The Red Wings are on a six-day break for this year’s All-Star game in Columbus. Detroit Goaltender Jimmy Howard was the lone Red Wing selected to the roster before he injured his groin, so as a result there are no Red Wings on the team. The team has out performed expectations at this point, having 63 points, which is good for second place in the Atlantic Division, and only 5 points behind league leader Anaheim. This is a lofty position for a team whom many figured would be battling to just qualify for the playoffs this season. During last July when the Red Wings failed to acquire a right-handed shooting defenseman during UFA activity, things didn’t look too promising for the team.
What are the reasons this Red Wing team is performing so well? There are many, starting with the defense being in the top 5 in the NHL, despite having all left handed shooting defensemen. And another obvious answer is coaching.
Coach Mike Babcock is one of the best coaches in the NHL, plus he added assistant coaches Tony Granato, Jim Hiller, and Andrew Brewer. Also on the coaching staff is mainstay goaltender coach Jim Bedard who has been with the Red Wings over 20 years. The coaching staff turned the power play from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. The same can be said about the penalty kill, which is also among the top of the NHL. While Mike Babcock and General Manger Ken Holland would like to add a right-handed defenseman the question is at what price?
Let’s cover some of the defensemen available in 2015, all of whom might be of interest to the Red Wings before this year’s trade deadline:
There have been rumors all season the Red Wings covet Tyler Myers from the Buffalo Sabres, but at what is the cost? Buffalo is in a rebuilding mode and probably wants players on the Red Wings roster like Tomar Tatar or Gustav Nyquist along with top prospects Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin. Buffalo would also be asking for a number one draft pick to be included. The price is high due to the fact Myers is tall, 6-8 young 24, and shoots Right Handed. The Red Wing brain trust apparently like these attributes, and also think Myers has potential on the right team and system. This may be true, but the price if true is prohibitive. The Red Wings may be interested later if the price for Myers comes down, but that is a big if.
Another rumored defenseman on the Red Wings wish list is Arizona defenseman Keith Yandle, even though he shoots left. Arizona seems to be going in a rebuilding mode, so many players including Yandle could be available at the right price for Arizona. This is another situation the Red Wings will more than likely pass on.
The remaining right handed shooting defenseman the Red Wings may be interested also will be UFA’s this year. One defenseman rumored to be of interest to the Red Wings is Mike Green of the Washington Capitals, who are presently competing for a wild card playoff position. If Washington drops out of playoff positioning by the March second trade deadline, they could be sellers. The Edmonton Oilers are out of playoff contention and are definite sellers. One defenseman the Red Wings are interested in is Jeff Petry who has ties to Detroit. Again what would the price be to obtain him? Another possible stopgap option could be someone like Marek Zidlicky from the New Jersey Devils another non playoff team. Mr. Zidlicky would be considered as a temporary fix due to his age (37). All of these along with other defensive options could be considered by the Red Wings come July without sacrificing any assets. Since the Red wings are performing so well to date, it does put pressure on GM Ken Holland to make a possible trade deadline move to provide for a playoff run.
The remainder of this article adds to why the Red Wings are performing so well to date. The defense has been covered, but one addition not discussed has been the play of defenseman Xavier Ouellet who was called up due to injuries. Ouellet has performed well, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he stays with the team. Although since he can be returned to Grand Rapids without being exposed on waivers (be claimed by another team), it is more than likely he may be sent back down when injured players return. The Red Wings have transitioned to a younger and faster team. Around a third of the roster is under 26 years old, and are delivering pleasant returns. Players such as Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindle, Justin Abdelkader, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Anderson, Riley Sheahan, Tomas Tatar, Peter Mrazek, Luke Glendening, Xavier Ouellet, and Danny DeKeyser. All of these players are under 26 years old and have been a great compliment to Pavel Datsyuk , Henrik Zetterberg, and the other veteran players.
In summary the Red Wings have been transiting over the past two seasons, but not necessarily by choice. During that time injuries forced the team to bring up younger players sooner than planned, and most were a pleasant surprise. During last years playoff series against the Boston Bruins the younger players were like a deer in headlights, and were quickly eliminated in 5 games. With the extra experience from last year, the Red Wings should be much more competitive in this year’s playoffs. This is correct because they will make the playoffs this season, possibly as one of the top 3 teams in their division.