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The Stephen Weiss conundrum and what it means for the Red Wings

Weiss

He’s scored 20 goals in a season four times. He’s notched more than 60 points twice. Yet he’s resigned to press box purgatory, watching guys eight and 10 years younger fill his spot.

Before Saturday, Stephen Weiss hadn’t played in an NHL game since December 10th. The past two years, he’s missed 66 percent of the games his team has played in. Most of that is due to injury, but Weiss is only 31. All accounts say he’s finally healthy and has plenty of energy.

There just isn’t a spot for him. Andrej Nestrasil and Tomas Jurco snagged the only open forward spots the Red Wings had in the preseason, leaving Weiss to literally watch the season go by. He can’t play because there’s no room. He’s can’t be waived because he has a no movement clause. Weiss could void the clause, would you opt to give up millions of dollars?

His cap hit is $4.9 million. That’s a bigger than Johan Franzen and Niklas Kronwall. It’s more than Brendan Smith, Danny DeKeyser and Gustav Nyquist combined. And he’s on the books for the next four years. He’s untradeable.

So what do you do?

Weiss needs to play to relearn the speed of the game and regain the form he had for all those years in Florida. The Red Wings don’t have the room to let him play his way into shape and they can’t lend him to the AHL to let Weiss get a 3/4 simulation.

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I want to believe: finding the meaning in the Lions’ inexplicable win over the Saints

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Jim Caldwell stepped to the podium as he does every week. He knew he had to talk first, that he needed an opening statement, a couple of words to summarize the game.

He couldn’t find any.

“Alright. Games in this league are…”

Caldwell shook his head.

“…are, uh, are crazy.”

When it was 23-10 I was sitting with a friend who had grown up a Lions fan but had moved out of state. He still paid attention, but became apathetic to actually watching the games.

“At a certain point they have to show me something,” he told me.

This game was not that. New Orleans isn’t good. Detroit was worse for most of the game. Stafford did what he’s always done. He was inconsistent but did a couple things that weren’t that good but were close enough to make you want to believe. In a game that should’ve had him hit the NOS the second quarter, he had to find a way to pull a win out of his ear hole in the final minutes. He did the same thing against Cleveland his rookie year and against the Cowboys in 2013. Those two seasons ended with 2-14 and 7-9 records. This one game means nothing.

Unless, of course, we’re just pawns in a cruel game being played some high power, one that gets pleasure from ironic word play. (THE SAINTS). 

Around the same time I was having a conversation with my friend, Golden Tate was talking to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s 10-year-old son on the bench. Lombardi’s son told Tate that the Lions’ defense would get a stop, the offense would score quick, the defense would get another stop, the offense would score again and the Lions would win by one.

The defense got the first stop. On offense, Tate shook a corner, planted his foot in the ground, froze Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro and outran the entire Saints organization.

“Divine intervention,” Tate said of the game.

Not long after Tate’s miracle, Glover Quin recognized something he had seen in the film room. From there, he read Drew Brees’ eyes and made a crucial interception.

“The stars aligned,” Quin said. 

A questionable 4th-and-5 pass interference? Of course the refs made the call. Of course it kept the drive alive. Then Corey Fuller leapt, twisted back across his body to catch Stafford’s pass, located the ground, and made sure he got two feet in bounds. Corey Fuller. Of course.

So here we sit staring at the Lions and 5-2 record. For the moment, they hold the tiebreaker over the Packers, giving them the NFC North lead. And every beat writer, columnist and blogger is faced with an impossible job.

How do you explain a team that left its own coach shaking his head his head? How do you analyze a team that’s better without its best player? How do you rectify the team from the first three quarters with the one from the last five minutes?

The only way anyone can is with sideline pep talks from 10 year olds, devine intervention, stars aligning, lucky pass interference calls and Corey Fuller.

“Whatever works,” Tate said.

Whatever works.

Even if it crazy.

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Red Wings rumor roundup: The latest on Tyler Myers and a list of some other defenseman Detroit has interest in

Every Sunday I’ll bring you a recap of all the legitimate Red Wings-related transaction and signing rumors from the previous week. I see all this stuff anyway. I figured I might as well share it with you.

• The Red Wings inquired about acquiring Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers, according to TSN’s Elliotte Friedman. The Sabres wanted Anthony Mantha. Detroit said no. Talks fizzled after that. TSN’s Darren Dreger told a Toronto radio station that he expects Myers to be moved, but maybe not any time soon. TSN’s Bob McKenzie also said that Detroit was one of many asking Buffalo about Myers. MLive.com’s Ansar Khan said he doesn’t think Detroit would trade 2014 first-round pick Dylan Larkin or their 2015 first-round pick for Myers. But McKenzie says that Buffalo is quote “honing in” on Larkin plus another piece as their asking price.

