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The Malik Report

Red Wings overnight report: something something complacency something something

The Detroit Red Wings finished their last extended road trip of the season with a 2-1-and-2 record thanks to a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday, and as the Wings slunk back into an early-February-style slump based upon a lack of attention to defensive detail and an almost panicky, frantic and unfocused offensive game, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock let it be known that his team cannot continue to allow complacency slip back into their game simply because the Wings aren’t making a frantic push to simply make the playoffs, as they were last year at this time.

The Free Press’s Helene St. James reports that the Wings get to take Monday off as the team played four games over the course of the past six nights and ten games over seventeen nights since the middle of February, but Babcock didn’t sound happy about giving his team two days’ worth of rest given the fact that his team’s experiencing a bit of an identity crisis:

“We came on this road trip and we went 2-1-2, so that’s a point over .500, so it’s a good road trip when you look at it that way,” Babcock said. “But I know how we played. So there gets to be a point in your season when you’ve got to decide if you think you’re a championship-caliber team, that there’s a right way to play. And unless you get 23 guys doing it the same way and wanting to do it, nothing is going to happen.”

Babcock has spent a good deal of his nearly six seasons in Detroit instilling the Wings with a mind-set that sometimes it makes sense to dump the puck in and give chase. Times such as Saturday, for example, when they had a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes even though they had been outshot 22-14, and still had a two-goal lead after 54 minutes.

“Why do you need to make a play when you’re up 4-2, stick-handling at their blue line,” Babcock said. “Why wouldn’t you put it behind them, go get it, and then wear them out down low? What would be the point? But we’ve been around enough winning for long enough that every guy in this room understands. But obviously I’ve got to do a much better job to get them all to do it, because we’re not doing it.”

The Wings’ attack has stifled itself thanks to a near-2002-level of back-passing and looping back before sending one puck carrier into 4 or 5 opposing players stacked up at their blueline, resulting in innumerable turnovers and odd-man rushes against a team whose forwards seem set on doing nothing less than cheating toward offense to the point that back-checking is no longer in their job descriptions, and captain Nicklas Lidstrom isn’t particularly amused by the Wings’ tendency to let their inner artiste run amok:

“We’re shooting ourselves in the foot by just trying to be too creative late in games when we have the lead,” he said. “We were in command of the game and we don’t have to continue to make plays, we don’t have to force plays when they’re not there. We can keep it more simple.”

Henrik Zetterberg offered a different take on the Wings’ plight to MLive’s Ansar Khan:

“It’s easy to say we were fancy when we’re losing,’’ Zetterberg said. “If we’re winning the game, we’re playing well, we’re holding the puck. We shouldn’t lose it. It’s easy to focus on the negative.’‘

Johan Franzen didn’t have any issues with how his team played the first two periods.

“I think we mostly played hard, played well,’’ Franzen said. But, he said of the third period, “Doesn’t matter how it happened, we can’t give up that lead in the last period. … When you’re leading 4-1, you can’t do the mistakes we did. But sometimes that happens.’‘

Jimmy Howard, who played valiantly on Saturday night (he helped the Wings overcome a 10-1 shot disadvantage in the second period), and was repeatedly victimized by teammates essentially setting up their opponents’ goals, had this to say about the team’s 3-game winless streak…

“We started off the trip really good,’’ Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “Maybe we did run out of gas, or I don’t know what it was. I don’t want to make excuses, but that’s not pleasant when that happens out there.’‘

Babcock insisted that he will tell his team to simplify its game and pay more attention to detail…

“We’ve been around enough winning that every guy in this room understands,’’ Babcock said. “But obviously I got to do a much better job to get them all to do it, because we’re not doing it.’‘

And while the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan offers the following take on the Wings’ losses of late...

The only other game I could compare Saturday’s third period collapse was one to Nashville, I believe it was the season before the lockout, at Joe Louis Arena, with the Predators doing the same, exact thing. Rallying with three or four goals in the third period, stealing a victory over the Wings. It was startling.

Saturday’s loss in Phoenix, albeit in a shootout at the end, had that same disbelieving feeling to it.

The Wings simply don’t lose games like that. But the defensive carelessness, we’ve seen glimpses throughout this season of that. At times, they just haven’t had the clamp down team defense they’ve normally had the past five or six seasons.

Usually, the Wings have been able to overcome the defensive hiccups this season. This time they weren’t.

It’s something that needs cleaning up over the next month, before the playoffs. And judging from coach Mike Babcock’s unhappiness after the game, it will be a topic touched on often in the days ahead.

I can only suggest that the year spent on the Pistons beat might have unaccustomed Kulfan to the Wings’ slightly schizophrenic tendencies when it comes to playing sound defense.

On every Wings team for the past fifteen or so seasons, they’ve either been able to shut the door defensively with no difficulties whatsoever, or they’ve had a helluva time keeping the puck out of their net, and one rule tends to apply: the more offensively talented the Wings’ team is during a particular season, the harder it is for them to focus on playing sound defensive hockey, because, very simply, their offense can bail them out.

This issue doesn’t have anything to do with who’s coaching the team or who’s in charge of the team’s defensive corps (I’m talking to you, Brad McCrimmon Conspiracy Theory Brigade). It’s all about offense. The Wings won a Stanley Cup in 2008 because they could keep the puck out of their net, and with Marian Hossa in the lineup in 2009, they lost the Cup because, in the finals, their offensive players weren’t healthy enough to remedy their defensive mistakes.

