"So... Are the Red Wings just not that good anymore?"

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Do we suck now? What the hell happened? My head hurts.

It's a question I am sure everyone might have had run through the dark and cavernous space that we like to call our minds. It sure has for me. Let's put something to sleep right now... This is a different team than it was back in 2008, obviously. It's hard to replicate what the Wings had over the past 15 years. We are an evolving team with major problems when it comes to staying healthy. Is it the training staff? Maybe. Is the age of the players? Who knows. All I know is one thing.. *holds up megaphone*

The Red Wings DO NOT suck.

"The table below shows total CHIP for each team over the first 41 games of the regular season, as well as the distribution of CHIP by position, the player who has contributed the most to the team's CHIP(cap hit of injured players) figure, the number of players with a CHIP contribution over $250,000(think of it as being equivalent to a $1m player missing 20 games or a $4m player missing five games."
These fantastic statistics were all the work of Springing Malik. Please go check them out and see everything, it goes much further into depth and I think every hockey fan should read up. It's really great stuff.

You see a lot of names on there, Weiss being the highest CHIP for Detroit. It makes sense as he has missed the most time. We're all aware of it. He gets paid a lot of money and has missed a lot of time. If you also look at this chart, you will see that Detroit has the second highest CHIP($4,392,000) when it comes to forwards in the league, right behind Columbus. Keep in mind that Columbus has had Nathan Horton($5.2m AAV) on IR since the season began only to have just come off recently, and Marian Gaborik($7.5m AAV) has played 18 games this season.. Since Nathan Horton has returned, Columbus have gone 8-1-0 and have won 7 straight.. So there you go. Makes sense. But who else this year has missed time for the Red Wings? Names?

Depressed yet? Ready to ride your unicycle into a shark tank yet? Well for those of you who haven't gotten to that point, I would like to do some comparisons to what would happen if other teams lost the same role players that the Red Wings have lost this year has. First let me put together some lines for you.. Mind you I'm only going to do forward lines right now because I really don't want to turn this into a novel.

Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Justin Abdelkader
Johan Franzen - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Alfredsson
Gustav Nyquist - Darren Helm - Tomas Tatar
Drew Miller - Joakim Andersson - Daniel Cleary
(You see those three names in there that are red? Those are the only forwards who haven't been injured.)
These are, in my opinion, and probably most of yours, what the lines should look like with a healthy roster.. Sure, switch our Alfie for Abby, so on and so forth.. Whatever. That's not why I am writing this. The fact of the matter is that at some point of this season, most all overlapping and happening at the same time, NINE, count 'em, NINE of those players have been out due to injury. That is 75% of your forward core, and I'm not talking about just any players here. Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Alfredsson, Franzen.. All players that serve a HUGE role for this team. I don't care how much depth your team has, if you lose players like this, you're gonna get burned and oh baby is it gonna hurt like a bitch.

For our sake, lets keep it to the 1st and 2nd line:
(These lines were pulled from team's most recent game at dailyfaceoff.com)

There was a stretch of three games where Zetterberg and Datsyuk's injuries overlapped. The Red Wings went 1-2-0 in that span. Thankfully for players like Johan Franzen, he filled in at the center position and picked up some slack. But what happens if you hack off Crosby and Malkin out of this lineup? What happens? Well that seemingly elite core of forwards starts to look awfully pedestrian doesn't it? Not to mention these are the captains of your team.. It plays a huge role here, not only with skill, but with leadership. I am a firm believer that you can put any two wingers next to Crosby and Malkin and you'll do just fine. Even losing a first line center like Sidney Crosby is going to hurt your team. It's the same with losing a player like Pavel Datsyuk.. But flex in other players at the wing and your elite top 6 turns into a mish-mash of average to above average hockey players. See what I'm saying? No? Okay onto the next...

This is a bit different here, because I believe Chicago to be one of the deepest teams in the NHL, along side San Jose. One of the reasons they made it happen last year was the amount of depth they have all over. Currently the only injury they are facing is with backup goaltender Khabibulin.. And let's be honest, that doesn't mean much. So currently we are without our 1st line center, and our 2nd line wingers and center.. Let's say this happens to Chicago.. You are now without Toews, Saad, Shaw, and Kane. You're now forced to move players around and move your 3rd &4th liners up the depth chart. But wait, your 3rd line center is out. Oh by the way, so is your 4th line center. What happens to Chicago then? I'll tell you what happens to Chicago, they get knocked down a few pegs and suddenly aren't a team chocked full of super talent. Are you following me here?

I guess I should also add in that I am not even accounting for man games lost with defensemen either. The Red Wings have lost top-pairing defensemen like Ericsson and DeKeyser.. Their injuries pretty much happened back-to-back. Make the same adjustments in your head. Losing players like this sucks, and when it comes down to it.. Depth helps, but it doesn't cut it. I don't care how much depth your team has, when you're missing your entire 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th line centers, you are up shit creek without a paddle... That's just the CENTERS! As I write this right now, our entire 2nd line is not, and has not been in the starting lineup as a full cohesive unit in 17 games. Keep in mind the 1st line and 3rd line injuries that have happened in that time frame.. There's a reason why our record looks the way it does.


Am I saying that with a full healthy lineup we are a powerhouse? No, definitely not. There are problems with this team that venture past injury, but that's not what this article is about. What I am trying to do is explain to the folks who don't really understand from a Detroit fan's perspective.. This team is gutted right now. Sure there are other teams battling injuries and playing FANTASTIC hockey, but it's not about the quantity of players injured, it's about the quality of players injured. Fact of the matter is that Detroit has had world-class talent in and out of the lineup all season due to injuries. Take the best players out of any lineup of any team and you're going to see a different product. I don't care who. It seriously sucks, but there is nothing we can do about it. Coaching basically has to sit on their hands and deal with what they have. What are we going to do? We can only hope for the best. The Eastern Conference is starting to pick up steam and look like something we weren't expecting. Teams like Columbus, New York, Toronto, Ottawa, and Philadelphia are all playing great hockey. If we're going to be fighting injuries it's important for us to play great as well. There is a standard here in Detroit, and currently we are far below it. There is no doubt in my mind that after the Olympics, this team will be different. This team will bounce back. This is Hockeytown, goddammit.
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