ovechkin

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!

Top 9: Worst Plus/Minus in Red Wings History

On Monday, the Washington Capitals hired Barry Trotz to become their next coach after he was dismissed from Nashville earlier this spring. I began a conversation with another blogger about whether Trotz could steer the Caps out of dark waters and right the Alex Ovechkin ship. Ovechkin led(?) the league with the worst plus/minus rating of any player at -35 last season. It made me wonder who on the Red Wings had terrible plus/minus numbers in their career.

The plus/minus statistic was not officially compiled by the NHL until the 1967-68 season, so players like Ted Lindsay and Jack Stewart could never be on any Red Wings’ plus/minus list for better or worse. Luckily, this statistic was adopted just in time for the Red Wings’ dark ages: the 1970s. Let’s take a look at the Top (Bottom) 9: Worst Plus/Minus Ratios accumulated in players’ stints in Detroit.

9. John Ogrodnick: -74

John Ogrodnick

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

8. Randy Ladouceur: -77

Randy Ladouceur

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

7.Dennis Polonich: -78

Dennis Polonich

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

6. Vaclav Nedomansky: -85

Vaclav Nedomansky

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

5. Jean Hamel: -92

Jean Hamel

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

4. John Barrett: -114

John Barrett

Photo courtesy of eBay

3. Willie Huber: -129

Willie Huber

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

2. Reed Larson: -135

Reed Larson

Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Wild

1. Nick Libett: -150

Nick Libett

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Red Wings

 

Thank you to NHL.com for the statistical report.

Playing a Two-Way Game

Alex Ovechkin

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Alex Ovechkin is a polarizing figure around the NHL. No, he is not a Red Wing, but does have a place in this blog. Here’s why: Steve Yzerman was once in a similar situation as Ovechkin.

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s, our beloved captain lit up the scoreboard, but the Red Wings never were legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. They reached the Campbell Conference (Western Conference) Finals in 1987 and 1988 only to be eliminated quickly by the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers won the Cup both years because Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier could do anything they wanted on the ice. Jari Kurri, Paul Coffey (only in 1987), Craig Simpson, Glenn Anderson, Kevin Lowe, and Grant Fuhr also “contributed.” Detroit did not return to the conference finals until 1995.

In 1993, Yzerman was approached by newly-appointed coach Scotty Bowman. He wanted Yzerman to focus more on his defensive game in order to help develop the team. Bowman said the points would come, but not as often as they usually did. However, his contributions playing well in the defensive zone would more than compensate for the loss in production. Yzerman could have easily said no and continued to score at will. He reached 100 points in each of his previous six seasons.

Instead, Steve decided to focus more on the defensive side.

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of AP

Now, the leader of the team and leading scorer was playing a more defensive style of hockey and it began to rub off on the rest of the team. Detroit continued to score as well. Sergei Fedorov and Ray Sheppard each had 50 goal seasons. Fedorov bought in as well and won the Selke Trophy that year. He would win it again in 1996.

Scotty Bowman taught superstar players that how to play defense and continue scoring, even if it was at a slower pace than they are used to. That has rubbed off on Red Wings players since then. Guys like Yzerman, Fedorov, Kris Draper, Darren McCarty, Keith Primeau, Dallas Drake, Slava Kozlov, and Martin Lapointe were on that 1993-94 Red Wings team that Scotty Bowman influenced. The next four years produced incredible results stemming from a defensive system. Detroit reached the finals in 1995, set a record for regular season wins in 1996, and won the Stanley Cup in 1997 and 1998.

All of those players are now retired. However, the way they played the game rubbed off on younger players. Last I heard, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were two of the best two-way players in the NHL. Johan Franzen and Dan Cleary also got a chance to play with Steve Yzerman and learn the ropes of defensive hockey. Now, guys like Gustav Nyquist, Darren Helm, Luke Glendening, and Tomas Tatar are all playing strong defensively (some more than others though).

Getting back to Ovechkin – he needs to change his style. As of this morning, he is -35 on the season with 74 points. He only has 38 points at even strength. That means that 73 goals have been scored while he has been on the ice. That number is absolutely absurd. He is a right wing, so his contributions to the defensive end may not be as crucial, but the problem is not the Caps defense, centers, and goalies. If someone is not covered in the defensive zone, everyone overcompensates to cover, often leaving their man. This scramble usually results in a goal against.

Will adopting a more defensive style work? Dale Hunter tried that a few seasons ago, but him and Ovechkin were often feuding and they did not advance far in the playoffs. Perhaps a change of players and management in DC will produce better results, even if Ovechkin’s numbers decline. Ask Steve Yzerman what meant more, three Stanley Cups or putting up 100 points every season? In a crazy hypothetical situation, I’m sure Yzerman would have had no problem refraining from scoring if it meant Stanley Cups in Detroit.

Thank you Scotty Bowman for changing the Detroit Red Wings culture to a more accountable one that continues today. Thank you Steve Yzerman for the selflessness that led Detroit to three Stanley Cups.