Blog Archives

Damien Brunner: So hot right now.

The Great One once said “You miss 100% of the shots you never take,” and newcomer Damien Brunner sure seems to take that to heart. Two of Brunner’s greatest assets are that he isn’t scared to shoot the puck and he keeps trying until the very end (and it doesn’t hurt to have an amazing set of hands to go along with his persistance).

He had 2 goals and 2 assists in Sunday evening’s spanking of the Vancouver Canucks. He also has a team-leading 66 shots on goal this season, a 15.2 shooting percentage, and leads the team with 10 goals.

Here are a couple clips that demonstrate his awesomeness:

This Datsyuk-esque airhook goal is jaw dropping:

Now watch him dangle…

His chemistry with Zetterberg is incredible (he has assisted 7 of Brunner’s 10 goals), and their bromance is adorable. The captain always looks so proud of his rookie.

I can assure you that there’s much more to come. And for those of you who think Ken Holland would ever let this gem go…tsk tsk.

stats from redwings.nhl.com

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Detroit Red Wings Sign Niklas Kronwall to 7-year contract

Big news today from the Red Wings front office, as GM Ken Holland has inked defenseman Niklas Kronwall to a 7-year extension. The deal will keep arguably the Red Wings’ best blue liner in a Red Wings jersey until 2019. Kronwall, along with fellow Swedes Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg, signed until 2020 and 2021 respectively, will be the core of this Red Wings team for the remainder of the decade.

The move was an essential one for the team, as the 30 year old was playing in the final year of his current deal. The hard hitting Kronwall has chipped in two points this season. The contract averages out to about $4.75 million a year, and full details of the deal can be found at the link below.

Detroit Red Wings sign Niklas Kronwall to 7-year contract – ESPN.

Red Lines

You know the drill by now….

 

Fresh Faces: Fabian Brunnstrom

This edition of Fresh Faces will focus on Fabian Brunnstrom, a 26-year-old Swede (yes, another one) who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Red Wings on October 3rd.  The Wings signed Brunnstrom to a pro tryout contract in mid-August, giving him an opportunity to prove his worth.  The determination and impressive skill set he demonstrated during the preseason earned him a well-deserved spot on the Wings’ roster.

Brunnstrom celebrating his goal on Chicago's Corey Crawford with teammate Gustav Nyquist

Brunnstrom began playing professionally in 2005 with Jonstorps IF in Sweden’s third-highest level hockey league. He scored 44 points in the 38 games he played in during the 2005-2006 season. The following season (2006-07), Brunnstrom played for Boras HC and helped promote the team to the second-tier Swedish league, Allsvenskan. That season Brunnstrom lead the league with an astonishing 73 points in just 41 games. In 2007-08, Brunnstrom played in Sweden’s first-tier league, Elitserien, with Farjestads BK.

Although his elite performance in Sweden attracted interest from the NHL, he went undrafted in 2008 and became an unrestricted free agent. In May 2008, Fabian Brunnstrom signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Dallas Stars. After being a healthy scratch for his first two games as a Star, Brunnstrom became the third player in history to score a hat trick during his first game in the NHL.

In October 2010, Brunnstrom was placed on waivers. He was assigned to the Texas Stars, the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate team, after he cleared waivers a few days later. In January 2011, Brunnstrom was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs and played for their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.

Many believe that Brunnstrom is a so-called “late bloomer” and that his performance level may actually be higher now in his return to the NHL, having two years of experience in the AHL.  After scoring two goals in the exhibition game against Chicago, Brunnstrom has led us to believe that this may in fact be true.  I trust Ken Holland with all of my being and agree that between his size and goal scoring ability, signing Fabian Brunnstrom will be quite advantageous for the Wings.

Fresh Faces: Mike Commodore

Today’s edition will focus on another free agent defensemen who signed this summer, Mike Commodore. The 31 year old Alberta native is looking to resurrect his NHL career by joining one of the deepest and most talented defensive units in the league. While much remains to be settled in the preseason, Commodore is projected to compete with the young and talented Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith for the sixth and final spot in the defensive rotation. His signing, a one year, $1 million contract, provides the team with some added depth and playoff experience on the back end, while still leaving salary cap cushion for a late season move if necessary.

After being drafted by the New Jersey Devils (42nd overall, 1999), Commodore spent time between the American and National Hockey Leagues with a few organizations. Despite playing effectively in 20 playoff games for Calgary in their 2004 playoff run, Commodore was dealt to the Carolina Hurricanes before the 2005-06 season.  Commodore had arguably his best season, playing in 72 games with a +12 and leading the team in penalty minutes.  Commodore was again steady in a long playoff run, and became a fan favorite on the way to the Carolina’s first Stanley Cup.

