The Detroit Red Wings need Danny DeKeyser to stay consistent

Embed from Getty Images Missing 27 of the first 47 games with two separate hand injuries that required surgery, Detroit Red Wings defensemen Danny DeKeyser  played in the fewest games of his six full NHL seasons. His play improved when he returned. The the Red Wings need him to stay consistent.

In the 2018-19 NHL season, DeKeyser averaged 1.8 blocked shots per game, second on team and first among defensemen. He also led the team in average ice time 21:58 and averaged 2:31 on penalty kill, third on team among defensemen. DeKeyser’s plus-minus rating was minus-5.

 DeKeyser showed improvement and more consistency during an injury-plagued season that cost him a total of 30 games. His skating and mobility enabled him to move the puck out of his zone more efficiently and quicker than he had the previous three years. Added strength allowed him to win more puck battles. Danny DeKeyser had his best season since 2014-15, but he still was not as strong as he was his first two full NHL seasons.

The question that needs to be asked is, was last season as good as DeKeyser can get at this point of his career or can he return to the form he played at during his first two NHL seasons?

DeKeyser  showed growth in terms of consistently defending last season. Danny has been good at different times in his career. Last season DeKeyser looked stronger, in the physical battles along the boards. He knocked people around way more. Some believe he is becoming an elite defender in the league, what was once envisioned for him   and now believe he is becoming.

This season the Red Wings are hopeful Danny DeKeyser picks up where he left off last season. He figures to be paired with Mike Green or Filip Hronek. Whoever he is not paired with on the top line will slide to the second line defense with Patrik Nemeth.

Those four defensive players should make up Detroit’s top four on defense.

2019 Detroit Lions defense may be one of the best in the NFL

Embed from Getty Images With the Detroit Lions offense learning a new system, Lions general manager Bob Quinn built a defense that is fearsome. Friday it was reported Detroit signed former Green Bay Packer All-Pro Mike Daniels to a one year deal. The former Packer was released for salary cap reasons.

Before the Lions were gifted an All-Pro the Lions defense was set to be a top ten NFL defensive unit. With A’Shawn Robinson, Da’ Shawn Hand and Damon “Snacks” Harrison returning from a defense that finished last season ranked #5.

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has put a premium on stopping the run. Enter top free agent Trey Flowers to man the edge rush. Now Mike Daniels. Giving Detroit the best defensive line in the NFL.

Last season there was some noise coming out of Detroit that players did not like playing for Patricia. That turned out to be a false report. Both Flowers and Daniels turned down contracts and more money with other teams just to play and be coached by Patricia.

Given this offseason and the start of training camp it looks and sounds like every member of the Detroit Lions football team is on board fully with Patricia. The media who was a target of sorts for the head coach in post game exchanges. So far Patricia and the media seem to have found a common ground.

Patricia explained his thoughts on the Lions defense. “Defensive line right now is one of those groups- there’s a lot of positions within the positions if that makes sense- so being able to have multiplicity within a defensive line group always makes it difficult on the offense,” Patricia said “It puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the center to identify who everybody is, what position they play, and where they’re lined up, that really affects protections.”

What was unclear last season is becoming clearer. Given the moves the Detroit Lions have made they are switching to a 3-4 defensive front. Given the teams top six linemen they can rotate in and out to get the matchup they like.

The defense is a very good unit. In my opinion that was by design. I believe Bob Quinn and Patricia believe the best way to allow the offense to have time to learn a new offensive system is to put a defense on the field that can attack.

There will be many restless nights for coaches around the NFL when they face the 2019 Detroit Lions defense.

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.

The Detroit Red Wings 2019 NHL draft: Day 2

Embed from Getty Images April 19, 2019, Steve Yzerman returned to the Detroit Red Wings organization. The only organization he knew during his 20 year Hall of Fame career. When he fielded questions from the media right after accepting the general manager position, Yzerman was asked what his first order of business would be. His answer, “To assess the entire organization and go from there.”

Steve Yzerman’s assessments have become crystal clear. Clearly we was not happy with the current state of the Detroit Red Wings defense. Friday nights first round of the NHL draft saw Yzerman and his scouting department begin to overhaul and reshape the defense.

Starting with first round draft pick Moritz Seider, The Red Wings would continue to add defense. With the first of three second round draft picks Detroit picked Finnish defensemen Antti Tuomisto.  standing 6′ 4″ he is the same size as Moritz Seider.

Tuomisto, is fast he has a powerful stride he reaches top speed quickly with his above average acceleration. Tuomisto is hard to knock off the puck. He absolutely needs to add upper body strength to improve leverage.

Red Wings fans will be happy Antti Tuomisto is an offensive defensemen. He is nasty on the forecheck and is a very good passer, allowing him to quarterback the power play. He needs to polish his defensive skills up a bit. Once he adds some muscle Tuomisto will be very dangerous in the dirty areas. He excels at blocking shots.

