Off-Season Game Plan: Detroit Red Wings

Off-Season Game Plan: Detroit Red Wings

The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs for the 25th straight season, but lost in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year.

Off-Season Game Plan looks at a Red Wings roster that is due for a youth movement, and circumstances this summer might force that plan into effect.

As the season wound down, there were reports that Red Wings star centre Pavel Datsyuk would be heading back to Russia next season, even though he still has one year left on his deal with Detroit.

Since that time, there has been some waffling, with Datsyuk's agent insisting that a final decision has not been reached, even while there are reports that Datsyuk has been offered a deal by SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. Even at 37, Datsyuk is the Red Wings' best player, so if he leaves, there will undoubtedly be a hole in the lineup. Worse, if he leaves with one year left on his contract, and the Wings can't find a way to get it off the cap, then that will limit the options available to the Wings in their attempts to replace Datsyuk.

Age is catching up to other Red Wings veterans as well. Johan Franzen isn't likely to play again and Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall have seen their effectiveness wane. Combined with the Datsyuk situation, it sure looks like it's time for the Red Wings to get serious about looking to the future.

It's easy enough to see that Dylan Larkin, Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist can be significant players as the Red Wings move forward, but even so, they appear to be a team that could be good enough to make the playoffs and not much more.

HOCKEY OPS/COACH

Ken Holland/Jeff Blashill
 

The status of Pavel Datsyuk could very well force Detroit's hand when it comes to rebuilding. If, as rumoured, he returns to Russia to play with SKA St. Petersburg, and the Red Wings can't find a way to unload the last year of Datsyuk's deal, that ought to prompt a more serious rebuilding effort. But, there has been enough noise that the decision has not been made yet, so perhaps there is still a chance that he plays one more season for Detroit.

Even though last season brought Datsyuk's lowest points per game (0.74) since his rookie season, he remains an elite possession player coming off a year with poor percentages.

Henrik Zetterberg's goal-scoring has declined quite dramatically in recent seasons, but more troubling is that he was a negative relative possession player despite a tilt towards offensive zone face-offs last season. Age catches up to all, and if 35-year-old Zetterberg is declining, it would be all the more reason for the Wings to look to go younger.

Oddly enough, 25-year-old winger Tomas Tatar saw his ice time cut by nearly two minutes per game compared to 2014-2015, yet he remains a productive performer, who is both an efficient scorer and strong possession player. The Wings may want to give those couple minutes back to Tatar.

Dylan Larkin faded down the stretch as a rookie, but has a chance to be star.

19-year-old Dylan Larkin stepped into the Detroit lineup and was a breath of fresh air, a strong skater and productive scorer from the get-go, but he faded down the stretch, managing seven points (5 G, 2 A) in his last 28 games. He's an integral piece of the Red Wings' future.

Gustav Nyquist isn't going to be the game-breaker who scored 28 goals in 57 games in 2013-2014, but the skilled winger saw his goal and shot production dip last season, in part because of reduced power play effectiveness compared to the previous year.

A hard-hitting winger who has contributed more offensively in the past couple of seasons, Justin Abdelkader continues to play more for the Red Wings. He's a solid player, but it's fair to wonder whether the Wings are best served by increasing Abdelkader's role while decreasing the ice time of Tatar and Nyquist.

Over the past two seasons, 240 forwards have played at least 1500 5-on-5 minutes and none of them have worse relative possession numbers than Luke Glendening. He's obviously used in a defensive role, but how effective can he be if he's spending so much time in the defensive zone?

A skilled forward who spent half a season with the Red Wings, Andreas Athanasiou didn't get much ice time, but made the most of it, recording the best goals per 60 minutes among forwards to play at least 300 5-on-5 minutes. He benefitted from shooting 17.0% and had struggled possession-wise, but Athanasiou may be more skilled than any forward averaging just nine minutes of ice time per game.

It looked like Tomas Jurco made a breakthrough a couple of seasons ago, when he had 15 points in 36 games as a rookie, but he's been relegated to spare part duty over the past couple of seasons, scoring seven goals in 107 games.

Limited to just two games last season, after suffering another concussion, 36-year-old Johan Franzen seems most likely to take a spot on long-term injured reserve for the rest of his contract, which runs for four more seasons.

24-year-old Riley Sheahan wasn't quite as effective last season as he had been in his first season-and-a-half in the league, though his 14 goals represented a career high. He easily fits into the top nine, but the jury is still out on whether he can produce enough offence to fill a top-six role.

Though he has just 11 goals in 70 career games, Teemu Pulkkinen does have some offensive upside - he scored 48 goals in 62 AHL (regular season and playoff) games in 2014-2015 - but he has been unable to secure a consistent spot in the Detroit lineup.

As the Wings look to upgrade their offence, they have some options. They've been mentioned as a likely suitor for Russian winger Alexander Radulov, who has piled up 492 points in 391 KHL games.

