Detroit’s 5-0 shellacking of the Anaheim Ducks last Saturday was a good way to break a six game losing streak. The scoring lines were on fire, the defense was nearly perfect and Jimmy Howard continued to be solid in net. There was a faint glimmer of the spark we saw in the first five games. Now it’s time to see if the smoldering embers become a raging brush fire or a pile of cold ashes.
As I stated previously in the last column, Saturday’s matchup was Mediocre Team vs. Mediocre Team. The Wings and the Ducks entered the contest with essentially the same records. The only difference is that Anaheim is lacking in talent in their 3rd and 4th lines and Detroit has talent that’s not producing. It was no surprise that the Wings outscored and outshot the opposition.
The Wings, however, will be facing more elite clubs in the coming week. They play Colorado on Wednesday (who have an impressive 6-2 away record) and the surging Edmonton Oilers on Friday. Both are young teams loaded with talent that could potentially skate circles around Detroit’s aged roster, and will be the defining moment if the losing streak was a mere fluke or a reoccurrence.
I know it’s early in the season, but I can’t help but feel an impending sense of doom. Detroit has a great team, but I just don’t think they compare with others in the Western Conference. Chicago is looking competent, Edmonton looks resilient and Dallas (surprisingly) has a lot of momentum. With Minnesota starting to fire on all cylinders and Vancouver’s inevitable revitalization (the roster is too crammed with talent to stay down in the dumps, despite having Roberto Luongo in net), the Wings are going to find it challenging to catch up.
And even if Detroit powers through in the playoffs to the Stanley Cup Final, will they be able to take the powerhouse teams in the Eastern Conference? Currently, Pittsburgh and Washington look unbeatable. They’re playing like the kind of teams that win championships: Strong when they want to be and resilient when they’re not. That is, they always find a way to win.
Look at the Washington/Anaheim game from last Tuesday. The Ducks were up 3-0 near the halfway point of the second period when the Caps started staging a comeback. After going down 4-2 in the third, they were able to tie it in regulation (without that skinny f*ck Alexander Ovechkin, mind you) and win in OT. It almost looked like Bruce Boudreau’s horde was toying with Anaheim.
The Wings simply don’t have that type of team. I have no doubt that they can garner a “W”, but I have yet to see them be dominant with first-rate clubs. The last time they looked unstoppable was in 2008 and 2009, when their roster was stacked and every game seemed as challenging as playing Trivia Pursuit with Kim Kardashian. The last couple of years hasn’t been as productive and has shown in the playoffs.
An even bigger issue is that there might not be a resolution. The Wings could barter a trade, but for whom? One possibility would be offloading Johan Franzen. As much as I love the Mule, he’s been inconsistent for latter part of the 2010-11 season and has yet to mystify me this year. He’s not contributing, but still has the allure that, unlike Jiri Hudler, could rationalize a swap for a proficient goal scorer.
Alexander Semin (if Washington is willing to part ways) or TJ Oshie could easily be acquired, and would add depth and youth to Detroit. The prospect of having Semin on the same line as Pavel Datsyuk or Oshie with Todd Bertuzzi and Darren Helm would make a potent combination.
Despite over four months left in the season, now is the time to be proactive. Presently, the team is ineffective, and I don’t see how another couple months of hockey is going to resolve the issue. If the Wings don’t dominant for the rest of November, Ken Holland is going to have to trim fat and dispose of noncontributing forwards. The result could be losing marquee players for aspiring veterans.
I don’t envy the Wings. The next couple of weeks could define their career and be the deciding factor of what team jersey they don after the trade deadline. If Saturday’s win over the Ducks was a test, the rest of November will be their mid-term exam.
Follow Derek Hansen on Twitter @Hockey_Mouth