Mixed Emotions, Where Do Wings Go From Here?

It's only been done 3 times in NHL history. Detroit had the chance to make it four but the San Jose Sharks prevailed 3-2 in Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference Finals against Vancouver.

The game itself started terribly for Detroit. They were brutal in pretty much every department. San Jose took an early 2-0 lead, one on a horrendous giveaway by Henrik Zetterberg. He would eventually redeem himself with a goal in the second to make it 2-1. Detroit dominated the second outshooting San Jose 16-7. Patrick Marleau finally got a point when he shoveled a loose puck behind Jimmy Howard for a 3-1 lead in the third, but Pavel Datsyuk scored a sick backhander to make it a one goal game. The Wings had a few pushes but couldn't sustain any pressure.

I had a few problems with this game:

1. Win a faceoff. Detroit was horrible in the circles today.
2. Set up a powerplay. The entry wasn't good, and neither was the movement. It seemed like everyone was stagnant.
3. Giveaways/Odd man rushes. Just too many and a team like the Sharks will capitalize.

I have to give the Wings credit, they battled back from a 3-0 series deficit to tie the series. I guess they ran out of gas, plus Todd Bertuzzi and Dan Cleary went down with injuries. At the same time, I am rattled that they couldn't score more goals on Anti Niemi. To me, all the shots were right at him with not a lot of traffic. Jimmy Howard really impressed me this playoffs and I can't say anything bad about him.

Detroit's Playoff Three Stars:

1. Pavel Datsyuk: self explanatory
2. Jimmy Howard: proved he can make big saves and keep his team in the game
3. Darren Helm: he was the kick in the butt that the team needed sometimes

Where do the Wings go from here? It all depends on Nick Lidstrom. I hope to the heavens he stays another year, because the Wings are going to be in desperate need for a number one defenceman if he retires. Here are some guys I would get rid of if I was Ken Holland (some not likely, but it would benefit the team):

1. Kris Draper: If he doesn't retire, don't resign him. He was useless the whole year and there are some good kids waiting to play.
2. Jonathan Ericsson: For the love of God don't resign him. He's the worst defenceman in the league. His brain fart to good decision ratio is like 200:1. Doesn't hit, shoots like a six year old and can't skate. Get rid of him.
3. Brad Stuart: Same boat as Ericsson, except it's just his idiocy in his own end. I think he's the most overrated player on the team.
4. Dan Cleary: He just can't keep up anymore. He had his time, now it's time to move on.
5. Jiri Hudler: 2.9 million for this guy? Give me a break...
6. Mike Modano: The time has come to hang them up.
7. Chris Osgood: Same as Modano

So who do we replace them with? Guys that should be in there anyways:

1. Brendan Smith: They picked him in the first round, said he was the next number one defenceman. Give him some playing time.
2. Jan Mursak: Every time I saw him play he was a wrecking ball and has some good hands.
3. Tomas Tatar: This guy is going to be sick. Dirty mitts and some great skating. Needs to bulk up but that takes time. It happened with Datsyuk too.
4. Jakub Kindl: I know he was scratched the whole playoffs, but the guy is definitely better than Ericsson.
5. Gustav Nyquist: You don't usually get that many Hobey Baker finalists as prospects, so let him play.
6. Joey MacDonald: played great when called upon.

In essence, the Wings need more speed in the line-up and some new blood to add more hunger. Here's the lines with my changes:

Zetterberg - Datsyuk - Holmstrom
Franzen - Filppula - Helm
Abdelkader - Eaves - Miller
Tatar - Mursak - Nyquist

Lidstrom - Rafalski
Kronwall - Smith
Salei - Kindl

To sum things up, here is my report card grade for the players and the team:

Team:
Offence - B, needs more goals to win in the playoffs. With depth like Detroit there's no excuse
Defence - B, giveaways killed the defenceman, plus bad breakouts
Goaltending - A-, Howard played like a true number one in the postseason
Overall - B+

Players:
Zetterberg: B, seemed really slow this year
Datsyuk: A+, no complaints here
Holmstrom: B-, net presence wasn't felt that much this year
Filppula: B-, very inconsistent, but when on he was great
Bertuzzi: B+: played awesome when he got pissed
Hudler: D-, for 2.9 million, he didn't have a season like I expected
Franzen: B, played well but turned streaky as the season wore on
Cleary: C, skating declined rapidly this year, wasn't a scoring threat
Modano: D, didn't play a lot and only scored 4 goals
Helm: A, breakout season for him, will score a lot more next year
Abdelkader: B+, played with top lines at some points, needs to stop the dumb penalties
Miller: B, didn't understand why he didn't play that much, he scored some big goals
Eaves: B+, true scorer turned grinder, has redefined his game in Detroit
Draper: F, didn't impact games at all