• ESPN/TSN’s Pierre LeBrun confirmed the reports and said the Red Wings asked about Buffalo in the spring. He also mentioned a few other defensemen that could be moved. He said Edmonton’s Jeff Petry has been out there, who grew up in Michigan and played for Michigan State, and that Ottawa has eight one-way contract defensemen, so that could make Patrick Wiercioch or Marc Methot available. Dreger says Petry might be gone sooner rather than later.

Khan says the Red Wings tried to trade for the Petry over the summer. Edmonton wanted Darren Helm. Detroit said no. The Oilers apparently want a center, which Detroit doesn’t have a lot of.

• Another trade target, according to Lyle Richardson, is Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman.

Freidman said Detroit would be interested if the Panthers started shopping Brian Campbell, despite Campbell not being right handed. SportsNet’s Mike Johnston says the Panthers would probably want a top defense prospect like Nick Jensen or Xavier Ouellet while taking Jakub Kindl off the Red Wings’ hands, but that’s not happening.

• Numerous reports have the Red Wings trying to get rid of Kindl.

• Some other candidates for trade Khan threw out: Washington’s Mike Green, Toronto’s Cody Franson, Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian. He also said the Red Wings have show interest in left-handed defensemen Keith Yandle of Phoenix and Vancouver’s Alex Edler.

• Daniel Alfredsson chances of returning are dwindling according to Khan.

• ESPN’s Craig Custance notes that talks are quiet on restricted free agents-to-be Brendan Smith and Gustav Nyquist.

• Former Red Wing Ville Leino signed with Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL according to CBSSports.com’s Chris Peters.

• Andy Miele cleared waivers and went to Grand Rapids, while Shane Berschbach was demoted to the Toledo Walleye.

• The Red Wings signed prospect Tyler Bertuzzi to an entry-level contract.

• There’s also a bunch of “Babcock to Toronto” report-type substances, that might or might not be more speculation than reporting.

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The Book On: Gustav Nyquist, the worst shootouter in Red Wings history

(David Guralnick/Detroit News)
Gustav Nyquist is the absolute worst, and he’s extending his lead.

Despite being one of the Red Wings’ most skilled players this side of Pavel Datsyuk, Nyquist’s shootout numbers are the lowest ever seen in a Red Wings uniform.

Before Nyquist came along, no Red Wing had more than four shootout attempts without a goal. Nyquist is 0-for-6 after missing the net against Boston on Wednesday. Among those who have better shootout numbers than Nyquist: Tomas Holmstrom (1-for-4), Niklas Kronwall (1-for-2), Patrick Eaves (2-for-6) and Drew Miller (1-for-2).

Nobody really needs the ‘book’ on Nyquist as a shooter. At most a pamphlet, maybe a flyer. The message in them all: he can’t score. But let’s take a look at them anyway.

The Basics: Nyquist is 0-for-6 in shootouts.

Goals: none

Misses: 4/11/13 vs. San Jose (Antti Niemi), 4/12/13 @ Chicago (Corey Crawford), 12/10/13 @ Florida (Tim Thomas), 12/12/13 @ Tampa Bay (Ben Bishop), 10/15/14 vs. Boston (Tuuka Rask)

Shot chart. Black = goal. Red = miss.

Shot chart. Black = goal. Red = miss.

The Strategy: In his short shootout career, Nyquist has tried a number of different finishes. He has shot, deked and done the (now-illegal) spin-o-rama. To start, he tends to swing a little out to the right, go about medium speed and throw in a couple stickhandles. From there he just does whatever he thinks will work. Nyquist’s shot against the Bruins was a typical attempt.

In his last three shots he’s settled into finishing with a wrist shot. Twice he’s tried to go glove and didn’t get it high enough. On Wednesday he tried to go blocker and missed the net. On all three occasions he had goals if he puts it in the spot he wants it. The lack of accuracy is curious for somebody that’s made a name for himself by sniping goals in regulation. It hints at some bad luck, some sort of mental block in the shootout, or both.

The Takeaway: The good news is Nyquist seems to have a plan. The bad news is that it never works. While Nyquist’s 0-for-6 has been a bit unlucky — he’s just missed, had a goalie make a ridiculous save and missed his spot a couple of times — it’s time for something new. Swinging right and putting your forehand shot into the middle of the ice is good theory, but results are the results. Nyquist needs to go straight on, or do the stupid slow swings from right to left and back again, or go really slow, or go fast, or go fast and then slow, or try a backhand. Something. Anything. He’s two or three more missed shots away from Mike Babcock taking away his shootout privileges forever.

