On Red Wings

Just another Red Wings weblog (but it's mine)

Point(ing) to the golf course

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , on March 10, 2010 by Steve Klein

Maybe Homer can give his teammates lessons?

Maybe Homer can give his teammates lessons?

This isn’t going to be easy, is it? In fact, this may not happen at all, eh? The Wings may miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in almost two decades.

You can see it, right? I mean what was that third period Tuesday night IN Hockeytown other than an early tee time? Up 2-1 after two periods IN Hockeytown, and you get outshot 14-4 in the third period and give up three unaswered (as in: hey, is anyone home?) goals for a 4-2 loss.

I’ve written earlier on this blog that whether the Wings make the playoffs this spring or not, this same team will not make the playoffs in 2011. This Lidstrom-Datysuk-Zetterberg era is over. The Wings are dead (remember them)? Long live the Wings.

Score: Flames 4, Wings 2

Game #66 (16 games to play, 32 points), 9th place, 1 point behind 8th-place Calgary, 3 points behind 7th-place Nashville (which won Tuesday), 4 points up on 10th-place Dallas.

What I liked about the game: Tomas Holmstrom scored a goal and an assist.

What I didn’t like about the game: No Wing was a plus player, not even Holmstrom. Obviously, I didn’t like the third period collapse — or the fact that the Wings trailed 1-0 for the first 30 minutes.

Quote: “It’s not going to be easy.” — Jason Williams

The BIG question: Simple: making the playoffs.

Mood meter: Cloudy in Miami.

Ugly stinker

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by Steve Klein

Going nowhere fast.

Going nowhere fast.

I’m going to bed. That was last night when the score was 6-2 Canucks. The 6-3 final didn’t make me feel any better this morning (see Mood Meter below).

It didn’t take the Wings long after the Olympic break to turn in a butt-ugly performance, from the goaltenders (yup, Ozzie was back for a relief appearance) to the sloppy defense to the usual unimpressive offense. It’s 6-2 in Hockeytown with about 10 minutes to play — or whatever it is the Wings are doing tonight.

And let’s be fair about this: Vancouver is the better team. Tonight for sure, through the first three quarters of the season. The Canucks are 10 points ahead of the Wings in third; the five teams immediately ahead of the Wings are 3 to 10 points ahead of them; the five teams immediately behind the Wings are within 4 points.

What that means: It is more likely that the Wings will wake up one of these mornings in 13th place than third. Friday, they are home again to Nashville, the team immediately ahead of Detroit in the standings with 73 points and a game in hand. That game in hand is tonight at home against the Kings. So for the second straight game, the Wings will play a team completing back-to-back games. It didn’t seem to matter against Vancouver, though. So, it will be one of those 4-point games: The Wings could be 1 point out of 7th or 5.

UPDATE: With Nashville’s 4-2 victory over the Kings Thursday night, 7th place is now 5 points distant from the 8th-place Wings while 13th place is only 4 points away. Think tonight’s game in Hockeytown against the Predators is important?

The BIG question: Who plays in goal Friday against Nashville?

Score: Canucks 6, Wings 3.

Game #63 (19 to go, 38 points): 70 points, 8th place.

What I liked: Jonathan Ericsson and Andreas Lilja were both plus-1 in about 17 minutes each. Goals by Jason Williams, Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

What I didn’t like: Nick Lidstrom was minus-3; the Wings on faceoff.

Quote: “We were poor. We were poor in goal. We were poor in the back end. We were poor up front. We were poor in the work ethic department. The bottom line was we didn’t look like a team that was dying to be in the playoffs tonight in anyway or shape of form.” — Mike Babcock

Mood meter: I have a head cold.

A Shark tanking

Posted in Red Wings with tags , on February 12, 2010 by Steve Klein

If the Wings can put the goalie in the net, why can't they put the puck in, too?

If the Wings can put the goalie in the net, why can't they put the puck in, too?

If you can’t win a hockey game when you outshoot an opponent 52-26 that played (and lost to Columbus, 3-0) the night before, just what does it take? Another shootout, another loss.

