The Top Detroit Red Wings Storylines to Follow After the Trade Deadline
The NHL trade deadline has come and gone, and the flurry of activity has finally subsided.
The draft choice will become a second-round pick should Detroit qualify for the playoffs for a 23rd straight season.
Multiple teams made big moves before the deadline, some that could alter the standings for the final six weeks of the regular season.
Upon news of the trade and recent injury updates for Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm, Detroit began an uphill climb toward the postseason.
Many different factors will play into Detroit’s fate as the season winds down, and it will be intriguing to see what the club can do.
Here are the top storylines for the Detroit Red Wings the rest of the way.
David Legwand's Impact
The acquisition of David Legwand didn’t come without a price.
Forward Patrick Eaves was in and out of the lineup regularly, and his contract freed $1.2 million in cap space for Detroit.
The conditional third-round choice will become a second-round pick if the Red Wings make the playoffs. At the moment, they sit one point behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the eighth spot with one game in hand.
Twenty-two-year-old prospect Calle Jarnkrok was the most attractive part of the deal for Nashville, and how he develops ultimately determines the significance of the trade.
Legwand brings good size (6’2”, 205 pounds) at center, where Detroit is desperate for help.
Henrik Zetterberg is out for the regular season, while Pavel Datsyuk and Darren Helm have been shut down with a knee injury and headaches, respectively. This leaves Joakim Andersson, Riley Sheahan and Luke Glendening at center.
Legwand can—and will need to—play big minutes as a top-line center. He’ll do so between Gustav Nyquist and Johan Franzen for the foreseeable future.
He scored a career-high 27 goals and 63 points during the 2006-07 season with Nashville. His role in Detroit will be significant, but the kind of weight he can carry in the absence of franchise players remains to be seen.
He’s a good combination of skill and grit and could be an asset going forward. Should Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm return soon, the support down the middle could make Detroit a strong candidate for the playoff race.
Whether or not Datsyuk and Zetterberg are able to return this season, Legwand could prove himself a quality fit for this team.
As injuries continue to pile up, depth is Detroit’s greatest concern.
As mentioned in the previous slide, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Stephen Weiss and Darren Helm are all missing at center.
Those injuries forced Detroit to look outside of the organization for help, acquiring David Legwand. Jakub Kindl remains out of the lineup, and the team has been thin on the blue line all year.
It still has scoring depth on the wings, and both goaltenders are finally healthy, so it’s not all doom and gloom in Hockeytown. Detroit was also able to score two goals on the power play Tuesday against New Jersey’s league-best penalty kill—without Zetterberg and Datsyuk.
Young talents like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist continue to produce on offense, and veteran Johan Franzen has been unstoppable since returning from a concussion.
Even after losing a few teeth on Tuesday, Daniel Alfredsson remained in the lineup.
Before the red panic button is pounded like a Whack-A-Mole game, Detroit is very much alive in its quest for a 23rd straight postseason appearance.
As long as their youth can continue to produce as they have to this point, the Red Wings will demand their due respect down the stretch.
Pavel Datsyuk's Health Watch
With Henrik Zetterberg out, all eyes are on Pavel Datsyuk’s health.
It was learned on Wednesday afternoon that Pavel Datsyuk would be shut down for three weeks to allow his ailing knee to recuperate.
Datsyuk was able to play the final two games before heading to Sochi to represent his country in the 2014 Winter Olympics. He played the first two games after the break before missing Tuesday’s tilt with New Jersey.
Having already missed 22 games this season, the team will be without him for at least the next 12. Detroit general manager Ken Holland was quoted by Brian Hedger of NHL.com:
We're going to re-address this thing in three weeks. It doesn't mean [Datsyuk] will be back. It allows [him], in his own mind, [to know] that his body has a period of time [to rest]. Let's see if we can wake up in three weeks and the inflammation that's not allowing him to do the things he wants to do ... let's see if this is the answer. If it's not the answer, then we'll look at what's next. [We're] hoping in three-to-four weeks, Pav is out here zipping around and we're having conversations about when he's coming back.
Without him, Detroit’s star power is significantly depleted. The scoring depth doesn’t appear as daunting, and the younger players will need to step up.
Detroit’s second line, composed of Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Tatar, will receive a spike in ice time.
Their contributions have been invaluable over the course of the season, and Detroit will rely on their youth to carry the team.
If Datsyuk can return with no ill effects, then Detroit will certainly be a threat—if it can remain in the playoff picture.
Very Tough Schedule
With 21 games remaining on the schedule, and one point out of the playoffs, Detroit has one of the toughest schedules remaining.
Sixteen games will be played against teams that are currently in a playoff spot. Of those 16 games, six are against teams within their own division.
The schedule is split almost evenly with 11 games at home and 10 on the road. Unfortunately, those final 21 games will occur over 39 days with five sets of back-to-back contests.
The travel won’t be a significant issue with only three games outside of the Eastern Time Zone (all three will be in the Central Time Zone).
In their favor, the Red Wings have played just 61 games, giving them at least one game in hand on everyone they’re in contention with.
It will certainly be a roller-coaster ride to the finish in Hockeytown. It is one of the league's toughest schedules remaining, but with so many games against teams they’re chasing, the Red Wings control their own destiny.
Will Goalies Step Up?
A bit of an underlying theme all season, it will be stimulating to see whether Jimmy Howard or Jonas Gustavsson steps up.
Now that both are healthy and have made starts after the Olympic break, Detroit needs production from its netminders.
Howard will likely be the workhorse down the stretch, but Gustavsson’s 14-4-3 record shouldn’t be ignored.
Detroit head coach Mike Babcock has shown this season that he isn’t afraid to play the hot hand. Howard has proven in the past he can step up his game when Detroit needs it, but if Gustavsson remains strong, he will push for time.
It is a blessing for Detroit to finally have two capable—and healthy—goalies this late in the season. The Red Wings will need quality contributions from both if they’re going to make the playoffs.
The schedule allows for each to receive playing time with 21 games in 39 days, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Gustavsson gets the nod more often.
Players feed off of strong goaltending, and if both netminders can provide stability on the back end, the result will be noticeable in multiple facets.