In another long lost season the Detroit Red Wings have some prospects who have shown improvement

As the 2021 NHL shortened season enters the regular season stretch run, Detroit Red Wings General Manager, Steve Yzerman has a lot of work to do. First Yzerman and the Red Wings scouting department are preparing for this summer’s NHL Draft. Next is the fate of head coach Jeff Blashill which Yzerman said he will address quickly after the season. But what Steve Yzerman is doing now is watching young prospects in the Detroit organization show some marked improvements.

FIlip Hronek, Filip Zadina and Michael Rasmussen all three players are being counted on heavily to help the Detroit Red Wings begin to look like a playoff contender again. The trio have given the team, GM and fans some good reasons to be encouraged for the Red Wings future.

A side note, None of the three players listed numbers jump off the board. That is not important! What is important is they are competing really hard, not to mention doing a lot of good things and all three have grown as players. Very important, more important than goals and assists. The goals and assists will come.

DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 04: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings battles for the puck along the boards with Kyle Turris #8 of the Nashville Predators during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on November 4, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Filip Hronek, has been the Red Wings best defenseman the past couple seasons and it is not even close. Hronek has grown even more so this season and now plays with a physical edge to his game that had not been there the past couple seasons.

DETROIT, MI – SEPTEMBER 22: Detroit Red Wings right wing Filip Zadina (11) takes a shot during the second period of a preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings on September 22, 2019, at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI. (Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Filip Zadina, has also played much more more physical, and is now willing to chase down the puck and get it himself rather than wait for a teammate to pass it to him. This is exactly the kind of development that will help both Zadina and the Red Wings moving forward.

Michael Rasmussen, in a continuing theme Rasmussen has also become a much (and I do mean much) more physical player this season. The young center, is much stronger on the puck which in the past was sorely missing from his game.

As the Detroit Red Wings look for progress Hronek, Zadina and Rasmussen have shown just that. The three young players are competing and asserting themselves at a much higher level. This is encouraging!


The Detroit Red Wings trade Anthony Mantha to Washington for a huge haul

The 2021 NHL trade deadline had seemingly come and gone and the Detroit Red Wings had not made a move. Very odd (again seemingly) for a rebuilding team to do nothing. The 3:00 p.m. deadline past, and then at around 3:30 p.m. a bombshell was dropped that sent ripples across the NHL landscape. Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman traded a player who just five months ago was thought to be a cornerstone building block, Anthony Mantha was dealt to the Washington Capitals in a blockbuster trade.

Right Wing Richard Panik, Left Wing Jakub Vrana, as well as a first round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft and a second round pick in the 2022 head to Detroit from Washington for Anthony Mantha. Before we dive into just what the Red Wings are getting in Panik and Vrana understand, Steve Yzerman gets an A+ for this trade. This is a trade that will help speed up the rebuild, IF. We will also look at the IF.

First let’s look at Jakub Varna. Varna was the classic good player stuck behind other good players limiting his minutes to about 13- per game. Varana averaged more goals than Mantha even though he was behind players like Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and others.  This was a great get for Yzerman and the Red Wings.

Now for the IF. The draft picks are great to have. But as I have said from time to time, drafting players is like throwing darts at a dartboard. This is where the Detroit Red Wings scouting department must come through.

Richard Panik is a decent player, this was not a target for Yzerman. In order to make the trade happen the Red Wings took Panik which is in effect a salary dump for Washington.

Anthony Mantha had signed a contract extension back in November. He was thought to be part of the long term plans for the Red Wings. Steve Yzerman has said for a long time now that he will listen to any offer for any player something any GM should do.

DETROIT, MI – MARCH 06: Anthony Mantha #39 of the Detroit Red Wings skates up ice with the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on March 6, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Chicago 2-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mantha who has had consistency issues and lapses in play had frustrated Red Wings coaches. I have to believe it also frustrated Yzerman. Still Mantha has a lot of upside and perhaps he will do well in Washington.

