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Detroit Red Wings: Coach Mike Babcock Getting Buy-In from Players

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst INovember 14, 2009

DETROIT - OCTOBER 10:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings looks on during the game against the Washington Capitals on October 10, 2009 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

For a coach, having a depth of talent on your roster is sometimes a curse.

Trying to preach attention to detail and defensive awareness to a team that knows, on most nights, they're going to bury the opposition in goals is a tough task.

Your words often fall on deaf ears.

Last season, the Red Wings knew their firepower was unmatched in the league.

Boasting Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Marian Hossa, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Brian Rafalski; last year's team new they were going to outscore their opponents almost every night, it was just a matter of who and how many.

This year, however, head coach Mike Babcock knew that, for now, those days were over.

With the loss of several offensive weapons over the summer, Babcock told the media and the team that, winning this year was only going to happen if the team committed to playing a defensive game and dedicated themselves to "grinding out" wins.

This was true to be sure, but, Detroit still had three world-class offensive players in Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Franzen and solid secondary forwards such as Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi and Jason Williams.

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Surely, they wouldn't score as much but they still had enough guys who could put the puck in the net.

How quickly this changed.

Nearly two months into the season, Franzen, Filppula, and Williams are sidelined with serious injuries and with them, a heafty amount of offensive potential.

However, after a pedestrian start to the season (5-4-3), the Red Wings have won five of their last six games and have done it by playing the game Mike Babcock said they needed to at the start of the season.

During this stretch, the Red Wings have limited their goals against to nine and have scored 20.

By playing a strong, defensively sound, team-game, the Wings have found success, just like Mike Babcock said they would.

Getting back to the numbers, it is important to note that five of those nine goals against came in the Wings embarrassingly disastrous loss to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday.

The Red Wings came out flat, disinterested and unorganized and the game was over almost before it began.

Last season, the Wings might very well have won under those circumstances.

Several of their wins were of the 5-4, 7-6 variety.

But this season, and especially with their current roster losses, the Wings don't have the offensive depth to recover from a bad start.

Nothing succeeds like success, and with the Wings' current run of it, they're realizing that the best offense is a good defense.

Mike Babcock's message to his team that playing a sound, simple, defensive game is the only way to win has been well received.

This is evidenced by defense men getting the puck up and out, rather than going for the high-risk pass in the defensive zone.

Forwards, to a man, back-checking hard and finishing checks.

Most importantly, the goaltending has improved tremendously since the start of the season.

The fact that, allowing just three goals will likely lose the game for your team is beginning to sink in.

What's more, Mike Babcock has called out some of the younger players on the team and they've responded well.

At various points, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader and Ville Leino have been healthy scratches and Babcock has made no equivocation as to why; they weren't playing well enough defensively.

As a result, these three have all improved their defensive and offensive games and have made the most of the ice-time they've been given since.

This isn't always the case.

Getting called out by your coach doesn't always result in improved play, unless you agree with his assessment and buy into his system.

This is what has started to happen in Detroit.

Most coaches talk a good game, few get their players to listen.

As evidenced by their play over the past few weeks, Mike Babcock's team is all ears.

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