Detroit Red Wings making scouting changes

Embed from Getty Images When the Detroit Red Wings introduced Steve Yzerman as team general manager back in April, Yzerman spoke at length about how he trusts his scouts. While the Wings legend does his own scouting, he values his scouts and counts on them heavily for input.

Steve Yzerman made the choice to  release amateur scouting director Tyler Wright and chief amateur scout Jeff Finley. “Our contracts were not renewed,” said Finley, who scouted for 10 years with the Wings. “Steve (Yzerman) said basically they had different plans. It’s the nature of the business, putting your own people in place. We’ve had a few high draft picks lately in Detroit and we feel we’ve made good picks.”

Finley said Wright and former Detroit pro scout Archie Henderson were hired last Thursday by former Wings GM Ken Holland in Edmonton. Detroit assistant GM Chris Draper  is among the candidates to replace Tyler Wright as the team’s director of amateur scouting.

What is the underling factor in the scouting department shakeup is, the fact Yzerman is used to working with his people he has a history with so he began the process of bringing in his people. The same people whom he trusted in Tampa Bay. Tampa Bay was a top five team during Yzerman’s time as Lightning GM.

Pat Verbeek, Yzerman’s main and most trusted confidant’s while with the Lightning was the first brought in to Detroit. Yzerman also hired his brother, Chris, and booted Glenn Merkosky, who’d been scouting for the Wings since 1999.

Steve Yzerman hinted more changes are coming. But this is a big first move. One that should bay high dividends for the Red Wings moving forward. While the former Red Wings scouts did have some solid draft picks, it became clear during this past NHL amateur draft Yzerman drafted 3 defensive players with Detroit’s first four draft picks. A clear sign Yzerman was not all that thrilled the organization is forward heavy.

Perhaps, this was Yzerman’s plan all along. But he did allow the released scouts the chance to work and attend the draft. What happened at the draft is anyone’s guess.

Is this the season Jim Harbaugh leads the Michigan Wolverines to the Big Ten title?

Embed from Getty Images Picking a preseason champion in July is either daring or dumb, I freely admit that. Most seasons in July team to beat was Ohio State. Under Jim Harbaugh Michigan was never the logical pick to win the Big Ten title. Until this season. I believe this is the season Michigan gets over-the-hump and beats Ohio State.

The college football landscape changes often. Making a prediction on what a college football team has  done over the past five to 10 years is not wise. What a team has right now is all that matters.

Heading into the 2019-20 college football season,  Michigan has fewer question marks in key areas than the rest of the Big Ten teams. The Wolverines have a senior quarterback, Shea Patterson, who helped them go 10-3 a year ago they also have a trio of the best wide receivers in the country. Two of the wide outs have NFL written all over them, Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins.

A painful fact from last season, Michigan was one of the slowest moving non option teams nationally and it showed in the Wolverines three losses. The defense was cripples by and offense that did all it could to play possession football.

Enter new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis who will be the lone offensive play caller. Jim Harbaugh will not step in. Now in Ann Arbor is a no huddle, spread based offense. Yet it will be set up by the run.

Michigan’s defense will not be as good as it was last season or the year before. Michigan does have eight players who have starting experience.  Serious question abound on the secondary and middle linebacker.

The schedule isn’t easy, but Michigan gets both conference rivalry games at home. Army and Notre Dame will be serious challenging non-conference teams but the results do not count in the Big Ten standings.

So here in July, Harbaugh’s football team has what it needs to win the Big Ten this year. They look like they are in a good position to win the elusive Big Ten title. But, a word of caution, looks can be deceiving.

 

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski looks to improve and stick in Detroit

Embed from Getty Images Last season nothing came easy for Detroit Red Wings rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski. After a solid start to the 2018-19 NHL season, Cholowski’s play had slipped a lot. Hot on his tail was another Red Wings rookie defender,  Filip Hronek who overcame his own shortcomings and earned more playing time. Dennis Cholowski found himself demoted to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Detroit Red Wings 2016 first-round draft pick, Cholowski, is viewed as a player who if he can stay mentally strong has another chance to make the Detroit roster out of training camp. That will be a tough road given the veteran depth at the defensive position.

Dennis Cholowski must show up and compete hard to avoid being  disappointed again. Dennis said he has spoke with Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman about his expectations for the young defensive player.

“It’s really just being more responsible, having the coach’s trust to be able to put me out and know that I’m not going to get scored on, that I can box guys out, that I can kill plays in the D-zone,” Dennis Cholowski told reporters. “If I can come in and do that, and then let my offensive side take over, I think I’ll be OK.”

