On Red Wings Goalies, Tigers Pitching And Dennis Northcutt
Obviously, the salary cap, and their continuation of butting against its ceiling, has forced the Red Wings to move into a different direction when it comes to goalies. The idea now is to develop their own to eventually replace Chris Osgood, not sign veteran free agents.
It wasn’t a surprise they didn’t re-sign Ty Conklin. He is going to get a lot more on the open market than the $700,000 he made last season. I know the Red Wings are selling the Jimmy Howard-Chris Osgood tandem, but I’m not so sure how sold they really are on Howard, although he did play relatively well during the second half of last season, eventually beating out Daniel Larrson as the starter in Grand Rapids.
The Red Wings are out of options to the minor leagues for Howard, who was brilliant collegiately at Maine, but it’s clear they are looking for a backup plan. Howard’s inconsistency at times has been alarming.
The reputation of Thomas McCollum, the Red Wings’ first round pick in 2008, suffered because of a poor performance in the World Junior Championships last season. It was misleading and overblown and shouldn’t diminish McCollum’s upside. He is an extraordinary prospect, who might play in the league sooner than is being anticipated by many. He played very well in the OHL last season. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes Grand Rapids No. 1 goalie and performs exceptionally well.
Make no mistake about it, McCollum, not Howard, is the Red Wings’ big hope in goal. He is the one with the star-quality upside. Osgood, 36, has two years left on his contract.
The Red Wings signed Jordan Pearce from Notre Dame as a free agent a couple months ago. He was probably the best goalie in the CCHA last season. He was never drafted, and it does make you wonder why based on his performance and background (he was on the U.S. developmental team in Ann Arbor for a couple years).
Pearce did play in one game for the Griffins and was lit up for five goals - not that it should mean that much.
Larrson was the Swedish elite league’s goalie of the year before signing with the Red Wings. He is a late bloomer, in his mid-20s. Doesn’t seem like he is being considered a long-term solution for the Red Wings. An educated guess: Larrson will end up back in Sweden, maybe as soon as this coming season.
- The Tigers did stretch out Fu-Te Ni in a couple of his outings before calling him up from Toledo, but he will likely be used as a situational lefty. He throws sidearm (how many side-arming lefties do you see) and his numbers in Triple-A were discernibly better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters. The tale of tape will be how hard he throws. Does he have enough heat to get the ball by major league hitters in the strike zone? Deception will only help him so much in the big leagues.
- OK, so Alfred Figaro wasn’t the answer at fifth starter. Surprised? I’m not. So now we get Luke French, who paid his dues and earned the shot. French is not overpowering. At his best, he will get groundouts. Late sinking action on his fastball is his strength. If he is allowing fly balls, he will eventually get in deep trouble. His strikeouts are up this season. Don’t know exactly why. His control has been a lot better. Big guy with some deception in his delivery.
Who is next in line for the fifth starter spot should French falter? That’s not a question the Tigers really want to answer right now. Nobody, really, in the minor leagues. Luis Marte and Jon Kibler at Double-A Erie are OK prospects, probably have more upside than French and are fairly advanced, but neither has pitched all that well this season. Brooks Brown? He’s been underwhelming in Triple-A.
- Gerald Alexander is not a bad player and is healthy, but the Lions have some depth at safety and they need help at slot receiver and the return game, so acquiring Dennis Northcut seems like a good decision. Northcutt has averaged more than 10 yards per punt return in his career, but returned just five punts last season for an anemic average. He is 31 and will turn 32 before the end of the season. How much tread is left on his tires? And could it be the Lions are concerned about Derrick Williams, who missed minicamp because of a hamstring injury?