If you ever wonder why we’re a little hard on the Detroit beat writers, just know that while Ansar Khan is lugging buckets in his Q&A sessions with readers based on tidbits of info and while Helene St. James is continues narrative cut-and-paste for offseason previews, those of us without credentials are stuck waiting for national writers to actually sit down with Ken Holland and ask him anything to do with specifics on strategies.
Such is the case with the recent post from Dan Rosen at NHL.com where he sat down with the Red Wings’ GM and got as much out of him as we’ve seen all summer long.
Please go give the entire piece a read, as I’m not going to cover everything covered, but I do want to cover some of the more interesting tidbits. Holland gave the same kind of optimistic realism take where he knows his team isn’t in the top tier, but is pushing forward to win a race for the playoffs.
Holland also restated the early-summer claim about the team lacking a superstar in his prime and openly asking if one of the young kids on the team can claim such a title. Other than these kind of rehashes, we’ve got some new stuff:
Apparently the Plan is to Separate Larkin and Zetterberg
For most of the summer, a lot of us were working on the assumption that the consistent top line for the Red Wings last season would stay together and that the only change would be Dylan Larkin would play center to Zetterberg’s left wing. Since that line boasted the most production and Zetterberg would be able to help Larkin continue his transition to center, it makes sense, but that’s apparently not the plan right now.
Holland goes on to talk about this allowing Nielsen to take on a lot of the defensive responsibility which slowed Zetterberg’s point pace. He also mentions as part of Rosen’s question that Larkin is expected to be the team’s top center. Blashill and usage will honestly tell the truth on that, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Zetterberg-Nielsen pairing take on tougher roles while allowing Larkin a bit more room to grow on a slightly easier line assignment.
The question here will be who gets custody of Justin Abdelkader here? Is he the physical force protecting the older Zetterberg-Nielsen or is he the wrecking ball sticking up for Larkin?
Gustav Nyquist Wasn’t as Good for Many Reasons
Rosen asks the question here in terms of both Nyquist and Tatar, and Holland goes into a list of reasons for why they weren’t as good, including the idea that opposing defenses give you harder matchups and know more about you after so long and the idea that there’s only so much ice time to go around. Holland also mentions Jeff Blashill’s adjustment period (more on that in a bit). But then, he dropped something of a bombshell on Nyquist:
That’s a dagger, isn’t it?
I mean, Holland hid it in as many excuses as he could (although he kind of skipped over the part where just about the entirety of Nyquist’s drop in production coincided with a power play that failed most of the year partially because of Nyquist being moved out of the center slot position and to a wing), but it’s real hard to miss the team’s GM saying that Nyquist got complacent after getting a four year bridge deal.
So somehow, Gustav Nyquist got his time cut from 4th highest among forwards to sixth-highest beneath even Riley Sheahan, got bumped around on his bread-and-butter power play, yet still managed to produce at 5-on-5 at the same pace has to take some of the blame for letting one of the few extremely good contracts on the team get to his head?
I think that’s bullshit. Of course, I also think that it still means that if anybody is going to end up on another team as part of a deal for a defenseman, Nyquist is far and away the leading candidate.
Jeff Blashill’s Adjustment Period
We’ve talked about it and I guess we’ve always just considered it to be a factor, but I think this is the first time we’ve heard from anybody inside the Wings’ organization talk this candidly about last year essentially not counting for Blashill.
That’s one of about three choice quotes in there about how much different things are now that Blashill has a year of experience at the NHL level and how much more he has to adjust to the league. Holland still comes across as giving Blashill a vote of confidence here, but there does seem to be an undercurrent that the kid gloves have come off.
In general, I thought Rosen did a good job asking questions the fans really want to know the answer to and I thought Ken Holland was his usual salesman self, but digging through these quotes, I’m pretty discouraged to see the GM even offhandedly fire off a dagger accusing Gustav Nyquist of salary-based complacency without properly slathering on the whole shitload of context necessary to describe reasons for his drop in production.