Before the reported injuries of defenseman Niklas Kronwall, and forward Tomas Jurco yesterday, we already knew that Teemu Pulkkinen would be missing time due to injury sustained over the summer. Despite the fact that even with injuries the logjam remains, there is a glimmer of hope that the Red Wings’ youth could claim for spots as injuries settle.
Let’s assume that Kronwall returns in time for the regular season, the Red Wings would still have a seventh spot open on defense for Xavier Ouellet, Ryan Sproul, and Nick Jensen to compete for. Early implications from beat writers have claimed that this spot would likely be given to Ouellet, but there is no doubt that Sproul and Jensen would be chomping-at-the-bit to compete for the seventh spot. There is, of course, a high chance that Kronwall may not return in time for the regular season. Reports indicate this injury is related to the one he missed time with last season when he got his knee scoped. In that case you have another spot open, which would inevitably leave a guy like Jensen out.
On the flip-side of things, we have our forwards. With Pulkkinen and Jurco out, there’s still very little room, but the Red Wings have more flexibility with waiver-exempt players. As it stands right now, Martin Frk seems to be the one forward the Red Wings might hold off on waiver exposure, which gives him the 13th or 14th spot. It’s hard to sit here and tell myself that Miller can be bumped from the lineup, so you essentially have that final spot in the lineup open, which you assume players like Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou will fight for in a cage match.
DISCLAIMER: I’d like to think that Ott would go on waivers, but the way they’ve presented his “dream of playing in Detroit,” and all of that warm & fuzzy goodness, it’s unlikely to happen.
So here’s your “bottom-five:”
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Andreas Athanasiou/Anthony Mantha
Steve Ott - Martin Frk
While it would be completely favorable to have both Mantha and Athanasiou in the lineup, it’s highly unlikely that will happen due to their waiver status. The team has flexibility with their waiver-exempt players, and feel it’s unnecessary to have them sitting in the press box when they could be playing in Grand Rapids. Since Frk has waiver eligibility, he can sit and be rotated in and out of the lineup at the team’s discretion.
Of course we’d all like to see the extra forwards be Miller and Ott on a full-time basis, but there is probably a better chance of getting kicked by a unicorn at this point.