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Red Wings morning news: Holland drops a hint regarding defenseman shopping list; offseason structure

Ahead of today's locker room clean-out day, I tried to set the scene for what I believe is one of the most important days of the Red Wings' calendar year for a simple reason: love 'em or loathe 'em, the Detroit Red Wings' coach and general manager tend to be straight-shooters in the personnel department.

Mike Babcock's post-elimination comments to the media issued something of an in-house diagnosis of what the Wings can do to improve while availing themselves of the players and prospects already in the organization. As such, he talked about rest and recovery for Darren Helm, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, a resurgent 2014-2014 campaign for Johan Franzen and the possibility for improvement "on the back end" via Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, Alexei Marchenko and Mattias Backman competing for spots on the blueline as they are "ready" in his estimation.

Today, Babcock will issue what is something of an end-of-season lecture, and just as Babcock's first comments at training camp tend to outline the team's first couple months' worth of points of emphasis, today's comments will frame his "want list" and perceived franchise needs going toward the draft and free agency.

The Red Wings' general manager is perhaps honest to a fault. Prior to the trade deadline, Ken Holland suggested that the Wings would not look for rental players barring injuries. When the Red Wings' centers went down to the point that Luke Glendening became the team's first-line pivot, Holland stated that he felt it was necessary to revisit the rental market, and that he was concerned about the team's ability to make the playoffs as currently-constructed up the middle.

Lo, there came that last-second David Legwand-for-Calle Jarnkrok, Patrick Eaves and what is now a 2nd round pick deal.

On Sunday evening--again, he told MLive's Ansar Khan that Pavel Datsyuk may need not-so-minor knee surgery, and that Stephen Weiss had scar tissue removed by the specialist who fixed his...core muscle...issue...And Holland more or less let everyone know whether Weiss would be a Red Wing come September:

Center Stephen Weiss last week had what Holland called minor surgery to release scar tissue. It was performed in Philadelphia by the same doctor (William Meyers) who performed sports hernia surgery on Weiss on Dec. 23.

“He needs a big summer,” Holland said.

Holland said Henrik Zetterberg felt great in the two games he played since returning from back surgery on Feb. 21.

“We expect to see him in September healthy,” Holland said.

Holland also told the Free Press's Helene St. James that he's going to take some time to reassess the team's personnel issues...

“We wanted to have a better year,” Holland said Sunday. “Losing in the playoffs, in whatever round, is always disappointing. In a month, I’m sure we’ll look back and see building blocks, see that we have people in places to feel good about, but today I’m disappointed, and you don’t make decisions based upon emotion.”

Holland noted the Wings “didn’t get it done as a team.” Pavel Datsyuk gutted out the series on one leg, scoring three goals. Henrik Zetterberg pushed himself to get back early from back surgery. Niklas Kronwall played big. Those three guys are key reasons the Wings continue to be NHL playoff material year after year — they have made it 23 straight seasons — but all three are in their early to mid-30s, lending an urgency to surrounding them with enough good pieces to win another Stanley Cup.

And he issued a statement that may seem ominous to the Buy Out Franzen movement:

About Franzen: He underachieved in the playoffs, but his $3.95-million salary cap hit makes him more attractive to keep than to catapult. He produced 16 goals among 41 points in 54 regular-season games, well above a 20-goal average. He was quiet in the postseason, again, but so were the young guys that were so key to the Wings even making the playoffs: Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco.

“To think we’re out because of one person not scoring,” Holland said, “that’s a fantasy.”

After Holland issues his end-of-the-season address, and as he makes a few sports talk radio appearances over the next week or two, here's how a non-lockout season's "offseason" tends to unfold:

