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The Malik Report

Are the Red Wings ‘thinner,’ or younger, leaner and enduring a ‘rebuilding year?’

This story wouldn't fit into the Red Wings-Flames game-day update post, and that's probably a good thing. The Globe and Mail's Alan Maki suggests that the Red Wings have essentially fallen from grace and fallen back to the pack due to their personnel losses over the past couple of seasons and/or salary cap restrictions, and their coach and players don't necessarily disagree with that statement (although it downplays the fact that Darren Helm and Todd Bertuzzi's absences severely limit the team's depth up front):

As head coach Mike Babcock put it when talking about his group: “Would you like to have three unbelievable players on three lines? Sure. That’s the Red Wings of the 90s.”

The Red Wings of 2013 are not the glory unit of old; too many retirements and defections have seen to that. What they are is a good team whose consistency has been hampered by injuries to keynote contributors Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula, both of whom are only now working their way back into the lineup. Darren Helm is another player whose effectiveness has been missed and proof that Detroit is no longer as deep and skilled as it once was. Babcock explained that, to win, the Red Wings have to fashion as strong a defensive game as possible.

“We’ve had to find a way as a coaching staff to win. We’ve been checking,” Babcock said of the team’s approach. “The last two games we gave up eight and five scoring chances. That’s unbelievable – and we lost both times. So why is that? Is that personnel? Are we checking Datsyuk and Zetterberg into a standstill? I don’t think so. I think we’re trying to play the game within the skill set we have.”

The Red Wings’ skill set remains high at the top end – Zetterberg has 27 points in 26 games while Datsyuk has 25 in 25 games. It’s the mid- to lower portion of the roster where the loss of players such as Jiri Hudler, now with the Flames, has made goal scoring more difficult. The current plan calls for Detroit to win by a 2-1 margin since goals have been hard to come by in the last seven games, four of them losses.

Dan Cleary, who started his career with the Red Wings when Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan were still there, insisted that losing Nik Lidstrom, Tomas Holmstrom and Hudler before the start of this season has taken another bite out of things. But it has also allowed the organization a chance to look at many of its younger players, and that’s proven to be encouraging.

“It is the evolution of guys moving on and new guys getting their opportunity,” said Cleary. “For us, it helps that the core has been kept together and that we have Datsyuk and Zetterberg. With them, we’re transitioning into tighter, defensive team.”

...

What Babcock and his players believe is that they’re poised for an upswing. With most everyone back and playing smart positional hockey, the forward lines can be planned with the right people being in the right spots to succeed. Filppula’s return from a shoulder injury is the key to icing the right combinations.

“I think Filppula coming back could really help (rookie) Brunner,” added Babcock. “Then you have Zetterberg and Filppula, Datsyuk and Franzen together and there’s enough for and there's enough for them to be who they are and capable. Brunns is a guy who can shoot the puck and he’s figuring out the North American game and schedule. You can imagine the wear and tear on him - not only on offence; he’s got to check. To play on our team, you have to check.”

I definitely believe that this Red Wings team is enduring a season that is as close to a "rebuilding year" as the management intends to get, with the brass allowing the veterans and youngsters alike to sink or swim while anticipating that the team will undergo more substantial changes via youngsters receiving full-time promotions next season and the cap going down yielding some subtractions and hopefully some meaningful additions from the crop of cap-compliance buyouts...

But I'm not sure whether this team is necessarily old and busted, either, especially given that it is, at least by Wings standards, so ridiculously young.

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Comments

Avatar

with the brass allowing the veterans and youngsters alike to sink or swim

Sure.  Tomas Tatar’s seven points have netted him a wonderful trip down to the minors.

Sink or swim my ass.

Posted by Garth on 03/13/13 at 04:47 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Preach Garth, getting ready for the same thing.

The Red Wings are REALLY trying to stock the NHL cupboard with vets so if BY CHANCE they can pull a playoff spot and people go down, they’ve got younger guys who’re seasoned enough to step in and play.

Problem is, they’re ready for the big club now, but the RW management is trying to convince them they aren’t ready for the sake of keeping them motivated and in a convenient spot, should the team need them.

Hence, “we’re not bring up Gus unless he’s in the top 6”..to..  “Well, we’re gonna work him in on the top 6 a couple shifts”

Tatar scored as many points as Cleary playing half the time Cleary got with a 10x better center.  And Cleary only hit for 3 games.  At least Tatar gave us goals when we needed them, not cherry on top shit.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 03/13/13 at 04:58 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

This mentality is also why they sent Tatar back in the first place.  They’ve waited so long for him he’s coming up on RFA status soon, can’t have him be too productive and offset the salary structure of the team.  Young guys have to EARN it like Abby.  You don’t get 2m a year to be on a 4th line if you’re not the bes tin the league.  Players need to look at Abs.  Abs from the worlds, not the Abs currently playing.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 03/13/13 at 05:00 PM ET

maltby18's avatar

So we’re in a fight to make the playoffs, struggling for offense and working to overcome injuries.  Instead of trying something new on the lines Babcock keeps trying to make bad combos work.

Just for one stinking period I’d like to see:

Brunner/Z/Mule

Nyquist/Dats/Tatar

Andersson/Flip/Eaves

Miller/Helm*/Tootoo

*fine, Emmerton.  Or Abby if we can’t scratch him.

I keep thinking, What Would Bowman do?

Posted by maltby18 on 03/13/13 at 08:25 PM ET

Avatar

Sorry for the rant.  I don’t post often, but try to read here daily.  Here is my experience as to how the front office is running.  I am a season ticket holder.  Last year they moved up the payment date for the 12-13 season to March from July.  I assume to draw in cash for the lockout they knew was coming.  Then the lockout happens.  I call in January and ask for my money back.  Enough is enough 10 months already I figured.  I got told the policy was no returns no refunds.  There was no CBA so there was nothing to return.  The season starts, a condensed season with several multiple games in consecutive days kind of hard to attend.  A complete money grab no consideration for the fan.  Now they are icing a product that is well below the standards of wings fans.  To topi it off I received my invoice for the playoffs??? And for the next season.  What did they do to retain season ticket holders?  Raised the ticket prices.  Mind you it is only a dollar a seat, for my section at least.  But it is the fact that we have gone through all the rest.  I think Mr. I is more interested in the Tigers at this point.  spending to the cap and icing the best product may be a thing of the past.  I believe the big dollar offers this summer were hollow at best, and for appearances.  The old we tried our best and didn’t quite get there.  If they wanted those players they could have had them.  I hope I am wrong and they make some moves in the near future, but they are making it hard to be a Wings fan in the mean time.  Thanks for letting me vent.

Posted by murph1jj on 03/13/13 at 11:09 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

You don’t want to know what I think about the ticket department and ownership’s lockout policy, murph1jj.

The polite version? DESPICABLE. DESPICABLE. They took your and thousands of other fans’ money and sat on it, and then basically told you and others to f*** off when you rightfully demanded it back.

That’s no way to do business, but it’s the Mike Ilitch way of doing business these days, and the sooner that Chris is put in full charge of operations and that people like Jimmy Devellano and the people that Mike put in place to run the team’s sales and PR departments are viewed with a more critical eye, the better.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 03/14/13 at 12:50 AM ET

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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.