Steve Yzerman has said he wants to see players earn their spots and that “the most competitive kids are going to make our team better.” Last season Cholowski’s mistakes outweighed his solid contributions to the team. At Christmas, Cholowski had 14 points in 36 games and was a team worst minus 11. From Christmas until Feb. 10, Cholowski had one goal and one assist in 16 games, and was  a team worst minus 9, a strong sign his defensive play was not where it should be.

Being mentally strong, being smart with the puck, being smarter with passes, will help Cholowski’s game improve. Consistent playing time will earn trust with coach’s and the general manager.

Lessons learned from the Detroit Lions Legend camp

Featured photo by Erin Wallace

Sports are the bond that ties. For athletes no matter what sport they play. When they are drafted by a team it is so much more than just practice and games. It is the relationships that are formed and forged in the battles of training camp and the tough to swallow losses of a playoff game.

Hall of Fame Detroit Tigers short stop Alan Trammell said “You can take my World Series ring, the World Series Trophy, take my M.V.P. award and the Hall of Fame. But you can not have the relationships I have built playing with my teammates.”

As former Detroit Lions players rolled up to check in at the Detroit Lions Legends football camp, it was clear very early on, time has past but friendships remain. Strong. Big men embracing in a hug, there was no handshake, that would not be enough for these players to show the gratitude they have for one another.

In an instant, they were talking to each other  like they had just eaten breakfast together. The stories began to ooze out of them. The glory days, from playing at the Pontiac Silverdome.

So what did I learn? That is a loaded question. Lomas brown told me Barry Sanders was “One of the best teammates I’ve ever had. We knew Barry was good, Barry knew he was good. But he practiced like a rookie trying to make the team everyday. He did not like it when players dogged it.”

I learned that an offensive lineman (Scott Conover) and a linebacker (George Jamison) are so tight even though they were on different units they can finish each others sentences and thoughts. I also learned they enjoy feeding off of each other and sometimes at the expense of others, just for a laugh. Even if they are the only ones laughing.

I learned that thanks to Jeff Chadwick, playing wide receiver is a whole heck of a lot more than lining up and running a pass route. It is part knowing when to come out of your break, part hand eye coordination, part speed all rolled together at blazing speed, with seemingly no time to think.

Former Detroit Lions defensive assistant Don Clemons told a story of former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman. He said he and his wife, Chris and his wife and then Detroit left guard Eric Andolsek and his wife use to play board games at Clemons house. “I remember one time, it was late we were having  two-a-days (practices) everyone was beat. We finished the game in a three way tie,” Clemons started to smile and laugh. “Spielman stood up and said “CLEM!!!! no one is getting up from this table until someone wins. There are no ties!” Clemons was now in full-belly laughter.

I was blessed to attend and to be going back next year. I am blessed to call these former Detroit Lions players and the great Don Clemons, friends.

Detroit Lions Legends football camp review

Featured photo by Erin Wallace

Jeff Chadwick, Lomas Brown, Luther Bradley, Scott Conover, Eric Hipple, Cory Schlesinger, George Jamison and Don Clemons. These are the former players and coach that made up the first Lions Legend Camp held in Clare Michigan. The camp was a huge success.

In the calm before the storm I was able to ask Jeff Chadwick a few questions about what has been the driving force behind starting a football camp with former NFL players teaching and encouraging middle and high school athletes. “I want to get kids off the devices,” Chadwick stated. “Teach kids hand eye coordination and help them understand training and just what it takes to play football.”

Photo by Erin Wallace

In today’s tech savvy world video games and smart phones rule many teenagers lives. While those games have a time and place. To be active and in structured sports helps bring kids the knowledge for how to get along with others and work together, not to mention how to be a good teammate and even a leader.

As they arrived the student athletes hands were marked with what position they play or are going to try out for. In my opinion what made the camp excel is that after being grouped by position the players rotated around and tried other positions. That can only help to bring a full understanding of what it means to be a team.

Former Detroit Lions players instructed the players as a group and also worked one on one with them. The student athletes ate up everything the players were telling them. As they should. It is not easy to get to the NFL. All the information handed out is a great benefit and you could see the players confidence grow as they applied what they were told.

On a side note, for former players who always seem to be busy to take time out of their schedules and away from family and pass on what made them successful was endearing.

The first Detroit Lions Legends football camp was a smashing success. It is a camp that will continue to grow. Jeff Chadwick and his outstanding support team should be proud. Just like training for a football season, the work Jeff and his team put in paid off.

Parents and coaches in and around Michigan should look into this camp for their children, players and teams.

