The Detroit Red Wings are in the middle of their worst season in recent memory. Most seasons, the playoffs are a foregone conclusion. This year though, they have fallen to ninth place with only five games to play.
There are many reasons for their drop in the standings; injuries, lack of off season acquisitions and poor play are the main contributors. While some players have done very well this season, there are others who have greatly disappointed the team.
Here are the three members who have been the most disappointing this season.
Ian White entered the season looking to be one of the leaders on defense. He was going to stand with Niklas Kronwall and help the team battle back from the loss of Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart.
Last season, he was a good defender and also played good on the power play. This year, he found himself hurt early in the season and then benched for several games.
The power play started the season as one of the worst in the league. While not a goal scorer, he was a good setup player last season where on the power play he had 10 assists. This year he has zero on the power play and only four total.
White will be a free agent after the season. While it appears that he is back in the lineup for now, he also does not appear to be an automatic starter either. For a player that was thought to be one of the keys to the team’s defense entering the season, that is a disappointment.
Valtteri Filppula entered this season coming off a career year. As he was entering a contract year, the expectations were high that he would be able to improve even more.
Last season he had 23 goals and 43 assists, both career bests. His point production has nearly been cut in half this season. After last season’s .81 point-per-game pace, he is now at .43. Since he has been a regular on the team, his career average has been .46. Not only has he not improved on last year but, he actually has fallen below his career norm.
Last season he also really developed his two-way game and became a dependable defensive forward. While plus/minus is an imperfect stat, the fact that he has gone from plus 18 last year to minus-five this season is a worrisome fall.
He only has one goal over his last 15 games and is minus-seven in those games as well.
As his contract will be up after the season, the team has to ask itself if last season was a fluke.
General Manager Ken Holland is the one who has put this team together. Since the loss in the Stanley Cup finals to Pittsburgh in 2009, the team has regressed. It followed back-to-back second-round playoff losses with a first-round loss last season. The Red Wings now sit outside the playoffs with five games remaining.
Holland has failed to bring in players to replace Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart. He also has relied too heavily on aging players who are under-performing or too injured to play. Last season he re-signed Todd Bertuzzi for two years when it was painfully obvious that his best days were much too far in the past.
This past offseason he struck out with each of the high-profile free agents that he tried to sign. Alexander Semin was available and, after seeing how well he played next to Pavel Datsyuk at the World Championships, seemed like a great choice.
Instead, he signed Mikael Samuelsson, who has been injured for most of the season and ineffective in the games that he has played in. Semin has scored 38 points, the same as Henrik Zetterberg, while Samuelsson has one point.
He did not make any moves at the trade deadline to improve the team. Instead he has signed Jimmy Howard to six-year, $31.8 million deal. It is a deal that is far too long and for too much money compared to other goalies in his range.
With the salary cap dropping next season, he has lessened his ability to make any major impact moves this offseason.
At this point the only hope is that the minor league system is as talented as many hope and that the team will actually move the aging players out of the way in order to give the young players a chance.