With the trade Steve Yzerman has sent a message to the rest for the Detroit Red Wings, no player (well a select few) are off the table to be traded.


The Detroit Red Wings gain a fourth round draft pick as Steve Yzerman works some magic

The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning were working on a trade for Blue Jackets defenseman David Savard. The two teams could not agree on a trade package because of the Lightning’s salary cap issues. That is when Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman stepped in and worked his magic.

It was reported yesterday, David Savard was going to be traded to Tampa Bay, which happened to be Steve Yzerman’s first GM job spot.  Yzerman came to the aid of both teams and a three-way trade was born.

COLUMBUS, OH – APRIL 2: David Savard #58 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Boston Bruins on April 2, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The trade is a bit complex. Here is the breakdown: The Columbus Blue Jackets traded David Savard to the Red Wings and agreed to retain 50% of Savard’s cap hit. Detroit sent  Brian Lashoff to Columbus. The Red Wings then flipped Savard to Tampa Bay for a fourth round draft pick this year.

Steve Yzerman agreed to taken on 25% of Savard’s contract. The Blue Jackets meanwhile traded Lashoff to Tampa Bay and received 2021 first and second round draft pick’s basically for David Savard.

This is actually a very good and pretty shrewd move by Steve Yzerman. The Red Wings have a ton of salary cap room so to take on 25% of a contract for a player who will never (barring free agency) put on the Winged Wheel while gaining a draft pick was a easy choice to make.

The 25% that is on the books for the Red Wings comes off the books this summer. So really it is a no harm, no foul move. The real prize for the rebuilding Red Wings is the draft pick.

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 06: A general view of the draft board following the first round of the 2020 National Hockey League (NHL) Draft at the NHL Network Studio on October 06, 2020 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

This is how Yzerman was able to rebuild the Tampa Bay Lightning. He made simple yet very effective trades and moves that netted draft picks. While there are no guarantees when drafting players, the more picks a team has the more chances the team will hit on some draft picks.

This is how Steve Yzerman is rebuilding the Detroit Red Wings. It takes time but Yzerman will get the job done.

Why Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith makes sense for the Detroit Lions

Gone from the Detroit Lions roster is pretty much all the wide receivers from the past few seasons. In with the new. Some players signed during free agency will add much needed speed, but by and large the Detroit Lions need to remake the receiver group from the draft. The Lions currently hold the #7 overall draft pick. A player who in my opinion would go a long way in retooling the downfield attack is former Alabama Crimson Tide receiver DeVonta Smith.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 05: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY through Tuesday, January 12, 2021. Approval by the Heisman Trust will be needed for any usage thereafter or any Commercial usage requests at any point.) Wide receiver DeVonta Smith of the Alabama Crimson Tide poses with the Heisman Memorial Trophy on January 05, 2021 in New York, New York. (Photo by Kent Gidley/Heisman Trophy Trust via Getty Images)

Heisman Trophy Winner DeVonta Smith is not the biggest wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. But that is just fine. He may be among the fastest and also Smith contains some intangibles that may prove to be too much for the Detroit Lions to pass up.

During the COVID shortened college football season, Smith put up some eye popping numbers. Smith’s numbers and talent has made him a top 10 prospect, with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and a total of 24 touchdowns in 13 games  and lead the country in 20+ yard targets in becoming the first wide receiver since Michigan Wolverines, Desmond Howard (1991) in winning the Heisman Trophy.

Standing 6 foot 1 inch, DeVonta Smith is not over imposing. Once the ball is snapped however Smith shows elite skill. Not only did Smith win the Heisman but he was also named the MVP of the Alabama offense.

For a team looking to build a roster and team into a playoff contending franchise, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes should give drafting DeVonta Smith serious consideration.

Smith can be a game breaking player and give real life to the Detroit Lions passing attack. Sure the Lions have holes aplenty all over the current roster. One draft will not and can not fix that. But for a franchise looking to build a team with speed. DeVonta Smith would be a next to perfect fit.

