The Malik Report
by George Malik on 10/29/11 at 09:16 PM ET
Why are the Red Wings a big “Work in Progress,” and why has their collective play dropped off so significantly after a 5-and-0 start? Going into tonight’s game against the Wild, it seems like the Wings’ players aren’t just on “different pages”—they’re on different chapters of their team’s new playbook, if they’ve read it at all, and I think I know why: after a very strong start, we’re witnessing the effects of Kris Draper, Chris Osgood and Brian Rafalski’s retirements kicking in.
You can see that in the fact that players like Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Jiri Hudler are waiting for that kick-in-the-ass, “Start engaging physically and getting ‘em mad at you!” speeches that Draper would give both in the locker room and on the bench, Osgood’s willingness to chirp at his defensemen if they weren’t demonstrative enough, and of course Rafalski’s calmness and passing abilities haven’t been matched—instead, the Wings are over-pinching on defense, with only Ian White having the excuse of not knowing how to play less aggressively, and Kindl, Ericsson and Stuart’s physical edges have disappeared as Kronwall’s attempted to adjust to the weight of that “A” on his right shoulder.
I think the Wings need to find new leaders in their locker room and on their bench as much as they need to improve their power play, penalty-killing and ability to stop opponents from cycling the puck down low in the Wings’ zone under Jeff Blashill and Bill Peters, and perhaps every player not named Nicklas Lidstrom has to step up and be more vocal while proving that they can set an example with their on-ice intensity, determination, attention to detail and every-shift effort.
Draper isn’t going to go out there and play a “steady the ship” shift or two, especially when only one line’s playing and the other three are standing around. Osgood isn’t around to crack a one-liner on the bench or deflate tension by walking around shirtless at the most inappropriate time possible. Rafalski’s quiet intensity, mile-a-minute speaking pace or ridiculously high IQ.
As assistant coaches are off-limits to the media, we’ve also learned that the understated Blashill and Peters are finding their way as the players don’t have the ever-smirking Paul MacLean cracking the whip or “Beast” McCrimmon barking on the bench and then being the “good guy” go-between in practice or the locker room.
The Wings are enduring a bit of an identity crisis as they attempt to regain their swagger after two consecutive second round ousters against the Sharks, and without three veterans and two players who loved nothing more than being Red Wings (even when Chris Osgood was out of town), the team’s most certainly missing some veteran savvy…
And it’s not that the Wings need to reestablish a previous incarnation’s worth of identity with so much turnover. Instead, the youngsters, veterans and coaching staff very clearly need to forget a new one, an identity that incorporates addressing of the systemic and systematic flaws which doomed the Wings against the Sharks last spring, two years ago, and on Friday night, too. The Wings are a team in transition, and it’s simply time for them to embrace the ups and downs of dramatic change by not being afraid to start doing things differently.
This year’s Red Wings team is supposed to evolve into something new, something that’s faster, more aggressive and more demonstrative while also playing more efficient hockey, but even with a ridiculously easy October schedule on their side, the team’s very clearly stuck (to steal the title of an album by the Tragically Hip) In Between Evolution.
It’s gonna take the Wings a while to acknowledge, accept and act upon the changes thrust upon them, and in the interim, we Wings fans might have to endure more of what are, by our standards, anyway, surprisingly disappointing efforts, strange-for-Detroit collapses and moments of stick-clutching indecision as this team attempts to define a new incarnation of the Big Red Machine.
For the record the fam has viral bronchitis of the bad penny kind—it refuses to go away. I’ll be back at work soon, I promise.
Update: One more thing: I think it’s great that the Wings have found a way to convince Johan Franzen to engage in every game by utilizing him as their second line center. His effort is there in every game for the first time in what seems like forever (at least when we’re talking about the regular season). He just needs to find some consistent line mates…Or maybe they need to find themselves.
Add a Comment
Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.
Most Recent Blog Posts
About The Malik Report
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.