Well here we are, yet again. For the third time in four years, the Detroit Red Wings are out in round 1. In 2012 the Wings had a great regular season until the trade deadline when they ran into some injuries. They struggled after that, and even when they got healthy, couldn’t get back to winning and lost in round 1 to the Nashville Predators.
In 2013, they had some injuries but found a way to win down the stretch and get into the playoffs. Knocked off the Ducks in round 1 and took the eventual Stanley Cup champs to game 7 in round 2. While not the greatest of outcomes, it was a fun short run.
2014 was a year from hell. Wings were excited to get guys like Alfredsson and Weiss and to hope to have a little more health than the lockout shortened season the year before. That never happened. Weiss missed every game after early December, Alfie missed his share of games. Zetterberg and Datsyuk played only a total of 29 games together, Franzen played only 54 and more I can’t think of right now. Wings were able to squeak into the post-season but lost in 5 games to the Boston Bruins. It wasn’t a surprise, but the entire season was a disappointment.
Now we get to this year. The Wings swung and missed at a number of free agents during the summer. I was disappointed by that but also knew if they stayed somewhat healthy and Jimmy Howard got back to his all-star form of 2013, they could make the playoffs. Through most of the season that was true. Even when Howard miss more than a month to an injury, the Wings kept rolling. They finsihed a tough 6 games Western Conference road trip with a 4-1-1 record. The two losses they played well enough to win as well. Then after the trade deadline they went into a slump. Howard struggled to track the puck and his team started to turn the puck over a lot. They stumbled down the stretch and maybe not backed into the playoffs but close to it. They went from thinking about winning the Atlantic Division or finishing second, to just hoping for a wild card slot. Detroit found a way to get to the number three spot and play the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning in round 1. I thought they’d be lucky to get to 6 games. Mike Babcock decieded to go with young goalie Petr Mrazek instead of the veteran Jimmy Howard and the move worked out. Detroit struggled in the first two games but Mrazek played so well in game 1 they were able to come home tied 1-1. After winning game 2, the Wings looked to ready to grab a 3-1 lead in the series, but when Luke Glendening left the game to get stitches, the Tyler Johnson line (who Glendening was paying against) woke up to tie the game 2-2 and win it in overtime. Even though Detroit won game 5 back in Tampa they couldn’t find a way to win either of the last two games.
After the start of the season that was so good, it stings to lose in the end, especially this way. Now we go into the off-season with so many questions, and few answers right now. The biggest everyone is wondering is, will Mike Babcock coach the Detroit Red Wings next season? During the off-season, my answer was yes. I thought 75-25 he stays. Now I’m 90% sure he is gone. If he really wanted to stay, he had the deal to be the highest paid coach in front of him late in the summer and didn’t sign it. Then there was a comment about how he didn’t think the Wings would be as good as they had been to that point. So I started to think he didn’t sign because he thought the team was done for the short-term and didn’t want to be here to try and fix it. Then after game 7, he kept pointing to the negatives of the team now and going forward. “Where’s the next Pavel?” “We just weren’t that good.” Then talking about how hold Kronner, Pavel and Hank will be next year. That sounds like a guy who is on his way out. If he was staying, he would have been talking about the positives they can take from it.
Do the Wings have talent coming along? Sure. Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Teemu Pulkkinen Ryan Sproul, Joe Hicketts, Xavier Ouellet, Alexey Marchenko and guys like Tatar, Nyquist and others. Are they top line talent? Too early to tell. But I also remember people questioning where the next Yzerman and Fedorov were gonna come from. They found them in Zetterberg and Datsyuk. So it’s possible to find them but if Babcock wants a more for sure thing in terms of superstar talent, he’s probably going elsewhere. I have to say it’s pretty disappointing. I thought he would want to stay here and work to get it better. The regular person of me says, it’s his right to do as he pleases and he’s the best coach in the game so more power to him. The fan in me is a little bitter. Some were questioning if he would want to go to Toronto for the challenge but if he were to go to Buffalo or Edmonton, sure taking over a crap team can be tough but with all that young talent it’s not the biggest challenge he’s faced. Faced more taking over for the Ducks and for the Wings. Wings were going from a $70mil payroll to just under $39mil back in 2005. He didn’t take that job for the ease of it. No one knew what the team would be or do.
So, enough of that. Onto the player moves. There will be plenty to do there. Wings have some choices to make in goal. Is Mrazek their future after this playoff? If so, they should look into trading Jimmy Howard while his stock is high. Edmonton needs a goalie and has young talent to space with all the #1 draft picks they’ve had in the past. So that’s something they could look at. I’d hate to seem him go, because I am a huge fan of his, but his stock won’t be higher than it is now. Same could be said for Mrazek if they wanted to trade him, but I doubt it. Cap comes into play too and trading Mrazek doesn’t save money there. The other two players for sure gone (in my opinion) are Stephen Weiss and Jakub Kindl. Kindl has regressed over the last few years and is taking up too much for space for a #7 defenseman. With young talent coming along, they need to try and move him. Weiss has just never fit in. Missing pretty much all of 2013-14 sure didn’t help. Other young guys have stepped into the top 6 or 7 forward spots and Stephen Weiss just isn’t a 3rd line forward. He needs more ice time to be productive. The rumor at the deadline had him as part of a deal to get Dion Phaneuf from Toronto. I think it’s still a strong possibility if the right deal materializes. Toronto would have to eat some salary and most like some sort of draft pick (not a great one) would probably have to go back to TO as well. Heck, maybe even Kindl is part of it as well.
That’s it for my rant for today. You’ll see another one from me either when Babcock signs with his new team, when he re-signs (doubt it) and/or around the draft time when the Wings most likely start making deals. Try to enjoy another long off-season Wings fans. I know it’ll be tough but it’s still just a game, the greatest one out there.