The same can be said for the 2002 team which somehow managed to win despite sometimes giving up a silly number of goals versus the depleted 2003 team that couldn’t overcome its mistakes, especially in the playoffs against a team whose coach exploited the hell out of the team’s defensive lapses (what was that guy’s name? Bab something?).

With Mike Modano getting up to speed on the third line of a team that was nothing less than a machine during the first 20-something games of the season, the Wings could roll over their opponents despite having trouble keeping the puck out of the net, especially when Jimmy Howard was struggling to deal with the fact that opposing teams’ coaches had picked his game apart via video scouting, and the Wings were struggling to deal with the fact that Howard couldn’t provide them with a defensive edge (the fact that Brian Rafalski got injured didn’t help the Wings, because he’s a much better defensive defenseman than we tend to assume), never mind Jonathan Ericsson’s issues, Ruslan Salei adjusting to the team, Jakub Kindl’s occasional hiccups and even Lidstrom, Stuart and Kronwall adjusting to new defensive partners as Babcock chose to break up the Lidstrom-Rafalski and Kronwall-Stuart pairings after two seasons together…

The Wings established a style of play in which they allowed themselves to play an over-complicated style of hockey, looking to encourage artistically-inclined offensive flourishes and force the kinds of rushes that they didn’t have the personnel to support when the injury bug struck in December, and now that they’re back to full strength, or nearly so, the tendencies which the team incorporated into their identity in October and November have returned because the Wings assume that a style of play which cannot be sustained in March, when teams are battling for their playoff lives and mistakes are pounced upon with relentlessly vicious intent, should be able to hack it when the team gets into bad habits and assumes that its firepower can make up for not working hard or playing fundamentally sound hockey on a particular night.

So the Wings have gotten burned pretty regularly of late and are learning the hard way that they’ve got to forge a slightly different set of habits and a harder-working identity over their last 16 regular season games.

As Jimmy Howard told Kulfan, it all starts with stifling the opposition’s forecheck—which is the foundation of any fundamentally sound style of defensive play—because the Coyotes’ forecheck forced the Wings to commit turnovers…

“It was a combination of things,” Howard said. “Diving in and letting them (the Coyotes) come through the neutral zone with fast speed. They were able to get in our defense. It’s tough for our defensemen to make plays when they’re turning and having to look at the glass and go back and get pucks.”

Including a particularly egregious error committed by Jakub Kindl and Darren Helm, which Babcock defended:

“The first goal in the third period, two guys (Darren Helm, Jakub Kindl) made a mistake (misplaying a pass) in good spots. I’ve got no issue with that,” Babcock said. “But there’s a way to play to be successful.”

Babcock was frustrated and bewildered by the Wings’ reluctance to make the simple play.

“Why would you need to make a play when you’re up 4-2, stick-handling at their blue line? Why wouldn’t you put it behind them, go get it and then wear them out down low?” Babcock said. “What would be the point? We’ve been around winning here long enough that every guy in this room understands. But obviously, I’ve got to do a much better job to get them all to do it, because we’re not doing it. So if we want to be successful in the end we got to get it fixed. It’s that simple.”

Either stifle the opposition’s forecheck or stand up at the blueline to prevent the opposition from winding up and skating the puck through the neutral zone with speed, employing positional defense in both situations to force turnovers by getting sticks and skates in passing lanes while forcing the opponent to the outside with wingers supporting defenders instead of chasing after the puck carrier. Then, when you get the puck, slow the pace of play down for a moment or three, get fresh bodies on the ice, get your puck-moving defenders who skate the up ice to back off a trapping opposition defense, have them fire the puck up to multiple forwards skating up ice with speed, get the puck in deep, start cycling it to sustain possession and control of the puck in the offensive zone, get bodies to the front of the net and either set them up for slot chances and/or get the puck back to the point to pump shots at the net and retrieve any rebounds to generate secondary or tertiary scoring opportunities.

It’s not simple or easy, but that’s the way the Wings have to play to be successful.

So Babcock wants his team to get back to basics after a very disappointing road trip…

We went 2-1-2, that’s a point over .500, so it’s a good road trip when you look at it that way. But I know how we played,” Babcock said. “There gets to be a point in your season where you got to decide, if you think you’re a championship-caliber team, that there’s a right way to play. Unless you get 23 guys doing it the same way and wanting to do it, nothing’s going to happen.

Or, put simply, at least regarding Saturday’s game…

“Let’s be honest, the score early in the game flattered us,” Babcock said. “We weren’t very good without the puck and we didn’t break out of our zone very fast. But we were in a great situation (leading) 4-1. The team that worked the hardest, and the longest time, won. I really do (think that).”

In the end, fancy talk aside, that’s the bottom line. You have to work hard to win hockey games, and if you’re assuming that skill will beat will, you’re gonna get burned.

Red Wings notebook-type-stuff:

• I’ve tended not to assume that Darren Helm’s going to become a 20-goal-scorer, but his evolution into a player who can be counted upon to generate offense on the penalty-kill has made the Wings a much more dangerous penalty-killing team, as RedWingsCentral’s Sarah Lindenau notes on her “Left Wing Lock” blog:

The former fifth round selection in the 2005 NHL draft has developed into a solid bottom six forward for the Red Wings. He is also a staple on Detroit’s penalty kill where his speed routinely results in shorthanded opportunities. Thus far this season, he’s converted just two of these chances.

Helm is one of those players whose game isn’t measured in statistics alone. He provides a stable defensive presence and is counted on to play a gritty two-way game. The occasional timely goal is a bonus for the Winnipeg, Manitoba native.

