Monday, January 28, 2013

Frkwatch Update, PK Subban in Detroit, and Blaming Jimmy Howard

Imagine this fellow in a Red Wings uniform. Photo courtesy of "Keith and Alyssa" via Wikipedia.


It's been a while since I talked about Detroit Red Wings prospect Marty Frk, so today I thought I would give a brief but insightful update on how the Czech forward is doing with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. Currently, the Mooseheads sit unopposed as top team in the QMJHL with an astounding 39-5-2 record. As a team, they are number one in goals, number one in fewest goals against, number two in PP% (28.4%), number eight in PK% (79.4%), and have nine players averaging a point per game pace. Safe to say that they are pretty dominant. They are so dominant that they sit atop the CHL rankings as Canada's top junior level team.

So where does Marty Frk picture in to this? Frk is still playing on the top line of the Mooseheads and is benefiting mightily by playing with potential top five draft picks Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. Frk's numbers are pretty good at this point in the season, considering the slow start he had due to indifference, frustration, and a nagging leg injury. As of today Frk is 38th in the league in scoring with 18 goals, 32 assists, and 50 points in 35 games. What's more impressive is that he's performed so well in the midst of an early surgery as well as missing time for the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, where he notched four points on a fairly weak Czech team. His +/- is up at +16, much better than the start of the season. He's also reduced his number of stupid penalties but still has 60 PIMs in 35 games.

There isn't much else to report on with Frk, except that it's interesting to see the Red Wings struggle early on in the shortened 2013 season from his perspective. Players like Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar are moving up the depth chart by necessity, which seems to indicated the Wings want to get their young talent into the NHL lineup as soon as possible. So far, Damien Brunner has been a successful experiment, which bodes poorly for Nyquist (for now) and even worse for Tatar. I have to imagine for Frk, who is signed to a three year entry level deal with the team, he's pleased to see the young forwards in front of him have their chance in Detroit, or potentially see them dealt for some kind of help on the blueline. I don't think Frk is going to be seeing a Red Wings lineup anytime soon, but he could get a sniff in a year or two if the same perfect storm of events happens in January for Detroit in 2014. Still, he's got to pay his dues.


Virtually every Red Wings blogger has expressed some disdain over the current lineup's defense corps. Even the mighty Nick Kronwall looks pedestrian, and patchwork replacements like Kent Huskins aren't going to change the game quite like the Rafalskis and Lidstroms of the good ol' days. I've already said my piece about what the Red Wings should do, and of course the best possible solution to the defensive woes of Hockeytown is signing or trading for current Montreal no-shower PK Subban. I'll defer to the outstanding analysis of JJ from Winging it in Motown, although the conversation should really be geared towards a trade rather than an offer sheet. The prospect of sacrificing four 1st round draft picks is more than just mortgaging for the future, it's putting all the chips on the current prospects and players in the system to be better than any potential picks for a long, long period of time. Realistically, Ken Holland won't be able to drag PK out of Montreal without blowing the mind-holes of upper management. Is there anyone on the Red Wings who can do that?

Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Nick Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard are probably the only untouchables. That doesn't leave a lot of value on the table for Montreal to choose from. It'd take at least Franzen, a top prospect, a decent defenseman, and a draft pick coming back to equal PK's potential. This isn't just the typical HFBoards attempt at using NHL 13 to make good trade deals, or an overestimation of the quality of Detroit's trade bait. Reality is that a player like PK is going to come at a hefty price. Regardless of what Montreal want, it is worth paying. I would even go so far as to say that Filppula could be thrown out there as a potential body moving out the door, especially with his unrestricted free agency looming. Yes, the team has invested a lot in Filppula being the next Zetterberg-like leader on the team, but they did the same for Martin Lapointe during the Yzerman days and he was let go at one point.

I won't bother to postulate a real trade or how to measure PK Subban's value in this context. I'll keep it short and sweet: if we want this kid in Detroit, we are going to have to pay a very steep price. That price may not even help to bring the Red Wings success in 2013, but it will be worth it if Detroit can bring in an elite defenseman to help. You just can't lose three top four defensemen in three years and expect to maintain the same quality of play.

For what it's worth, I'm curious as to what Montreal Canadiens fans have to say on giving up PK Subban. What kind of offers would it take, within reason, to acquire his services?

Editor's Update: According to multiple sources, PK Subban will remain a Canadien for the next two seasons, provided he is not traded. It was nice to think about Ken Holland living up to the hype he generates as a top GM, but no dice on Subban. Curious to see what (non)moves will be made if the Red Wings defense continues to struggle.

Whatever the payment is for this guy, pay it.


It isn't Jimmy's fault, so stop blaming him, ragamuffins! Photo courtesy of "LAX" via Wikipedia.

Five games into the season and all the Red Wing fans are asking themselves and each other who is to blame for the 2-2-1 start. While this start has us still within a point of 5th place, we're only a point up on 11th. Is five games even enough to start judging the path of an entire season?

The biggest concern is obviously defense, although the offense sure looked bad more than once so far in 2013. There isn't a lot of time to iron out the kinks on offense so the sooner Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and now Brunner can get it together and start filling the net, the happier everyone will be. Still, one can only ramble about defensive lapses and offense that is anemic before questioning....goaltending?


Jimmy didn't look great against St. Louis in the first game of the season. Credit to Tarasenkov, he make it all look easy. Jimmy's numbers so far aren't great, with a sv% below .900 and a GAA of 3.14, you'd swear that Jimmy was doing his best impression of Steve Mason. Division snarkiness aside, is Jimmy Howard a problem in Detroit?


It's already headache-inducing to think that five starts against some quality opponents is enough to judge a player, especially one who has 110 wins in his first three seasons. He's at the very least the best starting goaltender in the division considering more than last season, and he's an All-Star caliber player who consistently bails out ragamuffins like Kyle Quincey and Jakub Kindl from having a plus minus in the triple digits.

Great save by Jimmy in the loss against the Stars. Coulda' been 3-0 there. 

Long story short, stop blaming Jimmy Howard on the losses. He's not Hasek out there right now but it's a pretty big learning curve going from relying on Nick Lidstrom to seeing Jakub Kindl as the last line of defense. Yes I know, they aren't in the same spot on the depth chart but my point is that everyone is rusty early in the season. Detroit might not be able to afford a slow start, but it is what it is. Still plenty of time to fight into a playoff spot.

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