Detroit Red Wings Need to Start Preparing for Pavel Datsyuk's Departure Now

Isaac SmithAnalyst IApril 4, 2015

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk (13) celebrates scoring a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Detroit Red Wings fans and players have all respectfully enjoyed watching and playing with "The Magician" Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit for the past 13 seasons.

While Red Wings fans seem to be focused on the 24 straight years of making the playoffs (and rightfully so, as it is the longest such streak in North American professional sports), another problem looms on the horizon.

Although Datsyuk is still under contract in Detroit for another two seasons, the Red Wings' play over the past month has been indicative of what playing with an injured—or retiredDatsyuk can and will be like in the future.

It seems to have been one heart-wrenching loss after another in March, and the Red Wings managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in their game against the Bruins as well, but the bigger—and much more noticeable void—in the game against the Bruins was the absence of Pavel Datsyuk.

While most players have to play in 75 or more games to have an outside shot at exceeding 50 points in a season, Datsyuk has played in just 59 games this season yet has 60 points for his efforts. 

Although his age will eventually be a downside, Datsyuk is still playing 19 minutes per night against the other team's top competition.

Let's return to the fact that Datsyuk is only guaranteed to be here for another two seasons after this one. With the Red Wings' playoff streak hanging in the balance this season, and the team seemingly regressing from its early success, Datsyuk could decide to head home if he feels that the Wings' window to win has closed.

But enough of the circumstantial theories.

The fact of the matter is that Red Wings GM Ken Holland has work to do.

When Datsyuk re-signed in Detroit in the 2013 offseason, Holland told the Canadian Press that "It's a great day for the Red Wings...he's is a world-class player and there are no moves I can make to find players like Pavel Datsyuk."

There is just nothing like watching The Magician at work. It is just something that brings a smile to the faces of hockey fans and writers alike. But how many more years will Datsyuk grace Detroit with his presence and who will Holland bring in afterwards?
There is just nothing like watching The Magician at work. It is just something that brings a smile to the faces of hockey fans and writers alike. But how many more years will Datsyuk grace Detroit with his presence and who will Holland bring in afterwards?Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While accurate in his assertion that there are no moves that he could make to find players like Datsyuk, Holland still needs to find a future No. 1 center. And since the "Stephen Weiss as No. 2 center" signing hasn't worked out as planned, Detroit is in an even deeper hole than originally planned.

Nothing against Ken Holland—he has brought the Wings three Stanley Cups as GM (and another as Assistant GM)—but the first two were largely the products of his predecessor's work, the third was the product of Hall-of-Fame players and the fourth was simply a dominant team assembled by Holland.

In essence, Ken Holland may not have a trade to find a player like Datsyuk but, down the road, Ken Holland will need a player of at least similar offensive caliber as Datsyuk to keep the Wings competitive.

While there are few players who can even touch what Datsyuk still brings to the table despite turning 37 this year, Holland needs to be proactive in his search and not swing and miss as he did in attempting to bring in someone to fill Nick Lidstrom's large void.

The Wings have been fortunate in the draft of late, but they can't continue to rely on that means of building their team, especially without a true No. 1 center if the team doesn't want to use Henrik Zetterberg in that role going forward.

All statistics via NHL.com.

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