Game #60 (22 to go, 44 points): 66 points, tied with the Stars (told you last post that the rearview mirror was crowded) for 9th, 1 point behind Calgary with a game in hand (Stars, too), 1 point ahead of 11th-place Ducks (I can hear ’em quacking).
Update: The Preds lost to the Devils, 5-2, Friday night, so the Wings trail 7th-place Nashville by 3 points; both teams have played 60 games. So, 7 points separate 13th-place Minnesota from 7th-place Nashville (69 to 62), with the Wings right in the middle with 66. Three teams are tied for 4-5-6 at 76 points, but that’s 10 points away for Detroit with just 44 points to go. It’s going to be easier to finish lower than any higher than 7th in the Western Conference for the Wings this season. And it has been 20 years since the Wings were this low in the standings this late in the season — and that was the last time Detroit missed the playoffs.
Got all that?

Score: Sharks 3, Red Wings 2 (SO).

What I liked about the game: Jason Williams scored. Wings played well.

What I didn’t like about the game: Wings can’t finish. Second-straight shootout loss in which the Wings had a 4-on-3 power play late in the overtime and didn’t score. What’s that all about?

Quote: “It looked like last year, not like the past two months here,” Johan Franzen, who scored a goal in his second game back from a season-long knee injury.

What is: Ottawa at home Saturday, then the Olympic break.

Mood meter: Depression working OT.

The Blues

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , on February 10, 2010 by Steve Klein

Yo-han Franzen returns.

Yo-han Franzen returns.

OK, so the Wings suck at shootouts. Well, not Jason Williams, who is good for something, it appears. But Pavel Datsyuk AND Henrik Zetterbeg have to miss all the time?

Game #59: 65 points, 9th, 2 points out of 7th, 2 points ahead of 11th. All it takes is a little whoopsy and Dallas, Anaheim, Minnesota and even St. Louis are going to shoot past the Wings.

Score: Blues 4, Wings 3 (SO).

What I liked about the game: Ask me later. Oh, I’ve already had a day to think about it? How about Brad Stuart? He was plus-1 and now is only minus-14 for the season. Brett Ledba was plus-2. Johan Franzen played more than 17 minutes without getting hurt.

What I didn’t like the game: Sitting through the shootout. I could have fallen asleep two minutes earlier.

Quote: “It felt like the last game I played. I thought it was going to be worse. Better than I thought it was going to be.” — Johan Franzen

What is: The Wings have lost three in a row.

Mood meter: Can’t we all just be happy with ties?

The Detroit Frayed Wings?

Posted in Red Wings with tags on February 5, 2010 by Steve Klein

Have the Wings finally been brought to their knees?

Have the Wings finally been brought to their knees?

These are the days of the Detroit Frayed Wings.

Sad to say, but the bumpy ride that has been this Red Wings season is a precursor of things to come, I’m afraid. This is a franchise on the decline, in need of rebuilding, living on the last fumes of a decade-plus of excellence.

It hurts to write it, believe me. Calling Dr. Holland?

What follows is my assessment of the state of the team as the Wings prepare to play the Kings on Saturday, a team on an 8-game winning streak and 9 points ahead of Detroit in 4th place in the Western Conference with 25 games (50 points to play). In other words, the math for 4th place is not good for the tied-for-8th Wings and makes this game a MUST MUST one instead of just the usual MUST.

(By the way, there was no assessment of the Ducks’ 3-1 victory over the Wings Wednesday because it was on too late for me to watch it. Message to Gary Bettman: Like the Wings, these West Coast games are getting old, too. And one comment: Jack Nicholson says the Wings CAN’T HANDLE the size of the Getzlaf-Smith-Perry line.)

Back to my assessment:

GREY WINGS: Start with the No. 1 D-pair, Nick Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski. Still better than most, but certainly not as sharp as they used to be. Big slip from two years ago. And there’s chatter that Lidstrom will not return and go home to Sweden if Ken Holland blows up the team. Kris Draper is 38, Kirk Matlby 37. Thanks for your service, guys. But sadly, it’s time to say goodbye. You are salary cap impediments now.

SPARE TIRES: Todd Bertuzzi, 35; Brad May, 38; and yes, Chris Osgood, 37. Last year’s Stanley Cup was likely his last hooray. [Editor’s note: Jason Williams is SO forgettable some games that I didn’t remember to include him for two days.]

INJURY PRONE: You certainly have to start with Andreas Lilja, who at his best is a 5-6 D-man. Add to that Niklas Kronwall , Johan Franzen and the honorably fraying Tomas Holmstrom, whose cap hit, despite his on-ice value and courage, has to be tempting to Holland. When the Wings let Raflaski, Holmstrom, Draper and Maltby go, consider this team in full dynamite (as opposed to DY-NO-MITE!!!) stage.