Former Detroit Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown belongs in the Hall of Fame

Embed from Getty Images Much like former Detroit Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker, I am setting fandom aside. I am going to present just facts about one of my all-time favorite Detroit Lions. Lomas Brown. Lomas should be in the Hall of Fame, it is a shame he is not.

7 Pro Bowl appearances playing in 263 NFL games, starting 262 of those games, First team All Pro in 1995, second team All Pro in 1991 and 1994. Pro Bowl selection in 1990 ,1991, 1992, 1993 ,1994, 1995. Lomas Brown was also drafted in the first round (5th overall) by the Detroit Lions in 1985.

Widely thought to be the best offensive tackle in Detroit Lions history, Lomas Brown was one of the most consistent offensive tackles of his playing days. He blocked for Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders and was the backbone of the Lions offensive line.

If it is an oversight, it needs corrected. If it is a mistake, it needs corrected. No matter how it is viewed, it is flat out wrong. Lomas Brown belongs in the Hall of Fame. While it is true Barry Sanders did not rely solely on his lineman, Sanders has been quick to say he always looked for #75 because if he got in trouble, he knew Lomas would throw a block and set him free.

The fact the Detroit Lions made the playoffs just 4 times during his playing days wears thin as well. A good player is a good player. That does not change because of a teams success.

After football Lomas Brown worked at ESPN for eight years doing analyst and broadcasting work. In 2018 after ESPN made sweeping changes because the network was losing money, Brown was let go. He was named color analyst for the Detroit Lions radio broadcasts on WJR Detroit.

Lomas Brown embraces Detroit and the Lions years after he retired. The Miami Florida native said ‘We never got to the Super Bowl with the Lions, But we still bleed Honolulu Blue and Silver.”

Much like Lou Whitaker, there are things sports and Hall of Fames get right. But there are times they flat out miss the mark. Lomas Brown needs to be in. It is that simple. I do believe the veterans will vote him in. But it should have never come to this.

 

The Detroit Tigers developmental staff turned up a gem in Matt Manning

Embed from Getty Images In 2016 the Detroit Tigers took a big risk when they drafted pitcher Matt Manning. Manning was a basketball player and had other dreams. Yet the Tigers scouts saw something even though Manning had next to no clue what to do on the pitching mound.

His first season of organized baseball found Matt Manning struggling with control. When he found control opposing batters would hit the pitch offerings, hard. Manning freely admits “it was tough when I was younger.”

Time has moved on since that rough beginning. Manning is now a top two prospects for the Detroit Tigers. For the second season in a row Manning was invited to pitch in the Futures Game. A game that features the absolute best prospects in baseball.

Matt Manning now boasts a vastly improved control, a filthy change-up and has changed his mental approach. Also in the Tigers favor, Matt Manning is just 21 years old. He is the youngest member on Double-A Erie’s roster.

Manning’s progress is very encouraging for the Tigers developmental staff as a whole. Matt Manning is perhaps the most important piece of the Detroit rebuild. The team can literally flip a coin between Manning and Detroit Tigers top prospect Casey Mize as to who will be the staff ace after the rebuild in complete.

Armed with a plus fastball that touches 98 MPH, Manning started as a lump of clay for all intent and purpose. A basketball player that was turned into a pitcher. Only Hollywood could write such a story.

Now in only a couple short seasons, Manning has full arsenal. Knowing when to throw what pitch, holding runners on base. Manning has wowed his teammates at times. Top Tigers prospect Alex Faedo recalls a backdoor changeup that caught a batter looking. “I was like dang, I didn’t realize he had that pitch.”

Matt Manning has seen his confidence grow this season with every outing. In 16 starts with the Seawolves, Manning has a 2.77 ERA to go along with a Double A leading 106 strikeouts in 91 innings of work.

It should not be much longer before Matt Manning makes his way to Triple A Toledo. For as frustrating as the Detroit Tigers rebuild has been. Matt Manning shows why the future is bright.

 

The Detroit Tigers sign general manager Al Avila to an extension

Embed from Getty Images In perhaps the bottoming out season of a rebuild, and in a season in which wins have been mission impossible, the Detroit Tigers gave a new contract to general manager Al Avila. Needless to say reaction has been mixed around the Motor City.

Deep into a rebuilding hole in which there is no turning around, Al Avila signed a new deal. The deal is one that team president and CEO Christopher Ilitch had presented to him this spring.

Al Avila is currently in his fourth season as the main architect of Tigers baseball. When he took over in August of 2016, the Tigers were an old ball team with a very bad minor league farm system. The rebuild was well overdue.

