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Photo Credit: © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What The Playoffs Have Told Us About the Future of the Red Wings

Although these playoffs so far haven’t been the most exciting, they have definitely told a story of where the sport is heading.

With the elimination of both the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks in four games, they are showing us where the Red Wings should be looking for in upcoming talent and in talent they already have.

In a video The Point created, they explain how the Sharks adapted to their new style of speed and skill to sweep the Ducks. Demonstrating how much can improve in one year under a new system.

It is clear that slow and tough hockey does not win you games anymore.

As much as fans would love to see someone wearing the winged wheel absolutely destroy someone on the forecheck, the team would be much more successful to simply skate better than your opponent. The Kings and Ducks were those slow and tough teams, being out-passed and out-skated for the entire series. Cutting their series short, they will need to do an evaluation of what type of hockey they want to play in the upcoming seasons. The Red Wings should already be doing this.

Those two teams have been successful and have players in their prime right now, the pressure to win is at its peak. It makes sense that they will hold on to a core and try to change the surrounding scenery. One could argue that the Red Wings don’t even have a core of players. Would you say Zetterberg, Kronwall, and Howard are the core? Or maybe a young core of Larkin, Mantha and Athanasiou?

The Red Wings are essentially starting with a blank slate – a used canvas that has some scratches left from a couple years ago.

Their contract situation says otherwise, but when it comes to talent and style, the Red Wings have the bare necessities of a hockey team. They can go from here and establish their own “Detroit Red Wings” style of hockey.

That style can include some “character” players, but everyone should be able to contribute offensively no matter what. There’s only eighteen spots, so might as well fill them with players that can skate well enough to get open and create chances – like our scoring leader.

Dylan Larkin will be a hell of a player no matter what. His bounceback year this season has shown that he is ready to contribute and be the most likely candidate to lead the team in scoring for the upcoming seasons. He is just one player in a cast of twelve that you have to dress every night.

Other than him and arguably Mantha, there is no one that should be kept as the future of this team. They are all players that should be on the periphery of the core – players you can keep as depth that are flexible and can play throughout your lineup.

The Red Wings lucked into their skilled players in the past, Zetterberg and Datsyuk will never happen again late in the draft – so get over it. It’s the time for the team to work on acquiring young and fast players. Focus should be on shedding rather than building on what the team is currently. No matter the loyalty aspect or reputation that can come with it, most of the current Red Wings should not be on the roster when this team is good again.

As displayed in John Gove‘s most recent post, it will be difficult to shed all of the slow and “character” players from this current roster. But as long as the team has the mindset of getting young and fast, the switch can be a quicker one than you think.

Red Wings Rebuild: The Untouchables

The teams that beat the Kings and Ducks, were faster and more skilled in every single way. Quicker passing, faster zone entries, and a higher pace of play, is what the Golden Knights and Sharks brought each of the four games they won in those series.

It goes all the way down the lineup as well. The Sharks fourth line was Marcus Sorensen and Melker Karlsson on the wings of Eric Fehr. Now Fehr isn’t a great skater, but those two wingers helped create offense and can skate with any line in the NHL right now.

A strategy that the Wings can take advantage of is acquiring any bottom-6 or AHL player that can simply just skate well. The current bottom-6 forwards of: Helm, Glendening, Frk, Abdelkader, and Nielsen, are not players that you keep around to build upon. Sure they can provide some nice depth, but they have to play a style that does not win many games.

With this roster, I believe Blashill was more-or-less forced to play such a dull strategy.

As demonstrated by Sean Tierney‘s chart, it’s obvious that the Wings did not play the most exciting brand of hockey this season. A majority of slow, lumbering players were put out on the ice mostly every night.

There’s a mix of teams, like the Bruins and Wild, that can play this slow-event style and still win most games. But they have incredible skill in all positions that can create goals out of the few chances they get. The Red Wings do not have that in any capacity.

Teams that are successful are teams that fill their roster with players that can simply skate well. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs – these teams don’t insert plugs into their bottom pairing or fourth line, most of the time anyways.

But players like Yanni Gourde, Zach Aston-Reese, and Andreas Johnsson, are examples of players not playing a lot of minutes and being sheltered by more skillfull forwards, but can still skate well and contribute.

These guys are usually available later in the draft or looking around in free agency, developing them correctly.

If the Red Wings establish a team-wide strategy of acquiring the right kind of talent, they will be able to play a more appealing style of hockey that will be more successful in the long run. Gone are the days of tough and bruising teams winning the Cup.

If you want a player to hit the right checks, Tyler Bertuzzi is the type of player that can do that but also play a role with the more skilled forwards. Playing all throughout the lineup, Bertuzzi can become a nice role player in the long-run.

The Wings have an opportunity here to go into the offseason with a strategy of who to put out on the ice when training camp begins for next season. The Ducks and Kings defeats have shown that the way the Wings play and the players they have to play that role, will never put them in a place to win games.

As untradeable some players are, they can still start the 2018-19 season with a lot of new faces and an exciting way to play hockey. I’m done with this strategy, it’s time to get players that can skate and create chances all throughout the Red Wings roster.

That is how a team wins hockey games now.

 

    • Thomas Williams

      It’s not about the other teams, it’s about where the Red Wings are. “Slowing the game down” is taking a lot of trust into your forwards that they can create offensive from not a lot of chances. Teams like the Bruins have the Bergeron line to create those goals with fewer chances than usual.