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Winning Games in February Could be the Key to helping the Red Wings Sell at the Trade Deadline

How I learned to stop worrying and start loving wins?

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I find myself in a tough position as a Red Wings fan right now. I’ve enjoyed watching the last two wins and find it really hard to root for losses, but I’ve also reached my own personal point where I feel the team should be selling off as many assets as they can before the March 1st trade deadline passes.

Current standings have the Red Wings just one point above the cellar of the conference with a game in hand on the current bottom-feeders the Tampa Bay Lightning (lol what?). The often-praised-but-honestly-stupid nature of parity in the NHL also has the Red Wings just five points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand on the current holders of that spot the Boston Bruins. Of course, that five point gap is also filled by three division rival teams the Wings would need to overtake in the last 30 games of the season.

So what’s there to do with nine games left in February and the Wings playoff chances hovering somewhere between 2.8 and 9%?

Root for Wins

Call me an idiot dreamer, but I want the Red Wings to sell and also make the playoffs. Hell, I want them to sell, make the playoffs, and then sweep 16 games in a row for a championship win even more unlikely than coming back from a 28-3 deficit in the Super Bowl. Sue me.

Back in the realm of reality though, I realize that the Wings making the playoffs hurts their draft position. Currently they’d be drafting in the 8th position guaranteed not to drop below 11th if the draft lottery goes bonkers. They’ve recently been as high on the draft board as 4th (with Vegas slotted in as that automatic 3rd slot in the lottery). With a 23-point lead on Colorado in the standings and 13 up on Arizona, the Wings aren’t going to overtake one of those top two slots. I mean, they’re more likely to sneak in there with the 4th-place lottery odds than they are with 12th (and they’re not going to sneak in there if they’re not in the lottery at all).

The thing is that I think there’s a decent chance the Red Wings could end up with a better draft without the 4th overall pick and I think wins in February can help that.

The Buyers/Sellers Market

Currently, the trade market is doing the same thing it’s always doing three weeks before the deadline: warming up with a number of tiny pre-positioning trades as teams get settled. There’s not really a market for selling off guys like Thomas Vanek right now because the hindsight of any trade that happens this early is that one GM panicked and moved too soon. GMs are watching closely and doing quite a bit of chatting behind the scenes though.

We currently know that there are two teams that will absolutely be sellers in Colorado and Arizona. Guys like Duchene and Landeskog might be on the market, but they’re pretty far outside the realm of deadline day rentals. Jarome Iginla is an interesting piece who will compete for attention with Thomas Vanek, as is Martin Hanzal in Arizona. Winnipeg and Vancouver are likely to be sellers while Tampa is probably going to look to move a goalie regardless of where they are at the end of February.

The good news is that while it appears there are going to be a number of sellers and assets similar to what Detroit will have to offer, the parity means a good chunk of GMs can argue being in position to buy as well.

Detroit’s Position In the Market

Obviously, I want the Red Wings to be sellers, but I think their position would be better set if it weren’t so obvious that they need to sell.

The thing with Colorado and Arizona is that they’re set sellers, but Arizona is already at least one year and likelier two ahead of Detroit in their rebuild. The Coyotes are already building around a young core and their GM can afford a take-it-or-leave it attitude. Colorado looks like they’re going to be punching reset on their rebuild, but Jarome Iginla has quite a bit of sway when it comes to where exactly he’s going to go and their bigger assets aren’t traditional rental deals.

The bottom line is that I think Ken Holland will be in a better position to drive value out of deadline deal sells if he can honestly argue that he doesn’t necessarily have to sell. If the Red Wings win every game between now and the trade deadline, they will have accomplished two things:

  • A franchise-record 11 straight victories
  • An improvement in points pace from 83.5 to 95

Last season, the Wings snuck in with 93 points. Getting up to a 95-point pace would allow Ken Holland to better argue he doesn’t have to take scraps for his rentals, which should increase the chances he’s able to collect higher-value picks.

The Hitch in the Plan

I’m sure you’ve already screamed at your computer the obvious flaw in this plan: If Detroit wins an improbable 11-straight games and gets back on pace to make the playoffs by the deadline, your faith in Ken Holland to still commit to selling is nonexistent, especially considering five of those 11 games are against Washington, Columbus, and Pittsburgh.

I can’t allay your fears on this. It certainly seems like holding assets to make a run is exactly what the Wings would do in this situation and the exact worst-case scenario is for the Wings to pick 15th overall with no playoffs and no additional draft picks collected. Having 71 points in 61 games would likely be too promising for the Wings to commit to selling off assets as heavily. That doesn’t change my opinion that I think it would be best (it also helps me delay having to think about actively rooting for losses as a Wings fan, something I’ve never had to do before).

Like I said earlier, I’d like for the Wings to go on a tear, sell off enough assets to end up with three first round picks, and then somehow find a way to make the playoffs and turn their own first rounder into the 31st overall. I’ve pored over my fan handbook a dozen times in the last week and I can’t find anything that says I’m not allowed to dream.

But I do know that at the end of the day, what that represents is merely a dream. What is decently realistic is a hope that the Wings climb into a position to earn a good number of picks in the first two rounds and end up falling back into the top ten draft positions with their own pick. While it would be great to draft in the top three, it’s more realistic that with the addition of Vegas, they end up closer to #5. There’s going to be a real good kid in that spot, but if it’s possible to end up with one pick in each third of the first round, that’s hard to say no to, especially if it gives me a little bit more time before I have to feel guilty about cheering on victories.