Shootout deadliness: An 0-for doesn’t leave much choice. 0OHHHH BA-BY!“s out of 5. He’s worse than Jiri Hudler.

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The 2014 Royals, the 2006 Tigers and rooting for your own gut punch

The Royals won again. They probably will go to the World Series. They might win it. If they do, the Royals will have two championships since the Tigers’ last.

That final fact prevented me from jumping into the Royals run after the Tigers were knocked out in ALDS. Nobody wants the Cardinals to win again. The Giants, I mean, 2012. The bandwagon options were the Royals or the Orioles. At least the Orioles have made four playoff trips since they last won it all. At least they went to the ALDS two years ago. At least their last World Series win was before the Tigers (1983).

In a small way, the Royals winning the World Series will be a reminder about of close the Tigers came, how futile the last 30 years has been, and how a championship hasn’t been won in my lifetime. They’d be the “no hope Tigers” again. Even the Royals are winning the World Series. Tigers fans would have to go further back to find their solace and pretend like being better than the Indians meant something.

But then I saw Mike Moustakas make that diving catch and the Kansas City crowd in their clever shirts and that packed stadium. I thought about the Royals’ weird extra-inning wins and their bullpen that just seems to get it done.

It’s reminiscent of 2006, when kids were squishing their faces into the fencing by the statues in right center and people stood on top of building to get a glimpse of the these feisty Tigers making their run.

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The story of a sad man and a game that showed the Detroit Lions one strength could hide many flaws

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer took the podium with a scowl. He spoke in rasps and whispers. He made it three sentences before letting out a gigantic sigh.

“I can handle getting beat,” he said at one point. “I can’t handle getting our butts whooped like that.”

Zimmer was an NFL assistant for 20 years before earning the Vikings head job this January. It had to be the culmination of his professional career. He spent most of the press conference befuddled, wondering how his team didn’t play like it practiced and whether he players actually wanted to keep their jobs. He caught himself from swearing twice and a split second of clarity kept him from tearing into a reporter four times.

Zimmer’s spirit is gone six games into his dream job. The Lions broke it.

Eight sacks, 12 QB hits, six pass deflections and three interceptions will do that.

This week doesn’t change the last. The Lions are still deeply flawed. They’re still injured and shallow in key positions. Kicking will cost them another game if 1-for-3 continues. If the Lions make a deep run, it’ll still mean they got lucky. But after Sunday, after winning a division road game with a sputtering offense and without Calvin Johnson, they maybe won’t need as much luck as originally thought.

The NFL has changed in the past couple of years. The handful of the obvious contenders are gone, especially in the NFC. In their place are a jumble of good teams with blemishes. Look at the Cowboys. Before the season, people were talking about them having the worst defense in NFL history. The unit consists of former busts, decent players and no names. But they run the ball so well on offense it doesn’t matter. They run the ball so well they can dominate the Seahawks — the one team the general public was giving five-star Yelp reviews to — in Seattle.

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A fancy stats NHL preview of sorts: How many attempts does it take to figure out a player’s shootout talent?

Datsyuk Shootout

This summer we delved into the #fancystats revolution and tried to apply it to the only consistent one-on-one, pitcher-vs-batter matchup hockey provides: the shootout.

I, for one, learned a lot, from why the shootout is important, to the best way to measure how much a goalie/player contributes to his team’s success in it, to the fact that the Red Wings should’ve gone blocker side more last year. But hockey starts today (although the Red Wings start tomorrow). No one cares about what should’ve happened last year. It’s all about what happens this year.

Can we take past performance in the shootout and predict future success?

To figure this out, I stole from baseball. Not too long ago a wise man known to the internet as “Pizza Cutter” tried to find at what point (how many plate appearances) it took for a stat to become reliable. I was more interested in the second part of the article (after the “UPDATED:”), where he asked “at what point in the season … do stats go from being garbage to being meaningful and actually describing something about the player?”

He figured this out by taking a certain amount of plate appearances (increasing the number at regular intervals) and using a split-half reliability: numbering the plate appearances a player had sequentially and then splitting them all up into two samples, even and odd, in an attempt to remove as many confounding variables as possible. Over the long run, there’s no real reason a person’s first, third, fifth, seventh, etc. attempts should be any different than their second, fourth, sixth, eighth, etc.

When the two split-half reliability samples had a correlation coefficient (R) of over .70, it was assumed to be able to tell us something since R^2, or the coefficient of determination, was >.49. “Anything north of .70 means that a majority of the variance (> 50%) is stable,” Pizza Cutter wrote. “Higher correlations mean more stability, which is always better, but .70 is usually “good enough for government work.”

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