  • Over the next two or three weeks, barring players heading to Belarus to take part in the World Championships (Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Jonas Gustavsson are good bets to take part), the team's trainers will deliver off-season prescriptions in terms of fitness training, and each and every player will engage in an "exit interview" with the coaching and managerial staff. The exit interviews allow the players to provide feedback as to what they feel the team needs to do to improve, and the coaching and managerial staff issue "prescriptions" of their own to the returning players and prospects. They also tend to get a feel as to whether potential unrestricted free agents wish to remain with the Red Wings, and they let said players know if the organization has interest in retaining their services.
  • Around or after the time that the exit interviews take place, the coaches, management and pro and amateur scouts have the first of two or three "powwows" to assess the shape of the roster to come, the progress made by the team's prospects (and which players will be either signed to their first pro deals or retained if coming off of entry-level deals), the team's draft targets and potential free agent and/or trade additions. The team tends to have a second meeting in early-to-mid June, formalizing its draft strategy, and then a third meeting prior to the start of unrestricted free agency.
  • With the World Under-18 championships wrapping up, the Wings' amateur scouts will return to North America and may make some final rounds as the QMJHL, OHL and WHL championships precede the Memorial Cup; they'll also watch the Griffins play. The pro scouts will continue to watch playoff series to both scout opponents, to scout potential free agent additions and, as Babcock would say, to engage in "Rob and Do" R&D, determining whether successful aspects of other teams' games can be folded into Detroit's games.
  • Holland, Ryan Martin, Kris Draper and the rest of the front office will also begin to touch base with player agents and other general managers, and the coaching staff will occasionally "put a good word in" as well. Specific players' names aren't mentioned, but it's not collusion if an agent tells a general manager that Player X may be interested in coming to a team for Y years at Z salary, and those kinds of agent-reaches-out-to-team conversations are already taking place with both active and eliminated teams (the latter segment can already make trades if they wish), so it's not uncommon. I will tell you that you would be astonished at the amount of "phone time" that the management has to put in to land a free agent or two, to retain their own players and to keep their fingers on the pulses of the league's real rumor mills.
  • The team then heads to the draft to make its picks on June 27th and 28th in Philadelphia...And as we've witnessed over the past calendar year, they now have to take into account any surprises thrown into the organization's free agency plans by cap-compliance buyouts (if teams have remaining cap compliance buy-outs at their disposal, they have to use them this spring), and the "wining and dining" period preceding the start of free agency on July 1st can help teams' causes (Daniel Alfredsson) and make life a little more difficult (Vincent Lecavalier).

This morning, Holland issued what I'd describe as two eyebrow-raising comment to MLive's Khan regarding the team's offseason to-do list.

First, he stated this to Khan about the team's playoff showing...

“We had higher hopes than going out in five games in the first round,” Holland said. “We had some real good things happen but we’re disappointed we didn’t finish higher in the standings and do better in the playoffs.

“We are trying to be a playoff team, trying to compete and advance in the playoffs and trying to be a Cup contender. We just played a team that lost three regulation games in the last 28 games and two were against the Red Wings. We played a juggernaut, experienced team.”

And then he made something of a card-showing remark:

The Red Wings’ biggest needs are a goal-scoring winger, preferably with decent size, and a top-four defenseman, preferably a right-handed shooter.

“We need more scoring, but lots of teams need that,” Holland said. “Lots of teams are looking for a right-handed shooting defenseman. If we can find a top-four right-handed shooting defenseman by trade or free agency, we’d certainly like to add one.”

There aren't many of those players out there: 27-year-old Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen and soon-to-be-38-year-old Dan Boyle highlight what is a pretty middling crop of unrestricted free agents-to-be, and just about every other defenseman comes with an asterisk or two attached, like Andrei Markov (bad knees), Kimmo Timonen (39 and slowing), Boston's Andrej Meszaros (a 35-point guy), Derek Morris (right-shooting but 35) and Tom Gilbert (puts up points for Edmonton, Minnesota and Florida, but at 31, is he truly a top-four guy?)...

So the Wings may end up having to swallow hard and trade for a left-shooting defenseman (Christian Ehrhoff? Alex Edler?) unless the cap-compliance buy-out market provides a few pleasant surprises.

Khan then provided a shopping list--according to Khan, the Wings may want to bring back both Daniel Alfredsson and Jonas Gustavsson--before letting Holland finish with this:

“I’m proud we made the playoffs for the 23rd straight year,” Holland said. “It’s hard to make the playoffs. Half the league doesn’t make it. I’m disappointed we’re out, but we got beat by a team that was better.”

