I by no means consider myself a better GM than Ken Holland nor do I consider myself a better coach than Mike Babcock, but I wanted to put down my thoughts in an organized manner and get some opinions on them.
I left this open all night after the Red Wings' playoff departure, but didn't really edit it too much. I found that most of the thoughts weren't overly emotional or reactionary, but more a relic of the slow-burn out that the Wings experienced since the end of February (or perhaps even earlier). I did, however, decide to go more in-depth with UFA/RFA situations. Additionally, I'm trying my best to not complain about things that can't easily be remedied (so you won't read "TRADE FRANZEN, RAWR" even though that is something that I wouldn't mind seeing). I'm trying to find some solutions to things that I noticed throughout the season.First of all: I don't believe that any dramatic changes are necessary. I'm not of the opinion that Babcock or Holland need to be fired. I do think that there are problems with the system, and I'll try to outline them below:
Third and fourth line functionality: I am a firm believer that each line should have a "label" or a function, and I think that the Wings drifted away from that this year. Instead of our third and fourth line being "grinding" lines, "sandpaper" lines, "speed" lines, etc., they merely became a dumping ground for guys that were not performing on the top lines, not meshing with our top centers, or were not ready to play in the top six. I got the impression all year that we had two top lines and then six guys playing on two lines behind them. This was only made worse when Helm went down.
Special teams: I think we all knew that this would be a hot-button issue. The power play was not good this year. I remember years where it felt like a PP meant two minutes of zone time followed by a goal, another penalty, or simply wearing down the other team. I felt like teams did not take liberties against the Wings because the PP was a far more effective punishment than any fight could land. Recently, the PP has been anywhere from stagnant to a liability. I also became increasingly flustered with the PK: not just the number of goals scored against, but the lack of pressure put on the other team. It seemed at times like we were willing to let the other team play their system and we could stop them, which is idea that is either ignorant or arrogant, I can't figure out which. I don't remember more than a handful of good SH chances this season for the Wings, which is troubling giving the amount of talent on the roster.
Talent management: I'll bet this is where you will all expect to read about Nyquist, but I'm thinking now that the title of this mini-section should be "Chemistry development". It seems that Babcock was very Jekyl and Hyde with the lines this year. He couldn't find a winger for Datsyuk to save his life, but stuck with the Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler line to the dying moments. In the past seasons, he seemed to have no hesitations in blowing the lines up and restructuring them. This can be good, or can wreck any forward progress towards finding a teammate who you can hit with a pass through legs, in the dark, while listening to "Endless Love". A similar problem happened on the back-end, with defensemen playing with everyone imaginable. If you don't know where your partner is going to be, how can you cover-up for them if they screw up? How do you know when to jump into the play, and when to lay back?
Motivation: We've all seen this story. What could be a better motivator than always having the target on your back? I hope we find out, because this year, the motivation wasn't there.
So how can these problems be fixed? I don't think that there's one magic wand that can be waved that will fix all these problems, but I can suggest that the assistant coaches step up and help figure out what's what. I'm not suggesting that our guys can't do it, but if they can't, we should find guys who can.
Now, let's take a look at what we've got, as far as roster goes for next year:
Forwards: Datsyuk, Franzen, Zetterberg, Filppula, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Eaves (get well soon!), Miller, Emmerton, Mursak
Defensemen: Kronwall, Ericsson, White, Kindl
Goalies: Howard, MacDonald
In the system: Nyquist, Smith, Sheahan, Andersson, Ferraro, Tatar, McCollum, Aubry, Pare, Lashoff.
UFA: Hudler, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, Stuart, Conklin
RFA: Helm, Abdelkader, Quincey
So what we're looking at is ten forwards, four defensemen, and two goalies (thank god for them). So what we need is three or four forwards, three or four defensemen, and maybe a goalie. What I would like to see is Nick come back (if he pleases), and Helm re-upped long term. So what we're really talking about is two or three forwards, two or three defensemen, and an insurance policy type goalie. I'm looking for a guy to be a winger for Datsyuk, a winger for Zetterberg, and a third/fourth center-type to play between Cleary and Bertuzzi on a "sandpaper" line. For defense, we need a guy to play some PK time.
I know that the standard wish list is Suter, Parise, PROFIT!, but what other options are out there? I'd love to hear some feedback: what do you guys want fixed? Who slots into this line-up well? What gets us back to the playoffs next year and back into the deep rounds where we belong? My playoff beard barely got a chance this year. What gets me to the mountain-man stage that I crave every spring?
Anyways, thanks for reading, I look forward to hearing what everybody thinks.