While Helm’s offensive totals - 9 goals and 28 points - are only slightly above last season, his confidence level is soaring. The 24 year-old forward has seen increased ice time due to the Red Wing’s injury situation and he hasn’t disappointed providing stability among the bottom six forwards.

Helm isn’t counted on for offense, but his speed and defensive play generate plenty of scoring opportunities. He’s shown glimpses of what he can contribute when he simplifies the chances he gets by putting the puck on net. The hardworking forward will likely never develop dazzling offensive skills to match his skating, but his defensive game will keep with the Red Wings for years to come.

• As MLive’s Ansar Khan suggests, despite his ups and downs this season, Jonathan Ericsson has rebounded from an awful 2009-2010 campaign, and Khan spoke to the free agent-to-be about his evolution into a defenseman who’s holding his own while playing alongside Niklas Kronwall or Brian Rafalski, earning top four minutes:

“I learned a lot from what happened last year, couple of rough months there,’’ Ericsson said before Saturday’s game in Phoenix. “It’s all about confidence. If you play with confidence, everything comes natural. When you think too much you have to try to get back to basics again. It’s been a lot better year.’’

Ericsson has three goals, 11 assists and — most importantly — a plus-11 rating that ranks third on the club. Last season, he was a team-worst minus-15, plagued by turnovers and bad decisions. Coach Mike Babcock said Ericsson “is going in the right direction in his career’’ and attributed his improvement to confidence, which comes from experience. Ericsson, the final player selected in the 2002 NHL entry draft (291st overall), didn’t start playing defense in his native Sweden until he was 17.

“He’s 26 (turned 27 on Wednesday), but he’s a kid in the league,’’ Babcock said. “He’s a big, talented guy who has to play a simple, hard, physical game to be successful. The more simple he plays, the better he plays. It’s real straight-forward. Sometimes with his skill level he tries to be a little fine with the puck. All he’s got to do is watch Nick (Lidstrom). The best plays are the simplest ones. As long as he keeps his game simple, he’s a real good player for us.’’

Ericsson admits that he would like to add a more consistent physical edge to his game, but at present, that’s simply not his top priority:

“I want to be better at penalty killing, be a force for us there, be a guy they can count on every night,’’ Ericsson said.

Khan says that Ericsson’s agent and Ken Holland are at least talking now and then about a contract extension, but I’m guessing that he won’t be re-signed until after the season, and he won’t be re-signed unless he accepts a salary in the $1.5 million range, probably on a short-term contract.

• Also of note from Khan, Johan Franzen had this to say about breaking through a long scoring schneid on Saturday night:

“It’s been a while,’’ Franzen said. “I heard it was (14) games, I didn’t know that. I haven’t been counting the games. Definitely felt like a long time, but what can you do?’‘

Franzen leads the team with 27 goals.

“We needed him to get going and we needed him to score a goal,’’ Lidstrom said. “He had some other chances, too, so it was good for our team and good for his confidence.’‘

• In the prospect department, from the Grand Rapids Press’s Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Griffins forward Joakim Andersson hasn’t posted much in the way of offense, but the big Swede (he’s 6’2,” 205 lbs and still growing, at least horizontally) has impressed his coach and teammates while putting in yeoman’s work as a defensive forward and penalty-killer. He happened to register 3 assists while playing as a winger with Cory Emmerton and Francis Pare, who had a hat trick, on Saturday night:

“He’s another guy that doesn’t get a lot of credit for the hard work he does,” Fraser said. “He’s an excellent penalty killer, excellent defensively, and we stuck him with Emmer and Junior tonight. Boy, the three of them connected right away. He played really well, but you know what? Andy has been really good all year.”

Andersson, 22, has assists in four of his past five games, and his passing was a big reason why Pare was able to record a hat trick. On Pare’s first goal, Andersson redirected a long shot from Brendan Smith that Pare converted into a wide-open, easy tap-in. Andersson then set up the third goal with a pass that Pare one-timed from the right circle. Andersson was happy to help his teammate.

“It was fun that he got his hat trick,” he said. “He’s got a good shot and he’s got a good feeling to find the net, so it was no surprise.”

Andersson has four goals and 12 assists in 62 games this season. His play Saturday also helped bring his plus-minus rating to even. His primary role has been as a defensive forward, but now he’s flashing his offensive potential and strong passing skills.

“I’ve had a little bit of points here lately and it’s about time,” he said. “My production hasn’t been as good as I want to this year, but it’s fun to produce a little bit.”

Andersson’s just 22, but he hasn’t really had to deal with the usual “dip” in production or play that European juniors experience in their first seasons in the AHL because he played a significant role for the Frolunda Indians in the Swedish Eliteserien last season.

• Speaking of Sweden, Expressen’s Victor Melander reports that, despite playing as HV71’s starting goaltender this season, Daniel Larsson’s going to sit on the bench when HV71 faces AIK in the first round of the Eliteserien playoffs as Andreas Andersson’s supplanted Larsson as HV’s go-to netminder;

• And, in the alumni department, the Dallas News’s Mike Heika reports that former Wing Jason Williams has fit in nicely with the Dallas Stars.

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Comments

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

he [Ericsson] won’t be re-signed unless he accepts a salary in the $1.5 million range, probably on a short-term contract.

God, I hope not at that price.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 11:27 AM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 08:27 AM ET

We agree on that.

