Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Returning From Injuries and Team Chemistry

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Last year the Pittsburgh Penguins were on a roll like no other. They were so dominant in March 2013, despite injuries to key players, they didn’t lose a single game. They didn’t just pull this off by playing Buffalo and Tampa Bay 14 times either, the Penguins defeated some real tough teams to pull of this feat. Going into the April 2nd trade deadline, the Pens chose to add a few pieces to the team despite this success. The result? A reportedly disgruntled locker room that succeeded against weaker teams in the playoffs, but collapsed against a team they were well-matched against, and got swept by the Boston Bruins. 

I’m not one to play “Monday morning quarterback” with the Penguins trades; If you have the opportunity to add Jarome Iginla to your team, you’d be crazy not to do it. But there’s a lesson to be learned here about messing with team chemistry and the idea of fixing things that aren’t broken. The Red Wings moves for the trade deadline remain to be seen, but they do have that tradition of Ken Holland stating “Getting (injured player) back will be our trade deadline acquisition!”

Now some things are just no-brainers when it comes to players coming back from injury. I’d send my own mother down to the minors to bring Pavel Datsyuk back from injury, as I imagine most people would. There certainly hasn’t been any other shortage of injuries for the Red Wings though. Some of those injuries, I’m not so sure I want them to rush back from injury.

A complicated cap situation and a team of call-ups that’s really starting to gel make for a strange injured reserve situation. Take Stephen Weiss for example. His four points in 26 games show he’s been less than effective when he’s in the line up. But when he’s healthy, the Wings absolutely have to send someone down. Riley Sheahan has been very effective the past couple games, and Luke Glendening is really embracing his role as an agitator on the 4th line, as was evident in how much he got in P.K. Subban’s face last night. I’d hate to see one of these guys sent down to make room for Weiss and have Weiss continue his pointless streak.

Of course, two games doesn’t make for a promise of what the rest of the season will be like. This is the team that defeated Boston 6-1, but got dropped by the Florida Panthers two nights in a row. It isn’t so easy to predict this team, and the last two victories could just as easily have been a couple opponents having an off night. It’s too early to tell if this team will continue to click or if it’s just a few games of good puck luck. But with the Red Wings position in the standings, they’ll take any points then can get.

With ten players going to the olympics, it’s possible some of them will get hurt, meaning there will be plenty of roster spots (and cap space) available towards the end of February. Nyquist can’t be sent down without clearing waivers, the Wings don’t have lots of trade partners, and roster spaces may be taken up by older veterans rather than young contributors unfortunately. The cap-space musical chairs has to come to an end eventually though, and it almost makes you wish someone like Weiss stays injured the rest of the year.

There’s something to be said for the chemistry of the team right now as well. Darren Helm is doing well on the 2nd line, the team finally has some scoring outside of Zetterberg. Tomas Tatar makes the third line a legitimate threat and the defensive pairs are working well. If a team in this position can beat Chicago and Montreal, maybe it’s a good idea to see how long this set of players can go like this?

There’s something to be said for not fixing something that isn’t broken. There’s something to be said for small sample sizes too.

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Tags: Detroit Red Wings NHL

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