Grading Mike Babcock's Performance with Detroit Red Wings in 2013-14

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Grading Mike Babcock's Performance with Detroit Red Wings in 2013-14
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The Detroit Red Wings are fortunate to have one of the best coaches in the game of hockey in Mike Babcock. But how should he be graded just 15 games into the season?

There are a number of extenuating circumstances that will be addressed, but here are the early grades for Mike Babcock.

Record: A-

Babcock's Red Wings have been inconsistent at times this season, leading their head coach to be extremely critical of their play.

Most of that criticism came from the team's recent four-game winless streak (0-2-2 in that span).

But with a 6-2 start before that winless streak and a three-game winning streak heading into Monday night's contest with the Winnipeg Jets, there is a lot to like about Detroit's 9-4-2 record thus far.

That puts them in a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Division with 20 points. They're trailing in tiebreakers and games played to Toronto and Tampa Bay, respectively, but with a win against the Jets, they'll move into sole possession of first place in the division.

Record with Injuries: A+

To be sitting at 9-4-2 with injuries that have kept Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson, Johan Franzen, Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm all out for extended periods of time is admirable.

Franzen and Ericsson remain out of the lineup, but there will have to be some roster moves when Ericsson comes back to the lineup on a full-time basis.

Line Juggling: B-

When a team is winning, line combinations stay the same. When a team is losing, line changes are inevitable.

But putting Justin Abdelkader, a career third-line grinder, on the first line isn't the way to right the ship on a regular basis. Putting a player with 10 goals in his last 63 games in Daniel Cleary on the first line likely isn't going to do it, either.

Thank goodness for good old Todd Bertuzzi. The 38-year-old power forward has shown that he still "has it" offensively during this Western Canada road trip.

Marko Ditkun/Getty Images

His three points over the past two games have allowed Babcock to keep Daniel Alfredsson on the second line and distribute the offensive wealth. This prevents other teams from keying on the Red Wings' first line.

So far, this strategy has worked and bumped Detroit back up in the standings.

Defensive Pairings: N/A

It is difficult to evaluate defensive pairings after so many injuries early in the season. The Red Wings haven't had a healthy, complete top-six group of defensemen since Kronwall's injury against Colorado.

As such, it is necessary to give a grade of "not applicable" or "incomplete."

Special Teams: B-

Mike Babcock may not necessarily be directly responsible for the special teams (something that is usually left to the assistant coaches), but he is still responsible for the players that end up on the ice for the power play or penalty kill.

With a 10th-ranked penalty kill (83.6 percent) and 18th-ranked power play (18.8 percent), the special teams haven't necessarily helped the Red Wings that much, but the good news is that Detroit hasn't been hurt by them, either.

Overall: B+

There's not too much for Red Wings fans to complain about through 15 games. Sure, it would be nice to have not had the four-game winless streak before the current Western Canada road trip, but without failure, teams don't usually get better.

The early portion of this season is a chance for the Red Wings to really see what they have got as far as player personnel goes.

Although Babcock has not found the best way to use players like Stephen Weiss, for example, as long as the team is winning and in a playoff position, no one should argue with the Red Wings' record after 15 games.

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