16 games left to “get-it-together”.  The bad news, 10 of those are at home.  DET are just 17-10-4 at the Joe (22-9-4, away).  After the away game on March 19 at NSH, the Wings have a 5 game homestand, and do not play a road game until Apr 2 at NSH.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/07/11 at 12:27 PM ET

MarkK's avatar

As usual, your own thoughts in the middle of the post sum it all up perfectly. I’m also hoping we’re closer to the 2002 team in terms of firepower and tendencies than 2003 or 2009, and in terms of team energy as the playoffs get underway.  A big pro: injury bug a nice mental vacation for some of the players that were out longer (manifested best by Datsyuk’s numbers since his return, even though he was on similar pace pre-freak injury).


Wings’ slightly schizophrenic tendencies Of course, you’re referring to Multiple Personality Disorder rather than the mental disorder characterized by disintegration of thought and emotional process and the ability to differentiate real from unreal, even though MPD-ish sounds far less poetic than schizophrenic. (Medical reference police)

Posted by MarkK from Maryland on 03/07/11 at 12:35 PM ET

Mandingo's avatar

Naturally I’m in full-on panic mode as usual, but I think it’s pretty hard to deny that this is a flawed team, certainly the most flawed team they’ve had since the lockout. Something is missing emotionally/mentally. The talent is there, but something else is going on, be it lack of player leadership, a tuning out of Babcock, or a simple lack of will. I don’t buy the age issue. Never have, never will.

Whatever it is, I’m wondering if some fairly major changes (by Wing standards) are in order this off season. This group doesn’t seem capable of “engaging” anymore. Their consistent lack of effort this year points to something fundamentally wrong, I think.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/07/11 at 01:00 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I think it’s pretty hard to deny that this is a flawed team, certainly the most flawed team they’ve had since the lockout. Something is missing emotionally/mentally.

I hate to keep beating the dead horse (no I don’t), but while I think you’re right that there’s something missing emotionally/mentally, I think that the thing missing is postseason hockey.

I’ll not change my mind that the Red Wings’ lack of consistent focus has been a result of an organizational plan to get to the postseason without exhausting themselves mentally/physically/emotionally.  However, I am getting to the point where I’m just tired of seeing it.  If this is the plan, and the Red Wings can “flip the switch” like I think they’re planning to, it will take something away from it.  Nobody outside of Verizon’s marketing department plans for a team to go 82-0 during the regular season, but the fans have a right to expect that the team at least try.  Failing that, the fans have a right to expect that the team try to go 81-1 and so on down the line.

On the grand scale, if this plan works, I think we’ll see the first time the Red Wings have pioneered a system that gets copied in hockey which is not to the betterment of the game.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 01:19 PM ET

Mandingo's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 10:19 AM ET

If that really is their plan, they’re in more trouble than we think. I just don’t see this team competing on the same emotional level as a Vancouver or SJ come playoff time. I don’t think it has anything to do with flipping a switch. I think it could just be that this core group doesn’t really have anything to prove anymore. They’ve switched off for good.

As a postscript, I’ve pretty much been wrong about everything this year, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. I thought the Wings would be a hungry team and they’ve acted like disinterested emo kids playing for their paychecks. So now that I’m ready to chuck the whole season down the drain, I’m sure that means they’ll roar into the playoffs with a new found sense of urgency.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/07/11 at 01:37 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

So now that I’m ready to chuck the whole season down the drain, I’m sure that means they’ll roar into the playoffs with a new found sense of urgency.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/07/11 at 10:37 AM ET

The good news is that we’re both hoping for that.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 01:44 PM ET

Avatar

“something else is going on, be it lack of player leadership, a tuning out of Babcock, or a simple lack of will. I don’t buy the age issue.”

I tend to agree. I honestly hope this is not a case of coach VS players. We are a better organization than that, but the comments made by Franzen and ESPECIALLY Zetterberg worries me. He will likely be the next captain of the team and although I cannot deny his talent, he seems, for a lack of a better word, nonchalant. If we start having big players opposing the coach, that is not looking good…and we signed him for a long time..so lets us hope this is just a big misunderstanding.

I also think that the way they play is a bit disrespectful to their captain. After all these years, I am not going to start criticizing one of the best defensemen in the world. Common, he will be probably be playing his last year and that is the way the team wants to see him out? With a poor effort? If I was him, I would not want to return to a team that lacks luster and is unable to play for 60 minutes (unless the master plan is to turn ON the switch for the playoffs)

On a last note, I will defend the coach..I read on several blogs that he is “showing off” and trying to prove that he does his job. He IS doing his job. The coach has more passion and frustration than the team!This is not normal…

Ok, I am done complaining….I am probably just exaggerating.

PS. I am new to this site, but I got to say I like it!

Posted by Meg on 03/07/11 at 01:46 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

So now that I’m ready to chuck the whole season down the drain, I’m sure that means they’ll roar into the playoffs with a new found sense of urgency.

Posted by Mandingo from The Garage on 03/07/11 at 10:37 AM ET

The good news is that we’re both hoping for that.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 10:44 AM ET

I tend to agree that is is way too difficult to have the necessary mental stamina for an 82 game slate.

But I don’t think DET can just “flip the switch” come playoffs - they “should” get their game together at the end of March.  They have a 5 game homestand, with plenty of practice time available.  It’d be nice to see a much sharper, well rested team.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/07/11 at 02:41 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

Welcome, but as mentioned in the last live blog….what’s wrong with Zetterberg besides…oh…nothing? So what if his comments are nonchalant and are sort of disagreeing with Babcock? The better part is, Z is right. Too much cute BS instead of just rolling the 4 lines and playing. You’ll notice at first in the ‘08 Cup Finals, Babs just rolled the lines and the results were as to be expected. As the series went on, the line juggling started, and…well…results were still as to be expected, but perhaps a game too many to get there. So what if Z won’t put up 92 points again, he’s still one of the best, or the 1-B to Datsyuk’s 1-A as the best player on the team. He’s carried this team through a rough two months this season. Z isn’t the problem by far.

