tootoo

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: Odd Facts from the Regular Season

This past season has been a strange one by Red Wings’ standards. Injuries, new conference opponents, youth in the lineup, and a compressed schedule (because of the Olympics) have made the regular season a trying one at times. However, Detroit persevered and made the playoffs for the 23rd straight season. Before the Red Wings take on the big, bad Bruins on Friday, let’s take a look at the Top 9 odd notes from this season:

Mike Babcock

Photo courtesy of Norm Hall/NHLI

9. In a season marred by injuries and losing streaks, Mike Babcock passed both Scotty Bowman and Jack Adams to become the Red Wings’ all-time coaching wins leader. Babs finished the regular season with 415 wins in Detroit. Hopefully there will be many more wins added to that number.

 

 

Gordie Howe

Photo courtesy of Richard Meek/SI

8. In his first season in Detroit, Daniel Alfredsson led the Red Wings with 49 points. He is the oldest player (41) to lead the Red Wings in scoring since Gordie Howe did it during the 1969-70 season. I’d like to see Detroit bring back Alfredsson for another season, but we will get to that once the playoffs are over and free agency and the draft are the priorities.

 

 

 

Daniel Alfredsson

Photo courtesy of Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

7. Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall led the team with 49 points this season, though Alfredsson scored that many in fewer games that Kronwall. Their point totals were the lowest to lead the Red Wings in scoring since Joe Carveth led Detroit with 35 points during the 1945-46 season. Back then, teams only played 48 games in the regular season.

 

 

Fedorov

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

6. Alfredsson and Kronwall’s 49 points is the lowest to lead Detroit in scoring in the Modern Era. No one has led Detroit with less points since teams began playing 70 games (or 80, or 82, or 84…) in the regular season. Players like Howe,¬†Steve Yzerman, and Sergei Fedorov consistently scored more than 49 points. In fact, they usually hit the 49-point mark 49 games into the season (or earlier).

 

 

 

 

 

Pavel Datsyuk

Photo courtesy of Marc DesRosiers/USA Today Sports

5. On that note, Pavel Datsyuk scored 49 points last season…in 47 games. The Magic Man scored as many points as Detroit’s leaders this season in a lockout-shortened year last year. In addition, during the 1994-95 lockout-shortened season, both Fedorov and Paul Coffey bested 49 points each. Offense dipped this year, but it was spread out amongst many different players.

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Howard

Photo courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

4. Jimmy Howard‘s 21 wins are the lowest to lead the Red Wings since Glen Hanlon only won 15 for Detroit during the 1989-90 season. That was the last season before the playoff streak started. Injuries to the lineup, inconsistent play, and injuries to Jimmy himself prevented that number from being higher.

 

 

 

 

 

Gustav Nyquist

Photo courtesy of Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings

3. Gustav Nyquist led Detroit with 28 goals this season. The odd fact about that was that he was not part of the opening night lineup. Nyquist started the year in the minors and played 15 games for the Grand Rapids Griffins before getting called up to the show. It was more of a salary cap move to keep Nyquist in the minors for so long, but the signings of Daniel Cleary during training camp and Mikael Samuelsson and Jordin Tootoo the previous season to play over Nyquist was questionable then and now.

 

 

Tomas Jurco

Photo courtesy of Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

2. The Red Wings had nine different players make their NHL debuts this season. Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, Landon Ferraro, Teemu Pulkkinen, and Mitch Callahan got a chance to crack the top-12 forwards, while Adam Almqvist, Alexey Marchenko, Xavier Ouellet, and Ryan Sproul made their NHL debuts on defense. So many rookies making cracking the lineup is certainly an oddity in Detroit, considering the Red Wings overdevelop their prospects and prefer to have veterans suit up over rookies.

 

Steve Yzerman

Photo courtesy of Mary Schroeder/Detroit Free Press

1. Detroit’s 39 wins this season is the lowest win total in a non-lockout-shortened season since the 1996-97 team finished the year with 38 wins. While losing sucks, I’ll gladly take 39 wins because the Red Wings happened to win the Stanley Cup in 1997 after the “subpar” regular season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statistics provided by hockeydb.com