When questioned about the Wings’ defense during last night’s post-game scrum Mike Babcock’s response was swift and to the point, calling them “… the best group we’ve had all year.”
Babcock’s analysis is not welcomed news for blueliner Ian White who was a healthy scratch for a second consecutive night in San Jose. In White’s absence the Wings’ defense performed admirably, only surrendering 3 goals against two formidable Western Conference foes.
Begging the question: Is Ian White a top 6 defender for the Wings?
The answer: right now, no.
I have to side with Coach Babcock on this one, and agree that the 6 defensemen on the ice in California are the best group that has been assembled thus far. This group (Kronwall, Lashoff, Ericsson, Quincey, Smith, Kindl) played confidently, made quick and smart decisions with the puck, while at the same time minimized the type of mental mistakes that have plagued the Wings’ D early in the season.
All the while White is left to sit and ponder the reasons why his season has suddenly derailed.
One glaring problem facing White is that his offensive production has taken a steep nosedive this year. Through 14 games White has only 1 goal and 1 assist and that’s simply not good enough for a defender who finished last season with 32 points (only 4 points behind team leading D-man Niklas Kronwall).
To make matters worse White has also struggled in his own end. Currently as a minus 2 player he is far from his team leading plus 23 form in 2011-2012.
Granted, a major part of White’s drop-off is due to the fact that he spent the majority of last season paired with the best partner any defenseman could ask for in Nicklas Lidstrom. Yet, the Wings still need more out of a veteran defender who the coaching staff was hoping to lean on after the departures of Lidstrom and Stuart.
There is no question that when White plays to his capability he is definitely a top 6 defender for the Wings. But, with Detroit desperately in search of points every night in a fierce Western Conference playoff race they must go with the defenders who are playing the best right now.
And, right now there is no time to waste. For White and the Wings it’s imperative that he turns his game around stat.
Tell us what you think. Does Ian White deserve to be in the lineup?