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The Red Wings Should Not Let the Atlantic Division Standings Influence Their Need to Rebuild

Death Toll Mounts From Train Crash In Rural Victoria Photo by Lucas Dawson/Getty Images

It is safe to say this season has not been to the liking of the Detroit Red Wings or their fans. After the comeback win on Friday against the Florida Panthers the Red Wings sit in seventh place in the Atlantic Division with 34 points on a 15-15-4 record, six points behind the third place Boston Bruins. With both Wild Card teams likely coming out of the Metropolitan Division again this season, the Red Wings will need to finish in the top three in the Atlantic to extend their playoff streak to 26 seasons. All that said the worst thing the Red Wings could do this season is to sacrifice building for the future to try and chase a playoff spot.

It would be very easy to justify making a some moves to try and go for it. Six points is by no means an insurmountable deficit to make up with 48 games left for the Red Wings. A closer look at the standings though reveals that things are even worse than originally thought. The only thing keeping the Wings even remotely in the playoff picture is the loser point and a surprising 5-0 record in shootouts. The Red Wings have 10 regulation and overtime wins (ROW), the second fewest in the NHL. In the 26 games since their six-game winning streak at the beginning of the season the Red Wings own a 9-13-4 record. They have scored four or more goals nine times this season, four of those coming in their first seven games of the season. Conversely, they have scored one goal or been shutout eleven times, unsurprisingly they lost all eleven of those games. Of the standard team statistics tracked (goal for per game, goals against per game, power play and penalty kill percentage, shots for per game, shots against per game and faceoff win percentage) the Red Wings are only top 20 in the league in three (goals against per game, penalty kill and faceoff win percentage) and are only top 10 in one (faceoff win percentage). Unless they pulled off the blockbuster to end all blockbuster deals right now there is very little to anything the front office is going to be able to do in order in terms of trades to get this season back on course. Which means any improvement would have to come from within the organization, which to me sounds like a subtle way of saying they need to rebuild.

I am by no means calling for a tank. I cannot and will not openly root for the Red Wings to lose games. What I am calling for is a change in managerial philosophy, both from the front office and the coaching staff. From the front office perspective first and foremost they absolutely need to make it known to every other team in the league that there are players on this roster they are willing to trade. Along with that they cannot afford to stick high price tags on all their players and refuse to come off those prices if no one bites. Now I do not mean simply give players away but they do need to realize that the cap and roster space opened by any move carries value as well. Along with being sellers this season, the roster moves they make internally need to be made based on developing for the future more than simply hoarding players or making the easy decisions. It is far better for the Red Wings long term for players like Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet and Andreas Athanasiou are regulars in the lineup the rest of the season than say Drew Miller, Steve Ott or Brian Lashoff. The coaches need to do their part here as well by leaning more and more on the younger players on the roster. Once the message that the organization is focused on the future and not so much the here and now (i.e. the coaches are not only going to be evaluated by wins and losses or making the playoffs) I expect to see even more experimenting and shuffling around of lines, pairings, setups, etc. Play around with different power play and penalty kill setups, line combinations and assignments, strategies and individual ice times. Find out what can work with this roster going forward and what will not work.

This team, this roster and this franchise are at a crossroads. In many ways, this season is the ending of an era. The question is, is the organization strong enough to admit it and chose to go the route through the spooky looking forest that they know eventually leads them back to the Stanley City or will they take the primrose path hoping it loops back around to Stanley City like it did last time instead of keeping them on the outskirts of the city before dumping them off right back at the same crossroads they started at.