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Photo Credit: Nick Seguin

Monday Mailbag: Best Dressed, Elite D, and Trade Talk

There’s a lot going on in Wings Nation right now. The team, en route to the basement of the standings, is consistently blowing leads in the dying minutes of the third period. Every day, there is an uncertainty about which goalie is the starter. Howard is hot, then he’s cold. Mrazek is hot, then he’s cold. With the trade deadline looming, we’re all (im)patiently waiting to see what moves the team is going to make. These topics and more have all been covered in this week’s Monday mailbag.

Let’s start with Instagram.

Nevermind. Let’s start with Twitter.

You know what, fuck it, let’s go back to Instagram.

There are a couple of reasons why this team is bad. I’ve always maintained that offense is not their problem. All four of their lines are competent and, when playing consistently, can play with any time in the NHL. And goaltending isn’t really an issue either. Howard has experienced a resurgence over the last year and Mrazek can fill in just fine when he needs to. The real reason this team is bad is because of their defense.

The average age of their D-corps is 30.5 and their best defenseman is a powerplay specialist who has good offensive sense, but is terrible in his own end. Danny DeKeyser did not pan out the way they were hoping he would. Niklas Kronwall is basically playing on one knee. Jonathan Ericsson, Nick Jensen, and Xavier Ouellet are no better than bottom-pair guys. That leaves Trevor Daley who brings veteran experience to the squad, but he is far from elite talent. And that’s just what this team is missing on the back end: elite talent.

They’re also bad because of their special teams systems. Though the powerplay has been better this year than last, it is still in the bottom-third in the league. They have a hard time with powerplay zone entries. When they do finally gain the zone, they over-cycle the puck, passing in favour of shooting. Then, there’s the penalty kill which has been atrocious lately. Since January 1, they’ve registered a measly 70.7% penalty kill success rate. That ranks 28th in the league.

One thing is for sure: if this team is going to be sellers at the trade deadline (and they should be), they are going to get much worse after February 28.

First, I don’t expect moves to be made until right before the trade deadline. It falls on Wednesday, February 28 this year, so I expect moves to be made the weekend before (February 24/25) and the days leading up to the deadline.

That being said, there are a few guys in play. At this point, it’s pretty much set in stone that Mike Green will be gone by the trade deadline. He is the best right-handed defenseman available this year and a couple of Cup contenders would like to add him for their playoff push. He’s been connected to Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Washington. He’ll snag Detroit their greatest return at the deadline in a very long time.

Xavier Ouellet will likely be moved, as Holland has reportedly been actively shopping him. Don’t expect much in return for him. A late round pick, maybe. But we need him gone to clear the bottleneck on our blueline and make room for some young Griffins to come up and make an impact.

Finally, there are the improbables. Andreas Athanasiou’s name has been mentioned. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar have been mentioned by hockey insiders as good fits who need top-6 scoring (*cough* Nashville *cough*). And then there’s the goalie situation. The Wings have over $9-million tied up in their goalies, with Mrazek’s $4-million coming off the books this year (RFA) and Howard’s $5.2-million coming off after next year. It’s going to be hard for Holland to re-sign Mrazek at a raise when you’ve already got $5-mil tied up in Howard. The smart thing would be to commit to one and trade the other. Personally, I’d commit to Mrazek, but I don’t see either being moved.

I don’t see any of the improbables being moved. Athanasiou should be part of Detroit’s future and with the cap going up next year, they may be able to make it work with him (contract negotiating issues aside). Nyqusit or Tatar feels more like an offseason move to me, if they’re moved at all. Detroit loves their homegrown talent and these two are the epitome of that.

Come on. Is this really a question?

Nobody on this roster comes close to suiting up as beautiful as Z does. Mike Green is a close second and Tomas Tatar maybe comes in third. But Z is king. The crowds literally part for him.

This is a tough question. Jimmy Howard has been outstanding over the last two seasons, but his tendency to become injured really makes it hard for him to set himself apart. As for Petr Mrazek, he’s been crazy inconsistent since he broke into the league. At times, he looks like an elite goaltender. At other times, he looks like he doesn’t belong in the league. Let’s look at their stats side-by-side over the last three seasons.

