Last Saturday’s game against the Habs was the worst game of hockey the Red Wings have played in my life. The comments coming out of Detroit are more of the same. The team merely needs to “dig in” and “battle” to turn the season around. As if the team can just decide to flip a switch and become a good hockey team. Ken Holland came out and stated that the team just needed to string some wins together and “play above .500 hockey” in order to get back into contention. It is baffling that this team, a team that has now had 6 and 7 game losing streaks this year, is still talking about making the playoffs. They can have all of the “culture” they want, but this roster simply lacks the talent to compete for the playoffs, let a lone a Stanley Cup. Ken Holland and Co.’s minds are foggy with a two and a half decade long era of dominating this league. But that is not reality anymore. Management needs to get off their high horse and realize that there is no longer anything special about being a Detroit Red Wings aside from being a storied franchise. They need to get over themselves.
Following a game against the Oilers last month, Coach Jeff Blashill called out Anthony Mantha saying that he “has got to be way better” and called him a “passenger”. This is being said about a 23 year old budding star forward who is leading the team in goals and is second on the team in points. Last year Andreas Athanasiou received a similar treatment. These two players, along with Dylan Larkin, form a core group of young forwards that the Wings can build around for years. So what should we do to these players? Destroy their confidence by publicly calling them out over far worse players. If this behavior keeps up we will lose one of them, probably Athanasiou. The list of players that deserve a call out over these players is laughably long. Trevor Daley, Darren Helm, Frans Nielsen, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson (even if he is playing a bit better this year), and even captain Henrik Zetterberg (although I would not publicly call him out) are all having disappointing seasons to varying degrees. I’m sick of Blashill using the young players as scapegoats. The team is simply bad. The defense has maybe one or two top-four defensemen. The narrative coming out of Detroit is gross.
The reason the team had any hope of making the playoffs was purely because of the talented young forwards and stellar goaltending. Now the goaltending has come back down to Earth and the Red Wings are floundering. Who could have foreseen that? Let’s take a look at the advanced stats. According to Corsica, the Red Wings are 26th in the league in xGF%, 23rd in xGA%, 17th in CF%, 26th in GF/60, and 29th in GA/60. The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn’s (in the words of Chance the Rapper, this name has like 30 letters in it, none of them are vowels) model currently projects the Wings to finish 29th in the league and finish the season with 78.3 points, ahead of only Arizona and Buffalo and puts their playoff chances at a whopping 2%. In other words, this is a bottom-5 NHL team this year.
This has been an overly pessimistic article so far. Let’s inject some optimism. What can the Red Wings do? Well, they actually have quite a few valuable pieces that could be sold off in the coming months. Mike Green is the most likely player to move this year as he is putting up a solid offensive season with 18 points in 27 games and is on an expiring contract. He should be able to be moved for either a first round pick or a 2nd round pick plus a good prospect. The New York Islanders, a team that is having a great year so far, would make sense as a possible trade partner. Aside from Nick Leddy, they do not have any defensemen that produce offense. They could use a player to anchor their second power play unit. They also happen to hold two first round picks in this year’s deep draft. Another variable is they want to show upcoming free agent and captain John Tavares that they are committed to building a winning team. I would be calling them about all of our tradable pieces. Two more players that hold value are Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. I doubt the team would trade both, but their value should be around a late first round pick or a 2nd rounder and a decent prospect. They are both valuable players now, but when the Wings are able to contend again they will be past their prime. Trevor Daley still holds value and could perhaps be moved for a 3rd round pick, as he is on a reasonable contract. If a team needs goaltending, both of the Red Wings’ goalies could be moved. If we can stock up on more draft picks, this year’s draft is stocked full of high end prospects including Rasmus Dahlin, Andrei Svechnikov, Adam Boqvist, Quinn Hughes, and Filip Zadina, among others. This is the first step in putting together a quality hockey team. These days, you have to pick high to gather elite talent.
Overall, the Red Wings are simply a bad hockey team. But that is okay. I don’t mean to be pessimistic, rather realistic. The team’s stars are either way too old or out of the league. They have been picking in the bottom half of the draft for the last 25 years so of course they are going to lack high end players. They have saddled themselves down with questionable contracts, but most of them come off of the books in the next 4 years, a span that the team will probably not be competitive. Let’s stock up on quality prospects, transition this team to the young players, and accept what the team is. There isn’t anything inherently superior about the Red Wings organization. Yes they have a great ownership group and have been the cream of the crop of the league over the past 25 years. But that team is gone. And mediocrity is not an option. Let’s bottom out for a couple years so that this team can get back to the top. The fans see it. The analytics community sees it. The analysts see it. It’s time for the people in charge of the Red Wings to see it. Rather, it’s time to change the group that is in charge as they have shown that they cannot get over the team’s last 25 years. It’s time to move on.