The Top Shelf: Back to Work

The Kids Table at the TPL Holiday Feast

How does this thing work again???:: After gorging ourselves on the finest food and consuming all of the best top shelf adult beverage offerings, we’ve finally pried ourselves off the leather and cherry-wood couches and are ready to get back to work here at TPL. Apologies for the lack of posting around the St. Louis win earlier this week, but all of us were still in the midst of our long winter’s nap. That said, a big thanks goes out to @stevieroxelle for holding down the fort and kicking ass while Petrella, Disch and myself were busying ourselves with all of the fun and excitement that comes with this time of year. Don’t worry: there will be plenty more of Stevie in the future, so turn those frowns upside down.

The Sak Attack:: With the Wings getting a rare day off, the big news out of our friends at the MSM was the return of Jan Mursak to the Grand Rapids Griffins for a conditioning stint now that his broken ankle has healed. From Khan(!):

Mursak said Tuesday that he expected to play tonight in Lake Erie. He has been out since Sept. 25 with a broken left ankle.

He anticipated playing between 4-6 games with the Griffins but could be brought back to Detroit sooner if the Red Wings have another injury and need him.

While it’s good to see Mursak getting himself in shape to make the jump back up to the Wings, the timing of his return will eventually force some lineup shuffling from Ken Holland and Mike Babcock. While Patrick Eaves remains sidelined with a fractured jaw, Chris Conner – impressive in his time with the Wings – is likely to return to the lineup in early January, and Tomas Holmstrom should work his way back into the rotation before long as well. This, of course, assumes there are no additional injuries, but one would assume that Holland and Co. would look to get Mursak in the lineup at the expense of Conner and then rotate guys in the Leino Lounge. At any rate, good to hear that #39 is on his way back and we can only hope he’ll be ready to get down to business when his number is called.

Take Care Champ:: Sad news yesterday as the Wings lost a legend and a leader (B1G pun intended) as four-time Stanley Cup Champion player/coach Johnny Wilson passed away. From the official release:

The Detroit Red Wings mourn the loss of former player and coach Johnny Wilson who passed away this morning at the age of 82 following an extended battle with lung disease.   Wilson skated in 379 games over six seasons for the Red Wings, and was a member of four Stanley Cup championship teams as a player forDetroit (1950, ’52, ’54 and ’55).  Johnny registered 79 goals, 100 assists and 179 points in 379 regular-season games for Detroit. In 50 post-season games with the Wings,Wilson tallied 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points.

A native of Kincardine, Ontario, Wilson served as the Red Wings Head Coach for 145 games in 1971-73 and 1972-73 (67-56-22).  He also served behind the bench with Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Colorado of the NHL and Cleveland, Michigan and Baltimore of the WHA.

One of the best things about being a fan of the Wings is the appreciation the entire organization has for their history and heritage, and it’s great to see them acknowledge the success of a man who is often overlooked in the history books. Godspeed Johnny Wilson. Smile warmly upon the Wings.

Fire Up the Rumor Mill:: Nope, not Eklund. This time it’s ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, who says the Wings are in the mix to pursue the up-and-down Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers:

Another club that could come calling on Hemsky is Detroit. The Red Wings have cap space and will be an aggressive team come the trade deadline. They’ll look at all kinds of options but I believe Hemsky will be among the names on their shopping list.

While LeBrun is just getting the train rolling on this one, our good buddy George Malik has been all over this and isn’t sure that Hemsky is the ideal target for the Wings:

I’m not so sure that the Wings are interested in another finesse player, but that’s just me.

If you’re one for predictions, even from a legitimate journalist, Matheson doesn’t believe that Nicklas Lidstrom has a chance in hell of winning the Norris Trophy this year, either, so take that with some salt, and I will say this about Matheson and Wings-related rumors, lest you have visions of a top-ten scorer for a seventh-round draft pick dancing in your head: when Matheson was really “on” regarding the Wings and free agents or re-signings, it involved Ken Holland’s dealings with Edmonton-based agent Rich Winter.

Guess which agent happens to represent #83? We might be talking about a case of a familiar source dangling suitable destinations for his client in front of a hockey writer willing to indulge the agent’s GM-baiting for an easy story’s worth of salaciousness.

While I tend to agree with George on this one in that Hemsky isn’t exactly what the Wings need, his case is an interesting one in that Detroit runs the risk of losing a Cory Emmerton or Jan Mursak trying to pass them through waivers once the roster is fully healthy, and Ken Holland may decide it makes more sense to get something in the short term by trading for a rental player like Hemsky and then filling the void next season with the young talent steadily climbing up the ladder in Grand Rapids. One thing is for sure: the Wings have money to spend, but where they choose to spend it is anyone’s guess. With rumors circulating that bigger trades will happen well before the deadline this year, one would think that the stage is set for the Wings will do some soul-searching and potentially walk away with a new player, but with Kenny you just never know.

And Finally…:: Joakim Andersson heads into uncharted waters in Detroit hockey history. Remember Danny Dekeyser? He’s all the rage right now. @commie22 has usurped Jakub Kindl’s role. Can it last? Finland dropped the US at the World Junior Championship. I hope my professional colleagues are out celebrating.