FGD: The Red Wings are Coming!



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.

The Lineup

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
  • MacDonald

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.

The Opposition

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
  • Howard

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.

  • seve927

    After calling Butler the worst player in the history of the game, I’d just like to step up and commend mattyc on defending him. He’s played really, really well since I called him out 😉

    And that has nothing to do with the fact he was credited with a goal. After looking out of place (in a bad way) as a 3rd pairing guy, he hasn’t looked out of place as a top pairing guy.

  • Nighteyes

    I feel bad for the young guys on this team. It must be frustrating to put forward good efforts each night only to be let down by below NHL level goaltending and poor motivation levels by the (most) vets on this team. Its going to be the un-doing of this rebuilding team this season.

  • Not watching the game, but I will say that I was really having fun watching this team when Stajan and Cammy weren’t in the lineup, when they were playing Backlund a bunch and depending upon mostly young guys. Add in Ramo to that, and I’d be happy to watch the effort. I think they’re less fun to watch with Backlund on fourth line and Glencross/Jones/Cammy playing so many damn minutes.

    • Okay. So…

      If you watched a car speed by you and thought “That guy’s going really fast. Like, 100.” And a cop beside you with a laser guided speed recorder leaned over and told you it was actually 65, would you discount his evidence?

      • ChinookArchYYC

        Not necessarily. But cops radars, like stats, are not always right. That’s why there is court.

        If your walking downtown and get approached by two shady crackheads.. Do feel safe because you were told crime in downtown has dropped by 38 percent this year? Or would you like to have a guy like mcgratten standing next to you?

        • Burnward

          This is one horrible analogy to defend the role of a fighter. If we use this idea to defend you position then after McG’s big win the alley should have been cleared, but McG had already gone home(stapled to bench and being paid to watch hockey) so more crack heads came out and you still got mugged. Someone else has said what you hope for is the police to be around that would be great if they always did their job. How many times has Shanny dropped the ball with player discipline and how consistent has he been?

          If there were no crack heads on the street because the streets had been cleaned up, they were playing for the Allan cup rather than the NHL then you could go down the street. Which would you rather pay money to watch?

      • Burnward

        & that my friend is why I enjoy the stats. They give incredible insight when perception is skewed. Problem is stats cant explain everything either. I feel if you can find a balance of the 2, then you are one intelligent hombre & have a pretty good fix on what is happening, which should theoretically influence decision making. Which is why Backlunds treatment these last 3 games is mind boggling.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Another horrible night in net for Macbackup and Ramo doesn’t seem to be all that much better (neither one of them have been putting up close to average numbers in net). I think Feaster and Hartley are secretly trying to tank the season by purposely giving us bad goaltending. So we can still watch our scorers score and get all excited, but while still making sure we have horrible goaltending so that we don’t stay ahead in the goal department, but to be honest Abby probably has better goaltending than our Flames team because Ortio and Berra must be better options in net than Ramo and are CERTAINLY without a doubt better options than Macbadbucks(since he was a waste of money). Although playing in net behind defencemen like the SOB trio cannot be an easy task even when we have better options than either of those three too. It will be nice to see Billins play for us and show he is one of those better options.

  • Burnward

    But to post a serious response.

    I think the disconnect between “Stats” guys and “Hockey” guys is pretty easy to explain.

    “Hockey” guys watch a game and base their opinions on what they see and how they perceive it. “Stats” guys like to break down the numbers and take truth from that.

    The problem is, you can never use numbers to convince a “Hockey” guy that what he has seen to be true isn’t.

    Then what follows is usually “Stats” guy telling “Hockey” guy he’s an idiot, throwing all kinds of fancy stats to back up his argument and “Hockey” guy is left with little to defend himself with besides anger at “Stats” guy.