With the next second round pick, Detroit went offense. Robert Mastrosimone. In Mastrosimone the Red Wings get a left wing/ center who is a good not great skater. Robert does possess a explosive first step and acceleration. He has some rough aspects to his game that need to be refined.

What Mastrosimone is, is a sniper. He has an above average heavy wrist shot and excellent release. He has very good stick handling ability and is dangerous one on one. His defensive game needs to be more consistent.

With they’re third and final second round draft pick, The Detroit Red Wings selected a prospects I am very high on. Going defense for the third time in the first four draft picks, Detroit picked Albert Johansson.

Albert Johansson is shorter than both Moritz Seider and Antti Tuomisto. Johansson stands an even 6′ 0″.  Albert becomes the Detroit Red Wings best skating defensive prospect. Great speed, great acceleration combined with the ability to pivot crisply allows Albert to transition quickly from defense to offense and vice versa.

Johansson has great stickhandling control has has very good vision up the ice. He is very good at avoiding defenders in the offensive end while above average passing sets up teammates very well.

He possesses a nice slap shot but needs to clean up on accuracy. Johansson’s defensive game is stellar. He has great gap-control and is hard to beat one on one. He is very good at poke check and stealing the puck. He also needs to clean up containing opposing forwards.

All and all the Detroit Red Wings had a very solid second round. The defense is in better shape for years to come.

Could the Detroit Red Wings trade a young forward for a defenseman?

Embed from Getty Images At the World Championships, Detroit Red Wings forward  Anthony Mantha is generating a lot of buzz. With 3 goals, 4 assists and 7 points in three games. Anthony Mantha could have possibly  increased … his trade value.

No Red Wings fan should read too much into that. Steve Yzerman pointed out Mantha as being a “core player.” Odds are slight he would get moved. Not to mention Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi’s line absolutely exploded the final weeks of the regular season.

Andreas Athanasiou, and Michael Rasmussen, Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Evgeny Svechnikov and Jonatan Berggren not to mention whoever the Detroit Red Wings  draft next month gives them some great talent at forward.

One problem, outside of Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek there is no good defensive talent in the Wings pipeline. Defense is the single most need the Red Wings have.

Tyler Bertuzzi is not going anywhere. He simply brings too much to the table night in and night out for the Red Wings. Which means in a league where you have to give talent to get talent the two names that would bring in a young top line defensive player is Mantha and Athanasiou.

For that to happen it would have to be a trade that makes sense, especially for a general manager like Steve Yzerman. Yzerman, is known as a very aggressive general manager. He will want to get the Wings closer to the playoffs sooner than later.

The Colorado Avalanche, are said to be looking to add scoring. Defensemen Tyson Barrie could be moved for that to happen. That could be an option for Detroit. Also, Carolina, or Anaheim or Nashville all have deep defensive players who could be moved to add scoring.

Players like Mantha and Athanasiou have become valuable bargaining chips if the Wings choose to go the trade route. Both players will become restricted free agents in the summer of 2020, with Mantha currently making $3.3 million per season and Athanasiou $3 million. Both players will be in line for big raises.

Factor in Veleno and Zadina and it is probable a trade is made.

Michigan State football team returns the No.1 defensive line

Embed from Getty Images In 2018 Michigan State football’s defensive line became the nation’s best run-stopping defense. Kenny Willekes emerged as an All-American. Raequan Williamsand Mike Panasiuk formed an impenetrable wall up the middle. The defensive line is very good, but there are questions.

For the Spartans defense to improve during the 2019 season they must find more depth to combat high-tempo offenses which is a major concern. So is generating more of a pass rush.

Michigan State’s front four held opponents to 77.9 yards per game on the ground, which was 17.2 yards fewer than the next closest run defense Mississippi State . That included limiting eight teams to fewer than 65 yards. The Spartans were so  disruptive against the run that opponents averaged only 30.2 carries per game.

The Spartans need to find a pass rush plain and simple. The Spartans managed just 28 sacks all season, including just seven in the final six games. It does no good to stop the run, only to give it all back on a pass. That was a broken record last season.

Stopping the run only to give up a huge pass, the Spartans defense could not get off the field. It must change for Michigan State to find more consistency to their game.

If Michigan State can count on the offense to extend drives and score, if the Spartans defense can find a pass rush, they will be a force in the Big Ten race. If not the 2019 season will look an awful lot like last season.

Michigan Wolverines: defense will be scary good

Embed from Getty Images With much focus on quarterback Shea Patterson and Jim Harbaugh calling offensive plays himself. The Michigan Wolverines 2018-19 defense heads into the season ranked #1.

Rashan Gary, is a returning all-American defensive end. Gary, is not the best player on the Wolverines defense. The defensive line also boasts of Chase Winovich,  Brian Mone and Aubrey Solomon as it’s core. Other players will rotate in during games.

