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If the Detroit Red Wings had a Skills Competition

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo by Spokeo

Though no Detroit Red Wings player will be a part of it, the NHL All-Stars will be participating in the All-Star Skills Competition this weekend in Columbus. Among the events are competitions for fastest skater, fastest slap shot, most accurate shot, and best at breakaways. Looking at this from a different and probably more entertaining perspective, I wonder which Red Wings would participate in each event if the team had its own skills competition.

Teams used to hold these kind of events for fans in the past, but have since allowed players not invited to the NHL events to take the time off and rest up for the stretch run. Red Wings like Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek have already found sun and warm weather for the week break. If those two and the rest of the team were still in town, who would participate in what event? Who would win? Well, we thought about it and need your opinion regarding the participants and winners.

Fastest Slapshot

Who has the fastest clapper on the team? There is no clear answer like Alex Ovechkin in DC or Zdeno Chara in Boston. The Red Wings boast a few players with hard shots, but none that could break a goalie’s hand. Who gets your vote? The winner receives the Reed Larson Award for hardest shot.

Niklas Kronwall – Known for blasting shots from the point on the power play, Kronwall probably takes a clapper more than anyone on the team. He tries to be more accurate that powerful with his shot like the great Nick Lidstrom.

Jonathan Ericsson – “Big Rig” can really bring it from the blue line, but does not wind up for the cannon shot very often. He has rifled some big shots in the past though.

Teemu Pulkkinen – You can’t be compared to Brett Hull unless you have a heavy shot. Teemu’s go-to is his cannon that we are all hoping he’ll get to shoot a lot of in the show soon.

Danny DeKeyser – Another blueliner who favors the smart play over the big wind up, DeKeyser would be another participant in the hardest shot competition. Does he trump the field?

Most Accurate Shot

Guys like Brendan Shanahan and Sergei Fedorov come to mind when thinking of Red Wings who can pick a corner. Who from today’s team would win the competition though? There is an abundance of talent here, but we picked the top four for consideration. The winner receives the Sergei Fedorov Award for Shooting Excellence.

Pavel Datsyuk – Obvious participant. Magical in general for snipage.

Johan Franzen – Though he goes through dry spells, Franzen can snipe. He can go bar down on most goalies in the league when his confidence is riding high.

Tomas Tatar – Could he be the next best pure goal-scorer for the Red Wings? His team-leading 21 goals don’t lie. He could reach 40 goals this season if he keeps making goalies look bad.

Henrik Zetterberg – Most of Z’s goals are not fancy snipes, but accurately and strategically placed shots to where the goalie is not covering. Could that translate to hitting all four targets at each corner of the net?

Fastest Skater

Which Red Wings player has the best wheels? We cannot go into bars to determine that, but we can quantify who can skate around the rink the fastest. Speed is another talent the Wings have collectively, but here are the top four. Winner receives the Kris Draper Hustle Award.

Darren Helm – Like Datsyuk when it comes to sniping, Helm is an obvious candidate for fastest skater.

Luke Glendening – He would probably have Mike Babcock‘s vote. Hustle is key here.

Brendan Smith – When given a lane and an opportunity, Brendan Smith can really fly. As a defenseman, you wouldn’t normally consider him for a fastest skater competition, but he deserves the chance.

Justin Abdelkader – Just another Red Wings player who can move in a fast manner. Abdelkader could definitely keep pace with the other competitors.

Breakaway Survival Challenge

For the sake of changing things up from the norm, this competition would be to see which Red Wings player would be the last man standing in a breakaway contest. To ensure that all four are not stopped on the first try, imagine Jimmy Howard is in net for the event. This winner receives the Steve Yzerman Award.

Pavel Datsyuk – We haven’t seen as many Datsyukian Dekes lately, but Pav can still dangle with the best. He is currently the active leader for shootout goals.

Gustav Nyquist – He’s the next man up after Datsyuk in the shootout and has converted on a few attempts this season. Could he outlast the Premier of Danglestan?

Tomas Tatar – Typically number three in the shootout lineup, Tatar can also snipe goalies when it comes to shootouts.

Tomas Jurco – He was highly-touted in juniors for his dangles and we have seen flashes of that over the past season and a half. Jurco is a wild card here with the skills and not much shootout experience.

Slowest Skater

Just for funsies. Which player on the Red Wings would take the longest doing a lap around the Joe? Could one of the goalies beat them? These players can have cinder blocks in their skates at times. Johan Franzen is not an option here because he can skate fast…when he wants. I won’t elaborate on why they are slow to prevent hurt feelings. Just vote for who you think needs turbo boosters to reach normal speed. I’m not sure this warrants an award, but winner get the Andreas Lilja Cement Shoes Award.

Vote! See, voting can be fun when it doesn’t involve politics or prom king or queen! Vote!

Do the Red Wings Need Size in the Lineup?

Bob Probert

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

It was apparent against the big, bad Bruins that the Red Wings were lacking in the physicality department. Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller pushed the Red Wings around and did not allow them to achieve consistency in their speed game. Since the Red Wings couldn’t play their game, they could not generate optimal scoring opportunities. Tuukka Rask is a world-class goalie and stopped everything the Bruins kept to the outside with ease.

Look at the teams still in the playoffs. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Montreal all have complete teams with size and toughness to keep things in check. In Sunday’s Western Conference matchup, players like Brandon Bollig, Matt Greene, and Bryan Bickell keep everyone in line on the ice. There is no one player dominating or roughing everyone up. Those players police the ice, but have skills other than toughness.

Justin Abdelkader has similar attributes for the Red Wings, but no one fears him on the ice. He hits and fights more out of necessity than desire. Other than Abdelkader, the Red Wings really don’t have players that grind and wear down opponents physically, much like how the Grind Line was so effective for the Red Wings from 1997 to 2002.

Should the Red Wings invest in players to fill that role? Jonathan Ericsson, Drew Miler, and Brian Lashoff can be physical, but they don’t scare anyone. In the past, guys like Bob Probert, Darren McCarty, and Kirk Maltby created room for other players and lines to generate scoring chances. I think they need one more player to really wear down some teams.

Imagine an energy line of Darren Helm at center, Justin Abdelkader on a wing, and another player with grit. They could rough up a team with their up-tempo, physical style and create room for the other lines to score. Steve Downie, Steve Ott, and Brian Boyle cold all fill this role and contribute on the penalty kill if called upon. Boyle is currently filling this role for the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. He gets under the skin of opposing players and has the physical strength to keep them from playing their game.

On the other hand, the Red Wings have not really employed this strategy lately. They tried with Jordin Tootoo, but he was too one-dimensional to fit the Red Wings system. In addition, Drew Miller is already slated for energy line duty and does not fit anywhere else on the team. Miller could play with Helm and an addition, but is slower and less physical than Abdelkader.

My vote is to add size. The players mentioned above would be good fits, as would Mitch Callahan on a line with Helm and Abdelkader. Speed and physicality will allow smaller players on other lines to do their thing without much resistance, or else those defenders would be dealt with. Detroit doesn’t need a fighter, just someone to scare the other teams.