It's been a roller coaster of a season for the Red Wings so far, and the tension and stress are only increase as the playoff drive continues.
Unfortunately, the last 3 games have not been fun to watch, as the Wings have picked up 1 point against teams that, at the time, were dead last in the Western Conference. All of a sudden the Wings are in a very precarious position as they sit 7th in a very tight conference having played more games than anyone else and the hard part of the schedule still to come.
It's a frustrating time to be a fan, so I thought I'd round up all the issues and put them in one post. Then, I'm giving you the reader an opportunity to let loose and say what you think.
There is something wrong with this team. The defense was supposed to be the biggest weakness, and they can't score. They have players on lines where they clearly don't belong. They have no consistency of any kind. The team that can score 8 goals against Vancouver can't score any against Columbus.
So let's break it down. We'll go point by point on all the things that you all think are wrong with this team. Think of this as therapy.
Point #1: Justin Abdelkader on a line with Pavel Datsyuk
We've beaten this horse until it's dust, but for some reason Mike Babcock continues to play Abby up with Datsyuk despite there being no evidence that he belongs there. He has 2 points on the season, with his only goal an EN scored when Datsyuk wasn't even on the ice. Meanwhile, Pavel is now at 11 games and counting without a goal. I love Abby, and bet he's just the nicest guy ever, but it's getting increasingly frustrating watching him try and keep up with one of the greatest players in the world. Abby's a grinder, and I understand Babcock likes those guys on each line, but it's not working. So perhaps they should look to get someone else on Pavel's wing. Which leads to my next point.
Point #2: Give Gustav Nyquist time with the best players
Fact: Nyquist was the AHL's leading scorer when he was called up. Fact: leading scorers tend to be very good offensive players. Fact: the Red Wings require offense to score goals. Not-Technically-A-Fact-But-Probably-Very-True-Most-Of-The-Time: putting offensive players with other offensive players will lead to offense.
When Nyquist was called up, it was said that he was kept down in Grand Rapids because the idea was to get him time with Datsyuk if/when he was brought up. Last night against Calgary, they played exactly 0 shifts together.
You're literally getting no offense with the players that make up that line. What harm can possibly come from putting Nyquist (or Tomas Tatar, or another young, skilled player) with Datsyuk to see what he can do?
Point #3: The special teams have been atrocious
Want to hear something that makes me a little sad? The Red Wings are the 9th best team at 5-on-5 goals for/goals against ratio. At even strength, they are very good at out-scoring their opponent. Despite that success at even strength (when 80% of the game is played), Detroit has a -1 goal differential.
Why is that? Their special teams are killing them. They snapped an 0-37 road power play drought last night with a goal, but that was countered by giving up a power play goal, making the special teams battle even. On the season, they're a net minus-20 on the PK (22 PPGA vs 2 SHGF) and only plus-13 on the PP (16 PPGF vs 3 SHGA). This is a trend that started a couple of years ago, but it's costing them a chance at a playoff spot.
Point #4: This team isn't good enough to overcome mistakes
To me, this is the biggest issue facing this team. Every single team makes mistakes. That's going to happen, especially when you're playing 48 games in less than 100 days. But when the Wings screw something up, it feels like it results in a goal against more often than not.
I don't have any stats to back this up, but consider the last 3 games: two giveaways against Columbus that led directly to goals, followed by turnover after turnover and blown coverage against Calgary.
Not only does the puck end up in the Detroit net after one of these plays, but the offense isn't there to pick up the slack. This is not a team that can afford to get down by 2 goals, because at this point they're barely scoring 2.5 goals/game.
There's something off with this team, and it's not one specific thing. It's not coaching, offense, defense, or goaltending. It's everything and nothing all in one. You can look at other teams and say "oh, they can't score" or "their goalie is a sieve" or "they're in the middle of a rebuild". With the Wings, you watch them and think "there's something wrong". Like hearing a noise when you're alone in the house or when the phone rings in the middle of the night. It's a feeling that you can't shake, like dread is just around the corner.
So have at it, gentle reader. What's wrong with this team? Who's to blame? What should be done? Can the Wings turn it around, or is this a lost season?