Lidstrom: A, plus minus wasn't good, but still has it at 41
Rafalski: B, needs to put the puck in the net more
Kronwall: B+, got better this year, shot more and hits are still enormous
Stuart: D, overrated, giveaway machine, don't want him on the penalty kill anymore, can't clear a puck
Salei: B+, did what he was meant to do, was effective and played with a mean streak
Ericsson: F--, yeah, an F minus minus. Overall terrible player in my opinion
Kindl: C, kid is still learning so it isn't the end of the world

Howard: A, if not for playoffs it would have been a C, but proved he can play in big games
Osgood: D-, didn't play due to injuries
MacDonald: A-, for what he did, he played out of his mind

The season was better than 2010, but I fear that the Wings might not be dominant for years to come. With Lidstrom close to retirement, Detroit needs to look for some fast, nasty skaters and defenceman in the free agent market to help fill the enormous void Lidstrom would leave.

In articles to come I will breakdown the guys the Wings should target come July 1st.

Kyle Busch
www.thecheckingline.com
www.twitter.com/KyleBusch11

6 Comments

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

Last night was actually quite strange for me. I have liked Detroit since I was a kid, Yzerman was my hero behind Mario, but now I just flat out respect them. I really dont cheer for them as much anymore and last night I did want the sharks to win. I wanted to see San Jose finally get to the cup, but after the game it was so quiet and just felt like that lockerroom would never be the same.
If it is Lidstroms last season I see Draper, Osgood, and Modano retiring with him. It will open up a ton of cap space and really start the two year rebuild for Detroit. I dont think they will be out for too long, but I dont think they can be top three without Nick. It is going to be strange, but with that organization they really havent disapointed in over 20 years, so no worries.
by the way, I love Ericsson! He was one of my favorite players when Pittsburgh played Detroit in the finals.

George Prax's picture

Obviously there's a changing of the guard in Detroit, but I think Lidstrom is still at least a year from retiring. That said you can't really disagree with the points you made on who stays and who goes, but the Wings I think are going to need a UFA to fill those gaps on the back-end. I know he's not exactly young, and it may just be me, but I sort of see Roman Hamrlik being a really good fit back there for a year or two.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Good points guys, I think one more year at least for Lidstrom. If there's anything the Wings really need it's speed. I wanted them to go after Matthew Lombardi last offseason but that didn't happen. A player like him or Scottie Upshall would be good. We need some fast guys who can score, unless Helm steps into that role

Chuck Gaston Jr's picture

There happens to be alot of teams on the Scotty Upshall bandwagon right now. Philly would like him back, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, and LA are some of the others that apparently would like him in their locker room. I find him to be a perfect fit on just about any line. Speed good enough to play with top players and enough grit to play 3rd and 4th line rolls. He would be pretty good with the winged wheel on his chest.

nowhere's picture

Kyle - In the end, the series did come down to special team's play. Not necessarily if you look @ PP/PK for the series, but when the SJ PP goals were scored or Detroit's PP went 0 for 5 in game 7.

They need to find out what they've got with Kindl next season. I would pair him with Lidstrom if he returns for another year. Sink or swim - do or die. Give him the chance to learn from the best - every shift. Ericsson is tough to figure out. He really isn't a bad skater for his size or the WORST d-man ever, but his indecisiveness is what causes problems in both the offensive and defensive zones. There's flashes of solid fundamental defensive play, which is too often followed up with WTF turnovers where he handles the puck like a grenade and doesn't want it to be anywhere near him.

I couldn't stand Upshall in Nashville - him & Hartnell always caused problems for the Wings. Could you imagine him paired up with Helm? Speeeeeed to burn!

There's no doubt the team is in a transitional phase, mostly due to the limited playing time left in Lidstrom's legs. Hopefully this transition will be a seamless as possible with a major changing of the guard.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

The powerplay was poor throughout the series, regardless of stats. Their entry wasn't clean like it usually is, and the Sharks PK took away pretty much everything. As for Ericsson, you listed a lot of things that basically prove my point about me not wanting him here anymore lol. And yeah, Upshall and Helm? No way you stop that.