Rule 5 draft pick Akil Baddoo is turning heads for the Detroit Tigers

He was left unprotected by the Minnesota Twins. As a Rule 5 draft pick the Detroit Tigers claimed Akil Baddoo. The 22 year old outfielder has started the 2021 MLB season with a bang. He is already quickly becoming a fan favorite at Comerica Park and to Tigers fans everywhere. In three games played Baddoo has energized the Tigers.

Akil Baddoo has done something in the modern age of baseball that has never been done. He hit a home run in his first at-bat, the next game he hit a grand slam, then a walk-off single. This is not supposed to happen to a player who was given up on.

BRADENTON, FLORIDA – MARCH 02: Akil Baddoo #60 of the Detroit Tigers rounds the bases on a two run rbi double from teammate Willi Castro #9 (not pictured) during the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a spring training game at LECOM Park on March 02, 2021 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Baddoo is a fast outfielder who also possesses quick hands which helps him to generate bat speed with power. However, the Twins organization was waiting for Baddoo to put it all together.

As stated the Twins left him unprotected and the Detroit Tigers scouting department  quickly did their homework and decided to take a shot. So far it is a shot that has hit the mark.

While Baddoo does struggle against left-handed pitching, two seasons ago (no minor league season last year due to COVID-19) Baddo had a strikeout rate of 24 percent, which is on the high end. So far both in spring training and now during the early stages of the season Baddoo has been more aggressive early in the count, which has lead to better success.

Akil Baddoo was the Minnesota Twins #10 ranked prospect. It is not often a team gives up on a top 10 prospect but that is what the Twins did. While time will tell if Baddoo can continue the pace he has started off on and live up to his scouting report, the Tigers and Baddoo are enjoying his early success.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 4: Akil Baddoo #60 of the Detroit Tigers rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning at Comerica Park on April 4, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

For a rebuilding team, Akil Baddoo has made the Tigers fun to watch through five games played.

After three games it is clear, the Detroit Tigers starting pitching looks like the strength of the team

The Detroit Tigers won two of three games from the Cleveland Indians. Sure it was only three games, but there is reason for optimism. The Tigers got 16 innings from their starting pitching. In those 16 innings the Tigers starters gave up just three earned runs. At that clip, the Tigers will win a lot of series.

Three games does not make or break a season. It is however, a look at the trajectory the Detroit Tigers are on. Facing a talented Cleveland Indians lineup, Tiger pitchers got to work.

LAKELAND, FLORIDA – MARCH 12: Julio Teheran #50 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees during a spring training game on March 12, 2021 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Opening day Detroit pitcher Matthew Boyd got the start. Going 5.2 innings Boyd gave up 3 hits and had 2 strike outs. Boyd looked good as he threw all of his pitches and painted the corners. This is good news for Boyd who has endured two seasons of struggles.

Game 2 of the series saw the Detroit Tigers turn to Julio Teheran. Teheran went 5.0 innings giving up 4 hits, 1 run, 1 earned run with 3 strike outs. Not a bad start, again much like Matthew Boyd, Julio Teheran threw his pitches and hit the zone. He did a good job for the most part keeping Indian batters off-balance.

In Sunday’s loss, the Tigers turned to rookie left handed pitcher Tarik Skubal. Skubal is one of the Tigers organization top pitching prospects and a top 25 MLB prospect. Skubal had a strong outing. Going 5.1 innings, Skubal gave up 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 earned runs with 4 strike outs.

DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 29: Rookie pitcher Tarik Skubal #42 of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning of game two of a doubleheader at Comerica Park on August 29, 2020, in Detroit, Michigan. Skubal recorded his first major league win in the Tigers 4-2 victory over the Twins. All players are wearing #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson Day. The day honoring Jackie Robinson, traditionally held on April 15, was rescheduled for August 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to Friday’s postponed game, Robinson will be honored during today’s game. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Tarik Skubal had a tough first inning and then reached back and showed how mentally tough he is. So often with young pitchers when they go through a tough inning things tend to unravel. After a tough first inning Skubal maintained his composure.

