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Numbers On Detroit

from Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post,

It’s all going wrong for the Detroit Red Wings this season.

With a 22-25-10 record, the one-time gold standard for hockey excellence languishes at the bottom of the Eastern conference, nine points out of the final wild-card spot with seven teams ahead of them. According to Hockey-Reference.com’s playoff simulator, the Red Wings have just a 1.2 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, making it more likely than not we will see an end to the third-longest playoff streak in NHL history (25 years)....

The lack of talent has also eroded the hallmark of Hockey Town: Detroit’s relentless puck possession.

In 2007-08, the year they won their first Stanley Cup in the salary-cap era, they put a league-leading 58.5 percent of even-strength shot attempts in their favor, after adjusting for score effects. They led the league again the following season (57.5 percent) and made the Cup final. This season they are putting just 47.8 percent of shot attempts in their favor, seventh-worst in the NHL..

Perhaps as the younger players on the roster mature, Detroit will return to the upper echelons of the league, but the early results are not encouraging. Eleven skaters 25 years old or younger have played at least one game for the Red Wings this season, but only three of them — forwards Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha — have scored double-digit goals. Six of those youngsters haven’t scored at all.

But having the fifth-worst offense (2.4 goals per game) isn’t the team’s only problem — the left side of its defensive pairings is subpar. Danny DeKeyser, Brendan Smith and Niklas Kronwall all have below-average game scores, an all-in-one metric used more in baseball and basketball that gives a rough measure of a player’s productivity for a single game.

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Comments

Primis's avatar

Here’s the real deal on this, to me.

I know DET’s possession numbers are down.  But you can’t cite a symptom as a cause.

DET at times (not as often as they maybe should) isn’t *meant* to be much of a possession team like they used to be, and they don’t play that way.  They try to strike fast, and hard.  The possession numbers are a result somewhat of that.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that DET hits a lot more posts now.  You figure if 1/4 of those go in instead (like they used to)... I wonder how different things would be for them.  To me, DET has a lot more trouble finishing now (which is not surprise to Wings fans of course).  And that has NOTHING to do with possession.

Guys like Vanek and Mantha (and maybe Athanasiou) are finishing, and that’s about it,  Larkin is not a great finisher right now, and that’s troubling.  Helm has always had trouble finishing,  Tatar and Nyquist both haven’t been finishing consistently well.  Nielsen has had some trouble.  And Zetterberg at times almost looks hapless when it comes to finishing a play.

So it’s a combination of things.  Blaming possession has a tendency to make it sound like DET isn’t even getting their chances.  But they are.  Even when they’re getting outshot in a game, DET has tended to have their normal share of actual good chances.  They’re just not making them count.

If you then factor in the terrible PP (which is terrible in part because of poor finishing of course)... you can’t expect better results.  Do you change the personnel to fix that?  Or something system-wise?  Or the coaches? I genuinely have no idea.

Posted by Primis on 02/17/17 at 08:38 AM ET

Figaro's avatar

the Red Wings have just a 1.2 percent chance of reaching the playoffs,

Ken Holland: “See, we’ve still got a chance.  All we need to do is get hot and we can get that #8 seed.  Plus, getting Jimmy Howard back will be just like a Trade Deadline deal!”

Posted by Figaro from Los Alamos, NM on 02/17/17 at 09:24 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

Thinking about what Primis said,

DET at times (not as often as they maybe should) isn’t *meant* to be much of a possession team like they used to be, and they don’t play that way.  They try to strike fast, and hard.  The possession numbers are a result somewhat of that.

Reminds me of at the beginning of the season, DET came out actually looking pretty good.  Putting up points and winning games.  Wasn’t it a 6 game win streak in the first few weeks? 

But the beginning of each season always starts with offensive bursts for each team.  Teams are working to get their defensive structures figured out, which takes time, and it tends to yield more scoring league-wide in the first three weeks of the season.

That said, Detroit looked good when teams weren’t playing the best defense.  This is because Detroit was built to be quick and fast - actually a lot like an AHL team. 

But then opposing defenses begin to gain structure, which became the demise of the Red Wings for the remainder of the season.  The team is coached to be a quick and fast striking team (insert Blash/AHL success correlation here) - but the league doesn’t allow that sort of hockey.  It’s a defense first league these days, leaving no room for offense.

