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Abel to Yzerman

Desperation or Common Sense?

Helene St. James mentioned in her Wing blog yesterday that Pavel Datsyuk has been practicing on a line with Hank Zetterberg and Mikael Samuelsson. Many of you read that and said something to the effect of, "Golly, it's about darn time." A smaller number may have raised an eyebrow and thought, "uh oh. That's desperation right there, brother." I'm somewhere in the middle.

There can be no doubt Datsyuk and Zetterberg have flourished together in the past.  I sense they will again, and that’s not exactly a stretch.  But the reason they haven’t been given that opportunity so far this season is because they are each so vital to other lines, and other players’ successes. 

Closer to the truth:  this may be Babcock’s admission that this team is what you see, limited offensively to the extent that he’s placed his two best forwards on one line in hopes they can generate a consistent two goals/game.  He can likely expect two other bonuses from a surprise Cleary, Draper, Lidstrom or Schneider and hope his defensive scheme is enough to keep the opposition to three goals.

I’ve said it before.  3 is the magic number where the Wings are concerned.  Of the Wings’ 11 losses (regulation and OT), 10 have come after allowing 3 or more goals.  The Wings are averaging 2.60/game.

Babcock’s move, to me, is a clear attempt to move that average up over three, while hoping the power play continues to grudgingly improve. 

We, ok…I, have been tossing our boy Pavel under the buss the last few weeks. I make no excuses for it.  He’s played well below what he’s capable of.  But…but, while his goals are obviously down, his assists are where we’d expect.  His 12 are second to Lidstrom’s 15.  Zetterberg, on the other hand, has notched only 6. 

Oh, and it would appear the Wings have begun to bristle at the constant references to a team-wide slump.

Helene St. James/Detroit Free Press

“You can count on one hand how many 2-on-1s we’ve had this year,” Robert Lang said Monday. “For the skill and the speed we have, we should have 2-on-1s, 3-on-1s every game. But we play sort of a safe style. I mean, with five guys back, we can’t really get ahead of anybody. It’s kind of hard to go from being back to being first on the offense. It’s hard to get anything going.”

Remember in “Hoosiers” when Gene Hackman sends four players out on the court, stubbornly refusing to budge from his stance that efficient offense and tough defense will propel his Hickory Huskers to victory?  The town turns vicious, hurling obscenities and peanuts at embattled Norman Dale.  In response, he holds his black notebook above his head as if to say, “it’s the system and you can all kiss my ass.”  That’s how I’m beginning to see Mike Babcock. 

Here’s what I hope:  stay the course.  If this is truly a result of the system, and not a team-wide offensive dive into the frigging toilet, then stay the course and learn how you can milk some offense out of this style.  Because while this is frustrating to us and the team itself, it’s the style of hockey that’s going to win in the Spring.

As for Pavel and Hank?  Well, as much as the Wings depended on them for offense prior to this move; the pressure just got turned up a notch.  Now production from this line, if it is actually going to be constructed, is essential.  Teams will be stacking against it.  The best defensive forwards, the best blue line pairings.  All this while forwards who have benefitted, however slightly, from playing on other lines with 13 and 40 will have to generate offense on their own.

It would be a risky move, and an admission from Babcock that the system may need a little tweaking from time to time.


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About Abel to Yzerman

Welcome to Abel to Yzerman, a Red Wing blog since 1977.  No other site on the internet has better-researched, fact-laden and better prepared discussions than A2Y.  Re-phrase: we do little research, find facts and stats highly overrated and claim little to no preparation.  There are 19 readers of A2Y. No more, no less. All of them, except maybe one, are juvenile in nature.  Reminding them of that in the comment section will only encourage them to prove that. Your suggestions and critiques are welcome: wphoulihan@gmail.com