelling about a player’s potential as you deem it to be defined forever and ever as of early May? Take a chill pill, my friend, and remember that there has been time with which the Red Wings have evaluated these players, and there will be more time with which to make as-they-play evaluations going forward.