The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/14/13 at 12:05 PM ET
Last night, I plainly stated my belief that Mike Babcock's sharply-worded criticism of his team was not only necessary, but also long overdue. I'm getting incredibly tired of the, "Waive everyone, bring up ALL the Griffins" (the Wings have gotten pretty close there) "and fire Babcock, he's the problem!" talk.
The coaching staff consists of more than one man, and watching the Wings' Game-Day Preview after the Wings' loss reminded me that associate coach Tom Renney and assistant coach Bill Peters often share the ice with video coach Keith McKittrick and goalie coach Jim Bedard.
Just as the management is more than "Ken Holland"--Holland, assistant GM Jim Nill, capologist Ryan Martin, manager-in-training Kris Draper, Mark Howe's pro scouting staff (which includes Kirk Maltby), the team's amateur scouts, player mentors like Chris Chelios and Chris Osgood and director of player development Jiri Fischer--so there are more than two people coaching and managing this team.
Just as importantly, while you and I may not agree with their decisions, the men in charge of this team's coaching and management are trying to win, not trying to specifically piss you off or drive players out of town. Suggestions to the contrary simply don't hold water over the long haul. Coaches and management want their players to succeed, and while we have every right to criticize their decision-making processes, this concept that coaches and management only exist as adversaries of their own personnel isn't accurate.
And as for this poor guy wearing #13, who's supposedly being "driven out of town?"
Yes, we know that Pavel Datsyuk has suggested that he may finish his career in Russia. Yes, we know that he's got strong patriotic leanings, to the point that the Wings have somewhat reluctantly agreed to allow him to play for the Russian national team at the World Championships while injured, and have done so repeatedly. Yes, we know that his daughter's attending school in Yekaterinburg, which is never a good sign.
But Datsyuk HAS been vocal after wins AND losses, and in case anybody forgot, here's what he told DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose about the supposed slug playing on his line:
Pavel Datsyuk’s English isn’t always easy to understand. But the Russian star perfectly described what Justin Abdelkader meant to the Red Wings in the first half of the season, which ended with Thursday’s 3-0 win over Edmonton.
“He goes through and gets the puck to me or goes back in front of the net and fights for every puck,” Datsyuk said, Friday afternoon. “Some people only measure him if he scores. But if you see him … he does a lot of hard jobs.”
Abdelkader was finally rewarded for his hard work when he scored his first goal of the season Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, which snapped a 41-game scoring drought.
Using an analogy to sum up Abdelkader’s contribution to the top six forwards this season, Datsyuk said, “It’s like somebody needs to pull the piano and somebody needs to play the piano. This is a guy who pulls the piano.”
I don't like the Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Cleary line combination--which became an Abdelkader-Datsyuk-Franzen line last night--but Datsyuk's not exactly skating into puck battles at half speed, shrugging his shoulders and going back to the bench having given a quarter of his usual effort...
And he's not alone in the, "Top six-to-nine forwards gone completely silent over the past 10-12 games" department. Datsyuk has been able to succeed at the NHL level regardless of his linemates, as has Henrik Zetterberg, and they tend to receive leeway in terms of scoring slumps, but brass tacks are brass tacks, and the Detroit News's Ted Kulfan penned this before last night's game:
Pavel Datsyuk has gone 10 games without a goal. It’s a lengthy streak, but interestingly, Datsyuk has gone through more droughts that have been much longer.
Datsyuk’s longest stretch without a goal is 21 games, from Nov. 5 2002 to Jan. 28, 2003 (he missed 18 games in between due to injury). In all, Datsyuk has had 11 droughts of at least 10 games in his career.
It's 11 games now, and Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Valtteri Filppula, Damien Brunner, Johan Franzen, yes, Danny Cleary and Justin Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard and the rest of the Red Wings' players need to step up.
This isn't a case of the Wings' coaches being the sole reason that its players can't or won't succeed. The Red Wings' players aren't rowing the boat, and a significant chunk of blame for this team rowing in circles has to lie with the players.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.