Posted by TreKronor on 02/17/17 at 10:04 AM ET

Primis's avatar

The team is coached to be a quick and fast striking team (insert Blash/AHL success correlation here) - but the league doesn’t allow that sort of hockey.  It’s a defense first league these days, leaving no room for offense.

Posted by TreKronor on 02/17/17 at 10:04 AM ET

While it is a defense-first league, most defenses aren’t designed to counter a quick attack like that.  they’re designed to counter possssion So I think it’s a wash.

There are games DET lost where they were flying and just didn’t get a break or two.  A hit post, or a penalty no-call.  Whatever.  So I think it’s over-simplifying things to say that the style doesn’t work at the NHL level.  It does, and one of the biggest problems for DET has been that DET doesn’t use that style of attack against some of the slower, more-plodding teams in the league where it would maybe have more success (and that is one of the chief reasons why I’ms tarting to think Blashill is maybe going to need to go:  if we can see and know it, how can he not?).

Here’s the problem though.  Mantha, Larkin, and Athanasiou are your future forward core.  And I don’t see a single one of them as being best-used in a possession-centric offense.  Mantha is a quick-strike sniper that can also get a bit dirty around the net, and AA and Larkin are speed merchants.  If you’re building around them, you can’t do it possession-based.

So for those wanting that back…. too bad.  The young guys you like so much are having success playing another way, and they aren’t going to be able to play that possession game.

Now that I think about it, the move away from possession also maybe explains Tatar and Nyquist’s troubles, as they excel more in a possession game (it’s what they were brought in on, including in Grand Rapids), and are now more marginalized in and by DET’s current system.

Maybe that’s all DET needs at this point.  It doesn’t matter if you like Nyquist or Tatar or think they can succeed at the NHL, because the problem is they can’t succeed in DET’s current system.  So move them on to somewhere else and bring in guys more focused on skating and less on possession, that can also finish.  Maybe that still leaves some room for the Bertuzzis too.  I don’t know if that would suit Svechnikov.

Don’t half do it though, go all in.

And if you think you’re going to focus back on possession-style, keep Nyquist and Tatar, sell now on Larkin and Athanasiou (and Helm ), because they’re not going to fit in that and their value will never be higher.

Posted by Primis on 02/17/17 at 10:24 AM ET

TreKronor's avatar

And if you think you’re going to focus back on possession-style, keep Nyquist and Tatar, sell now on Larkin and Athanasiou (and Helm ), because they’re not going to fit in that and their value will never be higher.

I agree in Nyquist and Tatar, but I think you need to keep goal scorers like Larkin and Athanasiou.  Nyq and Tatar have’nt proved they can be consistent, which has disappointed me, but watching them I see that they are very very skilled at posession - maybe the best on the roster. 

But the team has to be coached properly - put a possession guy ona line with a scorer, and throw in someone like Abby or Bert to clear some space for the goal scorer. 

The kids are good, but it’s going to be a good 3 or 4 years unti lwe see how good.

Posted by TreKronor on 02/17/17 at 10:30 AM ET

Primis's avatar

I should also add this:  as the rest of the league has moved now towards favoring possession, they way you beat that ISN’T by preaching possession yourself.  DET started possession hockey because the league had turned into a trap -heavy and dump n chase league.  DET was different.

With everyone doing possession now…. fast, quick-strike is now the different, not possession.  Possession is only king until someone comes along and blows it all up by winning a different way.

Posted by Primis on 02/17/17 at 10:30 AM ET

nEgativezEro's avatar

First things first, that caption under the lede image:

Detroit Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg is sad after a loss. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Gave me quite the chuckle! Hahaha! Anyway…

I know DET’s possession numbers are down.  But you can’t cite a symptom as a cause.

DET at times (not as often as they maybe should) isn’t *meant* to be much of a possession team like they used to be, and they don’t play that way.  They try to strike fast, and hard.  The possession numbers are a result somewhat of that.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that DET hits a lot more posts now.  You figure if 1/4 of those go in instead (like they used to)... I wonder how different things would be for them.  To me, DET has a lot more trouble finishing now (which is not surprise to Wings fans of course).  And that has NOTHING to do with possession.

