There is a lot of great hockey writing out there, probably. I mean, you hear about transcendent books like Ken Dryden’s “The Game,” or about Red Fisher’s legendary gamers for the Montreal Gazette, but I’ve never read them because I’m not 100 years old. This is the digital age, my dawgs and dawgettes, and as a result we need cutting-edge hot sports takes and we need ‘em 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365.25 days a year. That’s just how the game be.
Which is why we need writers like Craig Remsburg. “Who is Craig Remsburg?” you ask. How dare you. Remsburg is among the one or two greatest hockey writers and thinkers of our day (present company INcluded), and if you need evidence, I would direct you to the magnum opus penned for the Marquette, Michigan Mining Journal on Feb. 3, in the year of our Lord 2013.
The piece, entitled “Red Wings need quality forward,” masterfully breaks down the myriad problems with Detroit’s beloved hockey team, currently just third in the division with nine points from eight games. This is obviously uncomfortable territory for the team from Hockeytown, given that they’ve made the playoffs in each of the last several billion NHL seasons, and as the title implies, Remsburg has nailed down exactly what the problem is.
While watching the Detroit Red Wings lose 2-1 in overtime to the Chicago Blackhawks last Sunday, I came away with a realization.
The week’s interval between when that game took place and this article was published matters not at all. Consider, the day before this rolled off the presses, the Wings also lost to Columbus — which doesn’t even have a goaltender on the roster — by a score of 4-2. And sure, sandwiched between those two deeply embarrassing and terrible losses were a pair of wins (4-1 over Dallas and 5-3 over St. Louis) that I’m sure we can all agree are total flukes, indicative of nothing but the simple fact that sometimes the bounces all go your way. But anyway, as to the realization itself:
The Wings lack at least two things: (1) a quality defenseman now that Nicklas Lidstrom retired and (2) a skilled forward.
At least! The defenseman issue is, of course, territory that has been so well-trod that there’s actually a footpath with a walking tour led by Helene St. James. You can’t go into a season with Niklas Kronwall and a mop as your top two defensemen, but Detroit is nothing if not inventive in its pursuit of new and interesting ways to try to squeeze into the playoffs.
The skilled forward issue, though, is what separates Cremsburg from allegedly well-connected idiots like Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun, who claim they know what icing is but I suspect are just making it up. Think about it. If the Red Wings had enough skilled forwards, would they have lost to Chicago 2-1 a week ago? Of course not. This is the true hole in Holland’s team-building efforts over the last several seasons. While he was off doing who-knows-what in getting a team of 39-year-olds into the playoffs every single year, the number of impactful, skilled forwards on his roster dwindled appreciably. Now, the bitter fruit of his years of noneffort are laid bare.
Lidstrom’s retirement was expected and you just can’t replace a player with his talent overnight - if ever. He’s unquestionably bound for the NHL Hall of Fame.
Totally true, which is why Ken Holland didn’t even really try to replace him. And for those wondering where the NHL Hall of Fame is, only true hockey geniuses like Cremsburg are given that kind of information. That’s why Friedman and LeBrun and that moron Craig Custance only know about the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Wings tried to sign free agent defenseman Ryan Suter in the offseason to help fill the void left by Lidstrom. They made Suter a substantial offer, but he decided to sign with the Minnesota Wild.
Another classic Holland misstep. Why even pursue someone, much less give him a substantial offer, if the guy’s just gonna sign with Minnesota of all places? Dumb. Is Suter even a skilled forward? Cremsburg says right there that he’s a defenseman, so obviously he’s not. Are the Wings even trying any more?
Needing a skilled forward, though, has kind of snuck up on the Wings the past couple of years. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are star players, of course, but aren’t in the same class as Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos or Patrick Kane, to cite three examples.
There is of course an appreciable difference between star players, which Datsyuk and Zetterberg obviously are, and Star Players. Crosby, Stamkos and Kane — whose one shot in that 2-1 overtime game was as impactful as they come without actually going in the net — are the kind of players the Red Wings need. They may not literally grow on trees, as guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg do (my Eric Staal bushes came in very nicely last spring), but they’re not really all that hard to acquire. All you have to do is finish in the bottom five in the league and win the draft lottery. Why hasn’t Holland thought of this? To wit:
Datsyuk has never scored more than 32 goals (2008-09) in a season for the Wings or notched more than 97 points (twice, 2007-08 and 2008-09).
Zetterberg’s high total for goals is 43 (2007-08) and points is 92 (same season).
If you’re looking at it logically and rationally, that just isn’t good enough. Career highs of 32 and 43 goals, set most recently in 2008-09? Stamkos had 60 goals last season! Sid Crosby once scored 52! Patrick Kane’s career high is a whopping 30! Datsyuk and Zetterberg just can’t measure up. And as to the point, well, 97 and 92 are all well and good, but are they as good as Crosby’s career-high 120, or Stamkos’s 97, or Kane’s 88? Clearly, they are not. The fact that Detroit’s “star” forwards can even cash their game checks with a straight face is disgusting.
Notice it has been several years since the two turned in top-notch seasons, indicating both may be on the downswing of their careers.
This is such a great point. The 2008-09 season was, like, 10 years ago. These creaky old players just don’t have it any more. Holland really should have taken them out behind Joe Louis Arena and put two in their heads the second they turned 30; they’re just not useful players any more. Zetterberg’s 12 points in eight games this year? Smoke and mirrors. Datsyuk’s 10? A product of his linemates. And don’t even get Cremburg started on the other bums on this Detroit roster.
Valtteri Filppula should be in his prime at age 28, but has never scored more than 23 goals (2011-12) or 66 points (same season).