NOT AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED: Start with Ville Leino. You can add Jonathan Ericsson, who has taken a Dion Phaneuf-sized leap backwards this season, and Brett Ledba, who hasn’t been the same since Chris Chelios left the team. And I’m tempted on given nights to add Brad Stuart (that pretty much covers the rest of the defense without a lot of up side, doesn’t it?).

UNDERACHIEVERS: We’ve learned this year that Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are second-tier superstars with first-tier pricetags. I guess you’d consider that a backhanded compliment. They are great players. But neither are Crosby and certainly not Ovechkin (who may be one of the greats of all time). They can’t carry the Wings by themselves.

THEY ARE WHAT THEY ARE: Danny Cleary, at 31, is in his prime. What you see is what you get: Role players. Also, Patrick Eaves (a Cleary wannabe); Derek Meech, Drew Miller, Jason Williams. They are six of one and half a dozen of the other-type players. Every team has players like them. You need them. But with the possible exception of Cleary, the Wings could replace them with other decent spare parts.

THE FUTURE: Doesn’t leave a lot left, does it? Three players stand out for not making any lists so far: Valteri Filppula, Darren Helm and Jimmy Howard. So here’s my question: Would you want to build your future around those three players? Do teams like the Kings, Coyotes, Capitals and Avs easily exceed those three in future upside, just to mention a few? Do you see that much talent in the Wings’ farm system?

TOP-SIX FORWARDS: The Brian Burke model says you have a top-six and a bunch of role-playing forwards. The Wings’ top six would be: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen (that’s about one-third of the Wings’ salary cap), Filppula, Holmstrom and Betuzzi. Consider injuries and age, who really is an easy-to-pick 7th? OK, Cleary (who I should have included on the injury-prone list).

TOP-FOUR D: Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall and Stuart, already discussed. How much gas is left in this tank?

LAST LINE OF DEFENSE: Is Jimmy Howard for real? Is there a Cam Ward/Steve Mason/Carey Price stretch in his future? Does he belong in their company? Whither Ozzie? Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? And who’s No. 3?

ONE QUESTION ABOUT COACHING: We know that Mike Babcock can coach a winner. But does he have the patience to coach a rebuilder?

The Wings have been treading soft ice all season, hanging on as a playoff competitor by a thread, waiting for injured players to return, trying to recreate themselves as a team. To be honest, I think their effort this season has been remarkable. Babcock has squeezed just about every point out of this team that a coach can find. Without Howard, this team isn’t the Oilers, maybe the Blues. There is enough talent to be in the playoffs this year. But if I were Ken Holland, I wouldn’t count on the same bunch — not by a long shot — to make the playoffs in 2010-11.

The decade-plus of excellence has passed. It’s time for a change. Let’s hope it’s not too painful.

Wings 4, Predators 2

Posted in Red Wings with tags , , , , , , , on January 30, 2010 by Steve Klein

Jimmy Howard makes himself big.

Jimmy Howard makes himself big.

I have to admit that I didn’t pay as close attention to this game as I usually do. I’m struggling with a heavy cold.

Game #54: 28 to go (that’s 56 points).

Score: Wings 4, Predators 2

Quote: “Howie was sensational.” — Mike Babcock. The Wings have a No. 1 goalie. Ozzie will play when the Wings need him, NOT when he needs to play. Got it?

What I liked about the game: That the Wings won in regulation, so the Preds didn’t get a point. Are you as tired of these 3-point games as I am? How could I not like Jimmy Howard (46 saves), Drew Miller (goal and an assist) and the return of Jason Williams (first goal of the game) in this one?

What I didn’t like about the game: There are no easy games, and certainly never with the Predators. I did not like all the Detroit turnovers. Not one bit. The Wings were lucky in this one. But they made their own luck by scoring. Scoring solves a lot of things.

In search of: Andreas Lilja. Big body and wingspan. If Holland can figure out the cap issues, I’d rather have him in the lineup than out. Sure, he turns over the puck, but so do Ericsson, Stuart and Ledba. Lilja begins a week-long conditioning stint in Grand Rapids. Is the big headache over?

What is: The Wings are tied for 7th in points with Nashville (which has a game in hand) with 61 points, but as close to 14th place as they are to 5th. That means no more 1-3-3 segments. Can’t afford it.

Mood meter: Better. Still concerned.