Last week, we posted a poll. A pretty basic one, and a standard question to ask.
Where do you see the Wings finishing next season?
— Wings Nation (@thewingsnation) July 28, 2016
Of the fans polled, 49% thought the Wings wouldn’t make the playoffs, 51% thought they would.
Of course, it’s an imperfect and abridged poll. It’s far from an exact science.
But let’s flip the traditional question on its head for a second.
Instead of asking how good the Wings will be next season, let’s ask another one. And let’s continue to ask it until the organisation shows any real signs of change: how bad will they be?
Because honestly, they’re not looking like they’ll be all that great. And for the first time in a long time, there’s really not a whole lot to look forward to.
The Datsyuk factor
Pavel Datsyuk was not a “generational” player, but he was definitely one of the best to suit up in the 2000’s era NHL.
The Wings 5v5 CF% when he was on the ice this past season, as usual, was incredible, at 57.3 %. When he was off the ice, it stood at just 50.6%. When he was on the ice, an elite player made the team look elite. Detroit’s 5v5 GF% when he’s on the ice? 53.0%. Without him? It’s 47.1%.
Datsyuk started more than 59% of his shifts in the defensive or neutral zone, so he wasn’t exactly getting easy shifts either. There’s no way of denying it, his on-ice impact is massive, even as an aging player.
In terms of possession, the team was just middling above league average without him, and in terms of 5v5 goal differential, they’d have finished 25th in the league if they played the full year without Datsyuk..
Incoming players like Frans Nielsen (51.2 CF% / 52.2 GF% last season), Steve Ott (51.9 CF % /38.4 GF %), and Tomas Vanek (45.9 CF % / 50.0 GF %) might mend the wound of losing Datsyuk a LITTLE bit instead of what was already in the organization, but they just really don’t replace the massive hole of losing Datsyuk. None of them are a first-line elite player at this stage in their career.
Petr Mrazek has done just about everything to earn the starter’s role. Except earn the starters’ role in the start of playoffs, as I chatted about here. Or sign a long-term deal. Is that an indicator of how much playing time he’ll get? Sadly, it might be, honestly.
It’s been three full seasons since Jimmy Howard posted a save percentage above .910. Will he get above replacement level this year? It’s a tough question to ask, but his past few years haven’t inspired confidence. Individually at their prime, the Wings goalies have been good. Together, these days, they’re just average. Will Mrazek post another .920+ season? Maybe, but what if he doesn’t? If Mrazek falters and Howard plays like he has been for the past three years, how bad will they be?
The Wings roster, is quite frankly full of lots of contracts and no superstars. Not a single player on this current roster topped more than 52 points last season (Nielsen had 52 playing with the Islanders). That, in and of itself is quite damning. 52 points would’ve ranked 77th in league scoring last year.
So the question gets asked again, if this team can’t score at the level of other strong teams,
How bad will they be?
— Wings Nation (@thewingsnation) July 26, 2016
There’s some new pieces in the roster, and maybe some new players coming up in the prospect chain. (Mantha, anyone?) It’s Jeff Blashill’s second year, not his first. Maybe some of the underused players get played a little more.
So it isn’t the end of the road for the Wings. But right now looking forward, it very well could be close.
We’re looking at a team moving backward, not forward. We’re looking at a team that has to make excuses for signings, not be able to not have to defend them. We’re looking at a team on the aggregate that’s doing more bad than good.
So instead of asking how good the Wings will be, let’s ask a different question from here on out until they give a reason for us to think otherwise.