Finger Off The Trigger: Why The Detroit Red Wings Should Do Nothing On March 4
There are few dates on the NHL calendar that get fans and poolies more excited then Trade Deadline Day. In the past, some teams greatly improved with late season acquisitions in order to help their chances in winning the Stanley Cup.
The '91 Penguins picked up Ron Francis on their way to winning their first Cup in franchise history. The '01 Avalanche got Rob Blake to bolster their blue line en route to their second Stanley Cup. Even the Red Wings have gained from a couple deadline trades, including Larry Murphy in '97 as well as Brad Stuart last year.
However, I'm going to break down each section of this year's Red Wings as well as including my reasoning why nothing should be done in the trade department this year. Here we go.
—Currently, the Detroit Red Wings have the highest total goals scored (228) at an average of 3.7 goals per game.
—Five players with 20 goals of more include Hossa (33), Datsyuk (25), Franzen (25), Zetterberg (22), and Hudler (20).
—NHL best power-play at 27.8 percent
—NHL best shots per game at 36
Conclusion: There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Red Wings offense thus far. In fact, it's been a huge change for Detroit to be winning games based mostly on firepower. In past seasons, it's been their airtight defense that has been the deciding factor in winning games. No change needed here.
—4th in NHL in shots against per game at 27.7 (first place San Jose is only at 27.3)
—Brian Rafalski sits second in points among NHL defensemen with 50 and a plus-minus of +14.
—Nicklas Lidstrom, six-time Norris winner, sits fourth in points among NHL defensemen with 44, a plus-minus of +23, tied for first in game-winning goals at four, and tied for fourth in power play goals at seven.
—Niklas Kronwall sits 12th in points among NHL defensemen with 37.
Conclusion: While the defense hasn't exactly been like it has in past seasons, Detroit has appeared to have rounded a corner in regards to their own end. The first half of the season saw a lot of 3+ goal against nights for the Wings as well as a lot of victories by a one-goal margin.
Other than Osgood's five-goal meltdown against Colorado and a first game four-goal start by Grand Rapids prospect Jimmy Howard, the Wings have tightened it up in the past 10 games. Other than perhaps a little more grit (which Stuart hopefully brings when he comes off the IR), no changes are needed.
—As mentioned before, the Wings hold the best power play in the NHL at 27.8 percent
—However, on the other side of the coin, the Wings also hold a dismal Penalty Kill of 77.5% which is good for 28th among NHL teams!
Conclusion: How can the Red Wings do nothing at the deadline and hope to improve their awful PK, you ask? Well, every hockey fan worth their salt know this saying:
"The best player on your penalty kill has to be your goaltender."
So, is it a coincidence that the year Osgood has the worst statistical season of his career, the Wings also have one of their worst on the PK?
—Ty Conklin holds a record of 21-7-1, which ranks 12th among NHL goalies in wins, a GAA of 2.32 good for eighth, a save percentage of .915, and he is also tied for second in shutouts with six on the season.
—Chris Osgood is 18-5-7 with a GAA of 3.29, a save percentage of .879, and zero shutouts this season.
Conclusion: Here's the elephant in the room. Which one of these does not belong here? Osgood was recently benched in place of Grand Rapids goaltender Jimmy Howard and told to "re-focus" by coach Mike Babcock.
The Red Wings are hoping (praying might be a better word) that Osgood can recapture the form that saw him step in for Dominic Hasek in last year's playoffs. People often forget that this is a man is a three-time Cup winner and, in last year's playoffs, won his first nine straight games as well as posting back-to-back shutouts in the Stanley Cup Finals.
This also lends itself to the special teams situation. Once the goaltending of Chris Osgood improves, you will no doubt see a tremendous increase in the effectiveness of the Wings' PK.
However, it should also be noted that Ty Conklin is having another incredible season after coming from Pittsburgh. Once again, he is stepping up in the place of a struggling No. 1 goaltender and allowing his team to not only remain in the playoff hunt, but also gain ground on the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks.
Hopefully, after listing these reasons, you can see why I wouldn't go making any big changes to the Wings at this season's trade deadline. Even with the troubles they've been having in net and on the PK, they still sit third in the NHL and five points out of first.
Also, the biggest point I'd like to make is this: The playoffs are the Red Wings' regular season.
Once this team hits the playoffs, all bets are off. The Detroit Red Wings have been in the playoffs...wait for it...17 straight seasons. Detroit has been criticized for not really showing enough intensity in the regular season, but the fact remains that this team of proven veterans has a different gear in the postseason.
In addition to these veterans, it's been speculated that Grand Rapids prospects Darren Helm and Ville Leino could see ice time in this year's playoffs. Helm had a great playoff final with Detroit last year and his great speed, coupled with his skill and enthusiasm, will surely be valuable. Since being called up, Leino has seven points in 10 games with the Wings and has fit in with just about anyone he's been put on a line with.
Guess it doesn't hurt having an undrafted Finnish Elite League MVP on your roster now, does it?
So, once Osgood regains his form and the playoffs start, the regular season will become a thing of the past and the Red Wings will once again become the team to beat in the playoffs. Add to this an already deep bench of veterans and promising young talent and you can see why this writer wouldn't touch a thing on this team at the deadline...and neither should Mr. Holland.
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