maltby

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.

Top 9: Career Shorthanded Goals for the Red Wings

Detroit’s penalty kill was abysmal against the Bruins. Just horrible. But now it is the offseason and the Red Wings’ management can look to the free agent market, trading block, and minors for players that can better contribute to the penalty kill. They could also find someone else to coach the special teams with a struggling power play as well. I heard Adam Oates is available for power play duties.

This Tuesday’s Top 9 will focus on the top scoring penalty killers the Red Wings have sent out over the course of their history. It is more of a Top 8 with a couple of ties on the list. Are there any surprises?

8. Marcel Dionne, Nicklas Lidstrom, and John Ogrodnick: 10 goals

Marcel Dionne

Marcel Dionne – Photo courtesy of Hockey Hall of Fame

6. Gordie Howe and Nick Libett: 11 goals

Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe – Photo courtesy of Walter Iooss Jr./SI

5. Shawn Burr: 14 goals

Shawn Burr

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

4. Kirk Maltby: 18 goals

Kirk Maltby

Photo courtesy of Detroit Red Wings

3. Kris Draper: 21 goals

Kris Draper

Photo courtesy of Detroit Red Wings

2. Sergei Fedorov: 31 goals

Sergei Fedorov

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

1. Steve Yzerman: 50 goals

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Hockey Hall of Fame

 

Stats provided by hockey-reference.com

Throwback Thursday: Taking a look back at the 1997 Detroit Red Wings

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mary Schroeder/Detroit Free Press

In the spring of 1997, the Detroit Red Wings captured Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in 42 years. Steve Yzerman led the team through a trying regular season to the finals, where the Red Wings faced off against the Philadelphia Flyers. You all know this though. We all know this. I even have the championship video committed to memory and have been able to recite the lines from the “documentary” since I was a kid.

This Stanley Cup victory was especially sweet for Detroit because most of the Red Wings’ fan base had not seen a championship in their lifetime. It was the first one I had seen, despite the fact that I was only seven. It was also the first my dad had seen though. That victory was the first time the Stanley Cup was brought home to Hockeytown since my Grandpa was 33 years old.

Detroit had a rough season that year trying to find an identity. They had won a league record 62 games the previous season, but did not bring home the Cup. The year before, the Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the first round. The Wings had a coming-together moment on March 26th that propelled them into the playoffs on a high note. Darren McCarty finally got his vengeance on Claude Lemieux for his hit on Kris Draper the previous spring. Patrick Roy came to Lemieux’s aid, but Brendan Shanahan met him at center ice. Adam Foote and Mike Vernon soon joined the fray. All of this started from a stop in the play because of Igor Larionov going after Peter Forsberg. Even though “The Professor” was over a decade younger than Forsberg, he stood up and helped to inspire the team. Detroit came back to win the game 6-5 in overtime.

Those were only a few players crucial to the team’s success that year. Scotty Bowman and the Red Wing’s front office put together a grittier team than recent years, instead of relying on talent alone. Let’s take a look at the lineup and how each player was acquired.

C: Steve Yzerman (C) – Drafted 4th overall by Detroit in the 1983 Draft.

LW: Tomas Sandstrom – Acquired from Pittsburgh for Greg Johnson halfway through the season.

RW: Darren McCarty – Drafted 46th overall by Detroit in 1992.

C: Sergei Fedorov (A) – Drafted 74th overall by Detroit in 1989.

LW: Slava Kozlov – Drafted 45th overall by Detroit in 1990.

RW: Doug Brown – Claimed off waivers from New Jersey in 1995.

C: Igor Larionov – Acquired from San Jose for Ray Sheppard in 1995.

LW: Brendan Shanahan – Acquired from Hartford along with Brian Glynn for Keith Primeau, Paul Coffey, and a first round pick one game into the season.

RW: Martin Lapointe – Drafted 10th overall by Detroit in 1991.

C: Kris Draper – Acquired from Winnipeg in 1993 for future considerations ($1).

LW: Kirk Maltby – Acquired from Edmonton for Dan McGillis in 1996.

RW: Joey Kocur – Signed as a free agent in December of that season.

D: Nicklas Lidstrom – Drafted 53rd overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Larry Murphy – Acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline for future considerations.

D: Slava Fetisov – Acquired from New Jersey in 1995 for a third round pick.

D: Vladimir Konstantinov – Drafted 221st overall by Detroit in 1989.

D: Aaron Ward – Acquired from Winnipeg for Paul Ysabaert and a fourth round pick in 1993.

D: Bob Rouse – Signed as a free agent prior to the 1994-95 season.

G: Mike Vernon – Acquired from Calgary for Steve Chiasson in 1994.

G: Chris Osgood – Drafted 54th overall by Detroit in 1991.

 

Other key contributors that season drafted by Detroit were Mathieu Dandenault, Jamie Pushor, Tomas Holmstrom, Kevin Hodson, and Anders Eriksson. Detroit signed Tim Taylor as a free agent in 1993.

Shanahan, Lapointe, McCarty, Sandstrom, Draper, Maltby, and Kocur gave Detroit sandpaper that they could balance across all four lines. The acquisition of Larry Murphy gave Detroit’s defense a former Cup winner that brought out the best in Nick Lidstrom.

No one predicted this team would win the Cup in 1997 after everyone did the previous year. The Red Wings overcame adversity to eventually become the best team in the NHL. Who is to say the Red Wings of 2014 can’t do the same?