The 5 Biggest Letdowns of Detroit Red Wings' 2013-14 Season so Far
The Detroit Red Wings are holding a coveted wild-card spot with 10 games remaining on the schedule.
They continue to battle through a multitude of injuries thanks to impressive contributions from some breakout stars and a few prospects.
Detroit has gone 3-1-1 in its last five games and looking to get into a groove at the right time. Its current standing comes despite some poor performances and disappointing circumstances.
If it can manage to secure a spot, it will be an incredible achievement that could earn head coach Mike Babcock consideration for the Jack Adams Award.
These frustrations have cost the Red Wings valuable points and positioning in the standings, and one might wonder where they’d be otherwise.
These are five of the biggest letdowns of Detroit’s 2013-14 season so far.
First things first, let’s address the obvious.
As mentioned in the opening slide, Detroit has scored an unflattering club record in man-games lost this season. Only Drew Miller and Kyle Quincey have played all 72 games for the Red Wings, with Niklas Kronwall (70) the solitary other to play more than 65.
Regulars Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Ericsson and Stephen Weiss all remain out of the lineup, each having missed significant time with injuries.
Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson are both healthy in goal, at least for the time being. Ericsson was lost after undergoing surgery to repair a broken finger.
The revolving door in Detroit’s lineup has been an issue all season, but relief might be forthcoming.
Darren Helm and Joakim Andersson came back from injuries over the weekend, and the prognosis for Justin Abdelkader has him on track to return April 2.
Datsyuk resumed skating and will be evaluated later in the week, and Zetterberg could be cleared for contact approximately April 11.
It is shaping up to be a photo finish for the final few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, and the Red Wings could be dangerous should they heal and qualify.
Stephen Weiss signed a five-year, $24.5 million deal with Detroit on July 5 and was expected to add an offensive punch on Detroit’s second line.
Instead, Weiss has set up shop on the trainer’s table, having accumulated just four points in 26 games due to a lingering groin injury.
What was thought to be a “tweak” in the preseason plagued Weiss into December before settling on sports hernia surgery. The surgery went well, but he suffered a setback just days before his expected return to the lineup.
He has undergone tests and received opinions from multiple doctors, but progress has been limited. General manager Ken Holland told MLive.com:
He feels OK going 65, 70, 75 percent, but when he pushes all-out he feels pain and when he gets pain you back off. He’s been told to push through. He’s pushed through. We’re going to give him another 72 hours and keep our fingers crossed that there’s some progress.
There is no expected timetable for his return and one this season appears unlikely. Detroit will continue to use Riley Sheahan as the second-line center.
With four years remaining on Weiss’ contract, he’ll certainly be under the microscope moving forward.
Detroit is unable to use its last remaining compliance buyout on him, thus rendering him a contractual burden if he can’t return to form.
He’s a smart player with an offensive flair when healthy, and if he can turn things around, he still has time to be an asset to this team.
When discussing Detroit’s goaltending woes this season one statistic stands out above the rest.
Jimmy Howard has lost 16 games when Detroit is leading or tied after two periods.
The team has the league’s second-worst winning percentage when leading after two periods at just .677. Only one other team holding a playoff position has a percentage lower than .800 (Phoenix at .710).
His record on the season is a disappointing 17-17-11 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. It is the worst winning percentage of his career as a starter.
Jonas Gustavsson has been a bright spot with a 15-4-3 record, but his 2.55 goals-against average and .912 save percentage aren’t much improved from Howard’s.
Both goaltenders have suffered their share of injuries, Gustavsson missing time with a combination of neck and groin injuries almost regularly.
Howard’s proven track record will earn him the majority of starts down the stretch, and Gustavsson appears ready to step in when called upon.
It has been needed all year, but Detroit is desperate for the men between the pipes to improve their game. Without a steady netminder Detroit’s hopes for the postseason will be all but lost.
After an impressive playoff run that brought Detroit an overtime goal away from defeating the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, there were lofty expectations for the Red Wings’ young blue line.
This season, Detroit is in the middle of the pack averaging 2.72 goals against per game. Injuries have contributed to the inconsistency as well.
Detroit has been forced to call up three prospects this season, combining for a plus-1 rating in six games.
Of the seven regulars on the roster, Dan DeKeyser (plus-9), Jonathan Ericsson (plus-2) and Niklas Kronwall (plus-1) have a positive rating.
Ericsson is currently out four to six weeks after having a pin inserted to repair a broken finger.
Jakub Kindl posted his best numbers in 2013 with four goals and 13 points in 41 games during the lockout-shortened season. This year, he has just one goal and 13 points in 56 games and is a dreadful minus-13.
Brendan Smith appears to be trending upward with three points in his last three games. Kyle Quincey has quietly improved posting a plus-11 since the start of 2014.
The biggest concern is how this team fails to protect a lead. Detroit is just 25th in the league with a .579 winning percentage when scoring first.
With 10 games left in the season, the defense will need to learn to secure leads and fast. If they can’t hold a lead in game, they’re not likely to hold their current playoff position.
Overtime and Shootouts
The Detroit Red Wings have the second-most overtime/shootout losses on the season with 14—only the Chicago Blackhawks have more (15).
It is important to take into account the shootout is not a part of postseason play. However, it is integral in qualifying for the postseason and any extra time has been Detroit’s Achilles’ heel.
Detroit is also just 4-6 during the five-minute overtime session. While it isn’t a bad record, it held a third-period lead in four of the six losses.
In a time when every point is crucial, the Red Wings have struggled to earn the second. Netting the extra point in just one of those six overtime losses would give them the seventh seed in the East, a one-point lead over Columbus, Toronto and Washington, and an additional regulation/overtime win.
It’s been a brutal situation to endure, but for Detroit to still be in the playoff hunt shows its determination and will.
We’ll soon find out if the Red Wings have enough in the tank to take care of business.