Exactly. What’s Filppula’s problem? Everyone knows when you’re 28, that’s when you’re at your best as a hockey player. There’s tons of math to back that up. Bing it. And if he’s only churning out 23 and 66 for career highs in his Age-27 season, then what are we even doing here? It’s pathetic. Six points in eight games? Just send him off to the Blue Jackets for a seventh-round pick now.
Aging players Johan Franzen and Todd Bertucci can score a few goals, but both are streaky.
Franzen’s eight points in eight games are totally the result of just such a streak. Watch him go like, I don’t know, two or even three games without a point somewhere in the near future. And as for Todd Bertucci, he’s so insignificant that I can’t even find him on the Red Wings’ website. If this guy was on my roster, I would also be too embarrassed to let anyone know about him.
The Wings have a lot of role players like Patrick Eaves, Drew Miller, Dan Cleary, Darren Helm (when healthy), Justin Abdelkader and Cory Emmerton. They even picked up Jordin Tootoo in the offseason, whose sole value is to be physical and combative.
Other role players the Red Wings have include Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Filppula, Franzen and Bertucci, whom Bing reveals to be some sort of restaurant magnate. What did he do? Buy his way onto the roster to live out some sort of embarrassing life goal? No wonder he doesn’t have a page on Hockey-Reference.com
But the team needs another skilled forward, someone who can turn on the red light with regularity, collect a lot of assists and make his linemates better.
Have the Red Wings even thought about trying to sign Evgeni Malkin? That guy is great. Just an unbelievable hockey player. He won the Hart Trophy last year as the league’s MVP. When’s the last time you could say that about a Red Wing? You have to go all the way back to 1994, when Sergei Federov won it. Embarrassing. The Red Wings deserve players of that quality, and they just don’t have them.
He would also provide another offensive problem for an opponent now bent on stopping largely Datsyuk and Zetterberg.
Man, that’s another factor Holland and Mike Babcock haven’t even considered. If you only have two lines with guys who are capable of putting up a point a game, how are you going to exploit the other team’s third defensive pairing for the 12 minutes they’re on the ice every night? That’s where games are won and lost. I’d say it’s like Holland isn’t even trying, but…
The Wings attempted to sign that player during the summer, offering free agent Zach Parise a ton of money. But he, too, decided to go to the Wild.
The god damned Minnesota Wild. They sign all the great players, and that’s why the Red Wings barely even have the same record as them in the standings right now. They’re the team getting the Suters and Parises of the world, leaving the Red Wings (and honestly the rest of the NHL) totally bereft of signable impact talent. Zetterberg and Datsyuk cannot hope to come close to Parise’s career highs of 45 goals and 94 points, both set as recently as 2008-09. His 5-4-9 in eight games this season shows his true talent.
Rookie Damien Brunner holds a lot of promise for the Wings. But he might not reach stardom for at least 3-4 seasons and by that time, Datsyuk and Zetterberg might experience declining production due to their age.
Another great point. Brunner, 26, might have six points in his first eight NHL games, but he definitely needs another three or four years to reach stardom, at the very least. If he does at all. By the time he’s 29 or 30, he’ll be on Datsyuk and Zetterberg’s level. But they’ll be retired or, more likely, dead by then. What’s even the point?
Lacking another quality forward is not entirely the Wings’ fault, though they might have been more aggressive in the free agent market 2-3 years ago to address what team officials must have known was going to be a need.
He’s absolutely right. If you keep giving Franzen, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, and Lidstrom big-money contracts every year, rather than letting those guys walk so you can pursue the Crosbys, Stamkoses and Kanes who hit the open market, you’re really playing with fire. Sure, you make the playoffs every year, but you only go to the Stanley Cup Final twice, and only win it once. Remarkably shortsighted.
The Wings have been one of the best teams in the NHL for so long, they’ve rarely - if ever - have had a draft choice in the top 20, let alone the top 10.
Shame on Remsburg’s editors for letting this paragraph to slip through without the appropriate punctuation to denote that this is sarcasm. Clearly, this kind of excuse-making will fly around the front offices at the Joe, but here, in the real world, it’s hogwash. All of it. The Penguins have a ton of really great players they themselves drafted, and it seems like they’re in the playoffs every year. I also seem to remember them winning a Cup. Against who? Oh I don’t know, a little team called the DETROIT RED WINGS? We’re really through the looking glass here. One team is going up, one down, and if you need more hints to guess which is which, then I guess you should call up the Red Wings immediately. Ken Holland has a job for yet another dunce.
The organization has done a remarkable job drafting top players (e.g., Datsyuk and Zetterberg) in the late rounds. But they’ve never been able to select that one forward who would make a difference for years.
Why Detroit can’t pluck guys like Crosby, Stamkos, Kane, Suter, or Parise in the late rounds, and they have to settle from mere “star players” like Datsyuk and Zetterberg shows the real problem here. If the Red Wings’ scouts were so good, wouldn’t they just get that kind of Star Player no problem regardless of where they were drafted? Obviously they would.
I don’t see the Wings in the Stanley Cup finals this spring, as the squad seems to be in a transition period.
But it needs to somehow pick up a quality center or winger soon to keep the team among the elite for the next few years.
What a way to sum it up. The Red Wings have some serious roster holes looming in the near future, and every one of them is up front. You can’t replace Lidstrom, so it’s fine that Holland barely even tried. But not getting Parise, or someone of his ilk, is inexcusable. Detroit can enjoy three, maybe four more years of being really, really, really good. After that, they might simply become really, really good. And hockey geniuses like Craig Remsburg just can’t abide that.
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