Even if the salary cap rises to $69 million instead of $70 or $71 million, the Wings will still  have considerable space (Capgeek's organization chart is your new best friend) with which to make additions, but the team has several restricted free agents due stiff raises in Danny DeKeyser, Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan.

If you don't already know their names by now, Alfredsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary, Gustavsson, David Legwand, Kyle Quincey, and Mikael Samuelsson are the team's unrestricted free agents-to-be; the Wings still have Jordin Tootoo under contract for next season, though it may be a little easier to find a "taker" for his $1.9 million cap hit this summer...

And the Wings have to make some difficult decisions regarding their restricted free agent prospects, too. Cory Emmerton can join this summer's unrestricted free agent crop if the team chooses to not tender him a qualifying offer, and that's also true for Adam Almquist (who's out of waiver options next fall), Mitchell Callahan (ditto), Willie Coetzee, Landon Ferraro (double ditto), Gleason Fournier, Andrej Nestrasil, Max Nicastro and Trevor Parkes.

Tom McCollum's on an AHL-only contract, too, and the team needs to decide how Petr Mrazek's future fares into the team's plans to either have Jake Paterson turn pro or play one more overage season in the OHL.

If the Wings are looking for a right-shooting defenseman--and it's worth noting that Babcock did not mention Almquist as a player he views as "ready"--Almquist's undersized status is offset by a 49-assist season, so he might be "trade bait."

The Wings will probably allow Callahan and Ferraro to fight for jobs at training camp and during the exhibition season, and as RedWingsCentral noted, Nestrasil's play's brought him back into the team's plans, but I'm not optimistic about Fournier, Nicastro or Parkes' futures, and Willie Coetzee won't be waiver-exempt next season, but he's missed a year-and-a-half with knee issues, so the team may keep him to allow his play to do the talking, as it were.

In any and all instances, the Red Wings' players, coaches and management will be very busy over the next four months, and today's player, coach and general manager's comments simply set the stage for a summer in which the players will attempt to build the physical and mental foundations for healthier, more successful seasons, and the management will do its best to ensure that the returning players will return to Detroit with a stronger roster.

Again, I'm not a believer in the concept that the Wings need to get bigger and tougherr to hold a candle to the Beasts of the East: when the speedy Wings used their skating ability to roar through the neutral zone and establish and sustain a surprisingly physical forecheck, they left the Bruins flat-footed during their regular-season meetings as well as Game 1 and the first period of Game 4.

This isn't the kind of NHL where attempting to turn over a third to half of the roster, free agent-to-be for free agent signing, works very well as a long-term model: if the Wings are able to add another top-pair defenseman (I think the concept of adding both a top defenseman and a top-six, goal-scoring forward with size is a bit of a pipe dream), Babcock's list of NHL-ready defensemen bears fruit and the Wings' "Kid Line" and support players continue to make steps forward, the team will be able to kick its status as a one-or-two-playoff-round-and-done team to the curb in short order.

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NIVO's avatar

Outstanding write up George, filled in alot of blanks. I personally am not keen on the Wings going after anyone over 35 for D. I really dont think thats the direction they should take even if some of those fellas are the best available. I say keep with the youth movement and go for Niskanen. I dont know how much allegiance he holds to Pitt, but based on his performance so far, look for them to definitely resign the guy. At 27, I think he is gonna look for a long contract. He roams a bit and isnt a stay at home D man but Uncle Mike should get that sorted out I have no doubt. Everyone in the league will be after him so the bidding war will get out of most likely. As for a scoring winger there are a few options. I personally like Moulson albeit he isnt physical at all. A choice some here wont find popular is Dave Bolland. Capable of producing points and a proven effective veteran. I think he plays a mean D game and can be gritty. Might even be considered a Bertuzzi type player, but lots of gas in the tank still. Could be had for under $4 mil/yr in my estimation.

Posted by NIVO from underpants gnome village on 04/28/14 at 08:40 AM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Dave Bolland. Capable of producing points and a proven effective veteran. I think he plays a mean D game and can be gritty. Might even be considered a Bertuzzi type player, but lots of gas in the tank still.

unfortunately, he’s also proven to be a bit of an injury machine.

