Sorry for the long layoff; enjoy this next piece.
So I was reading Yahoo! yesterday and they posted an article that featured 5 reasons why the Red Wings may be as bad as they seem and posed the hypothetical question: What ails the Red Wings? I left my comments yet instead of using it as an opportunity to plug the blog on someone else's medium, I'd rather just share them with you here. They went something to the effect of the following (though I have revised it slightly since posting there earlier):
- No more solid complement to Pavel Datsyuk or Hendrik Zetterberg: Tomas Holmstrom did this forever and a day; now he's reduced to being a spare forward (and there's nothing wrong with having a reserve forward who can act as an offensive specialist the way he can.) But who else can step up next to them and deliver? It isn't Danny Cleary or Todd Bertuzzi; and for that reason Detroit needs to either promote Tomas Tatar to start spending time on the first line or to start looking for players outside the organization that can handle duties on a first line.
- No secondary scoring: Only four players have scored more than 4 points after the first 11 games of the season; a scarier reality to that is that Zetterberg isn't one of them! Bertuzzi isn't looking like the dominant power forward he once was, Jiri Hudler's always been inconsistent, Cleary's better suited as a Number 7 forward (starting off on a checking unit and playing on a scoring unit at various times throughout the season), and everyone else doesn't have the proven offensive acumen to do better. If Bertuzzi can't hang anymore, then the team needs to find another power forward to play on a scoring line.
- Redundancy throughout the lineup: Though the team's immensely skilled and talented, there isn't a whole lot of diverse roles with the guys. Yes, Jonathan Ericsson and Justin Abdelkader are excellent as physical players, but who exactly took over for Kirk Maltby as the team's agitator? Who filled Aaron Downey's spot as the team's enforcer? No one. Instead they have guys like Hudler and Patrick Eaves on the lower lines; who could be sufficient at the jobs either occupied by Holmstrom or Cleary, but don't offer a whole lot of variety beyond what's already in the lineup. Opposing coaches can have an easier time adjusting to the same attack than they would if the lineup were a bit more diverse.
- Poor performance by the guys who have roles: Cory Emmerton is the team's fourth-line center and has a 34% Faceoff Win Percentage. That's no good for a guy who's playing on a defensive unit. Brad Stuart doesn't have a single point in 11 games; I understand his role is more defense-oriented but he's still receiving Top-four minutes. I'll cut Ian White a break, he's the new guy who's filling some big shoes, because the established veterans (or newbies from within the organization) aren't necessarily pulling their weight either.
- The organization's become complacent: Winning can get to your head; and frankly this losing streak could be the start of a renaissance for the Red Wings. It all depends on whether or not Ken Holland decides to shake things up or stand pat. I have a bad feeling about the latter.
- Though they aren't "old", age is still a factor: There's an upside to allowing prospect to "develop in the minors" in that you don't have to worry about confidence issues they way you do with kids that go straight from juniors to pros. The downside, however, is the lack of "spark" in the lineup. The Wings would do well with some young guys in the lineup and while I don't think it would be prudent to promote Smith until someone moves or retires, the Wings would do well to have a few guys in the 19-22 age range to give some genuine enthusiasm to the team.
It's not all doom and gloom for the team. Jimmy Howard's still a fantastic starter, I think Ty Conklin's ineffective appearances have been the fault of the coaches moreso than it being an issue of his own individual effort, and I think their defensive unit is pretty fantastic. However, you need to score to win hockey games and when your forward unit lacks balance, it effects everything. I think GM Ken Holland needs to shake a few things up to ensure that the team remains competitive without blowing up everything. Is it possible during the season? It's a lot harder for certain, but considering the issues lie moreso on the depth forwards than they do the top six, it could be a simpler issue of moving for the right role players in exchange for overall talent as opposed to trying to land a big fish. This especially holds true if Bertuzzi starts playing like his old self again.