Last week I took a look at Jimmy Howard's clutch contributions to the Wings. In my second post I will illustrate another reason why we should look forward to the future of the Red Wings.
At times in the last two games it has been painful to watch the Wings struggling against the Bruins. They've looked over-matched and some fans are probably beginning to question their ability to take another game in the series let alone advance to the next round. However, I can't help but feel good when I see the Stanley Cup Playoff logo painted on the ice in Joe Louis Arena, Karen Newman singing the anthem before the game, and octopi flying out of the stands. It reminds me that not only have the Wings been in the playoffs for 23 straight seasons (since before I was born) they will likely have plenty of opportunities to return in the future.
Mike Babcock is still the best coach in the NHL:
One of the main reasons the Wings manage to be so consistently good is the man who has led them for the past nine years. Not only is Babcock the most winning coach in franchise history he is also a steady and capable leader. This has never been more evident than over the last two seasons. Over the past two years Babcock's team has weathered the loss of a captain and future Hall-Of-Famer when Nick Lidstrom retired, dealt with crushing injuries, incorporated countless rookies into the team - and never skipped a beat.
According to mangameslost.com the Wings lost the second most man-games of any NHL teams. The website also shows the Wings as having the second highest CHIP (which stands for Cap Hit of Injured Players) and the second highest SHIP (Salary Hit of Injured Players). These metrics represent the amount of cap hit or salary lost based on the number of games lost to injuries. Diving a little bit deeper into the numbers mangameslost.com offers a statistic called TMITT (Time Missed Impact To Team). This stat is an attempt to quantify the impact of a player not playing due to injury, so for instance Henrik Zetterberg not playing would have a higher TMITT than Mikael Samuelsson not playing would. According to the TMITT metric the Wings lost the sixth most goals to injury, the fourth most assists, and the fourth most points to injury. Although the stat is not an exact science this basically shows that the Wings injuries cost them a lot of production. Many of their top scorers missed time due to injuries, especially Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. According to TMITT the Wings also lost the seventh most TMITT-ATeam which calculates the man games lost based on their average time on ice for their team. This again shows the importance of the players lost and the amount of time they were lost for. Players who score higher on the TMITT-ATeam metric are typically players who are on the ice for more time in each game and in higher leverage situations.
Basically, although these stats have no direct correlation to Make Babcock they do show how the Wings lost a lot of important players, some of them for long periods of time. Any team could be excused for struggling and maybe even missing the playoffs in those conditions. However, Babcock kept the team going, even with their captain and assistant captain in street clothes for long periods of time. On top of that, nine rookies made their debut for the Wings this year and several other players who were in Grand Rapids joined the team full-time. If not for the consistent coaching and impeccable leadership provided by Mike Babcock the Red Wings almost certainly wouldn't be in the playoffs right now.
In the years to come Babcock's coaching will be even more important. The future of the Wings is filled with young talent and new players. The team is turning more and more to youth, the rookies on the team will begin to take on a bigger role soon and there are many more talented kids in Grand Rapids who will likely get a chance to contribute in the near future. For years, Babcock has shown that he is capable of coaching a team filled with star-studded talent through the playoffs. But the last two seasons Babcock has shown that he's also the best coach the Wings could find when it comes to handling change, dealing with adversity and, most of all, leading the new generation of Wings players. I believe that the future of the Red Wings is brighter than ever - especially with Mike Babcock at the helm.