The former juggernaut Detroit Red Wings aren’t quite as run down as their unfortunate home town, but cracks are finally starting to show in the armor. Right now, Detroit is 14th in the league in terms of score-close possession, a metric they routinely dominated for years. Datysuk and Zetterberg are growing long in the tooth, but for now remain top drawer two-way players.
The divide between them and the rest of the club continues to grow, however. Absent Lidstrom, the team doesn’t have a third elite leg to support the rest of the average stool (yeesh…talk about your clumsy metaphors). Only three other forwards are in the black in terms of possession so far – Bertuzzi, Alfredsson and Abdlekader. And Bertuzzi mostly plays with Datsyuk and Zetterberg (meaning he’s not driving that number). Alfredsson is 40-years old and Abdelkader hangs out at the end of the rotation. Johan Franzen is close (49%), but there’s a big drop off after him.
The biggest disappointment for the Wings must be Stephen Weiss. He has the worst possession rate on the team (43%) even with a sky-high zone start ratio (57%). Weiss was a pretty good player in Florida for a long time, but his numbers started slipping over the his two seasons as a Panther. He was supposed to anchor the Wings second scoring line, but he’s sinking the boat instead.
All of which is an overly long way to say – the Red Wings are still good, but they don’t appear to be ridiculously good anymore. They have two elite forwards, some decent support pieces and a whole bunch of meh. If the Flames can cage Datsyuk and Zetterberg (easier said than done, I know), then they have chance to outplay the Wings so-so depth.
Hartley announced yesterday Backlund would slide back into the line-up and Joey MacDondald would get a turn after Ramo’s *ahem* "performance" against the Leafs. Her’s how things will probably shape up:
- Glencross – Stajan – Jones
- Galiardi – Colborne – Cammalleri
- Baertschi – Monahan – Hudler
- Bouma – Backlund – McGrattan
- Russell – Wideman
- Brodie – Butler
- O’Brien – Smith
A lot of plaudits have been handed to Joe Colborne over his recent play and particularly his 23 minute game vs Toronto the other night, but I still find the decision making governing his usage rather bizarre – at least relative to other players on the club. Colborne has certainly looked better over the last few games compared to his first few (where he was completely lost) and in general I am not opposed to coach playing the heck out of a few young guys this year for informational and developmental purposes.
Here’s the thing – Colborne hasn’t been that good so far. Certainly not "usurp Backlund" good. The former Leaf has been fed some of the softest minutes of any forward on the team (65.5% zone start) and yet on Wednesday night he boasted the worst even strength scoring chance ratio on the Flames (3 for, 9 against). He’s nowhere near a 20 minute per night center yet and I don’t see what he’s done to privilege him above players like Backlund or Baertschi (who have seen their minutes limited or slashed at both ES and on the PP).
Maybe it’s a motivational thing. Maybe Hartley is using different reinforcement techniques with different players. But on the face of it, the disparate treatment of certain guys on the team seems…incongruous.
It’s the Datsyuk line and then everyone else. Via Daily Faceoff:
- Zetterberg – Datsyuk – Bertuzzi
- Cleary – Franzen – Alfredsson
- Tatar – Weiss – Abdelkader
- Miller – Andersson – Eaves
- Kronwall – DeKeyser
- Quincey – Smith
- Kindl – Lashoff
Detroit’s blueline is somewhat underwhelming as well. Kronwall is a legitimate top pairing guy at this point and most teams could probably get away with Smith and Ericsson (currently injured) in their top-4, but the rest of the defense brigade is trouble.
DeKeyser was a highly sought after College free agent, but he’s only 24 games into his NHL career. Quincey is kind of the Wing’s version of Chris Butler – he has some tools, but always seems to end up a scapegoat at the end of too many games. Kindl is still trying to find his way at the NHL level and Lashoff (Brian, not Matt) is a 23 year old rookie and former free agent signing who has been plying his trade in Grand Rapids for the last few years. HIs resume reminds of Adam Pardy’s when he made the Flames a few years ago.
We’ve discussed the forward unit, though I’d like to add I continually wonder what power Todd Bertuzzi holds over the Detroit Red Wing organization – he’s 38 year old, he was a suspect two-way player even as a Flame back in 2008-09, he hasn’t scored more than 45 points in six seasons and he only has four points 12 games this year…and yet he’s skating with Dats and Zetterberg at ES. I don’t get it.
Sum it Up
Detroit’s first line is a powerhouse and can take a game over all by themselves. Calgary has no true power on power option that can be reasonably expected to take them on, but some nights you have hold the big guns in check via luck or hard work (or both). The key to the game will be to minimizing the damage from those guys and then outplaying the Wing’s much softer underbelly.