oates

Very Special Teams

Last season, the Red Wings’ special teams were, well, not up to par. Our penalty kill was atrocious at times, especially against the Bruins in the first round. Additionally, the power play was not very powerful. It was difficult to gain some consistency on special teams with players missing so much time during the season, but that should not stop world-class hockey players from capitalizing on the man advantage.

Looking ahead to next season, I wonder if the Red Wings will continue to use the Tomas Holmstrom screen in front of the net. Todd Bertuzzi, Justin Abdelkader, David Legwand, and even Riley Sheahan filled that role at times last season, but none caused as much havoc as Homer once did. With Bertuzzi and Legwand departing, I wonder if the Red Wings will shift to a more puck possession-focused power play next season.

For the power play, I have to imagine the set up will stay the same, unless Mike Babcock devises some ingenious strategy over the summer involving newly re-signed Daniel Cleary. Here is what the top two power play lines will probably look like:

(Note: other signings and TRADES could change these lines below.)

First PP: Niklas Kronwall up top, Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg on the half walls of the respective off wing, Pavel Datsyuk as the rover finding space and creating space, and Johan Franzen in the slot.

Second PP: Danny DeKeyser up top, Tomas Tatar and Brendan Smith on the half walls, Gustav Nyquist filling Datsyuk’s role, and Riley Sheahan in the slot. Stephen Weiss will also get some time in Sheahan’s role, as could Justin Abdelkader. It all depends on who is playing best at the time.

Now, on to the penalty kill. Woof.

We need improvement. Period. The strategy needs to improve in order to prevent goals. We have great players, but the positioning and assignments need adjustment.  The first thing that needs to happen is our defensemen need to be more physical down low. Boston’s defense hit our forwards enough that they won battles in the corner before they even begun. Intimidation goes a long way. Unfortunately, Kyle Quincey doesn’t scare anyone. Let’s take a look at who will most likely start the season on the penalty kill teams:

Forward pairings: Darren Helm and Drew Miller; Luke Glendening and Justin Abdelkader; Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson.

Defense pairings: Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson; Danny DeKeyser and Brian Lashoff.

With Bill Peters gone and Tom Renney possibly accepting a role with Hockey Canada, Coach Babcock has the opportunity to add an assistant coach with a great special teams background. I heard Adam Oates is available.

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

The Trade That Almost Was

First off, congratulations to the Red Wings for clinching the playoffs for the 23rd straight year. I can’t wait for the playoffs to start and for the Wings to make some noise in the East.

Wayne Gretzky

Photo courtesy of Rick Stewart/Getty Images

On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers traded Wayne Gretzky to Los Angeles in a trade that created shockwaves throughout the hockey world. “The Great One” left the only team he knew only a couple months after leading the Oilers to their fourth Stanley Cup in five years. Gretzky was traded along with Marty McSorley and future Red Wing Mike Krushelnyski for another future Red Wing in Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993.

Some people do not know that Gretzky was allowed to pick his destination after Oilers owner, Peter Pocklington, told him that they had to move him. Pocklington knew Gretzky was going to be a free agent after the 1988-89 season and wanted to receive something in return rather than lose Gretzky outright in free agency. Gretzky begrudgingly picked Los Angeles over another team because his wife, Janet Jones Gretzky, was an actress in Hollywood. That other team was the Detroit Red Wings.

We almost acquired Wayne Gretzky in 1988. We had just lost to the Oilers in the Western Conference finals the previous spring and lost to Gretzky’s team. Imagine the possibilities for the 1988-89 season and beyond if we had acquired Gretzky. But what would it have taken to acquire Wayne?

Los Angeles gave up two great, young players in Carson and Gelinas. Carson had just come off of a 55 goal season in LA and Gelinas was one of their top prospects in juniors. Who would have been the Red Wings equivalent of those two players? I believe three players would have matched Carson and Gelinas. Adam Oates, Petr Klima, and Joe Murphy could have gone to Detroit for Wayne Gretzky. Oates and Klima were just coming off of a great playoff against Edmonton. Joe Murphy was a former first overall pick that still had a lot of upside at the time. Klima and Murphy (and Adam Graves)would later go to Edmonton for Jimmy Carson and Kevin McClelland in 1989. Add in the cash and draft picks and there may have been a deal.

Now the trade between Detroit and Edmonton stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, and first round draft picks in 1989, 1991, and 1993. Sounds like a good deal, but let’s look at who Detroit drafted in those years. In 1989, the Red Wings drafted Mike Sillinger in the first round. He had a great career, but was traded in 1995 and never made much of an impact in Detroit. In 1991, the Red Wings took Martin Lapointe in the first round. Lapointe played a crucial role in the 1997 and 1998 Stanley Cup runs. In 1993, Detroit drafted Anders Eriksson in the first round. Eriksson was a top defensive prospect for Detroit in the mid- to late-90’s and played in the back-to-back finals runs in 1997 and 1998. Eriksson was also traded for Chris Chelios in 1999. Chelios played a role in the 2002 and 2008 Cups as well.

Now the trade stands at Wayne Gretzky, Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley for Adam Oates, Petr Klima, Joe Murphy, $15 million, Mike Sillinger, Martin Lapointe, and Anders Eriksson. There’s no telling if Edmonton would have drafted those players, but let’s assume so for the sake of this argument. Is this a trade we would want over 25 years later knowing the outcome? No, but we could not have predicted the future back then. Here is a quick look at what the 1988-89 Red Wings could have looked like:Projected 1988-89 Lines with Gretzky

The 1988-89 Red Wings finished 11th in the league that year, while Los Angeles finished 7th. Because Detroit finished 11th that year, they were able to draft a few good players in the draft. Those players were Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Nick Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Dallas Drake, and Vladimir Konstantinov. Those players may not have been available when and if Detroit finished with a better record with Gretzky on the team. The same can be said about players drafted in later drafts like Keith Primeau, Slava Kozlov, Lapointe, Jamie Pushor, Chris Osgood, Mike Knuble, Darren McCarty, Dan McGillis, Eriksson, Mathieu Dandenault, and Tomas Holmstrom.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Another argument against the Gretzky trade is what if Steve Yzerman could not develop the way he did with Gretzky as the star of the team? He could have asked for a trade elsewhere where he could have been the star. Gretzky and company producing a better record could have kept Jacques Demers as the coach in Detroit for a longer amount of time as well. That would mean that Scotty Bowman may never have come to Detroit.

It’s cool to think that Wayne Gretzky could have been a Red Wing, but the repercussions of the trade would not have been worth it knowing what we know now. I’m thankful Wayne went to LA and won zero Cups while Yzerman and company stayed in Detroit and eventually won four Cups since.