As far as what is needed…I don’t know. I could jump up and down and say “TRADE FRANZEN, TRADE Filppula! But again, I’m not sure they’re the problem. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it’s time to clean out the assistant coaches. I don’t know what McCrimmon does, but ever since he came on in the Year of Hossa…things haven’t been the same. Maybe McClellan was that good at what he did, but you can’t tell me he can’t be replaced.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/07/11 at 02:41 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

As far as what is needed…I don’t know. I could jump up and down and say “TRADE FRANZEN, TRADE Filppula! But again, I’m not sure they’re the problem. The only thing I can think of is that maybe it’s time to clean out the assistant coaches. I don’t know what McCrimmon does, but ever since he came on in the Year of Hossa…things haven’t been the same. Maybe McClellan was that good at what he did, but you can’t tell me he can’t be replaced.
Posted by mrfluffy

The problem is that it cannot be pinned down to one problem.  There is more than one problem creating the inconsistency, and trying to pin it down to only one problem is like pushing the Rock of Sisyphus. 
As far as flipping the switch come playoffs, I think I heard that before, perhaps in ‘09 and again in ‘10.
The false confidence that Babblecock will solve this. is the same as saying he has created a crisis so he can take credit for solving it.
Babcock playing Monday morning quarterback, stating they should have simplified their game, but chose not to makes you wonder if anyone is in charge of this team.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 03/07/11 at 03:18 PM ET

calquake's avatar

What then if the Wings “flip the switch” and nothing happens?  Can you say 1st Round knockout?  If the playoffs started today we’d face Dallas.  Tell me you don’t think that would go to six or seven games.  And not necessarily in our favor.

Again, sit Abby down in front of the tape machine, have him watch Dallas Drake from the 2008 playoffs and tell him to copy what he sees Drake doing.  Dump in the puck and punish a defenseman.  Knock someone down everytime you step on the ice.  Don’t worry about scoring, just punish the opposition.

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 03:20 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

What then if the Wings “flip the switch” and nothing happens?

Then you’d have been right and we’ll all be equally as miserable.

You can worry about that until you see it, I will not.  Either way if you’re right, we end up in the same place.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 03:38 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

Again, sit Abby down in front of the tape machine, have him watch Dallas Drake from the 2008 playoffs and tell him to copy what he sees Drake doing.  Dump in the puck and punish a defenseman.  Knock someone down everytime you step on the ice.  Don’t worry about scoring, just punish the opposition.
Posted by calquake

Eaves out injured, is a big vacancy.
Abby is still lacking in upper body strength, and when he tries to play like Drake he just bounces off and falls to the ice.  He is very talented, but you have to let him play his own game.

One thing I don’t understand. 
They played good for 55 min. in LA.  Lost in OT in ANA, and there was a bit of questionable officiating.  Then SJ wins a tight game because of a Joey giveaway.
Now, I am not a coach, so I am hoping someone can explain to me….
Just how does that add up to ‘We gotta change our lines around’...?

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 03/07/11 at 03:42 PM ET

calquake's avatar

You can worry about that until you see it, I will not.  Either way if you’re right, we end up in the same place.

I see, so I shouldn’t be concerned about a possible 1st Round exit?  If it happens, oh well?  JJ, I don’t tell you how to be a fan so please don’t tell me how to be one.

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 03:50 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

One thing I don’t understand. 
They played good for 55 min. in LA.  Lost in OT in ANA, and there was a bit of questionable officiating.  Then SJ wins a tight game because of a Joey giveaway.
Now, I am not a coach, so I am hoping someone can explain to me….
Just how does that add up to ‘We gotta change our lines around’...?

So you don’t understand how losing consecutive games while scoring only 1 goal in each game might lead a coach to shuffle his offensive lines?

I think you do understand that, Gramps.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 03:53 PM ET

calquake's avatar

He is very talented, but you have to let him play his own game.

I thought that (physicality) was his game.  Or at least a good portion of it.  I think we both agree that without a good forecheck the defense suffers.

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 03:55 PM ET

Avatar

Heads up. Henrik Zetterberg will be on NHL on the Fly at 13:30

Posted by Meg on 03/07/11 at 03:57 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I see, so I shouldn’t be concerned about a possible 1st Round exit?  If it happens, oh well?  JJ, I don’t tell you how to be a fan so please don’t tell me how to be one.

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 12:50 PM ET

Any inference that I was telling you the “proper” way to act is solely yours. 

I never once told you not to worry about anything.  In fact, in my bossiness, I gave you the option of feeling however the fuch you want to feel.  How horrible of me.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 03:58 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

So you don’t understand how losing consecutive games while scoring only 1 goal in each game might lead a coach to shuffle his offensive lines?
I think you do understand that, Gramps.

And, how did that work out…..
I could understand it if there was practice time between games, but that was 3 games in 4 nights, or 4 games in 6 days including 4 flights.  The only scoring 1 goal had a lot to do with the goaltending.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 03/07/11 at 04:01 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

And, how did that work out…..

