They started the season with a horrible 6-0 loss to the St Louis Blues. They suffered bad losses to the Calgary Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets as well. In fact, the only wins that they have against teams that are currently over .500 are St Louis (2) and Dallas.
It is time to check the ups and downs of the season so far.
Damien Brunner was signed by the team after tearing up the Swiss-A League over the past several seasons. He has adjusted very well to the NHL game.
His six goals are tied for the team lead. He also has added a winning goal in a shoot out. He has been the scorer that the team hoped that he would be when they signed him.
While playing in Europe he was known just as much for his passing skills as his goal scoring. Over the past four seasons he had 130 assists in only 165 games. So far in Detroit he only has three assists. While it is unfair to expect the same rate of production in the NHL, his assists rate has fallen too far off his normal pace.
As he understands the offense more and gets better acquainted with teammates hopefully this will improve. He currently sits at .23 assists per game, far behind the .78 pace he had in the Swiss-A League.
One other area that Brunner needs to improve on is his defense. He is not bad, but is not playing up to the typical two-way player that Detroit is uses to.
Brunner has been a very good signing and will only get better.
The special teams have been bad this season. They are ranked 25th in the power play and penalty kill.
They only have nine goals on the power play for a pathetic 13.8 percentage. They started the season 0-17. They are 13 games into the season and they still cannot get the power play working. Injuries may be a part of the issue but this team has too much talent to be this bad with the extra man.
The penalty kill has been equally as bad. They had given up 16 goals on the penalty kill. That puts them at a negative seven in special team’s goals.
One final area of concern is the three short-handed goals that they have given up. At this point, there is no bright spot. The team will need to greatly improve in these areas if they have any hopes at postseason success.
On the plus side, this does mean that when at even strength they are plus 10 in the goals department.
Henrik Zetterberg’s first season as captain has not gone as well as hoped. The battle between the players and owners cancelled almost half of the season. Injuries have decimated his team and players expected to step up, have not.
Still Zetterberg has played great this season. He has the second most goals on the team and leads in assists and points.
After the opening night 6-0 debacle against St Louis, the team was looking for revenge against them on February 1. Zetterberg put the team on his shoulders as he had a hand in all five goals in the win.
It was his first hat trick in over three years and the five points tied a career high. His final goal was an empty-netter that was one of the most hard-fought you will ever see. That kind of drive and fight by the captain is something that can inspire a team.
Pavel Datsyuk has been his typical great self. He is tied for the team lead in goals and second in points. As usual he is playing strong defense as well.
Niklas Kronwall rounds out the leadership core. He too has been playing very well. He is doing a good job quarterbacking the offense as he already has nine assists on the season.
He does sit at a minus six right now which is cause for concern. Once players return from injury and there is more consistency with the lineup, this number should improve.
In truth, this article could have multiple slides breaking down many of the players on the team but the theme for most would be the same. It really comes down to a highly inconsistent team. The third and fourth lines were quiet for the most of the season. In the recent three game winning streak, they started to show some life.
Valtteri Filppula is coming off of a career year. The hope was that he could pick up where he left off. He started the season scoreless in the first five games. It looked like he would turn it around when he scored two goals against Dallas but he only has one goal since then.
Although he does have eight points, five of those points came from just two games. He has only scored in four games. With the team mired in the middle of pack offensively, they need scorers like Filppula to step up.
Todd Bertuzzi is in a similar spot. Although he is out injured right now, he really has not played that well when in the game. He scored two goals in his first game of the season—the team’s third—but has none since.
Dan Cleary went 10 games before getting his first goal of the season. That is still the only point that he has on the season. For a player in a contract year, one would have expected a much better season from him.
The rest of the roster looks similar. A player may put together a good game or two but cannot parlay that into much long-term consistency to help the team. Bruner, Datsyuk and Zetterberg are the only scorers the team has been able to count on every game. They have nearly accounted for half of the team’s goals (17 out of 35).
The rest of the team needs to raise their level of play.
The biggest story of the season has been the injuries. In only 13 games, they have already seen 30 different players take the ice for the team.
Although you hate to use injuries as an excuse, a team does need its top players in order to play at its best. Many of the issues listed in this article will hopefully be fixed as players return from injuries.
While these players are out injured other players will ideally step up. Brian Lashoff has really played well with the opportunity he has been given. Tomas Tatar is a recent call up but, in five games he does have two points. It remains to be seen if this he can continue to be productive.
If the team can get and stay healthy they should be able to do better.
Despite the doom and gloom that seems to surround this team, they are not in that bad of a position. They have 16 points and sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference. Considering all of the injuries it really could be worse.
As players return from injuries the team should improve. Also their return will hopefully spark players who have struggled.
The team is far from perfect but they are also not falling apart either. With the talent on this team and potential in the minors, GM Ken Holland will be working the phone lines as the trade deadline draws near in order to put this team in a better position. As the Los Angeles Kings proved last season, it is all about how you play at the end of the season, not the first month.