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Winging It In the Mailroom: Week One - Nicknames, Buyouts, and The Panic Button

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Last week, we opened the floor for our new WIIM Mailbag and asked you guys to fill it with questions that we'd answer on a weekly basis. We got some great questions on our first run, which we'll go over below. Thanks to everybody who submitted questions. 

If you'd like your question answered, please email it to us at

Let's get started with Question #1 from zfan16:

As someone who is relatively new to WIIM and until recently, not a regular poster, I have a couple of questions about various names for players and other references used frequently in articles and comments.  First, how did Jimmy get the name "Tiberius," Danny get the name "Buckets" and any of the other names (other than TPH, which goes without saying) given to other players?  Second, I don’t want to appear totally ignorant, but what is Futurama?  I’m not into video games and don’t watch a lot of animated shows so it’s not a reference I understand.

Fan-given player nicknames are as fluid as they are fun. A lot of them are as easy as a play on the guy's name (Afrogator, Flip, Kronner). The more esoteric among them usually develop in blog comments, posts, and on Twitter. Some names just tend to stick. Sometimes one name evolves, fades, or is replaced by something different. For specifics, calling Danny Cleary "Buckets" came from Abel to Yzerman and is described in their glossary. The short answer is that when Cleary came to Detroit, he was on his last chance and that he turned that last chance into his golden ticket with the organization, much like Charlie Bucket did in Willy Wonka.

The Tiberius nickname for Howard comes from the glossary at The Production Line. It's a reference to noted interstellar bad-ass panty-dropper James Tiberius Kirk of the USS Enterprise. At the time it just kind of happened. Jimmy was solidly stealing Osgood's starter spot from him and it looked like he could do no wrong. FWIW, I don't precisely remember where the "Danger" nickname came for Helm either, but I'm pretty sure that it's a name given to him by his teammates as a reference to his speed and the movie Top Gun.

As for Futurama, it's an animated show created by the same guy who created The Simpsons. It follows a 20th century delivery boy who gets cryogenically frozen and wakes up a thousand years later to join the crew of an intergalactic delivery service. The show has always received higher critical acclaim than ratings and was taken off the air in 2003. It was recently brought back after the hiatus. Overall there are 114 episodes, most of which are incredible. Aside from random hilarious esoterica (mostly about sci-fi), the show shines in using the 31st century as a mirror to the human condition today (even if that human condition is being played out by a Jerry Lewis-esque lobster alien or a misanthropic hedonistic alcoholic robot). It's a quality show that does a good job staying earnest even when going for cheap laughs without taking itself seriously enough to get preachy. I'd recommend it to anyone. Thanks for the question!

Keep reading for the rest of the questions.

Question #2

Here's my two cents worth of question.  Few weeks ago WIIM quoted capgeek ( five teams that have never had a COMPLETE player buyout.   Wings are one of those teams.   Hatcher,  Whitney and at least one other had their contract bought out by the Wings,   Capgeek stated that these five clubs had never had a COMPLETE buyout.   What makes it not a complete buyout,  how is that different from the routine buyout?   I took alot of flak from the Detnews. Wings forum...don't believe everything you read etc. etc.   Some clarification please.

Bear with me here while we thrown a few links out there. First off, here is the post from our quick hits which referenced the Capgeek tweet here:

Since everyone is dying to know, here are the teams that have never completed a buyout: , , , and .

Here's the thing, on its face and out-of-context, this is not a correct statement. However, when you add in the the tweet that this one was designed to follow-up, you get an important distinction Capgeek was looking for:

Only five teams have never bought out a player (non-compliance) in the post-lockout era. Can you name them?

Obviously, the Wings have bought out players. Before the lockout, they bought out the final year of Luc Robitaille's contract and after the lockout ended, they exercised a special buyout provision on the contracts of Derian Hatcher, Darren McCarty, and Ray Whitney to help them become compliant with the new $39M salary cap. For reference, the Wings' salary commitments for the 2003-04 season totaled $77.85M. Even with the across-the-board 24% rollback in player salaries, the Wings were looking at a roster that was now valued at over $59M. They were also looking at re-signing restricted free agents Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Niklas Kronwall (maybe ya hoid of 'em?) as well as unrestricted free agent Steve Yzerman.

Fortunately, one of the things built into the new CBA was a one-time only provision which began the day after the thing was ratified and ended six days later which allowed for compliance buyouts. According to Exhibit 16 section 7(a) of the newly-ratified CBA , a team could buy out any player without it counting against their cap hit. The only catch was that they were not allowed to bring that person back by any means (re-sign, trade for, waiver claim or otherwise) in the following season. Of course, that's the catch for non-compliance buyouts as well. Buying out Hatcher and Whitney was a no-brainer considering their salaries; Darren McCarty was a much tougher choice, but the Wings still needed to cut salary somewhere and his $2.25M contract was just too rich at the time.

