Craig Remsburg column: Why aren’t Red Wings better?
With several Olympic rosters being published this past week, 10 Detroit Red Wings have made the cut:
United States: goaltender Jimmy Howard.
Sweden: forwards Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Alfredsson and Johan Franzen; defensemen Nicklas Kronwall and Jonathon Ericsson; and goaltender Jonas Gustavson.
Russia: forward Pavel Datsyuk.
Slovakia: forwards Thomas Tatar and Thomas Jurco.
That’s an impressive listing of hockey talent, though how many of them will actually be at the peak of their games when the Winter Olympics is held Feb. 12-23 will be in question.
Franzen (concussion), Gustavson (groin) and Ericsson (ribs) are nursing injuries that have kept them out of the Wings’ lineup for weeks.
Still, 10 members from one team – plus head coach Mike Babcock (Canada) – being chosen for Olympic competition is a good number.
It begs the question, however: If that many Red Wings are Olympic-worthy, why isn’t the NHL team doing better this season?
Heading into this weekend, the Wings were 19-15-10 and resting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.
If the playoffs had started Friday, they would have been one of the eight teams in the Eastern Conference to qualify.
Still, most observers think the team should be doing better. Why hasn’t it?
Three things: Injuries, the Wings’ inability to win shootouts and Howard’s struggles.
Nearly everyone on the Wings’ current roster has been sidelined by an injury or two this season.
Some – Zetterberg, Stephen Weiss, Ericsson, Franzen, Darren Helm and Danny DeKeyser, to name a few – have either missed a significant number of games or are sidelined to this day with an injury.
If the Wings’ roster was not marked with injuries, the team would be formidable. But it hasn’t been for a long time and too many rookies and second-year players are being used as stop-gap replacements.
That may be good down the road as these players gain more NHL experience every day. But right how, it’s hard to win consistently with a patchwork lineup.
As for a lack of shootout wins, the Wings are 1 for 7 in that category. You’d think with the talent the Wings can call upon, the team would do better in shootouts than it has.
Babcock can’t seem to find consistent shootout marksmen. And Howard and Gustavson have struggled in goal during the game-ending contests.
Flip the Wings’ shootout record and not only would their record be better, but we night not be talking about the team’s up-and-down season to date.
Howard entered the weekend with a 7-9-8 record, 2.65 goals-against average and .911 saves percentage. That’s OK for a lot of NHL netminders, but not Howard.
He can do better than that. Maybe a good performance in the Olympics – if he plays – will straighten him out for the remainder of the season.
Fewer injuries, better shootout performances and Howard at the top of his game would go a long way to improve the Wings’ record the rest of the regular season and beyond.
Failure to improve in any of the three areas might end the Wings’ playoff run of 22 straight seasons.
We wouldn’t want that, for sure.