The brutal campaign that is the 2018-19 season is almost over. The Red Wings will be missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season, this one with the least on-ice production to show . The prior two had moments of upward progression on the ice, compared to the past six months where it has been a nose dive from the very beginning.
The difference being, though, organizationally, they are in the best spot they’ve been in over the course of their days outside the postseason — maybe in the postseason as well. The youth is driving the bus now, and it looks like they have reinforcements on the way from Grand Rapids, along with ten draft picks in the upcoming NHL draft. Add in the fact that they’re on the verge of salary cap flexibility, and they have the potential to take several steps forward in the rebuild.
Yet, at this current stage, there is still ten games left to be played. Rather then just sit back and wait for the draft lottery in April, the Red Wings can still have something to prove.
Play the young guys more
Games are officially meaningless in terms of moving up the standings now that the Wings are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. This is the time of year where the coaching staff should be getting out of their comfort zone. Players like Michael Rasmussen, Christoffer Ehn, and Madison Bowey should be seeing more ice-time, while the likes of Luke Glendening and Darren Helm, among others, should be receiving less.
The forward ice-time chart above reveals a noticeable difference between Rasmussen and Ehn compared to the team veterans. Not only that but it looks like Rasmussen ice-time is dipping.
Sure, the grizzled veterans of Glendening, Helm, and Frans Nielsen give Detroit a better opportunity to win, but that carries zero value now. Opportunity for the second wave of youth is the logical move for a rebuilding franchise. Rasmussen in particular should be seeing top-6 ice time at 5-on-5. The 2017 first rounder needs to be getting reps with the big guns, not being flanked by replacement level talent, if he wants to build off the experience gained from his first season of pro hockey.
Get creative on special teams
Special teams this season have been a disappointment once again. The powerplay showed flashes of cohesiveness at the start of the year, but fell flat as things progressed. They sit in the bottom-10 of the league in both powerplay and penalty kill percentage. They’ve become too predictable and not aggressive enough to be a consistent threat with either unit.
It might be time to throw the playbook out the window and try different things. Banish the neutral zone drop pass and go for some stretch passes, stack one unit, more play below the goal-line are just a few examples to be a little more dynamic on the man-advantage. Hell, go with five forwards even, what could go wrong!
Changing things up on special teams allows for the coaching staff to experiment with new schemes early. Rather then hope new elements work for next season, they can get a glimpse of how their new systems work in game, and fine tune from there.
All you tank enthusiast may not like this one, but the best way to have fun is to win some games! At the very least, try not to get blown out. Victory’s have been few and far in between this season, our sanity requires it.
Scoring goals, goofing around on the bench, energetic goal celebrations can all make the final ten games much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Depressive post-games with Niklas Kronwall and Jeff Blashill talking about culture has gotten old. Wins may not help their draft position, but building some confidence and going into next season on a positive note can’t be overlooked. And I stress to the fans, the draft lottery odds are against everybody. Its at complete random and a few wins in March won’t be the sole reason for whatever their fate is.
Tank be damned!