They scored four goals?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 04:03 PM ET

HockeyTownTodd's avatar

I thought that (physicality) was his game.  Or at least a good portion of it.  I think we both agree that without a good forecheck the defense suffers.
Posted by calquake

It is his game, but you have to let him pick the shots.  When he goes out and hits anything that moves he makes a complete fool of himself.  Drake was a veteran and whether he was being checked or throwing the check he came off it in stride and going in the right direction.  If that was something that you could teach, there would be more than 3 or 4 players with that ability on the Wings roster.

Posted by HockeyTownTodd on 03/07/11 at 04:08 PM ET

calquake's avatar

Any inference that I was telling you the “proper” way to act is solely yours.

Really?  Then why respond to my post at all?

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 04:09 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Really?  Then why respond to my post at all?

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 01:09 PM ET

I thought we were having a discussion, a coming together of minds so we can better understand the sides.  You asked a question and I posed an answer.

I mean, why respond to the discussion about “flipping the switch” then?

Why talk about anything?  I honestly was not trying to tell you how to act as a fan.  I apologize if you took it that way.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 04:20 PM ET

calquake's avatar

JJ, I guess I took the “Then you’d have been right” comment the wrong way.  I wasn’t stating a fact but a “what if” question.  It appeared ,to me, that you were condescending to my question by the comment.  I apologize for my misunderstanding.  No hard feelings.

Posted by calquake on 03/07/11 at 04:33 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

No hard feelings.

Thank you.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 04:51 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

We as fans must need a win badly…damned PMS is kicking in.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 03/07/11 at 04:55 PM ET

Jeff  OKWingnut's avatar

So I am reading Elliote Friedman’s article today, and he makes mention of this:

Blackhawks broadcaster Troy Murray had some really good insight into Chicago’s recent successes. One of the reasons the team was so dominant last year was that it spent so little time in its zone. That makes the minutes much easier on defencemen.

Makes some sense if you relate the recent DET defensive zone play.  Maybe DET’s recent problems correlate to the fact that their defensive zone play reminds me of a chinese fire-drill.

Let me think about stirring the fire McCrimmon bandwagon.  There is no question, and I’d re-print them here if I had the time.  Since McClellan left, DET’s SA/G and GA/G are up - and they are absurd this year.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/07/11 at 05:06 PM ET

SYF's avatar

16 games left to “get-it-together”.  The bad news, 10 of those are at home.  DET are just 17-10-4 at the Joe (22-9-4, away).  After the away game on March 19 at NSH, the Wings have a 5 game homestand, and do not play a road game until Apr 2 at NSH.

Posted by Jeff OKWingnut from Quest for 12 on 03/07/11 at 09:27 AM ET

And most of those are against the Central.  We need to do more than just earn points; bogdammit, we need to win those games.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 03/07/11 at 05:45 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

“something else is going on, be it lack of player leadership, a tuning out of Babcock, or a simple lack of will. I don’t buy the age issue.”

I agree, and stated as much in another thread.

Sometimes I hear, “It’s not that they tuned-out the coach, it’s that they make too many mistakes”.

Well, yes…but that still points to the coach.

The Red Wings are a very talented team. No discussion there. And very talented teams tend to make fewer mistakes than less-talented teams over the long haul. Sure, a very talented team can have a mistake-filled game here and there; but over the long-term, no.

So why do these talented individuals on the Red Wings continue to make mistake after mistake (particularly defensively)? Because they are not mentally-prepared or focused. Why are they not mentally-prepared or focused? Because a core group of the team has tuned-out Babcock. They are not all on the same page. 

I don’t believe he is being tuned-out because he is a bad coach; on the contrary, he’s an excellent coach. But the Lindy Ruff’s of the coaching profession are the exception, not the rule. The average length of a coaching job in the NHL is 2.58 years, according to this NY Times article: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E1DC1039F933A15751C1A96E9C8B63&sec;=&spon;=&pagewanted=1

This is season six for Babcock. It is almost-pollyanish to believe some players have not tuned him out already.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 03/07/11 at 07:16 PM ET

Alzy's avatar

Call me crazy, but looking at our schedule the rest of the way, I really see no reason why the Wings can’t win 12 out of 16. They have three back-to-backs left, and well I’m just going with a token loss in one of the Bubba or Little Brother games. This team has shown when they’re flying they can dismantle anyone.

I’ve said before that what I think really made the 07-08 team so good, was they never stopped playing offensively. They “protected” a 4-1 lead by either just maintain possession constantly, or increasing the lead. They would never try to play the “prevent” defence, just chipping the pucking out of the D-zone constantly. They would hold onto the puck, keep a cycle going, and if it loked like the cyc le would fail, they would pass back to the D-men who would backrack to centre and then dump the puck in for a line change, killing even more time. This is something I wish the team would do A LOT more of, and I just don’t understand why. The best way to protect a lead is to either keep the puck constantly, or increase the lead. And it seemed the only way a team got the puck off the 08 team was if either they dumped it in for a line change, which would only momentarily relieve the pressure, or they’d be digging it out of their net because the Wings scored.

And i don’t know if it’s fear of injury because of the huge rash we’ve suffered over the past two+ seasons, but there’s something else they don’t do nearly enough anymore, and that’s take a hit to make a play. I remember many times in 08 when Rafalski would be so good at sucking in two forecheckers to him, but just before he gets hit, he makes the perfect pass to Hank or Dangle, leading to a odd man rush for Detroit. Sure I would squirm every time, but it was always done for the betterment of the team. They would do this in the offensive zone as well, Homer or Buckets or Drake would eat a hit along the half-boards or behind the net, but they would get the puck to a pinching TPH or Rafalski for a great scoring chance.