Posted by MoreShoot on 04/28/14 at 08:43 AM ET


Will Quincey be back?  Bertuzzi certainly a goner?

Posted by Acim on 04/28/14 at 09:14 AM ET

RW19's avatar

The free agency market for defensemen really doesn’t have any appeal and in any case some of these guys will command ridiculous salaries and I cannot see any of those guys deserving more that Kronwall and close to Datsyuk/Zetterberg money.

The Wings weren’t willing to give a guy like James Wisniewski the $5.5 mil he was asking for two years ago and Niskanen, the best UFA will be looking at that kind of money. That would make him the 3rd highest paid guy on the team.

Based on the excess of forwards and now the excess of young defensemen, I hope they shop around.

I also hope that they stay away from the decrepit Alexander Edler. The guys ragging on Mule and Kindl will have massive strokes if ever that guy dons the Winged Wheel. Has to be the least “involved” player I have ever seen (we get to see the Canucks plenty up here in Ottawa).

No if you are looking for a Vancouver defenseman, target Kevin Bieksa. Right handed, plays like Stuart did, tough & mean, good skater all heart. He’ll be 33 in June - perfect age for a Red Wings defenseman! Cap hit is just $4,600,000.00 and signed for two more years. Perfect partner for Kronwall ...

Those are the kind of players missing here right now. Guys with ‘bite’ when they play. They need to find some guys with that Chelios-Konstantinov-Lapointe-Dalla Drake mentality.
Those are

Posted by RW19 on 04/28/14 at 09:20 AM ET


Of all the FAs, I wouldn’t mind Gustavsson coming back for a year or two if a decent deal can be worked out, because what is the point of having Mrazek simply be a backup, and I wouldn’t mind Alfredsson back IF he comes back on the cheap, but even then I would prefer they go younger.

Quincey has played well of late, but re-signing someone who was garbage for the better part of two years just because he got his shit together when he realized that he had no value on the open market would be a terrible, terrible idea.

Everyone else can go bye-bye.

Posted by Garth on 04/28/14 at 09:34 AM ET


We all watched Quincey suck for 90% of the season. The last few decent games shouldn’t matter. Don’t bring him back. In a perfect world they could trade Mule for a decent Dman. I’m really tired of putting up with his 10-20 good games and then invisible during an 82 game schedule.

Posted by Acim on 04/28/14 at 10:10 AM ET


I don’t want Detroit to add anyone older than Zetterberg at any position (unless it’s backup G, if we really intend to give Mrazek another year in GR.)

That said, if we’re adding TWO defensemen from outside the organization I could live with Boyle or even Markov.  I.e., an old guy AND Niskanen or Stralman would be ok.  That can really only happy if we let Quincey walk and move Kindl and/or Lashoff, but frankly I’d be happy to bid all three adieu.

I assume one of the kid defensemen will make the team, and I hope it’s Marchenko.  Given Sproul and Ouellet another year together to develop and give us a steady, stay-at-home, right-handed defenseman for the third pairing.

Posted by captaineclectic on 04/28/14 at 10:47 AM ET

Leo_Racicot's avatar

“We need more scoring, but lots of teams need that,” Holland said. “Lots of teams are looking for a right-handed shooting defenseman. If we can find a top-four right-handed shooting defenseman by trade or free agency, we’d certainly like to add one.”
April 28, 2014

“They have plenty of salary cap space. They have 16 players signed for about $42 million, not factoring in the $6.2 million it likely would take to re-sign Lidstrom. One league official believes the cap could increase from $59.4 million to as much as $64 million.

There is no apparent reason why the Red Wings wouldn’t want Wisniewski or that he wouldn’t come to Detroit, unless another team offers substantially more.

What will it take to sign him? Perhaps a four- or five-year deal in the range of $4.5 million a season
June 14, 2011 - James Wisniewski the best option for Red Wings in replacing defenseman Brian Rafalski

“For me, knowing Detroit’s history they don’t really pay the market value for a defenseman or any player,’’ Wisniewski said on NHL Live. “So I didn’t think that was going to be a fit for myself.
July 01, 2011 - Red Wings don’t get into bidding wars for free agents, but still need defenseman, backup goalie

Signing Ian White to a relatively modest deal, compared to what other free-agent defensemen were commanding, is proving to be the right move for the Detroit Red Wings
October 16, 2011 - Defenseman Ian White fits in nicely as Red Wings’ replacement for retired Brian Rafalski

When Ryan Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild it left Matt Carle as the best free agent defenseman remaining on the market.