This Michigan Woverines linebacker corps is outstanding. Devin Bush Jr. is a beast and the best player on defense. Noah Furbush, Josh Uche, Devin Gill  round out the talented unit.

The Michigan secondary is the best in the Big 10. Khaleke Hudson is tough hitter at safety.  Casey Hughes who transferred from Utah will anchor the strong safety. Lavert Hill and David Long set up as the top cornerbacks on the team.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown, is set to unleash his unit. His favorite saying is “Solving problems with aggression.” Expect the Wolverines defense to attack at all times.

As good as this defense is and can be. Under classmen will be counted on in important times in games. It is the only way to prepare them for when they start.

Last season Michigan tied for the national lead with 114 tackles for loss. The Michigan coaching staff expects that number to increase this season. This defense is  national championship good.

Michigan, hopes the offense does just enough to get them to the Big 10 championship game. Which is a real possibility.

Detroit Red Wings: Ken Holland’s demise was a lie

Embed from Getty Images Heading in year two of a rebuild the Detroit Red Wings, needed a solid draft to speed the process up. As the media and fan base had Detroit general manager Ken Holland with one foot out the door. Holland struck back.

Ken Holland, a very proud man. He should be his work as Detroit Red Wings general manager is both legendary and Hall of Fame worthy. Holland, had a few bad years that is no secret. While many thought his best days were behind him the 2018 NHL draft showed everyone Holland is still one of the very best general managers in sports.

Yes the Red Wings, were given two first round draft gifts in the form of Filip Zadina (forward) and Joe Veleno (center.) Then came day two of the draft and Holland reminded Red Wings nation, he’s still got what it takes.

In desperate need of defense starting in round two Holland rolled up his sleeves and went to work. The Red Wings, drafted Jared Mclsaac who at 6′ 1″ is one of the taller Wings defense prospects. Very good skater. Very solid two way player who can quarterback the power play.  Ken Holland stole this pick. Mclsaac was first round talent.

Also in the second round the Red Wings, took another forward Jonatan Berggren from Sweden. He is fast and has a nice shot but will need to add weight before he is Motown bound.

In the third round Ken Holland, and the Red Wings, selected Alec Regula. A player from the Detroit area. At 6′ 4″ he is a towering defenseman. For his size he is mobile and is great passing the puck. He needs to work on not being hesitant with the puck. Grand Rapids bound for sure to sure up his game. The wait will be worth it.

Next defensman Seth Barton, was the Detroit, target in the draft. His game is close to Chicago Blackhawks defender Brent Seabrook’s.  After just turing 18 Barton is headed to college to play and develop his game.

The Detroit Red Wings, thanks in large part to general manager Ken Holland were the big winner at this years draft. Obtaining help for right now and in a few years. The Detroit Red Wings, draft has now  sped up the rebuild Knocking at least two years off the table.

Red Wings, fans should be rejoicing.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Werenski

Embed from Getty Images The Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, has built the team from the back (goalie and defense) out. The Blueliners for the Blue Jackets, are the driving force of the team. Enter what many say will be the teams next captain Zach Werenski.

Drafted in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft out of the University of Michigan, the smooth skating tough checking Werenski, is already a fan favorite no small feat because of where he played his collage hockey.

He drives the Blue Jackets power play and is very skilled in the offensive end. Of all the Columbus Blue Jackets defensmen he is hands down the best passer on the team.

In only his second NHL season Zach, was named to the all-star team. He has outstanding vision and poise nothing rattles this kid.  Including, breaking his orbital bone in the 2017 NHL playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

His eye swollen and black and blue  Zach Werenski, came back out on the ice face shield and all and played. And just like that a kid from Michigan became an Ohio sports legend. Leaving his head coach John Tortorella, to tell the media “That kid has stones the size of this building.”

Zach, will be captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was capatin of a Michigan hockey team that won a National Championship. He is a born leader. The Columbus Blue Jackets are a better team because of him.

Matt Patrica: a players coach with and edge

Embed from Getty Images He is not gruff. He is very well spoken. He is highly intelligent, in fact he is literally a rocket scientist. But do not be fooled. Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia also has an edgy side to him.

His former players with the New England Patriots have nothing but high love, respect and genuine admiration for they’re former defensive coordinator.
It is just not the defensive players. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called Patricia “one of my all time favorite coaches.” That was not just lip service. It is a common theme.
He came to Detroit in a very light hearted press conference. He joked. He smiled. He was articulate. But, as his former players heaped the praise on him they also mentioned in the next breath. Matt Patricia is a very demanding coach.
He gets his point across and it does not matter if a rookie or a ten year veteran. That is a tall tale sign of a good coach. In some aspects it is much like being a father.
Love them. Instruct them. Teach them. Listen to them. Then when they mess up go to them and handle it. Put all the boarders up so there is no grey area.
Matt Patricia, is the right head coach for the Detroit Lions. He is orderly and precise. Something the organization has lacked at times.
It will be interesting to see how he handles the day to day nuances of coaching duties.