A perfect example of the contrasting styles is the LA game last Monday. It was 4-1 after 2 periods. What would the 08 team do? They would do exactly as this year’s team did, come out in the third and score three more goals while maintaining possession. But for whatever reason, once the score got to 7-1, the team tried to start playing “prevent” defence, and whatdoyaknow, the Kings score three goals, making those three scored at the beginning of the third way more important than they had to be.

I hope Uncle Mike can get them back to that mindset. The best way to protect a 3 goal lead is to A) keep playing the way you got the three goal lead, and B) make it a six goal lead.

This is going to sound incredibly arrogant, but seriously, no other team in the league can hang with the Detroit Red Wings when they are playing at a Red Wings-like level. No amount of trapping, fluke bounces or hot goaltending can defeat them. But it’s up to our Big Red Machine to make it happen. And even though haven’t shown me they can do that consistently since November, they still have me believing that mythical “switch” can and will be flipped.

LET’S GO RED WINGS (exclamation point)

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 03/07/11 at 07:36 PM ET

Avatar

Assumptions assumptions assumptions people. There’s some saying about assumptions, I can’t think of it. But it’s that assumptions are dangerous. “I KNOW the talent is there, we’re just not focusing.” “I KNOW the talent is there, just something mentally, is missing.” ‘I KNOW the talent is there, the players are just playing complacent, they’re not trying.”

Be careful with that. Talent comes in all different forms. Having a lot of great passers does not in and of itself make you an above average team in terms of talent. Size is, if not a “talent,” certainly an asset very important to winning hockey games in today’s NHL. We are an EXTREMELY undersized team. Speed is very important. We are a slower team. Defensive talent is very important. We have a defense corp comprised almost entirely of offensive defensemen, converted forwards, and offensive defensemen converted to defensive defensemen. Is it any wonder this group, when they don’t have the puck, struggle to defend? They are only comfortable on offense. They are offensive defensemen. That is why whenever you watch a San Jose feed or an LA feed of the games, and they interview their players before the game, they always say, “Detroit’s got good defensemen, but we just need to chip it in behind then, make them turn, and forecheck, and THEY’LL COUGH IT UP.” So we are low on defensive talent in our defense corps. Couple that with Zetterberg no longer being the defensive force, and other factors…

I mean, if we’re severely weak in the size area, weak in the speed area, weak in the defensive area, how “talented” are we really? Just because the names are similar to the Cup year, it doesn’t mean we’re still a top level talent team. This league is always evolving. Some of our key players have either aged, inexplicably declined, or declined due to injury, while other teams have improved dramatically. We’ve gotten worse, they’ve gotten better, and the results are as you would expect. We’re no longer the best team. Even when you don’t decline, the league can overtake you, not just other teams overtaking you, but new systems, new tactics. Alex Ovechkin is the same exact player as he was last year, and he plays with the same players, yet he can’t do half what he did, because the league is always evolving. Defensive schemes are always evolving. Zetterberg no longer has as much time and space to create as he did in 08. Teams play him much better now, and he hasn’t demonstrated the footsteep to really adjust. He’s on a 23 goal pace now this season, when from 06-08 he averaged over a 40 goal per 82 game pace in all three seasons. His decline in production means either defenses have gotten better at covering him, or he has declined as a player. Whichever it is, and it doesn’t really matter, the end result is the same, he can no longer make the same impact he used to, and that’s a big loss that the team is much worse off because of. And if the same concept rings true, for whatever reasons, to Franzen, Kronwall (injuries), potentially Lidstrom and Rafalski (aging, they are clearly no longer as good defensively), what you have is a team that is no longer as good as it used to be.

WHEN ALMOST ALL THE KEY PLAYERS ON A GREAT TEAM (2008) DECLINE FOR VARYING REASONS, OR BECOME BETTER DEFENDED BY THE OPPOSITION, WHAT YOU HAVE IS A TEAM THAT IS NO LONGER AS GOOD, OR AS TALENTED. This is nothing to do with focus. WHEN THE PLAYERS ARE NO LONGER AS GOOD, THE TEAM IS NO LONGER AS GOOD.

Think of it this way. Say the Blackhawks were able to keep all their players, but over the offseason, Toews lost a step, Kane gained 40lbs of booze weight, Byfuglien became anorexic, Keith had MCL surgery… Or you know what, better yet, let’s use more realistic examples…

Let’s say, Kane lost a step, and became more of an perimeter-only passer, couldn’t beat defenders 1on1 anymore, his goal production got cut in half… (that’s Zetterberg)

Let’s say, Toews, (comparable to Datsyuk), stayed the same or got better even, and was still amazing.

Let’s say Byfuglien, (Franzen), had a torn MCL and lost a step, became slower, and was still a good player, but could no longer dominate the way he did in the playoffs.

Let’s say Keith, comparable to Lidstrom, was still excellent, but lost a little bit of strength, couldn’t quite the defend the same way he could…

Let’s say Campbell, comparable to Rafalski, the same happened…

Let’s say Seabrook, comparable to Kronwall, had a torn MCL and lost a step…

Let’s say Ladd, maybe comparable to Bertuzzi, also aged just a little, became that much more inconsistent…

So even if the Blackhawks had kept all their players, but then all that happened, would they even still be one of the most talented teams in the league? Would they still be an elite team, with almost all of their top players no longer at their best? It really puts what’s happened to our team into perspective when you look at it as if it happened to another team.