Through trades and good drafting the Detroit Tigers now have a top 10 minor league, and in a relatively short amount of time. That is the good news. Avila has made some questionable choices in free agency. Some have hurt the team by being unable to flip those free agents for prospects because of poor performances.

“We are right in the middle of it,” Avila said of the Detroit rebuild. “It’s a tough time. You start it, you start moving along, there’s a fast pace to it and at the end, when really, quite frankly, you start seeing it come together and then you can see the light.”

The stockpile of prospects alone does not guarantee success. Yet, teams that are winning now after a prolonged rebuild understand the value of collecting young talent. If a team collects enough good talent, the odds are good they will find a few players to build around.

The real reason Christopher Ilitch gave an extension to the Tigers general manager is it would be pointless to switch in the middle of a rebuild. Avila should be able to see it through. Now he gets his chance.

Unhappy fans need to understand the Detroit Tigers underwent into a full-scale rebuild. This is what it looks like. Fans also need to understand the Tigers have amassed some very good prospects under Avila’s watch. Other top baseball executives have commented on what the Tigers have in their minor leagues. Some have even asked for a trade or two.

There has been enough progress made that it warranted the extension. Now armed with three players (Shane Greene, Matthew Boyd and Nicholas Castellanos) being made available for the trade deadline. Al Avila and the Detroit Tigers could get a very nice haul of prospects.

The Detroit Pistons summer league is ramping up

Embed from Getty Images It starts soon in Las Vegas. A collection of young NBA players looking for development time and to sharpen they’re game. For the Detroit Pistons fresh off a first round series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pistons are looking for young talent to begin showing signs of taking the next step.

Svi Mykhailiuk who had a great showing at the summer league last season will be looking for a repeat performance. 2019 Pistons first round draft pick Sekou Doumbouya who just signed a contract on July 4 is one of the players Detroit Pistons coaches and front office will be watching closely.

At 6′ 9″ can dunk with ease. The Pistons need to find out how he handles getting acclimated from basketball in Guinea to hoops in the U.S. His mix of size and athleticism with a sweet shot may make it hard for Detroit to keep him on the bench. They will find out more very soon.

Khyri Thomas joins Svi Mykhailiuk , in needing to prove to the Pistons they are indeed a part of the teams future. Point guard Bruce Brown will be one of the players Detroit counts on next season. Brown is working on cleaning up his shot selection and shooting this summer.

This is an important time for players just draft as well as players on the roster bubble for any team. For the Detroit Pistons who are looking to take the next step, this summer is critical to find out what young players can be counted on.

After the 2019-20 NBA season the Pistons have a lot of contracts coming off the books. Which means they can and most likely will dip into the free agent pool. That means it will become more difficult for players to make the final roster. Competition is a great tool. The Detroit Pistons are in good position to begin to join the NBA elite very soon.

Star Wars: what is going on with the Death Star in “The Rise of Skywalker?”

Embed from Getty Images Could it be Yavin 4? Could it be Endor? That is what fans first thought was when “The Rise of Skywalker” teaser trailer was  finally released. There is a clear shot of Rey looking out at a chunk of what is could be the second Death Star from 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.”

In a new book from famed Star Wars author Timothy Zahn, “Thrawn: Treason, the book may and I stress may offer some clues. An excerpt from the new new book has been released and Star Wars fans now know, Palpatine, Thrawn, Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin were together. Palpatine put Thrawn in charge of a massive project.

Perhaps the Yavin 4 or Endor is the wrong thought. What if Rey went somewhere else entirely like where the very first Death Star protocol was? What if the very first Death Star either was not up to standards and crashed as they worked on perfecting it? Or it was complete and it was destroyed to get rid of evidence?

Those rabid Star Wars fans also know that as part of cannon, Emperor Palatine and Thrawn have a close connection. Thrawn also helped get the First Order up and running. The same First Order that is chasing Rey and company.

It is also known Thrawn has extensive knowledge on many unknown regions. Including Jakku. Which all leads to a very interesting question, With Thrawn’s deep history and place in the Star Wars universe, with Emperor Palpatine seemly set to make an appearance in “The Rise of Skywalker,” Could Grand Admiral Thrawn also make an appearance?

That would please a very scared fan base. It would also set up what could be the next wave of Star Wars stand-alone films. The Thrawn trilogy. I know I said trilogy right after stand-alone. Disney/Lucasfilm could break the films up into three stand alone films and not run an entire trilogy.

Whatever happens, the plot has thickened. That is the great thing about Star Wars in my opinion, it lets the imagination run wild.