This past week the Detroit Red Wings (19-14-10) completed the first half of 2013-14 NHL season. While it has been a rough season so far, the Wings still occupy an Eastern Conference wildcard spot and sit 4th in the Atlantic Division.
If the season ended today, the Red Wings would face off against the reigning Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. As daunting as that sounds, the Wings are 2-1-0 against the B’s this season.
Since we have hit the halfway point I decided to try something different. Instead of my usual plus/minus report (where I break down the past week of Red Wings’ hockey), I have graded the Red Wings through the first 43 games of the season for a new segment I would like to call the “Report Card.”
Henrik Zetterberg (A), Pavel Datsyuk (A-), Daniel Alfredsson (A-)
It’s no surprise to see the first two names at the top of the class. Alfredsson, on the other hand, has really surprised me this season. I didn’t think Alfie would have had this much impact on the team at 41 years old. He has played in more games than Zetterberg and Datsyuk and statistically ranks right behind the Euro Twins in goals and points.
Datsyuk and Alfredsson get minuses because Zetterberg has been the best forward all season. He is the only Wing to have more points than games played. And yes, I’m one of those harsh graders. Hank is the only Red Wing that deserves an A because of his consistent play and leadership on and off the ice.
Gustav Nyquist (B+), Justin Abdelkader (B), Darren Helm (B), Tomas Tatar (B), Johan Franzen (B-)
5 players are coming away with B’s. Nyquist could have easily obtained an A if he wasn’t added to the class so late into the season. He was the missing offensive playmaker the Wings needed. His stats aren’t great but the Wings have been a different team since he rejoined them on November 21st.
Next up are the pair of speedsters, Abdelkader and Helm. Both have executed their roles well (not great). Justin’s physical presence is missed at times and Darren just needs to stay healthy. If they can do that I expect both to get A’s at the end of the season.
Wannabe Datsyuk, aka Tomas Tatar, is either flying around the ice showing off his fancy moves or is getting hammered against the boards. The small Czechoslovakian has the potential to be great but his inexperience does show at times. Regardless, he is fun to watch because there is just no quit in him. So, while a B may be a bit generous, he is the teacher’s favorite student.
That leaves Johan Franzen who just made the cut. His productivity in front of the net can’t be overlooked as he is the creator of opportunities. By screening goalies and collecting rebounds, Franzen proves to be a valuable cog in the offensive system. His 9 goals rank him fourth best on the team behind our three A students (Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Alfredsson).
Joakim Andersson (C+), Drew Miller (C+), Todd Bertuzzi (C), Daniel Clearly (C-)
The 4 players listed here have two things in common. 1. No consistency. 2. Have little to no (or even negative) impact on games at times. In other words, they have struggled to fulfill their roles.
Stephen Weiss (D+), Mikael Samuelsson (D+)
The only explanation that seems fitting here is that they have both almost failed at being helpful on the ice at all. Whether that’s from injuries or not getting enough playing time it comes out as the same grade.
Credit – Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening
Incomplete/Dropped – Cory Emmerton, Jordin Tootoo, Patrick Eaves, Riley Sheahan
Niklas Kronwall (A), Jonathan Ericsson (A-)
Standout defensemen are hard to come by and the Wings are lucky they have two of them. Kronwall and Ericsson lead the team in average ice time, bolster the two best +/- ratings for the defense, and are often paired up with the guys below that only have a year or two of NHL experience.
Performing at a high level and tutoring, that easily deserves an A from me.
Danny DeKeyser (B+), Jakob Kindl (B), Brian Lashoff (B) Brendan Smith (B-)
Inexperience is the key reason why these 4 players will end up with B’s. It’s a work in progress. Hopefully the mental mistakes and bad turnovers are limited as they continue to grow.
Kyle Quincey (C+)
Not trying to pick on Quincey but he often makes the same mistakes as the guys above him and he is 28 years old. He has also been in the league for 8 years now. Inexperience can’t be an excuse any more at this point. It’s like saying your dog ate your homework.
Incomplete/Dropped – Adam Alqvist, Xavier Ouellet, Alexei Marchenko
Jonas Gustavsson (A-), Jimmy Howard (B), Petr Mrazek (Dropped)
If Alfredsson wasn’t the biggest surprise from the first half of the season then it has to be Jonas Gustavsson. His record of 11-3-2 shines when compared to Jimmy Howard’s 7-9-8. He is the backup taking every opportunity handed to him. Howard now has to find his “A” game if he wants to continue being the regular starter instead of splitting reps with The Monster.
Lastly, before I get to the Red Wings upcoming games this week, the mid-term grade for Mike Babcock, the coaching staff, and the front office. Without hesitation I give them all an A.
They have had their hands full all season long with injuries, contract dilemmas, and developing chemistry between the players within the chaos. High praise has to be given to the staff and management to still be in a playoff spot after everything the Wings have endured this season.
Three games in four days this week. Here is what’s ahead along with my predictions:
January 9: @ San Jose Sharks
10:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (27-11-6) 2nd Pacific Division, 4th Western Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Oct. 21, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 0 – Sharks 1 in a shootout
Prediction: The Wings enter this game on a 4 day layoff. I expected them to be a bit rusty. Sharks 3 – Red Wings 1.
January 11: @ Los Angeles Kings
10:30PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (26-13-5) 3rd Pacific Division, 5th Western Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Apr. 24, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 3 – Kings 1
Prediction: The most winnable game on the schedule this week. However I have strange feeling the extra time predicament comes into play once again. Kings 2 – Red Wings 1 in a shootout.
January 12: @ Anaheim Ducks
8:00PM EST on Fox Sports Detroit
Standings: (32-8-5) 1st Pacific Division, 1st Western Conference
Last Meeting against the Red Wings: Dec. 17, 2013 at Detroit/Red Wings 2 – Ducks 5
Prediction: The Ducks have a 19 game point streak and are 17-0-2 at home. So, I pick the Wings to lose right? Wrong. These are the games that Detroit sports teams just find a way to win. It doesn’t make much sense but I have been around long enough to understand that’s how it works. Ducks 2 – Red Wings 3.
The first west coast trip of the season is finally upon us and it’s going to be an extremely tough test.
Are the Red Wings going to rise to the challenge or crumble under the pressure?
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