So my conclusion? We have declined, other teams have improved, and we are now really at a disadvantage the key areas of size, speed, and team defending. It’s not a focus problem. These players are champions, they are trying. They just can’t “do” as well as they could before. It’s not a “we’re too good at offense so we forget defense” problem like the Author states. That is insipid. “We got Hossa then we weren’t as good at defense, therefore it’s because we got too good at offense” is not proof, or even a logical argument. The league is always evolving, and 34-38 year old players, which happened to be the age range of our two most key defenders, tend to always be devolving. That is why we weren’t as good at defending in 09 as we were in 08, and not as good in 10 as in 09, and now, guess what, Hossa is gone, everyone is healthy, this team is no better at offense than it was in 08, yet they’re still worse at defense now in 11 than they were in 10. The league is getting better, we aren’t. We may be getting worse. That is why we are falling behind, on talent, on size, on speed, on defending, not focus and mental mumbo jumpo.

Posted by Jack555322 on 03/07/11 at 10:20 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

This is not the first time that Uncle Mike has called out his team in the press. Nor the second, nor the third. It doesn’t work. The team gets embarassed at home and gets booed off the ice, twice; that doesn’t work either. This team has too much talent to suck this bad even in meaningless regular season games.

There are a lot of Stanley Cup rings in that locker room. What is missing from that locker room are a lot of hungry players chompin at the bit to win the Stanley Cup. We have met the enemy and he is us; in a word, “complacency.” And it’s been here a while. The ‘97 & ‘98 teams would not have lost that game 7 at home in 2009. Hell, they wouldn’t have let it get to a game 7 (I’m talking DESIRE here, NOT talent).

After the inevitable first or second round exit from the playoffs next month, Kenny should blow this MFer up and start over. Fire Uncle Mike and either find the new up-and-coming coach like Stevie did or go back to Barry Smith. Let Homer, Drapes and Lids retire as Wings after this season. Keep Stuie, Kindl and Kronner on the back end. Keep gator, taz,  and Wally, for sure. Maybe keep Unabomber and Buckets. Trade Pavs, Z, Rafi, E52 (for a bag of pucks) and maybe even Mule.  Heck just trading one of the Euro twins in the off-season ought to shake these guys out of there complacency. Between the prime-grade lottery picks acquired by trading one or both of the euro twins and the Wings own picks from sucking for the next two seasons, they’ll be in much better shape to win in ‘14, ‘15 and beyond.

Maybe it’s become to comfortable for players to play in Detroit.

Or I could just be a disgruntled fan who’s over reacting to yet another embarassing loss.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 03/07/11 at 10:27 PM ET

Avatar

yeah i think you’re right that big changes have to come, but yeah you’re also overreacting. big changes doesn’t mean trading your best players. trading Datsyuk doesn’t help. If the Mule can get back to 100% health he’s one of the best players in the league. Maybe trading Z, while his value is still high. Can you imagine if SJ traded Cheechoo after his 56 goal season, what they would have gotten? Z isn’t the same player, but he has points this season, and he has the name Zetterberg, he could get a big return. Holland should cash in on his name while he still can. But regardless of Z, Filppula is certainly useless. He should go. Lidstrom and Rafs need paycuts. That right there leaves enough cap room even if you keep Z to make the necessary improvements, if it’s spent wisely. So trading Pavs and so forth certainly isn’t necessarily and wouldn’t be helpful.

Posted by Jack555322 on 03/07/11 at 10:44 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I’ve read plenty of “trade Filppula” and I will always disagree with that (since his points-per-game production has steadily improved year-after-year), but Zetterberg is the future captain. 

I can’t even imagine what kind of value I’d require in return for Zetterberg…

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 03/07/11 at 10:58 PM ET

Alzy's avatar

Not that I’d ever trade Hank, but his contract makes him in essence untradeable (did I just make up a word?). And I think his decline goals per season can be attributed not to decline in skill, but in his role being changed. From the beginning of his career until 2008, he was either the number one scoring threat, or at the very least number 2. He was asked to be our top goal scorer, and that’s what he was. He played primarily with Dangle, and it was clear that Dangle for the most part was the set up man, and Hank the shooter. Once the Mule had his breakout streak in March of 08 though, as well as Hossa coming on board, his role was changed. He was split from Dangle and asked to centre his own line, in 2009 that usually included Mule and one of Sammy, Buckets or Happy. Last year it was with Mule and Wally, this year with Mule and the Unabomber. no matter what the case, Hank is usually the set up man on his line, because Mule is almost always there. Hank is supposed set up Mule, not the other way around. And it’s been evident as Mule leads the team in goals, and Hank in assists (although he may not had Dangle not gotten injured).

I know I’m rambling but the point is, if Hank was asked to be a goal scorer again, and put back with Dangle and Homer, then I have all the faith in the world that he would once again be a 40 goal scorer. At the present, he’s doing exactly what’s asked of him, and that to be a set up man who gets about a point per game while shutting down the other team’s top line. And more often that not this year, he’s been that.

Posted by Alzy from Cambridge, Ontario, Canada on 03/07/11 at 11:53 PM ET

Avatar

Sit Zetterberg occasionally. Sit Franzen. Sit Filppula. If the players know that if they don’t play to the standard that the coach expects out of them they won’t be playing, then they will play more consistently. As it is, Babcock is only willing to rotate between Draper, Eaves, and Miller, three bottom forwards who aren’t expected to play a lot of time every game. But the problem is not on the backend of the offense, since afaict, they are doing exactly as is expected of them.

Especially at this point in the season when they have a bit of a lead, but there are 10 other teams biting at their heels, it makes sense for the coach to light some fires.

Posted by Wowow on 03/08/11 at 01:12 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.