In twenty more games, Mrazek has thirteen more wins than Howard, but he has a worse save percentage and goals against average. He also has eight shutouts which implies when he’s on top of his game, nothing is getting by him. I will say, judging by the eye test, Howard is a much safer goalie. He stays in his crease, doesn’t play the puck too often, and is incredibly quick and athletic when he needs to move. Mrazek has showed signs of matching athleticism, but he plays a high-risk game.

If I had to choose one going forward, I would choose Mrazek simply because he’s younger and has a higher ceiling. When he builds up his confidence, he plays with a swagger that is just so much fun to watch. That being said, the Wings might be forced to stick with Howard due to Mrazek’s contract ending this season. He’ll want a raise and Detroit can’t give him one. It’s a tough situation to be in and it could end up with Mrazek traded or walking in the offseason.

I actually know nothing about this, so I’ll defer to WingsNation contributor Graham McMullen:

Halifax, like London of the OHL or Brandon of the WHL, is a perennial powerhouse. They do always have some good players. However, we need to take stats from the QMJHL with a grain of salt. The margin between the best teams and worst teams is the greatest of any league that means something. It’s not uncommon to see a 10-0 game in the Q. Anthony Mantha scored 81 goals in 81 games in his draft year for Val-d’Or and Martin Frk had 84 points in 53 games for Halifax in 2012-2013. Often players who are as good as their numbers say and play in the QMJHL are drafted each year and the others are left to ‘prove it’ in a draft+ season.

Thanks Graham! Make sure you give Graham a follow on Twitter for more insightful comments like this.

Brad is looking for validation here because he wrote that Detroit should make a play for Karlsson in free agency. If you click through to that tweet, there’s great discussion on whether or not this is likely. Personally, I think it comes down to how lucky Detroit drafts this year. Ekman-Larsson is done with losing. He is going to a playoff team, so if Detroit is questionable at all, I think he’ll avoid them. Doughty is going to Toronto. It’s his childhood team and they are just entering their Stanley Cup window. It makes perfect sense for him to want to be the guy who brings them their first Championship in nearly fifty years.

That leaves Karlsson. I have no doubt that Karlsson wants a Stanley Cup, but I think that he’s the most likely to listen to off-ice reasons for joining the team. Detroit is a classy organization that takes care of its players. They have a state-of-the-art new building that is the best in the NHL, at least out of the 15 that I’ve been to personally. They are an original 6 team with a great culture of competing and winning. Daniel Alfredsson, Karlsson’s hero, can attest to all of that. So can fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall.

But there’s still the question on their on-ice results. Can a top-5 or top-10 pick this year turn them around to the point that all they’re missing is that top-2 defenseman? If so, then I think there’s a better chance that they can land Karlsson. They’d also have to find a way to make the money work (which Brad touches on in his article). Basically, a lot of stars would have to align to make this happen. What are the odds? I’d say 2% for Doughty, 5% for OEL, and 10% for Karlsson.

It’s tough to admit, but the Wings are just not in a position to be chasing top end talent in free agency right now. Unless they get Rasmus Dahlin. Let’s talk about this after the draft.

It’s a good question, but I don’t think so. A couple of bad third period collapses are outliers. I don’t see that being the straw that breaks the camel’s back and makes Holland and co. say, “That’s it! Sell everyone!” Remember: As part of The Process, the team touts performance over results. Both against the Islanders and the Capitals, the Wings played good hockey for the majority of the game. They are not going to let 10-12 minutes of bad hockey change their game plan.

That being said, it’s obvious some things need to change. These collapses need to stop. I just think the solution is going to be found internally rather than trading more players.

A goalie.

Alright, I’m ready to answer this now. I would take Ott over Witkowski every day of the week. For one, Steve Ott is an actual centerman. He was actually a pretty decent 4th line center in his prime. At one point, he was actually 5th in the league in faceoff percentage, according to NHL.com. In addition to this, Ott is one of the best chirpers there was in the league. I still love seeing him mime the cameras at Matt Martin from the penalty box during the Centennial Classic. Finally, Ott was a heart and soul player. He truly loved the team and the community and he let his personality shine. He was fun to watch, as frustrating as it was that he was taking ice time for Mantha or Athanasiou. Witkowski doesn’t have that level of personality, at least not publicly.

All that being said, Witkowski’s beard makes a strong case for him. I would just take the way Ott plays over the way Wit does.