The Red Wings got some good news this morning: the team is expected to have Mike Green back in the lineup for Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
Blashill says Mike Green my be a possibility for Saturday at Minnesota
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) January 8, 2019
The Wings have had a rough season so far. After the seven game losing skid that opened their season, they have had three, four, and six game losing streaks. This has effectively eliminated them from the race for an Eastern Conference wild card bid.
There are many reasons for the losing, including lacking a true elite talent and scoring depth, but the biggest is the injuries that have decimated their blue line.
When the season started, four of their six regular defensemen were all sidelined with injuries. Now, they have three on the injury reserve. It’s no coincidence that the two longest losing streaks of the Red Wings season so far have occurred while they were missing half of their regular defensemen.
Perhaps the most important of these defensemen is Green. The team’s best right-handed, puck moving defenseman has only played in 23 games this season. With him in the lineup, the Wings are 13-8-2. Without him, they are 3-13-5.
Considering that whenever Green has been injured has been at the same time as at least two other veteran defensemen, the records listed above can’t just be attributed to his presence. However, there’s no denying the team is missing his contributions.
In the 23 games that he’s played, Green has scored three goals and 16 points for a rate of 0.70 points-per-game. It’s the most productive season he’s had offensively since the 2012-13 season as a member of the Washington Capitals.
That’s a welcome statistic on one of the worst blue lines in the league.
But removing the scoring that Green contributes, it doesn’t seem like he makes much more of a difference on team performance. With Green in the lineup, the Wings take an average of 28.74 shots per game. Without him, they average 28.67 shots per game. With Green in the lineup, they give up an average of 34.30 shots per game. Without him, that number drops to 33.71. With Green in the lineup, the team’s even strength shot attempt percentage is 46.64%. Without him, that rises to 48.37%.
Defense has never been Green’s strong suit and, on a team that already has three stay-at-home defensemen, that shouldn’t be the expectation. He is an offensive-defenseman and he’s certainly been offensive.
In that way, he’s been a good model for Dennis Cholowski, the Wings’ newest offensive-defenseman who’s had a decent season offensively for a rookie. He can learn a lot from Green’s 13 years of experience in the NHL, like when to shoot and when to pass.
When Green’s not there, the almost 22 minutes of ice time that he plays need to be spread out among the rest of the players, including Cholowski. Green’s a vet. He understands the pressure of important minutes and can handle it. When it comes to rookies, you want to ease them into it.
“In a perfect world, if you have a young defenseman, you’d like to be able to shelter him a little bit and give him the right minutes at the right times, and we haven’t been in much of a position to do that this year,” head coach Jeff Blashill said to the Detroit Free Press.
So Green’s return is a positive one on two fronts. First, the team is missing the offense he brings from the back-end and second, his presence and ice-time allows them to better pace the development of the young defensemen.
There’s no doubt that the injuries to the Red Wings defenders have had a huge impact on how their season’s gone. Especially Green, who is the offense from the blue line.
He’ll be a welcome (re)addition to this consistently wounded roster.