Mike Commodore is an easy player to spot

In 2008, Commodore was traded again, this time to the Ottawa Senators in a deal that involved future Red Wings forward Patrick Eaves.  Following that season, he signed with Columbus, and was a big part in helping the team reach their first playoff series (a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Red Wings).

Following two years of injuries and setbacks, Commodore was optioned back to the AHL last season. He’s hoping to again assume an everyday role with a NHL club. Given the injuries that have plagued the Red Wings defensemen over the past two seasons, the deal makes a lot of sense.

One interesting storyline associated with this signing was Commodore’s bad history with Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. When Commodore was a young prospect in Anaheim, Coach Babcock had issues with his conditioning. Commodore was never given a shot to play for the Mighty Ducks, and spoke very candidly about his displeasure for his former coach in an interview two years ago. While both parties have dismissed the incident, it will be interesting to see how the outspoken defensemen will react if he does not find himself consistently in the lineup.

Commodore, who boasts 645 career penalty minutes in 454 NHL games, should add a physical element to the Wings defense.  He is not afraid to drop the gloves, standing at 6’4″ and 230lbs and seems to fit Ken Holland’s vision of creating a physical defensive unit for opposing forwards.  Despite weeks of internet speculation on the possibility of Commodore wearing the number 64, a reference that makes video game fanatics nation wide type “lolz”, the defensemen will skate with the #22 jersey this season.

We’ll be back soon with another edition of Fresh Faces! Check out our past article on newcomer Ian White.

Wings Defense Evolving Into A Physical Unit

The change has been evident over the past half decade or so in Hockeytown. A franchise that once favored speed at the blue line has evolved into a physical unit.

In my opinion, the transition began in 2007-08. The Wings opened the season with a formidable blue line including aging Chris Chelios (a young 45 years of age that season), Nick Lidstrom, Brett Lebda, Andreas Lilja, Nicklas Kronwall and Brian Rafalski. While possibly the best passing and puck possessing defensive unit in the league, opposing forwards did not have much to worry about when entering the attacking zone. Outside of the young Kronwall – who was playing in just his 2nd full NHL season – this group was more likely to use their stick than their body to thwart oncoming attackers.

Ken Holland then made the move that I believe resulted in the Wings next Stanley Cup. Giving up only two draft picks (neither of whom would ever play for the Kings) the Red Wings acquired hard hitting Brad Stuart from Los Angeles in late Feburary.  He made sure opponents knew from Day 1 that things had changed in Motown.

Paired with Kronwall, the two formed a physical presence that manhandled opposing forwards throughout the playoffs.  Stuart took Pens forward Sidney Crosby off the ice with a devastating blow in the decisive Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Today’s group of defenseman features more than just a pair of hard hitters. Recently acquired Ian White & Mike Commodore have replaced the likes of Rafalski and Ruslan Salei (who tragically passed in a plane crash in Russia last week). Both should compliment the physical style of Stuart and Kronwall.

Add captain Lidstrom, fellow Swede Jonathan Ericsson, and young talent Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith, and the Wings have a diverse, deep, and well rounded unit heading into this season.

Fresh Faces: Ian White

We’ll take a one-by-one look at some of the new additions in the locker room this season. Both free agents and young prospects with a chance of making the team will be profiled.

Our first edition will look at the biggest free agent signed by the Wings this offseason, Ian White of Steinbach, Manitoba. White has drawn some obvious comparisons to recently retired Brian Rafalski. The two do have a lot in common. Both undersized, generously listed at 5’10”. Both players overcoming adversity to make the league (White drafted 191st overall in 2002, Rafalski undrafted played four seasons in Europe before getting his shot in New Jersey.)

But the similarities end there. While White did get a shot on the power play last season in San Jose following an upper body injury to defensemen Dan Boyle, he lacks the vision and touch Rafalski perfected in his years quarterbacking the Devils and Red Wings man advantage. Rafalski preferred to use his stick and position to regain possession, where White looks to separate forward and puck with his body, which at times leads to odd man rushes.

But White will bring the Red Wings blue line some added grit. Although undersized, White will be an unwelcome site for forwards interested in screening Jimmy Howard. He plays with an edge, and can usually do so without taking an unnecessary penalty. He is only 27 years old, and many believe his best hockey is still ahead of him.

Ian White Brings Grit To Red Wings Blue LIne

White played with the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes and San Jose Sharks last season. He was San Jose’s best defenseman in Game 2 of last years Conference Semifinal victory over the Red Wings.  Before that, he spent multiple seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He had his best year in 2009-10, splitting time between Toronto and Calgary, as he recorded 13 goals and 25 assists.

There is a good deal of optimism surrounding White’s signing. “We’ve seen him a lot in the San Jose series,” general manager Ken Holland said. “He can play on the power play, he’s a competitor. He’s a guy that thinks the game. He’s got the skills.”

We’ll back back with the next Fresh Face this week, stay tuned!