As of Wednesday evening, he’s no longer on the market.
July 4, 2012 - Matt Carle signs six-year contract with Tampa Bay Lightning


Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/28/14 at 11:08 AM ET


Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/28/14 at 11:08 AM ET

Yes, you’ve identified the relevant trend.  We’re in our present situation on defense because a) Kindl, a first-round pick, has not really panned out, and b) we’ve swung and missed on our top choices at defense several seasons running.  Had it not been for the incredible band-aid provided by DeKeyser we’d be in real trouble.

Posted by captaineclectic on 04/28/14 at 11:11 AM ET


Unless we go after a legit top teir FA, I am fine this offseason filling in every hole on the roster with someone from GR. Not bringing in an older vet to fill a need like we have in the recent past.

We do not need to sign a 3rd or 4th line foward. Let the kids fight for that spot (if it is even open)

We do not need a sign a 3 pair D man. Let the kids fight for that spot.

If someone cuts or is looking to trade a major impact player then sure go after him but so many of our recent waived and “healthy scratches” have been those mid level FAs.

Posted by lancer on 04/28/14 at 11:13 AM ET


Posted by Leo_Racicot on 04/28/14 at 11:08 AM ET

A bunch of random links with no context?


Posted by Garth on 04/28/14 at 11:16 AM ET


We do not need to sign a 3rd or 4th line foward. Let the kids fight for that spot (if it is even open)

We do not need a sign a 3 pair D man. Let the kids fight for that spot.

I completely agree, but I’d be happy with a “top four” defenseman, or a “top six” winger with size, provided he goes to the crease.  And provided that these guys are 33 or younger.  There’s no reason to use cap space on mere depth—it has to improve the talent mix.


Posted by captaineclectic on 04/28/14 at 11:17 AM ET

Nathan's avatar

The Wings don’t need to get bigger, they need to get better.

They need a big upgrade in the top 4 D, that is the biggest thing. Righty or lefty, I really don’t care—good players can play, period, they will make it work if a good player becomes available. Just to throw a name at the wall, how much better does this D look:

Kronwall - Smith
Edler - DeKeyser
Ericsson - Kindl

Not necessarily those pairings, but you get the idea. For Smith’s growing pains, I just can’t see him going anywhere or being given up on. He looks very much like Kronwall did at the same point in Kronwall’s development. Kronwall “lucked” into the lockout that gave him that bonus development year of better-than-normal AHL hockey. Kindl regressed this year a bit, which was very disappointing. But they are committed to him financially, so far as I’m concerned, they need to make it work. If that means Ericsson plays 20+ minutes per night rotating into the top 4 and a slump from Kindl or Smith relegates them to stretches of 15 or less minute nights, it is what it is. This is what it is like to have an NHL defense that doesn’t have Nick Lidstrom on it.

Up front, sure, a strong winger is always a great thing, but are the Wings really wanting for scoring if they are healthy? There’s only so much cap space and with all the youth they have they will have to push someone out the door if they want to add a veteran winger. Not necessarily the wrong thing to do if the right player pops up, but I’m hesitant. This is a far second place to the need for a top four D.

Posted by Nathan from the scoresheet! on 04/28/14 at 11:27 AM ET


Up front, sure, a strong winger is always a great thing, but are the Wings really wanting for scoring if they are healthy?

It’s not scoring per se, but scoring and size.  Babcock likes having a “big body” on each line to complement our smaller skill guys.  With Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Nyquist, Tatar, Weiss (remember Weiss?) and maybe even Alfie coming back, that’s a lot of smaller skill, and Franzen can only play on one line, and lacks consistency.  Sheahan and Jurco are bigger but haven’t developed the kind of games (yet) to provide space in games against really good teams, or to score consistently—as we saw.  Mantha probably falls into that category too.  This is basically why Abdelkader keeps playing in the top six.

