Hockey

It was almost a decade now that Steve Yzerman left the Wings front office. While it seemed a bit off, and there was a section of Red Wings fans that thought it was on the level of a crime that Yzerman wasn’t allowed to replace Ken Holland then, it didn’t rise to the level of controversy as the Wings were still on top and Holland not yet discovered to be one of the luckier morons around. Since Yzerman left of course, the Wings haven’t seen anything past the second round in 10 seasons, haven’t won a playoff round in six, and will have missed the playoffs the last four when this one’s over. It may be far too late to have saved that era of Detroit hockey, but according to Wings fans everyone is where they should be now.

The first thing Yzerman will have to do is identify or find pieces that the team will be built upon. Is that Dylan Larkin? Jury is still very much out on that, though he is very good. Is he a franchise turner? When Yzerman landed in Tampa, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were already there. You can’t get much better than that. Dylan Larkin is now Steven Stamkos. There isn’t anyone here to be a homeless man’s Hedman yet.

However, to discredit what Yzerman built down there would be completely unfair. Yzerman’s second draft saw him nab Vladimir Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. The latter two would form two-thirds of the Triplets that were major parts of the Lightning’s continued runs to the conference final and beyond. His third draft netted Andrei Vasilevskiy and Cedric Pacquette. Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, and Mathieu Joseph would follow in the next few years, who are the backbone of this Lightning team.

Yzerman also went outside the draft in signing Tyler Johnson and stealing Ben Bishop for Cory Conacher. Anton Stralman ended up being the analytic darling of free agent signings. The Zobrist of hockey, if you will (you won’t). It’s an impressive list of team-building.

There were missteps, of course. The Bolts blue line was always a bit plodding beyond Hedman. Ryan Callahan sucked up a ton of cap space for what became a pretty shitty Brandon Dubinsky impression. Dan Girardi did the same. Ryan McDonagh aged a ton upon arrival. No one bats 1.000.

But Yzerman did earn a rep for moving on pretty quickly when he could. His first team went to the conference final under Guy Boucher and his overrated, boring-ass ways that were just riding Dwayne Roloson‘s second nuclear streak. Boucher was fired just over a season later and that entire team moved out for what would come next and what you saw here in 2015. Jonathan Drouin at #3 overall in the draft never earned a spot and never stopped bitching about it. He was chucked for Mikhail Sergachev, who has contributed heavily to the Lightning of late. Stevie Y rarely falls in love with something that isn’t worth it.

Maybe it’s better to arrive at the Wings now. In 2010-2011, he would have had the same problems that Holland refused to see, the aging stars that were no longer up for carrying a team deep into the spring. The cap problems. And the desperation to keep bolstering that up.

That doesn’t mean it’s a total blank slate in Motor City. Yzerman will lose the contracts of Mike Green, Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley after the season. That’s some $16M in space. Only Andreas Anathasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi will require big raises. And splashing cash in the free agent market in the summer shouldn’t be a priority, as this team is a long way from anything.

Still, the major part is finding the foundation. Larkin has done the best he can, but he’s never had an 80-point season. Then again, he hasn’t had much talent around him either. Is Filip Hronek the new anchor on the blue line? Filip Zadina (Larry Horse say too Filip-y) hasn’t flashed yet to signal why he was taken 6th overall.

What Yzerman buys everyone is a ton of time. Wings fans aren’t going to get seriously impatient with him for seasons, which is good because he’s going to need it. His time in Tampa buys a lot of additional trust. A possible #1 pick overall will as well, though there’s no generational player in this draft as there have been in previous.

The only complaint is that Yzerman’s Lightning only won one Prince Of Wales trophy. Of course, if Duncan Keith hadn’t gone supernova in ’15 and the Penguins not around in ’16, that might be different. Three of four years they lost to the eventual champions in the third round or later, and all of them to the definitive teams of the era.

Wings fans won’t accept that when it’s all said and done. But it’s a long road to even there for them.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Tigers 27-52   White Sox 39-42

GAMETIMES: Tuesday 7:10, Wednesday 1:10/7:10, Thursday 1:10

TV: WGN Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon, NBCSN Wednesday night and Thursday

HAVEN’T RELOCATED TO NASHVILLE YET: Bless You Boys

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Matthew Boyd vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Daniel Norris vs. Dylan Cease

TBD vs. Ross Detwiler

TBD vs. Ivan Nova

PROBABLE TIGERS LINEUP

JaCoby Jones – CF

Nicholas Castellanos – RF

Miguel Cabrera – DH

Christin Stewart – LF

Jeimer Candelario – 3B

Brandon Dixon – 1B

Nick Goodrum – SS

Gordon Beckham – 2B

Bobby Wilson – C

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – SS

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Jon Jay – RF

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Jose Rondon – DH

Yolmer Sanches – 2B

Ryan Cordell – CF

 

After dealing with teams at or near the top of their divisions or in the playoff chase for the past three weeks (yes, even the Cubs), the Sox get a three-day, four-game break against the Tigers, who along with the Royals are basically cleaning the septic tanks of the AL Central. For the Tigers now it’s about who is going to go between now and the trade deadline, which could be just about anyone. Too bad they picked a year when the Royals and Orioles are doing it better than they are.

Let’s start with the White Sox, who will unveil Dylan Cease on Wednesday afternoon. You couldn’t find a softer landing for a debut than the first game of a double-header against the Tigers, which is probably why the Sox picked it. Cease is up for good, or so the Sox say, even though his numbers in Charlotte aren’t that impressive. But at this point, the Sox are just running out of guys, so why not? The reports were that Cease was still powering his way out of trouble instead of pitching, which won’t fly against most other teams in the majors, but he can learn that just as easily at this level as he can at AAA. Cease’s Ks were down and walks up this year from his previous seasons, so the fear is that will rip and explode at the top level. We know the stuff is there, it’s about learning the approach now.

Not only are the Tigers purposely stinky, they’re beat up too. Michael Fullmer is a long-term casualty, and Josh Harrison and Daniel Norris are either out or iffy as well. Offensively, this is really about Castellanos and no one else. He’s the only one having an above-average season, as Cabrera heads for the retirement home.

On the rotation side, one of the bright spots in Spencer Turnbull has also landed on the injured list with shoulder fatigue. Other than him, there’s Matthew Boyd and then a pile of goo. Boyd has one of the best K/BB ratios in baseball, striking out over 11 hitters per nine and walking less than two.

The pen? It’s Shane Greene and his 22 saves and then an even bigger pile of goo.

Four against the Tigers and then closing out the first “half” against the Cubs who can’t get unfucked for money. Could that elusive burst past .500 be waiting finally?