Maybe adding Radulov and finding a regular spot for 6-foot-5 winger Anthony Mantha would give the Wings enough firepower to keep their playoff streak alive. With a little maneuvering under the cap, Detroit could take a run at a top-tier free agent like Steven Stamkos.
 

The Red Wings focused Mike Green on the attack, with a heavy dose of offensive zone face-offs, and he was effective on the power play, scoring 20 of his 35 points with the man advantage but, considering that he's pulling $6-million per year against the cap, it's strange to see him playing fewer than 20 minutes per game.

Detroit has defensive questions and that includes Niklas Kronwall, whose plays has declined in recent seasons.

While Niklas Kronwall is the number one on Detroit's defensive depth chart, his play has been sliding in the past couple of seasons. That downward trend is troubling because Kronwall is 35-years-old and still has three more years remaining on his contract.

Brendan Smith hasn't been able to lock down a regular spot in the Detroit lineup, despite putting up strong possession numbers. The 27-year-old would seem to be at least a solid No. 5, and if it's not in Detroit, then perhaps Smith would have value on the trade market.

Although he tied a career-high with 15 points last season, Jonathan Ericsson continued to get beat-up in terms of possession, and his ice time was his lowest since 2011-2012. If that's a sign that the Red Wings are recognizing Ericsson's shortcomings, they're still left trying to figure out how to handle his role for another four seasons.

Danny DeKeyser averaged a career-high 21:48 per game last season, his third straight season playing more than 20 minutes per game, but he also spent too much time in his own end of the rink. The restricted free agent is going to get a raise, but last season's results might suggest a conservative approach to his new deal.

24-year-old Alexey Marchenko made his mark as a rookie, earning more playing time as the year progressed, and he had mixed results depending on his partner. At one end of the spectrum, Marchenko had a 54.8 CF% when paired with Smith, and 46.1 CF% when partnered with DeKeyser.

It's conceivable that Detroit will have enough talent up front to be competitive again next season, but their defence does present problems. If the Red Wings are going to be more than a playoff bubble team, they probably need to find a way to land a top-pair defenceman and that's not easy. On the free agent market, that might mean trying to convince Brian Campbell that a short-term deal in Detroit would present him with a chance to win (and the Wings may not have a particularly compelling case in that situation). Otherwise, they may just need to find good value depth.


The Wings are in a tough spot with Jimmy Howard. Over the past three seasons, he has a .909 save percentage, ranking 29th out of 33 goaltenders that have appeared in at least 100 games in that time. He's still under contract for three more seasons and the only way that Detroit might get out from under that contract will likely involve a trade with salary retention, if that's even possible.

Petr Mrazek had usurped Howard as the Red Wings' starter in net, but then collapsed down the stretch, posting a .886 save percentage in his last 16 appearances. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old has a promising future (and present) as Detroit's starting goaltender.

Anthony Mantha

RW

60

21

24

45

+13

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Evgeny Svechnikov

LW

50

32

47

79

+26

Cape Breton (QMJHL)

Xavier Ouellet

D

61

4

25

29

+18

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Tyler Bertuzzi

LW

71

12

18

30

+7

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Dylan Sadowy

LW

64

45

25

70

+17

Barrie (OHL)

Axel Holmstrom

LW

48

8

15

23

-3

Skelleftea (SHL)

Joe Hicketts

D

59

8

53

61

+38

Victoria (WHL)

Robbie Russo

D

71

5

34

39

+40

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Tomas Nosek

C

70

15

15

30

+13

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Ryan Sproul

D

75

12

23

35

0

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Jared Coreau

G

47

.922

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Vili Saarijarvi

D

59

12

31

43

-15

Flint (OHL)

Dominic Turgeon

C

72

36

34

70

+14

Portland (WHL)

Martin Frk

RW

67

27

17

44

0

Grand Rapids (AHL)

Mitch Callahan

RW

62

19

13

32

+3

Grand Rapids (AHL)


DRAFT

16th - Kieffer Bellows, Charlie McAvoy, Dante Fabbro

FREE AGENCY

The Red Wings have approximately $55.5M committed to the 2016-2017 salary cap for 15 players.

NEEDS

Three top-six forwards, one top-pair defenceman

WHAT I SAID THE RED WINGS NEEDED LAST YEAR

One top-six forward, one top-four defenceman

THEY ADDED

Dylan Larkin, Mike Green

TRADE MARKET

Tomas Jurco, Teemu Pulkkinen, Brendan Smith, Jimmy Howard

(projected line-ups include projected acquisitions)

Much of the data included comes from www.war-on-ice.comcorsica.hockeystats.hockeyanalysis.com www.hockey-reference.com, www.naturalstattrick.comwww.generalfanager.com and www.capfriendly.com.

Scott Cullen can be reached at [email protected]

Source : http://www.tsn.ca/off-season-game-plan-detroit-red-wings-1.500554

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