Furthermore, none of those guys have shown they can consistently play the Holmstrom role on the power play—Franzen’s not good at it, Jurco hasn’t really been tried, Abdelkader can’t do it.  Sheahan has shown promise, which is encouraging, but with the presumed departure of Bertuzzi we’re really losing our best net-front guy.

There’s limited options on this score, and signing a guy like Gaborik or Gionta would be totally useless.

Posted by captaineclectic on 04/28/14 at 11:39 AM ET


I think the D corps needs serious assessment and plans not just for next year but for the next five years need to be laid out. I just don’t see how Almquist, Ouellette, Sproul and Marchenko can all fit on this team with Ericsson, Smith, DK and Kronwall all on roster for next 5 years. On top of adding Erhoff and/or Edler or Niskanen. This means some of those prospects can be traded for that elusive scoring winger we so desperately need on our top line. It might suck to say, but they might let Almquist walk. If not. He is bottom pair because of his passing and right hand shot.
I would suggest keeping Smith with Kronwall also, he simply plays better with him.
I would try this:
Kronwall Smith
Erhoff DK
Ericsson Marchenko.

Kronwall Erhoff
Ericcson DK
Marchenko Smith

That leaves Ouellette and Sproul, Jensen in GR.
Almquist singed and traded or let walk.
Kindl and Lash traded for Erhoff (along with Andy, or Abe’s or Miller)(whatever it takes)
I just don’t see them keeping possibly 5 NHL ready D men in GR for two years.
If no room on team, utilize them by trading to improve.

Posted by Munnster9 on 04/28/14 at 01:27 PM ET


I see no point in the Wings keeping either Kindl or Lashoff, given the issues we have seen with them in the past month or so. I thought both of them would have been better this year after doing a pretty dent job last season….instead, they regressed.

I have nothing against either player but, in my opinion, Kindl will never achieve his potential under Babcock and it’s time to move him along. Lashoff could but a seventh guy but not a regular, as he is way too slow.

Bringing up Sproul, Marchenko, and Ouellet next season would be risky in the sense that all three are not experienced at the most difficult position in hockey, except goaltending. However, they are very close and should get considerable playing time next season. Keeping Quincey and interspersing those three might be a good way to go, as I don’t hold out much hope for getting a D man via free agency. That would still give us 5 guys from the current roster, even if Kindl and Lashoff go elsewhere.

Posted by NewfieWing on 04/28/14 at 02:01 PM ET

Jaromir Blogger's avatar

Why do I have this nagging feeling that the Wings are going to be experiencing logjams at every basic position grouping (F, D, G) for years to come? Munnster9 is right to point this out with the d-men. The Wings almost HAVE to start making trades. This is part of why I think it makes sense to try to move Franzen. With all the guys knocking on the NHL door, they are going to start running out of room, and if his play declines as he gets older (which is very likely), they are going to regret having him around and he’s going to be the next Cleary -  a veteran taking up a roster spot because he’s under contract.

Wings should let Quincey walk for this reason, too. Besides, he could probably get a nice multi-year deal for good money from some other club this offseason, especially with this weak UFA crop. This is also why I don’t think Gustavsson should be brought back, as admirably as he performed. He could almost certainly get a multi-year deal worth more money to push a starter somewhere else. Let Mrazek take the next step. The youth movement not only makes sense for the Wings, but it may actually be the smartest decision in the long-run.

Generally, desirable UFAs are going to demand term. There probably isn’t anyone out there the Wings realistically should be giving a long contract to. The Wings have plenty of expendable, desirable assets. I firmly believe they should work the trade market, lest they find themselves in more and more logjam situations in the future.

Posted by Jaromir Blogger on 04/28/14 at 03:39 PM ET


Wings should let Quincey walk for this reason, too.

I would say that the reason they should let Quincey walk is that he was garbarge for the better part of two seasons and only got his ass in gear when he realized he was playing for his next contract.  I figure if Detroit re-signs him he’ll do exactly the same thing.

Posted by Garth on 04/29/14 at 09:29 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.