[cut]

If you then factor in the terrible PP (which is terrible in part because of poor finishing of course)... you can’t expect better results.  Do you change the personnel to fix that?  Or something system-wise?  Or the coaches? I genuinely have no idea.

Posted by Primis on 02/17/17 at 08:38 AM ET

“Possession” is a really broad term. Depending on what you mean, it could be a symptom or a result. Our Corsi numbers are trash, which is of course shots on goal versus shots on goal against, and used as a determination of puck possession.

Detroit will never be a possession team like the 90s era with the Russian 5. They could do similar to the mid 2000s dominance with some modern tweaks. It’s more or less what some of the top teams are like right now, your Washintons and Pittsburghs and such.

There are different ways to have a positive Corsi, but a “puck possession system” isn’t the only way to do it. The Kings play really sound defensively, which allows them a better shot rate against their opponents. Babcock coached similarly in Detroit, and to some extent with Toronto. However Toronto generates WAY more scoring chances, but also gives up a lot more than Detroit did with Babs in charge.

There are games DET lost where they were flying and just didn’t get a break or two.  A hit post, or a penalty no-call.  Whatever.  So I think it’s over-simplifying things to say that the style doesn’t work at the NHL level.  It does, and one of the biggest problems for DET has been that DET doesn’t use that style of attack against some of the slower, more-plodding teams in the league where it would maybe have more success (and that is one of the chief reasons why I’ms tarting to think Blashill is maybe going to need to go:  if we can see and know it, how can he not?).

Here’s the problem though.  Mantha, Larkin, and Athanasiou are your future forward core.  And I don’t see a single one of them as being best-used in a possession-centric offense.  Mantha is a quick-strike sniper that can also get a bit dirty around the net, and AA and Larkin are speed merchants.  If you’re building around them, you can’t do it possession-based.

So for those wanting that back…. too bad.  The young guys you like so much are having success playing another way, and they aren’t going to be able to play that possession game.

Now that I think about it, the move away from possession also maybe explains Tatar and Nyquist’s troubles, as they excel more in a possession game (it’s what they were brought in on, including in Grand Rapids), and are now more marginalized in and by DET’s current system.

Maybe that’s all DET needs at this point.  It doesn’t matter if you like Nyquist or Tatar or think they can succeed at the NHL, because the problem is they can’t succeed in DET’s current system.  So move them on to somewhere else and bring in guys more focused on skating and less on possession, that can also finish.  Maybe that still leaves some room for the Bertuzzis too.  I don’t know if that would suit Svechnikov.

Don’t half do it though, go all in.

And if you think you’re going to focus back on possession-style, keep Nyquist and Tatar, sell now on Larkin and Athanasiou (and Helm ), because they’re not going to fit in that and their value will never be higher.

Posted by Primis on 02/17/17 at 10:24 AM ET

I totally disagree. Larkin, AA, and Mantha are perfect for a puck possession team. Larkin and AA have so much speed, they can cycle around the O-zone increibly effectively. Mantha is a big body and protects the puck well. He won’t be an Evgeni Malkin in point production, but he could be a version of that. Use that skill and body size to control the puck.

Detroit’s biggest issue, and as is the case for the majority of teams that are not good, is talent, or the lack thereof. Detroit’s possession is bad because our defense is garbage. Mike Green is the only guy who can move the puck well. You look at some of the best teams in the league, and you see teams with defenseman who can start a rush out of their zone. Statistics are showing that if you are relying on your forwards to both start the breakouts and finish the attack in the O zone, you’re going to end up very disappointed. While there’s a lack of elite talent at the forward position as well, it’s not nearly as dire as the atrocious defense Holland has assembled.

I don’t know how much of this is on Blashill. He’s made some maddening decisions for sure, and he had success in the minors with many of the same players, but the talent disparity is huge between the two. Look at Babcock’s Maple Leafs last year. They had great possession numbers, but no talent to finish. The process was great, but they didn’t have the talent to get results. This year, the process is the same, but they have many talented players in the line-up now, and the success is following. Toronto’s defense is ALSO not good, which makes you wonder how good they could be with a stronger top-4.

Posted by nEgativezEro on 02/17/17 at 10:56 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.

 

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