First off, happy weekend to everyone ready to enjoy a couple more days off. Cheers to another year of great Detroit Red Wings hockey and another season added to the Wings’ glorious playoff streak.
If you go to your local gym, you’ll likely see a lot of New Years resolutions in action. While those may only last a month or less, let’s hope the Detroit Red Wings stick to their resolutions. And by their resolutions, I mean the resolutions I am giving them.
For the New Year, the Red Wings should, and hopefully will, focus on five resolutions that will make them a better team — like how going to the gym will make me a better person. Five is a fair number because Nicklas Lidstrom is a fair person. In no particular order, here we go:
1. Wake Up the Hibernating Johan Franzen
Obvious, right? Right. Capable of being a 30-goal scorer for the Red Wings with his blistering shot, Johan Franzen only has seven goals to his name at the halfway point. He is always on the cusp of going on a hot streak. However, Franzen is currently enduring a shivering cold streak. How cold? Think north of the wall on Game of Thrones. If Franzen can put the biscuit in the basket in consecutive games, I am confident that will jump-start his game and be the goal-scoring power forward the Red Wings have been hoping for this season.
2. Add More Sandpaper to the Lineup
A healthy Stephen Weiss will help achieve this goal, but he alone is not enough. Weiss and Justin Abdelkader are primarily the only forwards that add grit to the lineup. Look back to the last game against Boston. The Bruins’ tough defense would not allow the Red Wings’ team finesse to get going in the offensive zone. While Detroit’s finesse game is what makes them a great team, they need to add more sandpaper and grit to the lineup if they are going to advance in the playoffs. Whether that comes from some soul searching or from another player being added to the lineup, the Wings need some toughness.
3. Let the Kids Play
Those not helping the grit department, the Red Wings could benefit from giving prospects like Teemu Pulkkinen and Anthony Mantha a game or two with the big league squad. Though their impact may be minimal at first, it certainly helps their development to skate along with Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Niklas Kronwall. It certainly helped guys like Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Riley Sheahan play a game or two before they fully ripened. This brief experience teaches them that while they may be dominating the minor leagues, the NHL is a whole different world and that further development and training is necessary for success.
4. Insert Xavier Ouellet into the Lineup Permanently
As the only defenseman to be recalled from Grand Rapids this season, Xavier Ouellet is quickly making a case that not only does he belong in the NHL, but in Detroit’s top six defensemen as well. It is apparent that he has leapfrogged Jakub Kindl and Brian Lashoff in the depth chart. No transactions allowing Ouellet to occupy that spot have been made yet because neither Kindl or Lashoff have played poorly enough to garner one. Xavier Ouellet is better than the two, but neither Kindl or Lashoff have been good enough to warrant a fair return on the trading block or bad enough to force an action by Ken Holland. My thought is this: dress the best 20 guys in the organization for a complete, balanced team. Ouellet cracks the top 20.
5. Don’t Throw Away Prospects
For the love of God, do not repeat the Calle Jarnkrok-for-David Legwand trade. It is true that the Red Wings have an abundance of solid prospects within the organization. They have depth at forward and on defense in the prospect pipeline and are looking for a top defenseman for the big league squad, but the Wings cannot squander a good prospect for minimal, short-term impact. Make the right deals leading up to the trade deadline. As parents often say (too late) to their children, “Don’t make poor choices!”
Stick to the plan, Red Wings! Don’t be the fatty in May who hasn’t been to the gym since early January!