Buyouts are something of an ugly thing in today's salary-capped NHL. It's always going to hurt for a player to be told that a team would rather just give you the money you're owed and be done with you. Still, the Red Wings' choice in the matter was to try to find a team which would take those large salaries for next-to-nothing during a six-day period when the entire hockey world had no idea what a player was worth, or to buy they player out of his contract and let him contend for a roster spot elsewhere at a salary more fitting for his ability to contribute (while still also having all of that buyout cash). The Wings had to make tough choices and they had to make them fast. Comparing what happened with those players to the Alexei Yashin debacle in Long Island makes it hardly fair to even call both of the situations "buyouts".

Question #3 is a three-parter from Russell:

Question #1

I'm sure this is going to be asked often but, I'm curious of what you guys really think about our roster.. It's pretty clear we need a forward who can either A Shoot the puck, or B Create plays.. Do you think we have entered the panic mode? Should we consider trading yet? ..

Graham: I imagine that when this question was asked, the Wings hadn't just ripped off 4 straight wins, including one against the hottest team in hockey (true). However, despite the Wings' recent success, I think there's definitely a hole on the roster begging for a top-forward, specifically one that can score goals. When the Wings have struggled this season, it's been due to a lack of goal scoring, and bringing someone who has the proven-ability to score 30-40 goals a year would give the Wings another threat and make them that much more dangerous.

Question #2

I wasn't a big fan of smith, but after seeing him play against the Sharks.. I was amazed.. from a 5-2 loss, how was it possible that he could have played well? Sure he made some mistakes.. terrible positioning on his first Powerplay... If I remember correctly he was a direct cause of a goal. My question here is, do you think he is now a lock? Would you put him in over Kindl Or Big-E ?

Jeff: Smith had a very nice run for the few games he played with the Wings. Make no mistake, the kid as a ton of raw talent. He was able to use his natural hockey instincts and adjusted well to the pace in the NHL games. 

To answer the second part of your question, Smith is not a lock to stick with the Wings as we saw Wednesday when he was sent to Grand Rapids. However, it's quite clear that Babcock likes him and he's moved past Commodore on the depth chart. He's down in the AHL only because Holland wants him to play instead of being a healthy scratch and the team has the luxury to send him down without having to clear waivers. 

I'm obviously bummed he got sent backdown to the AHL, but in a way it's definitely a good thing. He still has a lot to work on. His positioning in his own zone and making sure to pinch offensively at the right times are just two things he can improve on. Plus, if he continued to play in Detroit, he was bound I begin struggling more. It was a great preview into what type of career he can have. Let's hope he continues I work hard and doesn't get bored with the Griffins. He might be NHL ready, but he's not quite Red Wings ready just yet.

Question #3

This has been on my mind for awhile.. We have Bert, and Hudler.. who I REALLY believe don't deserve a spot on the roster, what are your thoughts on them? Do you think I'm being too hard?

Graham: I'm not a huge fan of either Bertuzzi or Hudler, but both bring something to the team that helps them win. As we saw yesterday, Bert's ability in the shootout is second only to Datsyuk on the Wings, and Hudler does have good puck skills, especially on the power play. The issue isn't whether they belong the on the roster, but who do you replace them with? Unless someone like Gustaf Nyquist or Jan Mursak (when he gets healthy) can come in and provide the same offensive production that Bert and Hudler do, then I think that for the forseeable future, we're stuck with the roster we have (unless they get traded for that goal-scorer we're wanting).

J.J.: I think you're being too hard on one of them right now. Hudler is tied for fourth on the Wings in scoring with 10 points. The difference there is that he's playing only 13:22 per night, which is three minutes fewer than Valtteri Filppula and six minutes fewer than Datsyuk.  Don't get me wrong, I don't want Hudler getting more minutes though. When he's been at his best, he's been doing this very well. He plays low minutes and puts up very good numbers from there. Among Wings forwards, only Franzen and Drew Miller have a higher rating for points-per-60-minutes played than Hudler's 2.39 (Datsyuk is 2.33, Filppula is 2.08).  Bertuzzi has looked good in his games back from his injury to the point where I do want to see more of him, but I'd stay with the quick hook for the guy who has two more minor penalties than his next closest competitor (Franzen) in SIX fewer games. Bert's going to need to show more to prove that he's not wasting a spot which would be better served to give to somebody else.

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So there you have it on our first week.  Thanks to those who sent in questions. Remember, if you've got something to ask, please send it to us at

[once again, bit thanks to Photochop Guru Josh Howard for the mailbag logo.]