Well, I started writing this as Andreas Athanasiou scored a game-winner on a breakaway in OT against the Ottawa Senators. Maybe it’s a mildly positive curse, but dear God I hope not. The Red Wings aren’t good.
I genuinely went into this season thinking the Wings had a somewhat decent shot at the playoffs this year. Athanasiou had another year under his belt, Mantha would get to play in the NHL for the entire season, and Dylan Larkin would likely come back with a vengeance. On top of one of Evgeny Svechnikov, Tyler Bertuzzi, or Martin Frk getting the final roster spot with the Wings, I had high expectations for this team, speaking relatively of course.
However, breaking news, 3 players can’t carry you in hockey. They just can’t. Maybe a goalie? But even then, probably only if your name is Carey Price. Now, that’s not to say they’re unable to make a big difference. Double A scored twice tonight, Jan. 3, putting him at 8 goals on the year to pair with 7 assists, good for 15 points in 29 games as he’s on pace to put up a career-high 37 points. Larkin, my God has he stepped up after his sophomore slump, now leading the team in points with 33 in 39 games, and beating his total of 32 from all of last season. Larkin’s on pace to have 69 points, assuming he plays every game this season. Mantha’s put up solid numbers with 25 points in 37 games, on pace for 54 points assuming he doesn’t miss another game.
This team isn’t anywhere near good enough contend for a playoff spot, let alone for a Stanley Cup. There is obviously the argument of, “Any given game,” however, this team isn’t good enough to win 4 games out of 7 against any NHL team except maybe the Coyotes, and even then they’d find a way to lose. Having Jeff Blashill at the helm just adds another level of uncertainty. At any time he can decide to bench a young player for a mistake, whereas a veteran could make the exact same mistake and not get any form of punishment because they’ve effectively built up enough credit. I think we can all agree that this entire concept is ludicrous, but that’s neither here nor there.
At the end of the day, Jeff Blashill will likely be the head coach of this hockey team until the end of the season. However, that may not be the worst thing. Blashill, in my eyes, is somewhat similar to Jim Caldwell. Caldwell’s job in Detroit, whether fans realize it or not, was to get the Lions to be a fringe-playoff team. While Jeff Blashill’s job, quite clearly, isn’t to get this team to the playoffs, it almost has the feeling that he’s supposed to keep the team in mediocrity, or a straight up dumpster fire, to acquire better draft picks. And that’s not to say that this is some master plan of the organization and Jeff Blashill is some brilliant hockey coach that’s doing this to help the team. No. Blashill isn’t a good hockey coach, but I almost feel that that may have been why he was hired. Clearly, the roster isn’t talented enough to make the playoffs, especially after Pavel Datsyuk ‘retired’ to go play hockey in Russia to be closer to family. Though, some part of me wants to think this was some elaborate scheme to get the team some monumental talent.
This is the year to do so. This is the year for Kenny Holland to do his magical trade deadline deals to fleece first-round picks from teams. Wings fans may not like Holland, but there’s no denying that he’s a bit of a trade artist. I’ve already talked about trading Mike Green, Gustav Nyquist, and Jimmy Howard or Petr Mrazek for prospects and/or picks. But now I go a little deeper. It was suggested to me a few days ago, by @askrohan, that Frans Nielsen could be an interesting piece to trade. Granted, he has a full-blown No-Move Clause, he wouldn’t want to spend the dying days of his career on a rebuilding team, it’s just common sense. Even more so because Nielsen’s yet to win a Stanley Cup in his career, you have to think that he’s going to want to win one by the time he’s done. Holland may very well be able to net anywhere from a first-round pick, to a third-rounder plus a prospect if he plays his cards right. On top of trading Frans Nielsen, dare I say it may be time to trade Henrik Zetterberg. He’s my favorite player, but he’s getting old and hasn’t necessarily played well this season, so it may be time. He’s got a larger contract, and that’d be the big issue. But what does a team give in return for someone like Henrik Zetterberg? The man’s on the wrong side of 35, and has an awful contract. I think I’d be pleased with a second-rounder, or a third plus a lower end prospect.
I won’t spend time going into anymore trades until we’re closer to the deadline, but the Wings will definitely be a team to watch come that time. With the rebuild being inevitable, and having a decent amount of mildly-valuable players to trade away, teams will, at the very least, make a phone call.
If the Wings keep winning (they’re only on a three-game win streak right now so don’t get your hopes up too much), let it be known that it throws a wrench into a lot of ideas because, well, Ken Holland.