Holland breaks down Wings roster after multiple moves
Detroit – The Red Wings trimmed their roster Saturday, including waiving AHL forward Martin Frk, who had a productive preseason, and sending two young players to Grand Rapids, Tyler Bertuzzi and Evgeny Svechnikov, suggesting they have solid NHL futures.
But General Manager Ken Holland indicated the opening day roster may be less significant in this season than in others, with a late-starting, compacted schedule perhaps leading to injuries and the Wings possibly moving players in and out of the lineup.
With injuries, some young depth and a roster still in flux beginning a fifth season of a rebuild-on-the-fly, it may take more than the usual number of players, especially in the early going, to play out the season.
“I think there’s always this focus on the opening day roster,” Holland said, before the Red Wings were to play the Maple Leafs Saturday (7 p.m., Joe Louis Arena, Fox Sports Detroit).
“But, at the end of the day, before the year is over we’re going to need 15, 16 forwards, eight or nine defensemen, and we’ll probably need three goalies,” he said.
“There is a focus on the opening day roster. But if we keep somebody up and they get an opportunity to play and don’t play very well, and someone else had a good preseason and they go down and they start out good in Grand Rapids, you can flip them. It’s a two-hour drive a way.”
Among multiple roster moves Saturday, the Red Wings placed on injured reserve: forwards Tomas Jurco, 23, and Tomas Nosek, 24, and defensemen Dan Renouf, 22, and Vili Saarijarvi, 19.
In addition to Frk, 23, the Wings placed four players on waivers: forwards Mitch Callahan, 25, and Eric Tangradi, 27, and defensemen Nick Jensen, 26, and Brian Lashoff, 26.
They also moved nine players to Grand Rapids, where the Griffins are playing in their preseason. In addition to Bertuzzi, 21, and Svechnikov, 19, that group includes forwards Matt Lorito, 26, and Louis-Marc Aubry, 24; defensemen Joe Hicketts, 20, Robbie Russo, 23, and Nathan Paetsch, 32; and goalie Cal Heeter, 28.
Heeter was sent from Grand Rapids to Toledo.
With the World Cup of Hockey and the five games off for each player participating, the schedule is starting later and is more compact. Injuries could well be even more of an issue than the concerns raised by their volume in the last few seasons. The Wings play six games in the first 10 days of their season.
“There’s going to be injuries,” Holland said. “When you put down an opening day roster, it could change a week in.”
The NHL schedule, bent by the international tournament, “will create opportunities as the year goes along,” Holland said.
“I’m making decisions between now and Tuesday. But, by the next Monday, the home opener against Ottawa, you could have player movement. It’s just the reality of the world we live in,” he said.
Frk scored 27 goals and assisted on 17 in 67 games for the Griffins last season. In the preseason, he had two goals and an assist in five games, averaging 10:29 time on ice.
Asked if Frk, who turned 23 Wednesday, will clear waivers, Holland said, “I don’t know. We’ll know tomorrow at noon. Certainly, when you put players on waivers you run the risk that you could lose those players.
“But I think most teams are in the same situation as us: They’ve got players that are real close. So, there’ll be lots of players going on waivers today, tomorrow and Monday that are almost NHL players. Maybe they just need an opportunity or maybe they need a little more time,” Holland said.
Asked to evaluate the performance of the Czech forward, Holland said, “The first week of preseason was really a lot of American League players on the teams, with all of the players at the World Cup. The caliber of competition early on wasn’t very deep.
“We’ve got decisions to make. Obviously, when we put a player on waivers, that means we’ve got other players we think are better, or different, because we are trying to fill out a team.”
He talked about players returning to the lineup against Toronto, and the need to fill multiple roles.
“When you start to get into tonight, you get a (Thomas) Vanek here, and you get a (Henrik) Zetterberg here, and you get a Frans Nielsen, and a (Riley) Sheahan and a (Darren) Helm and a (Tomas) Tatar. All of a sudden those opportunities younger players were getting in the first week of camp, they don’t get those opportunities,” Holland said.
“They need to have a different role on your hockey club.
“And certain guys like (Steve) Ott and (Drew) Miller and (Luke) Glendening have, it appears in the early going, found themselves chemistry. And they’re on a fourth line, checking line, kill some penalties.
“It’s not always just the 12 best players. You need different people to do different things.”
Svechnikov, who turns 20 on Halloween, scored two goals against the Maple Leafs in Toronto Friday, and has impressed with his offensive skills and ability to control the puck.
Holland said Bertuzzi gave a considerable accounting of himself in the preseason: “He’s a good player. We’re very high on Bert. He worked pretty hard this summer on his off-ice and had a great camp.
“Obviously, he sent a great message to us that he’s pushed his way through the system real fast.”
But there is not currently room on the NHL roster, Holland said, for Bertuzzi to get the sort of minutes he needs to continue his development.
“He’s 21,” Holland said. “We want him to play. We want him to be an important player.
“He’s going to be an important player in Grand Rapids. With the players we’ve got in Detroit, it’s going to be hard for him to get quality minutes here.
“You’ve got to pay your dues and continue to build a resume, and get experience.”
Decisions remain on players like the young forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha, who can be sent to the Griffins without waivers, and whether Xavier Ouellet or Ryan Sproul, who are vying for slots on defense, will be in Detroit while Niklas Kronwall works his way back into the lineup.
Kronwall is not playing yet, and working off-ice as he deals with knee issues, including recovering from arthroscopy last season.
“We have to make a decision between now and Tuesday if we’re going to carry 13 forwards and eight defensemen, or seven defensemen and 14 forwards,” Holland said. “Kronwall has just started to practice with our team here in the last couple of days. He’s not playing in any preseason games.
“We’ll get a better reading here by Monday or Tuesday. So, that decision will obviously have an effect on (Ouellet and Sproul). One of those guys is going to be on the team, for sure.”