Thanksgiving is upon us which means the Holidays are right around the corner and we get to draw conclusions about our favourite NHL teams! Twenty games is a good sample size to determine whether or not your team is in the mix or far from it. Buffalo and Arizona, for example, are pretty close to being write-offs while Tampa Bay and St. Louis are looking like real contenders. In the case of the Red Wings, the result is a bit of a mixed bag. Many thought they’d be much worse than they actually are while others maintain this team is nowhere near a contender. Our wonderful staff weighed in today about their thoughts on the first quarter of the Red Wings season.
The kids, for the most part, have looked good and have stepped up in an effort to carry the team. Mantha, Larkin and Athanasiou have all had their bright spots but have always shown their youth. They make the team exciting to watch, despite such low lows.
The defense – they are what we thought they were! As a whole, they lack imagination and creativity; with few exceptions, they lack athleticism and talent as well. Kronwall shouldn’t be in the NHL anymore, Jensen and Ouellet are borderline NHL-ers, DeKeyser parlayed a couple decent seasons into his current contract, which is troubling since he’s shown he’s an average to slightly below average 2nd pair defenseman and average to slightly above average 3rd pair defenseman. Green has done well and if Holland were smart, he’d be looking to move him now. Stock won’t get higher unless he flashes back 7 years. Big E has actually played well, despite being miscast as a top pairing defender.
Howard is by far the largest reason the Wings are currently in a playoff spot but again, he is a guy that Holland should be looking to move as his stock is likely to go down – not up – the rest of the season.
Finally, Blashill and Holland have shown that neither of them have the wherewithal to operate in today’s NHL. Blashill may be the worst coach in the NHL. It just seems that he doesn’t have it for the big show. Great minor league and college coach to be certain but he’s not the first person to have immense success at lower levels and fail. Holland has mismanaged this team into salary cap hell and the NHL’s equivalent of purgatory. The Wings continue to overachieve (this is evidenced by an awful loss to Edmonton two nights ago) and as a result, Holland will not feel forced to unload anyone for future assets; with 3/4 of the season to go, I’m hopeful the regression to the means forces his hand and we will see some players and picks that will jump start a new playoff streak.
The first quarter of the season is exactly what I expected but also what I wanted. I expected this team to still be somewhat competitive in most games and in the standings. They’re not bad enough to realistically be at the bottom of this division – or even be within the bottom-5 in the Eastern Conference. One bad losing streak can send them there or Holland has a breakthrough and commits to the full rebuild. Hopefully one or both happens within the next month or two.
Even if Holland sells off core assets there is no guarantee to drop to the bottom of the standings because of how well the kids are performing – that’s the best thing about the first quarter of this season. Mantha and Larkin are the present and future of this team and they have showed that right from the start of this season.
Like any Red Wings team, they are set to regress soon. Hopefully even more if Holland smartens up and sells high on his aging assets. But overall, seeing the young players perform this well and lead this team – any Wings fan should be happy with that.
The first quarter of the Red Wings 2017-18 season has been pretty close to what I expected. I think I was one of the few people who believed they would actually challenge for a playoff spot after missing last season for the first time in two and a half decades.
Last year was plagued by injuries and poor performances. This year has been highlighted by health and bounce-back performances. Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin have taken expected steps forward and are leading the team in goals and points so far. Jimmy Howard picked up right where he left off last season and the special teams have been far better than they were last season. This team still has plenty of talent and have put an emphasis on using their speed and it puts the opposition on their heels.
They definitely aren’t a Stanley Cup contender, but I still believe we may have playoff hockey in the inaugural season at Little Caesars Arena—even if it’s not what’s best for the franchise going forward.
The theme of the Red Wings first twenty games has been inconsistency. Fantastic playing one night will lead to a poor performance the next. They’ll win four straight, then lose six straight, then win two straight… It’s like being on a roller-coaster! As my colleagues have said above, the young players have been great. Anthony Mantha has taken big strides in his development, though he too has been plagued by bouts of inconsistent play. Only last week, Jeff Blashill called him out in public for it and I don’t think he was wrong.
The only consistent part of the first quarter of the Red Wings season has been Jimmy Howard. Howie is currently tied for 8th in the league with a .923 save percentage. He’s bailed Detroit out of more than a few games and deserves all of the praise for where they are in the playoff race. As Brock said above, Detroit can still be a playoff team, but that will hinge on Jimmy Howard’s health and ability to maintain this elite play.
That and they’ll need to find some consistency from their forwards.