It’s only fitting with spring in the air, opening day for the Tigers approaches and amusement parks begin to open that we take a close look at this Red Wings team as they make a push for yet another playoff berth. On top of everything that has happened this shortened season though, the question pertaining to this team is who exactly are they? Are they the team that takes care of the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks with ease or they the team that struggles against Calgary and Columbus?
It would seem the simple answer is somewhere in the middle, but it’s never that easy.
The Wings have had only one consistent performer this year and that’s goaltender Jimmy Howard. The Red Wing starting netminder has played his way into being a prime time goalie in the NHL these days and with free agency fast approaching Detroit hopes to get a long-term deal finalized with him as the rest of the teams with goaltending needs are licking their chops at the possibility of obtaining Howard in the offseason. And of course there’s still Howard skeptics out there in which case I have to point this out, Detroit’s defense hasn’t really gotten much better in recent games, but it’s not talked about nearly as much as it was in the beginning of the year because of Jimmy Elite.
Still though the Wings have been a very up and down team this season. Zetterberg and Brunner have gone MIA for the most part in the recent box scores even though the Wings are 4-1 in their last 5. Before that Datsyuk had a long goalless streak and rumors of him going back to Russia at the end of next season began to surface. Detroit also lost 3 in a row which came by way of a home and home with Columbus followed by a loss to Calgary. In fact Detroit is 1-5-1 against Calgary and Columbus this season which has essentially cost the Wings a comfortable lead in the 4th seed for the playoffs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming Datsyuk or Zetterberg… how could you? We would all like to see Zetterberg’s 40 goal days, but that time has passed. Besides Datsyuk and Zetterberg are asked to do too much as it is. Their commitment to the defense, penalty kill and matching up to shut down the oppositions best lines has taken a toll on their scoring totals.
Meanwhile the rest of the league has caught up to Damien Brunner. At the beginning of the season, Brunner was relatively unknown coming from the Swiss league quickly jumping out to lead Detroit in goals with 10. However, Brunner is now goalless in his last 12 games and has been moved down to the 3rd line. In reality though when it comes to Brunner, this recent slump was pretty expected. It is his first year in the NHL and a 10 goal output alone in a shortened season is still pretty solid for him.
Detroit shows flashes when they can get the secondary scoring which leaves you reveling in the days of past Red Wings teams that were truly dominating. But with guys like Miller, Abdelkader getting top 6 minutes, this isn’t the usual talent around Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Not to mention guys like Cleary and Franzen who were once considered Red Wing main stays, go unnoticed for long stretches.
With the trade deadline approaching will Detroit be players for a sniper on the wing, or another defenseman? Ken Holland says if Detroit wins, he will do what’s necessary, but based on what we’ve seen lately from him, can Red Wing fans trust that? The truth is, Detroit needs a goal scorer first and foremost with the bigger question residing with what type of defenseman do the Wings need most? Do they need a penalty kill type? How about a stay at home or a guy to run the point and move the puck? Realistically the Wings could probably only make a move for one guy on defense. And in that case I would opt for the stay at home defenseman as Samuelsson returning will help the point on the power play. Right now keep an eye out for Western Michigan defenseman Danny DeKeyser as most analyst have Detroit as a team interested in obtaining his services. The undrafted DeKeyser is expected to announce he is leaving after his junior season when Western Michigan was eliminated from the NCAA hockey tournament. DeKeyser is 6’3 200lbs, has a Red Wing tie with Griffins current coach head coach Jim Blashill, a former Wings assistant and his old head coach at Western Michigan.
After the defense is address Detroit still has two important questions, is a playoff run worth it at this point and what would have to be given up? In terms of the minors Detroit is currently rated 10th and consists of a lot of solid projected NHL players. The problem is it is very hard to decipher that high ceiling from the players who will just be decent.
Or do you move a current player?
Bottom line, the Red Wings’ big players need help. When you see cup contenders like Chicago, Anaheim (even though Detroit has handled them), Pittsburgh, Boston and even Montreal and Vancouver all those teams seem to have nice depth which is something the Wings do not have. I say make a trade and take a shot, parity and the NHL playoffs go hand and hand.