Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Wings' wounded blueline

It's a thin line between being a powerhouse and an also ran.

What's happened to Detroit's blue line the past few weeks has been absurd, really, as now Andreas Lilja is the team's top defender. The Red Wings' last 10 games have looked like this: Los Angeles, Toronto, Anaheim, Nashville, Columbus, Dallas, Colorado, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton.

They've won just one of those games (1-7-2).

And, now, the Grand Rapids Griffins are playing on defence.

I've got a spreadsheet in front of me with the ice time of all the Detroit defenders over the past 10 games, and it's rather unbelievable. Rookie Derek Meech, for instance, played 27:19 last night against Edmonton. Brett Lebda led the group with 27:41.

Another rookie, Jonathan Ericsson, was playing key minutes on the power play and Kyle Quincey the penalty kill, with Garret Stafford picking up just five minutes ice time total.

Other than Lilja and Lebda, the Detroit blueline hadn't had more than a handful of games of experience in the NHL prior to this season.

Here's who's filled in on the blueline over the past 10 games (ice time is shown as percentage of team minutes played):

B. Lebda D 10 0 1 -7 21 18.9% 23.0% 10.5% 19.4%
A. Lilja D 10 0 0 -5 17 18.4% 5.7% 24.4% 19.8%
D. Meech D 10 0 3 0 24 14.8% 19.4% 1.3% 15.9%
N. Lidstrom D 7 1 5 -7 11 14.0% 19.0% 15.3% 12.9%
C. Chelios D 8 1 0 1 8 11.4% 10.2% 21.7% 10.0%
B. Rafalski D 4 0 1 -4 10 8.9% 12.0% 7.4% 8.5%
K. Quincey D 6 0 0 -3 5 7.2% 4.2% 14.4% 6.6%
J. Ericsson D 3 1 0 -4 7 5.3% 6.4% 4.9% 5.2%
G. Stafford D 2 0 0 0 1 1.2% 0.0% 0.0% 1.5%

Brad Stuart is on the way, so that'll help — although from the looks of his brief stint with the Kings, it might be a small relief until the cavalry comes.

Lidstrom does an awful lot for this team, that's for sure, but even he's went in the tank briefly before getting hurt.

The real wonder is if the Wings can put Humpty together again in time for the playoffs.

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At 1:01 a.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

Its looking like they will. Kronwall will be back on friday and Lidstrom and Rafalski shouldn't be too far behind.

Meech has looked great, better than Lebda. This is a guy that they almost lost in a Sopel signing. THANK GOD he signed with Chicago.

It wouldn't break my heart if he played as the 6th d-man and lilja and lebda sat.

The goals against hasn't been horrible, but they just can't generate offense. It kind of speaks to how important those injured defensemen are for offense as well.

I'm going to go ahead and make the bold claim that those kids aren't as bad as the record might make it look. The team is just out of sync since the entire defensive core has been replaced... It's a moot point though, cause like I said, everyone will be back in a few weeks tops.

At 1:02 a.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

Oh, one more thing. Losing Cleary sucks too. A LOT. it's not just the defense. Pay this guy whatever he wants next year, we need him.

At 3:43 a.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger Baroque said...

The Detroit Red Wings - no longer the oldest team in the NHL!

This is where the benefits of piling up the points early in the season come in, since Detroit still has nearly a 20-point lead in the division even with an AHL defense. (Although I'm not sure that four of six defensemen counts as a thin line between contender and also-ran. That's a pretty significant difference in team makeup.)

To the point of offense - it's interesting that when Detroit was missing 2/3 of their top line they kept winning, and didn't start losing games by the handful until the defense was decimated. On the other hand, Ottawa lost 2/3 of their top line to injury and lost nearly every game. I wonder if forward-driven offenses are the norm in the Eastern conference and defense-driven offenses are the norm in the Western conference, or if this is just a quirk in two teams?

At 8:37 a.m., February 28, 2008, Anonymous mc keeper said...

A scary preview of the Wings' post- Nicklas Lidstrom Future

At 10:57 a.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger FAUX RUMORS said...

1) There's a silver lining to every cloud. These injuries may allow the Wings to better assess who may be ready to make the step up.
2) It may allow some of these players who wouldn't have received such ice time/responsibility to show what they can do. It also gives some of those vets some rest going into the stretch run

At 11:45 a.m., February 28, 2008, Blogger Jeremy said...

I know the Canucks had their injuries to defensemen more staggered than Detroit did, but it was almost as absurd. And their record looked similar during the same kind of stretch. Watching some of those games, I had the same sense as Nick did watching Detroit -- the young guys were actually pretty solid, but the team looked out of synch and had some narrow losses.


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