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Poll: Was 13-14 a fair representation of what Detroit was capable of?

Aug 27, 2014, 8:28 PM EST

Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg Getty Images

Detroit barely made the playoffs in 2013-14 and was promptly dismissed by the Boston Bruins in the first round. In terms of points percentage, it was the team’s worse season since Mike Babcock became the head coach and yet he was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. The reason for that isn’t hard to decipher.

The Red Wings had to overcome a lot just to get to the postseason. They set a franchise record with 421 man games lost due to injuries and it wasn’t just a question of the quantity of the injuries. Detroit’s top two players, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were each limited to 45 contests.

Starting goaltender Jimmy Howard, forward Johan Franzen, and free agent acquisition Stephen Weiss are just a few of the other players that spent a portion of the season on the sidelines.

Given all of that, were the Red Wings truly a merely average team last season as their record would suggest or were they a good squad that was simply unlucky? Injuries are part of the game and it’s assumed that every team will deal with some hardship over the course of the 82-game season, but when the amount of time players have spent on the sidelines becomes record-breaking, it’s hard to just dismiss it as business as usual.

At the same time, an argument can be made that the Red Wings were fortunate in other regards. Gustav Nyquist stepped up with an impressive 28 goals and 48 points in 57 games. It’s too early to know if he can replicate those results, but it certainly seems like he got hot at the right time.

This isn’t an entirely academic question. Whether or not Detroit was unlucky last season doesn’t change the result, but keep in mind that they’ll be entering the campaign with roughly the same roster. If you buy into the argument that Detroit underperformed in 2013-14, then it’s not unreasonable to make the leap that they are a serious candidate to do meaningfully better in 2014-15.

  1. withseidelinn - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    Yes they’re a playoff team (wildcard mind you). Defense is just nowhere near where it used to be, Howard isn’t performing where he is capable of, and Zetterberg/Datsyuk are aging. The latter 2 are still elite, but I don’t think they can produce 80-90 point seasons consistently anymore. If Howard gets back to where he was under the suspect defense, then they have a solid team. But goaltending and lack of D could really hurt them. Having said that, bright future ahead with all the talented rookies. May be 2-3 rocky years when the transition is in full swing, but I can’t see DET having to go through a full on rebuild.

    • phtjoey - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      really shouldn’t point call out the goalie in the same sentence as “defense is nowhere near where it used to be”

      • withseidelinn - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:32 PM

        They were both sub-par in their own right. But I agree Howard’s performance does depend on quality of defense to a degree.

  2. iammrbinky - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:05 PM

    Without a top-notch DMan you won’t win a Stanley Cup. Detroit is not only missing that component the defense in totality is just average.

    Agree they don’t full rebuild because they are loaded in Grand Rapids and are replacing aging vets slowly. Just a shame that with all that talent in GR, that missing DMan hasn’t stepped up yet.

  3. pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    Considering the incredible amount of man-games lost to their top-end talent, I argue that the Wings are a better team than their ’12-13 or ’13-14 results indicate. At least those injuries allowed our young players to step up and blossom, which allowed the Wings to shed some of the aged veterans on expiring contracts (Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, etc) and makes the return of Alfredsson less important than it might otherwise be (besides his right-handed shooting).

    If anything, I think the Wings are poised to be much better than they were the past two years this season – IF they can stay healthy. The combination of seasoned veteran stars and eager young stars should give the team good balance and swagger, and hopefully result in good times. But they gotta stay healthy. And if they do lose an exorbitant amount of man-games to injury again, someone needs to take a hard look at the strength and conditioning coaching going on, One year of that happens to everyone sooner or later; two years is a fluke; three years is a bad pattern.

    • polegojim - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:28 PM

      Good and valid points PW.

      It will be very good to see some of the youth coming up and performing, much as we’ve seen Danny accomplish over the past two years. ‘

      I believe Ouelett, Sproul, Marchenko will develop into a good NHL D-men, and ditto with Mrazek in goal.

      Truthfully… I’d be willing to sacrifice a 24th straight year of playoffs for getting some of these kids up to speed more quickly.

      • pwshrugged - Aug 27, 2014 at 11:40 PM

        I actually think the kids are what will keep the streak going – if it weren’t for the surge of youth last year, we don’t make 23.

        Ouellet has looked good in limited NHL playing time. Sproul and Marchenko I haven’t seen as much of. I’ve liked Mrazek a lot, and look forward to him backing up Jimmy.

        That said, some others here are lementing the lack of a top-tier D-man, but I think we have young men on the roster who will fill that. Kronwall is better than people realize if you look past his bone-crunching hits, and I think if he’s paired with DDK, they’d form a seriously imposing top D-line. I still like both Smith and Ericsson; neither is perfect, no, but they’re absolutely adequate as second-line defensemen. The last pairing is for trying stuff out – whether it’s more Quincey, or Kindl, or whoever. But really, the foursome of DDK/Kronner/Smith/Ericsson makes me confident. Losing Ericsson last season hurt a lot more than people realized; he’s become a much more complete defenseman over the last couple years.

        Health. It’s all about health. If we can avoid losing our top-tier talent for months on end, the team will be better. Not just because of that talent being there, but because of the consistency of having the same guys and same leaders present game-in, game-out. There was a LOT of shuffling last season.

  4. blomfeld - Aug 28, 2014 at 12:34 AM

    MAY GOD BLESS DETROIT’S ‘CHANCES’ IN GOING FORWARD …

    SIGNED, SC CHAMPION LA KING’S NATION !!! :) :) :)

    “these rustics are so inept, it almost take the honor out of victory” … Dean Lombardi

  5. deewmu - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:17 AM

    All great points. Yes we were injured, but forced our youngsters in the lineup and they did exactly what we’d hoped they would. We’d be way worse off if Sheehan, Gus, and Tatar came up and flopped or couldn’t adapt. Then they were thrown to the wolves in the physical play of the Bruins (good thing). But! Too much attention can be put on who our players are rather than how teams are playing us in the East. Even if we have a Vanek or another 20+ goal scorer in the lineup last year, it probably doesn’t make a difference. We need a “presence”!!! That’s why wings teams always seem to be missing something, and when we realize it, it’s usually curtains shortly after that. We get “exposed” and no Jack Adams finalislt or the euro twins can hide it. We need Ericsson to be physical, Kronwall to be Physical, and a solid 4th line that can skate and push on the opposing D. Cheers to 24!

  6. jolimon99 - Aug 28, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Injuries are not an excuse and all teams have them. The one thing always failed to mention in these articles is that the Wings over spent the cap last year and were forced to keep at least one player on the injured reserve list to comply. That explains 82 ‘injury’ games. The other significant injuries were to players who the Wings would rather not have in the lineup (or are now gone) anyway. (Samuelsson, Bertuzzi, Cleary). Weiss hasn’t played more than a few games in 2 seasons (going back to Florida) so his injuries are almost a given. Zetterberg and Datysuk are just plain getting old in hockey years. Even a healthy Wing team is just an average team. The players in Grand Rapids look to be solid 2nd or 3rd liners, which most teams have in their system as well. I almost wouldn’t be surprised if the Wings tank to try and get McDavid or Eichel to start the rebuild. That is really their best shot right now.

  7. redwingsfan101 - Aug 28, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    They have a solid number one dman in kronwall but don’t have enough talent to surround him

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