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said he wants all pitchers to attack the strike zone. Three games played three starting pitchers followed through with what Hinch wants. This is a positive. Hinch is setting the expectations for all Detroit Tigers pitchers. No matter if the are in Detroit or the minor leagues.

This can do nothing but help the organization moving forward.

The Detroit Tigers do not have a closer, not yet anyways

Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has not named a closer to start the 2021 season. In part because that vital role is still in the process of identifying the right pitcher. What does it mean for the Tigers moving forward? That question remains to be answered. What does it mean right now? Not much.

The Detroit Tigers opened the 2021 MLB season at home vs the Cleveland Indians. The Tigers beat the Indians 3-2. As the game moved into the latter innings, hard throwing Gregory Soto (left handed pitcher) entered the game. So Soto is the closer right? Wrong.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 01: Manager A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers looks on during player introductions prior to the Opening Day game against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on April 1, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Indians 3-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

It needs to be stated, manager A.J. Hinch who is a very analytically driven manager really does not care about saves. Hinch cares about wins. He has a very good feel for who should be in the game and when. In Thursday’s season’s opener Hinch called on Soto.

More to the point, A.J. Hinch does not believe that a closer needs to or should only face three batter. But rather whoever is called on should and better be able to get six to nine batters out. This is a new era of Detroit Tigers baseball. A much more modern game.

Although Hinch went with Gregory Soto in game one and has not named a closer, the Tigers manager does fully intend to name a closer at some point during the season. My personal takeaway is that Hinch is going to make the relief pitchers earn the position.

Because Hinch has a good feel and is analytically driven it is not outside the realm of possibility that Hinch goes with two closers. That is closer to where today’s MLB game is.

DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 27: A detailed view of the baseball hat and glove of Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers sitting in the dugout prior to the game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Comerica Park on August 27, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. The Angels defeated the Tigers 3-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

In fact, it should not surprise anyone if Hinch uses pitchers anywhere at any time. Meaning, Soto who closed game one could come in in the sixth inning game two. It all depends on the situation and where Hinch thinks a pitcher’s strength can best be utilized.

As the Tigers now have a more modern thinking manager and excellent pitching prospects it can do nothing but help the organization.



The Detroit Tigers rebuild presses onward, but 2021 offers some telling goals

In the last four seasons the Detroit Tigers are 198-345 with a .364 winning percentage. The Tigers have finished in last place three of the four seasons. The 2021 MLB season which kicks off today, finds the Tigers in no better position to escape the bottom or near bottom again. But it is not all bad. The Tigers hired A.J. Hinch to be manager and a team does not make a move like that unless they feel they are close to being competitive.

This season for the Detroit Tigers is all about results. Not wins and losses (sorry Tiger fans.) It is about getting young players to take the next step. Getting young pitchers Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal involved from the start are signs the Tigers are ready to take the next step.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 25: A.J. Hinch #14 of the Detroit Tigers poses during Photo Day at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on Thursday, February 25, 2021 at in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

In order for the Detroit Tigers to get results as well as begin to have success the pitching must be established. The Tigers have plenty of top pitching prospects, which is good and all, but those players must begin to established themselves in order for the team to feel comfortable about adding free agents at seasons end.

Winning brings credibility, that is so true. It is getting to the winning that can be tricky. That is where World Series winning manager A.J. Hinch comes into play. Since being named manager Hinch has been consistent is saying he and his coaching staff want and need to breed a winning culture.

Hinch has set the World Series as the goal. Even though the Tigers will not compete for a championship this season. The current roster simply is not playoff worthy. That is why Hinch was brought in for the long term.

LAKELAND, FL – FEBRUARY 17: Matt Manning #83 of the Detroit Tigers pitches during Spring Training workouts at the TigerTown Facility on February 17, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

But, a successful 2021 season means that players are attending to every detail. That young pitchers begin to emerge and live up to draft and scouting reports.

If that happens then the Detroit Tigers will be closer to the end of a long rebuild.

Heading to Comerica Park for a Detroit Tigers home game, here are the guidelines

553 days. To put it another way, more than 18 months have past since any fans had tickets scanned and entered Comerica Park for a Detroit Tigers home game due to COVID-19. Now to start the 2021 MLB season exactly 8,200 fans will be allowed to attend. Some things will remain while other things will not be allowed, not yet anyway. Let’s take a closer look.

Opening day in Detroit is special. As a child I would routinely come up with a mystery headache or upset stomach on opening day so that my Mom would either call me in to school or pull me out of school. After all everyone knows baseball, opening day baseball in Detroit is better medicine than anything over the counter.

DETROIT, MI – APRIL 17: A detailed view of the Comerica Park Ferris Wheel during the game between the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park on April 17, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the White Sox 2-1. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

As Detroit Tigers will have fans in the stands this season, the 8,200 is expected to rise as the season moves along. Some things that fans are accustom to will remain, some will not at this time.

What’s new at Comerica Park? For starters wearing masks, sitting space apart, social distancing throughout the ballpark, cashless payments and filling out gameday wellness surveys. This is where we are at this time. For good reason.

Yet, some “normalcy” is also going to be in effect. Fans can still enjoy getting a hot dog, sausage, peanuts, nachos and, Little Caesars pizza. Detroit Tigers mascot “Paws” will still be around the ball park and up to his usual antics. Word is the Easter Bunny will make an appearance this weekend as well. Oh, and Friday night fireworks after the game? They are still going to take place.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 17: A merry-go-round in the stadium prior to Game Five of the American League Championship Series between the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park on October 17, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, kid favorites the carousel, Ferris wheel and face painting will not be open. It is all to ensure families and fans are safe. As noted, MLB expects more fans will be able to attend games as the season moves along.

I plan to attend Detroit Tigers games this season to take in the final stages of the long rebuild. But, mostly because I could not last season. Even though the Tigers will not be very good this season, they will be again very soon.

Detroit Red Wings Filip Zadina is settling in at the NHL level

Due to COVID-19 the NHL 2020-21 season is only 56 games. In games played thus far Detroit Red Wings forward Filip Zadina has shown growth in his overall game. While his production is up and Zadina is now living closer to his pre draft status, the Red Wings believe even better days are ahead for the young  Czech Republic product.

This is the first season that the Detroit Red Wings have given Filip Zadina a chance to stick full-time with the team. Zadina has taken the opportunity to take full advantage of the Red Wings trust.

MONTREAL, QC – MARCH 12: Detroit Red Wings right wing Filip Zadina (11) skates while looking towards his right during the Detroit Red Wings versus the Montreal Canadiens game on March 12, 2019, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While Zadina is still rounding his game into a top-six forward, he has given the Red Wings a good look at just what they have in a player who fell them three years ago. While Zadina’s goals are not eye-popping his total game is rounding out.

In 26 games played, the Red Wings have seen Filip Zadina score three goals with nine assists for 12 total points. nearly a half a point per-game. Zadina was touted as a goal scorer pre-draft. While the Red Wings believe goals will come his overall game has grown.

Filip Zadina has gotten much better in the defensive end of the ice. His forechecking has improved and the young forward is not as hesitant to jump into the mix on the boards as he was last season. Zadina has also improved on his passing.

DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 31: Antti Suomela #40 of the San Jose Sharks battles for position on the face off with Filip Zadina #11 of the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on December 31, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. The Wings defeated the Sharks 2-0. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Again, While the goals stand at just three on the season, Zadina has shown growth in other areas and has not been a liability when out on the ice. For a pure goal scorer such as Zadina the goals will come.

As for any young player in his first full season in the NHL, there is a lot to take in and responsibility to learn. Filip Zadina did not forget how to score goals. It is more likely that has been put on the back shelf while he learns other aspects of the NHL game.

Filip Zadina has shown the Detroit Red Wings enough for the organization to be excited about.